Monday, December 16, 2013

Table Rock 54 Miler

Just returned from North Carolina, and man what a crazy ride.   First, I must say that despite the freezing rain, treacherous ice immersing the 1 mile of singletrack on the way up to Table Rock Summit (3950ft), and hypothermic inducing conditions, people volunteered to sit out in it at every aid station (14 stations in 54 miles).  Those people are really fantastic, and do it with smiles on their faces.  Mark Rostan, the race director, and a few others put on one hell of an event.  I am very fortunate that my body responded well, and wasn't plagued by injury.  Most of all, I had a freaking blast out there, even amongst the pain and struggle!  I think I'll go out on a limb and say that next to Laurel Highlands, this was the smartest, and most well executed race I've ever run.  I was able to pull off a 2nd place finish with a time of 8:28:20, which I couldn't be happier about.

The race itself was intense with the weather and all, especially at the higher elevations.  I mean, last year I had my shirt off it was so hot.  This year, not so nice.  Not stopping was the only way to stay warm enough.  In fact, myself and a couple other guys behind me were the last people they let go all the way to the Summit, because it was so icy.  I think it's safe to say that it rained for 75% of my experience out there.  Unfortunately, this chaos got the best of a large portion of participants, who were forced to drop.  That is life.  I am definitely not a fan of "toughing it through it, no matter what".  This is a really dangerous way of thinking if you ask me.  I mean yeah, running far is supposed to hurt, but at the same time a person should be responsible for themselves, and not put themselves in danger.  After all, it's supposed to be fun, not a miserable experience.  And, you're in the middle of the woods.  It's not like you can just walk into a McDonalds and call someone to come get you.

I am very lucky to have had such a good day.  I stuck to my plan; take it easy for at least 13 miles (lots of climbing in a short period), no pushing until around 20, and no racing until the top of Table Rock (~mile 34).  From the top of Table Rock Mountain, there is a ton of downhill.  From this point on, I put down the hammer.  I was easily doing a few 6:30 miles on those downhills, and flats.  I don't wear a watch, so I have no exact figures, but I generally know about how fast I'm going.

I believe I was in 5th place at Table Rock (no splits posted yet).  By mile 40 or so, I moved up to third.  The last ~12 miles is all pavement, and not TOO hilly.  At the ~42 mile aid station, I was informed that 2nd place wasn't too far ahead.  I was in pain, but feeling strong and doing well with gels and salt.  I thought to myself, "what would Timmy Olson (no relation, but one of the countries worlds best mountain/trail/ultra runners from Oregon) do right now"?  He'd put his head down and go into "beast mode", as he calls it.  I thought about David Johnston, John Logar, and Joe Grant running the 350 mile Iditarod while pulling supplies behind them.  I though of my family.  I though about my friends that truly believe in me.  I even thanked God for letting me do this cool shit, and I'm certainly not religious.

And so it goes.

That pain is in your head, not just the legs.  In those last 20 or so miles, the legs are already destroyed, and it's all about clearing the mind of bad thoughts, and focusing, but also forgetting.  I eventually caught up with the 2nd place around mile 43 or so.  He was really congratulatory.  In fact, sometime after I passed him, his wife drove up to me and offered me these sports chews.  That is the caliber of these people.   We all want each other to do well.  I'd like to think so at least.

Hand Crafted 
I crossed that finish line all smiles.  It was a proud moment.  I closed an at least 45 minute gap down to less than 12 mins.

I'd like to congratulate Avery Collins, 21, of Forte Wayne, Indiana for smoking that course.  He finished 11mins 30secs ahead of me in 8:16:52.  Your a bad ass, man!  When I crossed the finish line, he was there, graciously waiting to congratulate me.  Respect.

The next day (Sunday), I took a ride into Asheville, a hip little mountain town, and stayed at a great hostel called The Sweet Pea.  Because my legs were destroyed, I elected to walk around town and go to a few of the various breweries instead of hiking into the mountains.  I even watched some live music at a wine bar, while sipping on a fine glass of Malbec.  Life is good.

Today I drove home all wide eyed from my experience down south....and got a speeding ticket in Tennessee.  The worst part is that I didn't even know I was in Tennessee until the officer told me that he was with Tennessee Highway Patrol, all with a thick accent, and a big wad of chew in his lip.  Yeah, I didn't argue.

Great people. Great Mountains.  Great Weekend.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Closing out October so November can be fresh

Today (or a day last week) is/was a neat day for me.  It's been decided that I will start blog.  It's kind of exciting, kind of self indulgent, kind of a way for me to connect words and meaning to my passions, and also a convenient way to bullshit with cyberspace. I have a genuine love for writing, and passion in general.  Some of the most revealing moments in life happen at the tip of a pencil (in this case computer keys).

I think I'll end up talking a lot about running and music, but I would imagine this will spill over to things like food, beer, concepts, intentions, nature, comedy, movies, books, sarcasm, etc.  I hope you all (audience) will share your 3 or 4 cents.  Just don't donate too should save your money.  Being that I aspire, and sometimes succeed at appreciating the process rather than being too result oriented, and that I like to run far, things will likely be long winded.  To me, it's always about the long run.  Everything matters.

These last couple weeks have been pretty rough, but also extremely necessary.  Since my DNF at Oil Creek 100, I've had plenty of time to think about what exactly happened, and worst of all, not run.  I accomplished my goal of not running for 2 entire weeks (absolutely horrible).  There is no logical conclusion here.  I funked up my hip/s.  I'm too zealous.  I over commit.  I'm a dreamer.  Yes, I most definitely could have walked the rest of the 38 miles left, but I concluded then, and resolve now that pulling out was the right decision, for me.  During the second 50k loop I kept thinking about winter.  Even though it's so freakin brutal and cold, I love it, and love going on adventures in the snow.  I cannot even imagine not being able to use my legs efficiently through such an unrelenting season.  I knew that finishing would have definite drawbacks to my everyday life in the immediate future.  I think I even ignorantly said to an aid station worker that "running consistently means way more to me than this race".  Probably not the best choice of words to people sitting in the woods for multiple hours with the intention of servicing people like me out of the goodness of their hearts, but oh well. I meant it.    I still mean it.  I feel bad that I had to step out on my commitment to the race, the perfect volunteers, and all involved, but also to the commitment I made to myself.  This will most likely happen again, so I'll be better prepared for it next time.  Let's just hope it doesn't happen TOO much.

The Funk Master

That's enough complaining for me.  Good stuff is good, and much of it has come from this hiatus.  I've even been writing a few bass lines, and have been playing a little more guitar.  It seems that I can't get past the B's in the Beatles chord book I've got.  Blackbird is the furthest I ever get unless I'm looking for a specific song.

I start this paragraph a week later than I started the first.  It's been a pretty good week in terms of life and running.  More smiles and sufficient miles.  Fortunately, I think (fingers crossed) I'm back in the saddle.   Ran 5 days this week, with 11 being the longest.  Getting back at it has been great.  I was cruising down this single track on one of my first days back just beaming, literally grinning because of how much fun I was having.  Apparently I won't be stopping the ultra/trail/wilderness thing anytime soon, hopefully never.  I did ride this thing a couple of times while I was off.  I just don't love it.  Traveling on foot is way neater.  Biking is for bikers.  Let's keep it that way.  You will definitely not see me at an Ironman, or whatever those things are.  If I could only bring every piece of equipment I own, along with an entire hydration pack, and 1500 calories for an eight mile adventure in the city park, maybe I'd be legit enough to be a biker.  Did I say that?
Great thought...or big joke?

Besides regaining the ability to run, time off has sparked some serious inspiration, and ideas for future endeavors.  Though I could sit and write about this all day, I've got a few immediate goals that take precedence.  First, I am not running the Marshall Mangler 50k this year, even though I desperately want to turn that 2nd place into a 1st.  Over the last year I've come to the conclusion that I cannot toe the line at any race, and just run it for "fun".  Therefore, I think November 10th is slightly ambitious considering my past month, plus I want to just run for running's sake.  So, I think I'll just go volunteer instead.  However, Table Rock 54 mile is going to happen.  I can't wait to indulge in The Smokey Mountains. It was my first 50 miler last year.  I placed 6th.  I hope to improve my time, hopefully run well, and most importantly enjoy the N.C. mountains with friends, and my sister Lindsay.  After Table Rock, the season is over.  I will not race again until April, but there will be plenty of adventures, to say the least.  I hope this includes many old and new friends, in many old and new places.

A man named Courtney Campbell is in my sights.  He also happens to be one of my biggest inspirations at this point.  He is the course record holder of the Laurel Highlands Ultra (10:43 in 1998).  Since 1998, no one has come even close to Courtney's record.  I won in 12:05 last year, and that was like, the 13th fastest time, with 3 of the top times from Courtney himself.  I've been stalking his accomplishments via Google, and can't help but dream about someday lowering that time.  This guy is no joke.  He's set FKTs (fastest known times) on a few trails (though beaten), and won a ridiculous amount of races.  His accomplishments are huge.  I hope to meet this dude someday.  I also hope to break his Laurel time, even if it takes 15 years or more.

After Laurel, I will hopefully be focussing on the Eastern States 100 in the most remote part of Pennsylvania.  This race is going to be disgustingly hard. I can't wait.

Other than these two races, I'm just going to wing it.  Planning so far in advance is hard, especially when you're not certain about what the future holds.

"What gets you up in the morning?" was the question I stumbled upon just the other day.  I always take seriously to these types of trivial things.  Of course, my mind wandered and eventually came across this Hendrix interview.

This entire interview on Cavett is great.  He was a pioneer in thinking, first, and of guitar second.  Jimi certainly had his way with words.  He also seemed to be a genuinely kind, and decent person, something we all forget to be, sometimes more frequently than not.

To end,  I'd like to share a song (or entire album if you want) in memory of Lou Reed, who just died.  My friend Eric got me into Velvet Underground not too long ago, and I'm thankful for it.