Wednesday, June 30, 2010

In Case of Emergency Hit Play - Part 5

Well here it is, the final installment of the playlist series.  I haven't figured out how we'll reveal who's playlist belongs to who, but I'll put something together soon.  What I personally liked the most about this little experiment was picking up a few new songs I hadn't heard before and adding them to my rotation.  The idea of having music be part of the posts once and while has grown on me, so send over some ideas in the comments and I'll include them.

The trail conditions page has seen some activity head on over and see if one of your trails has been added.  Thanks for the input to those that have added to it, much appreciated.  The more I look at it the more I think I really need to incorporate a google map into the project, something that could quickly show where there are reports. I'll see what I can come up with.

If you missed the reasoning behind the Emergency Playlist please see the first installment for an explanation.
*Note: If you're using a feed reader to view this then you will not be able to see the music player embedded in each post.

Dead Weather - I Cut Like a Buffalo

Sonic Youth - Kool Thing

Wolfmother - Woman

Beck - Hell Yes

Eve (feat. Stephen and Damian Marley) - No No No

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Bighorn 100 Runner Report

Last Friday and Saturday I ran the Bighorn 100 in the beautiful Bighorn Mountains of Northern Wyoming. Over the past few years I have heard what an incredible race this was and decided that it was one I needed to experience. The few hundreds I have run have all been late summer (Wasatch and Bear) so I was curious and a little apprehensive as to how my body would react without having put in the usual hard summer miles.

After lounging around all morning waiting for the 11:00 am start, it was finally time to go!
These starts are always a little anticlimactic for me, as everyone mills around waiting for someone to yell "go". This time was a little more memorable as there was a wonderful singing of the National Anthem right before go time. Race Director Michelle then gave the final countdown and here is how it played out for me.

Start-Dry Fork(13.4)

I settled into an easy pace as Mike Wolfe, Joe Grant, Yassine Diboun, Jeff Browning, Cory Hanson and a couple others pushed the pace quicker than I was ready for. I found myself running with Duncan Callahan and decided to settle in behind him and enjoy the company. I first met Duncan a few years ago at the Fruita Spring Desert 50 mile, and it was great to catch up with him again. We shifted off the dirt road onto some beautiful singletrack and started the 8 mile, 4000 ft climb to Horse Creek Ridge. I kept looking up in amazement at the country we were passing through. This was absolutely breathtaking. When people talk about "big country", the Bighorns are what they are talking about!
About 3 miles into the climb, I noticed a pebble working around in my left heel. It finally became annoying enough that I stopped to get it out. To my dismay, I didn't find a pebble, but the start of a blister. What the.....? I never get blisters during races. I ran through a scenario of what to do and all I could come up with at that time was to loosen my laces a little, keep going and cross my fingers that it wouldn't get worse until I could address it better.
During this section Bryan Goding caught up to us and was good company for the next 5-6 miles. He was suffering from some sort of neuroma on his left foot and was going to run as far as he could, without high expectations of finishing. Duncan, Bryan and I ran through Upper Sheep aid station without stopping and somewhere after that caught up to Jeff Browning and Rob Rosser.
Rob was interesting to talk to. A former Olympian in the Biathalon and Veteran of OIF, he now coaches Para-olympians in the biathalon, and was attempting his first hundred.
We rolled into the Dry Fork Aid station right on schedule in 2:28. Duncan, Jeff and everyone else were in and out while I sat down to address my blister. Marge, Eve and Stuart were incredibly helpful and got me everything that I needed. I peeled off my sock and there it was, the source of the last 10 miles of irritation. It had now progressed from a tiny bubble to a blister a little bigger than a quarter. Being inexperienced with blisters, I wasn't sure what to do and took everyone's advice and rolled it into one. I dried it off, slathered it with Body Glide, and then duct taped it. I have used duct tape to fix everything from a broken light saber to a dragging bumper, but this was the first time using it to patch up myself. I hope it worked!!

Dry Fork-Footbridge(13.4-30)

This next section was absolutely beautiful and I had a great time. It is rolling country, and in between Cow Camp and Bear Camp aid stations, you roll in and out of 5 major drainages. After a couple miles, I caught back up to Rob and passed him, then caught Duncan and again settled in with him for some good company. As we weaved in and out of the alternating pine forest drainages and sagebrush/wildflower covered hillsides, Jeff Browning could be seen about a minute in front of us. I was a bit concerned that I was running too fast if I was this close to Jeff, but I didn't feel I was pushing overly hard and decided to just keep running. He slowly pulled away and I didn't see him again until the just before the Porcupine turn around. Just before Bear Camp, we started a gentle downhill and feeling pretty good, I opened the legs just a little and slowly started to pull away from Duncan. I was about 30 seconds ahead as we went through Bear Camp and then we started the brutal 3 mile, 2500 foot drop to Footbridge. I love this kind of running. Technical, steep, overgrown and nasty. The only thing I didn't love about it was thinking about having to climb back up it in about 10 hours! I managed to stay out of most of the mud bogs (which up to now had not been as bad as I thought they would be) and pulled into Footbridge feeling pretty good in 5:12. I kind of spaced it right through here. I had a little lead on Duncan, he had a pacer waiting for him and I wanted to get in and out quickly. So I promptly forgot to get anything to eat, only drank one cup of HEED, and left my lights, and long sleeve shirt in my drop bag.

Footbridge-Porcupine (30-48)

I left Footbridge just as Duncan was getting there and took off trying to make a little time. The thing is, I know better than to start racing only 30 miles into it. There is way too much time still, especially for me. Some guys can race and redline right from the start. Not me. So I took off trying to make some time. My blister was really starting to hurt, the protective duct tape had come unstuck a bit and was acting more like a saw blade to my ankle, and it was getting hot. About this time I saw Cory Hanson out in front of me and decided I'd try and catch him, which I did. In the process I failed to drink enough, and then I took a shot from a new flask of EFS that didn't turn out to be so new at all. Turns out this was an unopened flask from Wasatch of last year. I'm not sure what the shelf life of these things is, but it seemed like this one had run out. I took one nip and about lost it. From that point until 2 miles before Porcupine, the wheels kind of came off. Cory passed me within minutes, followed immediately by Duncan and his pacer, and as much as I tried to keep up, they kept getting farther and farther away. I decided it was time to settle down and re-group, and I started walking. I don't think I ran a step from a couple miles past the Narrows (mile 35) until just before Porcupine and the turn around. I made good time hiking, and tried to catch up on everything. I also put on my headphones which helped to distract me, and also got rid of that D national anthem that had been running through my head ever since the starting line. I sat down at Spring Marsh and had a cup of broth and coke, then sat down again at Elk Camp and had the same concoction with the addition of a couple of peach slices with some canned peach syrup. WHOA!!! I had never had that before on a race and it was like nectar from the gods. I left Elk Camp rejuvinated and even with having a crappy 3 hours and walking so much, I kept reminding myself that I was only 15 minutes behind my splits and I was still making good time. About this time, Mike Wolfe passed me on his way back down. He looked fresh, he was leaning into the turn and he was flying!! I crested the final hill before Porcupine and my favorite Emergency Playlist song(I won't say what it is so as not to give away my playlist) blasted through my headphones. Perfect timing!! If anything was going to get me to start running, this was it. Unfortunately, there was a huge swampy meadow to pass through at this point but who cares! I turned up the music and splashed my way through the muck. At Porcupine I weighed in and was 5 pounds down. Crap! I think the scale was off. The aid station volunteers asked how long it had been since I had peed and I realized it had been about 5 hours. Not good. The volunteers exchanged glances and started handing me cups of Heed as I changed into some warmer clothes. I also downed another cup of broth, some hot chocolate and a Coke. This would become my aid station Trifecta for the rest of the race. Marge and Stuart were there to help me out again and Greg was there to run the last 52 miles with me. I spent too much time at Porcupine-about 15 minutes- but it was needed.

Porcupine-Footbridge (48-66)

Man, it was nice to have Greg with me. My foot was feeling more and more raw, but I decided not to do anything about it at Porcupine because I didn't want to look and see how bad it was, I knew I had many more miles of mud and snow to go through, and mentally I just needed to keep moving. Greg was a perfect pacer. He didn't push too hard, but reminded me to run when I should have been running. Every 25 minutes, my timer would beep reminding me to eat. I would try to shut it off before Greg could hear it, but he was insistent and I always managed to get something down. I got a new flask of EFS at Porcupine and this was perfect to take a nip of. Much better than the rancid one I picked up at Footbridge. We made (what I thought) good time to Elk Camp, turning on my headlamp 10 minutes before we got there. Luckily I had already navigated all the nasty swampy sections on the way up , otherwise, it would have been easy to get lost through this section. My feet were already soaked, but I still found myself trying to tiptoe around the bad sections. It must be some primal instinct to try and keep the feet dry. I got to Elk Camp, downed a Trifecta, and had more of those awesome peaches with the juice. Just after leaving, we heard what sounded like barking from the hillside above us. All the sudden I realized it was a herd of elk and they were barking, chirping and mewing as they moved across the hillside. If you've never heard how vocal a herd of elk on the move is, then you have truly missed a wonder of nature.
The next 14 miles went on forever. We would occasionally pass runners on their way up, feel their energy, and try and guess who the familiar faces were in the dark. Outside of this distraction, it was a long 3 1/2 hours and seemed to take longer than it should have. My hips and knees were really starting to ache, my foot was not being my friend, and mentally I kind of checked out for a while. Greg told me a few really bad Wyoming jokes, I told him a few of my own and we stopped for a few seconds to turn off our lights and gaze up at the pristine, unpolluted night sky. Another one of Nature's wonders.

About 2 miles before Footbridge Greg noticed a light bobbing along in front of us. We got closer and closer and pulled up on Cory Hanson who was struggling through the night. It was a cold night, and all he still had the clothes he had been running in during the day. He assured me he was OK, that he slowed down at night, and we pulled into Footbridge about 2 minutes ahead of him, putting me into 6th place. At this point I still had hopes of a 100 mile PR and a sub 21 hour finish.

Footbridge-Dry Fork Ridge (66-82.5)

I downed another Trifecta, grabbed another EFS flask and mentally prepared myself for the 3 mile, 2500 foot climb known as The Wall. At first it felt awesome to be climbing and not running. I actually felt pretty good through here, and tried to keep a steady pace. There were a few mud bogs to navigate (one of which reportedly sucked some poor woman's shoe off her foot last year and never gave it back. She had to one shoe it back to Footbridge and DNF) , a few flatter sections that were runnable and lots of steep climbing. I'm not sure how long it took to get up this climb to Bear Camp, maybe an hour. At Footbridge I was about 30 minutes behind Duncan, now it was about 35. I had some Hot Chocolate and broth(no coke available) and Greg pried me out of the chair. I lost track of the 5 drainages as we went from Bear to Cow Camp. I put my head down and tried to run, and that's all I could think about. We saw a light on a ridge a looong way off but it was way to soon to be coming to Cow camp. I kept seeing the light as we wound in and out of drainages, and it never seemed any closer. Eventually though, the light got bigger, and it was, in fact, Cow Camp. At this point, I started thinking that I might actually finish this forsaken journey. Cow Camp provided another Trifecta, Greg again pulled me out my chair and I don't remember anything about the next section until it started to get light. What a beautiful sunrise it was!!! Greg posted a stunning picture of us climbing up to Dry Fork Ridge on his Pacer report and that doesn't come close to a true representation. Even more amazing was sitting down at Dry Fork and taking my shoes off. My left foot was a mess. the blister was about an inch around, and the duct tape had done a wonderful job of creating numerous tiny blisters and cutting a circle around my ankle and across the top of my foot. At this point all I could do was laugh about it. The aid station volunteers were great and Marge was even greater as they got me fresh socks, a new set of shoes, a revamped and reinforced duct tape job, and a Trifecta.
I had been drinking and eating regularly since Porcupine in an effort to rehydrate and keep my energy up. As a result, I was again peeing every hour and feeling good. Then I weighed in. The scale read 185, and that was with my muddy shoes off. I was about 9 pounds up. Of course the volunteers started freaking out, which kind of freaked me out, until I told myself to calm down, the scale was probably not calibrated right. Still, for the next 18 mile the thoughts of hyponatremia, Acute Renal Failure and myriad other health complications kept me occupied. In fact, I found myself spelling out r-h-a-b-d-o-m-y-o-l-y-s-i-s in rhythm to my footsteps multiple times during the next few hours. Comical now, but not so much then.

Dry Fork Ridge-Finish (82.5-100)

After a very long 17 minutes at Dry Fork, I came out of the warm tent and started hobbling. I was COLD and my legs had stiffened up. I told Greg I would start trotting up the road and he could catch me. Off I stumbled, and a few minutes later, as I was "running" up the road, Greg caught up to me at a leisurely walking pace. I made some smart-ass comment to him and he started "running" by my side to try and make me feel better. At this point I no longer had any thoughts about sub 21, I was starting to think that 24 might be pushing it. My foot felt 100% better, but my knees and hips were those of a 97 year old. I was walking the ups, stumping the downs and lurching the flats. The one redeeming thing through this section was the sun. Beautiful, wondrous sun. It really does provide a mental and physical boost. For me it was mental, the physical was still to be found. We climbed the last ascent of the run at mile 87 and then I looked at the long 8.5 mile, 4000 foot drop in front of us. Roch Horton told me that he had run that section in 57 minutes last year. Feeling like I did, and seeing that long descent, I was ready to call him a liar to his face. I started picking my way gingerly down and then, a mile or so into it, my legs started to loosen up, my stride lengthened and two hours late, the sun finally gave me the physical boost I needed. IT WAS AWESOME!! I felt like I was 5 miles into a run instead of 90. I kept picking up speed until I couldn't hear Greg behind me. I was bounding over rocks, splashing through streams, laughing out loud. I felt so good I even ate a gel without my watch having to remind me to do it. As with all good things, this soon came to an end. I got to the bottom of the canyon with Greg a few seconds behind me. He had a look of bafflement on his face and started to laugh. I wish I had timed our descent because I think I may have made it in 57 minutes. I was a little depleted but still feeling better than in a long time, and was entertaining thoughts of a sub 22 finish instead of squeaking in a 24.
The final 6 miles were uneventful. We ran, then ran some more. We got to the start line with 4 miles to the finish and I saw I'd need a 7 minute pace to finish sub 22. Competitiveness can only take me so far, and I was NOT running 7 minute miles on a hot dirt road to finish this out. Luckily, Bryan Goding came riding by on his mtn bike (he had dropped at Dry Fork the day before) and kept us entertained and motivated to run. We came off the dirt road, crossed the bridge, into the park and around the bend to FINISH. 20:20:16.

This was in many ways the toughest 100 mile run I've done. Physically, mentally, emotionally.
I was not quite where I wanted to be fitness wise, and was definitely not ready for the long descents in the 2nd half of the race. Mentally, I checked out for the middle half of the race. I never quite got into the rhythm I was used to, which was due in no small part to the constant annoyance of my blistered left foot. In fact, from the time the sun went down until I started that last long descent, I was done with 100's. I was going to finish this one, and then resign. I had planned out my drop from Wasatch, checking out of the racing scene for a while and eating a lot of ice cream on the couch. Luckily (maybe not) it only took a couple hours post-race for those thoughts to fade. Now, I look at the Bighorn as a very long training run, in preparation for Wasatch. As I write this one week post Bighorn, my legs feel great, my mind is in a better state and I'm ready to get out and run again.

Thank you Brooke, Sam, Andrew and Kate for putting up with this obsessive, addictive behavior, and supporting me during this and other runs. Thanks Greg for enduring a long, quiet, 52 miles. I would still be sitting in an aid station somewhere if you hadn't been there to pull me out. Thanks Marge for taking such good care of me at the aid stations. Thanks David Hayes and Stuart Gleason for carpooling up and being such good company! Thanks Wasatch Running Center for supporting me. And thanks to all the volunteers and aid station people for making this race a success. I had a great time and plan on coming back again!!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Trail Conditions

Access the new Trail Conditions page by clicking on the link(s) below the main picture (sorry, if you are using an RSS feed to read this you will be unable to see it).

As soon as the temperature starts to rise and the hills begin turning green I want to hit the higher elevations.  I usually end up trying to go somewhere like Mt. Aire or Bear Ass Pass only to be turned around by too much snow.  I know that others have attempted the same path because I can see their footprints or post holes.  Now we can share what we learn and figure out the best options for what we have planned.  Interested?  Then read on.

Based on the feedback from the last post regarding a trail conditions page, I got something setup.  It's not the most glamorous thing in the world but it should work.  I struggled with the idea of doing a forum or something similar like a google group but I don't have the time to set it up and moderate it.

The original intent was to keep track of snow levels and when the higher elevations are runnable.  But after further thought I incorporated some other factors in as well such as mud, water x-ings, downed trees and overgrowth.  The last two could be used to target certain areas for trail work in the future.  Are you tired of always having to climb over that one tree?  If so then document it.

This is set up so anyone can record a trail condition without logging in and have it automatically populate a table.  I left some room in there to add hyperlinks to pictures that reside on a public site like Flickr or Picasa and a link to a map if available (not necessary though).  I also included space in the bottom of the form for a name (could be a link to you personal blog or such) and State and County for some of our friends residing outside of Utah.

If you have any questions or suggestions send them over to

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

In Case of Emergency Hit Play - Part 4

Summer is finally here.  Between the sweat in my eyes and the number of snakes I've seen around the Red Butte area it is abundantly clear, the heat is on.  

Which also gets me thinking about the Wasatch high country and how accessible it is.  It's always a question this time of year and sometimes I'm not willing to take the gamble and find out. Mostly for fear of not getting in as much running as I want and I usually have a limited amount of time.  This led me to an idea about having a trail conditions page, similar to the one The Utah Nordic Alliance maintains during the winter months.  Any interest?  I could set up a page where we list the snow conditions of trails located in the Wasatch.  Leave a comment if you think this would be useful.

Also, check back soon for a Bighorn 100 race report from Erik.

Now on to the playlist.  If you missed the reasoning behind the Emergency Playlist check out the first installment for an explanation.  Make a guess on who's playlist it is or just enjoy the tunes.

*Note: if you're using a feed reader to view this you will not be able to see the music player in each post.

AC/DC - Thunderstruck

Beck - Qué Onda Guero

G. Love and Special Sauce - Willow Tree

Jack Johnson - Holes to Heaven

Dave Matthews Band - Proudest Monkey

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Bighorn 100 Pacer report

(All photos Marge Norrander)

I had the honor of pacing Erik the last 52 miles of the Bighorn 100 this weekend. Erik finished 6th place overall in a time of 22:18. Mike Wolfe took first place and also set a new course record of 18:43. The course had a little snow but lots of mud and plenty of loose rocks to make sure you kept your eyes on the trail in front of you, which was hard with all the amazing scenery the Bighorn course had to offer.

This was a tough 100 for Erik, a very large blister had developed on his left heel 4 miles into the race which made climbing very painfull and the wet and muddy sections only added insult to injury. He was also dealing with very sore knees and hips even at the halfway mark. We didn't talk much after the first couple of hours and I didn't try to push him to much just kept him moving through aid stations and helping him anywhere I could. I could tell Erik was fighting internal thoughts of doubt that all 100 mile racers go through at one time or another. You know the questions, why do these races, what's the point, these 100s hurt to dam much. Not to be to dramatic or overly sentimental but I think we will find the answers to those questions as time passes and we remember the great moments overwhelmed at the time by the pain and struggle. For me those moments during this race was stopping for a minute and turning off the lights and looking at the brilliant Wyoming night sky, or running a amazing single track trail along the fast moving Tongue river with a good friend feeling terrible but loving every second of it.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

In Case of Emergency Hit Play - Part 3

Before I get to the next playlist in the rotation a few random thoughts.

Upcoming races: Erik is heading off to tackle the Bighorn 100 with pacing duties courtesy of Greg.  I expect to see Erik mixing it up at the pointy end of the field along with Jeff Browning, Joe Grant, Mike Wolfe and I'm sure a few others I've missed.  I'll post something this weekend as soon as hear how it went.

Also this weekend is the San Juan Solstice 50.  Locals include Greg Moellmer, Matt Hart and Mr. Shilling.  I'm really jealous of the folks heading down to southern Colorado as the San Juans are simply unreal.

Unrelated race news: My knee is quickly becoming a non-issue and I'm pretty much back to normal training with no pain, at least in the knee.  Now if I could just get my lungs and hips to cooperate.

Now on to the playlist.  If you missed the reasoning behind the Emergency Playlist check out the first installment for an explanation.  Make a guess on who's playlist it is or just enjoy the tunes.
*Note: if you're using a feed reader to view this you will not be able to see the music player in each post.

Bob Marley and Peter Tosh - Small Axe

Led Zeppelin - Ramble On

Rolling Stones - Sympathy for the Devil

Jane's Addiction - Strays

Gomez - We Don't Know Where We're Going

Sunday, June 13, 2010

In Case of Emergency Hit Play - Part 2

Before I get to the second installment of the Emergency Playlist I wanted to cover some of the activities from the weekend.  On Saturday a bunch of us got together for trailwork on the Butler Fork loop in Big Cottonwood Canyon.  The crew consisted of Jared, Greg, Jay, Rich, Tom, Cheryl, Pat, and Dan the Forest Service rep.  By the end of the damp work day Dan started calling us the "Wasatch Wrecking Crew", in light of the way we disposed of downed trees covering the trail.  Rewarding work, but I was pretty knackered by the end.

Sunday morning I ran with Jay, Greg and Matt Hart from just below Big Mountain over to Lamb's Canyon on the Wasatch 100 course.  We had a great time cruising along Alexander Ridge amidst the lush spring foliage.  Quite a contrast to the scene in early September...

On to the playlist.  If you missed the reasoning behind the Emergency Playlist check out the first installment for an explanation.  Make a guess on who's playlist it is or just enjoy the tunes.

*Note: if you're using a feed reader to view this you will not be able to see the music player in each post.
Van Morrison - Rough God Goes Riding

Speech Debelle - Spinnin'

Radiohead - National Anthem

Modest Mouse - Float On

Spoon - The Underdog

Thursday, June 10, 2010

In Case of Emergency Hit Play - Part 1

This series of posts was inspired by a conversation we had on the way back from the Pocatello 50 held over Memorial weekend.  It started with the question: "what would go on your emergency playlist?".  Assume for a minute you are cooked.  Tired to the core and feel like taking a nap on the side of the trail.  It could be during a training run, a race, or just simply some point when you're dragging ass.  What would you listen to finish off those last few miles?

Each of the MRC submitted 5 songs that should work better than a defibrillator for those times when each of us just can't get going.  Over the course of the next week or so I'll post a new playlist from each of us, but I won't tell you which playlist goes with which one us.  Leave a comment with your guess or just have a listen to something you may not have heard.  Valid guesses would be: Christian, Erik, Greg, Jay, Peter and Rich.

*Note: if your using a feed reader to view this you will not be able to see the music player in each post.

Nanci Griffith - Speed Of The Sound Of Loneliness

Van Morrison - Brown Eyed Girl

The Direction - Patchwork Me

Mary Chapin Carpenter - Shut Up and Kiss Me

Lila Downs - Tirineni Tsitski

Happy listening!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Land Between the Lakes - North/South Trail

I’m not sure where this adventure best begins. Perhaps a chronological history is most useful. You see - many, many years ago I used to be a cycling enthusiast. So enthusiastic that over the years I have ridden a bicycle across 47 states. Do the math – and you can see that three states are missing; they are Tennessee, Arkansas & Oklahoma.

This winter I decided I would like to like to make the claim that I have cycled across ALL 50 states. Fast-forward to this past weekend, where I had plans to ride across Tennessee. Several months ago I was invited to speak at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. As soon as I received the invitation, I knew this was the opportunity to extend the trip into a long weekend and scratch Tennessee off the list.

I had what I considered to be a most spectacular plan. Fly into Memphis and take Amtrak to Fulton, Kentucky. Day 1 - Ride to Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. Day 2 - Trail run. Day 3 - Ride south across the state returning to Memphis. However, sometimes the best-laid plans can go awry.

Two weeks ago I took a spill climbing in Zion. While my daughter described my fall as “ninja-like,” it did leave me with a hurt shoulder. To add insult to the injury, the following week I took a nice digger at the Pocatello 50 that resulted in a hard impact to the shoulder and bruised ribs. Desirous to be able to rollover in bed, wipe my ass, and be able to shift gears in my car again, I went to see my doctor.

Diagnosis – torn rotator cuff. Remedy – a cortisone shot and hopefully no surgery. And, absolutely no bike riding for 4 weeks… So, with just a couple of days before my departure to Memphis, I needed a new scheme. “Plan B” quickly took form – running the North/South trail through Between the Lakes National Recreation Area.

Click here for map of the north trail.
Click here for map of the south trail.

The trail seemed perfect. Fifty-eight miles of point-to-point trail traversing ridge tops, bottomlands, and the shores of Kentucky Lake. This was going to be fun!

I popped up early on the day of my adventure and was at the south trailhead at 6:00am sharp. I had aspirations of maintaining a moderately quick pace and completing the run in less than 11 hours. Yet, almost immediately my head became fixated on little irritations that prevented me from releasing my mind and getting into a rhythm; the endless cobwebs across the trail, the annoying tug of my shirt as sweat adhered it to my arms and shoulders, the buzz of mosquitoes in my ears, the drip of perspiration into my glasses, the weight of my waist pack due to the kit required for an 11 hour run, the Pop Tarts I regretted eating for breakfast (hey – this is KY – the options were limited). When I reached mile 14 after 2:45 minutes of plodding through a mental malaise, I knew I would be hard pressed to cover the entire trail that day in pleasurable form. By mile 20 I had decided that the heat, humidity, mosquitoes and ticks could prevail, and I would be content calling it a day at 28 miles where the trail crosses the main road. This was much less fun than I had anticipated.

When I reached the road I proceeded to try and hitch a ride back to the car. My instincts were that getting a lift would be easy. I was certain that a combination of empathy for a runner, coupled with my strikingly attractive Armani shirt and cute face (at least in my opinion) made me a highly desirable catch. Yet, 30 minutes went by with nothing. Then 60 minutes. I kept repeating to myself as I slowly dehydrated and baked in the sun, “It only takes one! It only takes one!” After 90 minutes I began to lose hope and self-esteem. What was wrong with these people? My patience was wearing thin. Anger and resentment surfaced when the Calvary Baptist Church van proclaiming in large Tahoma font emblazoned across the side that “Jesus Saves” passed me by. Yeah, Jesus may ‘save’, but how come he don’t pick-up no hitchhikers??

I was discouraged and became concerned night would fall and I could be still standing on the side of the road. I decided that if at 2 hours I had not caught a ride, I would begin running along the road back to my car trying to hitch as I ran. My thinking was that worse case I could run the 21 miles back to the car, and best case I was just a few minutes away from a ride. To make a game of this, I would count the cars that refused to pick me up.

After 11 miles and 106 CARS I said “f*ck this!” My shoulder hurt from having raised my right arm to extend my thumb several hundred times that day. I was sunburned and dehydrated. Evidence suggested that I must at some point deal with my false sense of attractiveness and appeal. And, some little son-of-bitch tick had already dug its head into my skin under the edge of my sock. An emergency response was required. I downed the Red Bull I had carried this far for such a moment. I peeled off the Armani shirt that perhaps was a contributor to my misfortune. I began to run hard. Oddly, the legs felt great. I timed myself with several mile-markers to find that I was running under nine minute miles. I felt good. I felt strong. Was this the same person that at 28 miles felt they had no gas left? I contemplated the paradoxes of ultra-running. How quickly we can transition from the lows to the highs – and back again. How there is always more in us when we know where to find it. The power of the mind over the legs. Finally, after six hours I had released my mind and was in a Zen place that I had been seeking earlier in the day. Before I knew it, I was back at the car after completing a 28-mile trail run, 2-hour hitchhiking effort, and a 21-mile road run. A diverse mix to say the least.

So for those of you who can get into your Zen place or are looking for a great trail in Northern Tennessee/Southern Kentucky give the North/South trail a go. Unless you love heat and humidity, this is a trail for spring or fall. The trail is well marked with white blazes, water is available at several points (from south to north at approximately 12, 28, 43 miles). Bug juice is recommended as the ticks and mosquitoes are ferocious. The trail is in good condition and super-speedy, and is just begging for a FKT attempt. Any takers?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Hydration - Platypus style

With the weather taking a turn toward the higher temperature ranges it seems like a good time to share a little hydration idea I've been using for a few years now.  The original idea came from my friend Leo who really liked using the Platypus bottles/bags for running.  I'll cover the many advantages after the how-to part.

1. Visit your favorite outdoor store and purchase, at minimum; a 17 oz. Platypus and some 3mm utility cord (usually found by the climbing equipment).  Don't hesitate to buy 4 or 5 feet of the stuff since it is only .16 a foot. Platypus now makes a friendlier top for the bottle, similar to the Ultimate Direction kicker valve on a more expensive bottle, but I opted for the cheap top that you have to purchase extra.  I also picked up a cord lock so I could cinch it up and keep it tight on my hand.
Platypus bottle: $7.95
Push Pull top:  $2.95
Cord Lock:  $1.25
3mm cord:  $0.48
Total:  $12.63

2. Use a hole punch to make four holes in each corner of the Platypus.  If you don't have a hole punch available try using a hammer and big size nail.  The trick is, you want to create a hole without making lines like you would if you were using a razor.  The lines will spread and eventually break out the sides.

3. Take your utility cord and route it through the holes.  Get creative and try some different patterns.  On my first Platypus I did a cross on both sides, which was a bit much.  I'm going with the single cross on this new one.
Old style Platypus:
From 2010-06-03 Platypus How To
New style Platypus:
From 2010-06-03 Platypus How To
The general idea with the utility cord is to make it a little easier to hold without thinking about it too much.

4. Add the cord lock or tie it off in a knot and cut the loose ends.  After cutting the loose ends make sure and burn them so they won't fray (just hold a lighter about a centimeter below the cut and it will melt).

Now I will explain why I like this better than a standard handheld.
  1. When it is empty you can fold it up and carry it without using your hands by stuffing it in your waist pack or hydration pack.
  2. No sloshing.  You can easily squeeze the air out as you drink and not have the incessant sloshing going on.
  3. If am carrying my hydration pack it is much easier to use the Platypus to fill up at mountain springs than it is to fit the bladder in a tight area.
  4. If you're concerned about weight it is lighter than a handheld.
  5. Easy to add accessories like a piece of cloth to wipe the sweat off your brow (Jay has done this with success, pictures please).
  6. When it's filled with water you can use it as a pillow, try that with your handheld!
Take it or leave it, it is simply an alternative to what's out there.  If you have come up with some other form of hydration we would love to hear about it, tell us about it in the comments.