Thursday, April 28, 2011

Darn Tough Vermont!

I have some exciting news!  I reached out to a small group of potential sponsors since I've had a couple of good seasons.   I decided I would only approach the product companies that I currently use and believe in.  By now, I've tried most of the running and trail running products out there, so I know what I like, I know what lasts, I know what performs well for me, and I know who generally strives for environmental sustainability in there products.  So basically I'm just tryin to keep it real and keep it fun with this sponsorship thing.

Given all of that, the first partnership out of the gate is Darn Tough Vermont, maker of my absolute favorite running, biking socks, and hiking socks!  I know socks are a very personal thing and I like thin wool or cool max because the don't crowd my feet and they dry well when slogging through creeks or rain.  Darn Tough makes a bunch of different socks for a bunch of different purposes.  They are the only socks I buy now and I go out of my way to make sure I have a clean pair for big training and racing days.  I've also been known to sort through the dirty laundry for a pair if I'm desperate!  Ya'll should give em a try if you haven't already.

I'm gonna post soon about some recent training and upcoming plans. 
Work hard play hard everyone!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

SweetH20 50k

I definitely ended up with some dirty calves at the SweetH20 50k on Saturday.  The race was through the trails at Sweetwater Creek State Park and the day was nice.  We had some fairly big thunderstorms in the area on Friday night which led to the race director replacing the Sweetwater Creek crossing with another portion of the course.  So instead of risking life and limb by wading in a chest high raging river to get to a 3 mile trail and more climbing, we basically did the same 16-mile loop twice.  Race day changes and diversions are just some of the joys of trail running.  I had high hopes for this race even though I haven't done any substantial long runs since Mt Cheaha 50k, but in the end I think that was a little much to ask of my body.
We started off at 7:30 AM with the weather in the low 60's but it felt a bit cooler than that.  The first mile is on road to allow everyone to spread out before hitting the single track.  A group of 6 or 7 absolutely took off.  This has been a trend in ultras that baffles me.  On Saturday the lead group ran the first mile in around 6:30.  I held back as best as I could and settled in to high-7 to low-8 per mile pace.  I think one of my strengths in racing is my self control.  I typically run even or negative splits, even in longer ultras.  So I was confident that most everyone would come back to me over the day even though I started out somewhere around 13th.

To sum up the race, the course was wet, muddy, and was difficult climbing in spots (especially at a place called Top of The World).  The creek was certainly up and we had a couple of thigh high stream crossings.  It was really nice to know a course and trails so well since it is so close to my house.  My support crew (Allison, Tully and Olive) was out there to cheer me on, which is always special.  I ran the first 16 miles in 2:17 and felt good.  I was right on with my electrolyte and fluids intake.  I felt good through the next five miles or so and gradually reeled in runners.  However, the lack of long runs started to catch up and I gradually fell of my pace.  There ended up being some very strong runners in that lead pack that stayed out front throughout.  I ended up fifth on the day by finishing in 4:46:45.  The course ran a little long according to my Garmin and was 32 miles.  So the second half was about 13 minutes over the first half which is pretty atypical for me.

I was a little discouraged since I wanted to do better on this course, but I can't complain.  I consider myself lucky to even be able to get out there and spend the morning running through the woods.  Also I had family and friends around me who were all in good health.  Speaking of, I want to say that I ran this race for my friend John Judd who is in a battle with colon cancer.  John is a great guy and used to spend some time hiking around Sweetwater Creek State Park.  So I thought about him throughout the race and drew on his courage as I was suffering through those final miles.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Sweetwater 50k Tomorrow!

I'm definitely excited about the SweetH20 50k tomorrow.   It's going to be a different experience for me since I haven't been training specifically for this race.  For every marathon or beyond, I've always gone through a training cycle for the race.  For this one, however, I'll be relying on my build up for the Mt Cheaha 50k in late February and then the Publix half in March.  So I haven't done any long runs in a while.  But I'm excited because Sweetwater Creek SP is such a great place to run.  It's also pretty much a home course for me since it is about 25 minutes from my house.  There is a big storm brewing tonight so the water should be up and the "creek" (river, actually) crossings should be fun.   Plus there are a couple of festivals going on in the ATL this weekend (420Fest and Dogwood) so there will be some good celebration venues for afterwards. 

It could be rough but I'll be shooting for a good time, so to speak.  Stay tuned!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Cohutta Wilderness

It's spring break and time for some unconventional training.  The kids and wife are out of school so on Sunday we headed up to the Cohutta Wilderness for a backpacking trip.  We packed up our gear, kids, and dog and started the drive to North Georgia.  We are familiar with the Cohutta's and eventually picked the Conasauga River trail to Panther Creek to East Cowpen, one of the best backpacking loops in the south in my opinion.  Normal training would take a back seat to some quality time with the family, complete with river fords, mountain climbs, and thunder storms.  (Although I did pack a pair of running shorts, thinking I would sneak away.)
The Great Conasauga River
The Conasauga River is one of the clearest, most beautiful in Georgia.  We planned to get as far down the trail as the kids would allow us.  It was 4.9 miles to the Panther creek trail and a total of 18 fords!  The kids, Olive (2) and Tully (5), cruised through the hike and Allison and I cleared the fords with T (our 12-year old boxer) in tow, across the river.  Some fords were pretty sketchy and upper thigh deep but they were all accounted for.
Ford #17 with T and Tully
We  camped that night at the trail junction then headed up Panther Creek beside cascades and to the top of the 70 ft falls.  Another 2 miles and 1,000 feet elevation and we made it to our next site.
Tully scrambling up the trail beside Panther Creek Falls

Panther Creek Falls
Olive at Top of Falls

We chilled the rest of the day and about ten minutes after turning into the tent for the night the real fun awesome storm rolled in.  The tent was lit up, the dog was shaking, and the ground was moving the ground.  Allison was scared but the kids slept through the entire thing.  We woke up to low 30 degree wet weather and started the strenuous 4.7 mile hike out.  The East Cowpen Trail was pretty magical since we crested the highest point in the Georgia portion of the Cohutta Wilderness (4,100' Cowpen Mountain) and the trees were frosted white.  The trail is actually old an old highway that was closed in 1975 after the area was designated wilderness area, but you would never know it except that it is pretty wide for a trail.

On the descent, I left the family, dropped my pack at the trailhead, and got my only run in 3 miles down the gravel road to fetch the car. 

We left the woods and headed straight for the closest Blue Ridge restaurant for some hot food and cold beer.  While there, we heard folks talking about power outages and barns being blown away (our servers roof ended up 300 yards away from were it should have been) and realized we had survived a major storm.  We were all pretty beat when we got back to the Goat's Beard, but mentally refreshed.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Camo to Bike Shorts

We've had a busy past couple of weeks at work so Dan and I decided to knock off Thursday and Friday.  We actually managed to fit some work in but the primary goal was trying to get a turkey that eluded us on the last day of the season last year.  So we headed up to my cabin, aka The Goat's Beard, in the north Georgia mountains. 

We left out early Thursday and got there early enough to work and then get a run in.  I hit one of my favorite trails that goes by Fall Branch Falls, some pretty forest, rushing creeks, open meadows, and nice winter views.  I've even run past a few black bears on this trail over the past couple of years.  At over a 1,000 feet elevation gain in 7 miles it's a nice run that doesn't require a recovery day.

Then we changed into camouflage coveralls and went back to the scene of the missed gobbler last year.  That time was actually the first and only time I've ever been hunting.  I had the opportunity to go with Dan, who grew up going with his dad.  Dan has generously shared his hunting gear, shotguns, and fond stories of time well spent with his dad in the woods.

The attraction to hunting for me is primarily my innate drive for both self sufficiency and good food!  I really want to get a turkey on my own, clean it, and smoke it on my Big Green Egg.  And of course pair it with some good local vegetables.  Also, this is the wilderness area in Chattahoochee National Forest where I do most of my trail running.  Since hunters have always made me much more nervous than any other threat out there (including bears), I've always wanted to know their routine so I can prevent any mishaps.  For instance, I've never really known how far off trail they go, what they look for, and what they can see.  So I think I've become more educated now.

Back to Thursday.  Although we made it back out to the woods there is not much to tell.  Because we didn't see any turkeys at all while hunting....either Thursday or Friday morning.  I will say that last year was pretty exciting because Dan is a good caller and brought in a couple of gobblers, but I didn't get a shot off.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with turkey hunting (like me), the hunter sits very quiet in the forest and calls like the female (hen) like this....
and then it gets really exciting (heart pounding) when you hear this...
...because that's the male gobbler and you can shoot those.  It's much more of a game and challenge than what I thought.  But after two total hunting trips, I've never even shot the gun....just thought a lot about mating habits!  Weird huh. 

So after that we managed to get out for a good ride on our road bikes down Aska road to Skeenah gap.  We joked that we have to be the first guys to have ever changed out of camo and into bike shorts.  We had a good couple of days.  And during our final ride back to the cabin on our bikes, we saw something that had eluded us for hours sitting silently in the woods.....two turkeys.