Saturday, March 29, 2008

Brookhaven Rotary Club Lend A Hand 5k

Right Leg: I can't believe that we just ran a race last weekend and now he is draggin' us to another one!
Left Leg: Seriously! But at least this race is just 1/10th of the distance and we've been feeling strong and recovered. Jean Pommier would be proud.
RL: I guess. So, why are we running this again?
LL: The lady decided to run this race with a friend of hers, so why not tag along?
RL: Yeah, twist my arm!
LL: Also a great opportunity to get in a few fast miles.
RL: Yup, we've been doing so many of those slow ones. This should be fun!
LL: We'll see.
RL: I love the anticipation of starting lines. What music did he choose for this race?
LL: You won't believe it, but he's putting on Guns'n'Roses!
RL: Seriously? That's a first. Seems perfect though. So, what's the goal today?
LL: Who knows. Knowing him, he will race this one hard to see what we can still do. Do you think we can get close to the PR?
RL: 18 and change? Doubtful. We haven't been doing any fast miles. Sub-20 would be awesome though. He could be slower though.
LL: Ohhhhh, here we go!
RL: What is this place?
LL: Oglethorpe University.
RL: Why does it look like Medieval Times?
LL: Dunno.
RL: We're going fast...running in the top 5!
LL: Let's see if we can keep it up. This neighborhood is beautiful, by the way.
RL: Definitely a little bit more hilly than I had expected.
LL: That might come back to haunt us.
RL: Or the 50k last weekend. Or the margarita last night. Or the Ben & Jerry's...also last night.
LL: And here we go...I hate lactate build up.
RL: Me too.
LL: Well, we passed the two mile marker in 12:25...let's push it all the way in!
RL: Oh, it says 19:40....GO, GO, GO!
LL: Shut up! What do you think I am doing?
RL: Phew! 19:59...not bad on this course.
LL: Good enough for 6th overall and first in the age group!
RL: Yup...hopefully, he'll let us rest now.
LL: Doubtful...

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Oak Mountain (50k) Experience

This past Saturday, I had be pleasure of joining around 100 runners at the Oak Mountain 50k outside of Birmingham, AL. It was my first official race over this distance having covered it before in my training last fall while preparing for Santa Barbara 9 Trails (an injury prevented me from actually participating in SB9T).

Our challenge for the day

The Oak Mountain race is actually more of a 50k+, with the overall distance hovering somewhere around 33 miles. With 3,900' of total elevation gain this race has some climbs but is not impossibly hard. Perfect for my first 50k!

My lady and I made the two hour drive to Alabama the morning of the race fully appreciating the hour time difference. The temperature at the start was a comfortable 50 degrees. Everybody was in good spirits. There were smiles everywhere. It was going to be a good day!

Water bottle? Check. Camera? Check. Race beard? Check. Goofy smile? Check. - Good to go!

33 miles to go!

We started off on the yellow trail with some steep inclines forcing us to walk almost right away. My strategy was to run very conservatively until the first major aid station. I wanted to get through this part feeling fresh with plenty of energy left in the tank. It was here on the yellow trail that I met Andy, a local with whom I would zig-zag all day long. He was full of info not just about what was coming up on the course but also about the area. I loved talking to him!

Once we passed the first major aid station (1:15, North Trail Head), we were off to tackle our first big climb of the day. It was here that I realized my legs feeling good today. At the top of the ridge I caught up with Andy again (I tend to take a while at aid stations). The trail was pretty much table top flat up there until we dropped down to the most beautiful point of the course: Peavine Falls.

Crossing the base of Peavine Falls

It's a rocky climb down to the base of the falls and then a steep climb back up. You definitely needed all four to make it to the top. It was awesome!

Climbing back to the top of Peavine Falls

Soon after, we hit the Peavine Falls aid station (2:30). My lady was waiting for me here with a couple of gels and a big smile. Fueled up and feeling great I hit the white trail. My legs started feeling a little tired during this section. I guess this race wasn't going to go by pain free...

The white trail was beautiful single track and took us to the top of the race (Shackleford Point, 1260').

The White Trail

From there, we hit a steep and rocky decent back down to the North Trail Head station (aid 3). During this decent, I caught a second wind and was flying as I reached the beautiful spread of food (3:55). I was getting hungry, so I spent some time here eating. I used the entire 3+ mile incline on the red trail, which we were now headed up, to eat and then digest.

Once back up on top of the ridge, I was all alone for about 45 minutes. It was time for some tunes (Grateful Dead, Pearl Jam)! Getting to Aid 4 (back at Peavine Falls) was the biggest challenge of the day for me. Listening to the music and singing out loud made things a lot easier. Once I reached the Peavine Falls parking lot (5:05), I knew things would be all downhill from there. Literally. The majority of the rest of the race was mostly downhill.

Oak Mountain

The problem was that they told me I was in the top 30. 29th to be exact. "Whaaaa? Are you kidding??" I now had my lady pacing me and running downhill is my strength. Let's see if I can finish in the top 30! It was on this downhill that I caught my third wind. I quickly lost my lady (we had discussed before the race that I would just go if I felt good) and continued to attack the downhill. It was here that gravity just took me for a ride. I probably ran about two miles somewhere in the low 7s. It was unbelievable! I passed five people before I finished with a lady who had I had seen on the course all day (she's a GUTS member, but I didn't catch her name). My final time was 6:09:41! The results aren't posted yet, but it looks like I finished in the top 25! (The results are now posted. It lists me as 23rd overall, however, Enid Gonzales beat me. She was 23rd, I was 24th.)

Feeling great at the finish!

It was great to hang out after the race and talk to some of the other folks I had run with. Eventually I got talking to Alan Abbs (check out this interview Scott Dunlap did with him and his wife Bev Anderson-Abbs; they must be the best ultra-running couple in the world). Alan was in town to see his folks and just finished 2nd overall (DeWayne Satterfield won). We talked for a while as I was enjoying my post-race burger. Hopefully, I'll see Alan again at some other race either here or out West. He is extremely nice and awesome to talk to. I wish him and Bev the best of luck at Western States this year!

Alan Abbs and I enjoying the post race festivities

I want to thank RD Scott Parker and all the volunteers for wonderful, wonderful race! It couldn't have been better organized. I loved the no-frills approach (no sponsor logos anywhere!). Next up: SweetH20 50k!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Some Pre-Race Thoughts

As I'm looking outside at a glorious full moon, the Oak Mountain 50k is fast approaching.

Somehow this race has crept up on me. My spring has been unusually busy and my focus has not been on running. I'm not trying to set low expectations here. (I'm notorious for doing this, because so much of my performance depends on how I feel on a particular day. If my legs aren't there, I slow down and enjoy the scenery instead of killing myself out on the course).

Anyhow, I'm excited for Saturday. It doesn't feel like there is a 50k coming up, which is probably a good thing. As always, my main goal is to have fun.

Look for an extensive race report either Sunday or Monday.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Running In and Around the Tallulah Gorge

This past week I had the great joy of traveling to North Georgia and go camping for a couple of days at the breathtaking Tallulah Gorge State Park. During my time there I went on a beautiful sunset run in and around the Tallulah Gorge.

Some photos:

I don't think that sign served its purpose with me. Instead of being scared away I smiled and thought "Bring it on!"

stairs, stairs, stairs

I tried to run this bridge, but it was swinging back and forth waaaaay too much for my liking. I resolved to walking instead.

I did not quite make it to the bottom. That trail is permit-only (those are free with daily quota of 100). Unfortunately, I didn't get one because the river was carrying too much water.

In addition, there are some back country trails (also requiring a free permit) that combine to between 10 and 15 miles. Having just run a 20 miler a couple of days prior, I decided to skip that trail and instead finished reading "The Last Season" by Eric Blehm (highly recommended!). Tapering is great!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Change of Plans

Instead of the Country Music Marathon in Nashville, I will be running the SweetH20 50k this year. Nashville would have been fun with some of my friends running that race (half and full), however I prefer trails and Sweetwater State Park is right around the corner.

The race will be tough. I know the trails from running the half-marathon last year. Anybody who was there surely remembers the powerline hills. Those are truly "legendary" around here.

The event will also serve as the 2008 RRCA Southern Region 50k Championship. Clearly I need to participate.

Let me know if you're going to be there!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Run in the Boonies!

Usually, I only promote trail races in Georgia on this blog, but Chattanooga is close enough. The Wilderness Trail Running Association (a.k.a. "Boonies") puts on a great series of trail races right near the Georgia-Tennessee border. That's only about two hours away from Atlanta! Check out their website for more information.

March 29, 2008
Rock/Creek River Gorge Race
10.2 mile / 6.5 mile

May 24, 2008
Scenic City Trail Marathon & Half Marathon
presented by Rock/Creek & Vasque

June 20–22, 2008
Chattanooga Mountains Stage Race
22 mile / 18 mile / 20 mile

August 9, 2008
Greenway 5 Mile Trail Race

October 4, 2008
Rock/Creek StumpJump
50k & 11 mile
Registration opens April 1, 2008.

November 15, 2008
Upchuck 50k

December 20, 2008
Lookout Mountain 100k / 10k
presented by Rock/Creek & Vasque

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Thrill in the Hills 1/2 Marathon

This past Saturday I joined 300 other runners at the second annual Thrill in the Hills 1/2 Marathon at Fort Yargo State Park. The name of the race can be a little misleading in that it may sound like this is some quad-busting race with endlessly long and steep hilss. (The name certainly managed to scare some of my friends away). In reality, this is course is easy to moderate with hardly any elevation change. There are continuous hills to be sure, but with one exception, all of them are small. However, this course is set up mainly for mountain biking and has plenty gnarly single track that should make any trail runner happy.

Fort Yargo State Park (near the starting line)

On the way to the race I noticed lots of running related license plate frames and stickers on cars. More than usual. "26.2" "swim, bike, run" "G.U.T.S." Mine fit right in. My favorite was some some lady's shirt "Sea Level is for Sissies!" We're bad asses here with our 900 feet elevation.

The most scenic port-a-johns in the state? I think so.

With the beast of a workout I had completed on Monday, I was not looking to race hard or set any sort of PRs. My goal was to hold a decent pace, finish strong and, most importantly, have lots of fun.

The race starts out on a wide power line trail for the first quarter mile and then hits the single track from there. I probably started out a little too slow as I was reduced to walking at times once we hit the single track with all the people trying to squeeze in. On the other hand, this was probably a good thing, since I was saving my strength for later.

The starting line (faint purple at the bottom of the picture)

Somewhere between miles five and six I started running with Deanna from Charlotte. It turns out that she had run all the same races as I had this year (and more!). We were a pretty strong duo. Deanna was stronger on the uphills, so I would just try to hold on to her. On the downhills, I would just let my legs submit to gravity and push her a little. In the end, we stayed together the whole rest of the race. Deanna was competing for one of the top women's spots and came in 6th overall in the end!

We crossed the finish line in about 1:47, which was about five minutes slower for me than last year. But I felt strong and had plenty left in the tank. My focus right now is on Oak Mountain and that long run on Monday was just too important to skip.

In the end, this was an extremely fun race (do I say that every time?). My thanks go out to Tim, the rest of the Dirty Spokes crew as well as all the volunteers for another superbly organized race.

Thrill in the Hills Race Results

Thrill in the Hills Official Pictures