Monday, January 31, 2011

Sultan 50K

I must preface that a year and half ago when I began running I never thought I would be running 32 miles through game lands with a crown on my head.  I discovered the Sultan 50K by accident when searching for additional trail info of the South Mountains.  I read about this birthday run for Mohammed after stumbling upon Annette Bednosky's blog.  I remember clearly thinking these people have lost it running 30 plus miles, in shorts in the winter, wearing crowns!  Keep in mind at the time I was barely running two miles at a time on the treadmill.  After reading more blogs written by local ultrarunners I became inspired to join the insanity.  My wife will vouch for the day I came to her and said I want to run ultra marathons through the mountains.  She looked at me in that way many husbands would understand and questioned my logic and asked "you think you might want to try a 5K or something first"

Somehow on January 29th, 2011 I find myself amidst some premiere trail runners at the bottom of Roper Hollow Road.  The crown has been issued and fitted to my skull and shall not be removed till I complete the course!
Matt Kirk delivering the course briefing

Steady climb right from the start

This course is very challenging and has somewhere over 6000' of elevation gain with about equal the descent.  I am fortunate to know the course as the South Mountains are where I do almost all of my running.  It was great to see so many runners enjoying the trails that I call home.

Course overview by Rubitrack & Google Maps

Elevation profile
I started out very conservative and power hiked most of the climbs through the game lands section which covers 10.5 miles.  As soon as I hit the state park boundary I had new found energy and and fell into a comfort zone being in such familiar territory.  I was able to pass about a half dozen runners which was unusual for me and I was hoping I was not getting over confident.  Once making the right turn onto Upper Falls Trail I knew things leveled out and I could make up some ground for the next 3-4 miles to the aid station and turn around point.  I see Mad A, Grand Kirk, and several others already on the return trip and I look at my watch... I knew they were on a course to break 5 hours.  The steep and technical descent down the backside of the Falls Loop is always a tough trail for me.  It began to take it's toll on my ankles as I run down the trail like an out of control skier making his first run on the moguls!  I reach the bottom and cross the bridge and see my wife and kids on the trail waiting on me.  I quickly discard my gloves and arm warmers as I was burning up at this point.

Shedding layers on an unseasonably warm day

I arrive at the aid station and turn around point in 3:01 which I was more than satisfied with.  I take a peek at Sultan's cake but can't find an appetite for solid food at the moment.  I feel bad for not partaking in the birthday festivities and gloom over the boner points I will receive.  I begin to struggle with my Nathan hydration pack as I always seem to do.  With the very much appreciated help of a volunteer, Charles West I believe it was, I manage to get filled up for return trip.  I down an Ensure and a 5-Hour Energy and grab a handful of gels from my drop bag.  My wife, Amy,  takes a few precious pictures of me and my daughter Mackenzie.  And just like that before I can think of other options I am off to finish what I started.

I was her king for the day but she will be my princess for a lifetime
Heading back out after the turn around

Things slowed down considerably on the back 16 as expected.  The heat was becoming a little uncomfortable and I was overdressed.  Climbing the last hill on Upper Falls Trail around mile 19.5 I develop stomach issues.  I'm forced to make a pit stop and and very glad to have brought those baby wipes.

Mile 22 I start to feel the first twitches in my legs and know that some cramps are developing.  Let the mental battle begin!

Thoughts race through my head... why am I doing this... this will be the last one... forget about Mitchell... you can still get your money back...

Up to this point I had been consuming a gel and an S-Cap an hour.  Somewhere around mile 20 I tried to eat a gel and just could not get it down. I had now gone about 1.5 to 2 hours with no calories and was starting to feel really zapped. 

Mile 24 I am feeling really nauseous and need fuel... I squeeze a gel into my mouth and try to wash it down quick.  I gagged on it and spit it out before swallowing.  The next thing I know I'm vomiting.  After three clean outs I rise and I'm aware the nausea will more than likely pass now.  The frightening part is knowing how much hydration I just lost and I still have 8 plus miles to go.

Just keep moving forward....

I'm now noticing that I'm not really sweating anymore which is never a good sign.  The legs are starting to spasm a little more frequently and I'm having to alter my stride a bit to keep from locking up.

I see Richard Lilly and Angie Burns a quarter of a mile ahead and I use them to pace me for awhile.  That worked for several miles but then they faded away and I am solo again.  I try to keep things as steady as can be and begin hoping for a sub seven hour finish. 

I'm now on the final 3 miles which is mostly downhill and I'm ready to be done.  I round the final corner and here some hooting and hollering.  I'm either at the end and there are still runners there cheering or I've run into a hunting party thrown by the Roper Hollow Mountain locals.

Then I hear "do a cart wheel" 

It is over 6:57:19 and I'm beat and very nauseous.  I am very thankful to have been a part of a great event in my favorite mountains.  I stuck around and chatted for a few minutes but really wanted to get home.  I drove off without really saying farewell as I just was not feeling well.  Sadly I had to make two roadside stops on the way home due to nausea and vomiting.  Arrived home and slowly refueled and re-hydrated the body.

Woke up the next day feeling much better and the legs felt surprisingly well.

Sights are once again set for the next challenge....  Mount Mitchell

The Sultan himself earning great bonus points on his birthday run

Happy Birthday Mohammed and thanks for a great run!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Snowy run at South Mountain

My pre-dawn long run never happened as I struggled with motivation to get up and enter the cold.
Waited till it warmed up enough for running in shorts and Mara and I took off to SM. The park roadway was closed due to ice so we altered our route. Very slow pace and I really did not care for a change. Lots of hiking and taking pictures of Mara in the snow. We looped in the High Shoals Falls Trail and this really slowed us down with the conditions on this tough climb.

Water levels in the creeks are starting to rise so I had to wade shin high across one at about the four mile mark. After that it was time to get moving to generate some heat to keep the toes from getting to cold.

Had my first problems with the Yak-Trax today... they did not provide traction well enough in the slushy snow... the Yak-Trax on my left foot kept stretching forward and extending out over the top of my foot.
I think I will purchase some Kahtoola Micro-Spikes before Mount Mitchell Challenge... stopping to fix these Yak-Trax every so often is to frustrating!

Release & Run dog collar/leash review

I'll admit I found out about this collar and leash gadget on the annoying  FB ads to the right of your screen.  I passed up on it for several months thinking it was not worth more attention.  The ads kept popping back up so I looked into it further.  Release and Run is a dog collar with a built in four foot flexi type lead.

Looking over their website and reading some other reviews I figured it was worth a try.  The product is made by a guy who appears to be an avid trail runner himself.  The product itself was a little costly at first glance at $34.95 for a larger dog plus shipping.  With that in mind if it meets my needs it is worth every penny.

The concept is basically a nylon snap buckle collar like any other.  It has a small 4' retractable lead attached with a nicely sewn together sheath that houses the retractor and leash handle.  I would have liked to have seen the nylon collar made of thicker nylon material for the larger dogs.

The handle is very lightweight and just the right size to run with in your hand and it not be bothersome.  When retracted it goes automatically into the sheath leaving just enough sticking out to grab when needed in a hurry.  It does not have a lock out feature like a regular flexi-type lead so there is a little constant pressure on the dog but nothing to restrictive of it's movement.

I ordered mine to use on my trail runs where leashes are required.  The catch for me is the rules are always the same... dog must be attached to a leash under 6' in length.  Well with this I have that covered even if I'm not holding the end :)

This collar really is a great device and after over 16 years in the dog training business I have tested and utilized countless products.  I highly recommend this to anyone who hikes or trail runs.  It lets you get to the trail head an just beyond on leash.  Get out there with less trail traffic and just let go off the handle and off you go hands free but with the peace of mind that the leash is already attached and ready to go if needed.

After only two runs with my shepherd I am happy I made this purchase.  I also opted for the hunter orange to add some dog safety when she is distant from me and doing her deer impression bounding through the woods.  Truthfully I never let her out of my sight but safety is still a concern with all the hunters around my running trails.

I have no financial interest in this product... however if they read this I would love another collar sent my way for the review :)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Harbison 50K Trail Race

Autumn and early winter have passed and my training had diminished quite a bit.  Things spiraled down on me after my birthday run at the Hinson Lake 24 Hour Ultra where I quit after 50 miles.   I suffered IT Band issues for the first time and was forced into physical therapy and to rest for a few weeks.  The rest and fear of re-injury caused me to withdraw from Shut-In-Ridge which left me pretty down. 

Running continued but I was not attempting any runs longer than about 8-10 miles.  I finally got in a few longer runs and was starting to regain some confidence.  I had never really considered running the inaugural Harbison 50K.  This race was directed by Dan Hartley who I had met on a few other occasions.  With the logic and insight of an undertrained but obsessed runner I decided to register for Harbison just two weeks before the race.

So with no solid base and no build up I show up on the morning of January 8th just outside of Columbia, SC.  This would only be my second 50K.  Harbison was strikingly different weather wise compared to my other ultra the Chattooga River 50K which was held in blistering heat.  Temperatures were I believe in the thirties and great for running.

I arrive at the park and locate a wonderful campfire near the starting area.  It is pitch black out and the fire was a great start to an exceptionally put together event.

As the sun begins to rise the number of racers grows and I begin to see a few familiar faces.  I meet up with Brian Guzik and we discuss our lack of prep for the race.  I bump into Jason Sullivan who is volunteering today and we chat about running together soon.

The best always arrive just before the start.  As dawn approaches I notice three figures dressed in very sinister looking, black, Inov-8 Team outfits.  This race has brought in some great athletes and in front of me is Mark & Anne Riddle Lundblad, and Dwight Shuler.  Mark and Anne would go on to take first in their races and Dwight took third.

On to the race... The first 6 miles were nice rolling single track that I ran with Brian Guzik.  We talked and kept things calm and the miles ticked away nicely.  We arrived at the first AS and in the blink of an eye Brian is waving bye and off ahead on his own.  It was nice to have his company early on but I train alone and knew as the race went forward I would feel better tackling this solo.  Brian went on to finish a great race about an hour ahead of me as he also did at Chattooga.

Things began to slow down a bit for me but I was still running steady until about mile 11.  At this point my quads starting getting beat and I knew this would be a very long and painful day.  That lack of real training just smacked me in the face!  I start mixing it up with hiking and running.  This would be a mental game the rest of the day.

Relentless forward momentum... relentless forward momentum... yeah... yeah... but it hurts

The course is deceivingly more difficult than expected.  There are no difficult climbs (which I like by the way) but the course is like a roller coaster.  A consistent pace for me is impossible at this point and with good training probably no better.

Harbison is set up as two 16 mile loops.  This played with my head all morning as I wanted to drop after the first loop.  Just prior to mile 16 I get it in my head to make a fast pit-stop at the AS and get started on loop 2 before sanity arrives.  I arrived at the end of the first loop and  downed an Ensure and a 5-Hour Energy, fill my bottles and off I go.

Completely solo for about the next 10 miles and really struggling.  Stomach issues creep up on me and I'm forced to make like a bear in the woods.

My arm begins to cramp at the elbow from carrying my Nathan hand-held bottle.  I fortunately am wearing a winter cycling jersey and I'm able to slip the bottle in my back jersey pocket to shake out the arms.

I think I power hiked the majority of the second loop.  It was really getting me down.  I can hike pretty fast so I just kept moving forward and was keeping pace with several that were jogging.  I never ate anything solid the whole race and consumed only gels, S-Caps, and a few gummies.  I really struggle to consume calories at the aid stations and will need to overcome this in future races.

I traded places during the last several miles with Scott Hodukavich and shared some nice conversation with him that helped pass the time by.  My quads are completely toast but the rest of me felt pretty good.  My stamina is great and I feel like my hydration and energy levels are decent.  I just can't get myself to run for any stretch particularly anything that goes even the slightest bit downhill. 

I can smell the finish... not really but I know it is close since this is my second loop :)

I start running the last 400 meters or so to save myself some dignity.  I run through the finishing chute and see my buddies Jason and Brian giving congratulations out to me as I pass by.   The clock shows 7:38:27 which is exactly an hour better than my first 50K.  I am handed a very nice beer glass for a finishers award.  This later held several well deserved Yuenglings!

With the lack of training considered... I'm satisfied with the fact that I finished and was not the last one in.

The course was marked so well I think I Hansel & Gretel could have found their way home!  Dan did an incredible job putting this race together and the volunteers were tremendous.  I highly recommend this race but remind those considering it that the course is tougher than it initially appears.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Much over due....

I've considered writing a blog about my trail running adventures for over a year but just never seemed to be inspired enough.  I make no claims of creative writing abilities.  What I will attempt to do is provide race reports and some of the more interesting and adventurous training run stories. 

What to expect if you choose to follow my blog...

Stories of suffering on the trail, personal triumph on the trail, and plenty of pictures.

I will attempt to rehash some  memories and write some overdo ultrarunning reports from the recent past and hopefully get caught up to date with my present challenges and future plans.