Thursday, September 13, 2012

It's all about making friends with the Dragon.

 I knew going over to Wales that I couldn't slay the Dragon.

 I went over with confidence in my training that I could finish the race. I knew I wouldn't be competitive. I didn't know anything about any of the other racers or their abilities but knew they would have the homefield advantage by knowing the terrain and having experience navigating through it. I went over to experience a new type of racing in a place I had never been.
 This was not a marked course like what we have here in the States. We were given a map each morning with the checkpoints marked on them. We used a map and compass to navigate to these checkpoints along the route. To be a finisher in the race you have to visit all the checkpoints each day.

 Mileages below are what the race director said we would have if we took the best line, so it is an approximation. The total feet of climbing each day came from my barometric pressure based altimeter which I have always found to be accurate.

 Monday Day 1.  31 miles/ 15,600 ft of ascent/ 15:42. Yes that is 15 hours and 42 minutes for a 50k!
 Day 1 was the toughest for climbing. We hit all 15 peaks of 3000+ feet in Wales this day. We had a long section up high where I ran out of water for a few hours. This caused some cramping in my thighs and calves climbing up Tryfan after the re-supply point. Jon Barker, my friend from Georgia whose idea this was, and I started out very conservative to make sure we didn't run ourselves into a hole on the first day. The truth is there was not much running at all on the first day, mostly hike up and a choppy steep downhill in between the climbs. The first day included a traverse of Crib Goch, a rocky knife ridge with plenty of exposure.

From the Guardian. Not me in the picture, two other racers. For more great pics from the Guardian click link:
Dragon pics

Dragons back race: Dragon's Back race

After arriving at the finish well after dark we had to get our bags and find a tent, then grab some food and get some sleep. Jon and I wanted to start early the next day to get the most out of the daylight hours.

Tuesday Day 2.   32 miles/11,200 ft of ascent/ 12:12.
We hooked up early on the course with Mark and Jonathon and spent the rest of the day with them.

 Jonathon had scouted this section before the race based on the only other running of the race back in 1992. The days route seemed much easier and we moved faster and finished in the daylight. This camp was in a commercial campground and was the only night we had shower facilities.

Wednesday Day3.  40 miles/ 11,000 ft of ascent/ 14:32.
 Today started with a big climb out of the campground. Jon Barker is the man behind me.

I felt better on this morning than I did yesterday morning. Getting in earlier and getting off my feet really helped the recovery. The first half of the day's route went well. Started getting really hot and tired heading into the resupply point.The checkpoint was on the other side of a small town. On the way through we stopped at a store and I purchased a Coke, two fizzy orange drinks that are popular in the UK and a bag of chips. While sitting on the sidewalk eating, another pair of racers joined us; Andrew Burton and and Charlie Sproson. These two had started 30 minutes or so after us (you could start each morning between 6 and 8) and were making good time.
 Jon and I also stopped at a pharmacy for some sunscreen and some ibuprofen gel for his shin that was bothering him. It was too late for the sunscreen, I was already sunburned. I would have never though I could have gotten so sunburned in a country known for it's wet weather. The only rain we had for the week of the race was a drizzle on Tuesday morning.
 The second half of the the day's route seemed to drag on forever. We were caught by Nicky Spinks and Tim Whittaker before the last climb of the day. We welcomed the company and two more sets of eyes for the climb up and over to the camp in the dark. Nicky and Tim both shared some salty snacks after I said I was tired of gels and bars. This improved my spirits in what was one of my lowest spots of the whole race week. We finally topped out and started our descent toward camp. We actually had a good running surface and with a couple bright headlamps we were able to trot most of the way into the finish.
 Another late night coming into camp which had the tents set up inside a barn. It would have been great to have a dry camp if it had been raining but instead all I could do was groan about all the big rocks under the tent floor. My little Z-Rest pad was not enough cushion for a good nights sleep, so I tossed and turned all night trying to find a spot between the stones. I am sure my tent mates, which included Charlie and Andrew, got tired of my bitching about the rocks.

Thursday Day 4.  40 miles/ 6,200ft of ascent/12:40. 
Today's route had a lot of road. With aching legs it was hard to run for long stretches at a time without taking walking breaks. We hooked up with Chris Hare, who we had shared time with on day one, and Wendy Dodds, a woman who had completed the first Dragons Back race 20 years ago and was back at age 61 to complete it again.

 All I remember about today's route was roads, mud and a 10k downhill paved road finish that was quite painful. At least I finished in the daylight and was able to get off my feet and get some food in me. Oh, and no rocks under the tent!

Friday Day 5 Final Day!  37 miles/ 6,820 ft of ascent/10:31.
I started the day with Jon Barker, Nicky, Tim and Chris. The only plan was to get to the castle at the finish. I felt better this morning than I had since the start on Monday .I was tired and had some aches and pains but nothing major. I did not even have any blisters after four days of wet muddy feet. The Altra Lone Peak shoes really worked flawlessly. So many people had foot problems including Nicky and Jon. It was obvious they were dealing with a lot of pain. I didn't know Nicky's background at the time but did know Jon's. He has lots of experience doing long adventure races that inflict pain. He would just deal with it. And so would Nicky.
 The first three checkpoints seemed to come quickly. No big climbs, good footing and a little mud.

 After the third checkpoint we went through a town. Tim talked to a local who told him where the bakery was and the two of us sprinted down the road to purchase some meat pasties and sausage rolls. Oh they were good, best meal of the week!
 At the resupply point at about halfway we had added three more to our group, Mark, Amanda and Kirsty. About the same time we arrived, in came Andrew and Charlie looking ready to finish this day up quick as possible after four days of racing. I asked Jon if he was okay with me finishing up with the two. We had put a lot of training time in together and spent the last four days on the course together. He said he had no problem finishing up with the group we had been with so far today. Probably really tired of hearing me talk anyway.
 I took the brace off my left ankle that I had been wearing since twisting my ankle on Tuesday in a hole in the mud. It had be causing discomfort most of the last two days and I felt much better without it on. Off I went with Charlie and Andrew. They really moved well. We had good running up till the approach to the last checkpoint where the route got very rocky again. After collecting the last checkpoint it was off to the finish at the castle that we could see in the distance.

The finish was a short climb up to the castle. Charlie and Andrew decided to storm the castle but my legs did not have it in them to join the two. I hiked up the final hill and the stone steps to the finish inside the castle.

 It was a great experience running across the mountains in Wales. I am very pleased to be one of 34 finishers of this race. I think 80 to 85 started and half the field didn't make it through the first stage. It was a tough race, well out of my comfort zone, but this is why I signed up. I surely didn't slay the Dragon or even really make friends with the Dragon. I heard Dragons don't make good friends anyway, but runners anywhere in the world do make great friends! Nicky, Tim, Charlie, Andrew, Chris, Mark and Mark, Jonathon Davies, Gary, Henry, Stephen Kriel, Amanda, Kirsty, Wendy, Jon Moulding  and many others, it was a pleasure meeting you all.

 Can't close without thanking all the volunteers that gave up a week to feed us, set up the tents, transport our bags and patch us back up.Thanks!

 Special thanks to my friend Tom Sloope of Carter and Sloope for all his support here in Macon and John Teeples from Big Dog Running Company for his support too.

 Thank you Jon Barker for suggesting this race and giving me a place to stay and the good company on all the weekend training runs in north Georgia. What's next? 

 Thanks to my biggest supporter of all, my wife, Teri. Without her this would not have been possible.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Dragonsback race

5 days. 192 miles. 48,000 ft of climb. 65+ hours. Good to be done. More later when I get home.

John Dove

Monday, June 25, 2012

40 Plus on the Appalachian Trail

Traveled up to north Georgia to do a long run with Jon Barker on the Appalachian Trail.  We started near Horse Gap and ran north through Woody Gap, over Blood Mountain and down to Neel's Gap. The weather was uncharacteristically cool for late June in Georgia. It was still very humid though and I got dehydrated on the last 20 miles. I could not get enough to drink even though I was running with a pack with 60 ounces of fluid. I had refilled at the half way point but 3 hours later with 5 miles to go I had to refill again. From here on it was a grind for me. I sent Jon ahead because my pace had slowed and I knew I was holding him up. Finally finished up after 9 hours and 45 minutes for 41 miles. Had a decent amount of climb, 9435 feet, which I really need to prep for up coming races.
I tried out some new trail shoes this week. The Lone Peak by Altra.  I was impressed with this shoe, no foot pain or hot spots after 41 miles. I will see how they feel with another couple long runs in them but right now they are all I want to run in.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Day 3 of Stage Race

No race pic today but a good father's day photo.

Day 3 was 20 miles with the most climb and the most technical of trails. Felt good but slowed some in the last two miles. Finished in 3:33:30. Three day 60 mile total time of 9:21:45.
Have alot of training to do before September's 200 mile 5 day stage race. This weekend was a very good training block. It was great to have Teri and Bethany there too. Won't be so lucky with some upcoming weekends. Nothing better than an afternoon recovery nap with Bethany.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Day 2 of Stage Race

Today went much better. 22 miles in 3:05:30.
One more day with 20 rocky miles on Signal Mountain tomorrow.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Chattanooga 3 Day Stage Race

Today was day 1 of The Chattanooga 3 Day Stage Race. 18 miles on Raccoon Mountain.  Not a stellar day. Finished in 2:42:40. Hope the next 42 miles over the next two days go better.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Dragon Training

Just a picture of Panther Creek from last Saturday's Cohutta run with Jon Barker.
Great run with 8,350 feet of climbing over 27 miles. Good training for the upcoming Dragon's Back race in Wales.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Pisgah 111k

                                                                  picture by Brad Allen

 I went up to the Pisgah National Forest in western North Carolina on Saturday for the Pisgah 111k mountain bike race. Pisgah has miles and miles of trails in lush mountains with lots of creek and stream crossings. It is a mountain bikers dream playground. It can also be tough if you are not prepared for the rugged singletrack with roots and rock gardens and long hike-a-bike sections of steep trail. I was not fully prepared, close enough to enjoy it though.
 The first few miles were up a forest service road which was a good way to ease into the race. I knew my bike fitness wasn't where I needed it to be to push hard in a tough 72 mile mountain bike race so I started conservatively. After climbing for 10 minutes or so we hit the first singletrack trail section. What great riding! We dropped down to a nasty muddy rocky trail that ran alongside and crossed a creek several times. This section started the first of many dismounts to clear obstacles, either big rocks or creek banks.

                                                                        picture by Brad Allen

I rode with some locals for a while, Curtis and Marvin, who answered my questions about upcoming sections. It didn't take long to figure out what I consider a rideable section and what they consider a rideable section are not always the same. We don't have such gnarly trails here in Macon Georgia. I was having fun no matter what the trail threw at me.
 Up to 50 miles the course had been challenging but not too tough. All that changed in the last 20 miles. We did a long climb up to Pilot Rock that had a very steep section of trail that could not be ridden. Just put the bike on my shoulder and hike up. I was looking forward to my reward, a long downhill to recover on. I topped out and started down and immediately realized this was not going to be a fun descent. It was rutted out, rock strewn and had numerous tight switchbacks that kept me grabbing at the brakes most of the way down. It was a relief to get down.
 At the last aid station, with 9 miles to go, I asked Curtis what was in store on the Black Mountain trail that would take us to the finish. He told me that there would be a long hike-a-bike to the top, a short downhill to a gap and then another short hike-a-bike and then all downhill to the finish. It was good to know what was coming up because it had been years since I had been on this trail. It was not as I remembered. I surely didn't remember all the steep rocky sections going to the top, but I finally got to the top and started my last downhill to the finish.I crossed the line in 8 hours and 50 minutes.
 I rode knowing I once again had not done enough bike training for this type of race but knew my increased running mileage would get me through the race without too much suffering. It was the most fun I have had at a mountain bike race in years.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Cohutta 100 Mountain Bike Race

 The Cohutta 100 mountain bike race was Saturday. This race got in my blood 5 or 6 years ago. It is in an area that I have done a lot of riding in over the past 15 years, the north Georgia mountains on the border with Tennessee. I always enjoy the big views you get from the ridges during this race. And the great long downhills. And the singletrack sections.Not much I don't like about the Cohutta 100.
 I told myself I would train specifically for this race this year. I had some good bike training in January and February but in March and April my biking couldn't even be described as training. I would miss two full weeks of riding and then put in 30 to 50 miles in a week and then lay off the bike again for a week. My running miles had been high during this time so I wasn't completely out of shape just, not in good biking shape. I would do the best I could with what I had and be thankful that I can even ride a mountain bike for a 100 miles.
 There were four of us from middle Georgia, Greg, Van, Monte and myself. We all started off together on the two mile climb up to the first singletrack section. Once on the trail I was able to relax a little and get my heart-rate under control on the flat flowing section. It all went well until we dropped back down to the river and started the climb back up the mountain. I was trying to stay on Greg's wheel which was a mistake. He set a pace a little too hot for me. He finally pulled away and I settled into my on pace and Monte and I rode together for a while while finishing the climb.
 At the top of the climb we have a long downhill that leads to a forest service road section that parallels a creek for several miles. After this easy section, it is a series of long climbs up to Potatopatch. Then a long downhill that drops 2000 feet to one of my favorite trails, Pinhoti section 2. We loop around at the bottom and then climb back up 2000 feet to Potatopatch and retrace our course back to the finish with a few deviations from our outbound route.
 I maintained my calorie and water intake well during the race and rode within my means all day. I had a realistic goal of going under 10 hours in the race. I knew this would be a challenge considering my lack of preparation for the race in the last 2 months. I came across the finish line in 9:58:28 and am happy with how the race came together.
 Next year I am really going to train for the Cohutta.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Oak Mountain 50k

 On Saturday March 31st I raced the Oak Mountain 50k for the 10th time. Scott and Jackie Parker have been putting on this race for 13 years. In my ten years at the race it has been run flawlessly. It is always well marked.The aid stations are manned with volunteers who are knowledgeable about the needs of ultra runners and are eager to get you in and out in a hurry. A big thanks to all the volunteers who give their time to make our race day go so well. And the cook out at the finish, always something to look forward to. But what truly makes this a great race is the course. Oak Mountain State Park in Birmingham is a jewel. Beautiful, well maintained trails, waterfalls, rock formations and lakes make this trip to Alabama one of my favorite races each year. This race course has it all; climbs, sweet ridgeline singletrack, rocky descents, and soft dirt trails to give your feet a break.
 There are always a lot of familiar faces at this race. The Atlanta posse, the Florida bunch, and the Alabama locals. Middle Georgia had it's own crew this year. Tom Sloope, Chris Parrish, Thomas Flaherty, first time ultra runner Vince Lucas, and myself all made the trip over for the race.
 I started off with three Alabama runners, John Cobbs, Chris Dollar and John Gregg. We ran together into the first manned aid station at the north trailhead in 4th through 7th place. John Cobbs did not stop at the aid station and headed up the the blue trail and put a good lead on John Gregg, Chris Dollar and myself. When we reached the ridgeline we found a good pace and cruised to the rocky downhill where we cross the creek below Peavine Falls. A steep climb up from the creek leads to the second manned aid station at the Peavine Falls parking area. After the aid station I caught up with Cobbs and we ran together along the creek section before he put some distance on me on the long uphill to the unmanned aid station at the jeep road. From the jeep road we ran along a rocky ridge before coming to my favorite downhill of the race. It is a rocky switchback descent to some soft fast gentle downhill that leads back to the north trailhead aid station at 21 miles. I passed John Cobbs on the downhill but he quickly caught up with me on the flats leading into the aid station.
The section from 21 miles to the the next aid station at the Peavine Falls parking lot starts with a 3 mile climb up Double Oak Mountain on a jeep road. This is where the real race starts. John Cobbs and I left the 21 mile aid station together but he soon left me on the climb up the mountain. John is a strong runner, especially on the hills. He put 19 minutes on me in the last 10 miles. Last year he did about the same thing. He always finishes strong. I was able to enjoy the climb and the new section of singletrack that Scott Parker added at the top of Double Oak Mountain to cut out a couple of miles of the jeep road. This trail runs along the west ridge of the mountain. The picture above is from the trail. I really enjoyed this new section with it's great views and rocky singletrack.
 After arriving at the Peavine Falls aid station the second time at 26 miles it is only 5 miles to the finish. This section has a fun downhill on the BUMP trail down to the dirt road crossing. I fill my bottle for the last time at an unmanned aid station and know the race is almost done. The trail curves around several ridges and re-entrants where you can actually hear the finish line activities and smell the burgers before popping out at the finish. I cross the line in 5 hours and 36 minutes for a 5th place finish. Not my fastest time there or my slowest time, somewhere in the middle of my ten races at Oak Mountain. Hope to have several more here in the years to come.

 Another highlight of the day was having Bethany there with Teri. I hope this is her first of many times being dad's little cheerleader.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Mandatory Equipment

  Saturday was the Jackrabbit Mountain Adventure Race outside of Hiawassee Georgia .I raced with longtime adventure racing teammate Andi and Lee, who is an adventure racing veteran, but someone I had never raced with before. I ended up being the mandatory equipment needed to make us a coed team.
 Adventure racing combines paddling, biking and foot travel  in an event that requires map navigation to find control points throughout the course.

                                                                         Control Point

 We typically get the maps the night before the race to plot our strategy and route choices for the next day. Sometimes this is the most stressful part of the race. Second guessing route choices can make for a fitful few hours of sleep the night before.What looks good on paper doesn't always translate to the best choice when you are out in the woods. The map is never marked "Stay out! You will get ripped to shreds". Too bad, all three of us suffered a long bushwhack through the "shiggy".

                                                            Consequences of the Bushwhack

 The paddle section went quickly, about an hour and twenty minutes. We saved some time using portage wheels and running the canoe about a mile and a half down a road to avoid paddling around a large peninsula.
 We transitioned to the mountain bikes and started riding to our first bike checkpoint, CP5. This ride gave us a foreshadow of the climbing that would be a constant throughout the rest of the race. On the latter part of the leg  from CP5 to CP6 is where the briar patch bushwhack occurred. This really slowed us down picking our way through the saddle to CP6.
 Back on the bikes and a long steep climb up to CP7. There was a great overlook at this high point, we spent 3 seconds taking it in, and started back down to the next checkpoint. CP8 was a transition area where we dropped our bikes and went out for a trekking section with 4 checkpoints to find. On paper (the map) it looked to only be about 5 miles for this foot section. Five miles if you don't lead the team off course and a couple hundred extra feet down the mountain. We floundered around until we finally found the trail we missed back up the mountain and things went better from there. We collected the 4 CP's and made it back to our bikes knowing we would have to skip one of the remaining bike points to make it back to the finish within the 10 hour time limit.
 We changed our route to CP15 from what we had plotted the night before. This turned out to be a good move and really saved us some valuable time. After punching CP15 on our passport we headed back toward the finish and the Jackrabbit mountain bike trail system where we had 9 more checkpoints to pick up. Eight of the checkpoints on the trail system were worth 1/8 of a point compared to 1 point for all the other checkpoints.
 I had never ridden at Jackrabbit and was looking forward it. The trails were muddy from the early morning rains but were still fun to ride. We got all the CP's and then had about a mile to ride to the finish. We finished up the race with 15 of 16 points and about 30 minutes left on the clock. Our decision to skip the long out and back bike checkpoint was a good one. We would have not made it back to the finish within the time limit for the race and would have been DQ'd.  
 The race was well planned and the CP's were placed correctly. It was a tough course for a 10 hour race, we climbed 8500 feet during the race. Only one team got all the 16 possible points for the race, a testament to how tough of a race this was.
 I enjoyed racing with Lee and Andi. They never grumbled, even with the briars and extra mileage. Racing with them made it easy for me to be the mandatory equipment.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Only 4 Crossings

Not many words for Sunday's Cohutta training run. Pictures will do better.
Dally Gap-Jacks River Falls-Big Frog-Dally gap = 28 beautiful miles.

The Usual Suspects

And more

One of 20 crossings

The Falls

I don't think Carl has running water at his house

View on the way to Big Frog

Great run with some great guys but I have never heard trail runners complain so much about getting their feet wet crossing a river a few times.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Day in the Cohuttas

I went up Saturday to the Trailblazer's Potato Patch Mountain Bike Time Trial. A no fee, no awards, grass roots training day. The route used the Pinhoti Trail, some Forest Service roads and the Bear Creek Trail in the north Georgia mountains outside of Ellijay.
We had perfect weather after a night and early morning of bad storms. We started out about 10am by having Bill sign us out by recording our start time next to our names. We were to record our own finish times when we returned because Bill was not about to miss out on the ride.
About a week before the time trial I realized it was on the same day as the Double Top 100 mile and 100k utlramarathon. I had quite a few friends running in the race and thought it would be fun to see them on the trails and Forest Service roads while on the bike. I have a few big mountain bike races coming up and need to put is some long miles on the mountain bike so I decided early in the year not to run this inaugural race. Hate to miss a 100 miler this close to home.
One of my running mates, John Barker, was running the 100k race and since he and I are running the Dragon's Back in Wales together in September, I offered to pace him the last 19 miles after I finished riding. During the first 10 miles of ride I came upon many running friends. All asked why I wasn't racing and Susan D. even called me a traitor! Most of them don't know I was a biker long before I was an ultra runner and still have a passion for mountain bike riding and racing especially the long races like the upcoming Cohutta 100.
I caught up with Jon Barker near my turnaround at the top of Potato Patch. He was running strong up the mountain and gave me an estimate of his arrival time at the 42 mile aid station. I hit the turnaround and took off back down the mountain to one of my favorite mountain bike trails, Bear Creek.
I was enjoying the big downhill when I looked up from the roots and rocks littering the trail to see a woman, Ashley, coming up the trail with a race number on. I knew what she had done, taken the Pinhoti trail section from Forest Service road 90. She was going the wrong way. I stopped and told her the bad news. Ashley wrote about the race and explained her reaction better than I could. It is definitely worth reading:

As we were talking another runner came up. More explaining and some map work and I was off again. A couple minutes down the trail another four runners including two friends, Liz and Scott. A quick explanation of where they were and I was off again. A few more minutes and yes...more runners. I turned around 11 runners. I know how demoralizing it is to go off course when you are running that far, you don't need bonus miles. At each one of these interactions I was looking over my shoulder for the other riders to catch me. It wasn't a race but bragging rights were at stake.
I was able to make good time to the end and sign my finish time in. 2.5 hours, 23 miles and 3700 feet of climbing made for a good ride but I decided to ride back up the mountain and see if I could find Jon and see how he was fairing. As I was heading up, the first place 100k runner was coming down and moving fast. I rode on up the mountain and didn't see Jon so I decided to go back to the truck and get my running clothes on and grab something to eat. I changed and was talking to the other bikers coming in when I saw Jon coming up the Forest Service road. Time to go! Should have ate instead of running my mouth.
Jon was running strong and we made good time through the next two trail sections. We got to his 51 mile aid station and decided to leave the headlamps and run hard to make it before darkness that would come around 7pm. The next section had a great downhill, but with all great downhills come a great uphill. Jon pushed hard and we made the finish at 6:52pm. He was second place with a time of 11:52. It was great to run with him for the last 19 miles. Added another 4200 feet of climbing to the day and 4 more hours of play time in the mountains. What a way to spend a Saturday.

Pinhoti Trail:

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Mount Cheaha 50k

Raced the Mount Cheaha 50k on Saturday. This is my seventh time at Cheaha. I have raced it every year it has been run. I keep going back each year for several reasons. It is usually my first 50k of the year. It is like an annual reunion at the finish, catching up with friends I haven't seen since last years race, and always meeting new ones. It is a beautiful point to point course. It has a great race director, Todd Henderson, who I became friends with years ago. We have traveled together to several ultras and endurance mountain bike races together over the past years. His races, Mount Cheaha 50k and Pinhoti 100, always go smoothly for the racers even though I have seen him have to deal with the inevitable snags over the years that occur with all races.
 This year the weather was perfect for a 31 mile race. Thirty five degrees at the start and mid fifties for the high with clear blue skies. I started off with a couple of friends from Huntsville Alabama for the first 8 miles. After the second aid station I had to let them go, they are faster runners and I knew I couldn't match their pace much longer without blowing up later in the race. I settled in with 3 other runners, one of which is another friend, John Teeples, who I have run and raced with for several years. We talked of races we did in the past year and our plans for 2012. Miles 8 to 15 went quickly even though it is the most technical section of the race with off camber trails and lots of rocks which are covered with leaves making for some tricky running. John got out of the 15 mile aid station before me and I ran alone for the rest of the race.
 Miles 15 to 25 are my favorite of the race. It has great views from the ridges, passes a waterfall and crosses a couple of beautiful creeks. It has some great downhill sections along with a couple long climbs. At mile 25 the singletrack trail intersects a dirt road that we run for about one and a half miles. We then take pavement for another mile and a half to the last aid station at 28 miles. From here we start the climb to the top of Mount Cheaha at 2400 feet, the highest point in Alabama. The trail is affectionately called Blue Hell by the runners because it is blazed with blue paint on the rocks and trees and climbs steeply to the top.
                                                                          Blue Hell

 The climb up Blue Hell is never easy but this wasn't near as bad as some other years. After reaching the top it is only a mile or so to the finish. I actually felt good after the climb was able to run well to the finish. I crossed the line in 5:24:55, my second fastest time of the seven years I have raced here. I am always grateful to be able to finish these things and even more so when everything goes as well as it did this year. I am sure I will be on the top of Mount Cheaha again next year hopefully with Teri and Bethany cheering me on to the finish.

Cheaha website

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Race in the Snow

Course Profile

I went up to Vogel State Park outside of Blairsville Georgia for a 13.5 mile trail race on the Coosa Backcountry Trail. The race is part of a four event series put on by the TrailBlazer Adventure Racing Club. It is a a grassroots race series, no entry fees, no tee shirts, you just have to be a TrailBlazer member.
I have run this loop before and know it has a couple long climbs, the longest being 2000 feet. I knew this would be a good hard workout for Cheaha in two weeks. Arrived at the start to 27 degrees and windy with some snow flurries. As we climbed up higher the wind picked up and so did the snow. And it got colder. The pop-up spout of my water bottle was freezing. I put on a wind jacket and ran up the mountain as hard as I could to get of the north facing ridge and out of the wind. I topped out the big climb and enjoyed the rocky, steep descent to the gap and the only water stop on the course at 7 miles. Filled up quick and climbed out of the gap and then down to Wolfpen Gap. Leaving the gap and starting up the climb to Slaughter Mountain I ran into some hikers coming down. One asked if I had escaped from a mental hospital out there running in shorts in the snow. I told them "yes, but I am heading back to check myself back in because it was warm there".
After reaching the top of Slaughter Mtn. it was about 3.5 miles of downhill back to the park and the finish. I love a technical downhill and just let gravity take over and tried to stay upright. The finish came faster than I thought it would and I crossed in 2:29, about the time I had predicted.
I like these low key races with smaller fields where you know most everyone there. I can't wait til the next one in March.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Weekend training

Good 53 miles on the mountain bike Saturday with Ty. Started at Juliette and rode up to Dauset Trails and did a loop and rode back. Tough 4 hours on the bike. Still need some more trail time on the mountain bike before April.

On Sunday Tom, Mike and I went over to Camp Thunder, the Boy Scout camp in Molena Georgia. The Flint River runs alongside the boundary with numerous ridges to run up and down. This is closest trail to my house that I can get some truly big hills and rocks to train on. Tom and I ended up running 22 miles with 3800 feet of climbing and descent. Mike ran an abbreviated route and for about 15 miles.
Tried out a new pair of shoes at Thunder, the Inov8 Roclite 285. Don't know if it was the shoes or just the last 6 weeks of training paying off but it was the best run I have had since November. Hope I feel this good in three weeks at the Mount Cheaha 50k.

After two mornings of early workouts I treated myself to an afternoon nap.
It doesn't get any better than this!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Happy Dog!

Doesn't take much to make this boy happy. Just turn him loose to chase me on the bike at the Pig. Well, more like me chase him.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Great weather for a run

Once again we had unseasonably warm weather here in middle Georgia. Hard to make excuses when it is this nice at the end of January.
Mike Hopkins met me for breakfast at 7am and then it was over to the Pig Trail for a 22 miler. We had a couple other guys join us for the first two laps and then Mike and I got separated on the third and final loop. I then turned on some music for some distraction from my dead legs caused by yesterday's ride. The run was sluggish but all in all a good day in the woods.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Last Baselayer Ride

The Baselayer rides are long rides in the Fall/Winter to build a good base for the upcoming season. Each one has a different ride leader who picks the route for that day. This adds some variety to riding the roads in middle Georgia.
We have had good weather for most of the rides and today's weather was perfect. 35 degrees at the start of the ride, warming to a high of 65. Lots of sunshine. We had a big group of 16 riders today.
Today we rode 144 miles to F.D.R. State Park and back to Macon. Lunched at Dowdell's Knob. Dowdell’s Knob is where President Franklin D. Roosevelt sometimes picnicked and pondered world affairs. A life-size sculpture of the president now welcomes visitors to the overlook. Training partner Greg Bryant with F.D.R.

Seven plus hours on the bike goes a long way in training for the Cohutta 100 mile mountain bike race in April. I will start riding the mountain bike more in the next 8 to 10 weeks to get used to the different position of that bike and to tune up my trail riding techniques.

Only four weeks till Cheaha 50k!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Long trail run with an old friend

I met Mike at Dauset Trails this morning for a 20 mile run.

I have known Mike for over 30 years. We have biked and run untold miles together on the trails and road. We trained together for my first marathon in 1996. He got me on my first mountain bike in 1994. We trained together for his first and only triathlon. We have raced together in adventure races. Now he is training for Mount Cheaha 50k, which he ran as his first ultra three years ago. It is great to be back on the trails with him.
The trail was muddy from the recent rains, and it looked like the rain would start again any minute. The rains held off and we had a good run. Having someone out there with me made the miles pass quickly.
As soon as I got home and opened the truck door, I could tell my other running partner knew I had been cheating on him. Sorry Duncan. I'll make it up to you tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Hard Choice

Both Duncan and Bethany wanted to join me for a a quick lap at the Pig Trail.
Bethany had on the proper head wear for a trail run. I am going to have to get a running stroller soon so she won't feel left out.

Since it was too close to nap time for her, Duncan won out. He has an excess of nervous energy these last few days.

I have been trying out some different shoes lately. I need something with more grip for the Dragons Back Race in September. Bought a couple pair of Inov8 shoes. These are light weight, low heel to toe drop shoes.

So far they have worked well up to 22 miles but may need a little more cushioning for a 200 mile week. Still have plenty of time to find the right combination of traction and cushion.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

the BIG change for 2012 and beyond

Bethany Lois Dove born January 11,2012.
This is the going to be the best change. I can't wait to show her some of my favorite trails.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Weekend ride and run

Two solid days of training this weekend.

88 miles Saturday on the road bike on a Baselayer ride. These rides have helped me jump start getting back into bike shape. It has been several years since I have done any serious bike training. By the time the Cohutta 100 mountain bike race comes around in late April this year I should have my bike legs back.

20 mile trail run Sunday morning. I had a couple training partners for the first two laps but had to break out Old Faithful for the last lap after the other two had to leave. He is always ready and willing to go. Only 7 more weeks till Mt. Cheaha!

3 more days...     

Friday, January 6, 2012

2012. A year of changes

2012 promises to be full of changes.
I hope this blog will keep family and friends up to date.
More coming soon...