Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Running 25 Hours

Recently, while perusing the GUTS message boards, I came across this:

“Hey, my 25th birthday is on January 30th and for my birthday challenge I am going to run 25 hours!! I will do so at Roswell Area Park starting the morning of the 29th at 8am. My car will serve as my aid station & any fellow ultra runners who would like to stop by and run some miles, bring food, support etc.”

The ambitious man’s name was Jon Obst and I quickly send him a note saying I would be there to help him out. Having read many 100 mile race reports, I knew that the pre-dawn morning hours are usually the hardest. So it was that I set my alarm for 3.30 a.m. this Wednesday morning to drive up Roswell and help pace Jon. It was so early that the 24 gas station by my house wasn’t selling coffee yet (waaah?), so where else can you go get coffee at such an hour? That’s right, Waffle House! For those of you not aware, WaHO, as it is affectionately called by many, is a Southern institution. They have outstanding hash browns, grits and, well, waffles. Arriving at WaHo, I knew I was the only person in there already up. Everybody else was still up.

Grits, anybody? Ok, coffee will have to do this morning.

Driving up to Roswell, I was wondering what I had gotten myself into. After all, I had never met Jon. And here I was going to run in some park in the middle of the night wit a guy I had never met. (Smart!) Arriving at Roswell Area Park, I quickly found Jon’s car. The GUTS sticker and WS100 license plate frame sort of gave it away.

It was cold that morning. A massive storm front with high winds had passed through late the previous evening. How did they run through that? Incredible! Tuesday had been a warm day with highs in the 60s, but now the temperature had dropped to the low thirties with strong wind gusts. The wind chill must have been in the 20s or even teens. I was shivering and just waiting. All of the sudden I see a woman staggering towards her car completely exhausted. Was she running with Jon? It turns out she was. Heather had driven down from Louisville do to this challenge with her. But this was a low point. 80+ miles, a 35 degree temperature drop and driving rain will do that to you. I helped Heather change her gloves, which were soaking wet, to two pairs of wool socks to keep her hands warm.

Soon after Jon arrived. He gave me a bear hug, clearly stoked to see me (hey, why wouldn’t you be?). Jon seemed in much better shape than Heather. His dad had been running with him throughout the whole night. Other runners (friends, GUTS members, etc.) had joined in the fun the previous day as well. Ultrarunning is definitely a team sport. No doubt about it.

Jon competing at the Mountain Mist 50k 2008 last weekend.

After a quick bite to eat, we were off. I felt a little awkward at first. Never having paced anyone over such a distance or having attended 100 mile run, I didn’t know what to say. I wanted to encourage as best I could. But after few minutes the ice was broken. Jon was running at a surprisingly fast clip (Heather, too). With walk breaks, we were doing about 14 or 15 minute miles. Jon and I talked a little but quickly the conversation was mostly between me and his dad (he had a little bit more energy).

I learned that Jon was diagnosed a ype I diabetic (he was checking his blood sugar every hour) at age 19 right around his first marathon. Since then he has moved on to ultras and already conquered the 100 mile distance. Boy, oh, boy, what an inspiration. His determination, I could tell, was fierce and he had a wonderful attitude even at this late stage in the game. Only three days prior, Jon had competed at the Mountain Mist 50k and placed 28th in a super-competitive field. The 4:16:53 he laid down on a hilly course at the Fat*ss 50k is further evidence of his incredible ability.

Jon finishing Mountain Mist

Overall, I spent a little over two and a half hours out there and left at the break of dawn. And I think I made a new friend. Congratulations, Jon, and HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

(I really wish my camera hadn’t died on me, I would have loved to have taken more pictures. I'll upload the two I did take later on.)

Sunday, January 27, 2008

You Know You're a Trailrunner if...

1) you think dirty shoes (or clothes) are cool. The dirtier, the better!

2) you've ever seen an animal on a run, you had never seen in real life before.

3) you've ever gotten nervous when you saw an animal track you didn't recognize

4) you read TrailRunner Magazine cover to cover within 2 hours of receiving it in the mail

5) you think that in training time spent on the trail is more important than miles run

6) you think there is a HUGE difference between 'running' and 'trail running'

7) the more vertical feet the better

8) you've ever converted a runner into a trail runner

9) you've ever scanned Google Earth/Maps before an out-of-town trip to see where the closest trail is

10) you've ever wondered why more people aren't running on trails

11) you've gotten mad at yourself for not having discovered the joys of trails earlier in your running 'career'

12) 'single track', 'double track' and 'fire road' are part of your everyday vernacular

13) you've ever wondered what you'd do if you got injured while out on the trail miles away from your car (or, alternatively, have been in such a situation)

14) you think running uphill preferable

15) flat = boring

16) you've spent hours on the trail and not seen a single person....and thought that was incredible

17) nature is your haven

18) you've ever thought about some new trail at work, dinner or another inappropriate (?) time

19) you think running 50 or even 100 miles is completely sane and rational

20) you kept nodding reading this list

The above list was recently composed during a long run out on the trails. Comment away if you think of more!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Something New To Try Out

Now that it's cold here most of the time and that I'm not sweating as profusely, I have started to literally run errands. For example, yesterday I first ran to the post office to drop off a Netflix movie and then headed to the drugstore for some baby gift wrapping paper (my friends seem to be having lots and lots of babies these days).

The result: 3.6 miles, a nice little run and a couple of errands done.

You should give it a try some time! It's healthy, saves you money (gas) and is environmentally friendly (if you're into that sort of thing).

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Trailrunning in the Snow

This past Saturday, it snowed again. Again! Twice in one week. And it came down hard in Atlanta, consistently snowing for about five hours. I took the opportunity to hit my favorite trails near the River. To quote another, it was simply "majestic". A couple of of inches of the white stuff had transformed the beautiful single track trails into a winter wonderland. One of the most memorable runs in recent memory.

Unfortunately, my camera did not work on that run (I need to make sure my camera is charged before going for a run). However, the next day my we went hiking in the North Georgia mountains. We made the five mile round trip to Raven Claw Falls in 20 degree weather. Below are a few pictures to give you a hint of how gorgeous it was.

The beautiful trail.

Yes, that's Georgia.

Raging rapids.

At Raven Claw Falls.

My first race of the year is coming up in a couple of weeks. Can't wait!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Miracle of Active Recovery

After mildly spraining my right ankle last week, I decided to treat it with an active recovery program. I got the idea after reading all the runners' suggestions on Kevin Sayer's Ultrarunning site. While I did not run at all, I did a bit of walking, lots of core stability exercises (staying off my bad ankle) and some weights. In addition to that, I did lots and lots of icing (and R.I.C.E.-ing) and took a bunch of anti-inflammatories.

Six days into the program, I was able to go on my first run and I feel much butter. The ankle still a little sore, especially in the mornings, but things are looking up.

(Disclaimer: I do recommend that everyone see a doctor when hurt and not just treat it based on some internet recommendations. I have sprained both of my ankles countless times, especially during my basketball days, so I somewhat know what a mild sprain feels like versus a more severe injury. The most important thing, as always: Listen to your body!)

Thursday, January 17, 2008


It doesn't snow much in this city. In fact, in almost nine years of living here it has snowed maybe three or four times but without any accumulation worth mentioning. Well, that changed yesterday. Thick snow flakes started coming down right during rush hour. I decided to skip my run and instead go play in the snow. Here are some photos.

snow is so rare in Atlanta that we pull out our cameras immediately if we see any at all

Memorial Park was empty - the perfect playground

Snow Angel - I hear these are popular up north

It's the morning after now. Of course, most of the white goodness is gone. Even our hopes of a delayed opening of our office went down the drain as warmer air (mid 30s) and rain came this way late last night.

It was fun while it lasted!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


So, I’m sure all of you have heard about the ongoing drought in Georgia. I recently ran along the trails of Lake Allatoona at Red Top Mountain State Park. Allatoona is the second largest lake near Atlanta and one of the most important water sources for the city. Below are some pictures I took of the effect the drought has had on the lake. Recent rain falls have increased the water levels by two feet. Note that these pictures were taken after these rainfalls.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

A Different Look Back at 2007 (or I've been tagged)

Some of you may have seen these posts around the blogosphere already. Paul Charteris started the "Trail Running Blog Tag" almost a month ago. The always farther-faster Jean Pommier tagged me, so here goes.

1. Most memorable moment on the trails in 2007.

This is the first question, but I'm actually answering it last. It may have been finding a turtle in the middle of the forest (and discovering later that it was native). Or my run in the Washington desert or some of the Tuesday night runs with my co-workers. I can't decide. I just know that I was happy every time I was out there. That's more than anybody could ask for.

2. Best new trail discovered in 2007.

Most runners in Atlanta know the Cochran Shoals Fitness Trail, by many referred to simply as "By The River". Well, there are some wonderful trails in the hills behind this super-highway of trails near Gumbly Creek and Sibley Pond. You can find some gnarly single track back there with inclines that will make your heart rate skyrocket. All this less than two miles from my office. Bliss!

(The East Palisades trails are a close second, by the way)

3. My best performance of 2007.

This one is hard. In terms of races, I would say the Great Race of Agoura 1/2 marathon. My time was 1:40 and change (good for 60/1000+ and 5th in AG) . What made the race challenging for me was a darned softball game I'd played three days prior. I hadn't used fast-twitch muscle is who knows how long and I was as sore as I've ever been. (I know It sounds ludicrous, but it's true.) Throw in a cross-country flight (from Atlanta to L.A.) the night before, the resulting three hours of sleep and the 800+ feet elevation gain and you have a pretty decent performance.

Oh, and this rather unflattering photo was taken at that race as well. It now adorns my fridge. My girlfriend thinks it's funny.

My best run overall was in training though. My ultra through Atlanta. Gorgeous day, great run.

Actually, on second thought, running 292 days in a row was my best performance. No doubt.

4. I don't know how I previously survived without...

My ultimate direction hand-held water bottle. It's gold, Jerry!

5. The person I would most like to meet on the trails in 2008

Anybody who is out there enjoying the trails is somebody I'd like to meet. Also, meeting some of the other bloggers I enjoy reading or the one or two people who read this blog would be neat.

6. The race I am most excited about for 2008.

It may sound trite, but I'm excited for them all. Having to miss so many last year has really made me appreciate putting a race number on and giving it my best. I'm particularly excited for Red Top Rumble and Oak Mountain.

I hereby tag Robin, Running Twig, and Addy.

And Again... happened. This time I sprained my other ankle. But it's not too bad. Certainly won't make me go to the doctor or pull out my crutches. It happened while on a beautiful run yesterday, around 12 miles into it. I had been feeling great and was going to push for 20. Instead I hobbled back to my car, which was around 1 mile+ away.

Since I would classify this as a mild sprain with some swelling, I am choosing an "active" recovery strategy with some light running in, hopefully, a few days. I've got races coming up that I need get ready for! Kevin Sayer's site has been a great resource for tips and other runners' experiences. (If you don't know about this site, you should check it out!)

Also, I will be wearing ankle braces on trail runs from here on out.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

My Toys

It’s been a little quiet in the running world lately. It seems like everyone (myself included) is working hard on getting ready for the first few spring races. So, I thought, I’d share with you today all the different toys I utilize in my running exploits. (Please note that I’m not sponsored or get free schwag from anybody, so this is completely unbiased.)

I have separate pairs for road and trail running, even though I sometimes prefer to run in road shoes on non-technical trails. For the road, I have found that Mizuno Wave Riders fit my feet the best. (If you haven’t already, go to your local running store and have them fit you for the right shoe. They know what they’re talking about. The people at Nike Town, Foot Locker, et. al. usually don’t. Plus, everybody should support their local running specialty stores. They are important to each running community in more ways than a lot of people think.)

For the trails, I prefer Salomon XA Comp 3. These are still my first pair of trail shoes, so I’m not sure yet whether they are the perfect pair for me.


Unless I’m running with somebody, I’ve got tunes going. I find it difficult to even run a mile without some sort of audio distraction. On longer runs, I listen to Phedippidations podcast by Steve Runner (click here for an interview with Steve).

Other than that, I listen to a lot of Dave Matthews Band, Pearl Jam, Phish, Ben Harper, Queen and whatever else I feel like that day. I often use music to pace myself (slow stuff on easy days, more rockin’ tunes on hard days).

Like any runner, I prefer technical clothing. I’m not really particular about the brand and find that race expos have great deals. (You can never have enough shirts!) For cold weather, however, Under Armor has GREAT base layers. Their Cold Gear is outstanding.

Water Bottle
Ultimate Direction water bottles are as common among trail runners as those shoes with wheels in them that every seven-year old seems to have nowadays.

Shot blocks (try margarita flavor!), GU, PowerGels…I like all that stuff! For long runs (or even medium long runs in the heat) I use Succeed! S caps to keep up my sodium levels.

I just got the Forerunner 305. It’s scary fun and I haven’t even installed the software. Once I do that I shall be in nerd heaven!

Where I get my stuff: I get most of my stuff at REI (that place is like Disneyland to me), (great deals on shoes) and Zombierunner (for the ultra stuff).

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Here we go, 2008!

I’m not generally a man of New Year’s resolutions, however, I do have some running goals for this year.

Have Fun Running

Often I find that focusing too hard on one goal or preparing just for one race can be stressful and may detract from my original reason of why I run: to have fun. My spring schedule is set up in a way to maximize the fun aspect of running. I really don’t care about PRs or anything like that this year. 2007 really helped me rediscover the joy of running. The trails were a big part of that.

Beat My 2007 Total Mileage

This should be very doable barring any injuries. Can you hear me knocking on wood? No? Well, you’re not listening hard enough then!

Explore New Trails

That shouldn’t be too hard either. There are a bunch that I haven’t run in the Atlanta area. And who knows how many trails there are waiting for me in North Georgia and on my travels this year.

Keep Up This Blog

I’m really enjoying the process more and more every single day. It’s become another hobby. Btw, does anyone have any suggestions on who should be interviewed next? E-mail me or leave a comment. (Preferably with contact information for that person.)

Good luck in 2008, everybody! I hope to see you out there on the trails!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008


That's the number that will forever be connected to 2007 for me. It's my total mileage for the year, you know. One of my goals for next year is to beat that number, which should be possible barring any injuries.

Just for fun, 1,412.67 miles is roughly the distance between Atlanta, GA and Albuquerque, NM, if you're the sort of person that travels like Forrest Gump.

Thanks, Google Maps for the technology and Mike Schubert for the inspiration.

If things don't get too crazy at work the next week or so, I'll play around with the numbers some more.