Saturday, December 30, 2006

2006 in Review

As 2006 draws to an end, I look back at my year in running with amazement at the things I have accomplished. Compared to the times of many others and some of their grand successes what I did is not too special but on a personal level this was a year of achieving things I would never have thought possible, especially having turned 50 years old last December. I would never have dreamed that my most successful running would come as I began my second half-century. I tell my friends, if I had known I would run so well at 50 I would have turned 50 a long time ago.
I would have have to say that qualifying for Boston at this past February's Myrtle Beach Marathon was the hardest thing and in many ways the most rewarding. The photo above shows me just as I crossed the finish line. Most of you reading this are familiar with the story but if you aren't then read the post "Dreams Can Come True" and you will understand why this meant so much to me and why I was in tears as I crossed the line ( I'm in the white hat). You can see the time on the clock shows I just squeaked in by less than a minute for the time I needed so that I could go to Boston and run with Karla in what would be the most rewarding running experience of my life.
The other biggest highlight would have to be finishing the Leadville 100. I never expected to run this race because I knew I would never have the time to go out to Colorado to acclimate properly to the high altitude. The finishing rate for the race is barely 50% each year and nearly all of those either live and train at altitude or go out weeks before to prepare. But after an invitation from the Trail Princess I decided to go give it a try. If nothing else, I would have some fun participating in a great race and see some beautiful scenery along the way. Turns out my body handled the altitude and terrain quite well. As with all my races I had a plan and stuck to it. As I crossed over Hope Pass the 2nd time with the lovely Beth Simpson I knew I would finish even though I had a tough 45 miles to go. As I made the last turn and could see the finish I was totally exhausted and couldn't muster the will to run the last 1/4 mile. From the sidewalk, Hannah Lugiano, Joe's wife and a non-runner, ran out into the street and encouraged me on and starting running beside me. The crowd was cheering and soon I had 3 or 4 other ladies come out of the crowd to escort me to the carpeted finish line. What a relief it was to make it and have that finishers medal put around my neck.
There were many more great runs for me over the year, but the best memories are the people with which I shared the roads and trails. Many hours racing and training with old friends. Getting to know many aquaintences better and meeting new friends is what really makes this such a special sport. Here is a quick overview of the rest of the year in chronological order.
Ran the Ocean Isle Beach Half-marathon while preparing for MB. Had a great weekend with Jerry and the Werners. Ran my fastest Half (1:38) in over 20 years and won my age-group.
Qualified for Boston in 3:35:15, a pr by 12 minutes and an improvement of 25 minutes since MB the year before. Got to run some of it with Fred and Laura, two of my favorite people. Had a good but bittersweet weekend with Jerry and the Werner's again as Karla was facing impending surgery and chemo-therapy.
With Boston qualifying out of the way it was back to ultratraining as I had some big plans on the horizon. Ran my 2nd slowest marathon ever at Umstead on a freaky hot 81F day after running in the 30's in the week prior. Ran the last few miles with Tony and lots of other friends were there. Two weeks later had a great time at the Ellerbe Springs Marathon. Ran most of it with Anita Finkle and then Tony finally caught up to me with about 10 miles to go. With his encouragement we squeaked in under 4 hours on a tough, hilly course.
Started off the month volunteering at the Umtsead 100 miler. Highlights of the weekend were watching a couple of special ladies running their 1st 50 miles.
Laura is pretty fast as well as just very pretty and has run quite few shorter ultra's. As expected she did great and ran under 10 hours. The dark-haired lovely Jenn Ennis was in only her 2nd ultra and ran a great 10:15. I was so proud. I would have loved to have run with her if my schedule had allowed it. But my main mission for the weekend was pacing the Trail Princess Anita Fromm again. It was a joy to meet and run with her last year so I was eagerly awaiting her return. She ran a PR sub 24 hour and we had a lot of fun again.
Boston. What can I say? It's the greatest tradition in marathoning and I was finally there and sharing it with the usual suspects, Jerry and the Werners. Very rewarding emotional weekend. Never so proud to run my slowest marathon ever.
Back to being ultraman as the month ended at Promise Land 50K plus. Started off in the darkness and the thunderstorm hit in the first mile turning much of the trails into quagmire and the rest into flowing streams of rushing, cold, ankle deep water. Still set a course Pr by 35 minutes. Best part was running with Fred and Tony nearly the whole way. Tony and I crossed the line together once again.
Went to Capon Valley 50K for the first time and glad I did. Had a good run up until the last 6 miles or so when dehydration was getting the best of me. Forgot to carry a water bottle and it was a warm day. Well organized race in a beautiful location.
I needed a qualifier for Western States so I planned to run the original Old Dominion 100 miler. We had a great weekend for it. I began the first climb with Fred Dummar, Jay Finkle, Bob Calabria and a new aqauintence, Dmitry Rozinsky from Texas. After a couple of hours Bob dropped back. Around 20 miles Jay ran ahead. Just past 50 miles Dmitry fell back and Fred pulled ahead as I went through a bad spell. Struggled through the night with sleep deprivation problems but came back strong at dawn for another tough 100 mile finish.
Two weeks later I ran the Boogie 50 miler. Probably not too smart but I wanted to get the points for the Mangum Cup and have some fun. Always a lot of friends here. Ran the first half with the"Ever Lovely Mrs. Doom", Susan. Tony and Teddy ran the first loop with us. After Susan dropped I ran the rest of the night alone and despite fatigue from OD I had a good time.
In between I went to the Race for the Cure 5K in Raleigh. Jerry and I ran with Karla in a race that held special meaning this year. It was the first time I had been able to run with Karla since Boston and she did amazingly well.
Returned to the Grandfather Mountain Marathon with hopes of breaking 4 hours on this difficult course. Lots of Mangum friends here. Highlight of the weekend was being able to run with the lovely Laura for the first half. The course turned out to be over a half mile long due to a re-route caused by bridge construction or I would have made sub four by about 2 minutes. It's great hanging around the finish with so many friends and then dinner with the MTC group.
Went back to Catherine's Fat Ass 50k in the Massanutten Mts. It was nice to run it without having to run another 50k the day before. The purple trail was still tough but at least it wasn't as hot as last year. Great to spend the day with the VHTRC and the post race picnic makes the trip worthwhile. And saw my first bear on the trail Got to run a couple of hours with Janet Vincent.
Leadville as mentioned above. Got to spend time with Anita the Trail Princess. Got to know Vinny better and met the lovely Beth from Wisconsin. NC friends Bill and Sally, Joe and Hannah, Doug the Boogieman Dawkins. Spent some time on the trail with VHTRC members Gary and Rob. Had some support from Scott along the way. What memories are made of.
Leadville really took a lot out of me but I had planned to rest a couple of weeks anyway. Ran the Stanley Cup 5K with Karla and Frank. She did great considering almost no running during chemo and we had a great morning.
The last day of the month was the start of the Hinson Lake 24 hour. Once again so many friends from the MTC and others were there. I had a very good run. Despite missing my goal of 106, I still got over 103 miles and went through 100 in PR time. Raised over $1,500 in honor of Karla for the UNC Linberger Cancer Center thanks to the support of my running friends.
Finished up Hinson Lake on the 1st. Two weeks later ran the Autism 5k with Karla on a beautiful Autumn morning. Then ran the Inside Out Sports half-marathon which is put on by the NCRC. Had a good run in the rain. The next weekend I ran the Seaboard Festival 5 mile put on by Mark Long of the MTC. I don't do many of these short road races cause they hurt if you race them. Ran a good time and got to hang out with some MTC buddies. Won 2nd in my age-group. Woohoo!
Mountain Masochist 50mile +. Probably my favorite event, mainly due to the atmosphere surrounding it. A large crowd but still small enough to meet nearly everyone. It's like an ultrarunning reunion. And a beautiful course. I was by myself most of the time but did run with Jay a shortwhile. Ran with Dean for a couple of hours in the middle before he dropped back. I got a course PR by 35 minutes. A week later was the OBX Marathon. Another great weekend in a fantastic coastal setting with once again, the usual suspects Jerry, and the Werners. Running with Karla was another wonderful inspiring experience. A week later I amazed myself running a fast for me 21:36 at the Apex Turkey Trot and getting 3rd in my age-group. The best part though was running with Laura. Another week later and it was off to Derby 50K, another favorite. Mark puts on a fine race and it's another good social situation with a lot of friends and familiar faces. Jay and Fred ran with me until Jay dropped back around 13 miles. Doom and I stuck together until with about 5 miles to go when I got a cramp. I was never able to quite catch back up and we finished 30 seconds apart. It was another 50K PR for me by about 7 minutes in spite of the cramping. got to run several miles with Byron Backer for a change. He is usually way way ahead of me so it was nice to have him for company for a while.
Hellgate 100k. Yes it is scary and it was as tough as I had heard. A very rewarding finish in a unique event. The setting is quite intimate with the limit of 100 runners fitting the size of the facilities just right. Lots of VHTRC and MTC friends around to share the horror stories with. Ran several miles with Jay and Dean but mostly a solitary run due to the length of the course and small field. Got to run a few miles with Quatro late in the race. I probably ran a bit too much the last 2 months and went into this with some knee pain that just started the week before. Being a hard-head I was determined to finish despite a lot of pain for the last 50 miles of the race. As a result I have had to take off over two weeks but the rest has done me good and the knee after testing it out on a few short runs this week seems to be doing ok. Looking forward to more miles and smiles to come.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Day for Celebration

Today was a day for celebration and not because it is the first day of Winter. No, after 10 long months Karla has finally finished the battle against her cancer with the last radiation treatment this afternoon. She celebrated this evening with a run. I look forward to her quick recovery and hope we can do some training together soon. We plan to run the Myrtle Beach Marathon together in February 07. The photo was taken in the summer of 2005 at the Race for the Cure during our training together while preparing me for my Boston qualifying attempt. On this happy day neither of us would know how different things would be at this same event in 2006.

Thanks to everyone that supported Karla and her family during this difficult time with your thoughts and prayers.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Joey and Mike's Cider and Doughnut Run

This past Saturday afternoon, Mike Walsh and I hosted this social run for the North Carolina Roadrunner's Club at Umstead State Park. What a beautiful day it turned out to be with temperature's in the mid-60's. With the 2Pm start time we weren't sure what kind of turnout to expect, especially with Holiday Christmas shopping in full swing. At 5 minutes until 2pm there were only about a dozen runners but within the next 5 minutes folks starting showing up in bunches and we ended up with 33 in attendance counting me.
Mike had mapped out a couple of 4 mile routes, one on the single-track Loblolly trail, the other on the bridle trails. Runners also had the option of doing a loop including both sections.I took a few photos that you can link to here
I have been nursing a tender knee since running the Hellgate 100K the previous weekend, so while everyone was off running , I would be guarding the doughnuts. Yummmmm. I pulled a recipe for Spiced Apple Cider off the internet and it seemed to be enjoyed by most everyone. Dave Rouse, a fellow board member from the club provided the heater for the cider. We had 10 door prizes to give away in a drawing, several of which were donated by Fleet Feet Sports of Raleigh including a $75 gift certificate. With the successful turnout we will hope to continue the new tradition next year. I have already planned to have the same perfect weather on next years calender.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Gates of Hell are Open Day and Night

Here is my report from this weekends Hellgate 100K

Here are a few photos I took from the race this weekend: Hellgate pictures.
I would have taken more but I was a little pressed for time during the run and although there were many gorgeous views, they were mostly blocked by trees. As usual David Horton and his crew put on a top notch event.
Even with perfect weather this would be a very difficult run. I would not advise anyone to enter unless they are in very good shape or a very gifted runner. This is not the event for novices to dip their toes into ultrarunning. I have run almost 40 ultra's in the past 4 years and I am in my best shape ever and I only made the cut-off by 10 minutes. Looking over the results from the previous years I saw many runners that normally finish well ahead of me struggling to finish within the last hour so I knew I shouldn't run until this year.

The title quote is attributed to a Roman Poet ,Virgil and was the slogan on the race t-shirt this year and was very appropriate for the 12:01 am start Saturday morning. Ever since David Horton was possessed to direct the Hellgate 100K it seems the race has been cursed with harsh weather conditions and this year would be no exception. Fortunately there would be no snow and ice or rain, just bone-chilling cold and wind. The race has taken on an almost mythical reputation in the few years of it's existence and this year the event filled weeks in advance as runners, myself included could not resist the chance to see if we were up to the unique challenge that is Hellgate.
" Horton is a man of God with a spirit kind and true,
But the Devil whispered in his ear, saying here's somethng you should do.

You've directed a lot of races, some runners say you're the best.
Are you willing to take on just one more
That will really put them to the test?

Have it start just after midnight on my private little trail.
It's just outside of Natural Bridge where you enter the GATES OF HELL!!! "

It is an odd feeling to be gearing up to go run a difficult race when normal people are heading off to the comfort of a warm bed but there I was with 95 other souls. And strangely enough some of them knew exactly what they were getting into. I had been watching the weather forecast all week and each time I checked, the predicted low temperatures kept dropping. Now we would be looking at a starting temperature in the valleys in the teens with probably single digits up along the ridgelines. Many were asking what others were planning on wearing. My advice was to wear everything you brought. It is cold and you could die out there. Ok, I can hear my friends living in the North and Midwestern states snickering now. I know it gets colder there and this is normal for you. I don't want to hear it. There is a reason why I stay in the South and I would appreciate it if you would keep your Arctic air up there where it belongs.

Finally it was 11Pm and time to shuttle to the start near Natural Bridge. I hitched a ride with fellow MTC members Dean and Sylvana. Dean would be running and Sylvana was going to go to sleep. I think she was the smartest one in the truck. Did I mention it was cold? We waited until the last minute to leave the warm truck and walk over to the start. After a teeth chattering version of the National Anthem were started off into the darkness ithrough the Gates of Hell. Everyone has there own vision of what Hell must be like and I wondered if this would be the night I would see my version come true. Why is this race so hard? Why do people of much better ability than me find it so hard to make the cut-offs and finish this thing? Most 100 milers have a higher finishing rate than this with 68% finishing in 2004 being the highest yet.
 The first two sections did nothing to help me understand why. I was runinng along with Jay Finkle and Dean soon after the start and found it to be mostly runnable until we encountered the first obstacle, a freezing creek crossing. A poor soul in front of me slipped and fell , totally submerging himself in the icy water. I didn't recognize him in the darkness but found out at the end that it was Bob (no relation) Anderson. I was luckier and made it across with no problem . Bob and his wife Kari are two very nice people and I would see Kari at all the crew checkpoints cheering me on as she waited for him. There wasn't much of a breeze yet and with the faster pace I was warming up so I removed my jacket and tied it around my waist.

The next section was also fairly easy . It was all uphill on a gravel road but a lot of it was not too steep and I decided to run a lot of it. I'm glad I did because I would need every minute of cushion I could use later in the race. It was a crystal clear night and the stars were shining brightly along with about a 3/4 moon to light the way. I took advantage of the brightness and easy footing and turned off my lights and enjoyed the climb with my moonshadow for company. I was climbing stronger than Jay and Dean and left them behind a little but they caught up to me at the aid station at the top. I had decided not to run with any hydration in this one. I don't need much fluid when it's cold and I didn't want to carry a freezing water bottle . I also don't like wearing anything on my back so I stopped long enough to down two cups of conquest and then off into the night again..

The next section began to reveal a little bit off the difficulties to come. We hit the first true section of single-track and the climbs and descents became steeper but the footing was still pretty good over most of this part. I was not too happy to catch up and pass Martha Wright somewhere along here. She is usually a lot faster than me so I thought she must not be having a good run. I was guessing it was due to her not having too much experience in the dark that was slowing her down and so I hoped she could make it under the cut-offs until the sun would rise in the morning. After awhile we were back on a dirt road and a climb up to aid station three. As I left the aid station I was getting very cold. The wind was picking up and the temperature continued to drop so I put my jacket back on after about 1/2 mile. They don't give awards to the one that finishes with the least clothes on. I reached into my pocket to put my gloves on and realized I had lost one. I didn't want to take the time to go back to the aid station to retrieve it and besides, I hadn't been wearing them anyway I found it better to just pull my sleeves over my hands and let the body heat help to keep them warm.
The trek to the 4th aid station would use a section of the Promise Land 50K course, just in reverse direction than it is run in the Spring. I was enjoying this section a lot. It is mostly on a wide grassy road along the side of Onion Mountain with views of the lights of Bedford off in the distant valley. I was feeling great and moving along at a good pace. After a while though I was ready to see the end of this section and the beginning of the trail down to Overstreet Falls. This section seemed to last forever just like it does in the Spring and I was eager to make the first cut-off at the top of Headforemost Mt and I knew I still had a long way to go. I finally made it to the trail. At Promise Land I can usually fly down the hill to the gravel road but it was much more difficult to run among the rocks in this section in the dark. I also was having a lot of pain in my right knee so I was having to be much more careful than I normally would have been. I finally reached the end of the single-track and emerged onto the gravel road to begin the climb to the aid station four.
As I began climbing I noticed a dull roar through my ear warmers. It sounded a bit like a faraway jet flying over but it never changed. I decided it must be a couple of generators the volunteers were using at the aid staiton. Then with about 1/2 mile to go to the top I realized I was hearing the sound of a steady blast of arctic wind pouring over the top of the mountain.

" The Devil smiled as they ran off into the darkness and the cold,
because he knew that they would suffer and soon he would claim their souls.

But David had outsmarted the Devil, as the course brought them to their knees,
You could hear their cries echoing over the hills, praying God want you help me please!!!! "

Just before reaching the summit I began to feel the full force of the wind in my face.I went from being just very cold to painfully cold in moments. As bad as it felt I could only think how special were the volunteers there spending their night just to help a bunch of idiots . They had a fire going and I sat for about 3 minutes while I drank a cup of tomato soup and let my face thaw out. It was tempting to stay but I jumped up and quickly headed out as I had long way to go. I was happy to be about 45 minutes ahead of the cut-off as I headed down the otherside. Soon I was out of the wind and began to slowly feel better again eager to see the sun began to rise and hopefully bring a warmer day.
I normally have a period somewhere between 20 and 30 miles in an ultra that I go through a bad spell. It just isn't usaully 6:00 in the morning when I reach that point. The good thing was the sun was finally starting to shine it's light behind the mountains and I was nearing aid station 5 where I could get some breakfast. A wonderful lady was cooking eggs and sausage so I grabbed a sandwich and ate it while I walked up the next climb. Soon I was feeling good again and still making good time against the cut-offs. And then things really got strange. Through all the dark night I had hardly stumbled as I ran over the twisty , rocky trails. I thought now that it was daylight I would really be able to pick up the pace and run with more confidence. Boy was I wrong. I soon discovered that Hell is a thick blanket of dead leaves hiding the trail from mortal eyes. They were so thick in some sections that my feet were completely buried. There was no way to see what I might be stepping on. All I knew was that every other step there was a rock, stick or hole under there. I fell 3 times, nearly fell a dozen more and stumbled and slipped more times than I could ever count. It was so frustrating to feel good and ready to run but I could only struggle along and watch as my time cushion slowly disappeared.

I was so happy to finally make it into aid station seven at Bearwallow Gap around 42 miles. Ha!! Maybe 45 or more. The Horton miles were adding up. I still had about a 40 minute cushion but I wouldn't be able to afford too many long slow sections like the last one. I sat just long enough to change my shoes and socks. I had been feeling right foot starting to blister and I wanted to avoid the problem I had the last 30 miles at Leadville. I'm really glad I took the time because I had no problem after changing and the blisters never developed. Sometimes I really do learn something from past experiences.

The next two sections were once again very frustrating. At times there was good footing and a chance to run well but then more leaves and more climbs . Since this was my first time running here I had no idea when i would be near the end of a section and I was afraid I was losing too much time. I would have been very upset to work so hard and go through so much pain only to find myself missing the official finisher cut-off.

At Last ! Aid station 9. Just 6.3 miles to go. A young man named Paul that I had met while working an aid station at Holliday Lake two years ago was working here. I had him grab me a couple of cups of Coke and Conquest while I slammed down two gels. I told him I had to hurry up and get out of there. My cushion was down to 15 minutes. I could only hope that this last section was accurately measured and runnable like I had read in the course description. The first 3 miles were a steady uphill climb on a dirt road. I was moving along OK but not nearly as strong as earlier in the day. I normally don't bother looking up on these long climbs My philosophy is that I will get to the top when I get there. Wishing and searching will not make me get there any faster. But now I was straining to look ahead and hope to see the summit. Barb Isom came powerwalking by me on a mission to finish and then I finally saw her stop and look back. I knew she was at the top where we would cross the Blue Ridge Parkway and then it would be all down hill to the finish. I checked the time and breathed a sigh of relief. I finally knew I would make it. Vickie Kendall passed me as we started down and caught up to Barb. My knee was hurting and it was taking me a while to get back into a good running rhythm. After a while though I found my stride and the knee pain eased off as it loosened up and I soon repassed the ladies. I had hoped to finish before dark but it was not to be. I was very glad I was prepared and had my little Fenix LP 2 flashlight in my pocket. It is small , lightweight and very bright and enabled me to continue to run strong and confidently to the end.

 Martha was waiting to see the last runners finish even though her race had ended much earlier. She ran in the last hundred yards with me where as always David Horton was there to give a hug and congratulations. I immediately walked into the lodge and was greeted warmly by a large group of friends and fellow runners. Anita Finkle and Sylvana Smith both were waiting on me bringing me chili and coffee and a chair to sit in while I thawed out my severe case of ultrabrain. To top it off, Quatro had a birthday cake there for Vickie, Sophie, Tonya and me as we all shared a birthday within a week of the race.

Thanks David for another grand adventure

"Run Hellgate
The climbing never ends
Run Hellgate
It's punishment for your sins
Run Hellgate
But don't be looking back
Run Hellgate
The Devil is in your tracks

Joey Anderson

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Hellgate Preview

Hellgate time is finally approaching. I will be heading to Virginia after work tomorrow to attempt this race for the first time. This is 100k, but more likely 65 to 66 miles long in keeping with the tradition of all David Horton races for being longer than advertised. You can read all about the race on David's website, I have a link to it on my sidebar links area now. The photo to the left was taken by Mike Day during a training run a couple of years ago. That is Little Hellgate Creek, which I believe we will be crossing in the dark .
The photo below with the snow was taken last year by Sophie Spiedel. The course runs along, up and down the ridgeline of the Mountains in the background. Fortunately this year there is no snow and ice in the forecast but overnnight lows will be in the teens. Brrrr. By the way, the race starts at 12:01 am Saturday morning.
This will be the 4th year of the event. It is a very difficult run and has a finishing rate comparable to some tough 100 mile races. There are two cut-offs and it can be difficult to make those. I knew I was not in shape to run it in 03. I was prepared to enter in 04 since I was in much better shape but I had a bad race at Masochist for some reason and decided to skip Hellgate again. In 05 I was once again considering running and was definitely running better than ever. I had a tough time at GEER 100K in Sept. and was feeling the effects of my most ambitious ultra schedule to date. I decided it was probably in my best interest not to put myself through such a tough test as Hellgate and besides I was into my Boston Marathon qualifying training by then anyway.
Well, 06 is the year finally to see if I can do this. This has been my best year by far with several course and distance PR's and I'm feeling great right now so I am confident I will have a successful run. Look for a report and hopefully some photos soon