Thursday, January 20, 2011

2011: The Year of the 40

I'm not the the big bottles of beer people drink in the ghetto, but the year I turn 40. Most people either hide the fact they are 40, or dread it. Me, I'm excited about it. At 40, I still feel like I am 17 years physically. With certainty, I am in better shape and healthier than I was in my 20's. Not many 40 years olds can play and work at the pace I do. They don't have the opportunities I do. It is sad how many folks have let themselved deteriorate to where they are haggard and tired at only the halfway point in their lives.

Being healthy and happy at 40 is a big deal to me. My father and several uncles died of perfectly avoidable health issues way before their time, leaving many loved ones greaving. My son will only be 3 years old when I turn 40. I want him to have some time with his old man, an opportunity I was not afforded. Most importantly, I have seen too many people work hard their whole lives, run themselves into the ground with terrible eating, drinking and sleeping habits, compounded by the stress caused by chasing the "American Dream", where in the end they never get to enjoy their lives. It is sad, sad, sad! In the last 10 years of my life, I have attempted to change the paradigm for myself.

On my birthday, March 12, 2o11, I will reveal the 40 Adventures at 40. This will be 40 things adventures risked, skills acquired, fun had, habits altered and goals accomplished between March 12, 2011 and March 12, 2012. It will be on this blog, posted on Facebook and shared with anyone else who cares. I hope it will push me to sharpen myself, keep me strong, build relationships, teach me a few lessons, and prepare myself for a happy second half of life. If successful, I hope it will serve as an example many people approaching (or has already approached) this point in their life.

Plus, it will make me update this blog every once in a while!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Going Long Offroad, Sort-Of

The next few months will encompass the most challenging atheltic achievments of my life. If I pull it off, it will really take my running to the next level. When I started running again, I never though it would really get to this point. November 6th will be my second Shut-In Race, followed by the Tsali 50k in early January, which is a training run for the 4o mile Mt. Mitchell Challenge at the end of Feburary.

In the next few weeks, I will make the journey to Hard Times Road, to climb the Shut-In Trail. Last year was my first year running this trail classic. I was happy with a 17th place finish (out of 200 runners). My training was focused and consistent. This year, my training has been on and off. Summer was good, then the early fall got messed up with my work schedule. It got back on track when in preparation for the Blue Ridge Relay, where I ran with the 5-time Championship team, Norms Maggots.

After the relay, work got crazier and we moved, which put things behind again. Last week was my first textbook training week in a long time. It had intervals, tempo runs on the trail, heavy use of the Garmin and even two a days. Sunday approached and the long run with a couple of the Maggots was supposed to finish off a perfect training week.

About on hour-fifty minutes into the run, my ankle took a turn on a rock and the wheels came off a great week. I hobbled and shook it off, but as I went up Shut-In trail, approaching Bent Creek Road, something was not right. Frankie, Chris and Mark waited up for me, as I had falled behind. After drinking some water and assessing the damage, I was out. The went back the way we came and I limped down Bent Creek Road, hitching a ride to the next vehicle that would come that way.

My ankle is still somewhat sore when I step on the wrong rock or stick. On flat surface it is fine. Tuesday,I am going to attempt to run on asphalt and see where it's at. If all is well, I will continue my training, but stay on the pavement until Shut-In.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Shut-In Trail Run - Race Report

For anyone who even happens upon this blog, and even knows who the hell I am, you will be glad to know that I actually did what us self professed endurance athletes are supposed to do...RACE!

On November 7, 2009, I completed the Shut In Ridge Trail Run. This is not really a race, but a running adventure to be survived. The finish line is over 3000 feet higher than the starting line. There is about 5000 feet of climbing and 2000 feet of very technical and tricky downhill. It starts at the North Carolina Arboredum in Asheville, NC.

I trained for this race, as I would a marathon, with 5-6 runs a week, which included a track workout, or hill repeats on Tuesdays; Easy Days on Wednesdays and Fridays; Thurdays are for tempo runs and Sunday is a long run on the Shut in Trail and surrounding trails that are near the Arboredum and Bent Creek. Getting workouts sent to me and getting coaching by Norm Blair, the race director and owner of Jus Running prepared me, along with training with past top-10 finishers. I am really thankful for the help of the "Maggots"in preparing me for this challenge.

The beginning of the course begins innocently enough through the gentle, rolling, well landscaped roads of the Arboredum. This leads people to take off fast, like they would their local 10k. As we got deeper into the property, we hit an ironically named road called Hard Times Road. That is where the uphill begins. In my flatlander days, this would be considered difficult. Now it is a warmup. From Hard Times we hit the first single track, which is where the race really begins.

The Shut In Trail is the singletrack trail George Vanderbilt took his friends up to his hunting lodge at the top of Mt. Pisgah, from his castle fiefdom, better known as the Biltmore Estate. It is also part of the Mountains to Sea Trail that connects the mountains all the way to the coast of North Carolina. It also zig zags across the Blue Ridge Parkway, a fantastic recreational motorway, which gently snakes through the National Parks and Forests that go from Virgina to North Carolna.

Hard Times road does not seem so hard, when you get the first taste of the Shut In trail. Immediately, we were on an uphill grade that people were walking. Wise trail runners walk these sections, because it is impossible to gain any speed by trying to run. The advantage versus energy wasted give the walkers the advantage. I even passed people who were trying to run, while I was in a brisk hike. There are also switchbacks and many rocks, roots and even small stream crossings.

My pace was in the first three miles through the Arboredum and hard times was slow. I ran at an 8:30 pace and I was way back in the pack. This stategy was advised to me by many veterans of the race. The race gets more difficult as it goes along. Leaves, rocks, roots and other obsicles require extra energy. Fatigue can turn these things into a race ending accidents. In the dark moments of a road marathon, you can zone, put one foot in front of the other and think happy thoughts, not so with a trail race. Zone out on the Shut-In and you will be eathing dirt and pcking a rock out of your kneecap. Therefore, I ran my own race and conserved my pace.

The conditions were another factor, From when I started trail running at the Arboredum in August, the weather was mild and rarely exceeded 70 degrees, especially in the weeks leading up with the race, where it was in the 40's and 50's. On race day, it shot up into the mid-70's. Most of the leaves fell the week before, making them slippery and thick, leaving many treacherous suprises undereath. For instance the 2008 winner won again this year, but was 15 minutes slower. The heat did not bother me too much, but the leaves made me pucker my arse on the downhills.

Those runners who treated it as a race in the early stages were starting to show up on the side of the trail, stopped at relief stations, or just in a pittiful shuffle. I seemed to be stronger on the uphill sections, passing several people at a time, only to have them pass me back on the downills (good for the that this race is mostly uphill), then they would stop at relief stations, never to be seen again. I really lost count of the folks I passed along the way. It was odd, because I was crawling along quite slowly. It was like the hare versus the tortise and I was the tortise.

One of the nice things about the Shut-In race is the trails criss-crossing the Blue Ridge Parkway. Friends and family can cheer on and provide supplies for their peeps who are competing. It was uplifting to see Christa and Jensen. I would pat little dude on the head and he would try to follow me into the woods. It was also fun to get cheered on by my fellow "Maggots" who I run with on Tuesdays at Jus Running.

The race was steady and pretty uneventful until the 16 mile mark, or where the trail and Parkway crosses 151. The last 2 miles are legendary. It is straigt uphill. Guys who are winning the local 10k's at times of 31 minutes, run this last two miles in 25 to 27 minutes. There is a lot of carnage along that part of the trail. The girl who was leading the women lost 90 minutes in that section and became a middle of the packer, after dominating the first 16 miles. Those last 2 miles make or break the complexion of the race.

I smoothly ran and power hiked the first mile of that section and passed a couple of people, including the female leaders. There was a section that flattened out and there was a spectacular view. That did not last too long, before it became a straight uphill wall of rocks, roots and misery. My legs cramped up and I fell. At that point, I knew it was within the last mile no way that I was going to become another casualty. After getting back up and walking like Frankenstein, I got my legs back and finished the climb. At the end, I hooked up with another runner and let him have some Gatorade. We pushed each other the rest of the way and finished withing a couple of seconds of each other.

My time was 3 hours, 11 minutes and change. That earned me a 17th place finish, which was good enough for the coveted stained glass which is awarded to the first 20 men and first 10 women. I really could not have been any happier with the result. It was a hard race, but a lot of fun. It was nice to have my family and my running family at the top of the mountain. The only thing I will do differently next year is to take in more nutrition and start out a little faster. Shut In is now my favorite race.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Off Roadin'

I have discovered a new love, that is the love of trails and running on them like a crazy caveman. There are no cars, no hard sidewalks, or other tenents of civilization that takes away that running zen. My new fears are bears, copperheads and what will happen if I sprain my ankle on a root out in middle of nowhere. My new obsession will culminate into a race called the Shut In Ridge Trail Run. It is an 18 mile race point to point trail race that ends 3000 feet higher than where it started. There will be 1500 feet of down hill and 5500 feet of uphill work. The last two miles is the kicker. I have seen 30 minute 10k runners take 24 minutes to finish that last two miles.

My long runs have been with a group of experienced trail runners, ultra racers and triathletes. They take place in the Pisgah National Forest, starting at the North Carolina Arboretum. Long runs seem a lot more fun with a group on beautiful scenery. Another plus is most of the trails are within crawling distance of the Blue Ridge Parkway, The Arboretum and other parts of civilization. Last week's run went about 17 miles and pretty much was my anticipated race pace. At the end, I was pretty much spent and sore in parts of my body that I forgot about.

I'm not ready for the shut-in race yet, but will be, by the time it arrives on November 7. If all goes well, I will continue with my training, up the long runs and jump in on a December Marathon, just to measure what kind of shape I am in.

I want to have a shout out to my friend Nick Brunson, who qualified for the Ironman 70.3 World Championship. It seems like yesterday he was a new triathlete and I was able to keep up with him at times, now he is just smokin' it! Good job Nick!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Take Me to the Smokey Mountains Way Down South

In the time since I talked to you all, I have become gainfully employed and moved to the beautiful world of western North Carolina. Every run is a hill workout and I am discovering the world of trail running. Jensen is growing up and celebrated his first birthday. He is starting to run already. Christa is doing well, except for her shoulder, which is worn out from whipping my butt!

After a seven month hiatus, I am back with the Boy Scouts. My new responsibilities are with the Daniel Boone Council. I will be working with the volunteers in Haywood, Jackson and Macon Counties to start a new District. It is great to have the challenge of starting a new District and living in the heart of the Smokey Mountains.

Currently, I live at Camp Daniel Boone. It is a wilderness wonderland at the base of Cold Mountain (the Cold Mountain which the book and movie are based) and at the trail-head of the Art Loeb Trail. From there, I could pretty much hike anywhere. The lodge I live in sits next to the Little East Fork of the Pigeon River. I literally sleep ten feet from the babbling brook.

With that, I am totally focused on running. My mileage is in the 40 mile plus range and I am getting ramped up for a marathon. My plans include finishing a marathon this summer and trying to qualify for Boston in the fall. It is a no brainer that I am taking advantage of the opportunities around me by trail running. I made a treacherous ten mile run up Cold Mountain. My pace was a walking-like 13 minute pace.

This weekend will be the first race of the year. The twist is that it will be a 12k trail run at DuPont State Forest. The fifth time I have trail ran will be a race. I've met some new folks to run with. On Tuesday night, Jus Running, a running store in Asheville host a track workout. Norm, the owner has us run from the store to the UNC Asheville track where he lets us know what kind of pain we will be in that evening. There are a great group of folks there, who are known as "Norm's Maggots". Right now, I am at the tail end of the middle pack. They have some wicked fast runners show up. I try to schedule my week so I can run with them, but that is not always possible.

This area is downright hilly. You have to look around for an area flat enough for a recovery run. My first few weeks here were pain filled. Of course, it does not help to do long runs on the Blue Ridge Parkway. 3000 feet of climbing in a 12 mile trek can be downright painful. The Parkway is great this time of year, as the snowbirds from Florida and Atlanta have not arrived yet. In my hour and a forty five minute run, there were only three cars pass by me. The only disconcerting part was the bear poop (with fur in it) on the side of the road. One evening, I heard what may have been a bear in the woods, but I learned not to look in that direction when wearing a headlight.

Jensen is freaking hilarious. He is a little clown, who runs around, carries the biggest thing he can carry, laughs and smile all along the way. He also has been trying to find the smallest crevice in the house and wedge himself into it. It looks like we have a class clown on our hands!

I need to get the camera out and get some pictures of the scenery. Stay tuned!

Monday, July 07, 2008

My New Swimming Partner

We took our first family vacation with Jensen. Our friends Tom and Mindy invited us to join them for their 4th of July vacation in Myrtle Beach. It was a lot of fun and provided some much needed rest. Jensen took his first dip in the swimming pool. He took to the water quite naturally and even kicked his legs. As you can see, he looks pretty content. After the picture was taken, he saw what was behind him and learned to do the backstroke! :)

Sunday, June 29, 2008

My Proudest Race

Last weekend's Lake Carolina Triathlon is the race that I am most proud of in my triathlon career. No, I did not win my age group, get a top 10 overall, or set a PR on the distance. In fact, I did not even race! It was the race that the Strictly Running Triathlon Training Group had been training for. IT was the celebration of 8 weeks of hard work by Steve, the coach, John, the other coach, myself and 15 soon to be triathletes.

In addition to it being the big race of this training group, it was also my first foray as a race volunteer. My volunteer duty was to head up the kayakers who watch out for the swimmers. I was teamed up with an outstanding group of lifeguards, kayakers, EMTs and other folks wanting to help. I feel we had one of the safest water legs of any triathlon out there. My ulterior motive for doing this was so I could be out there with a few of our training folks.

We all got organized out in the kayaks and before long it was time for the first wave to start. It was interesting to watch the smooth fast technique of the elite athletes and the first big age groups put on a water version of the WWE on the first corner. Of course, it was the novice groups that we were going to earn us our free t-shirts. At the first 100 yards, a lot of novice women needed us to calm them down and provide a place to rest.

We had one participant name Shannon, who provided a lot of inspiration. She had worked hard the whole time, starting out with a long way to go. Last Saturday, she hit the water with the physical preparation down. She had the strength and skills to complete the distance, but today would test her confidence and persistence. She started last and we had Tricia swim with her to coach her and cheer her on. I let the other kayaker look after the remaining swimmers and I followed Shannon on her journey.
Shannon swam remarkably smooth, stayed straight, just taking it a buoy at a time. Just a couple of weeks ago, she would spend a portion of the workout holding onto the dock, in fear of the open water. This week, she was in a full blown race, hardly even acknowledging the kayak, that she would have grabbed onto a few weeks ago. If fact, she seemed to actually be gaining on some of the swimmers in front of her.

On the last corner, she took a small break and we hear a loud bunch of cheers from the great Wednesday night folks from Strictly Running. Chants of "Shannon, Shannon, Shannon" got closer and closer. We got close to the shore and there were tears of joy, cheers and sighs of relief. The girl who almost did not sign up for the race, just conquered the thing that would keep her from being a triathlete.

I missed a lot of the other action from the other folks in the training group. By the time I got the kayaks packed, got everything and everyone back to shore, a lot of folks were out of range, getting their races finished.

The finish line is a festive place at a triathlon. The friends, families and other participants are cheering the finishers, the announcer is congratulating each finisher as the cross the line and there are lot's snacks, drinks and goodies for the finishers to refuel. The triathlon community gets together, catches up and talks about the day's race. One by one, the remainder of our folks joined the rank of triathletes.

Finally the cheers erupted and it meant one thing, Shannon was on her way to the finish line. Her family and Strictly Running family was there as well. SHE DID IT!!!. An eight week journey was finished and Shannion was now a triathlete.

After the race, I watched the award ceremony and Darrell, one of our runners placed on the 48 deep men's novice division. My friend Nick placed 1st in the 30 to 34 men's division.

Afterward, went home to get Christa and Jenses and we went to Kim's house for a post race party. We had a lot of fun eating good food, talking about the journey and we got to show off Jensen. As usual, he charmed the ladies!
There were a lot of great stories from the Strictly Running Triathlon Team, who I did not get around to mentioning in this blog. Everyone has a story that is equally as compelling as Shannon's. In the end, I will have to run quite a race, to finish the day as proud as I was today.
Sorry I have been away for a while. This has not been a exactly a lazy summer for me. A lot of going on at work and at home. So far, 2008 is becoming a transition year. My next post will reveal more of those details.