Wednesday, June 23, 2010

30 Mile Chattooga Night Run

30 miles, no wimps, no sun. Sign me up!

Before you start thinking this was just some random night running adventure, I should say this run served a purpose: it's one of several key training runs that leads up to running the entire Foothills Trail on July 24. (77 miles, no wimps, some sun, some moon. Ha! )

This was the first time running at night for me. That fact alone heightened the whole experience.

Here's how it all went down:

I met Dave Pryor (kneeling in picture) at Pisgah Forest and we drove down to Oconee State Park together. Shortly after we arrived, Dan Hartley returned from scouting the trail where it ends, so we'd know how to actually get back to our camp. Thanks for that Dan- left to all of us, we'd just be stumbling happily along the road like....zebras...

Jason Sullivan, Sam Weingand, and Charles Raffensperger arrived next and we all set up camp while we waited for Chad Henderson, who was stuck in a traffic jam.

After figuring out the logistics of our cars, we set off to Whitewater Falls, dropping aid at Burell's Ford Road and Cheeohee Road on the way. The logistics of doing a run like this really do need to be considered- it requires a little planning. (Again, thank you Dan).

Group picture, and we're off.

The run started across the highway from where the Laurel Valley Ultra course ends. Since I ran (if you can call it that) this course last month, as we crossed the road and began to climb, I could not help but realize what a difficult section this would be. We'd be climbing out of the steepest, gnarliest, soul crushing switch-backs-from-hell portion of Laurel Valley only to cross the road and climb some more. My brain (finally) made the connection that these training runs we're doing are all linked in what will be one very long, badass run. Damn, I thought. I left my BMF wallet* at home!

So, we're not half a mile in, when I catch a root the wrong way and go down. My lack of trying to save myself is comical. I'm like, What-ever. Let's just get it over with. Nothin' to see here, people. Not long after my staggering exhibition of grace, Charles pulled a branch aside from the trail...but failed to notice the second, jagged, branch behind it waiting to spear him. In the eye. However, his BMF wallet must have been securely tucked away, because he looked like one seriously bad mo' fo' wiping blood from his eyes! Here's a picture I took of the wound later (yeah- even I have better manners than to take a picture of guy who just got stabbed in the EYE ...right when it happened. Jeez!).

So, pretty much right at the beginning of this run I noticed I was not having a good day. It wasn't anything huge, mostly I just felt "off", like I was working too hard for the easy pace we were at, and I felt like I was out of gas. It also seemed like I was going through my water too fast.

It didn't help that the food I brought because it was perfect for me last time, was not perfect for me this time. That is such a mystery.

Right before the fish hatchery, dusk was full upon us. The trees we were passing through were all wiry and leaveless, and I kept feeling like I was in some version of Grimm's Fairy Tales. It was strange.

As it got dark, we all put on our night gear, which for me consisted of a headlamp and a chest-level light. It took some getting used to. Plus, everytime I needed to get into my pack for either food or the camera, it was a major ordeal to manage the light that was attached to the straps. I'm going to have to learn to maneuver this a whole lot better if that chest light isn't going to find a new home in the river.

I'm not sure when this started to happen, but I noticed the group stopping, and it was due to some giant freaky spiders that looked like the Predator. They were spinning their webs across the trail, and Dan's light would pick up on it and he'd stop and clear the web. Man, was I thankful I was bringing up the rear.

Even though I was feeling bad, this was still a very enjoyable run. We laughed a lot, and the comeraderie made things easier. I took as many pictures as I could manage, but eventually I was too worn out to bother getting into my pack for the camera.

Near the finish, my eyes really started playing tricks on me. A baby alligator materialized from the pattern of sand and rocks, so I went ahead and jumped over him, yelling, "Baby Alligator!" As soon as I realized it wasn't real I added, "Nevermind. It's not real." Too funny.

Also funny: Earlier, Charles had set up a sign on the trail that said, "WIMBERLY- THIS WAY!" That completely cracked me up. It was so unexpected.

We finally made it to the end at about 3:00 A.M. We were still laughing and joking as we walked the .6 of a mile to the camp. All in all, it can't be too bad of a run if you're still laughing at the end of 8 1/2 hours!

I chalk this run up as good experience for managing the night running we're going to be doing on 7/24. The fact I didn't feel good but completed it anyway is also really good experience. It's bound to happen in a race sometime (like the Hundo), and it will give me confidence that I can continue.

* Bad Mother Fucker wallet (a la Jules from Pulp Fiction).

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Race Recap: 4TH ANNUAL RAM

The 4th Annual Roan Adventure Marathon (RAM) came and went, leaving in its wake many a happy (and sore!) camper. Thank you Sultan for putting together this awesome run.

A description of the course: The start of this run is at the top of Carver's Gap/ Round Bald. You leave Carver's Gap (5512 feet) and run all the way down to 19E all along the AT. Once you reach 19E then you turn around and head back uphill for 13.6 miles back to Carver's Gap. It's a difficult 28 mile out and back section of the AT. The terrain is technical and steep, yet the views are expansive and very rewarding.

Here's how it all unfolded:

I rode up to Carver's Gap on Friday night with Dave Pryor, Adam Hill and Jeremy Hargroves. We arrived around 7:45 and made the short hike to set up camp on Round Bald. It was still light enough to see the incredible 360 degree view.
After much socializing, we went to sleep around 11:00. At about 2:00 a.m. I began to hear the incesant flapping of my tent in the wind. Somewhere in the recesses of my mind I remember Adam helping me with my borrowed tent, and saying something about..."before you tie down the outsides." Oh! Tie down the sides...
In the morning we were greeted by the prettiest sunsrise ever. The 360 degree view was astounding. The colors, along with the layering of the mountains was just a beautiful site to behold.

We met the runners who did not camp the night before sown in the parking lot. Before I knew it, we were off and running.

My premier thought was: don't fuck up!* I was doing my best to find that happy medium of not going out too fast while at the same time keeping someone - anyone! - in my sights so as to not get lost.

Pretty soon I settled in behind David Petroski, who has run this course 4 times before. Man, was I grateful for him! There's a big, windy climb fairly early on. It seems like you're done climbing, but then a short turn later, you find yourself on an even steeper hill. It was nice to have David there to say things like, "Don't even bother to start running again. It turns into a bigger hill right around the corner." I started thinking of David as my tour guide...

As we made out way down to 19E I really tried to keep myself from focusing on the fact that all the downhill would become uphill on the way back. Just stay in the moment, I told myself.

After a while, we came to a stretch that was the most technical trail I've ever been on. It lasted for a very long time, and was literally a rock and root climb. Usually, I find this kind of thing fun, but it loses some of its appeal when it goes on for far too long...And again, it was hard not to think about coming back up that stretch. This is where I remember Paul Geist joining us.

At the final approach to 19E, we began to see the first runners coming back, including Sultan, Adam, Jeremy and Mike. Adam stopped to chat for a minute, and we were visited by a very pretty black snake. Awwww...

I got into a nice groove here, where running felt effortless, and I was just soaking in the beauty around me, not a thought in my head. Suddenly, I find the Spider Pig song running over and over in my head! Where'd THAT come from?? Spider Pig, Spider Pig. Does whatever a Spider Pig does. Can he swing? No he can't. He's a Spider Pig. LOOKOOUUT!!!

Finally - The aid station at 19E!

Thank you Gail, for the wonderful job you did here. The watermelon was excellent, and it was good to get my pack off my back for a couple of minutes. This was the first time I used the bladder in the pack, and I found out that I hate it. It sits very differently than when I carry my hand helds in it.

As we rested a few minutes before facing Part II, it rained big, fat raindrops on us. It was pretty cool.

Then we began Part II. The climb.

Man, the way back was hard. Words don't do it justice. It felt like the climb never ended. And when it did, it seemed to be in a too-steep technical downhill that I was forced to walk because my knee would start hurting. I swear, at one point, I felt pretty demoralized when I realized I was walking both the uphill AND the downhill!

The hill before Jane's Bald was the worst. I really had a mental breakdown here. The long uphill switchbacks would...just...not...end. I was walking. I came to a point where I didn't think I could walk another step - and then I'd turn the corner and see that the trail kept on climbing. I must have repeated this scenario 20 times.

My Garmin died here. I thought I was next.

David's ankle had started to really bother him, so I had gone on ahead. Paul had already gone on ahead of both of us. So I was alone in a never ending climb from Hell.

But end it did. And just when I thought there was a good chance that I was going to remember this run as a terrible experience, I began to feel really good. I would come to fairly flat stretches of trail and it was heaven to run them. I still had to walk the steep downhills, but I was moving good now. At Jane's Bald, I caught up with Paul.

For a moment, I thought he was going to tell me I was only at Mile 22 and that whole climb had been less than a mile. That would so mess with me. But he said the finish was just over Jane's Bald. Woo Hoo!!

I ran in as hard as my body would allow, and I felt fantastic at the finish! I think Adam said it looked like I was flying down the road at about 6 minute pace. All I knew was that it felt good to run, not climb!

14 runners attempted and completed the RAM.

Finishing Order:

Adam Hill (5 hrs.- CR!)
Jeremy Hargroves
Mike Jackson
Kristen W (half)
Jinnie Austin
Stan Austin
Sara D. Sibley
David Pryor
Psyche Wimberly
Paul Geist
David Petroski
Barbara Babb
Bruce Babb

It took me about 3:50 to get to 19E and 4:50 to get back. This was a fantastic challenge. I cannot wait to run it next year!

Who's with me?

* After Chattooga, if I were to get LOST again Charles and Co. would never let me live it down!

Friday, June 11, 2010

5 Jokes Friday: LOST

Dare I continue with the LOST theme? Sure, why not? What's the worst that could happen....?

Here are your 5 jokes:

Joke #1: Why Did The Smoke Monster Cross The Road?
Q: Why did the Smoke Monster cross the road?
A: To get to the other Sayid.

Joke #2: LOST Lightbulb
Q: How many survivors of Flight 815 does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A: All of them--If they don't change it together, then bulb is going to die alone!

Joke #3: How to Make a Peanut Butter Sandwich, by the Losties

1. Gather ingredients
2. Point gun at ingredients and shout "HOW DO I MAKE A SANDWICH OUT OF YOU?!?!?"
3. Breathe heavily through your nose as though you were about to hit ingredients
4. Give up and make the sandwich yourself, and eat it bitterly

1. Make separate sandwiches, one with peanut butter and one with jelly
2. Take a bite of the peanut butter sandwich, declaring it the best
3. Take a bite of the jelly sandwich, declaring it the best
4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 ad infinitum
5. Follow peanut butter or jelly sandwich into grave danger

1. Throw the jar of jelly at wall, sneering "I don't need no sandwich".
2. Call the mascot on the jar of peanut butter lots of clever nicknames
3. Huff and puff and stomp around and grumble a lot
4. When no one's looking, make perfect, even, symmetrical peanut butter and jelly sandwich and sit in a corner, enjoying every bite

1. Sit idly by, believing that the ingredients will find a way to make a sandwich out of themselves 2. Lose faith and make the sandwich anyway .
3. Realize that you were the instrument by which the ingredients chose to make a sandwich after all
4. Run around the room and grab everyone's knives, insisting that their sandwiches will do the same in time

1. Make sandwich
2. Eat sandwich
3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 ad infinitum

1. Procure 23 milligrams of uranium-20
2. Set hadron supercollider to eight megajoules
3. Program a sandwich-making macro using Cobol or Visual Basic
4. Act all tough-like

1. Eat sandwich
2. Call the sandwich "brother"
3. Place peanut butter slice over jelly slice
4. Spread jelly on the other slice
5. Spread peanut butter on one slice
6. Take two slices of bread, a jar of peanut butter and a jar of jelly

1. Steal someone else's sandwich
2. Claim you coerced them into making the sandwich for you all along
3. Say you'll tell them everything if they make you another sandwich
4. Stare at them all creepy-like

1. Lay out plans for one of the most intricate, fascinating, and delicious sandwiches of all time
2. Just as you start making it, get shot

1. Apply peanut butter
2. Disappear for eight months
3. Apply jelly
4. Disappear for eight months
5. Eat sandwich

1. Mmmmmmm, peanut butter

1. Make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich
2. Have someone take a bite, then tell them it's a baloney sandwich
3. Make up a whole bunch of other shit, then say you had planned it all along
4. Buy a few yachts

Joke #4: Another LOST Lightbulb
Q: How many survivors of Flight 815 does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A: 2. 1 to put in the light bulb and Kate to do the screwing.

Joke #5 : LOST Knock Knoc
Knock Knock
Who's There?
The Oceanic Six
The Oceanic Six who?
That's what we want to know! HA HA HA HA!

Happy Friday, everyone! I'll say right now this has been a slugfest of a week and I am very, very behind on reading everyone's blogs. I am dying to read Chris McPeake's Sulpher Springs 100 race report! I promise to catch up with you all on Sunday.

I am off to the NC/TN border tonight to camp on the AT with some new friends (read: people I have never met) and run from Carver's Gap to 19E and back tomorrow morning. I should be in for some good times and pretty scenery.

Here is how this "fun run" is described:
The start of this marathon is at the top of Carvers Gap (5512 feet) and is run to Hwy 19E all along the AT. You can choose to carry all your food and water or drop some at 19E as we usually do just before the run. Once you reach 19E then you head back uphill for 13.6 miles back to Carvers Gap. Try and negative split that one.

Date: 6.12.10

Start: 7am

Distance: 27.2 miles

Elevation (net): 7,500 feet

Cost: free

Good times: guaranteed

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Chattooga 50K Recap - Lost In Paradise

The Chattooga River 50k took place Sunday June 6, 2010 as part of Terri Haye's Ultras on Trails race series.

I was really looking forward to this race. I knew I was in for more of the great comeraderie her races offer. It was also a chance to reconnect to some new trail friends and finally, this race seemed like an excellent opportunity to actually meet several blogger friends such as Georgia Snail, The Sean, and The Guz. In hindsight, I am so glad the race represented more of a social opportunity for me than it being a race I had specifically trained for or had race-specific goals for.

Here's how it all turned out:

That's right, folks- I got LOST! About 2 miles past the first aid station, I did just what Terri told everyone not to do - " not cross the wooden bridge, do not go to Burrell's Ford."
To my credit, I DID notice that I was about to cross a wooden bridge. I stopped, turned around and retraced my steps, but could not find where the trail I was on had any other option to turn. PLUS, I did see John Locke a person waay down on the trail ahead of me. So, there's that.

About 6-8 miles later I find myself in the Burrell's Ford parking lot, thus ending my entire race experience. Well, not exactly- I will say this: I was having a great race experience up to the first aid station. The race starts with a downhill out-and-back section, and going into this race, my main goal was to maintain an even level of exertion. I was doing a good job of running an even effort here, and not letting the fact that I was walking up the majority of the hill get to me.

I think the biggest disappointment I felt was simply missing the great feeling you get after accomplishing a task as great as Chattooga.

The "non-racing" part of the racing experience was great, though. It was a great trip.
Here's how that went:
Leopold and I arrived at the Cherry Hill campgrounds at about 7:45 on Friday. The first person from the race we encountered was Dan Hartley and his family. They got to the campsite next to ours about 90 minutes later. By then, it was actually raining a bit.

We had all of Saturday to relax and take in the sights, so Leopold and I headed off to get some breakfast and explore. We were told about Stump Hill Tunnel and Isaqueena Falls, which were just a couple of miles away.

Stump Hill Tunnel

We hit Stump Hill Tunnel first. I have to say, the tunnel was pretty awesome!

As you approach it, you read a little of the history: The tunnel was blasted right before the Civil War for the railroad. However, the War broke out and so the tunnel was not finished.

After the war there was no money, so there it sat. Later, a Professor from Clemson University discovered that the tunnel's 56 degrees with 85% humidity year-round temperature is the perfect conditions for curing bleu cheese.
We went back to the campgrounds to get our flashlights, but we really needn't have. The tunnel was much shorter than we thought, and we ended up walking through it a couple of times- once with lights, and once in the dark.

Isaqueena Falls

A short walk from the Tunnel puts you at Isaqueena Falls. We walked all the way to the bottom and spent a couple of hours enjoying and playing in the Falls.

It was a very pleasant and fun afternoon. We people (and dog) watched, and took our time climbing back up to the car.

In closing, Chattooga was a great experience. I feel very fortunate to have met new friends in Dan Hartley and his family. I was thrilled to meet Thomas Armbruster and the lovely Holly, Sean Dunlap and Brian Guzik in person. And it was just downright awesome to see Terri, Jason, Charles, Sam, Byron, Lester, Sherrie Marie, and so many others again. It was especially nice to be back "early" and be able to see people finish.

Here's some photos I took before the race, and some I took as people were finishing.

A BIG congrats to the overall winner, Sean Dunlap.
He finished in 4:32, taking more than 30 minutes off his time from last year!

Sean Dunlap, Terri Hayes

Early morning StarTrek Convention featuring Sean Dunlap and Thomas Armbruster (Thomas would later have his own personal version of the LOST story!)

The amazing Guz in person! A definite contender for Best Race! Brian ran waaaay under 8 hours (7:23??) in his FIRST Ultra!

Bringing it home- Charles Raffensperger. Definite contender for the "Making Psyche Feel Better About Getting Lost" Award! Thanks, Charles!!!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

7 Magical Random Things

I’ve been tagged by Georgia Snail in this 7 Random Facts meme.

Now seven random facts about me:
  1. I just had to look up "meme" in Wikipidia. (It's not uncommon for me to use a word, then look it up).
  2. In reference to the Myers-Briggs personality typing, I'm an INTJ. I've long since forgotten everything about that test except for the fact that only 2.1% of people are INTJ's and that made me feel lonely:(.
  3. We just took the DiSC communication test at work. I'm the only Dominant/ Influential person at my work. That just made me think of Dogbert.
  4. I wish I was good at joke telling, but I'm not. That's why I have 5 Jokes Fridays- it's my way around the problem.
  5. I love a good quote. For example, "Nothing is written." - Lawrence of Arabia. Awesome!
  6. I've recently become intrigued with geneology. I have no idea why.
  7. I don't know why, but I love the number 7. I'm convinced it's magical special. Yet, I've never bothered to research it. It's like it's more fun believing it's magicalspecial than finding out that it's not. That probably says something about me.
Okay now the fun tagging some other suckers, er, bloggers …

  1. Anne at @ Asthma & The Gift of Running
  2. Lynne @ Library Lady Runs The South
  3. Beth @ Life After 40
  4. Adam @ Crazy Floridian
  5. Ginny @ Happy Feet 26.2
  6. Tara @ Colorado Runner
  7. Melissa @ My Little Running Adventures

I guess there are rules … but you know them by now (write your things, tag seven other people, let them know, blah, blah, blah).