Sunday, March 29, 2009

Athens Group Run and Excuses

There was a low turnout for today's 10 miler in Athens, only 5 folks. But I'm glad that those 5 showed! There are races today. There were races yesterday. That accounts for most of the folks who were missing. And the windy spitting rain and cold didn't help either. It just wasn't a great morning for a run!

And I had to drop out after only 2 miles. I just did not have it today. I was having a pain in the back of my knee. I've had that exact pain before a few times, and every time it goes away with a day of rest.

I knew something was wrong yesterday when I raced MHM. I really believe I'm capable of sub 2:10 on that course. 2:10 was my goal. 2:18 wasn't bad by my standards, but I definitely wanted better. I seriously considered skipping the race yesterday. If Blake had given the shirt away at packet pickup instead of as a finisher's award, I would have definitely skipped the race. (Thanks, Blake! I'm glad I ran even though it hurt.)

I mentioned fatigue and back pain. Well, I was having chest pain also. And yesterday a rash developed on my chest. I just ignored it and ran anyway, but there was no ignoring the fatigue. I just didn't feel good. And I still don't. So I went to a clinic today and found out that I have shingles. Shingles? I thought I was too young for that? Ugh. Maybe that explains why I felt so rotten yesterday. Maybe that explains the cramping and general yuck feeling. My body has been too busy fighting off a virus to deal with running hard.

By the way, shingles is very painful. So, if you've been around me much lately and haven't had the chicken pox, beware.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

McKay Hollow Madness - Recap

This paragraph is a "post race edit". I ran this race with shingles. The back pain I mention in the report below was diagnosed as shingles the next day at a walk-in clinic. So, I'm more proud of that effort, because I really didn't feel like running at all, and gave what I think is a very good effort. I missed most of the next week at work and was down for about 3 weeks after.

Sorry, no pics. Again, I did this race alone.

This is a GREAT RACE! The distance is not overwhelming. The course is difficult (actually that's an understatement... the course is brutal), but just about perfect. Kudos to Blake Thompson for putting on such an excellent event. Thanks to all who volunteered today. Great job!

For those who don't want to read the recap, here are the numbers. 2:18:19 finish time. 19th overall of 144 runners and 3rd in my age group. The winner was David Riddle in an insane and what I thought was impossible 1:40. Second place goes to my friend Eric Charette who finished in an AMAZING 1:51. The first place female was Jessica Southers in an impressive 2:13. Full results are at the HTC Website. Overall and Age Groups.

The forecast for today was absolutely NASTY. The weather wasn't as bad as the forecast, but it was yucky. It rained half of the night and rained until just about start time. The course was an absolute mess. Mud, wind, and rain. All the better! That is the essence of trail running. Run the course as it is.

All week I knew that today would not be a great day for me. So, I was disappointed before I started. I have been battling back pain, congestion, and fatigue. (Wow, I sound like an old man.) I can't really describe what's wrong, but I just don't feel good and I haven't for a couple of weeks. I'm not sleeping well at all. I actually slept well last night; I just didn't sleep long enough. But the alarm went off and I threw on my race clothes and grabbed my pre-packed race-day bag and hit the road. The thought of skipping the race did cross my mind. Yeah, I felt that bad.

The day just didn't start well. I stopped at the Starbucks in Athens, and they would not acknowledge me in the drive-thru. I thought they opened at 5:30, and it was 5:40-ish. So I left and the Starbucks in Madison was the same?!? No coffee? Tragic. It wasn't going to be a good day. Luckily, Rocket Rush was open. I'll probably start giving them my business anyway. Then, as I pulled out of the Rocket Rush, I realized that I did not have my watch. WHAT?!?!?! No Garmin? How could I run this race with no clue about my HR, my pace, my distance or my time? UGH! I knew the course well enough that even a stopwatch would have been ok. But I was stuck running this race blind. I ran strictly by feel today. BTW, I learned that that's not a terrible way to run.

This was a true shotgun start! I think that was kinda cool. At the start, there is about a mile or so of road before we hit the trail. That's good because it allows the packs to form. I just tried to stay at the back of the front pack, and I did. There was nobody in my sight behind me when I hit the trail, but I could still see the leaders. The entry to the trail begins with a tough descent down Sinks Trail that was both muddy and rocky. I passed one person here (don't know who) and the leaders were pulling away from me (as I expected).

And that's how most of the race went. I was alone, well behind the leaders and the next couple of packs, but nobody was pushing me from behind. I just ran my own race from here on. I power walked up Panther Knob, and the next pack was out of sight. The descent from Panther Knob went fairly quickly, and I could get a glimpse of the next pack going up the hill to 3 benches. I paused for a quick bottle top off and pressed on up Sinks to Mountain Mist.

I really should have run harder on Mountain Mist trail. I got passed by one guy here (don't know who) and I shouldn't have let that happen. But I kept him in sight and within passing distance. The next pack was out of sight, so I only had this guy to pull me along. I closed the gap on the descent on Goat Trail, and was only a few feet behind him coming up Warpath Ridge and passed him when he stoppedat the aid station at O'Shaughnessy Point. Again, nobody was in sight ahead and I left the only other runner near me at the aid station.

Then begins the tricky descent into McKay Hollow. I had practiced this and was ready to let it fly! But... You knew there would be a "but". But the last time down this trail, I turned my ankle pretty bad, and I was tentative. The trail was nasty and wet and slippery. I wasted too much time and energy on this trail. I should have let it fly and taken the risk, but I wimped out. I was hoping to have someone to hold off or someone to catch on this trail, but I didn't.

At the bottom, it was NASTY! The creeks were high, and it was sloppy and muddy. It was like the trail was a creek!

Now, the tough part of this race begins. Not that the first part is easy, but from here to the end is brutal. It starts with reasonably runnable section of Arrowhead Trail, then it turns up Natural Well trail. The climb on Natural Well is very technical, almost frustrating. This climb took its toll on me, admittedly. I was starting to tire. I hate Natural Well trial! I need to practice this portion for next year. At the top, the climb had taken too much out of me to do anything on the runnable section just before the turn to descend on Arrowhead Trail.

This section of the race, the descent on Arrowhead Trail, is perhaps the funnest stretch of trail running ever! It is FAST. You can let it fly!!! After the descent, the course goes back up Big Cat Hill. :) I was a little winded from the fast descent and took this slower than I should have. Once on the flat section again, I caught and passed a runner (again, I don't know who).

After passing the last aid station, I noticed someone gaining on me. It was Matt Whitworth. He steadily gained on me until the bottom of the death trail section of McKay Hollow Trail. Also, along this stretch, a young guy flew past both of us. I think it may have been Alan Teed.

At the bottom of death trail, I stopped and let Matt pass because my legs were cramping. There was no sense in me staying in front and slowing him down. UGH!! I was so frustrated. This has NEVER happened to me before in a race! Why this race? Why now? Did I not hydrate well enough? Was it the week's fatigue catching me? What was it??? I was grunting and yelling in frustration. Near the bottom, I saw David Riddle, the overall winner (he was on his way down to ice his legs in the creek), and asked him for the time. 2:07. That was the first indication of time that I had throughout the race! I decided to just grunt it out. Cramps or whatever. My calves continued to cramp up the hill. Matt looked down and encouraged me some. Thanks, Matt. I appreciate it!

I came to the top and saw the clock and just did what I could to get there. Eric Charette was there to congratulate me and give a high five for finishing! I was just glad to see someone I knew! Thanks, Eric. Then, after the race I had a good time hanging out with friends and meeting people.

What a great race! Today's 2:18:19 is not the best I can do on that course, but it WAS the best I could do today. Sure, there were areas where I could have done better, but I honestly believe I gave it all I had today. I just don't think today was my best day. Maybe this is just my competitive side, but I will do better next year. But today was still a very good day.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Easy Week

Since the speed work on Tuesday, I have been taking it easy this week. That's because I want to run well tomorrow at MHM. I did 4 easy (8:27 pace) miles on the treadmill and a "pull" workout on Wednesday. I did 6 (8:25 pace) easy miles around Athens this morning.

I'm battling some congestion and fatigue, but I hope I can pull it together for tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Speed Work

Yesterday, I gave my legs the day off and did a "push" workout at the gym: bench press, military press, unassisted dips, leg raises, and various crunches.

Today, I met Matt and Lanier at 5:00 AM (early!) for some half mile repeats. We did 8 half mile repeats, aiming for a 3:10-3:15 on each.
  1. 3:11
  2. 3:12
  3. 3:11
  4. 3:07
  5. 3:10
  6. 3:11
  7. 3:09
  8. 3:07
I did not have a sprint in me at the end. Matt did and he was able to finish that last one in under 3:00, at 2:58. Again, this week, Matt was the lead dog on all the repeats. He's pulling me along during speed workouts right now! And kudos to Lanier. 8x800 is a VERY tough workout for only your second speed session ever! NICE JOB!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Athens 10 miler

We just keep getting a good turnout for this run. 5:45 AM at the Athens Rec Center every Sunday for 10 miles at your pace. The chances are that someone else there will be running your pace. Today, we had 9 folks, 10 counting Matt who was a little late because he ran 5 miles before meeting up with us. 10 miles at 5:45 AM is long enough and early enough for most folks, but not Matt!

Because of the tough week I had last week with 62 miles and travel all mixed together, I was content to turn in an easy 10 miles this morning. I was mostly going just to see the people in the group. I had no intention of running hard. But Mike Greene was there. He made it clear early that he had no intention of running easy by pushing the pace near to 8:00 on the third mile. After that, we were running 7:30 and 7:20 miles before I knew it.

The good news is that it really wasn't that hard and I had a lot left in the tank at the end of the run. We were even able to pull off a 2 block sprint at the end. My Garmin tells me I hit a 5:42 pace during that stretch. I'm glad I didn't settle for 9:00 miles today. Thanks for the pull, Mike.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Quick Update

I broke 60 miles for only the second time in my running career this week. And it almost didn't happen!

After the early Wednesday morning run on the MHM course, I left to go visit my sister up in the rural hills of eastern Tennessee about an hour south of Knoxville. Just down the road there is a nice hilly neighborhood. There was a 5 mile loop that I ran twice for a 10 miler. It was a very scenic run with some nice views of Smoky foothills and Tellico Lake and a very nice golf course.

Then, on Friday, I did some hill work in that same neighborhood. There was a steep hill that I remembered from Thursday. It gains about 60 feet in about 0.12 miles. I repeated that 8 times.

Saturday is usually my long run day. I planned to get up and visit that same neighborhood for a 10-15 miler. But when the alarm went off I just didn't have the energy. I already had 50 miles in for the week and just didn't want to run, so I didn't.

On the way home, my friend Scott called me and asked if I wanted to run the new section of the rails to trails in Limestone county. Apparently, the grand opening for this section was today. I had never run any of this trail except for the portion on the Elkmont Rails to Trails 10k, so I wanted to go. I was so glad Scott called! It was a nice 12 mile run from Piney Chapel Road up past Elkmont and back. We mixed in a couple of tempo miles, too. There is also some very pretty scenery on this trail. And to think, I was going to waste this day with no running and be satisfied with 50 miles. Thanks, Scott.

What a great resource this trail is! As I work back into 20+ mile runs later this year, I'll definitely remember this trail.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

McKay Hollow Madness Course

That's the elevation profile of the McKay Hollow Madness course. There are about 3500 feet of gain and loss. Nice.

This morning I got in a pre-work run on the McKay Hollow Madness Half Marathon course. There's enough light to see at about 6:30 or so these days. I tried to start then, but was a little late. (Those who know me won't be the least bit surprised.)

I really like this course! There are sections that simply are NOT runnable. Other sections are very fast. Other sections are steep (both up and down!) . It is very scenic. There are rocks, dirt, mud, creeks, roads, and hills. If you're a trail runner, RUN THIS RACE!

The winning time on this race will be slow for a 13.1 miler, maybe over 1:50:00. (It's actually a smidge longer than 13.1, but close enough for a trail run.) I have no idea what to aim for myself!

I was going very easy this morning because today is scheduled to be an easy run, and ran it in 2:40-ish. That's a tough course to do an easy run on! On the descent to McKay Hollow, I turned my right ankle over pretty bad. I had to walk the rest of the way down. I was able to run most of the remaining 6.5 miles. I just couldn't speed on the descents because the ankle was too sore an unstable. It's pretty sore and swollen now, but I'm hoping it will be OK.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Speed work

I met Lanier and Matt at the Athens High walking track at 5:00 AM this morning for some speed work. I really needed to run fast. I haven't run fast in a long time. I did a few tempo runs training for Mount Cheaha, but no fast miles or 800's or 400's. Today, the plan was to do 6x800's at 3:15 or faster with 2:00 rest between repeats.

This was Lanier's first time to do speed work. Nice job Lanier! He hung with us and said he'd join us again next week. And Matt, well, let me just say that he had fresh legs today. He absolutely led the way on all the repeats. Nice job, Matt!
  1. 3:05
  2. 3:16
  3. 3:06
  4. 3:05
  5. 3:10
  6. 2:56!!!!!
That last one was my first sub-3:00 half mile ever. Speed work is fun.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sunday 10 Miler in Athens

Today was a 13.6 miler for me. I ran the 1.8 miles from my house to the meeting place. Then, we ran one of the Athens 10 mile routes. Finally, I ran the 1.8 miles back home.

Today's run was AWESOME! We had 10 people show up, even on a day when we were missing 3 of our regulars! Glen, Mark, and Matt all had good reasons to miss today, too. Especially Glen with his 58 miles at Delano yesterday. AWESOME JOB GLEN!!! And Mark took absolute revenge on the Huff n Puff on the Bluff course yesterday. 1:15? Awesome comeback from last year, Mark!

The run today started with Madelyn pushing us a little faster than I intended to go. But I'm REALLY glad that she did! We kept all our miles except the first one in the low 8:00's. Then, Mike pushed me a bit and we finished strong with 7:46, 7:35, and 7:14 final miles. Those last faster miles were just downright fun.

That capped off a 30+ mile weekend and gave me a good start to a more reasonable weekly mileage this week.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Another low mileage week

Ugh. I can't let this become a pattern. I missed a 10 miler and a 6 or 7 miler this week. That will put a dent in the total weekly mileage! My week's total was about 42. That's not terrible, but I won't set PRs this year at that weekly mileage. I need to be above 50, and closer to 60. At 60, I think I'll stay in good enough shape to run hard for reasonable distance and perform well at some mid-distance races. And, I'd like to stay in good enough shape that I can just say, "I want to run a marathon next month," and be able to do it.

Today, I did my weekly long run, 16.6 miles. I wanted to go to Monte Sano and run the McKay Hollow Madness course, but that didn't work out. I had obligations this morning and I did NOT want be away from my family for as long as that would have taken this afternoon. So I just ran impromptu around Athens until I was tired. And tired happened sooner than I expected. That's what I get for slacking this week.

I hope I can squeeze in another run on the McKay Hollow course before the race.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Dedication test

I missed yesterday's run. There was something about staying up till 1:00 AM working that made a 5:30 AM run near impossible. I slept plum till 7:00 and rushed to leave at 7:30. The other thing that made the decision to sleep in a little easier was the -2 F temperature with a windchill in the -20's. Running on 4 hours sleep I can do. Running a treadmill on 4 hours sleep is more difficult.

Today, the temp was even colder: -4 F. I finished up work by 12:00, so 5:30 was a little more do-able. So, I hopped on the treadmill for a 10 miler. I ran at about an 8:10 pace (7.4 mph) except for the last two miles which I ran at 7:30 (8 mph). My mileage will be low this week anyway, so I couldn't skip today no matter what. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. At 3.5 miles, I thought I was going to go crazy, but I just let my mind wonder and quit thinking about it and endured. It was funny that two other people came in the small hotel fitness center and ran and left during my run. They're probably more sane than me.

U2 seemed to make the time go by a little faster. But I do know now why 4 miles is generally my treadmill limit.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


I haven't run fast in a long time. I need to run fast more often. I really don't remember the last time I did speedwork. So, what better day than today?

I wanted to run outside badly, but I don't know the area here in Minneapolis and I don't have time to figure out a place to run here. So, I visited the dreaded treadmill. The good thing is that speedwork is tolerable on a treadmill. So I thought. Ugh. It was miserable. I wanted to do 4 x 1 mile repeats, but I could only do 3.5, but I did run them fast.

I set the incline on 1.5 and the pace on 6:14 or 6:18, whatever 9.6 mph is. I did the first mile at that pace, and took 2 minutes rest. The second mile was the same pace, except that I sped up to 6:00 (10 mph) for the last 0.25 of the second mile because I wanted it to be over. I slowed down to 9.3 mph (6:27 min/mile) for the third because I was spent! I considered not even trying the fourth. It really took some determination to get back on the treadmill. I talked myself into doing 0.5 miles. 0.25 at 6:27 and 0.25 at 6:00 just because I wanted it to be over. I walked about a half mile to cool down.

I like to think I could have finished this workout if I had been outside. I probably would have run slower, but I think I would have finished. Next Tuesday, I'll do some 800's.

Miserable workout, but I guess these workouts build character and add speed. Tomorrow, it'll be below 0 F, so running outside is not an option tomorrow. Treadmill again.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Athens 10 miler

This group just keeps going. Even with daylight savings time, we had 11 runners today. 11 people were there at what felt like 4:45 AM to their bodies. What a great group of runners we have in A-Town! This group run is one of the highlights of my week every week. The miles just disappear while visiting with friends.

Today was especially fun because Mike joined us. I'm glad he's coming back from his injury, and I hope he is able to continue to improve. Matt, Mike, and I had a good 8:00-ish push at the end. 11 miles total with the last one at 7:30. That's a nice start to the week. I'm hoping to be nearer to 50 miles than 30 miles this week.

But this afternoon, I'm paying for ignoring the cold I've been battling for a week now. I feel rotten and I hope it goes away soon.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

This week...

This was my first sub-30 mile week of the year. It was the first sub-30 mile week since the week after the Rocket City Marathon. I suppose it's okay to lower the mileage the week after a 31 mile race, but I am very disappointed with the week. I missed two workouts and didn't make them up. My long run was only 16 miles today.

This week, though, it really was about time. I simply didn't have time to do the miles. I traveled and worked late every night on the road. That zapped my energy for early morning workouts.
  • 5 treadmill miles on Tuesday
  • 8 easy road miles (8:02 pace) on Friday
  • 16 trail miles on Saturday (McKay Hollow Madness plus a couple extra on the South plateau)
I also learned today just how difficult the McKay Hollow Madness course is. It's brutal. I'm struggling to set a goal for that race, but right now I'm thinking I'll do very well to run that race in 2:20. I'd sure take advice on a goal for that race.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Mount Cheaha 50k Pictures!!

Yeah, we crossed that! Yeah, we crossed that after running 22 miles. Yeah, we ran 22 miles, crossed that, and then ran 9 more. Yeah, we did, and I would do it again this Saturday!

A special thanks to Brooke Nelson for all the photos from the infamous Chinnabee Creek Crossing on the Mount Cheaha 50k course. She was so cheerful as she was snapping all those photos. She asked if I were having fun, and my answer was that I was having a BLAST! I think my smiles in the pics below show that. I was probably smiling too much to have just run 22 miles with 9 of the most difficult miles I've ever covered still ahead of me.

Updated results with aid station splits are available now. Thanks again to Todd Henderson for directing this event. What a blast! Enjoy the photos.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Mount Cheaha 50k Results Are Ready!

I wish I had a waterproof digital camera. The few photos I have from the finish just do not give the reader any idea of what the race is like. Check out the elevation profile of this course. According to my Garmin, this course gains over 7300 feet.

Do take the time to visit the 2008 photo gallery. The creek crossing with the rope was several inches deeper in 2009, above my waist. Well, that's my one regret about the race: no photos during the race.

The results are now available. View them at the Mount Cheaha 50k Race website. I didn't quite make the top half, 63 of 123. Next year, if I'm able to run this race, I'll be aiming for the low 6:00 range, hopefully top 30.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Mount Cheaha 50k: Race Report

First, let me say that this is a GREAT event. I cannot overstate how helpful the race volunteers were. The course was perfectly marked. Props to Todd Henderson for doing such a GREAT job directing this event. The aid stations were all VERY well stocked with Vaseline, ibuprofen, muscle ache cream, gummy bears, M&M's, pretzels, PB&J sandwiches, Hammer gels of all flavors, HEED, water, Coke, Mtn Dew, oranges, bananas, and (my favorite) roasted potatoes with salt to dip them in! I'm seriously not exaggerating the aid stations. They were insanely stocked!! Those potatoes were amazing! GREAT IDEA!

The race started almost immediately after the 40-45 bus ride to the starting line, an hour and a half late at 9:00 AM. An interesting thing about this race is that it starts with the start of the song "Sweet Home Alabama" by Lynard Skynard. Being a native Alabamian, I think that's a great way to start a race! The race starts about 50 yards from a single track trail. So, if you want to make any time during the first 3 miles, you better be in front! This is my only complaint about the race. There needs to be at least a mile or two for the packs to form. I was miserable for the first two miles of the race stuck behind some 15-16 minute milers. Finally at about 2.4 miles, I had all I could stand and bounded past a line of about 6 or so of the slow pokes. Well immediately after that, there is a steep, but short hill. So I had to go a little faster than I wanted up that hill. Then, there's a sharp descent that is VERY runnable. So I let it go and flew down that hill at about a 7:40 pace. That may have been a mistake. We passed a few runners during this time, and caught another pack just before the first aid station. We spent about 20 or 30 seconds at the aid station and that was BY FAR the shortest aid station stop of the day. There was a train passing, so arriving earlier would have done no good. A water bottle refill and a couple of pretzels later, the train was past, so off we went on to a dirt road that let the packs form again.

That gravel road section was short and we were on the trail again. This trail was uphill, gaining all the elevation we gave up in the third mile. The trail spit us out on another dirt road for about 2.5 miles The first 1.5 miles was very much uphill. This led to the second aid station, which we hit in 1:35. Pretzels, gummy bears, and PB&J. Yum.

Then we hit another uphill trail section. Along this section, we met someone who came all the way from Houston, TX to run this race! Also, along this section, near the top of this climb, there were some simply breathtaking views! It rolls for about 3 miles at the top of this mountain. Then we descent quickly to a very small creek crossing. Then it turns uphill sharply to roll around the side of the mountain. This is about 13.5 miles into the race. This was the first time I noticed that I had a big lead on my buddy, so I stopped to wait a bit. It was also the first time that I noticed that I was getting tired. I was ready for the next aid station, which came at about 14.5 miles. Those were the best potatoes ever!

After the aid station there was a welcome descent, except that it was the most difficult descent yet. I think it was on this section that I saw someone take a NASTY spill. He hit a slippery rock, and I mean he BIT IT! He got right back up, and was okay. He didn't even bleed! I'm sure he feels that fall as I type this, though. I noticed a significant amount of blood on the rock, so he wasn't the first to fall on that rock. The course rolls to the next aid station at about the 18.5 mile mark.

From this point on, the course really begins to show its teeth. It is very technical from here to the finish. The second half is killer! It rolls down to a creek crossing, which I thought was significant. The water was above my knees, for sure. Just before this crossing, I saw another fall. It, too was a nasty one. I went back to check on him, but he was fine and got up and kept running. Then, about 2.25 miles later, we came to the creek crossing that this course is famous for. There is a rope tied from tree to tree to use when crossing this creek. The water is very rapid, and it is above waist deep. And that water was COLD!! It actually felt good on my legs that had 22 miles on them! I wanted to stay in the water longer! This portion of the race was well staffed. It's obviously dangerous, but help for anyone who got in trouble was plentiful. There are also many pictures from this. I'll post some when I get them. The nice lady taking the pictures said that she would make them available. These were playing on a slide show at the finish of the race. That was a GREAT slide show! Everyone was entertained!

The aid station just after this creek is the lowest point of the course. So there was a LOT of climb left! Again, potatoes and peanut M&M's really hit the spot! It's almost 6 miles from here to the next aid station. The first three are on trails. Along this section, I met Christian, the author of an excellent race report from last year. Read it here. Then, the next three miles are on rolling, but mostly uphill roads. The first 1.5 or so is on a dirt road and then the rest is on a paved road, leading to the final aid station. It was on this section that I got into unchartered territory. I'd never run farther than 26.2, and now I had eclipsed that. This aid station is at the bottom of the steepest and longest climb on the course, and at mile 28. Yay for peanut M&M's!!!

This next section of the race, Lake Trail, has a nickname, Blue (Insert King James translation of Hades here). I can honestly say that I don't think it earns that nickname. Sure, it's steep. Sure it's at mile 28, when you've already run a very difficult course. It's difficult, to be sure. There are warning signs all over warning you of how steep this is. According to my Garmin, this trail gains 900 feet in 0.9 miles. Then, it spills you onto another uphill trail that gains another 200 in a half mile. It's brutal! I don't mean to understate this hill, but I won't call it by its nickname. Lake Trail doesn't do it justice, though.

I would argue (and maybe I'm being a bit of a homer here) that Waterline is more difficult than Lake Trail. Waterline has a gradual incline before the steep part. That runnable section drains you before the climb. Lake Trail has rocks and roots almost arranged as stair steps. Waterline is a more rugged and technical climb on the steep part. Both are difficult, but I give the nod to Waterline.

At the aid station, I knew that 7:00 would take some effort. We had walked much of the past 6 miles, and we wouldn't be able to take it that easy on the last 3 and finish under 7:00. So, I pushed my buddy just a bit. I hope we're still friends! At the top of the hill, there's about 2 miles to go. My Garmin was just a little behind, so I though we had 3 miles to go, so I was worried that we wouldn't make 7:00! Some of those miles are on paved roads and some are on easy single track trails.

We met up with Andy, a Hunstville runner, at the aid station and did Lake Trail to the finish with him. I kept telling them how close we were going to be to 7:00! We met 2 or 3 other runners on the roads and trails. I kept telling everyone how close we were to 7:00! I kept trying to push them! I hope I wasn't too annoying, but I had sub-8:00 miles left in me if that's what it took! Not everyone else did, though. I was encouraging everyone I saw to "reachdown" and dig deep to break the 7:00 mark. I probably was just a little annoying. I was just a bit too cheerful to have just run 30 miles and climbed Lake Trail.

The last trail puts you on the road that goes about 0.25 miles to the finish. There, I saw Leigh and the girls! They ran the last 0.25 with me! That was AWESOME!!!! I was so glad to see them there. Leigh is amazingly supportive of my interest in running. The kids enjoy it too. I love you, Leigh!

After the race, a couple of those runners found me and thanked me for pushing them at the end so that they could break the 7:00 mark. That was neat, and I'm glad I could help.

There was much Mellow Mushroom pizza (YUM) at the end, and a long drive home.

Congratulations Matt! 6:52 on a BRUTAL course! You're an ultra marathoner now!

Mount Cheaha 50k: Before the Race

As soon as 2009 Mount Cheaha 50k results are available, I'll post them here. I heard through the grapevine that Dink Taylor won the race, but I don't know his time. Congratulations Dink!!! He actually convinced me to run this race. I was in his store buying shoes for my kids when he told me about the race. Listening to him tell about the course convinced me!

I did not race the course yesterday. I enjoyed the scenery, enjoyed Matt's company, spent extra time at the aid stations, and ran comfortably. Even so, I really wanted us to finish in under 7 hours, which we did in 6:52.

It rained the whole drive down. The forecast was for rain all during the race. I was beginning to dread the race. We drove up to the Bald Rock Lodge and picked up our race packet. We got soaked just walking from the car to the lodge! Yuck. The packet was full of goodies, cotton shirt, race number, trail runner magazine, instructions, a Hammer perpetuem sample, and some organic live food bar that I haven't yet mustered up the courage to try.

It rained all night. It rained for the entire drive from the hotel to the finish line in the morning. This race is a point to point, so you meet at the finish line and ride a shcool bus to the starting line. It was so wet that one of the school buses was stuck and didn't make it to the finish line on time. It had to have a tow truck to pull it out. So, the race was 1.5 hours late starting. Even though the forecast called for rain until 11:00, by some stroke of blessing, the rain stopped almost exactly at 7:30 am. So, it would have been ideal if the race started on time. I didn't have any other plans for the day, so it didn't really matter to me.

As we were waiting for the bus, I took the time to meet some folks and chat it up. What else was I going to do with the next 1.5 hours? Knowing about the delay would have been very useful information at about 4:00 am. I definitely would have liked to sleep longer.

As I was sitting there in the lodge, I realized that I may have been just a bit out of place. Everyone was talking about this 50k or that 100k or this 50 miler or that 100 miler. Remember that time at the 100k? Or, remember the Western States 100 miler? Or, I plan to beat last year's time at the Mississippi 50 this year. Hmmmm. What have I gotten into? Do I belong here? I guess not many folks pick Mount Cheaha as their first ultra. I was told that I was jumping right in the deep end!

Race report is next...