"The moment my legs began to move, my thoughts began to flow" - H.D. Thoreau

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Waldo Training in Western NC Part 2

Back to Asheville for another run through Appalachia's finest with Derek. We'd planned to run pretty much the entirety of the Art Loeb trail, an iconic 30-ish miles that has long been on my NC trail bucket-list. Because it boasts about 9,500' of gain in total, Derek figured it would be a great cap for my Waldo training. Because I'm about 3 or so weeks out from Waldo, it felt like an ideal last long run for this training block.

Friday night I met up with him and we set up the cars so that we could run point-to-point Saturday. After leading my Outdoor Adventure camp all day, and then driving the 4 hours or so to Asheville, it made for quite a long night. Still, I'm always willing to take more time to set up a shuttle; it affords twice the opportunity to see cool new stuff, since you get to see twice as much trail. Plus, as a bonus, we got to see a bonafide "Holy Ghost Tent Revival" in the backwoods, rode through a creepy Boy Scout camp, and almost made road kill out of a goat...

We got up early Saturday and met Derek's friend Derk (or maybe it's "Dirk"...either way, it's a confusing thing to run with both a Derek and a Derk). He left his car on the parkway about 18 miles into the run. This would be his longest run yet, at 18 miles and over 7,500' of gain, so he wasn't trying to run the whole 30 with us. As it would turn out, we were fortunate we had an option for calling it at mile 18...

The entire run it was raining, and at times, it was downright pouring. And we're not talking about that fine mist that is ubiquitous in the Pacific Northwest, I'm talking big ol' thunderstorm-ish rain with big ol' drops of water. Because we were up high, the temps hovered around high 40's, low 50's. Normally this wouldn't be an issue--say, for instance, if one were smart and brought a rain shell of some sort or ANY warm clothes at all for that matter--but I didn't even remember to bring socks or water bottles, much less anything warm or water resistant, so basically it was just a tech tee and some shorts. It's so hot here in the piedmont in summer, I forget that the mountains can be really different. Anyway, this meant several hours of frigid-ness, as we power-hiked the crazy vertical this trail offers.

The first 15-ish miles or so were still pretty fun. Despite the fog and rain obscuring any real views, the flora in close proximity was nice to look at. I found the trail to be runnable, and the power-hiking was steady when the grade demanded it. It was also fun to listen to Derek and Derk geek out about their grad school program and clinical experiences, and have no idea what they were talking about. I remember having the epiphany that this was what it must have been like for others to hear me talking about my own grad-program with members of my cohort. I practiced eating more frequently and really staying on top of my nutritional needs. I chalked up the nausea I experienced anyway (resulting more from their stories of gore witnessed in hospital emergency rooms, intensive care units, and operating rooms) as good ultra training.

It wasn't until we started to really get up high that it got a bit worrisome. That's when the cold set-in and our hands started to do that pre-hypothermic thing. The last straw, however, was that we found the oft-traveled, flatter trail near the parkway to be either a rushing creek of cold water, or large puddles of indeterminate depth (ranging from ankle to shin deep). Derek was familiar with the final 12-ish mile section and let us know it would be more of the same river/bog running, potentially with much deeper water. Suffice it to say, the running was sketchy, we were very cold, had sipped the last of our water miles ago, and Derk's car--plus the Cool Ranch Doritos and pizza inside--were just too tempting.

Before the run, I thought Derek had said the whole 30 miles had about 7,500' of gain. When my watch said well over 8,000' at mile 18, I figured I'd gotten what I came for. Also, the wetness and constant uphill kept us out there for a while (good time on feet). I may do one more long run (25-30 miles) around here, but I feel like I'm ready.

Here are some pics taken toward the end of our outing:

Wondering if we'll ever stop going up

I like this pic, because it appears that Derek is admiring my calves...or my butt : )

Note the state of the trail ahead...I promise it's ever deeper than it looks. This area was especially eery.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Waldo 100k Training in Western NC

I got out to western NC to see Derek and the Appalachian mountains for some Waldo training. Day 1 was sort of a grind, but exactly the kind of run I need to train for Waldo. The route started with a roughly 3,000' climb in 3 miles up to a ridge that we'd gain and follow for several summits of 6,000'+ peaks, including Mt. Mitchell, the highest mountain east of the Mississippi. The climb went by surprisingly fast, as Derek and I chatted, power-hiked, and caught up. I was surprised that the ascent didn't hurt more, especially considering I basically haven't run for two weeks, since we embarked on our move back to NC. After Mt. Mitchell, we descended to a horse trail that traverses the ridge to make about a 20 mile loop back to the start. This portion of the trail, basically from miles 10-15, was not maintained at all, and the summer exposure meant major over-growth and dense rhododendrons and thorns. We had expected this to be a long runnable section of trail, but in reality, we probably moved more slowly than on the climb up to Mt. Mitchell. We bush-wacked and map-checked our way through it, however, and then finished out the run with 4 or 5 miles of pretty sweet descent. A jump in the river made for a refreshing end to a 6 hour plus day on the trails. While Derek may have been a little frustrated with the loop, I felt like it was just about perfect training for the grueling course I'll tackle in mid-August. Here are some pics from Saturday's run:

Giddy and gaining the ridge

One of the earlier peaks, looking back from where we came

Forest running


Blue ridge

On the way up to Mitchell

After mud swamping on the traverse

Yeah, it was that kind of thing when the trail was "good"

And then when the trail was not so good

Sunday morning we got out again for a little spin-out on a trail in Pisgah Forest that summits Looking Glass Rock. This run reminded me so much of my standard route up Spencer Butte from Martin St. It's about 3 miles up from the parking lot (6 round trip), and around 1,700' feet of gain. The top affords awesome views of the valley that runs through Pisgah. Here's some pics from our Sunday shakeout:

Colder than it looks
I can see why Derek loves these trails, these lookouts, and these mountains so much. It was really gratifying and inspiring to see him so content with where he is, and so connected to, and invested in, the land around him. Besides this and the opportunity to catch up with him, I got to run about a marathon distance (spending just over 7 hours) on some sweet Appalachian trails, some of which were at altitude, and totaling just over 7,200' gained within the same 24 hour period.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Yellowstone National Park

Blaine and I were fortunate enough to be able to schedule some full days of hanging out between long driving days on the way back to NC. We spent the first of these days touring Yellowstone. What amazed us both about this place was the awesome diversity of landscape found in such a relatively small area. Here are some images from our trip:

Heading into the park, the geysers:

Painted pots

Mud pots

Old Faithful:

Waiting for it to blow

The crowd surrounding Old Faithful

A lone buffalo that wandered up to Old Faithful

Blaine finally gets to see a buffalo!

Yellowstone Lake:


Sulfur Spring:

Buffalo Herd


The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone:

The falls

Arist's Point

Heading out of the park: