Saturday, March 31, 2012

Terrapin Mountain 50K Report

C and I drove north to Central Virginia for the Terrapin Mountain 50K under sunny blue skies, but the forecast called for rain all day Saturday. We arrived at the Sedalia School, the start and finish of the race, with plenty of time to check in, and set up the tent. We hung out in the pavilion, eating pizza and chatting with race director Clark Zealand, and ultra-patriarch David Horton.

Chatting with David Horton after the race. 
It’s always a treat to get to talk to Clark Zealand and David Horton, two people I respect very much for what they do for running. Horton’s accomplishments are vast, with long-trail records on the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails, and a whole pile of wins in 160 ultras. Clark is the next generation of ultra-runners; he too has a mess of wins and course records, and directs tough and very popular races, as does Horton.   
It rained all night long, and was still raining steadily when the gong sounded to start the race (I love the gong). I concentrated on staying slow and easy. I hoped to hit the aid station under last year’s time of 50 minutes. By my watch, we hit it at 51:30. Not to worry, I thought. I felt good, maybe last year’s race was just perfect, the rain will slow us down. 
I thought maybe I’d make the time up on the long road down to the next aid station at 9 1/2 miles or so. Last year I averaged under 7 minute pace; surely I was more fit this year. I hit the next aid station in 1:31, 4 minutes off last year’s time. As we started the climb back up I felt a little heavy-legged. It's okay to be slower, I told myself.
At the spot where the course turns onto tough single track to cross back over towards Terrapin Mountain, I got a little burst of energy. The trail passes through a couple of draws as it climbs and drops and traverses the ridgelines. Everything was wet, and green, and sloppy. I was having a blast. 
With Rick Gray at the finish.
Reason #2 to run ultras: great people.
We passed through the aid station where the trail hits the road again, and we started the long climb back up to Camping Gap. Last year, Rick Gray led a group of four or five of us up that climb, calling out spots to run to. This year I felt compelled to do the same for the group I was in. We’d run to the next ribbon, or the big tree, or the corner. Often we’d go beyond, but the exercise kept us moving reasonably quickly up the hill while still saving energy for the rest of the run. As luck would have it, we came across Rick Gray taking a, well, pit stop on the side of the road. He joined us, and by the time we got to the top, everyone in the group had made the call where to run at least once. I decided that my goal was to decide when to run and when to walk all day rather than succumbing to fatigue and being forced to walk.
I was starting to feel better, and was only a minute down from last year’s time at the Camping Gap aid station at about 17 miles. I started off on the White Oak Ridge loop. The climb I thought would be hard passed without notice, and I found myself back at Camping Gap, now right on my last year’s time. I ate several cantaloupe chunks that went down well, chatted with the guy in the skirt again (the third time through Camping Gap), and set off with a guy from Pennsylvania up Terrapin Mountain.
This climb is tough, winding steeply through rhododendron and rock, and the black soil was muddy and soft. Again, I loved it. I had been looking forward to it since the descent from White Oak Ridge was long and fast. I yearned to walk up steep climbs for a break. At the top you turn right to Terrapin lookout and the second punch. The views into the valley were non-existent, though, and I settled for the cool cloud we were out in. We turned around and headed back toward Fat Man’s Misery, another feature I had looked forward to.
This was Terrapin Mountain 
from the start/finish area.
The guy from Pennsylvania and I were running well together, making our way down through similar terrain as the climb up, though not as steep. Fat Man’s Misery passed with much whooping on my part. I’m guessing it’s the very claustrophobia that woke me up last year in a sweat that makes it so thrilling. I came out, punched my number (even though they never check...) and started into what I remembered as the steep and rocky downhill.
It was, and again I felt pretty nimble for having run over 23 miles by that point. At the last aid station at Terrapin Mountain Lane, I was 5 minutes up on last year’s time. According to the splits, I ran that section 6 minutes faster than last year. 
The last section went off mostly like last year, too, where I passed three people. This year there were more folks in front of me, and I was a little more deliberate about trying to pass them. I hit the last creek crossing, the deepest one, at 5:31 with a guy who introduced himself as the Angry Leprechaun and his friend Richard, who we passed just before the creek. I said we had 19 minutes to run the last 1 1/2 miles to be under my last year’s time. 
The Angry Leprechaun and I set off down the road at a pretty good clip. He looked at his wrist and said we were running 7:07 pace, so he figured I was in pretty good shape.
Seriously, I’m running 7:07 pace 30 miles into this beast of a race? I felt pretty whooped, but continued to roll to the finish, the pace no doubt slowing some as the road flattened. I still felt like I was running as fast as I could.
Nothing pleased me more the whole day than having C at the finish to watch. I had thought all day of seeing her, thinking she might surprise me at any of the aid stations. The thought kept me moving to the next one, and the next possibility of seeing her. At the finish she ran with me the last hundred yards or so. I’m the winner.
Nap time!
I crossed the line in 5:45:06, five minutes faster than last year, and my fastest 50K time on any course. lark announced my name (like he did everyone else’s) as I crossed the line. I shook hands with him and with Horton, chatted a few minutes, ate a little, drank a little. Then I went back to the tent and took a nap, again, just like last year. 

Christy and I had plans to stay Saturday night in Roanoke, which turned out to be just what I needed. I napped a little more in the room, and we walked downtown to eat dinner. I was asleep by 9. 

Chatting with my old friend 
Sean Andrish before the race started.
Red Number 11! For those of you who are squirming,
it didn't hurt at all until I got in the shower.

The Hotel Roanoke was a welcome sight.

Even in the pouring rain on a Sunday 
morning, Roanoke has a cool downtown.
An entrance to the City Market. There are
different mosaics at each entrance.
Christy took almost all of the pictures.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Week ending March 25: Terrapin Mountain 50K, and 76-1

Mon 3/19  2 miles. This week I’ll run 2 miles every day resting for Terrapin. I guess that’s tapering.
Tue 3/20  2 miles
Wed 3/21  2 miles. Finally a different loop.
Thu 3/22  2 miles. Again, a different loop. 
Fri 2/23  2 miles, and the drive to Big Island, Virginia.
Pinning my number to my Team Fox jersey,
with Terrapin Mountain in the background.
Sat 3/24  31 miles, Terrapin Mountain 50K, 5:45:06. A rainy, sometimes muddy, and I guess a little bloody day. I didn’t feel good until the last ten or so miles, though I never felt bad, and had fun all day long. Finished in a 50K PR (on the toughest course I’ve run). Somehow--and let’s just call it “training”--I run this course well. According to the splits, I improved my place at every aid station--sounds like a smart race to me. Full race report will follow.
Spent Saturday night at the Hotel Roanoke right across the railroad tracks from downtown. C and I walked around the cool City Market area a little in the rain, had dinner, and watched basketball. Fantastic weekend.
Sun 3/25 I said when I started this streak that I was only after fitness and the discipline, and I succeeded at both, as shown by yesterday’s race. I ran 7:10 per mile pace the last mile and a half, mostly run on pavement. I’ve been training hard to run fast down hills, especially when tired. That training paid off for sure. The soreness in my quads shows how hard I ran, especially the 7560’ of downhill. So today’s workout was walking to breakfast at another downtown Roanoke eatery, driving home from Roanoke, and going to the grocery store. 
To give myself the same accountability as a streak, though, I’m starting a tally of days on and days off, in this case since my streak started on January 9. So I’m at 76-1.

Total: 41 miles in 6 runs

Monday, March 19, 2012

Week ending March 18

Mon 3/12  3 miles easy
Tue 3/13  5 miles easy on Cottonwood. The first two runs of this week turned out to feel good after my head agreed with my body about pace. I felt pretty tired from Sunday, but when I slowed down enough the miles dropped smoothly.
Wed 3/14  8 1/2 miles at Croft. The Chapters run “backwards,” as we say. I still felt a little tired, but again got comfortable with an easy pace. All of my training has been faster than what I’ll average at Terrapin, where long and sometimes steep climbs slow the pace. And oh yeah, it’s 31 miles.
from Dairy Ridge: Palmetto to Chapters to Palmetto
Thu 3/15  3 miles easy. Another early morning run to start a long day.
Fri 3/16  4 miles easy on Cottonwood
Guest spot by Christy: My Edgar
I met a man who said he was Ned. I said, What is that short for, I have never met anyone named Ned before. He responded, Nothing, it's  not even my name. 
My Edgar shares his name with many of the past. Tonight I listened to two of them share many laughs and the intimacy that can only be that of father and son.  I am  blessed to know them both. 
Ned ran his 68th day straight today; his father is in the hospital going through rehab, turning 81 today. The goal to beat Parkinsons high on each list. Ned is running for a cause, EO is living with struggles that are affected and effected by this disease on a daily basis. 
One can't run from the other without running closer together. As we all participate in life we are all in for the same fate. Wouldn't you want to better yourself by bettering someone else? 
Happy birthday, EO!
Karen Russ, ©2007 HGIC, Clemson Extension
Sat 3/17  14 miles at Croft. Beautiful day, though warm, especially for March. I wore short shorts, and ran most of the time with no shirt, mostly because of, um, some chafing issues. I took my time, stopping a few times just to look around at the emerging spring. The Carolina jessamine was blooming high in tree tops. Blooms fell scattered on the trail, but to find the source of the blooms I had to stop. The purple-pink of the redbuds dapples the woods; the beech trees still hold on to last year’s leaves. 
from Dairy Ridge: Palmetto to TC’s to the little lake trail to the Lake Trail to New Edition
Sun 3/18  3 miles, including one mile barefoot. After a long day of Snidely music in Angelo’s recording studio in Asheville, this one came at 8 pm. 
Total: 41 1/2 miles in seven runs

I should clarify my barefoot running: all of these barefoot miles come running around a couple of practice fields at the local high school. Though the Montrail Rogue Racers I wear are lightweight, they have a relatively normal 9 millimeter drop from the heel to the toe; in other words, not very minimalist at all. They are also pretty well cushioned. It’s the lightweight (about 8.8 ounces for men’s size 9 according to the Montrail website) and the super-flexible last that make it my favorite shoe in a long time.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Week ending March 11

Mon 3/5  8 1/2 miles at Croft. This was a good hard run after my down week, and reminds me why the down week is necessary. Certainly the hilliest 8 1/2 mile run out here, mostly because of the Chapters. There’s a new little alternate trail with a pretty significant side-slope, enough to give my ankles and feet a workout. Add in the constant climbing or descending, and, well, yeah. Bristol loved it, too.
from Dairy Ridge: Palmetto Trail to the Chapters to Hensington to Palmetto
Tue 3/6 4 miles at Cottonwood. Nice and easy.
Wed 3/7  7 miles at Croft. And still made it to Snidely rehearsal, almost on time.
from Dairy Ridge: New Edition to Lake Johnson connector to Hensington to Palmetto
Thu 3/8  3 miles, including one mile barefoot. Squeezed this in early because we had a crazy, packed day of work and play. We celebrated the opening of a great little sliver of a park tucked between the hippest coffee shop/bakery/bookstore/wine shop around. Lots of things were done right, and I have high hopes for its becoming a gathering place. 
This is the kind of amazing scenery you get
on the Blue Ridge Escarpment: Jones Gap State Park.
Later, at SPACE’s annual meeting, Patrick McMillan rocked our world reminding us how important our personal decisions about property, and landscaping, and protection are. Here, he said, we have a greater responsibility because our particular place, generally the Blue Ridge Escarpment, but especially the part that runs through the wet is one of the most biologically diverse areas in the world. Pretty amazing stuff. 
Fri 3/9  2 1/2 miles. A very busy day, including work, installing a toilet in our downstairs bathroom because L was bringing home a friend from school, and picking up L and said friend from said school. 
We went to our favorite burger joint for dinner, and I had the usual--a pimento cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato and onion, fries and a couple of PBRs. 
And I still hadn’t run. Rather than let my food digest and continue to test my resolve to get out the door, I just got out the door.
I don’t see how this guy does it. I wobbled my silly ass around the neighborhood, unable to really find any regular pace. My legs, on the other hand, felt pretty good. Got it done: 61 days.
Sat 3/10  4 miles, including 2 miles barefoot
Sun 3/11  22 1/2 miles at Croft. A beautiful day, cold enough in the morning to wear long pants (and try out carrying food without any significant pockets). All of my long runs  so far have been alone (with Bristol), so I was looking forward to running with Seth, Curtis Rowe from North Carolina, and Gordon. We did one loop of 14 miles, with hardly a flat step and a pile of sustained hills. 
Gordon having raced a half-marathon the day before, Curtis having done a killer speed workout of 24 x 400 in about 80 seconds each the day before, and Seth still coming back from injury and the ol’ snip-snip, the first loop was suitably slow. I was by myself for the second loop. I ran back up to the Chapters to add another hilly section and 8 1/2 miles to my run. Though I was tired and slowing, I continued to work the downhills, and ran all but a few steps to eat and drink.
from Dairy Ridge: first loop: Palmetto to TC’s to the little lake trail to the Lake Trail to New Edition; second loop: Palmetto to the Chapters and back out the Palmetto. 

Total: 51 1/2 miles in seven runs

This song has been stuck in my head all week, running or not.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Week ending March 4: Ed Griffin and the Cottonwood Trail

Mon 2/27   3 miles  The start of a busy week: I have evening gigs Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, some of my own doing and some work related. This is also the start of an easy week of running. 
Ed Griffin died today. Ed was at least partly responsible for the Cottonwood Trail, now a system of about 5 miles on two sides of the Lawson’s Fork Creek. Ed was a humble, quiet man, whose vision of a more beautiful world resulted in a legacy of an urban trail system that includes several different habitats and hundreds of plant species. I’ll miss Ed’s smile, his joy about the world around him, and his intense stubborn-ness in the face of invasive species. I’ll continue to run most days on the Ed Griffin Preserve. 
One of my sacred places: Cottonwood Trail.
Ed Griffin lives on.
Tue 2/28  2 1/2 miles  Remember that easy week I mentioned? My body must have been listening: today’s was the worst run of the 51 straight. I felt heavy legged, and my calves were like rocks. 
Wed 2/29  4 miles on Cottonwood. Meh. Still not quite right.
February totals: 176.5 miles in 29 runs
Thu 3/1 4 miles, including 2 miles barefoot. I was feeling a little gun-shy about running today, afraid I would still feel so bad. Today was the first day of the week I felt normal. 
Fri 3/2  5 miles on Cottonwood
Sat 3/3  5 1/2 miles on Cottonwood
Sun 3/4  4 miles, including 2 miles barefoot
Total: 27 miles in seven runs
Not a very good week, but one I planned for. Nothing felt easy, my motivation to push out the door was not quite there, I had no spring at all. It’s telling that this is the eighth week of every day running, and the increased mileage seems to require a down week every fourth week. Knowing this will help with a training plan, and I’ll just build in the rest. 
Despite the down week, I feel good about my training. I feel like I’m in good shape to continue building mileage for the Highlands Sky 40 in June, and then another rest period through the heat of the summer. 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Undisguised and naked

I wrote this post last spring, and bring it back here now to recognize what feels an awful lot like, well, spring...

Houses and rooms are full of perfumes, the shelves are crowded with perfumes,
I breathe the fragrance myself and know it and like it,
The distillation would intoxicate me also, but I shall not let it.
The atmosphere is not a perfume, it has no taste of the distillation, it is odorless,
It is for my mouth forever, I am in love with it,
I will go to the bank by the wood and become undisguised and naked,
I am mad for it to be in contact with me.
                                          Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

Right now in our fair ville, spring blooms are blowing up all over the place. Since January with the yellow Carolina jessamine, we have had a constant blur of color. In my neighborhood, rows of pink and white dogwood trees line the streets, piles of pink, white and various shades of red azaleas front the houses, and the noble trees are shedding flowers, leaving the allergy afflicted whining and oozing. It’s the type of shocking gaudiness that had TS Eliot thinking that April was the cruelest month, perhaps because of his own allergies.
Like Walt Whitman, I like the perfumes, but I will not let them intoxicate me. I prefer the blooming in the woods, where wild dogwoods are scattered about, white blooms floating among the greening forest. Wild forsythia fronds splay nearer the ground. The forest blooms more subtly, more naturally, perhaps, and you have to broaden your gaze to catch glimpses of flowers.
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Small things, blooming in patches.
Redbuds peak through the trees; closer to the ground purple and white flowers tint the mosses, but you have to look closely. To run in the spring woods reminds me of my intentions, to be a part of something much larger than myself, a nature that in many cases excludes us, sometimes harsh and forbidding. I give my attention to the small things, and begin to feel a pull, becoming not as one but as a piece of the whole, where the feeling of oneness depends exactly on our separateness. Each tree, each bloom, each rocky footstep, each breath, each pounding heartbeat, each rotting limb. As the detritus of the forest decays into life-giving soil, so too do the parts of my immediate surroundings coalesce into life-affirming epiphany.
But only for the moment, and then the return. Back into a design not of nature but of human beings, our division of gossip and toil and worry, fueled by a need for wealth and recognition and extraction.
Until the next run, and the attempted fulfillment of my deepest hope to become undisguised and naked.