Thursday, May 19, 2011

Laurel Valley Training Run (feat. Cee Lo Green and Eminem)

The rescheduling of May's FHT attempt and our unfortunate inability to crew for Greta at MMT allowed Charles and I to join 7 other Foothillz Foolz on Saturday for a 35-mile self supported run through Laurel Valley. As smack-downs consolation prizes go, it was not bad.

Humidity was clearly a factor in completing this run, but even so, 7 foolz finished in under 10 hours (read: "I made that trail my bitch, yo!").

Charles and I ran the first half in 4 and a half hours before C-Raff succumbed to the humidity (read: "That trail made me her bitch, yo!").

Cast of Characters:
Dan (who the phuck is Harley?) the Man Hartley
Big Easy
L'il Weezy
Biz-Mark Elson
Doug Robinson
Charles (The Rapping Pirate)

Charles and I had the longest distances to travel so, to avoid a 3:00 a.m. wake up call, we both headed down to the Laurel Valley entrance parking lot on Friday night and set up camp. We really had no idea if actual camping is allowed in the area adjacent to the parking lot. But it's not like we're gonna call the BMF Ranger and ask. As we set up the tent, visions of an encounter with the BMF Ranger filled my head.

In one scenario, said BMF Ranger pulls up in his Ranger wagon, set to kick us off the trail, perhaps even fine us. But I head him of by pulling out my BMF wallet and saying, "Hey, Ranger! The National Park Service called. They said you lost your wallet." (Barney Stinson wink, and...) Ranger takes the wallet, the dead Presidents, and everyone is happy.
Fast forward to 7:00 a.m.

The first squeal of tires is heard several minutes before 7:00 as Big Easy's car careens on to Laurel Valley Road on three wheels. Big Easy, Mark Elson, D-Ray (and Nick?) have arrived, and clearly, they are ready to party.

It's always great to be reunited with old friends, and as the case with D-Ray and Nick, meet some new ones. After the initial gratuitous smack talk, everyone was anxious to get on the trail, but Charles and I weren't quite done breaking down camp. We told them to go on ahead as we needed people to clear the trails of spiders a little more time. So off the spider patrol everyone went, hitting the trail at 7:15. We were able to finish up quickly, and got on the trail at 7:30.

And So It Begins

I've lost count of how many times I've run the Laurel Valley section of the Foothills Trail. But every every time I do, I hate starting out by climbing stairs! They are just awful and the first several miles is full of stairs and climbs. What's strange is that in running the entire Foothills Trail, I never remember this section as being particularly difficult. Oh yeah. That's because you ascend to the highest point in the entire state of South Carolina within 4 miles when you start at Table Rock State Park. By the time you get to Laurel Valley, you're 14 miles in and feeling stoked to have such easy running.

Easy Running

The initial 2-3 miles were slow going indeed, but when the terrain flattened out a bit we started to run at a good pace. We were both feeling good, and I kept thinking that as fast as we were moving, we'd should catch the group, eventually. The trail was just flying by and and it was awesome to be feeling good and running easily- even though I was sweating more than I usually do. I was completely drenched within the first mile. Don't even ask about Charles.

Through this 7-9 mile section, I decided to turn on some tunes, sit back (figuratively speaking, of course) and enjoy the ride.

Musical Interlude
Several miles later, I was so happy to be having a good run I was practically beside myself. Then, my good-run feeling of giddiness rose to near fever pitch as Cee Lo Green's song, "F**k You!" came on.

Can I just say? I love me some Cee Lo Green.

This man seriously knows that music comes from the heart and soul. He has a fantastic sense of humor and doesn't take himself seriously. I don't care who you are, these are great qualities.

Plus, a big black rapper in a zebra suit is so wrong it's actually right, and for that reason alone he fits right in with this motely crew.

I'm sure he'd be perfectly at home partnering up with the MFRP to write a song about Sam's zebra's (in which they would hopefully answer the eternal question once and for all: why don't humans ride zebras?)

I swear, I was in free association heaven... Before the next mile was run, I had Charles and Cee Lo collaborating on Fitty K's Ultra Rap, featuring....wait...wait for it...


BAM! That just happened.

I know.

They can thank me later.

Ultra Rap

by fitty-k

Word up dog, move along the trail
Keep rollin, smokin along
You ain’t about to fail
Gotja gels, hammer style
In a pouch then, I’m not slouchin
You gonna be runnin for ya life then
Not afraid of dyin
Just never stop tryin
It ain’t about the finish, not winnin
Busta rhyme and your head starts spinnin
A trail mile is a whale mile
More and more of them, that’s my style
Knick knack paddy whackin
Staying on the trail, ya’ll
Less you do some bushwhackin
Give it your best shot, give it your all
Livin the ultra life (not beer), word
It ain’t like nuthin you ever heard
We’re all together, disregard the weather
Postman goes in snow and sleet
But that sucka stays on the street
Not us though, we’re on a roll
Living life like we’re outta control
This trail running life is good for the soul

by Charles Raffensperger

Laurel Valley Giveth and She Taketh Away

Today's lesson sponsored by Laurel Valley: All good things must come to end. The humidity was finally having its way with Charles (and not in a good way). The good news is that he may have actually turned the corner in learning the lesson this trail is so desperately trying to teach him: With his sensitivity to heat and humidity, he simply cannot undertake beastly ultra runs unless the weather conditions are right.

As we reached the half way point, C-Raff began to suffer more and more, and I was right there with him. We eventually slowed waaay down and switched gears. The rest of the day would be about enjoying the day and being happy to be out playing in the forest. Together. (Personally, I love how ultra running has the coolest built-in back up plan).

Yep. Still Directionally Challenged

I find it extremely difficult to remember all the points on this trail, no matter how many times I run it. I find I'll remember the section as I'm running it, but there's always a point where I think a certain landmark is coming up, only to discover that I am totally wrong. Saturday, this played out in epic fashion:

Me: "Hey Charles. Right up here the trail is going to make a right turn and there'll be a sign for Bad Creek Parking lot, right?"
Charles: "...No."

Me: "Isn't the little foot bridge that goes along the rock wall that has water running down it coming up?"
Charles: "..No."

The last 6-8 miles always seem to be the hardest for me to run remember, as I keep thinking the distance is over a hundred (possibly over a thousand) miles and may very well include a circumnavigation of the globe I'm going to come out to an area I will recognize, (but never do).
Eventually, though, I began to get it right. I'd name an upcoming landmark..and it would be correct! Yaaay!

My take away- The more tired I become, the better my sense of direction gets.

The Laurel Valley Payoff of Excellence

Upper Whitewater Falls

After a day of following the white blazes through the thick forest canopy, taking in the incredible sights of the whitewater rivers, waterfalls, dramatic drop offs, swinging bridges, wildlife, and all around incredible scenery, you finally reach the finish.

A ridiculous climb brings you to a cool, big-ass view of Whitewater Falls.
Hells, YEAH!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Go Get Ya Some!

Ever feel like you're stuck in a Drew Barrymore movie rut? Like your running is going nowhere, slowly? Like you're bored and tired and you've forgotten why you run? If you answered "yes" to any of the above, then you will love the movie Whip It you may need to do what I just did: Go Get Ya Some! And by "some" I am in no way referring to Sex, Money, Victory, or the ever lovin' MFRP*

I'm referring to what I'm now calling the Summer Of Mojo Encouragement (SOME). As the name implies, I am going to spend this summer trying to duplicate whatever the hell Big Easy has done to be so god damn happy with his running building speed, strength, and god-like confidence in my running so that I can ultimately be my own hero and race like I mean it when it counts. And when might that be, you ask? Well, here's how I see 2011 and beyond in terms of key races:

  • Foothills Trail 77-Mile (Goal - finish #2) - September '11

  • The Pitchell (Pisgah to Mitchell) (Goal - Sub 23:50) - October '11

  • Bartram 100's (Goal - 100 mile finish) - December '11

  • The Barkley Marathons (Goal - Don't die) April '12

If you're a fan of Drew Barrymore's movie, "Whip It" (and let's face it, why wouldn't you be?) then you remember Razor**, the Hurl Scouts' coach who, with his jean-shorts and ability to create excellent plays, tries to get them to compete to the best of their abilities.*** Like Razor, I understand it's all about playing smart and staying aggressive.

In the Summer of Mojo Encouragement, I vow to:

  • Refine my training by adding 1 day a week of pure speed work to my training. This will (progressively) include hill repeats, intervals, repeat quarters, and repeat miles.

  • Approach the puke threshhold many times. My toes will feel at home curled over the edge.

  • Schedule a 5K Tune-Up race in 3 months.

  • Schedule an 8K Key Race race in 4months (Maggie Valley Moonlight Run).

  • Continue to run all my other runs like the beastly ultra runner I am, including 5-10 hour runs on the weekends, gnarly mountain trail runs with the Pirate, bushwacking practice for Barkley...

  • Never forget it's an "Experiemnt of One"- if it's not working, change it up.

You, too, can join me in (getting) SOME.. Let’s make 2011 the best year of running ever! By years' end, those that have taken on the challenge may find themselves honorary members of the Run Like You Got Some Ultra Project…

[Que great sequence which includes Psyche's training montage set to the .38 Special song, "Caught Up In You"].

* Muther Fucking Running Pirate (a.k.a Charles Raffensperger)
Brilliantly played by Andrew Wilson, the bearded older brother of Luke and Owen. From his team plays, team speeches and beard, to his cut off jean shorts and sweat band, Razor ROCKS and we need to see more of this Wilson brother in movies. Now.
File this under "why I love Razor"- coaches who stop at nothing to motivate their underdog team are a dime a dozen, but Razor takes it to a whole new level by actually coaching the enemy in order to shaft his own team.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Enoree Passage 40 Mile Trail Race

Wherein I celebrate my first anniversary of ultra running by going back to where it all began- a great little race called Enoree Passage 40 Mile Trail Race. As celebrations go, it was a blow out. As races go, not so much.

Part I:
Let's Get This Party Started!
Charles and I wanted to do something special in honor of the race where we first met last year *. In the past, we've tried to get his two youngest (Devin and Alex) to come camp with us at key races, but it's never quite worked out. This time, however, Devin was able to make it, and it so happened that both of his older daughters (Paige and Lindsay) could also be there, along with Lindsay's husband Fletcher and their twin boys, Spencer and Logan. (Now, it's a party!)
So on Friday, Leopold and I drove down to the Brick House Camp Ground in Whitmire, SC in order to secure 2 side-by-side campsites. All week, I'd been dealing with flat tire issues, so it should not have surprised me when, as soon as we pulled in and were paying for the sites, Leopold comes up to me and says, "Mom, you better come hear this." I followed him over to my rear tire, only to hear the not-so-faint whisper of air whooshing out of my tire. "How have I offended ye, oh gods of Good Year?" I wondered.

I figured I'd call AAA the next day. There was (literally) nothing else to do, so Leopold and I set up camp, settled in, went for a little run, and goofed around until even the fascinating campfire fire no longer held our interest.

After a good night's sleep, Saturday greeted us with sunny, warm weather. I noticed it was about 5-10 degrees hotter than the day before. It felt great if you were in the shade, but I began sweating immediately in the open sun. [For those of you who need me to point this out- this is what's known as foreshadowing].

We eventually caught up with Terri Hayes and chatted about the course and how the race was coming together. I always look forward to seeing Terri -seeing Terri Hayes is how ultra runners know it's summer [again with the foreshadowing!]. Eventually, a few other people trickled in, including Denise Martin, volunteer extraordinnaire.

Jason Steinberg and Wendy Oates arrived while I was waiting for the AAA guy to arrive. They came down for a little run and to check out the course, but were not camping. The AAA guy got totally lost and Jason helped by giving him the GPS coordinates. Then the two of them were off, down the trail...

A bit later...Team Raffensperger/ Worley finally arrive! Yay!! Lindsay's twin sons Spencer and Logan are adorable and clearly they found Leopold irrisistable. It was a crack up to watch them interact with each other. Part puppy love, part Monte Python's Flying Circus.

It was just a joy to hang out and play ball with the boys and Devin (who is an amazing natural athlete). We were all just relaxed and happy to be outside. Every once in a while we'd see a fellow runner and catch up with them. It was nice to see Jimbo again (who I shared some trail time with last year as well) and to meet his friend Connie. Later, Fletcher cooked us all some amazing burgers and we all enjoyed another camp fire. It was one of the best camping experiences I've ever had. Had this trip ended there, I would have been perfectly happy**.

Part II: Pre-Race
We didn't have to get up too awfully early, as the race start was at 7:30 and we were literally just yards away from the starting line. As we got coffee, and readied ourselves, I grew excited as cars pulled in and I recognized old friends- Dan Hartley and fam, Jason Sullivan, Weezy, Mark Elson, Brian Guzik (The Guz), and a surprise visit by Scott and Greta.

Unannounced visit by Scott and Greta- sweet!

One of the best thing about these events is seeing all the people you've come to know over time. The sense of community among ultra runners is simply amazing. Absent is the sense of nervousness and foreboding that you fnd at most marathons- people here know the value of the run does not lie in your finishing time, but in your experience. In that sense, it's all good.

Part III: The Race
Enoree is a 20-mile out and back course. There's some moderate climbing, some moderately technical trails, but mainly it's flat and mainly runnable. It has a lot of unique features, and a cool lake at the turnaround point, too.

So, 7:30 approaches, and before I know it, we're all heading down the trail. I found myself running with Big Easy and the Library Lady for a few miles, but keeping Charles in sight. We had a few good laughs, and I was enjoying just being there as the memories of last year flooded back.
I had several nice moments where I remembered good times from the previous year- laughing with Sam and Big Easy about phantom race pains, talking with Jimbo about Magnum Track Club, running with Rebecca and Doug for the final miles. Good stuff.

After the initial few miles, I saw Scott and Greta- I didn't realize they were even out on the trail before this, but it was good to see them. That is, until Greta took a fall on the rocks. This is so what she did not need, with Massanutten 100 coming up. I stayed with her for a few minutes, watching as her knee swelled, and gave her some ibuprofen. They both told me to go on, so I did.

Just for a moment, I had a bad feeling. No people ahead of me...and no one behind me. Oh, dear god..please let me be able to stay on trail!! Getting lost is not the experience I want to have here today.

Luckily, I met up with Charles just a few minutes later. He was waiting patiently for my slow ass. Before I came up to him, though, I passed William and Kristin, another "ultra couple" who were running their longest distance to date. We all ended up running many miles together. They are a hoot.

About 10 miles in, I knew I was in for a bad day. My legs were hurting, I felt overly fatigued, and I was going through 40 ounces of water between aid stations and still felt thirsty. Turns out, this would be my theme song until mile 25, where it finally became intolerable and (wisely) we called it a day.

From what I gather, many others experienced this same phenomenon, including my friend Jimbo (who's awesome rendering of his predicament is seen here).

It took me a while to see that dehydration was the problem, but once I did, I was fine with calling it a day. But I will say that now that I've experienced this phenomenon twice in a row, I'm not exactly jumping at the opportunity for another hot weather race. In fact, Big Easy and I both concluded that the May 21 Foothills Trail attempt should be postponed until September.

In conclusion, the best thing about this race this year(unfortunately) was EVERYTHING but the race! And I'm perfectly happy with that. I can always redeem myself next year, but I could never replace all the valuable friendships I've gained through this sport. I don’t have to mention names, but you all know who you are. I would come out and support each and every one of you even if I could not run at all. I am extremely inspired by you guys. Every single one of you are doing something magnificent. As am I. How cool is that?

So, to all of you I say “THANK YOU” so much. If I could give each and every one of you a hug I would. I would say “lets hug it out, bitches.”

* Technically, I did not "meet" Charles at this race. We were formally introduced at the Outkasts Run. But we shared a great trail moment at Enoree last year. As we were running through the forest, I told Charles (then a total stranger) that I thought it seemed like there should be houses "on the left". Apparently, I told that to the ONE other person in the universe who was experiencing the same thing at the same time.

** Yep. More foreshadowing.