Friday, August 20, 2010

Medoc Meltdown

I signed up for Medoc Meltdown on not much preparation and brain, but more on a whim. It's suppose to be much flatter than Umstead, so I figured after the Chattooga experience, I should be good to go. But I haven't done any long trail runs since June 6 at Chattooga, so that could be my downfall.

Next Saturday night I'll know just how stupid/intelligent I am.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Grand Canyon, preparation, driving, Day 1 and 2

June 21:

I’m starting my drive to Flagstaff Arizona at 8:30am, and I’m extremely exhausted. I think the stuff is finally catching up to me. Here is the timeline of my previous three weeks.

May 28: After paddling the Nantahala, I get a call from National Parks Service and informed me that I have a chance to accept a small group Grand Canyon permit that launches on June 25th. After deliberating with Jade for an hour while driving toward Ocoee, we call NPS back and accept the permit and hoping we can put this trip together in unimaginable short amount of time.

May 30: Hurt my left shoulder on the Upper Ocoee. Now worried about the Chattooga race next weekend and the Grand Canyon trip less than a month away.

May 31 – June 4: Desperately calling and emailing everyone we know to find out who can go with us and really desperate to find people that know how to row rafts. By June 4th, we have a group of eight and an outfitter that can supply us with gear and organize our food for the Grand Canyon trip.

June 5: Run with the Galloway group in the morning, then Jade and I drive to Cherry Creek campground in SC for my 50K. We camp 50 yards from the startling line. The van is too hot for Enzo to sleep so we end up losing a few hours of sleep trying to cool him down.

June 6: I successfully ran the longest race of my life in 8 hours and 47 minutes. Then driving out of the mountains and finally getting cell phone signal, I get the message that my grandma has passed away on the day before, two days before my flight into Beijing. We stopped over an hour at a parking lot super sad then finally getting home at 11pm. I finish packing my trip at 12:30 am.

June 7: We get up at 4am and Jade drives me to the airport at 5am for my 7am flight. I’m lucky that nothing is delayed but I still do four hours of layover in Toronto and another four hours in Tokyo. I get to Beijing at 10pm on June 8th and my dad picks me up and we get to the apartment at 11:30pm. Finally in bed at 12:30am which is around noon at home.

June 9: My grandma’s funeral and meeting pesky family members that I haven’t seen in 25 years.

June 10 – June 16: I sleep no more than 5 hours a day, my family is a mess with a lot people not happy with each other over various issues. I manage to squeeze three runs in the mornings. The only exception to annoying families is my cousin who I grew up with, she’s due with her first baby in a month and I spent two days with her and her husband hanging out and catching up.

June 17: I catch a minor cold the day I fly out. Flight took off at 6pm and arrives at home around 11pm the same day in Raleigh.

June 19: Still haven’t figured out how to sleep more than 4 to 5 hours a day, I do a 10 mile run with the Galloway group at 7am and nearly dies.

June 20: spent all day packing and preparing for the Grand Canyon trip.

So that’s how I end up super exhausted on Monday morning, June 21, driving by myself on I-40 heading west. I stop in Hickory to meet up with Chris and get Chris and Bridget's gear and boats in the van, then another hour later I stop at Joe’s dad’s house in Asheville to pick Joe up. He sees how I look and offers to drive the next shift, and I gladly accept. A few hours later we stop in Knoxville and pick up Caleb who I have not met until now. His wife Ashley has been on a canyon trip before but it’ll be Caleb’s first time. Caleb offers to drive the next shift and I crawl in the back of the van and take a nap.

I woke up still in TN, and drive the next shift into Arkansas. Then it’s back to the bed for another long nap while Joe and Caleb continue across the middle of the country following the Beaver Express truck.

June 22:

My third shift is from western Oklahoma through the Texas panhandle. I pass the 72oz free steak place in Amarillo and was tempted to stop and let Joe have a shot at it. But he’s snoring and drooling on my pillow in the back, so I pass Amarillo and continue almost to New Mexico border. Nap time again. They wake me up just shy of AZ border and I drive the final 160 miles to Flagstaff. We already have reservations at Days inn for June 23, so we try to haggle with them for a cheap room tonight but couldn’t get them to drop the price, but are successful in getting a cheap room at Motel 6. Found a delicious Thai restaurant in downtown. Back at Motel 6, Joe and Caleb walks across the street to Wal-Mart and secure a bottle of rum and some coke. We attempt to watch the required NPS video on Joe’s laptop but one rum and coke was all I need to crash.

June 23:

Waking up at 5:30am, it’s already 8:30 back in Raleigh and who knows what time in China. My body is completely out of sync with every time zone in the world. I go for a run but find it hard to breathe at 7000ft elevation, so the run was cut short at 5 miles. Back at Motel 6, we head over to IHOP and treat ourselves with a huge breakfast. Then it’s time to shop for the last bit of provisions. An hour later, we have 14 cases of beer, two bottles of rum and two boxes of wine in the van.

The personal gear list provided by Professional River Outfitters (PRO) listed edible body paint. We are a bit puzzled by this item. The Wal-Mart cashier is even more puzzled when three guys ask him where this item can be purchased. Finally another Wal-Mart employee comes to the rescue and informs us there is a store in downtown called I Do I Do that carries edible body paint. We find the store just like the guy told us, and it is eye opening.

After lunch we check into Days Inn and took a long siesta. Around 7 or so after some more rum and coke, Joe and Caleb spends two hours on outfitting Joe’s Liquidlogic Session Plus kayak. For dinner we order pizza. I'm suppose to pick up Jade, Chris, Bridget and Marcos at 9pm, but their flight got delayed and I end up getting them around 10. The only person missing at this point is Sean, and he is taking a train to Flagstaff but none of us have heard from him in days, so instead of worrying, we drink more rum and coke.

June 24:

Chris volunteers to pick Sean up from the train station at 5am. I don’t wake up until 6am, which is the latest I have slept in over two weeks. I finally meet Sean in the lobby enjoying free coffee and continental breakfast. Sean had survived a derailing train and jack knifed semi to get to Flagstaff. Lesson learned here, never plan to travel the day before launch date. Rest of the group gradually meanders down and we have a group breakfast of donuts, oatmeal, toasts, coffee and oranges.

Final packing, we empty the van of all the gear and turn the Days Inn parking lot into a gear explosion.

We have a final meal at Crown Railroad Cafe across the road, then PRO shows up with a 15 passenger van and a huge gear truck already loaded with our rafts, kitchen, cooler, and all the group gear. We toss our personal gear and kayaks onboard, and off toward Lees Ferry we go. On the way we see the incredible view of the wildfire that has been consuming the mountains north of Flagstaff. Fortunately for us it’s not blocking the road, so we get a hassle free ride to Lees Ferry.

Beth from PRO warns us about the heat as she opens the van’s door at Lees Ferry, and sure enough, it’s like stepping into an oven. It is 115 degrees, and the black asphalt in the parking lot makes it even hotter.

Rigging time. It’s new stuff for most of us, so we listen and rig and try to remember everything Beth tells us. Ranger Ray shows up to perform our equipment check. When he found out we have PRO’s Painless Private package, the equipment checklist was checked off in about 20 seconds. If I ever need to rent gear for the GC, I’ll go with PRO. This thought surfaced on a daily basis in the canyon as we learned and appreciated their gear setup.

Our very first experience on the Colorado River lasts 200 yards when we pulled into the 2nd boater camp. It was tiny and with tons of bugs. Beth promised it’ll be by far the worst camp we’ll ever experience on the canyon. Trusting her words, we head out to Marble Canyon Lodge for our last pampered meal. The cool AC in the lodge is a welcome relief. Chris sustain the first injury on the trip when he bangs his right elbow with Joe’s theracane which causes a tennis ball size hematoma. Keep that darn thing away from Chris!!!

Back to the camp for our first night sleeping by the river. It’s super warm to sleep in the tent but the bugs are even worse. So I strip butt naked and hope no one dies of heart attack when catching the sight of my naked butt.

June 25:

Launch day! Beth shows up at 7am to go over how to use our group gear and finds us not even knowing where to find breakfast. We’re a sad group. Finally after breakfast, she manage to go over every piece of gear with us, the groover, dish washing, kitchen, water filter, sat phone, etc. She says goodbye and wishes us luck as we head to the 9am briefing with Ranger Ray. After the briefing, back at the camp we have to finish up rigging the rafts with our personal gear. Another two and half hours go by and we’re finally rigged and ready to launch. But it’s also past noon and we’re hungry. So lunch first, then finally at 12:45 we launch! Hallelujah!!!

The scenery is absolutely gorgeous, even though we’re only at the beginning of Marble Canyon and the rim is only 400ft above us. We pass under Navajo Bridge at mile 4.5, the last highway that we’ll see in the next 16 days. We drifted our way to Badger Creek rapid at mile 8. It’s our first big rapid on the river and everyone stopped to scout. Line turns out to be easy, down the center then angle right slightly and avoid a rock in the middle. Chris made the first run and I followed with the rafts behind me. Rest of the kayakers came through as well with Jade winging the far right line on the fly.

We see this huge rock formation 1000 ft high and looks like it’s blocking the river’s path at mile 11. To the right is Soap Creek and left is Soap Creek Rapid. There is a nice camp on the river right just above the rapid and we decide to make camp even though it’s early, only 4:30. We figure with our knowledge of gear, better give ourselves a lot time on the first night.

It’s a good thing we stopped early. It takes us 3 hours to prepare dinner. We split the group into four teams that rotate jobs each camp. The cooking team for this camp is Marcos and Sean. Jade and I are cleaning team, Joe and Caleb are groover team, and Chris and Bridget has the night off. The arrangement simply doesn’t work and it takes the cooking team a long time to get everything they need from the rafts to get dinner going. A quick shower in the middle didn’t help either. At end of night we decide to change the rest team’s role to helpers instead, helping in general with any kitchen duty as needs arrive.

I take my first river bath and it is quite cold. We pitched the tent for this night, it’s not hot at all, actually end up using the sleeping bags.

June 26:

Sean wakes up early and runs Soap Creek in the ducky first. I get up around 5:50 and see an amazing view looking back upstream of the river in the shade with sun rising behind the rim, so I scramble to find the camera and take a picture before the sun rises further. We eat a gourmet breakfast of bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon. Yum!

Everything is back on the raft and we launch at 9:25. First thing is Soap Creek, which is an easy run down the middle over some good size waves. Joe gets to the ducky at bottom first and takes it for a spin striding. The big rapid of the day is House Rock and the plan is to make to Shinumo Wash camp at mile 29 to camp and hike Silver Grotto. There is nothing significant until we get to House Rock rapid at mile 17 and we all get out on the river left beach to scout. It’s an easy rapid for a kayak, simply avoid the top river right hole, then angle right and avoid the two crashing wave holes on the bottom left. Chris already had two beers by this time and bangs his head on a rock during the scout. Injury #2 for him. I lead Jade, Chris, Marcos and Bridget down the kayak line. Bridget flips twice and rolls up both times. Joe decides to paddle his Session Plus and catches an eddy near top river left, tries to catch the first crashing wave hole but flushes out, then catches the bottom wave hole which promptly strips the paddle out of his hand and toss him over. Two hand rolls and he chases down his paddle in the big river left eddy at the bottom. Sean and Caleb rows the raft down exactly the way they envisioned, no issues whatsoever.

We stop for lunch at a beach immediately below House Rock on river left and Chris gets attended by Bridget over his wound. Just below we can see a small rapid. After lunch Chris and I head down first wondering if there is a good surfing wave with eddy service. Lo behold, there is a nice wave train with eddies on both side, and the first wave is the perfect long boat wave, and the third wave is the perfect short boat wave. Chris, Joe, Marcos and I stay there for about half an hour surfing and I have by far the best surf ever in the Green boat. Joe in the mean time is doing blunts and cartwheels and loops a few waves downstream of me. Sweet!

We scramble downstream to catch up to rest of the group and find three big horn sheep on the river right, totally not bothered by our presence. From mile 20, the action starts, and it seems like rapids come at us non-stop. Approaching horizon line, line up down the extremely long tongue, hit the waves square, squirts through the whirlpools and boils at bottom, and then do it over and over again. It’s definitely the best action so far, and maybe even the most tightly packed stretch of river for the trip.

It’s 6pm and we find Shinumo Wash camp already occupied by a commercial group. We tie up at the beach anyway for the hike to Silver Grotto and plan to camp at the next camp about ½ mile downstream that’s visible. The route Joe, Sean and Caleb picks starts with a 10ft climb up a cliff then down some granite slides. Six of us make the climb, but Chris and Bridget decide to not try. The next slide looks mighty iffy, and Jade Marcos and I decide to turn around. Marcos has a bit difficulty getting down the 10ft cliff but we eventually got him down ok. The commercial group trip leader is not exactly happy with us since we tied our boats up near their groover. However the damn groover is right on the beach near the top of the eddy, which doesn’t give us many other options for beaching for the hike.

Chris is volunteering to row the kitchen raft to Island Camp, ½ mile downstream on the river right. We can see it but can’t tell how strong the eddyline is and Chris has only an hour of rowing experience from earlier in the day and he didn’t exactly shine. I paddle down first and decide that the eddy is long enough for him, but marginal. I wave him down, but just in time Sean comes back and takes control of the raft to make sure we don’t miss camp. Island camp is a nice beach against the cliff, without many critters. Jade and I make pork stir fry with Marcos and Sean acting as helpers. This system works and dinner takes only an hour to prepare. Jade and I again pitch the tent on top of a dune. Wind is strong and almost blows our sleeping gear away.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Chattooga River 50K

This is a horribly written race report, created through sleep deprivation flying to China on the day after the race. I would spend more time editing it, but the massive Grand Canyon trip report is looming.

As Jade drive on highway 107 toward Cherry Hill Campground where the race’s start/finish will be tomorrow, I stare at terrain on both side of the road. On one side a cliff rises away toward the sky, on the other side it drops off into oblivion. Hmm….are the trails going to be on this kind of terrain? What heck am I getting myself into?

A nice thing about a small race like this is that we setup camp about 100 yards from the race director Terri’s camp site, which happens to be the start/finish as well. We have a nice chat with Terri, and she’s truly inspiring. I wish everyone who says they’re too old to do (insert whatever) should talk to this lady. She moves with the agility of a 40’s old fit person, yet she’s closer to 70 than 60. Wow, maybe there is something to ultras. If over 250 ultras can do this to her, well, there maybe something to it after all.

We meet a few other runners. Sean is the winner from last year, for his very first ultra, at just over 5 hours. I can’t fathom running a flat road 50K in 5 hours. John flew all the way from Minnesota for this race and is a seasoned ultra runner. Thomas and his wife Holly came all the way from Texas. Ultra runners seem to be very friendly.

We get up in the darkness on Sunday and prepare for the race. Jade cooks me a yummy oatmeal breakfast with raisons, nuts and bananas, and a cup of steamy coffee. I put the final bit of supplies in my Nathan backpack and heads to the start line. Terri’s prerace briefing about the race course is a whirlwind of trail names and blaze colors and where not to go. There are some bewildered looks on some runner’s faces. Getting lost on this race is not just a possibility, it almost a certainty. About 50 or 60 runners toes the line, well, the start line is anywhere in front of site 11, ready to go.

7:07am: Jade snaps some pictures of me, all sort of nervous, at the start. Terri gives us a countdown and off we go.

The course takes us from the campground onto a connector trail. After about 0.2 miles we come to a junction, and a volunteer is yelling at us to make sure on the way back we take the turn rather than head back to the campground. From the junction we hop on Winding Stairs Trail for 3.5 miles to a turn around when the trail hit a gravel road. The 3.5 miles is completely downhill and I think we lose around 1200ft of elevation by the time we hit the turn around. At the start of Winding Stairs Trail, the front 20 to 25 runners disappear and I find myself leading a mini pack of 7 to 8 runners. I figured coming back up this section will be all up hills, so I better get in some running here while the terrain is still friendly. Thomas, whom I met last night, is right on my heels through the first 3.5 miles and he got to stare at my very colorful dirty girl gaiters the whole time. There are a few side trails leading to waterfalls but I resist the temptation to check out the view. The pack behind me was all very chatty and soon I realized I was leading a group of very experienced ultra runners who were discussing plans for Hardrock, a notoriously difficult 100 mile race in Colorado that’s more mountaineering than running. What heck am I doing running in front of these guys? This little 50K must be like a short easy training run for them.

Long before the turn around at mile 3.5, I see Sean leading the front pack sprinting up the hill. Holy cow! He wasn’t even breathing hard.

7:43am: Finally at the gravel turn around, I let the pack that I was leading take off while I take a sip of drink and start thinking about the 3.5 miles of continuous climb in front of me. What’s the best strategy for this? Never in any of my training runs had I deal with a hill longer than ½ mile.

8:15am: I’m sucking in powerful breathes into my lung, arms pumping and focusing on good posturing, heart rate rocketing, and I haven’t run a single step in the past 30 minutes. Mostly on my own during this stretch, two runners named Doug and Charles pass me running what they could while my legs refuses to run. I also see a lot of back of the pack runners coming down the hill, mostly walking. Hmmm…walking on downhill? Interesting approach to an ultra. Later on I’ll learn just how interesting the final group was. I also haven’t seen any of the rust colored blazes that Terri said mark this trail.

8:38am: I make the critical turn at the train junction and avoid visiting the campground and temptation to call it a day. Climbing a decent size hill then flying down the other side, I pop out onto Hwy 107 and Aid Station 1 at mile 7. At least I RAN into the aid station therefore appeared to be a runner. No one knew I just walked 3.5 miles. Jade and Enzo are there waiting for me. I haven’t drank much out my 2L hydration pack, but I ask a volunteer top it off with Heed, and fill an empty zip lock bag with PBJ wedges, crackers and pretzels. The next 10 miles to Aid Station 2 is going to tell me if I’ve a shot of actually finish this race. I waved goodbye to Jade and Enzo and cross the highway into the unknown.

9:00am: The first trail after AS1 is Big Bend Trail. I almost dive head first into a creek on a slippery wooden bridge. Ok, no more running across bridges. All by myself here, I come to a four way trail junction, and see a group of 3 runners including Charles running toward me from the left. They had taken the trail on the left for maybe ½ mile and realized it was the wrong way. Hopping on what we hope is the correct trail, I follow the three of them closely, and soon run into Doug. He wasn’t sure if he was on the right trail, so he was slowing and stopping to look for trail markers. We give him our assurance that we are on the right trail, we hoped. A mile later, at a three way junction, we stop again, wondering which way was the correct trail. Terri had said red colored blazes marked this trail, but we had only seen one blaze so far and it was a bit back. We decide to take the high ground and soon find the trail disappears into the thick vegetation. Backtracking, and taking the trail that dove off the ridge toward a creek, the vegetation was super thick and half the time I can’t see the damn trail and had to slow to a crawl to make sure I don’t trip on something underneath the bushes and fall.

9:25am: Hallelujah! We found the junction of Big Bend Trail and Foothills Trail. From here white blazes mark the Foothills Trail for the next 7.3 miles to AS2. We take the trail and descend into the Chattooga Gorge and immediately come up on a class IV rapid. Impressive, and the water was high enough to run. What temptation! This section has some build in steps that are very slippery and suck. The trail doesn’t exactly stay next to the river but meander up and down with some really tricky footing and small tributary crossings that wet the shoes. By now our small pack was down to Doug, Charles and I. The other two had taken off ahead earlier. We found a nice beach to cool off and I dunk my head in the river and felt the cool relief, a benefit of running next to a National Wild & Scenic River.

10am: Holy mother of god! Foothills Trail takes a detour away from the river. And what a detour it is. On a whim, it climbs to the top of the Chattooga Gorge, then back down to the river level again. No running here, none whatsoever. We must have climbed 500 to 600ft in less than a mile, then drop straight back down to the river level. My quads are shot, and I know that the hardest climbs are still yet to come.

10:30am: The trail climbs away from the river. Doug and I stay together but Charles surges past us a few times only to catch us again after getting lost. Then a blur flashes past me. Sean flies down the trail toward us, all smiles, not breathing hard, going easy. Holy cow! I think we’re close to the half way distance wise, so that means he’s only got 7 miles to go! Sean will eventually shatter the course record and finishes in 4:32, a bit faster than my road marathon PR.

10:40am: We come to another big trail junction. Don’t get lost here since the wrong turn will take your deep into the Banjo Forest. We head straight up for 2.4 miles toward AS2 and Hwy 107. Many side trails everywhere, and I’m super glad Doug has been here before and sort remembers some of the turns.

11:23am: We hear cars and we see the road! Slowly walking up and finally emerge onto the hwy, the three of us decide to once again appear to be runner so we trot into the AS2. We have done more walking than running in the past 10 miles. But who would know what? Well everyone. Jade asked me how was it, and I told her it was the toughest 10 miles hike I had ever done. We’re at mile 17, and the race course continues on Foothills Trails for another 2 miles to a turnaround at a bridge then come back to AS2. My 2L bladder is almost empty and I told Jade to fill it to half way since this segment is only 4 miles. How bad can it be? My big mouth tells Jade I’ll be back soon.

12:00pm: So far not bad, we had run continuously downhill, and downhill, and downhill to what seems like the bottom pit of the earth at the turn around bridge. In every direction the terrain goes straight up. It had taken us 30 minutes of running downhill non-stop to get here. No freaking way that was only 2 miles. More like 3. I soak myself in the tiny creek, dreading the climb back to AS2.

12:40pm: Doug makes the comment that we haven’t run a step since leaving the turn around and once again the quads feel like they’re about to fall off the legs, and heart rate is shooting through the roof. Brutal doesn’t begin to describe this section. The trail mostly crosses treacherous slopes here. One false step, and we would slide at least 300ft, because that’s as far down the slope as I can see.

12:55pm: We finally hit a flat stretch and start running, just in time to see Jade and Enzo on the trail and Jade taking pictures of us. She comments that we looked good running and I tell her that was the first minute of running since noon. Enzo was extremely cute chasing us on the trail and we all get into AS2 again.

Terri has just arrived at AS2 so we grill her on why in the world made her put that section on the course. Her answer was nowhere near satisfactory. One runner that had just came into AS2 for the first time hearing our description of the section we just finished, and decides right away he’s going to skip it. Doug and I head out AS2 first while Charles sorts out some of his gear. We are confident he’ll catch us since he’s been doing that all day. This is the big decision. To head out on the trail from AS2 means to finish, since there really isn’t any option to not finish once we’re on the last stretch. We’ve 10 miles of rough trails ahead of us and majority of it is unrunnable.

1:27pm: we cross path with the last group of runners, two college age girls and one older woman in her late forties. I did some mental calculations and realized they’re on pace for a 14 hour race and finish at past 9pm, in the dark. I hope they make it. I don’t desire to spend any time in the darkness in Banjo Forest. Later we found out these three runners have never done anything longer than 8 miles before. Hmm…they sure have bigger brass balls than I do.

2pm: Doug and I are quite alone out here, haven’t seen any other runners in awhile, and no sign of Charles either. Earlier I had dunked my head in a creek to cool off, only to bash my head on a rock underwater that I didn’t see. Perhaps I should wear helmet for trail races. Doug is a godsend, he pushed and cajoled me along the trail and gave me all sorts of good advices. Together we also managed the amazing feat of not taking a single wrong turn since mile 8. I hope our luck continues. The few flat sections next to the river offer good running. Although anyone watching us would not call what we do running.

2:15pm: The dreaded detour to the top of the Gorge begin. We finally come up on a runner named Mike. He didn’t look good, when we passed him he simply waved us on, didn’t have energy to say anything. I hope he’s ok but I’m starting to get in trouble myself. Up until now, I recover quickly after each climb. However that doesn’t seem to happen anymore. I quickly chomp down some more food and suck in Heed, hoping to boost my energy level back up. The climb to the top of the gorge is twice as bad as earlier, I’m so tired. I think we’re around mile 25 or 26, but my mind is fairly dull so who knows where we’re mileage wise.

3pm: We finally reached the junction of Big Bend Trail and Foothills Trail. A little bit of celebration is in order. We’re now 2.7 miles from Hwy 107, and from there only 0.7 mile to the finish! Dead legs, dead body, and almost empty hydration bladder. I’m running on fume here.

3:30: We celebrated a bit too early. This is the longest 2.7 miles in the world, I’m damn sure of it. Terri must have mistakenly used a metric stick to measure the distance here.

3:45: We cross Hwy 107!!! AS1 is no longer here, a rather sad sight. Both of us were hoping the cheering from the AS crowd will get us over the last hump. No luck here. One last climb looming in front of us, but thankfully it’s short.

3:54: We decide that if there are cameras at finish, we would run to the finish. Sure enough Jade is cheering and has the big SLR pointed at us. Doug reminds me to be upright and in fine running posture for the camera as we run (well, really shuffle) across the finish!

Ultra is so very different than other kind of races. Time is meaningless when you’re out in a remote wilderness. You have to survive, help each other, and finish. Only after a burger and chips and some cold drinks did I even wonder what was my finish time. 8:47! Holy moly, I was on my feet for that long! I’m proud of myself!

Overall my plan for hydration and nutrition worked out ok. I had trouble gauging how much is left in the backpack, so I was been conservative during the two 10 mile stretches. I should have drank a lot more in the 7 mile section and the 4 mile section. But no sign of cramps and dehydration, and overall energy level seemed ok, no major crashes.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Too busy to update this thing

I'm so behind on this. I started writing a Chattooga River 50K race report, went to China for my grandma's funeral, flew back on Thursday night and now going nuts with packing for the Grand Canyon trip and trying not to forget a million details. I will catch up with this blog when I get back in middle of July, I promise.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Going nuts over Grand Canyon planning

This trip has a million details to plan. It really does feel like planning to invade a country. You don't invade a country successfully without massive amount of planning, and you certainly can't drag eight people down into one of the deepest gorges on earth for 16 days with daily temperature high of 110' and come out alive and in one piece without massive amount of headache.

A good clip of rafts, kayaks and J boats going through Lava.

Today's goal: getting everyone's info for permit, looking for hotel room for the day before the putin and day after the take out, getting the personal packing list ready and out to everyone, work on the emergency protocol in case of Diamond Creek flooding closes the take out road. Getting the final two commitments, etc etc etc. On top of all these, I had to prepare and pack for the hardest race of my life this weekend, the Chattooga River 50K.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day Weekend paddle

Our first real paddling trip of the year, crazy.

We drove up Friday morning. Put on the Nantahala at Patton's Run and found a bunch small rocks and waves to play with. Then the sky opened up and thunders and lighting crashed around us and hails pounded our helmets. I felt pity for the rafters that don't have helmets, ouch.

After the storm passed us, we boogied down to the falls and then NOC wave. The wave is now a wide open hole but we were both hypothermic. I did a few rides but couldn't setup on the top of the foam pile without flushing then gave up to change into dry clothes and warm up. Dave and Bret put in there to play some more. We were too hungry so we left to feast on BBQ at Herb's.

While driving to Herb's I got a call from Steve Sullivan at National Parks Service. I immediately got worried, did I get caught without permits, changing and baring myself in the public, or smoke illegal materials? Turned out one of the Grand Canyon cancellation lottery winner couldn't go, and I was the next on the list. The launch date is June 25, 16 days on the river, not much time to prepare. I had an hour to give him an answer. Oh crap. Over dinner we decided we would take the chance and give it a shot to see if we can pull this off.

Finding camping at Whitewater Express was interesting, and we end up using 4WD to get in the field. Dave and Bret were already setting up camp and we shared a jug of yummy Nantahala Brewing Company's IPA that Bret picked up earlier.

Kurt and Paul pulled into camp around 1 or 2am but none of us heard them, due to slumbering caused by IPA.

Saturday morning at Ocoee putin. The rock slide over the winter had changed the put in rapid a bit that caused some anxiety but in reality it was actually easier if you know to how read new water. Right line looked beefier than before though. We played out way down and had some funky moments such as when I missed eddy 5 at Broken Nose and end up in lower 5 instead. Oh well, all good. Slice Dice's playspot was green and pretty much useless, and we concluded the release was much higher than the usual 1600 cfs on an Upper release day.

Witch's hole is now Witch's wave, a bit flushy. Robert decided to visit Lorraine's hole at Cat's Pajama, with the same disaster result and had to be pulled out of the water. Hell Hole was narrower but faster. I had some decent rides a few powerful faceplants. Jade for the first time spent some quality time deep in that hole.

Dinner was once again at Herbs. We talked about planning a boaterdicks festival but couldn't come with a better name. Some ideas got tossed around such as topless safety boaters but nothing concrete resulted.

We decided to paddle the Upper Ocoee on Sunday. Fun lines through Alien, Mikey's and Blue Hole. There was an amazing paddler at Callahan's doing every move imaginable and long long multi-minute rides. I got inspired by him, especially the ease which he initiate ends. After snacking on a bar, I got back in the boat and ferried into the hole, determined not to be intimidated and stay easy and loose. A few spins and I followed his methond to initiate lefty cartwheels and it was amazingly easy. A few more spins and one more lefty, except this time a pulse rocketed through my left arm and I felt a familiar pain in the left shoulder. By then I was in position to do a right hand back deck roll. I could tell by the washing machine effect that I was still deep in the hole, and rolling up in it means I'll have to use both arms, iffy given the pain in the left side. I waited patiently with my right hand and paddle shaft protecting my face, and finally the buffeting effect ended and I rolled up. Immediately I could tell the left shoulder was at least partially out. I limped back into the eddy not wanting to deal with the next drop. Once safely in the eddy, I used my right hand to move my left shoulder a bit to test it, and I felt a distinct pop as it moved back in the place and the pain subsided right away. Well, now I know for sure what happened. It was on its way out but not far out enough to move to the outside of the socket, so a little nudge moved it back in.

Jade was very concerned since she knew something wasn't right by the way I tendered my left arm paddling back into the eddy. I told her what happened and we decided I should take out there and wait for her to finish the river then pick me up.

Waiting turned out to be informational. I never had a chance to study the Humongous side of the river, and discovered a nice curling tongue through the meat of the hole. There also a few interesting surfing waves toward the end of the Olympic section. The sky opened up one more time clearing the spectators. Just in time as the rain ended Jade showed up to pick me up.

We had a wonderful dinner with Knut and Julie in Asheville dinning on a traditional German fare made by Knut. Got home just before midnight, tired and sore, wondering what to do with my shoulder, and stressing about planning for the Grand Canyon trip.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Pavement sucks

I couldn't get a decent run this past weekend due to the weather and helping with the Galloway kickoff. Sunday night I had this brilliant idea that an 16-18 mile maintenance run is what I need to do on Monday for the race. More brilliant thought on Monday morning convinced me I should do this at Shelley Lake instead of Umstead so I can run with Jade who is doing her missed 10 miler with Crystal.

74' with 90% humidity, at least it's not sunny.

I did the first 8 on my own, changed a soaked shirt, ate a bar and did the next 10 with Jade and Crystal. Fatigue wasn't so much of an issue. However my hips started to complain slightly at mile 15 and never settled down to the end of the run. Looking back, I had one 8 mile run and one 10 mile run on pavement this year, plus the usual 4 mile loop around the house. I pretty much spent the entire past 6 month running on dirt. Even after my 26 mile trail run I didn't need ice bath, but after the 18 on pavement, I quietly endured 20 minutes of freezing my ass off in the bathtub.

Maybe I should stay away from road races in general, especially marathons.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Hee-Haw and KSO

The weekend's rain brought up the Haw. I had a quick paddle on Monday with Jade at about 2ft, maybe 4,000 CFS or so. The bottom wave of Gabriel's is great for flat spin and roundhouses.

More water came down Monday night from Burlington, so by Tuesday morning it was just over 10,000 CFS. Perfect level for both waves. But an electrical socket shorted in the morning which caused Jade a brief panic, so I spent the entire morning going to the store three times before finally getting the right part and replaced the damn socket.

By the time I was ready to go, the level had dropped to 8,500 CFS. Russ was the only one I found free so he and I put on around 3pm. What I didn't realize for a long time was that Russ was spooked and quite scared by this level and was getting tossed around a lot. I on the other hand focused on surfing and trying to encourage him to take on a few small waves and holes. the top wave at Gabriel's was in great shape. I managed to do some beautiful high blunts on both side of the pocket and attaining back up wasn't a big deal as before, must be all those cardio workout from running. The bottom wave was just starting to collapse into a hole so it was so so. Should have tried some loops there but I was focusing all my energy on the top wave doing blunts. Sometimes it would take me four or five carves across the pocket before able to setup the position, so will need to pay more attention on where I carve back and how much edge and angle I need to get back to the top. I think that's one of the biggest differences between the pros and amateurs like myself. Most people admire their abilities to do the big moves, but it is their abilities to maneuver around the wave or hole to setup the big move that's the key.

The Wednesday's paddle was in the Green Boat playing with attainments. Doug told me the far river left side way beyond Gabriel's Bend was attainable. I found the spot, but the Green Boat just lacked enough hull speed to get up, compare to Doug's Speeder.

I also ran 5 miles on the ATT in my new Vibram Fiverfingers KSO. Knees felt a bit weird, had a nice blister on the inside of my right foot, and a day later my heels were a little sore. Hmm.....not sure about this minimal shoe stuff.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

My first ever 5K!

My wife has ran a couple untimed 5K's but wants an official 5K time so she signed up for the St. Mary Magdalene Monarchs in Motion 5K in Apex. I figured since I'll be there with her anyway, I may as well sign up to see what my 5K time is, since I have never ran one either.

How hilly can Apex be? How hard can a 5K be?

Saturday morning was hot and sunny and humid. We got to the race at around 7 to pick up the race packet and do a bit of warm up. The race course is figure eight through a subdivision. We warmed up by running the smaller loop and it was immediately clear that it's not gonna be easy. Around the first corner of the race, the course goes straight up a big hill and down another big hill. hilly can Apex be?

We were already sweating buckets after one mile of warm up. I ran into Stephanie from the Galloway group who was volunteering for the race and chatted with her a bit. There was a yoga instructor leading a group doing warm ups which I didn't need, since I was already sweating buckets from that 1 mile slow jog.

The race organizer wanted everyone running 8min pace or faster line up first, so I nudged to the back of the front pack. Maybe 30 or so people. Rest of the runners lined up behind us and I hoped I don't get trampled over. I hoped to run at least 8min pace but secretly hoping for 7:30 or so. I know my secret competitor Rachel is race result stalking me on this one.

Race starts and we blast up hill in the parking lot. Yeah, hills in the parking lot already. I follow this cute girl in short shorts and blue tank top around the parking lot down the hill through some shops then turned into the first loop of the figure eight. We immediately huffed and puffed up the first hill where I get passed by some runners. Around the corner is a long down hill section where I pick up some speed and pass those that have passed me, including the blue shirt girl and also a blue shirted guy. We pass the mile 1 marker near end of the loop and I was doing about 7:20 or so. Way fast, and my heart wanted to escape from my chest.

Climbing back up to the shops and we turn down this seriously long steep hill toward the loop 2. Jeez, this hill will be fun on the way back. Once again I pass the blue shirt girl and guy and also pass the water station. Climbing toward the loop two I get seriously fatigued and wanted to walk but forced myself to not to stop. Fortunately the start of loop 2 which is bigger is a short section of down hill where I caught my breath a bit and let the heart rate drop below 100%. The backside of this loop is a looong section of up hill. I shuffled passed a couple walkers that seriously tempted me to walk. Mile 2 marker passes by and I was doing just under 8 for the second mile, with my heart ready to shut down.

We turn around to the end of loop two, and heading down toward the last really long steep hill. I gathered the last bit of my resolve and strength and powered my way to the top of the hill, with absolutely nothing left on the top. From here the course takes a right for about a hundred yard with the slightly rise in elevation and I couldn't muster anything so I slowed down to a really slow shuffle and another runner passes me here. Then we turn left and up a seriously steep but short hill into the parking lot. Finally on top of the parking lot, I looked back and saw two runners behind me and gaining. I felt like puking but knowing salvation is just yards away, I dug in and sprinted to the finish with a 24:43 time.

5K sucks!

I promised Jade that I'll take some pictures of her at finish, so I trotted back to the car and grabbed a bottle of Gatorade and my phone. Back at the finish line I waited for her and saw a runner had collapsed at finish. Ouch. There was four or five people helping him so I continued waiting for Jade.

Jade had wanted to do a sub 30 min race but after seeing the hills during the warm up she had all but given up on that goal. So it was a surprise for me to see a glimpse of her on the other side of the parking lot and I saw the race clock showing 29 min and something. I yelled and shouted "Go Jade" as loud as I could. She came around the corner and looked at the race clock which was showing 29:47! Digging down she lowered her head and picked up her cadence and sprinted across to a 29:53 finish!

Monday, May 10, 2010

29 mile trail run

4 week to Chattooga River 50K, this 29 mile trail run is my last long run, follow by a long taper.

I knew it was gonna take me a long time so I started at 6am this time. Got to watch the rising sunlight reflecting off the clouds and making them bright red, it was a gorgeous way to start a run. I started at the Turkey Creek bridge parking area. Followed Turkey Creek for about 3 miles to Graylyn, then turned right on Graylyn and hopped onto Sycamore trail and to the gravel road and turned back at the Sycamore Creek bridge just before the big lake. I ate my first wedge of PBJ here. Retracing my steps, I came back and jumped on the long loop of Sycamore Loop trail, then got briefly confused and continued across Graylyn on the same trail before remembering I was suppose to get on Company Mill at this point. Laughing at myself over it.

Long climbs at Company Mill were all done with power walk. Once I got to the top crossing Reedy Creek rd., I ate my second PBJ. From here it's a long downhill run to Crabtree creek, which I did continuously skipping all the walk breaks that my Garmin was set to do. Once I crossed Crabtree Creek, I climbed the steep mile to Harrison Ave. parking lot where I ate my third PBJ. At this point I think I was around mile 12. I raced downhill toward Reedy Creek lake on Loblolly trail and started hiking a lot of hills once I crossed it. Here I bumped into Sally and Rhonda whom I've met while volunteering at Umstead 100 over a month ago. We chatted for a few minutes, and Sally reminded me that since I helped so much during that race, I have a good shot of getting in the race next year. Well, at least I get the priority for registration, but I'm still lacking the capability to run the race!

I stormed to the car feeling good after just shy of 16 miles. Really. I was at about 12:50 pace at this point. Stopped at car for 5 minutes to reload, and I discovered I had only drank about half of my Nathan 2L pack. Thinking there is no way I'll drink the full 2L for the next 13 miles and not wanting to lug unnecessary weight, I only refilled the pack a bit, to maybe 2/3 full. This turned out to be a mistake. I ate most of a banana and another wedge of PBJ while drank some full strength Gatorade.

My second lap is the first lap in reverse, minus the spur on Sycamore trail. Here I ran into Sally and Rhonda again and I told Rhonda about Chattooga 50K which she was interested in. The race is full but maybe she can still squeeze in through cancellations.

I had got rid of my long sleeve shirt and changed to a white short sleeve shirt, which felt great on me. Refreshed from food, drink, clean shirt, and chatting with the girls, I happily ran down Loblolly then up hill to Harrison Ave. Once I popped out of woods here, I spotted a guy wearing a bright, almost blindly so, yellow shirt across the parking lot. I instantly knew it was the Umstead Trail Marathon shirt from this year which I have one, even though I missed the race due to the flu. I commented to him about the flashiness of the shirt and race and we both shared a good laugh.

I ate another PBJ on the way down to Crabtree Creek. Once across the creek, during the long climb up toward Reedy Creek, I was starting to feel the fatigue and tripped on a root or rock. I was so glad of the tough toe cage in my Adidas trail shoes, otherwise I would have lost a few toes on my right foot.

I circled around Sycamore Loop trail and came up on Graylyn. A bit of dilemma here. Either my additions were wrong or the GPS is not recording distance on trails correctly. I was suppose to be at mile 26 at this point, but GPS said I was at 24.6. Getting quite tired at this point, I didn't want to go up and down the hills on the other side of Graylyn anymore, so I ran along Graylyn to the gate, then turned around and came back. Somewhere around here I heard a gurgling sound when I sucked on the mouth piece of my Nathan pack. Oh no, running out of water. Damn, should have filled it full. I could have run down to Sycamore parking area to refill, but that means one extra hill which I didn't feel like doing. So I resigned to run slowly to not overwork myself and ration the last two sips in the pack with another 3.5 miles to go and hottest part of the day coming up.

After a bit I noticed I had stopped sweating. Either I was doing a good job of taking it easy, or I was a bit into heat exhaustion from dehydration. Which one, I didn't know. A mile went by and I noticed my right bicep start to cramp. Weird. I normally ran with a very relaxed arm posture. Maybe it is dehydration. Crap.

Finally at the car, GPS read 28.4 miles and I wasn't gonna do one extra step toward that 29 mark. I justified that GPS usually read short on twisty single track trails so I must be somewhere just over 29 miles.

Later in the afternoon I was out watering the garden, my neighbor Joel said I walked like I need to take a dump, LOL.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Friday Cartwheel session

It's been almost a month since I paddled my playboat, even in the flat water. Yesterday while biking at Beaverdam I wish I had my boat, so today I talked Jade into going to the lake with me to play a bit.

A month off is rough on oblique muscles. First twenty minutes was spent throwing my weight around and over slamming the stern and boat falling over my face, and even the bow which is usually easy for me seemed hard to drive down. Finally told myself to focus on rotate the body hard and keep the abs tight from shifting the weight back. Eventually had a few good 12 to 14 ends.

On the good note, my righty cartwheel seems to be improving. It's hard to not improve from the ugliness of my righties. Tried a few loops too and those were also very slow, having a hard time catching up to the boat for the last move to throw my weight back to push down the bow.

I did convince Jade to try her righty cartwheels. It's like learning it all over again, circa 2003.

Beautiful sunset as we were leaving. Water temperature was perfect. I'm going to start swimming here next week instead of going to the pool.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Thursday duathlon

Dave emailed me to go riding after work at Beaverdam. Since I'm taking a day off, I figured I throw in something fun before riding. I could go paddling but I usually don't feel like doing anything else after paddling, so I tossed my running gear in the car instead.

I've never ran the section of Falls Lake trail by Creedmoor Rd. before, so I figured to give it a try since it's on the way to Beaverdam. It was brutally hot, or at least the hottest day so far this year, around 90' or so. I ran with my camelbak since I'll be wearing it for biking anyway and I was too lazy to pack another bottle. After ten minutes my energy left me and I slowed to a crawl. I turned around shortly after the first bridge over a creek with a round trip of about 3.5 miles. Ran through lots spider webs so this section must not get a lot traffic.

Went to the boat ramp at Beaverdam to cool off, splashed some water on my head and stretched a bit, then met Dave at Beaverdam. First thing he said is let's not have an epic day, which means no Southloop. We usually get in some kind of trouble in Southloop LOL. We end up riding Outer Loop then West Loop. About 4.5 miels that took us about an hour, we stopped a lot and were taking it fairly slow. I had a few burst to speed here and there but in general kept myself in check. Dave has been doing a lot cardio ride workouts at Umstead but this is his first time on single track in over a year.

I locked Jade out of the house since she lost her garage door remote last week and the new one is not here yet. My neighbor Joel let her in. By the time I got home from riding she had gone to her gym for her weekly PT and Joel was working installing new shocks in his wife's car. I end up helping him for about an hour. Feeling pretty dehydrated after that.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Same run, four month later, HR difference

Back in January, I ran Sal's Branch and Pott's Branch trails at Umstead. It's just over 4 miles with lots ups and downs. Back then I did it in 45 minutes, with average HR of 158.

Yesterday I went and did the same run again. Weather was hot, maybe around 80 and very humid. I did it in 42 minutes, so shaved 3 minutes over 4 miles, or about 45 seconds off the mile pace. Average HR was 159. So a tiny bit higher, but at much faster pace and hot and humid weather.

Once in awhile this kind of run comes along that shows what kind of improvement I've been making that makes me feel even better about all those times spent on trails.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Umstead 1/2 Marathon, sort of

Crystal signed up for the Inside Out Sports 1/2 Marathon in two weeks. The race is mostly run in Umstead on Reedy Creek trail and she's never ran there before, so we decided to do a run down, and Sherri agreed to join us.

Sherri is coming back from a calf injury, so I was concerned that we don't run too fast for her, especially knowing how fast Crystal is. I carried my two bottle Nathan belt and filled only one with 21 oz of Gatorade, and the second bottle only had Gatorade powder. I planned to fill that bottle at mile 6 water spigot near Trenton gate.

We started out with a fast warm up, then was immediately into low 9 min intervals. Cruising along the rolling section of Reedy Creek trail between airport and Cemetary Hill, Crystal asked if it gets any hillier. Sherri and I both chuckled and yeah, this is the flat part of the run.

Soon we fell off S-turn hill and start the long long climb of Reedy Creek Lake hill. Crystal got her first taste of things to come and wondered just where is it gonna end. Still going mighty fast imo at this point, but since Sherri wasn't complaining, I figured I better tough up and suffer in silence. We ran into James Kesterson near the intersection of Turkey Creek and Reedy Creek and I introduced Sherri to him and mentioned we'll all be running the New River 50K together in the fall. James had an early start and was heading out toward the Art Museum so we waved goodbye and turned onto Turkey Creek trail.

Here is where I screwed up. In middle of a conversation, I totally missed the water spigot. Then I keep on thinking it's further ahead until I saw Loblolly trail head, then I knew for sure we missed it. Didn't want add any more miles to this run, I started ration my Gatorade even though I was sweating profusely at this point keeping up with the girls.

A nice 1.5 mile descent of south Turkey Creek took us to the 2.4 miles of rolling climbs of North Turkey Creek. Crystal finally got the full treatment of Umstead in this section but she's a trooper and even challenged me to a sprint race at the last steep hill of Turkey Creek. Neither of us lasted more than 20 seconds before ready to puke.

Still rationing my Gatorade, I focused on good body posture to help breath, and leaning into the trails and letting my feet fall below me rather than in front of me. It does help the matter and I could definitely feel the lighter effort load. The descent of Powerline Hill on Graylyn was a gift but followed by the climb to Reedy Creek followed by the Not-Cemetary-Yet hill drained us, only to dump us right at base of Cemetary Hill. I know salvation was just beyond the top of hill in form of cold taste water at airport water spigot. I gathered my last bit of reserve and raced up the hill just ahead of Crystal and Sherri.

Refilling my bottles saved me. By now Sherri also ran out of water but Crystal still had plenty, a sign that we were working much harder than she was. From here it was a cruise down hill to the car and I had enough to put in a 7 min pace 1/2 mile sprint to the finish.

Overall we did the run at 10:13 pace, which I thought was way fast, especially given the high humidity and temperature of the run and the fact that we missed the water stop at mile 6. It was a good warm up run for Crystal, so we accomplished the run's purpose. Hopefully she'll have nicer weather for her race.

ps. went home and dug into some data. says the route has 400ft of elevation change. However looking at various peaks and valleys of the route on Google Earth revealed it had far more. Finally with help of a elevation chart from the Umstead 100 website, I figured out the route had 1100ft of of gain and 1100ft of loss over 13.5 miles.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Biking at Beaverdam

So last weekend's Captain Thurmond practice run got me going on the bike, really it was my first time on trails this year. Wednesday I felt my legs were ok, and even though my butt ached from hill intervals on Tuesday, I figured it wouldn't affect riding so I went to Beaverdam to ride the Southloop.

I probably rode this loop only three or four times overall. At first nothing was familiar but I knew there was no other trails around here. After awhile some landmarks and trails marks become familiar. I didn't bother with dropzone, since I had no idea how my legs would respond to this loop after not riding the entire winter.

I was definitely not fast, but all those running in the winter did make one difference that I noticed. Even though I could climb no faster than before, I recover faster. I used to have to either ride very slowly or stop after any size hills, but now I seem to recover breathing and leg strength without much of a rest after hills.

Finished the loop in 1 hour and 11 minutes. Not exactly fast, but not turtle slow either, I hope.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Captain Thurmond's Challenge training at Harris Lake

There are a bunch of us planning to do Captain Thurmond's Challenge this year. I have proposed we do a training run closer to here sometimes in the spring. After 35 or so email exchanges we finally settled on Saturday, my birthday.

We decide to follow the event sequence of the real race. So start with the biking segment. I have never biked at Harris Lake before, so had to reply on Todd, Bob and Elizabeth for ideas. They settled on a counterclockwise loop of all three loops. So I had it nailed in my head to take every right. It was also Jade's first time here.

Todd bolted from the start and I never saw him again. Soon I let Bob pass me so he's not sticking to my ass so annoyingly. On my own, I managed the right side of the first two loops without issues. Crossing the road I start on the more advanced section. A good bit hillier with more logs to jump and lots whoopy doos. I stopped a few times to sip water and rest. Soon I find myself doing the same section of whoopy doos twice. What heck. I stopped and stared at this place for awhile, trying to figure out what I did wrong. Turned out I missed a right, and while I was pondering the situation, Elizabeth caught to me and pointed me to the correct direction. Off I went, and after a bit I caught a glance of Bob coming back on a loop and figured I was maybe two minutes behind him. Finished rest of the advanced loop without mishaps, crossed the road and soon find myself riding on the shoulder of the road. Hmm......back track and ah, there it is, the turned I missed. Off I went, and a bit later, finding myself heading toward a parking lot, not the one we parked. Turn around, back track and Elizabeth is at an intersection pointing out the correct direction again. Leading her, soon I find myself heading toward the same parking lot. One more back track and she and I finished the bike ride together.

Bob and Todd's bikes are on their truck and boats are gone. So I know they are somewhere on the lake.

Elizabeth's husband Tripp is suppose to switch babysitting duty with her at 10. So she only had another 30 minutes left to paddle. Not having to deal with her biking gear, she made the transition to paddling about 5 minutes faster than me. I also had unload Jade's boat since I know she will have trouble with that heavy boat on top of the van. Once in the water, it took me about 15 minutes to catch Elizabeth since my Dagger Green is almost 4ft longer than her Dagger Mamba. She turned around since she was out of time. We said good bye and I continued. The plan was to paddle around the tip of the peninsula and go to the closest tower supporting the power line, for a 2 mile out and 2 mile back paddle. It took me almost to the tip of the peninsula to find my rhythm. Once I go around the tip, I saw Todd coming back toward me from the distance. We chatted briefly and continued. I passed by a fishing boat and asked them to borrow their outboard motor, they got a kick out of it. Bob was maybe 15 or 20 minutes behind Todd. Finally I rounded the power line tower, the turn around at around 27 minutes or so.

Coming back to the point of peninsula, I saw Jade paddling toward me. She's about 30 minutes behind me and didn't want be that far out, so she turned around and paddled back with me. We both got back to the van at the same time, changed to running clothes. I wolfed down two wedges of PBJ, and took off on the trails.

The trail was flat in the first mile, with soft pine needle surface. Perfect stuff. On the other side of the peninsula, it rolled into gradual hills and still not hard enough to throw off rhythm. A few slight confusions near the end and I popped out on the road 200 yards from the van. Todd was already sleepy by then, and Bob was also waiting. We waited another 15 minutes and Jade finished.

Looking at my GPS, it took me between 50 to 55 minutes for each segment. Not bad, not fast either. The race's biking and running segment will double the effort of this practice run. It'll be a fun one.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Longest run ever

This past Thursday I ran 26 miles of mostly single track trails as my second to last long run for Chattooga.

I spend an hour the previous night fussing over what I should eat and drink for the run. Previously I survived on Gatorade, Gels, Sports Beans and Sharkies. So far I haven't had to empty my GI on the run so pretty much always after the run, my GI runs. So new strategy is required.

Plan for the day: breakfast of oatmeal, craisin, banana and almond nuts with coffee. Yeah, I eat a lot before running. Since it'll be two loops with stop at car in between, I planned to carry 2 quarter PBJ wedges and a Honey Stinger and one gel. The gel and Honey Stinger are backups in case the PBJ fails. The Camelbak was filled with 2L of half diluted Gatorage. For the first time ever I even packed toilet paper in the pack.

The first 4.3 miles took me through Graylyn, down N. Turkey Creek to the trailhead of Loblolly trail on bridle road. I kept it slow and intentionally walked a few steep hills for practice, so by Loblolly trailhead I was averaging 12 min/mile. Followed Loblolly for almost 3 miles, with lots up and down. Herr I power walked a lot steep sections and ran up some lesser hills. I tried to keep the HR under 150, so anytime I see the HR creeping past 153-155, I walk. I had set the Garmin to the normla 4-1 interval but I ignored it often especially on long flat and downhill sections where I ran through the walk breaks knowing I'll be walking soon on uphills.

At the Harris Ave. entrance parking lot I ate my first PBJ while walking across the parking lot. Company Mill trail starts with a long down hill section which I ran through, walked a few small but steep up hills then crossed the bridge at Crabtree Creek. Here I took a left and ran along the beautiful creek for almost a mile, then turned up hill to the long climb toward Reedy Creek Rd. Lots walking here and now my overall pace had slowed to about 12:40, so I figured I was doing just over 13 on the single tracks. I caught up and surprised a woman hiker at the trail head at Reedy Creek rd, and she commented I was such a quiet runner. I like to think I'm efficient, but the pine straw covered trail probably did more to mask my approach. I mentally added the numbers and realized I'll be a bit short of 13 if I kept going on Company Mill, so I took a detour spur toward the airport for a bit while eating the second PBJ, then came back and continued on Company Mill and soon surprised my fellow hiker again. It's mostly running here with trail descending toward Sycamore creek. Crossing the stone bridge on Graylyn, then hopping on Sycamore Loop trail took me back to the car, at 12.9 miles and 2:44 run time.

I had to sneak in a few pieces of Honey Stinger about a mile before the car since I was starting to feel hungry. Didn't want to be caught hungry on the second loop, I ate like a pig. One whole banana, 1/2 of PBJ, a few chips, a few sips of flat coke, and some more gulps of Gatorade and water. Refilling my Camelbak I discovered I only drank about half it, so one liter over 13 miles. I was a bit stuffed heading out. The stop took 9 minutes.

Running mostly downhill until the split in Sycamore Loop. I took a left and crossed Graylyn and down the other side. Mostly running here on downhill and I start to feel a stitch or cramp in my stomach. Must be all the food and coke. Had to walk here and there to let cramp settle. Around the beautiful Sycamore Loop was awesome, lots fast and flat sections with only one major climb. Then once I crossed Graylyn and hopped on Company Mill, the fun was over. Mostly going up, lots walks, I had discovered I couldn't run much uphill at all without breaching my self imposed HR limit. Once I crossed Reedy Creek Rd., it was all downhill for over a mile to Crabtree Creek and I was happy once again.

At the bridge over Crabtree Creek, I had a choice. Continue on Company Mill and circle back to the car then another 4.5 miles on Sycamore Trail and Pots Branch Trail, or cross the bridge toward Loblolly trail and finish on the bridle road. I decided on the latter. The one mile climb back to the Harrison Ave. parking was hard. Lots walk and my quads begin to scream at me. Finally on the top, I walked across the parking lot eating another 1/4 wedge of PBJ. Loblolly starts with almost a mile of flat and gentle downhill, perfect for making up some time. Then crossing Reedy Creek, it climbs, and climbs and climbs. More burning quads and walks and finally I hit Reedy Creek Road. My right quad starts to tingle, so I stop to stretch it a bit. Don't want it to blow up. The last 0.7 mile of Loblolly is a series of up and downs and I was getting fairly tired.

Finally hitting South Turkey Creek, and at 21.6 mile on my Garmin. I finally was able to relax and run brainlessly for awhile at 11min pace toward the bridges. It's getting hot now with sun bearing down, but at least here I'm in the shade. When I got to the bridge, I walked to finish my last PBJ, knowing I'll need the energy for the last 2.5 mile up North Turkey Creek. There is nothing fun about this section, with lots power walks and more burning quads. It was getting really hot and I constantly sipped from the Camelbak.

I got back to the Sycamore parking field and GPS showed 25.8. So I run around a bit and got 26. It took 5:46 to do the run.

Tired, but not completely wore out. I could have gone on a bit if need to. I stretched, drank the Endurox, ate more PBJ and an boiled egg.

Overall I ran 17.4 miles of single track and 8.6 miles of bridle road. Long, but I made it and not totally gone. Never hit any kind of wall so I managed my energy level well. The PBJ/Banana combination worked well with diluted Gatorade. The Camelbak required cinching the shoulder straps every mile or so, which got a bit annoying after awhile.

Chattooga will be harder. Still not sure how I'll handle those latter mile climbs.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Getting ready for my longest trail run tomorrow

I was brave enough to sign up for a 50K trail race in June. Maybe it was more about stupidity and ignorance than been brave. The race, Chattooga River 50K, has more elevation gradient than anything around here, so training for it will be interesting.

Tomorrow is my day off from school. Since we're going to Florida this weekend for a family function, I moved my long run to tomorrow. I'm going to try to do 26 miles of mostly trails in Umstead. I mapped out a loop that's about 10 miles of single track and 3 miles of bridle trail there. Two laps gives me 26. This way by the time I'm really tired, hopefully I'll be at the point of no return on the second lap, so it'll force me to finish.

Having paced my wife for the entire Tobacco Road Marathon, next paced a friend a week later at Umstead 100 for 25 miles, I feel 26 mile trail run should be well within my ability as long as I'm patient enough to do it slowly. Pacing my friend during his 100 mile race showed me how to conserve energy and yet still not loose too much time. He was averaging just under 13 min/miles at around 85 mile mark, even with power walks up the hills. So tomorrow I'm going to try to incorporate some power talking into the run, especially at a few undesirable hills. Chattooga River 50K will have far more steeper and longer hills than Umstead, so I better get used to power walking.

Reading Jonathan's blog entries gave me some new idea about how to prepare for long trail runs. We'll see how it works out. Plan to start at 7am when the park opens.