Sunday, April 27, 2008

The 2008 SweetH2O 50k

"Sweeet H-2-0...dah, dah, daaaah...good times never felt so good (so good, so good, so good!)"

Yes, I managed to approach an all-time record in dorkiness. No, I wasn't drunk nor was I attending some sort of Boston-based event. It was around mile 19 of the Sweetwater 50k, and I was belting my "new tune" as loud as I could. Lucky for you, you weren't there nor was anyone else. But let's start at the beginning.

The SweetH20 50k is a local race held at beautiful Sweetwater Creek State Park right outside Atlanta. An easy 20 minute drive put me right at the start of this fun race. There were lots of familiar faces, but also plenty of new ones. From some conversations I was overhearing, the half-marathon that was being held at the same time as the 50k was the first trail race for quite a few people.
Right on time Race Director Johnny Buice gave us some pre-race instructions and we were off. The first mile or so was on pavement (bleh), most of which I was able to run with my buddy David (I like for my friends to have the same name as me. It just makes it easier for all of us.). He always has to hear about my trailrunning adventures, and I think he is starting to feel the bug...
It was pretty despite the asphalt at the beginning

Once we hit the trail, things got congested fairly quickly, especially at a couple of points about 3 miles or so in. No worries for me. I like to start out conservative. That worked out well for me at Oak Mountain and it would again prove to be the right strategy on this day.
I'm taking pictures, too, dude!

We soon hit a section of the red trail that runs right by Sweetwater Creek. It is covered in rocks and bolders easily making this one of the most technical sections of trail in all of Metro Atlanta. Dancing around all those obstacles is really a ton of fun! Once we were done with that, it was time to say good-bye to the half-marathoners and we were off to an area known as simply The Powerlines.

When local runners utter the name of this trail it is usually mixed in with an undertone of dread, awe, disgust. The Powerlines are a collection of hills that rise between 100 to 200+ feet over maybe a 100 yards distance at a time. In other words, they are incredibly steep. And they keep coming at you one after another. Eight or nine times depending on how you approach them. It all culminates at a place called Top of the World. Not because the view is so great (even though you can see the entire Atlanta skyline), but because when you get there you feel like you have climbed to, well, the top of the world. If you're not ready for The Powerlines, they will chew you up, spit you out and leave your confidence level like that of a high school basketball team taking on the LA Lakers.

Good thing this section is part of the 50k. Twice.

But I was ready. As a matter of fact, I felt strong taking on the hills and made it out of this section unscathed. After a beautiful run along Sweetwater Creek and past the Civil War-era ruins, I was approaching the aid station around mile 15. To my surprise, only 2.5 hrs had elapsed so far. To my even bigger surprise, my lady was waiting there for me. Instead of sleeping in, as we had discussed the day before, she got up a little after I had left on race morning and headed to the Park to do some volunteering and meet me out on the course. This was a great boost! (Thanks, Honey!!!)

So, I decided to push and go for a PR despite the heat that was decending down on the course. The temperature was nearing 80, but it was really the humidity that was bearing down on all of us. It was key to drink as much as possible while keeping up the electrolyte levels. And since you have got to keep your spirits up, too, I started singing. (I did carry an ipod but never used it).

Next up was the section I had looked foward to the most: the river crossing. A rope was spanned across the creek, which at this point was about 150 or so feet wide (I'm not good with distances, so please correct me if I'm wrong). I was told to hold on with both hands right before being swept off my feet by the strong current. Here I was, holding on to a small rope, submerged in water up to my shoulders. Welcome to trail running!

The water was very refreshing, which was exactly what the doctor had ordered. The next few miles were uneventful. I had been running by myself for a long time now and was looking for someone to pace with. That someone would never show up. The aid stations were always a welcome change of pace (bad pun, I know) as I was yearning to crack bad jokes and to decide whether I would prefer trail mix or straight up M&M's.

I was now headed towards The Powerlines Part II. This wasn't a good time to hit a little funk, but I did. Oh well, time to tough it out. It was hard to climb up those hills yet again and it seemed like I was not moving at all. All of the sudden my buddy Jon Obst was running towards me. He had been running in 2nd place when I saw him earlier and all I thought was "Please don't let this be an out-and-back section." "No," he said,"I was told to go the wrong way earlier. Now I am making up mileage." Gosh, did I feel bad for him. Extra credit miles are never fun, especially when you have a chance to win the race.

Somehow I got through Part II and found myself on the home stretch. Only four miles to go! With a mix of shuffling, running and hiking, I made my way to the finish. My stomach had been giving me problems and I started getting very nauseous. Eventually, I stumbled across the finish line in 5:46. That was good enough for a 23 minute PR and 14th place overall!! I had given it my all, pushed as hard as I could and was simply spent. And to get a result like that on this course in those weather conditions...I was elated! (Still am, actually).

I cannot thank the volunteers enough for all their help and support on this hot and muggy day. A special thanks, of course, goes to RD Johnny Buice and his support staff. Thank you for one heck of a memorable day!

P.s. My camera died around mile 4 (I think due to excessive sweat), so no pictures after that. Sorry!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

SweetH20 Result!

The SweetH20 50k was an epic race! I managed to beat my PR by 23 minutes and finished in 5:46!! That was good enough for 13th overall (I think). The winning time was 5:01.

Full report to follow.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

So, Let's Talk About My Weakness

Years ago, I was certain that my one key strength in running was going uphill. Then I joined the ranks of trail runners and realized that, OOOOOOPS, I'm better at going downhill. Actually, gravity and I, we're pretty close friends now.

Looking ahead to this weekend, I'm really going to have to be smart about my up- and downhills, especially on the powerline section. For those of you who have never been, wait until my report next week. I really can't think of a section of any trail that's more physiologically and psychologically (!) brutal than The Powerlines. Good thing we get to do it twice.

Anyhow, I found a nice little video by Wasatch Speed Goats Karl Meltzer and Scott Mason. It gave me some good tips, and mabye it'll help you.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Blog Carnival!

So, it’s been a bit quiet around here for the past week or so. That’s mainly due to my travels to the Sunshine State from which I just returned. As you probably know, trail running is hard to come by down there unless you’re willing to drive one hour+ or are somehow lucky enough to live right by a random park (and brave enough to risk potential encounters with alligators and/or snakes).

But while I was out, I did some nice reading on all your blogs. Here is a selection for everyone’s reading pleasure:

There were so many more great entries recently! It’s hard to link to them all here at once. I could literally post links all day, but that wouldn't fun. Not for you and not for me.

One week until SweetH20!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

I'm Sort Of A Badass!

Or stupid. Or a nature boy. Or whatever.

One thing I was for sure: desperate. I went on a long run today at SweetH20 and underestimated how long I'd be running before I'd make it back to my car.
(For the locals, the power lines and Top Of The World really got to me). It was fairly warm (upper 70s) and before long I was out of water with no water source in sight. No water fountains, no car, not even hikers I could hit up for some spare fluids.

So a bad case of cotton mouth and a pounding headache drove me to the unexpected: I drank out of small stream. It seemed fairly clean. My iodine pills were at home so it was completely unfiltered. A solid 20 oz. of cold, refreshing H-2-0 was all it took for me to finish up my run successfully. Alexander Supertramp, Eustace Conway or even Anton Krupicka (read his 2007 Leadville 100 race report...he drank some unfiltered water then as well) would be proud!

(no ill-effects of any kind so far, so I should be good to go)

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Yellow Snow

Every year around this time when everything is blooming, Atlanta is besieged by what some call "yellow snow", an appropriate term in my mind. The stuff is everywhere! Only a good rain storm will wash it all away. If you're allergic, nothing is better than rain right now, which, thankfully, we had lots of the past couple of days.

I took some pictures to illustrate how prevalent the pollen really is around here.

That's my car's windshield after just one night outside (no, that's not a doctored image).

Those are tire tracks in our parking lot

More and more pollen...

Friday, April 4, 2008

Trail Runs in Georgia

As you may or may not know, I try to keep an updated and comprehensive calendar of all trail (foot) races in Georgia. To my knowledge, there is no other place online that has ALL the trail runs in Georgia in one place. I also wanted to alert you that a number of great runs are coming up before the summer heat sets in. Some are more well known than others, but all should prove to be a lot of fun.

Check them out and get out there!

P.s. If you know of any trail races in Georgia that I do not have listed, please alert me in the comments or send me an e-mail.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Back On My Feet

I just read a very interesting article about Anne Mahlum and the charity she's founded, Back On My Feet. The organization uses running to help homeless people in Philadelphia to get, well, back on their feet. An excerpt from the article:

"Requirements for shelter residents to join are simple -- they must live in an affiliated facility and be clean and sober for 30 days. Members receive new shoes and running clothes, and teams run together three times a week between 5:30 and 6 a.m.
Back On My Feet also has a job training program for a partner. Three members are taking classes, learning computer and interview skills, while three others have found jobs."

Wow! I am blown away by the concept and very intrigued. I've always felt that running is a great way to build self-esteem and to learn how to stay focused. Running is a huge part of my life and, I am certain, the backbone to the successes I have had away from the trail.

Again, I'm intrigued, and I'm gonna look more into this charity.

'Back On My Feet' after a recent 5k.