Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Training: Smoky Mountain Running

I have asked a lot of my friends in the past this question “what would you do if money was not an issue but you had to work?” Meaning that you have to work but you would never have to worry about funding your life expenses. It’s the old adage of find your dream and make it happen. We spent the last week in the Smoky Mountains on an awesome family vacation. This blog is about running, so I will not stray too much from that path…..but running is a part of life and so they often collide.

I spent a large part of my life in Tennessee, high school and undergraduate academics then left to go back to Florida. As we were driving closer to Knoxville on our way to the Smoky Mountains for a family vacation, I had all these memories flooding my mind from all these experiences I had growing up exploring the parks and city in the area. I must have said “…this is where I used to mountain bike, road ride, hike, fly fish, trail run, backpack, etc…etc...” about a hundred times to anyone within ear shot of me. Every time I came across an area, I realized that I had story upon story to share about where I got stung by hornets, caught my first brook trout, ran 16 miles and needed toilet paper (used leaves), ran into black bears, how fast I climbed Clingman’s Dome on my road bike, how fast I descended, saw a red wolf, saw tracks, found my favorite quiet spots, on and on and on. With all this pouring into my mind, I did plan one long run and it did not disappoint.
I started from the house we have rented over the past 20 years and ran 2.7miles up to the Rainbow Falls trail head. I knew it was going to be rough when I was already walking a good portion due to the 96 degree heat and tremendous incline on the road. I averaged a 10 min mile for the first 3 miles, showing up to the trail head soaking wet, but smiling. More than 10 years ago I started from the trail head and ran the entire trail up to Mt.Leconte, the second highest peak in the Smokies (2nd to Clingmans Dome) only by about 200 feet. Driving to Clingmans is about 27 miles from the bottom to the top. This trail does it in 6.5 miles. It’s about 4,000 feet vertical change. I “ran” for as long as it made sense…..lasting about 2 miles before I decided to speed hike up the trail. I was planning on a trail marathon that day, but when I hit the peak 10 miles later at over 3 hours…..it was time to realize that although the view was spectacular, I had a family waiting for me at the bottom. I took a few photos, a couple bouncy videos, and decided to make the descent back to the house. It took me 1hr 30mins to descend what took me more than twice as long to go up. Admittedly, it was some fancy footwork down the trail and I stopped at each waterfall to dump my nuun visor in to cool me off, but man o man I love to run fast down hill.
As I ran the trails that day, I took the time to revel in the memories I had created in the past years on these same trails…they hadn’t changed much but I sure had. The last time I ran these, I was working as a drug/alcohol counselor after finishing my undergrad and would come to the Smokies after work to run and then fly fish until it got dark. I wasn’t married, no kids, I could do what I wanted essentially. Now, I have a large family waiting for me to come home and tell more stories, share food and drink with. Which one is better? It has all been amazing, but when it all comes down to it, the family is what provides that main ingredient to the drive that I have had all my life. The following day, I took the family with me to a spot in the mountains that only locals know about. As we were walking up the trails, we passed an older couple who smiled seeing all my kids walking up and they said “starting them off right” as they passed me. I smiled and said it was 100x better than video games and sitting inside. It was how I grew up, how I live now and how I want my kids to be. There are a lot of life lessons to be learned being in the outdoors. You just don’t learn about the cycle of life while you are playing first person shooter games on the xbox…well, you do but it’s violent and demented. While walking up a trail to a waterfall and my 5 year old is asking questions, I turned to her to ask her how waterfalls start. She immediately said from rain but when I asked her how the rain all gathered together to form a creek and eventually waterfall, she literally pointed out a little creek and we sat to examine it coming out of the moss, across the trail, down the hillside and to a larger creek. Look, we didn’t discover electricity, but she learned what a lot of kids don’t get to experience. I know I am rambling, but the point is that we need to get ourselves and our kids off our asses and get outside. I am not going to start quoting stats about the obesity rates in the US or in certain parts of the world. I think we all know how large the average US person is becoming.
My personal answer to the question posed in the beginning of this rambling blog is not completely concrete but it is swimming in an answer of inspiration. I love to be active, it keeps me sane and relatively balanced….without it I become a bit of a grouch. Why can’t we take something as raw an pure as running and inspire people to do it? Maybe it takes us running extreme distances like 100 miles or more for people to say “well heck, if they can run 100 miles, maybe I can get out and walk for a mile?” That’s it, that’s the magic of it…..someone watches, reads, hears about someone doing something amazing and they are inspired to do a little bit more than what they did yesterday, then tomorrow they do it again. I love people, I love meeting people and talking and hearing stories about what they are doing and exchanging personal stories that allow us to relate to one another. So, take all that and inspire people. I want to have a job that allows me to be with my family & friends and inspire anyone that I can. That’s it. So, with that….I am working to make it happen. It is this passion where the OUTRUN team came from, this drive to do what we love to do in a positive and social atmosphere, it is this that drives us to create our running events, multisport events, epic runs, etc…. there is a will, and we are finding ways to make it happen.

Race Report: Burning River 100 Mile Trail Run

Womens Cleveland Marathon Winner High 5'ing!

I hardly know where to begin, every day that passes since this event finished I have more thoughts and memories coming back to me. I'll start with the facts about the race for me. The number one most important thing was to finish, I wanted to run an easy 50 miles then try to maintain a sub 24 hour overall pace for the event. I did finish...in 28 hrs 45 mins, the longest I have ever run, the longest non-stop endurance event I have ever done. The only other events I have done were 24 hours or less and those were not official events, just challenges.

Kevin, Radames, & I pre BR100
Here's the standard report:
I did not feel good until about mile 34 when i finally overcame the calorie deficit that I had established early on in the race. I ran the first 10 right on track, very very humid, and draining more than I knew. I did not eat enough dinner, breakfast, or at the aid stations for the first few hours. If there was anytime in the race where I thought I didn't belong, it was right about mile 20 when I was walking already and starting to take in coke. I managed to get in the calories, catch up, run the hot-ass towpath, catch up to Kevin at 33, then started feeling really strong until about mile 50, ran that hard loop, met up with JP (Pacer 1) and away we went, back into calorie battles. 58 I ate a ton of food after we were both stung by hornets, made some friends and away we went....feeling much better. The next 22 miles were a challenge of walking, running, and playing with calories....by the time I got to 80 (Pacer 2, Brad) i was well into my speed walking and continued to do so for the last 20 miles, running only a few miles near the end.

Here is what I liked:
Positive-ness!!!!! I loved meeting people and seeing all these crazy people doing this crazy thing. It was NOT as hard as you think, it was just as hard as my other runs, just a lot damn longer. This whole thing became a battle of the calories for me, it distracted me from the length of the event, how many miles were left, etc, etc... The best part was running through a major low, then running with two amazing pacers. I truly owe it to JP & Brad for getting me through so much of that race. The other thing was the people at the aid stations, holy sh*t! I could not believe the outpouring of people volunteering, pacing, cheering, at all hours of the night all around this crazy event. 400+ volunteers for 300+/- starting runners! Amazing!

Team Outrun: 4 entered, 4 finished! with a +50% drop out rate, we friggan killed it!!

I slept at the finish (below) in front of the pizza shop, slept after taking a shower at home, put on the compression socks and slept, ate, then slept some more. Caught a plane to Milwaukee and here I sit in the hotel room with good legs and barely swollen feet. All I had was a blister on the left foot but I sit here still proud of all the runners, proud of myself, and a little sad that it's over. Was it everything that I expected? No, not really....it was more than I expected and I feel a pretty strong sense of pride for everyone, what an amazing experience.
Happy to sleep at the finish