Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Holston Mountain

Saturday I met Rick and Tammy @ Cross Mountain Tennessee for a run. Tammy likes to run South on the AT out to visit good ole Uncle Nick Grindstaff's grave.(Along the Appalachian Trail in Shady Valley on Iron Mountain, the dividing line between Shady Valley and Stoney Creek, there is the chimney-shaped grave of Uncle Nick Grindstaff, a man who, as the tombstone says, "Lived alone, Suffered alone, and Died alone.”)Here is one rendition of his story.
Rick and I take the AT north about 3.5 miles to Double Springs shelter then as you are climbing away from the shelter on the AT the Holston Mountain Trail takes off to your left. The trail is blazed blue and is hard to follow at times for the first couple miles. It is 9.5 mile on the Holston Mtn. Trl. to the firetower where we turn around giving us about 26 miles total.
At a point 3.5 miles south of Low Gap (U.S. 421) and 3.5 miles north of TN 91, the A.T. leaves Holston Mountain and heads southeast over Cross Mountain to Iron Mountain. From this point, the blue-blazed Holston Mountain Trail (USFS 44) continues southwest along the crest of Holston Mountain to Holston High Knob. Before 1954, this was the route of the A.T. Its abandonment as the A.T. route, while necessary to avoid the wide valley crossings to the south, was nevertheless undertaken with some reluctance because of the considerable beauty and ease of traverse of this route. For 9.5 miles, this trail follows the mountain crest through pleasant forest growth with no major change of elevation. Outstanding features include Flint Rock, a high rock outcropping near Flint Mill Gap overlooking the Holston River Valley and South Holston Lake, and Holston High Knob with a USFS fire and communications tower. This trail is maintained by the Watauga Ranger District of USFS.

We checked out this trail for the first time this year.  In the summer we experienced lots of overgrowth, including deadly Brier bushes and chest high stinging nettles. We were looking forward to returning to this trail after the cold had taken down the vegetation and leaves so it would be easier to stay on the trail and catch some views of the lake. What we didn't expect to find were the large amount of briers still on the trail. My legs were a sight to behold when we made it back to the car.

It was a pretty uneventful run, we just took it easy and enjoyed being out. Once you are on the Holston Mtn. Trl. you can catch some good views of the lake. It looks like a huge relief map from up on the ridge line. Being the time of year that it is we expected to see hunters. We only actually saw 2, but we did hear a couple of gun shots, and come across several signs they were among us. The 4 wheeler didn't have keys so we could only look, but we did get to try out the handy dandy tree stand! hope they didn't mind.
Just so I don't forget again, I'm going to put this down in writing.... This run has some climbing in it! I'm sure I'm still a bit tired from Masochist, but these climbs were boogers. We got to the fire tower, our turn around point and Rick decided to go up. I had only made up two levels the last time and with it being pretty windy I decided to just stick to the ground.
I explored around and looked at an old "out house" and another pile of concrete that I couldn't distinguish. You can see the C2 monument in the ground which we are guessing was a way for air traffic to identify the spot for landing.
I had packed a peanut butter, jelly, and cranberry sandwich so i munched on that and fiddled with my pack. The trip back was slightly quicker even though our pace slowed and our legs stiffened. I definitely need to spend some time with the foam roller, stick, massage, yoga, etc. I took a wonderful body movement class last night, including some tai chi, nia dance movement, yoga, kung fu, breathing exercises, etc. It was a great way to start loosening up all those tight muscles and lots of fun while learning.
I'm looking forward to the long holiday weekend and a trip to Asheville for great food, family, friends and a fun run! SO Very much to be Thankful for! Have a great holiday! gobble gobble!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Break out of the box!

The book club I'm in recently read The Last American Man, by Eustace Conway. One particular passage has just really stuck with me and I'd like to share it...
I live in nature where everything is connected, circular. The seasons are circular.  The planet is circular, and so is the planet around the sun. The course of water over the earth is circular coming down from the sky and circulating through the world to spread life and then evaporating up again. I live in a circular teepee and build my fire in a circle. The life cycles of plants and animals are circular. I live outside where I can see this.  The ancient people understood that our world is a circle, but we modern people have lost site of that. I don't live inside buildings because buildings are dead places where nothing grows, where water doesn't flow, and where life stops. I don't want to live in a dead place. People say that I don't live in a real world, but it's modern Americans who live in a fake world, because they have stepped outside the natural circle of life.
Do people live in circles today? No. They live in boxes.  They wake up every morning in a box of their bedrooms because a box next to them started making beeping noises to tell them it was time to get up. They eat their breakfast out of a box and then they throw that box away into another box.  Then they leave the box where they live and get into another box with wheels and drive to work, which is just another big box broken into little cubicle boxes where a bunch of people spend their days sitting and staring at the computer boxes in front of them. When the day is over, everyone gets into the box with wheels again and goes home to the house boxes and spends the evening staring at the television boxes for entertainment. They get their music from a box, they get their food from a box, they keep their clothing in a box, they live their lives in a box. Break out of the box! Eustace Conway.
 If only for a number of hours a week running gets me out of that box and for that I am truly grateful. I hope in the future I can break even further out of these boxes!
I highly recommend this book if you have time check it out.

The gang at the start

I wrote a Masochist report last week and somehow it didn't save? long story short it was a great weekend. A pictures worth a thousand words so this should cover it.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Masochist Prequel

Getting Verbal Directions (stay with someone who knows the course)

Jenny Preparing her pack
I didn't make it up for a training run last year before my first masochist. A friend of mine has a cabin in the area and we had gone up in October for a wine festival and I managed to check out the "loop" while we were there, but that was all I knew. I prefer going into a race not knowing the course, but it may not be the wisest choice considering I did get off course last year. This will be Jenny's first year at Masochist and she was wanting to go up for the training run on the second half of the course so I decided to ride up with her and get one last long run in. We drove up Friday after work, stopped @ Macado's in Salem for dinner and some great people watching. Checked into the hotel in Lynchburg around 9:30? and I have to admit I went straight to bed, I hadn't slept well the night before and had been looking forward to some sleep. I knew 4am would come all too soon and it did.

Rob Running Strong

 I jumped up and showered and packed up my stuff and we made it to Sheetz with plenty of time to round up some coffee and breakfast. I had been to Sheetz many times with Rick for his pre & post race ritual, but had never actually ordered food. I have to say it's a pretty nifty system. Many runners slowly gathered, some old faces, some new. We caravaned to Montebello, which took longer than I had anticipated and there was another large group of runners waiting there. Everyone piled in to carpool to Long Mountain Wayside, we hitched a ride with Stewart and Aaron, both training for their first ultras. The drive to the start (which is actually 26.9 miles in the race) was beautiful, the sun coming up, the leaves, the mountains, the big ole moon, it was spectacular.

Running Up or Down?

We unloaded, signed in, Horton gave us a pre-run briefing and prayer and we were off. It was a good group for a training run. We bounced back and forth with people, settling into a nice relaxed pace. We got to run with Mike Bailey (capon cohort) and Rob French (nc runner), Guy Love (our home town boy away @ VT), Jack (very enthusiastic DC runner). I recognized some parts from last year and others were unrecognizable. We made it to the Buck Mountain AS FS520/48 and I distinctly remembered it from last year. Dan, Andy, and Angie met me here last year and drove past me on the way to the loop. I thought this would be a good spot for a group shot and then Snipes and his entourage rolled up just in time for the photo. Don't mind Mike in the background doing his business, he is special.

We all climbed up the road to the loop entrance where some wonderful soul had put out aid for us! thank you! jugs of water, chips, crackers, protein bars, and much to my delight, chocolate covered coconut squares!!

Surprise Aid Station = Happy Runners

Monday, October 18, 2010


Buzzard Rock

This weekend was the best! With masochist right around the corner and my decision to attempt Hellgate again it was the perfect weekend to get some good miles in. The weather was perfect and the cooler temps make me a happy camper! I was off monday for Columbus day and was able to get a long run in, did the loop on wednesday, shorter run on thursday, but with two back to back long runs I could push my mileage up for the week. I'm usually a 30 mile a week kinda gal if that, so I was excited to get up around 80 miles for the week without a race. Jenny and I met at 5:30 in Damascus Saturday morning to run the Government Road Loop. Southbound on the AT - McQueens Gap, around 11 miles then head down the mountain and back to town mostly on gravel forest service road and a bit of pavement for a total of 24.6 miles.
It was great starting under the dark, dark, starry sky, looking down into the valley as we climb up, seeing the lights twinkle above and below. I wondered how many people were still dreaming asleep in their cozy beds, not to awake for several more hours. I felt great, so alive, happy to be out and moving. The sun slowly began to rise and colors highlighting the iron mountain ridge line in the distance kept catching my eye through the remaining leaves on the trees. I had to stop often to watch in amazement as the pinks, reds, oranges painted the dark mountains as we stood under a blanket of fall colors, I kicked myself for not bringing the camera even though it never does justice.

We hit McQueens Gap in no time it seemed and the single track was just over to soon for me, but I embraced the face that government road would be great masochist training and it is still beautiful for the most part. It's a steep grade going down for several miles winding around before you come to the first paved section. This area is a bit rough and known to have loose dogs who are weary of strangers so I always grab a stout stick and carry it in case of attack. JJJ is smart and at times has carried bologna to make friendly with his attackers. I like to pretend I'm tough and could take down anything that comes my way with one whack, haha. It's entertaining on the pavement and takes my mind off the pounding as I laugh at scenarios in my head. (oh yeah tough guy, you try and bite my ankle and I'll show you whose boss you little bleep, bleep, bleep)   I know, crazy, but highly entertaining... The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful. 24.6 miles under our belts and still an entire day to play.  I love getting an early start. We spread our towels out on the grass, I had a tall glass of chocolate milk and jenny her ultragen. We talked and laughed for about an hour as we watched the cops curiously pass by. We decided we better split before we got charged with loitering and I headed to a friends in damascus for a shower.

me, jason,cliff, flex
Good buddies of mine, Clifton and Jason, have joined me the past two years @ Grayson Highlands for an October leaf peaking, running campout. JJ, joined us for the campout last year and we were looking forward to doing it for a 3rd year and keeping the tradition. Due to some miscommunication on my part, JJ didn't make it up this year and was missed terribly. We were disappointed at the large amount of people as we arrived at scales this year considering we pretty much had it to ourselves last year, but we still had a blast. One large group of "campers" had a huge tent city of sorts going with one extra super large pavilion type tent set up with, you'll never guess..... freaking satellite TV! why with scales and all of it's beauty would you want to watch tv is beyond me?? I slept well, woke about 7am. We packed up and cooked a lovely breakfast of eggs, bacon and pancakes before heading to Elk Garden.

around whitetop
Cliff and Jason were kind enough to give me a ride down to Elk Garden to meet up with Rick, Tammy and luckily JJ. They weren't running but everyone was glad to get to see them and chat for a bit. Rick, Jenny, JJ and I headed up the AT towards whitetop where we would be treated with some incredible views. It is complete eye candy up there until you begin the descent and head back into the woods. We stopped at Buzzard Rock for a little photo shoot. i thought it would be fun to see everyone do their best flight pose on top of the highest rock and it was!




I had been down the trail a ways below buzzard rock in the past, but from that point until we hit the creeper trail was new territory for me which was nice. I love new (to me) trail and this section of trail was sweet! We stopped for a minute to check out the lost mtn shelter and then Rick and I picked up the pace, I wanted to enjoy all of this cushy mostly downhill running before we hit the creeper when I knew we would have some climbing to do. I was really surprised at how well I was feeling and running with the miles on Saturday, so I was extremely happy. We crossed two roads that I had not put in my mental map that were throwing me off. The first was 601 Beech Mountain Rd. and the other was Grassy Ridge Rd (859). They both looked like great roads to take leisurely Sunday drive and picnic on or maybe even run. JJ and Jenny decided they would take the creeper back to Damascus to save some time so we bid farewell and pressed on, this is where I started to get a bit tired. I think the climbing had a lot to do with it and the fact that the rest of the run was trail I am all too familiar with and could visualize what we had left to cover and knew it wasn't easy running on tired legs.

 Rick and I got pretty quiet and just focused on moving as quickly as possible. We passed a family picnicking on the trail and another couple hiking, both were headed to Damascus and we questioned how they could possibly make it back by dark as we still had at least 8.5 miles to go. When we crossed 58, I was thinking I would flag down everyone around straight branch and ask them if they had some type of ice cold soda. I was really craving something carbonated and sugary to drink. I had only had 1 gel and a bottle of perpetuem so I thought maybe I should take that as a signal to choke down one more gel, ugh. We passed beech grove and I knew we had half of our Wednesday night run still ahead of us which seemed daunting. We were getting ready to climb up a section that I usually love to fly down which meant more work. Luckily it passed quickly in my mind at least and i just kept breaking it down in to little landmarks. Oh we're at the IMTR connector, past the view spot, thru the rhodo tunnel, past the eye of sauron, down the rock garden, past where I fell and hit my knee, up the last little hill, past the campsite, where we saw the bum last week, and the stairs!  I was so happy to come down the stairs and hit the creeper. As much fun as I had, I was ready to be done.

I got home and unloaded all of my crap, took a nice long bubble bath, ate dinner, did some internet surfing and was surprisingly not tired or sore.  I slept well and feel good today. I hope this is a good sign that my body is becoming prepared for what I am about to ask of it these next two months. Here is a link to more photos, by the way I get super annoyed with trying to get photos on here the way I want them, anyone else have this problem with blogger?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Hello again Blog world! If you landed here you may be aware that in the past there was a very similar blog called Running Through the Iron Mountains. Well, for the past several weeks I have been mourning the demise of that site and trying to get over the fact that all of the posts I had written are now lost in cyberspace. As the original site was not created by me, I have no control to take the necessary steps needed to retrieve the account so I have decided to move forward with a new blog.
For those of you who have not come across a blog about Iron Mountain Trail running, let me introduce myself. I'm Elizabeth (Beth) Minnick. I started running in October 2005, thanks to lots of encouragement from Jennifer (Jenny) Nichols. You will see her name on here frequently. We took a leisurely run on the creeper and I was hooked.

Five Years later I've run 4 marathons, 14- 50k's, 3- 40milers, and 1- Mountain Masochist 50. I've had 1 DNF @ Hellgate last year and hope to make that right this December. I love the training, time out in the mountains and the camaraderie in ultra running. I have meet so many wonderful people thru training, fun runs and races and just feel so lucky to be a part of such a great community which I consider my family. I will use this blog to document my running experiences and introduce you to some of these wonderful people. We train mostly in and around southwest Virginia, northeast Tennesee, and western North Carolina. The Appalachain and Iron Mountain Trails run thru Damascus, VA and we spend a lot of time there, hence the blog title.

Some of the Family @ The 2010 Mount Mitchell Challenge
Will Jorgenson, me, Jenny Nichols, Tammy Gray, Chris Redman, Rick Gray.

So without further ado, just a recap on the past month or so……..
The last post on was in September when I reported on volunteering for the Iron Mountain Trail Races. Quite a bit has happened since then.
11th - Ran the Eastman 10k and had nothing to offer there. Dead legs, no speed, suffer fest.
18th - Attempted the Bays Mountain 15 mile trail run for the 4th time. Thanks
to Rick Gray For pushing me across the finish line in 2:24 for 3rd place female.
2007- 2:45 2008- 2:25 2009 -2:36 2010 -2:24
25th - Jenny and I ran a nice 20 mile out and back on the AT from Cross Mountain- found mysterious abandoned pack, sleeping bag, gear etc. and came across father & son hunters carrying bows. Guess we need to invest in some ORANGE! fall is upon us!

2nd- Stump Jump 50K - Chattanooga TN.
Great event, very well organized, great goodie bag, Patagonia tech tee,beautiful course.Didn’t run as well as I had hoped, just wasn’t dialed in 100%. Thankful I didn’t get off course like several others reported. Had an awesome time checking out Chattanooga.

Kyle, Joey and I at the start

9th - Volunteered @ New River 50K. Had a blast working registration, the turnaround Aid Station, finish line timing, photos, and cheering. I finally broke down and bought a couple cow bells. I just love coming into an aid station and hearing a bit of cow bell, haha. Maybe I just associate the sound with a bit of a break and getting to see lovely volunteers and crew, but boy is it a fun sound! I hope I didn’t drive people crazy ringing them. Here are the photos I took

10th- Short run on the beartree gap loop with Jenny Nichols.
11th - Off for Columbus Day!! Ran from my house to Damascus on the creeper, 18 miles.
13th - DAM8 loop with Jenny- we are losing so much day light each week, had to wear headlamps the last couple miles. Ran across a guy sleeping in the middle of the trail on the AT just outside of Damascus, this is the second time in the past couple months I’ve come across this. Not something I care to do in the dark. He did not even attempt to move out of the way and was barely responsive verbally even with me shining my headlamp directly at him. Also crossed paths with second hunter of the season, still need to purchase some ORANGE!
14th - 5 miles – creeper and neighborhood
15th - Gearing up for back to back 20+ milers and the 3rd annual Grayson Camping Extravaganza!
So that pretty much brings everyone up to speed. Jenny and I are running the Government Road loop tomorrow morning. Good prep for Masochist! I loathe this run and love it at the same time. Ten miles out on the AT then 11 miles back to Damascus on gravel road. Sunday we’ll run from Elk Garden back to Damascus all on AT! Should be a great weekend of fall running, cooler temps, and colorful leaves!!!!