Sunday, February 25, 2007

Mt. Mitchell Challenge 2007

Here I am with one of my best running friends, Tony Rouse on the summit of Mt. Mitchell this Saturday. As you can tell from the photo, it was a beautiful day and couldn't have been better for a run in the mountains in February. The steel beam is from a construction project for a new summit tower. The day exceeded my expectations and I had a great time and was very happy with the results.You can go here for my report at Mike's NCULTRA site. I remebered my camera and fresh batteries so you can also see my photos here.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Mt. Mitchell Challenge-Preview

What a lovely view from atop Mt. Mitchell, the tallest peak east of the Rockies. That's where I'll be heading for the weekend to run in the 40 mile Challenge. The first Black Mountain Marathon was held in 1998. In 1999, the Challenge was added with 44 finishers making the extended trek to the summit. Perhaps the biggest part of the challenge is dealing with the elements that can be so unpredictable in mid February. Just last weekend a windchill of -39F was recorded on top. I am very happy to see that this weekend should be much warmer although weather conditions can change quickly. There are aid stations about every 5 miles but there is no crew access or drop bags allowed so a runner must carry everything that might be required for the conditions. This will be my first time running the event. I had planned to run last year but found the event had already filled to it's limit. The race filled very quickly again this year and has 149 confirmed entries. You can check out the race website here.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Myrtle Beach 2007

What a difference a year can make. Last year I was approaching this race feeling so much pressure to qualify for Boston while simultaniously worrying about my training partner Karla. This year would be so much more relaxing for me. No pressure, just run with Karla for the fun of it and happy with the knowledge that after a check-up last week, her health would not be a problem. This weekend would be all about fun, friendship and fellowship.
I met over at Jerry's house for the drive down to MB and soon Frank and Karla arrived and we made our way over to the expo for packet pick-up. We saw several familiar faces but before long it was time to head back to the Breakers for a pasta dinner with the NCRC. Thanks to Mark Dowd and his committee for the hard work they did in preparing for it. The food was great and there was enough desserts to fuel an army. After a little socializing , it was off to bed.
Race day morning was cold, around 24F but at least it was calm. Due to a traffic detour we only arrived at the start a few minutes before the gun. I took a quick look around for Jenn but couldn't see her in the dark and the mass of runners so I went back to line up with Karla. I spotted Richard Lilly of MTC and was speaking to him when the race started surprising us both.
We were quickly able to get into our running pace thanks to a wide starting area. I was dressed more warmly than usual since I was planning an easy pace and not racing. The first few miles as we warmed up were very enjoyable. We were sticking to our pacing plan and I was able to spot many friends and speak to them as they slowly passed us by. There were more than a hundred runners from the Triangle area as well as many MTC members from all around.
We were probably close to 5 miles when Jenn finally caught up to us and began to run with us. We were also joined by the very lovely, young Jennifer Frahm who was training for her first 50 miler at Umstead next month. I was surprised I hadn't seen the Dummars pass us yet. I had been told they were behind us so I was looking back every now and then to see if I could spot a Sasquatch in the crowd. I finally spotted them so I stopped and waited for them. We then ran together for about a mile until we caught back up to Karla and the Jennifers.
Around the 10 mile mark, young Ms. Frahm was pulling ahead and Jenn decided to see what she had left and kick it in to finish the half. Karla was already slowing noticeably and I knew we wouldn't be running her goal time today but she was still feeling OK and we would just do the best we could. I was happy that my little pain from RR was not bothering me at all and would never be a factor for me. We passed the half in 2:28:20 still having a lot of fun.
At the 14 mile split I could sense that she was beginning to struggle a little so I told her we would cut our running time in half and walk more often. She seemed to like that idea. Somewhere along here, George Crump of the MTC recognized me and introduced himself and he was with us for a mile or so before moving ahead. By now it was a beautiful day and we were enjoying the views and admiring the gorgeous homes as we passed through a very nice residential area. We made the climb up "Mt Myrtle" around the 19 mile mark but by mile 20 Karla's energy was fading fast. When we reached mile 22 we just started walking and walked the entire mile. When we turned onto the highway we were facing directly into the wind that had picked up as the morning progressed. I was glad we were still dressed warmly because with the slow pace I wasn't generating much warmth. At mile 23 we resumed a run/walk strategy, but that mile was only a minute faster than just walking so we decided since she was so tired to just walk the last two miles. At this point a few minutes didn't matter to her. She was happy there were only a couple of miles to go so I started singing the "Happy Happy Joy Joy" song to her. I then realized since she had never raised kids before that she was unfamiliar with Ren and Stimpy and other cartoons from the 90's. Having raised two boys , I got to sit through a lot of cartoons so I spent the next two miles telling her all about them and their hero, Powder Toast Man. I also told her about Beavis and Butt-head and this seemed to keep her mind off the pain and soon the finish was in site.
She was glad to get this one over and gather our medals. Frank and Jerry were waiting for us at the finish. After a nice post race massage, we made our way back to the Breakers for some lunch and rest before heading off to the party at The House of Blues. That has grown way too big for the venue and it was impossible to sit and difficult to even make it from one side of the room to the next so we only stayed a short time. At least I got to hang out with the Dummars for a little while before we left and headed to the NCRC party. More good times socializing and sharing stories of the day. A lot of fine performances by a lot of people. A most enjoyable weekend. Now hopefully Karla can get back on a normal training schedule and regain her strength and endurance so we can both re-qualify for Boston.
On to the next one.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Myrtle Beach 2007 preview

I am preparing to return to the Myrtle Beach Marathon this weekend with the usual suspects, Jerry, Karla and Frank. This will be my 3rd year in a row running there. The first year I only signed up to pace Karla in her first marathon along with Jerry. She went on to qualify for Boston in her first and I unexpectantly got a PR out of the deal. Last year it was my turn to try and qualify which I barely did by 45 seconds. I won't rehash the story of the special importance of these events here. A lot of you already know the story. For those that don't, you can look in the archives or click here for the whole story. There are links in this one to the first two parts.
I wasn't planning to return this year but I told Karla if she was ready to run it as she begins rebuilding, I would run it with her. As expected she is committed to getting back stronger than ever. This will be her first since completing all her treatments now and we are looking forward to sharing the day again. Jerry will be running and as usual, Frank will be running in the half-marathon. We are trying to convince Frank he needs to start training to qualify for Boston 08. Our Friend Jenn, who I ran at the Frosty 50K may join Karla and I for the first half. She has been recovering from an injury and dropped down to the half. There will be a ton of folks from the Raleigh area and the NCRC. Mark Dowd and friends have planned a pre-race pasta dinner and had 118 people sign up.

You can check out the race website here.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Holiday Lake 2007

Here is Race Director, David Horton giving out instructions at the pre-race briefing Friday night. I had a great time catching up with lots of ultrarunning friends at the wonderful facility at the 4-H camp where the race is headquartered. This year was the biggest crowd ever with 249 starters.
I stayed in the bunkhouse overnight and then awoke to much colder temperatures than I was expecting. The weather service had the official low in nearby Appomattox at 13F. Lucky for me after the race began I was able to go back in the lodge and drink coffee and stay warm for a while talking with Charlie Hesse and Sue Norwood. The aid station volunteers would have a cold morning standing around waiting on the runners. After an hour or so we started making sandwiches for the turn-around aid station and then went outside to prepare for the first runners. I took a few photos and was planning to take a lot more of the runners coming in on the trail to the turn, but my batteries died on me and I forgot to bring spares. I tried taking the batteries out of my flashlight I had run with at Rocky Raccoon last weekend but they were not strong enough to even turn the camera on. I 've got to be better prepared in the future. Here is a link to the few photos I did get.
As the cut-off time came near, I went inside to warm up and change into my running clothes. Then just a couple of minutes after 10 I joined up with Nathan and Jenny from New Jersey who would be my partners in sweeping the trail for the rest of the day. Luckily it was a very pretty day and the sun was up and shining. I was not dressed for the frigid conditions of the early morning so I was happy to see the temperature rising. It would eventually reach 38f by the time we finished. I was enjoying running the course at a leisurely pace and being able to enjoy the views around the lake. Usually when racing here I have to pay too much attention to the trail and the other runners on the Lakeshore trail. Nathan and Jenny were good company and the run passed quickly. I was happy not to find too much runner litter on the course. We only picked up maybe half-dozen gel packets. There were some styrofoam cups but they were all within site of the aid stations with only one or two exceptions. We did pick up a lot of trash that was not race-related along some of the forest service roads.
We followed the last finisher in just a few minutes past the cut-off and then I changed clothes and enjoyed a delicious chicken lunch and more time socializing. Hopefully someday it will fit my schedule to race here again. I would like beat my best time here before I get too old. The trail conditions were great this year.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Holiday Lake volunteering

Back in February of 2002 I ran my first ultra at David Horton's Holiday Lake 50K. I had a great time and enjoyed my introduction into the sport. I returned to run the next two years but never came close to running the time of my debut. Other races and goals have prevented me from running since 2004 but because it was my first I don't like to be a way from the event. Therefore I have made the drive up to Va. to help and hang out with friends the past two years. David assigned me to aid station duties both years.
Last year was quite the adventure as the race started in a cold rain that quickly turned to heavy snow. I was in charge of aid station #1 and we barely had things ready when the first runners began coming through. Finally we got a tarp set up and spent the rest of the day trying to stay warm. The trails and dirt roads became a muddy mess and vehicles were having a tricky time getting around to access the crew points. It was fun watching the runners come through the last time covered in mud and snow.
I'll be heading back up again this weekend and do whatever it is David needs me too. Maybe trail sweep this time? I look forward to seeing everyone there.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Rocky Raccoon 2007-Report

I got a good night's sleep and had an easy day at work today so I have had time to write up my report. You can find it at Mike Day's NC Ultra site as usual. Click Here for a direct link to the story. Overall it was a great trip, a great race and a great time. I did take the camera and have some pictures from pre-race as well as during the early part of the day along the course. You can find the photos here.
They do a wonderful job with this event and I would recommend it as a race to add to your list of things to do.
I realized Saturday morning as I was dressing to go to the start that I had forgotten to put any velcro on my new shoes I was planning to wear. The velcro is needed to attach my Dirty Girl Gaiters and with the sandy soil and mud I definitly wanted to wear them to help prevent blisters. Fortunately I had an old retired pair of shoes I was planning to wear for the trip home. They had over 700 miles on them but I didn't think that would be a problem since the race was all on soft surfaces. They performed well. I had no knee pain at all from my recent injury and the gaiters did their job too. Oh yeah, my pr time was 23:15:45

By Joey Anderson

Every Ultra I enter has a purpose. Sometimes as a training run, others more for the social aspects or the scenery or a unique challenge. And then sometimes I just want to run fast. Rocky Raccoon has a reputation of being an easy 100 miler and a course for a fast time so I went down to Texas for the express purpose of putting out a strong effort and hope for a PR. However, there is really no such thing as an easy 100 miler, especially if you are racing and not just trying to finish.

I arrived in Houston around 3:30pm on Friday and made the drive up to Huntsville State Park, arrivng a little late to hear all of the pre-race briefing but just in time for the dinner. The pasta dinner was very good and it was nice to see several friends and meet a few new folks. Especially nice to see the lovely ladies Beth, Xy and Catra. Frank Probst, the first person I met at an ultra in 2002 was there going for another over 60 win and also Bill and Luanne from the VHTRC. I sat across from Mike Smith from Indiana who was a total stranger on the trail at Massanutten in 2005 and had loaned me a light when mine faltered. My Trail Princess, Anita couldn't make it to the dinner. I had seen Marie Lewis, from the Mangum Track Club at the airport as we were on the same flight but I missed seeing her at the dinner. Marie would be trying for her first 100.

After eating ,I organized my drop bags and decided I would just use one at the lodge. I didn't really need anything anywhere else and I would have to leave for the airport Sunday morning before it could be returned anyway. I was really expecting some warmer weather in South Texas but after checking online for the forecast I'm really happy I packed some warm clothes. The temperatures would range from about 26F to 53F over the weekend. I had not had a chance to see any of the course other than some photos. We were warned of some muddy sections and I had read as many reports as I could find and they all warned of the roots on the course. I was planning to use a pacing strategy of 10 minutes running and 2 minutes walking but I knew I would have to make adjustments for the trail conditions.

It was in the upper 20's at the start but I just wore shorts and a long sleeve shirt with a vest as I knew it would be warming up as the sun arose. We started promptly at 6am and I found myself well back in the pack. It would be another hour before sunrise but I chose not to use the light I had in my pocket. There were so many runners with lights and we were bunched together so I could see fine and the first section of the course was not technical at all. I was able to catch up with Anita after the 1st mile or so and ran with her for quite a while. It was difficult to get into a rhythm until I neared the first aid station so I decided not to start with the pacing strategy until I got there at about the 4 mile mark. So far the trail was in good shape. The soil is very sandy and drains well. The mud I did encounter was easily avoidable except one messy spot at Amy's Crossing.

I then settled in to my pacing plan from that point on. There are some hills on the course but none are steep or long at all. Nothing compared to the hills I usually train on so I was running up the hills on the first lap. The section leading to the Dam Road aid station was quite nice with not much in the way of mud except on the short dirt road section and it was again easily avoidable other than a few splashes. By this time I had decided I wasn't too impressed with all the horror stories of roots. Yeah, there are roots but anyone that runs single-track in NC and Va where I do most of my running wouldn't have a problem. Well at least during the daylight. Even though I have run on trails for over 25 years there are times when a root can sneak up on you and at night they will slow you down quite a bit.

As I left the Dam site and headed to the Farside I was feeling great and it was turning out to be a beautiful morning. Already the leaders were coming back toward us on this out and back section and they were flying along. I was pretending to fly too and having way too much fun.

Just out of curiosity I counted the runners ahead of me as they came back until I reached the turn around. I was a little surprised that I counted about 100. I was at 20 hour pace and I knew there was no way 99 other people were going to finish under 24 hours. So I just kept cruising along and taking my timed walk breaks and doing my own thing. The only problem with sticking to a strategy is it makes it nearly impossible to run with anyone else and have a conversation. I did get to be in the vicinity of the same people for a while but then I would either move a head or get passed.

Now, back to the Farside section. I would soon grow to hate this part of the course. It was to me the hilliest part and was home to the mother of all mudholes. There were a few other muddy parts but again mostly avoidable but this one took a while to creep along the sides to keep from falling in and drowning. Because of the out and back we had to run this section 10 times for a total of about 29 miles, over a quarter of the course.

The next section after returning to Dam Site I found quite enjoyable; most of the time. It was the longest at I think about 4.6 miles. It was mostly single-track through a pretty part of the park. This area probably had the most concentraion of roots but during the daylight it was no problem for me. With about a mile to go to the Site 174 aid station we crossed the swampy area at the end of the lake on a long boardwalk. This next section would be the muddiest part of the course as the trail was in a low area alongside the lake. I think the Park should probably re-route the trail to slightly higher ground just a few feet further away from the lake and this could be avoided for all park visitors. After leaving Site 174, the last 2.9 miles back to the lodge was probably the easiest section and I begin to look forward to it each lap. I completed the first lap in 3:45, almost exactly what I had predicted and was feeling great. I snapped a few pictures along the way while I was taking the walk breaks and I would carry the camera one more lap so I could get a picture of all my friends that were running if possible. I removed my vest as it was now warm enough for just my shirt.

Lap two was fairly uneventful. I was able to run a little with Anita again before she pulled away for good.It was warming up into the 50's and was perfect for a run in the woods. One thing that surprised me was I was still being passed by people on the 2nd lap. I'm still at 20 hour pace with nearly 100 in front of me and folks are still going by. A lot of them were in the 50 mile but several were 100 milers. All I could think was there was going to be a lot of miserable people by night time. By now the leader had already made a big gap on his competion.. Anton Krupicka was gliding over the trail and from where I saw him heading out to the Farside I estimated he would hit 50 miles in about 6:15 to 6:20, well on his way to a chance at a course record. He lapped me a short while later as I was near the 35 mile mark for me, 55 for him.

I made it back around to the lodge in about 4:15, a little slower than I hoped but I was feeling great. I ditched my camera grabbed a snack and headed out for lap three. I had put my back-up light in my pocket because I knew it would be near or after sundown by the time I completed this lap. After about two miles, the womens leader, young and beautiful Jenn Shelton lapped me with her pacer. She was at mile 62 and I was at 42 as she was on her way to shatter the womens record by over an hour. If this young lady could swing a tennis racket as well as she runs she would be one of the richest women in sports with all the sponsors she would attract.

I continued running well. By 50 miles I had abandoned my earlier pacing strategy. It had served it purpose in getting me halfway in good shape and on pace for my goal of 22:30. For the remainder of the race I would run as I felt and the terrain would allow. I ate a slice of pizza, the first real food I had eaten all day and sat for about 5 minutes at Dam Site around the 53 mile mark. It was enough to take away the hunger pangs. Otherwise my energy level was good all day and my stomach was happy. It did get dark enough to need the light the last 2 miles coming back to complete lap three. I stayed at the lodge just long enough to put my vest back on, change socks and grab my main light and head back off into the night.

Lap three had taken 4:34, just a few minutes slower than I hoped but I still was on pace overall but I knew the night would slow me down and it would not be easy. I went out determined to run as much as I could and as fast as I could. It's a funny thing how our perceptions change during the course of a long run. I know I was putting out the effort and I was running nearly as much now as I had been earlier but my watch kept telling me I was running much slower than I thought. I knew this was inevitable so I was determined not to let it get me down. Part of the problem was dealing with the roots of course. I had to pick my way more carefully in the dark. I was lucky to only fall one time as I switched my flashlight from one hand to the next. I stumbled a couple of other times but mainly they just slowed me down. I ran as hard as I felt I could but my time for lap four was 5:11:12 .

I put on my jacket before heading out for lap five as it was getting colder than predicted and returning to the mid 20's. With the slower than expected fourth lap it would take a miracle to run 22:30, I would have to run the last lap in 4:40, a full thirty minutes faster than lap four. As hopeless as it seemed I was determined not to give up. I still felt pretty good and I came here to run hard, so I left the lodge for the last time intending to leave everything I had out on that trail. As I reached each aid station I just grabbed a drink and swallowed it down and then was out again, not even looking at my watch. I kept this up until approximately mile 90 at the Farside. I had slowed even more from my pace and my goal was beyond me now but I still was shooting for a PR and that was defintily within reach. I passed Anita just before the turn so we wished each other good luck and off I ran into the dark still pushing for every second I could hope for.

As expected I had been steadily passing people during the night and although I had slowed so much I was still passing others as they bravely continued to struggle to their own personal goals. At this point I was ready to get this thing over with. It was so tempting to slow down, walk more, sit at the aid stations and eat, and still get a PR. But I pushed on wanting to run as fast as my body would allow. When I finally crossed that finish line, I was totally spent but proud knowing I had given my best effort.

The Directors and all their volunteers and sponsoring running clubs did an outstanding job of putting on this event and if possible I hope to return someday. Until then, on to the next one.

Ed. note; Joey finished in 23:15

Tech Tags: ultrarunning ultra+marathon rocky+raccoon trail+running ncultra

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Rocky Raccoon Photo

This is the Mother of all Mud Puddles. We got to navigate around this monster 10 times on the way back and forth to the Farside aid station. I'll try and have a report and more photos after I get some sleep.
Missed my goal but got a pr 23:15