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Friday, November 7, 2014

Cloudsplitter 50K



The Russell Fork River, flows through southwest Virginia and southeastern Kentucky and over time has carved a canyon into Pine Mountain now called, Breaks Canyon. Each weekend in October the Corps of Engineers releases water held in the Flanagan Reservoir into the Pound River and the flows jump from an average 200 cfs to 800-1000cfs. This annual release turns the otherwise sleepy town of Elkhorn City, KY into boater Mecca. Since I happen to live with a boater, I find myself camping and hanging out with our paddling family each year, either in the Breaks Interstate Park or at “Rat Hole”, a riverside camping area.

I’ve had fun exploring the trails inside the park and also bushwhacking down to the rapid El Horrendo.
El Horrendo Class V Rapid- Russell Fork River
The trails are gnarly and steep as they plummet into the Russell Fork Gorge.  The Pine Mountain Trail, across the river from the Breaks, runs along the Kentucky-Virginia border following a geological fault line high above the river.

I had never made it over to that side of the river to explore so when I heard about Cloudsplitter I was intrigued, but scared. Knowing the difficulty of the trails I had been on, I could only assume Pine Mountain would be equally as bad. The website warned of the difficulty, offering a generous cutoff of 40 hrs for the 100 miler and bragged of a 2,000’ gain in the first 5 miles. They offered a 25k, 50k, and 100k as well, all out and back on the Pine Mountain Trail from the Elkhorn City Baseball Park.

I had signed up for the Odyssey 40 miler in September knowing that we would be doing our annual Russell Fork family campout the first weekend in October. I wanted to fit a race in before Masochist in November, a tune up if you will. I hadn’t raced since Promise Land in April so I had surely forgotten how, right???? We had an unexpected death in the family and a funeral to attend the weekend of Odyssey so Cloudsplitter became my backup plan. We were already headed that way so it worked out perfectly.

We decided it would be best to camp in the Breaks Park Friday night to avoid the late night party scene at Rat Hole.  I slept very well, only waking once around 2am to the sounds of heavy wind/rain (please let that stop before 8am!).  We woke at 6am, broke camp and rolled into Elkhorn City with plenty of time to check in and get  geared up.  Luckily the rain had moved on and it was shaping up to be a beautiful fall day. I said some quick hellos to the few people I knew there who were all running longer distances, the gun was fired, and we were off!

After a couple of turns on the pavement we hit a gravel road and then the climbing began as we connected with the Pine Mountain Trail. Basically an old rutted out, rocky, double track road, it reminded me a lot of the section on the Iron Mountain Trail we call Mock Hollow. It wasn’t easy climbing, and I imagined it wouldn’t be much fun on the return trip either.

The PMT is marked with green blazes and somewhat tricky to follow at times. The group I was running with came to an intersection at the same moment the lead guys came running back to that same intersection after taking a wrong turn.  There was a large set of boulders sadly covered in graffiti and several paths shooting off in different directions, a tree with a green arrow, and a bunch of confused runners.  After a couple minutes of bumbling around we figured it out and continued on, I made a mental note, hoping not to make the same mistake on the return trip.

Soup Beans, Rat Hole Campfire, Sunday River Run
The sounds of an ATV that had been looming in the background for awhile finally caught up with us and passed only to stop a short distance ahead. They dropped off a small cooler and water jug and turned around… guess that’s supposed to be the first Aid Station @ 5.3mi???  I think one person in our group stopped, but most continued on thinking they would just hit the next stop at 8.0 miles. 

I had assumed this would be a lot of steady up then hit the turn around and it would all be downhill from there! Sort of a mini Mount Mitchell. I quickly learned this would not be the case! There were a lot of steep ups and downs, nothing long, but nowhere to really get into a good rhythm.  Finally we were on top of the ridge line and things started to open up into some amazing views! check em out here: Race Photos. I’m glad I didn’t carry my phone or I would still be out there taking pictures. Running across huge slabs of rock, views of Virginia to your left and Kentucky to your right, the VERY cool fall breeze whipping around, it was pure bliss!

Pike County is one of the nation’s largest coal & natural gas producing counties and evidence of that was all around us during the race. We passed by gas pipe lines, ran under giant high voltage electric power line transmission towers, and saw a giant mountain top removal site, as the mighty Russell Fork glistened in the sun below.

Speaking of energy, I began coming up on some folks who were starting to drag a bit and questioning when we would ever get to an aid station. Any idea of mileage I asked?  “14 according to my watch,” he said. What!! We’re almost to the turnaround for the 50K, did you see the 8 & 12 mile aid stations?? Nope!

Luckily I had switched from my original plan to carry a handheld at the last minute and went with my hydration pack, because here we were 14 miles into the run and had not seen an aid station. I questioned whether I would even know I had come to the turnaround point if no one was there. We continued climbing and a short time later saw the 50K leader coming down the trail! That’s a good sign!

There was an aid station set up at Birch Knob (15.6) so I took of my pack, filled my nearly empty bladder, pulled out some more GU’s and a pack of natures bakery fig bars, had a sip of ginger ale and headed out. I felt as if I had been there way too long, but quickly reasoned it was ok since it was the only stop so far.

It was great seeing everyone on the way back. Cari and Netta were both looking great and still smiling! People were super nice and encouraging, but also very curious how much further for the aid station. I knew it was going to be lonely on the way back so I enjoyed the passing company while I had it and then focused on moving forward. Someone told me I was 10 min. behind the second guy so when I felt lazy and caught myself walking on easy stuff I would pretend I could possibly catch him.

I felt much better on the return as far as following the trail, the aid stations at 5.3, 8 and 12 had been setup so I grabbed a cookie at 12, rolled through 8, and asked for soda at 5.3, but they had none.  I caught up to some of the 25k runners and enjoyed chatting with them a bit, but was mostly super stoked to be running healthy and feeling good. I dropped back onto the gravel road and wasted a minute trying to decide which way to go…. Down looks good :)

Thankfully at the pavement there was a sign with an arrow and each turn through town was marked! I had just been following on the way out and was worried I wouldn’t be able to navigate back to the finish so this was a relief. I could see the ball park and it was a downhill finish! I crossed the field and could see the clock, with no time on it? Someone at the finish handed me a medal and I wandered around a bit regrouping. I realized after looking down at the medal, they thought I was a 25K finisher, so I asked to switch and told them I thought I was the first female/3rd overall in the 50k? They couldn’t pull the times up, but agreed that only two other guys had finished the 50k so I received my award then headed to the car.

The guy parked next to me, Nathan Snyder had also run the 50k, so we shared our thoughts on the race then walked over to get some food:  A huge cauldron of soup beans hanging over a fire, bbq that had been smoked there overnight, homemade cornbread. We sat in the grass waiting for others to finish and were joined by the 4th place finisher Tom Atkins, who oddly enough was also from Abingdon, but lives in Oregon (small world).  After sitting there for quite a while we began to get a little concerned that no one else had finished? They had to hit the road and I decided to grab a shower since I would be camping another night.

It was quite chilly out so that hot shower felt fantastic even if it did happen to be in the most bizarre, old school locker room ever!  As I walked back to the car I was happy to see some more 50k runners coming in before I headed back to reunite with the paddlers back at Rat Hole.

There are certainly some things to be ironed out as with any first time event, but I’m sure Cloudsplitter will continue to grow. If you’ve never traveled to this area, I would highly recommend it. The hospitality was unbeatable and it was great to see so much community support.  Everyone wanted to tell you how much they loved their home and those mountains we were playing on and were happy to share it! With the Pine Mountain Trail, Great Eastern Trail, The Breaks Interstate Park, and the Russell Fork Gorge as well as many other paddling/hiking opportunities hopefully this community can lean more towards an outdoor recreation based economy as coal production slows. 


Monday, April 7, 2014

3's a Magic Number

Terrapin Mountain 50K is one of my favorites, a great mix of technical single track and gravel forest service roads that will not disappoint in challenge or beauty.  Terrapin seems to mark the end of winter in my mind and ushers in spring after a long/cold winter. It's exciting to forget about bundling up, and just run unburdened by all the layers of protective winter gear.
Start 2010
I slept great Friday night, but woke without the pre-race jitters? where was that extra adrenaline rush that was going to propel me through the day? I was struggling to wake up which isn't usually an issue. I'm very much a morning person, but I couldn't stop yawning on the way to Sedalia. I checked in, got my bib, enjoyed chatting with some folks, decided not to wear arm sleeves, got my race vest (check), handheld (check) and soon it was time to line up. I spotted Bill Gentry and we were just chatting it up when reality struck, GONG!!GONG!!GONG!! Clark came up with the genius idea of using a huge suspended gong to signal the start of the race, it certainly gets your attention :)  I hit the road and scanning the crowd realized I was pretty far back from the sea of runners up ahead. The first four miles are a steady climb up to the Camping Gap AS so I tried to keep telling myself, it's early, don't get carried away and start too fast! I enjoyed a quick word with some folks along the way, soaking up the positive energy of sharing a day on the trails with so many amazing people. I wasn't feeling particularly strong or relaxed on the climb, so luckily Andrew Simpson came along and helped take my mind off the task at hand, talking R2R2R and other running plans for the year.  I knew once we got to camping gap we had a great section of downhill and I could relax a bit.
Heading down to AS 2 Goff Rd. 2012
Other than a knife stabbing pain in the middle of my back that I suspect was the result of playing disc golf on my lunch break Friday, I enjoyed the 5 miles down to the Goff Road AS at mile 9.4. Met some new people along the way and I was happy Rick caught up with me here as we've enjoyed this section together in the past and had some catching up to do. I topped off my bottle at Goff Rd. then started playing the "run to the next pink ribbon" game. Long sections of uphill gravel road that I don't like, the ones that you could run, but really feel like walking instead (you know the ones)  I tend to pick points to run to before taking a walk break. I could see Andrew up ahead, quickly moving out of sight while I slogged along. I was looking forward to the single track coming up so I just turned on some tunes and pressed on... walk, run, walk, run repeat. We still have a long way to go, relax, be patient, have fun riding the waves of highs and lows....
I enjoyed the single track section, but also had a sense of dread in the back of my mind,  knowing the climb back up to Camping Gap was looming near. The single track spit us back onto the road and the fun of dancing over rocks and roots faded away. Three long miles back up to camping gap and gravity was no longer on my side.  When we play on opposing teams I usually loose the battle.... yep, I was loosing for sure, mostly walking with a weak jog thrown in here and there for good measure. I could see Andrew up ahead again, so I would try to catch up, but instead fell further behind. I came back into camping gap (16.4) alone, but boy were the volunteers there amazing and their enthusiasm lifted my spirits. A lady met me below the aid station, took my bottle, filled it and ran it up the road to me with a gel in her other hand in case I needed it! now that's service! I never stopped moving.
2011-the fun single track
After all that climbing, you'd think one could catch a break, but no! you're still not done, the fun is just really beginning (eye roll) is this whole race uphill? and you still have to come back to camping gap a third time after this lolli-pop loop around the white oak ridge trail. I was still alone and making my way up the road (stick) of the lolli-pop when I started to see the front runners coming out of the loop!! always fun to see the fast guys flying along, helps keep ya honest, "they would have run this hill, right"? I turned off the road and started climbing into the loop when the slightly snowy, little muddy, grassy hill sucked the life right out of me.
 I heard voices coming up  from behind and before long Alexis and her buddy caught me and left me in the dust. I tried to hang close behind in the loop, but once we got headed back down to the road they were outta sight, the trail was rough and muddy and I could not get in a rhythm. I hit the road and was happy to once again have a bit of gravity on my side and run again. I was surprised when Alexis came up again from behind? she had taken a pit stop and was saying she was having issue with a bit of cramping. It was certainly getting warm and I was also trying to figure out salt/fluid intake. We've not had many days in the 60-70 degree range to acclimate.  We ran along cheering on the other runners going into the loop and before I knew it we were back at camping gap for the third and final time!
Fat's Mans Misery 2010
I topped off my bottle, grabbed a salty hot potato and started the relentless climb up to Terrapin Rock!  The person behind me was using some snow to cool off and I was more than happy to join in~ why didn't I think of that? I picked up big handfuls and basically took a snow bath, it felt so good to wipe away the salt and cool off a bit. I put some down my shirt and held some in my swollen hands. I have to admit the urge to eat some was quite strong and I started dreaming of Popsicles. We finally reached the top, scurried out to the edge of Terrapin Rock and punched our numbers, barely getting to glimpse the amazing views. I had passed Ann Stanley earlier and Alexis was very close behind, but they were the only females I had seen all day. Somewhere along the way I thought I had been told I was running in 6th so I knew I had to take advantage of the next downhill section to stay in the top 10. Luckily my legs were feeling pretty good on the downhill and I was moving along fairly well. I slipped going between some rocks and put my arms out to brace myself, the forward momentum of my body almost wrenched my arms out of socket, (I felt that for a week). Fat Man's misery didn't seem so bad after that!
Coming out of  fat man's I caught Siobhan (who I met later learned is doing the BEAST, you go girl! and did MMT for her first 100, badass) I love all the downhill from the Terrapin summit, but then comes the painful part where you have to do an out and back to the final aid station.. I saw Dennis climbing back up from the aid station as I was going down and not far behind Beth and Marc! whoopwhoop! got me even more excited to see them and know we were headed into the final miles.
I had enjoyed chatting and being around lots of people during the decent from Terrapin, but I found myself alone on the last section. I decided to just enjoy some tunes and keep focused, walking as little as possible. I knew Alexis was close behind and would be just as determined for a strong finish. Probably a mile later I caught up to Beth, she was also plugged in and focused. I sensed she might not be feeling well so I just dropped a couple words and let her be, hoping those feelings would soon pass. I wanted to stop right there, give her a big hug, chat about how the day had played out up until that point, but I knew we needed to really work hard those last miles!
I'm always amazed at Terrapin and Promise Land in particular at how I can have so many highs and lows and feel like I've been totally spent multiple times throughout the day and then still after 30 miles, hit the road and still seem to have some gas in the tank. I always see the 1 more mile to go sign, look at my watch (if I have one on), note the time in my head and try to remember the number so I can calculate the pace, but once I cross that finish line it's the last thing on my mind. Whether it's a 10 minute mile or a 7 minute mile, it feels amazing to know that soon you'll be done, all those down times and negative thoughts will fade away and you're left with all the beautiful moments of the day.  Along with those beautiful moments I got to take home a PR, 5:28, and 3rd female!
I'm hating that I didn't take a single picture this year, but it was fun digging through all the past years and taking a trip down memory lane.  Thanks to Clark and all the wonderful volunteers for the huge amount of work that keeps us coming back!

Finish 2009



2013
Maybe 3 is the magic number????....
3rd Female at Holiday Lake 50k,
3rd Female at Black Mountain Marathon
3rd Female at the Shamrock 4 Miler
3rd at Terrapin 50K
all while age 33, if it had been 2013 I would really be freaked out ; )

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Russian Roulette

Running Races in February is a lot like playing Russian Roulette, the chances of dodging the bad weather bullet are pretty slim. If you sign up for two races in February the odds are even worse! I'm testing the odds again in 2014 and so far I'm not winning :)
 Holiday Lake 50K was my very first ultra. I ran a 5:35 in 2008, then I came back in 2009 thinking I could knock some time off, but battled an IT band issue slowing to 5:57. 2010 was a snow year and I hit an all time low of 6:49. I cursed every snowy slip-sliding step, ankles bashing into the ice crusted trenches and sucking every ounce of energy I could muster. I swore off HL after that year, every time someone would mention running it I would come up with a list of excuses a mile long..... it's so flat..... I don't like out and backs,  it's too close to Mount Mitchell, two races in February is too much, too risky!
I made it three years before someone was able to change my mind. A conversation with Beth Frye about running plans for 2014 made me realize it was time for a re-do at Holiday Lake. I needed to go back and wash that bad taste out of my mouth. I love running Terrapin, Promise Land, and Masochist, so it seems silly to miss out on completing the LUS series because of Holiday Lake. "Sure let's do it", I agreed, then realized that instead of the two weeks that traditionally lie between Holiday Lake and Mount Mitchell this year there would only be ONE! This should be interesting....
Snowy Run Thursday Morning
I built myself up, started to get excited about a potential PR at HL, happy to leave the bad attitude from 2010 behind! Then the snow came....I was so excited about getting out of work early Wednesday, then waking up to our offices being closed on Thursday!! I went on a snow day run testing my new screw shoes, then skiing with friends....who had time to think about the reality of running a 50K??? Then it all started to sink in! That snow isn't going anywhere, it's going to be 2010 all over again!
Thursday night I secretly wished Horton would cancel the race. I decided immediately I couldn't keep slipping into that negative thought pattern. Positive thinking = positive results. This WAS going to be a good weekend! We were staying at a neat B&B in Appomattox and having dinner there Friday night, and the main goal was to just get through it in one piece, uninjured going into Mount Mitchell the following weekend. "We are so very lucky to even be able to participate", I told myself, "don't take that for granted".
No pressure just a fun weekend! That is exactly what we got!
We had a great time Friday catching up and enjoyed our dinner, slept great and woke relaxed and ready to go. Smooth sailing getting to the camp and parking, only one final decision left. Screw shoes????
I put screws in some old Montrail Fairhavens and tried them out on Thursday and they just didn't seem to make a difference in the amount of snow we were dealing with. I had decided not to wear them, then thought maybe I should put them in my Masochists which are my normal go-to shoe just in case I changed my mind. At the last minute on Saturday morning I decided why not wear them? If they help a little at some point along the way it might be worth it? there might be some icy spots? crunchy layers? The last minute race jitters swayed my gut feeling not to wear them and I started in them, reasoning that at the half way I could change them if need be.

X-Country Ski Fun on the Virginia Creeper
I enjoyed the early miles, "playing" in the snow, but there was no mistaking it for fun, it was clearly going to be work. Muscles that are usually just along for the ride would have to participate in order to get through this, we were all over the place getting tossed around by the slick uneven surface. It was exhausting just trying to pick the path of least resistance. We hit the first section of road which was a welcome sight, a chance to actually open up and run (aahh!) I firmly planted my right foot to get some speed going and upon impact I felt a sharp pain in the front of my right  foot, **** ****!!!! Several four letter words spewed from my mouth. I felt the screws! I thought I had felt them earlier, but on the snow it was much more manageable, on the pavement not so much. Beth encouraged me to just try and put it out of my mind so I adjusted my stride and just tried to find soft patches of ground to land on. It was mainly just one in the front of my right foot that was a real threat, no biggie, right? It's merely a puncture wound :).
We came into an aid station and got to see Tammy, I chatted with her then I turned to see where Beth was and saw Jeremy Ramsey. He said something about getting out of the aid station first? I laughed thinking we were just trying to get through this thing, I'm sure we're miles behind the ladies out front. We took off and caught up to the guys ahead of us who also mentioned something about thinking we were the first females?? everyone must be confused? We started seeing some of the front runners and making our way back around the lake, I was excited to be done with the first half and seeing some familiar faces run by was uplifting. Cheering on the front runners briefly took my mind off the tiredness. Two females caught up to us and we all came into the turn around close together. I felt pressure to get in and out quickly so I grabbed some food from my drop bag and asked Tammy to grab my extra shoes in case the screw situation got worse. I was shocked to realize at that point we really were in first and second leaving the turnaround? Once again it was fun to cheer on the incoming runners and navigate the narrow single track, but once we got past I felt the wind leave my sails. I stumbled and fell. I put my hands down in the icy cold watery slush and soaked my gloves. I had left my extra pair in my drop bag because I had taken them off early on and had been annoyed just carrying them, but now I had no backup. Beth to the rescue! She dug out her extra pair and hooked it up! We just put our heads down and tried to stay steady. The power line section was freaking brutal, you could see ahead forever and the footing was horrible. I was having flashbacks to 2010, we had to just laugh it off, stay focused.
Marc Griffith caught up to us on the road and it was a nice distraction to chat with him for a while, I was feeling taxed. He told us Holly was close behind. I told Beth that I was so happy with how we had just kept up a consistent pace for so long in such crazy conditions, that if we could just hold onto top ten I would be ecstatic. I was definitely feeling the burn, but every time I would try to take a walk break it felt harder to walk than it was to "run", "slog" whatever you want to call it so I would press on.
Holly passed us at some point and I expected others would be close behind. We got to the single track back around the lake and I was happy to let loose a bit on the downhills and flats but the hills were not my friends, I had nothing left for them. One little baby hill stopped me almost dead in my tracks, I heard Beth catch up and I turned back to check in and see how she was doing, but it wasn't Beth, it was Alexis. I said hi, we exchanged a few words and she passed. I kept her in sight but catching her didn't seem likely. Even if I could get to the road close enough to chase down the pavement, I was afraid of such intense pounding with the screw shoes.
 I hit the road and  took a deep breath, just tread lightly but as fast as you can without puncturing a hole in the bottom of your foot!! Click, click, click, click I cursed the decision to wear the screw shoes all the way to the finish line. All the hard work, freezing cold mud puddles, slips, slides, missteps, post holing, and struggles to keep moving, quickly faded away as I crossed the finish line, happy to be uninjured and 3rd female. It was great to see Beth finish her 1st HL with a huge smile on her face. We had worked hard and enjoyed actually running a race together, most races we're very close in finishing times but often don't see each other for much of the race.
 Only time will tell what challenges we'll face at Mount Mitchell, even with all the warm weather and rain in the forecast there will likely be a good bit of snow and ice to deal with. We may dodge the weather bullet on Saturday, but the remnants of this past weeks storm I'm sure will make me once again question why I chose to play Russian Racing Roulette in February again!
Happy Campers

Thanks to Horton and all the volunteers out there who make it possible! thanks always to Tammy our loving trail mom, head handler extraordinaire! and I vote Frank Gonzalez best trail cheerleader of the day! he was cracking me up out there. If you don't believe that there were really 34 miles of snow, check out some of the other reports and photos of the course. http://www.extremeultrarunning.com/2014_holiday_lake/stories.html

Gear: Smartwool Long Sleeve quarter zip
Old Navy Capri's
Injinji Wool knee socks (Sadly it was their last tour of duty and I can't find them anymore)
Montrail Masochists
Nathan Intensity Hydration pack
Fuel :  Vanilla Gu and some FIG bars from Nature's Bakery, I had just picked up at Sheetz for a snack on the drive up, stashed the extras in my drop bag and ate two packages on the return trip. They were awesome! super tasty and sat well on my stomach. Hope I can find some before for next weekend.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Past, Present, Future..

No it's not a cheesy Jared Jewelry plug, it's just another blog post ...

Past : It's only March and I feel like a lot of incredible runs have already taken place in 2012! with all the fun goings on, blogging has taken a back seat. A lot has happened since November so let's backup a bit and review or at least hit the highlights thus far....

 January:
We started off the new year right with Eric's traditional Over the Top Run! we had beautiful weather, a great group and a beautiful course up and over Whitetop Mountain.
 Me, Rob French, Doug Blackford, Morgan Buchanan, Rick Gray, Eric Grossman, Guy Love, Jenny Nichols, Alan Couch


 1.7.12  - Joined the WNC group and ran the Tanawha 50K - last year our attempt to join this run was thwarted by massive amounts of snow. We had a great time this year on a tough and technical trail. I hiked this trail in college and had run it once before. Doug, Dennis, Kathleen, Kari and I stuck together for the entire journey!
Tanawha 50k 2012
 1.16.12 - Martin Luther King Day - Solo trip up to Mount Rogers to play in the snow! so beautiful.

MLK 2012
1.21.12 - My 3rd year running the Sultan 50k in South Mountain State Park for Mo's Birthday. Always a blast to run with such a great group, eat red velvet cake, wear crowns and do tricks to earn bonus points. The Sultan sure knows how to throw a party!
                                
February:
2.11.12 -  Matt and Mohammed concocted a plan to run RAM (Roan Adventure Marathon) which follows the AT from Carver's Gap to 19E and back. Seemed like a solid plan until the weather began forecasting some nastiness which led the group to change the plan a bit and do it in reverse. If it were to snow a ton, the chances of the car being stuck @ Carver's Gap when we finished were much greater so we started on the lower end. The weather man was right and we started with snow, cold, and when we came out of the woods and hit the first bald we discovered the power of wind. Long story short, Kathleen and I decided to head back after tackling the first bald and ran in the opposite direction where things were much more balmy :) it's amazing what a couple of miles and feet of elevation gain can do for conditions. Matt, Mohammed, and Charlie made it to Carver's Gap and back! check out their blogs for some great photos, videos, recaps! These guys are no joke!

2.18.12 - Jeff Smith hosted the first ever Pinnacle Fire Tower Trail Run in Erwin Tenn, and it was a huge hit! I think about 30 people came together to run to the top and back! Donna Bays social ambassador for SFTC (state of franklin track club) graciously volunteered to bring breakfast goodies and coffee and greet everyone that morning! She's the best! Great visiting with some old friends and meeting some new peeps! The weather was beautiful and unseasonably warm! the best part was Scratch Pizza was just down the road in Johnson City! best pizza ever in my book, so every chance I get to run in that area I hit it up :) Order a  Trust Pie (let them create a masterpiece) no meat it's the way to go!
Scratch Pizza YUM


2.19.12- Snowy Run on Treasure Mountain
2.20.12- Snowy Hike from Elk Garden up the AT and in the woods with JJJ
2.25.12 - Mount Mitchell Challenge - 40 miler from Black Mountain to the top of Mount Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi. Elev. 6684 ft. It was my 4th year running the Challenge. not the worst weather year, but still challenging up top. Mega wind gusts with temperatures in the single digits. They faced possibly having to shorten the course to 17 miles, but luckily things didn't get to icy up top and we ran the full course. I got to run with Rick and Kathleen for a good portion going up to the parkway and then a good portion of the remainder of the race within sight of Mo, check out his post and great video. just don't laugh to hard at the girl in orange, she is the sensitive type ; ) I was so proud of the crew, everyone had a good run! Ed Marsh finished his 13th Mitchell, and Doug Blackford and Rick Gray went 10 for 10!!! awesome! I took 30 min. off my 2011 time and finished 3rd Female in 7:01, happy to see a bit of improvement each year.
Donna, Rebecca, Dana!
Happy Finishers



I thought the weekend couldn't get any better until JJJ called Sunday with the news Breadzilla was fired up and pizza was on tap! As if that weren't pure bliss, I was presented with my very own special piece of what can only be described as the best Tiramisu on the planet, period, end of story! I will run to the top of Mt. Mitchell any day of the week for some of that goodness!


3.3.12 - A great gathering with a bunch of VHTRC crazies!! and finally a clear view from McAfee's Knob! Legs felt pretty good a week out from Mitchell but I was happy to do the short version :)

3.10.12 - Jenny's Last big Umstead Training Weekend!! she did a big day on Friday and then met us on
Saturday for Eric's "2 hour loop" which translates to roughly a 3 hour loop for us mere mortals :) Guy, Tim, Micah, Eric, Jenny, and I had a great morning running together. Amazing to see how strong Jenny was running after a tough/long day on Friday! so excited for her first 100! prediction- she is gonna kill it!

3.16.12 - Abingdon hosted it's first Shamrock 4 miler. We Run Events did a great job as well as Wolf Hills Brewing and Bonefire Smokehouse! chip timing, free bbq, 2 beers and a tech shirt, for $20! that's a deal. Iron Mountain Trail Runners had a great turnout! proving you can do both! Eric (overall winner), Robin, and Gavin Grossman (2nd AG)! Jennifer Nichols (6th Female, 2nd AG) JJ Jessee, Donna Bays, Aliese Harrison, Tanner Smith (3rd AG) Rick Gray (1st AG) It was my first time actually getting to "break the tape" so that was a great way to kick off the weekend and get pumped for our trail run on Saturday!
lt-rt. Aliese, Jenny, Eric, Me, Rick, JJ, Robin
See Previous Post for Saint Patrick's Day Fun Run :)

Present: I'm thankful for remaining healthy and running injury free so far this year. Looking forward to running Terrapin 50K this weekend! one of my favorite races. Spring in the mountain is such a wonderful thing. This is one of my favorite weekends of the year, racing on Saturday morning, spending Friday night and Saturday with the "family" then Sunday getting up and volunteering for the creeper marathon right in my backyard! JJ and I have done this for the past several years and it's so much fun cheering and hanging out in one of my favorite spots. Sadly they have still not replaced the trestle where our aid station is set up from the tornado that came through last April. Losing that trestle was like losing a good friend. I miss it every time I run through there, so Sunday will be no different. I'm sure the marathoners will miss it as well, considering they have to run up and down a steep "valley" now that it is gone :)

Future: I'm still in shock that in three weeks I will be standing on the south rim of the Grand Canyon, preparing to run to the bottom, across the river, to the North Rim and back! It's been on the list for a while, but plans came out of the blue two weeks ago and I jumped at the opportunity to share the experience with some of my favorite people on the planet! sandwiched in between Terrapin 50K and Promise Land 50K it's a lot going on in a short amount of time! I'm afraid I'll blink and it will all be over......until then I'm going to do my very best and enjoy every second ~

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Saint Patrick's Day Fun Run

A ton has happened since I last posted in November and maybe one day I'll get back around to all that, but before I let it slip away I wanted to post this video of the Annual Saint Patrick's Day run this past Saturday. We had a record crowd, 21 Runners and 1 dog!! It was a blast. Hope to see you there next year!!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Ridge to Bridge Marathon

After making the decision to pull out of Cheat Mountain 50, I realized my "racing" calender was sort of empty for the fall so I started looking for possibilities and remembered that Dennis and Doug were running Ridge to Bridge Marathon. They had both run R2B in 2010 and highly recommended it. I wasn't all that thrilled with my run at Grandfather Marathon in July so I thought it might be nice to once again try and break 3:35, but this time on a course more suited to my running preference (mostly all downhill) and with much cooler weather.
Waiting at the Start Brrrrrr - Photo: Randy Smith
Dennis and I drove down to Morganton,NC (race headquarters) Friday evening to pick up our race packets and grab one for Doug and Eva as well, giving us one less thing to worry about Saturday morning. We met up with the crew at  the Jonas Ridge Marathon gas station just as the buses full of runners arrived, I jumped out and quickly hit the port o john before they unloaded. We were lucky that Eva's friend Chris was going to meet us at the finish, so we loaded up our post race gear for him to shuttle to the finish and after standing around freezing for a while I got up the nerve to shed the puffy jacket and head to the start. 
It was a beautiful fall morning and I enjoyed chatting with Doug for the first bit as my feet began to thaw. My toes were seriously frozen! We ran through rolling rural countryside, no worry of traffic and did a short out and back (about 5.5 miles) before turning left on an unpaved road for the 9 mile descent! I took it easy on the road section and tried to take the advice of the RD: 
 Miles 1-6: Run comfortably within yourself here. Your early-miles adrenaline will carry you through but don’t be tempted to overdo it. Take your goal time and break it up into 26.2 equal bites (your pace per mile). Don’t worry if you find yourself 10 seconds per mile behind goal pace over the first six miles. You’ll easily make this up over the next nine miles with no additional effort. Stay calm, conserve your energy, and remain comfortable. 
The Downhill Section Photo: Willie Lowe
I did stay very calm and comfortable and enjoyed passing the other runners on the out and back section, cheering people on and seeing some familiar faces. I knew being conservative on the first road section wouldn't be the problem, but I had been warned of what could happen on the long downhill stretch and I needed to focus on not being to overzealous and killing myself on the downhill. Sounds easy enough, settle in a comfortable pace, soak in the the beautiful scenery, nice and controlled....got it. 
I was rolling along thinking how nice it was just to let gravity do the work and my assessment was that the grade was not so steep that it would completely trash my quads so I floated along waiting for the aid station that had gels so i could restock when enter into the equation being passed by another female. She quietly came out of nowhere looking very strong and focused, I had seen her on the road early on and now she was back pushing the pace on the downhill, checking her watch often, she had a plan. I was feeling good and wasn't going to let her go without a bit of a "fight" so we exchanged a few words about how beautiful the course is and how perfect the weather was and then it was back to business, we yoyo'd back and forth until eureka! the table with the gels! I had to grab a few as I only started out with two in my pocket (not enough), just enough of a pause for her to move ahead. I looked up and saw she was in pursuit of two other females up ahead. I took a gel and settled back in and before too long we hit the bottom and were back on the pavement (ugh)  
Wilson Creek Photo: Willie Lowe
We turned left for a short out and back and my legs felt like lead. Great, I had overdone it, I had been warned! Dennis had told me about this section and that he died there last year but after a couple miles his legs came back and things turned around so I kept hope and plugged along, seeing the ladies I had chased down the hill on the out and back and hoping they were feeling just as sluggish (or more) :) Luckily that must have been the case as I caught them going down the road along the banks of Wilson Creek. It was breathtaking running along the water with the sun glistening off the surface.  After a couple of miles of flat road things began to pick up again and I wondered what kind of pace I had going? unlike most races I had a watch on and decided I would try and figure out the lap feature, what better time to experiment than in a race :) 
I had noticed at the half I was around 1:35 so maybe there was still hope in breaking 3:35??  I punched the lap button at the 17 mile marker and prayed I would remember to do the same if I saw the 18 mile mark. Much to my surprise it all worked and in a fog I think I saw a 7:48 split?? no way? under 8 min pace? couldn't be? check it again at 19? you should have figured out how to do this before the race.... I passed the aid station at mile 18.5 and saw Chris waiting there for Eva with Annie (her beautiful, non-barking! dog) hit mile 19 and checked the time, again under 8 min pace? can I do this for 7 more miles? each mile I checked, shocked me more than the last and fueled me to keep digging deeper. I had secretly wanted to qualify for New York Marathon, a 3:23 qualifying time for me, which I felt was outside my reach, but I kept thinking maybe, just maybe...what do I have to lose, if I crash in the last little bit at least I tried... 
Final Miles Photo: Willie Lowe
Mile 23 came up quick and then I switched to the just a 5k left mentality, almost there.. then up ahead more motivation to push, someone to catch.  I slowly gained ground, passed her, and then maybe a 1/4 mile down the road, a guy with a camera spotted her behind me and started cheering and taking pictures. he began running with her and coaching her along and soon they passed me, no problem, I'll just pretend he is my "pacer" and stick to them like glue! they won't be able to shake me, haha. that lasted all of about 3 min. and they dropped me, argh. I tried so hard to catch her at the end but it just wasn't happening, (you can see in the photo above, I'm in pink) I could see her just ahead but my legs would not move any faster. I crossed the finish line 26 seconds behind her, but couldn't be upset for long when it sunk in that I finished in 3:16! I was happy as a clam. I ended up 4th Female, 30th overall and got the course record for female age group 30-34- 3:15:56 (chip time) way beyond anything I had expected.

Photo : Bobby Aswell
Photo: Randy Smith




We had a blast eating, drinking, soaking in the river, laying in the sun! it's the perfect post race hangout spot along the river. David and Rhonda do such a fantastic job with this race! Dennis, Doug, Eva and I all made 1st in our age groups and each got a nice piece of pottery. Annie (the dog) ran her longest distance ever with Chris and supported Eva! It was a great day!




















Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Feeling a little "Cheated"

For a couple of years I have wanted to run Cheat Mountain Moonshine Madness 50 Miler and it kept conflicting with life until this year when everything seemed good to go! I was all signed up and feeling strong, recovering quickly from Grandfather Marathon gave me hope for a strong race in August.  We had a great vacation in Maine the week after Grandfather and I managed to get in some good runs on the trail and road. I returned home and jumped right back in, joining Eric and Jenny for a run in Damascus on Sunday then the classic DAM8 Wednesday night run. I felt great, strong, focused, trail running bliss, followed by a soak in the river. There was an Iron Mountain group training run planned for Saturday July 30th, running the back half of the 50 miler course. I was so excited to see everyone and get in a good long training run. I love that section and hadn't done it in a year so I was pumped. I rested on Thursday and then Friday I started to notice some pain in my left foot while doing some work in the field. I took some ibuprofen and didn't think too much about it until I hit the floor Saturday morning. I hobbled to the bathroom and proceeded to get ready, hoping that it would ease off as things warmed up?? I drove to Skulls Gap to meet the crew and realized when I got out of the car I had made a mistake, I was in denial. I could barely walk on it, much less run 20+ miles. I finally came to grips and teary eyed got in the car and drove home. I was totally bummed. I decided to start ice, and ibuprofen but I had to be productive, I couldn't just sit still so I would ice then get up and hobble around, rinse and repeat. I could walk on my tip toe, I just couldn't put all of my weight on it, no problem.....until that night when even tip toeing around became an issue and I was going to have to resort to crawling. Sunday became a mission to find crutches. How did I go from awesome run on Wednesday to crutches on Sunday? what the heck.
All research online pointed towards Peroneal Tendinitis. A trip to the orthopedic confirmed said online diagnosis and it was recommended that I take 800mg of Ibuprofen 3x daily for 10 days and consider crosstraining more in my life. Every time I get an injury I promise myself I will start weight training, yoga, biking, being a more well rounded individual, then when things are operating smoothly running is all I need. I have broken this promise many times and may never learn my lesson it seems.
Luckily I've been able to run again, nothing over 8 miles, but I'll take it! I just felt after 3 weeks of basically no running and the fact that things are not back to 100% by any stretch of the imagination, I should pull out of the race, that it would be unwise to try and run 50 miles. I want to move forward, and be running healthy as the fall weather is getting here! so even though I feel "cheated" by not getting to run Cheat, I am thankful for every mile.