Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Eagle Run 2009

Sunday I had the privilege of attending the premiere VHTRC event of the year. No, not the MMT 100. And no, not the Bull Run Run 50. VHTRC members from far and wide gathered at the residence of the always entertaining Gary Knipling on Sunday for the annual Eagle Run.

Roughly 90 runners gathered in the early morning with hopes of getting in some miles through Mason Neck, the site of George Mason's former plantation, and seeing a few eagles at the same time. Gary planned things out perfectly so three groups of runners (short, middle and long distances) took different routes along the course and wound up at the same eagle lookout points at roughly the same time. I personally saw 3 bald eagles, not too shabby. Our "long" group ended up getting in an official ultra, a tad over 28 miles, most of which felt like tempo miles due to the fact that we were following in the footsteps of the only person who knew where to go with the unexpected trail closures, Keith Knipling.

Seems pretty straightforward, right? View Larger Map

Once we arrived back at the Knipling residence, we found a few cold slices of pizza left untouched by the short and mid-runners (thank you, even cold pizza is delicious after an ultra). Then the party began. I think the phrase I overheard was "what goes at the Eagle Run stays at the Eagle Run", but it would be a shame to not share the pictures. I'm feeling a bit too lazy to embed every image, so here's a slideshow instead. Enjoy!

(If the slideshow above doesn't work on your computer, click here to see the album.)

Friday, January 23, 2009

2009 Race Schedule

I know you have been dying to see what lies ahead for '09. So without further adieu, here are the significant events and/or races:

1/4/09 - Boyer's Furnace (50k option - 7:18)
1/17/09 - MMT#1 (50k - 6:52)
1/25/09 - Eagle Run 26mi
2/7/09 - TWOT (one 26mi loop)
2/14/09 - *Holiday Lake 50k++
2/28/09 - MMT#2
3/7/09 - Catawba Run Around 34mi
3/14/09 - Elizabeth's Furnace FatAss 50k
3/28/09 - *Terrapin Mountain 50k
4/11/09 - Chocolate Bunny 50k
4/25/09 - *Promise Land 50k
5/16/09 - Massanutten Mountain Trail 100mi
6/20/09 - Highland Sky 40mi
or 6/19-21/09 - Chattanooga Mountains Stage Race (22, 18 & 20mi)
9/5/09 - The Ring 71mi
10/2/09 - *Grindstone 100mi
11/7/09 - *Mountain Masochist Trail Run 50mi
12/12/09 - *Hellgate 100k

* - Beast Series Race

So there it is. For the most part it focuses on MMT, training for MMT, and the Beast Series. The summer months are looking kinda scarce right now so I will possibly be adding races if I can find something good. Due to the hot weather in the summer months, these will most likely be races up north or out west. Got any good recommendations?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Training Run Report: MMT#1

The VHTRC (well, mostly Tom Corris) puts on a series of 3 training runs to prepare folks for the MMT100. On Saturday I braved the cold temperatures and ran MMT Training Run #1, a 30.9 mile run that runs approximately the first third of the MMT course from Buzzard Rock south to Camp Roosevelt.

View Larger Map

Now when I say "cold temperatures", keep in mind that I have lived in Maryland all my life, so cold to me is anything below freezing. Only once in a blue moon does it drop below 20 degrees. Well, as we carpooled to the start during the wee hours of the morning, I looked at the thermometer on the inside of the car and it read "-3". Negative friggin 3!

My face when I realized what I was getting myself in to

As everyone was gearing up and primping for the group picture (gotta look good!), the chest strap on my Nathan hydration pack broke right off. I rushed to get it back on somehow, but all I could fashion was a ghetto knot that kept the pack lopsided on my back. By the time I got my pack together, the picture was taken and everyone had been running for almost a minute. I darted off and rushed to get back to the folks that would be running my similar pace. Then came the first climb of the day.

Hooray for MMT climbs!

Elevation profile for the day - 7.7k ft of elevation gain

As we merrily ran along, perspiration turned to ice. Everything, and I mean everything, was frozen.

Notice the frozen eyelashes. And hat. And everything else.

Marlin and Marti on one of the few flat and runnable sections

Robin wanted a pic of her sweet mitts. They were indeed sweet.

Slightly rocky up on top of the ridge

If you haven't been able to tell, I got a little camera happy during my run. I just got a new camera and I figured people prefer seeing pictures and videos over reading. Well, at least my lazy ass does. So from here on out, less typing and more pictures. We froze. We ran. We conquered. Yay.

Gotta love the new skull gaiters

I'm tired. Who wants to stop and snap a picture?

The bulge under my jacket is my hydration pack. The bulge in my pants is... nevermind.

Hunchback of Notre Dame mode (the only way to thaw my frozen pack)

Aide station #2

Note the frozen solid stream.

Roxanne and Robin - my partners in crime for the day

Marti approaching the finish line / fire.

Warmth good. Mmmmm.....

Gary found Moose. Moose was lost on the ridgeline for a while. Oops.

New friends. Great times.

All in all it was a great day. Finished the 31 miles just a tad under 7 hours. Most folks stuck out around and did another 26 miles on Sunday, but unfortunately I had to duck out due to other plans for Saturday night. Either way, these MMT training runs are great prep for the race itself and I am definitely getting more comfortable with the course, both in terms of my abilities and my familiarity of the course.

May 16th. 100 miles. MMT trails. Bring it on!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Wingsuit BASE Proximity Flying video

I feel like I had to post this video for some reason. Probably because over the course of the last four days I have been sent multiple emails, IMs, facebook messages, twitter messages, post-it notes and singing telegrams all asking me if I've done this before.

No, I have nowhere near the skills and/or cajones necessary to take up Proximity Flying. I own and fly a wingsuit, but only out of planes. I don't BASE jump (parachute from fixed objects), and although I think I'd absolutely love it, I'm keeping myself away from BASE because I know I have an addictive personality.

Wingsuit Weekend at Skydive Nagambie in Australia, 2004. I'm on the far right.

However, I do have tremendous respect and admiration for Loic Jean Albert, the tall skinny French dude in the video who flies within feet of rock ledges while roaring by at 120mph. This guy is one of the pioneers of wingsuit flight, so he is one of only a handful of people who have the skillset necessary to pull off successful flights in such close proximity to solid objects. When flying a wingsuit, small body movements translate into large changes in your flight pattern. In the sky or to a lesser extent flying away from a cliff, it's not the end of the world if you have some side-to-side flutter or you can't control your exact glide ratio. Flying within feet of fixed objects and small inconsistencies like that could prove to be fatal... but MAN does it make for some sick footage!

I am reminded of a quote, but can't recall who said it: "Take risks not to escape life, but to keep life from escaping."

These guys are definitely taking risks, but they are definitely living life to the max and not letting life escape them. Have fun out there and be safe, but don't forget to take risks every once in a while!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Training run report - Boyer's Furnace 40-Miler

UPDATE 1/7: New pictures now included. One gross pic, so don't look while eating.

Sunday I had my first taste of the Massanutten Mountain Trail while participating in the Boyer's Furnace 40-miler. I chose to run 31 miles (50k) of the distance to keep my weekly mileage total a bit lower. I'm still ramping up my mileage after taking some time off in December due to injury, so it's important that I don't jump back into the mileage too quickly or I'll risk injury.

I carpooled down with my friend Amy (who recently joined Team Montrail, go Amy!). We left my car at the 31 mile mark then hitched a ride to the start from my coach, Mike Broderick. The usual VHTRC troublemakers were there, and by that I mean Gary Knipling was in attendance and was carrying around a Dallas Cowboys G-string. Why you ask? Well, it's Gary. That should be enough explanation.

The 20 or so runners gathered for a quick photo and at 7:15 we were off. We headed out of Roosevelt Gap on the Eastern Ridge and started making our way north. The forecast was calling for rain in the low 30's, aka sleet, so I donned my big and bulky rain coat since I figured that would be better than getting hypothermia up in the mountains. After a mile or so I couldn't bare the claminess of my rain jacket so I stashed it on my pack, thus adding an extra pound or so to the 70 oz of water and other miscellaneous crap I was carrying. After I got done strapping my jacket down, I picked the pace up to catch up with the group I had been running with. I passed Amy and, with most of her running lately having been on roads, she ever-so pleasantly admitted "oh man I'm gonna get schooled." How right she was. More on that later.

I got into a comfortable pace with Coach Mike and Tom Corris. I was in good hands since each of them had run MMT 100 at least a few times, so they definitely knew the trails. At every trail intersection I'd get briefed on where we were and what time of day it would be if we were running MMT. It was extremely helpful since I had no idea where I was. Around mile 6 we caught up with Greg Loomis (the RD) and Keith Knipling. At this point we knew something was up. Either we were going out too fast or something was wrong with Keith. Apparently he rolled his ankle so he was taking it easy and slowly navigating his way to the nearest aide station. Oh yeah, the first aide station was at mile 17! Talk about true ultra perseverance.

The view from atop the Eastern Ridge looking west

The five of us continued on together for a bit and eventually Keith backed off. Smart move on his behalf I'd say. The trails were vicious that day. It's a difficult trail to run on the nicest of days due to the sharp jagged rocks, some of which are loose, that cover so much of the ground that it's nearly impossible to actually "run" on many of the sections. It takes the cake as the most difficult trail I've ever seen (although I'm still young and naive, so what do I know?). But to add insult to injury, the trail was covered in many spots with nearly a foot of leaves. Knowing that there were rocks, we had to shuffle through the leaves and feel our way through the footing. This amounted to some blazing fast 20 minute miles!

At Veach Gap, mile 17, we descended into the valley and came to the first aide station. It was unmanned but Greg had gone out in the wee hours of the morning and dropped off the typical ultra fare: some water, soda, pringles, oreos, etc. (just another reason I love ultras - I can eat like a fat kid again!). There was a big ol' bag of double stuffed mint oreos. Mmm mmm mmm. I probably had a few too many, but hey, carbs are carbs! Tom had planted his car at Veach so he dropped there while myself, Mike and Greg continued on to the "dirt road" section of the course which lasted about 6 miles. I say "dirt road" in quotes because, according to my tour guide the RD, there used to be maybe one hunting cabin in this part of the valley and everything was dirt roads. Lately more folks have been purchasing second homes so the roads are getting paved. I could've sworn that we were in a recession and that most Americans drove SUV's... hmm... shows how much I know.

The dirt/paved roads were runnable until we hit the climb up onto the Western Ridge at Woodstock Tower. Sweet jebus that was a long climb (see the elevation profile below). Thankfully this was an ultra and running uphill is a no-no. Unfortunately walking fast uphill is no easy task either. The burning hip flexors showed us how out of shape we were after our holiday hibernating. Ouch.

As we headed south from Woodstock Tower we were presented with gorgeous views of the valley and also the Eastern Ridge that we just tackled. Not to say we didn't have similar views from the other side, we did, I just forgot to mention it. Most of the time I was up on the ridges I was playing a game with myself to see how long I could take in the view before needing to get my eyes back on the technical footing. I think my longest streak was about 1.5 seconds. Stupid leaves. The last 8 miles were similar to the first 17: technical, leafy and slow. When we hit mile 31 at Edinburg Gap, I was glad I had planned ahead and didn't have to run the last 9 miles. It had been a blast, but I was beat and I had gotten my fair share of time-on-feet and technical footing practice. It took us 7:18 to run the 50k distance. Definitely not a PR for me, but I needed those long, slow, technical miles to prepare for the upcoming ultra season, and you can't get better MMT training than running the MMT trails.

Coach Mike dropped with me and we sat there enjoying the aide. I was waiting for Amy to finish and figured she'd be about 30 minutes to an hour behind us, so there was plenty of time to chill and enjoy being out in nature. That's when Carter, another runner who had dropped earlier at mile 17 I believe, came up and asked if I was waiting for Amy. "Yeah." "Oh, did you hear what happened to her?" "F*ck." Remember when I passed Amy earlier and she said she was gonna get schooled? The girl is psychic (or maybe psycho, haven't quite wrapped my finger around this one yet). Around mile 6.5 she tripped and fell on either a sharp rock or a small tree that was recently cut down. She gashed her left knee open down to the bone. Luckily there were some runners 2 minutes behind her and they called an ambulance and arranged a meeting spot. Unfortunately that meeting spot was down the mountain at Habron Gap and it took them about 2 hours to make the hike down.

Getting some much-needed medical attention

Lesson to all you kiddos - watch your step.

I bolted down to the hospital expecting to see some poor, pathetic soul lying there all disappointed that she got rocked (literally) by the trail. Instead, this is what I saw:

Thumbs up if you got schooled by MMT trails!

She was in great spirits. Then again, she was getting some pretty sweet drugs and half her body was numb from the surgery, so I'd probably be in in a good mood too. Thankfully there was no bone, muscle or ligament damage. The tights she was wearing kept everything around her knee nice and together during the long hike down the mountain and they kept debris from getting into the open wound. The docs stitched her up and now her leg is immobilized for 10 days while the wound heals. After that the stitches will come out and she should be good as new and back to running like nothing ever happened. She's even still planning on running her first 100-miler, Rocky Raccoon, which is just 5 weeks away. The girl is a trooper, that's for sure! I'll be pacing her for that race, so I've got my work cut out for me (aka I'm the stump detector).

Amy's graphic illustration of how the day went

All in all it was an action-packed day. Up at 4am on little sleep, 2 hour drive, then 31 miles of super-technical footing and a little more than 6,500 feet of altitude gain in 7:18. Top that off with an unfortunate but hilarious trip to the hospital and the day definitely earned it's spot in the books. I'm still amazed at all the hospitality that was shown by the group of runners that helped Amy down the mountain, called EMS, and followed her to the hospital to make sure she was alright. The ultra community has some extremely caring and thoughtful individuals. The more ultras I do the more I realize this.

Thanks to everyone who sacrificed their run for the safety of others, and thanks for the good company from those that I had the pleasure of running with! With that, I'll leave you with a video depicting one of the many quotes of the day:

"It's just a flesh wound!"