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.