Sunday, January 25, 2009

Running with Bill, Babes, and a Birthday Boy!

Annette wrote about a birthday run she went on this past weekend, and now it's my turn!

My good friend, training partner, and fellow VHTRC peep Quatro Hubbard turned 49 on Saturday. He came into town for the UVA/Florida State b'ball game and we planned to meet up with Bill, Bess, and Robin for a jaunt up to the AT from Sugar Hollow---one of my fave trails. Q brought along a friend, Stephi, who is going to Boston this April on a 3:40 BQ. She is also a 2007 JFK 50 finisher so I knew she would be cool with the 18 miles I had planned---at least I hoped so!

When I arrived at the Sugar Hollow parking lot, the gang was ready to go. I took the obligatory pre-run photo (above---there's my puppy Jack, Robin, Bill, Bess, Q and Stephi) and we were off. I was PSYCHED to have some new trail running friends along for this run, and we had fun making our way up the trail and across the streams, which were low and easy to navigate in dry shoes (at least most were). The photo below shows the group trying in vain to cross without total show immersion

while Bill finally showed us how it's done ultra-style:

and Q showed us the "tinky-toes" approach:

We hammered up to the AT on the 20-minute climb from the final creek crossing, running all the way up:

and celebrated at the top (that's the Trayfoot Mountain ridgeline in the background):

Bill, Robin, and Bess were planning to run up to the top of the Blackrock Gap overlook and back down to the cars for a 14-miler; Q, Stephi and I opted for the 18 circuit that took us south on the AT to Turk Mountain and then back to our cars. I ran this route many times last summer in prep for Grindstone, and neither Q nor Stephi had ever run this loop---later, Q commented, "Why have you been keeping this run a secret?" as he was having a blast on the sweet, runnable singletrack and fast downhills:

Actually, I blogged about this run last summer--when you add the extra 4 miles of the Rip Rap trail, you have the makings of a perfect mountain training run. It wasn't in the training plan to knock off a 21-miler after last weekend's 25 miler, but we will be back for Rip Rap---Stephi loved it as well and is hoping to break 3:30 at Boston, so Rip Rap will be a perfect prep long run for her, as it has 5,000 total feet of climb for the 21 miles---enough to make Heartbreak Hill feel like an ant hill, I would guess!

I brought Jack along for his longest run to date. He loved every minute of it and was very much a mama's boy, waiting for me at every turn. He is becoming a true ultra dog and Nuun ambassador (thanks for the bottle, Mikey Mason)!

Along the way we had glorious winter views

and came upon some serious beaver work-in-progress

At the end, the sun came out and we celebrated Q's big day with a rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday" in Greenberry's---the barristas were dancing behind the counter and the entire place sang along with us. Good times, good times with new and old friends on an awesome trail!!

Birthday shout outs to Keith Knipling and Mike Bur, who celebrate their big day tomorrow...but I am sure they celebrated appropriately today while at the Eagle Run. Here are all the birthday guys together after Keith's Ring CR last September--l-r, Bur, Keith and Q:

Monday, January 19, 2009

"I love thy rocks and rills..."

"And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!
Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!
But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring!"

Martin Luther King, Jr.

How I love Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, his call for racial equality and freedom, and his references to the glorious mountains of America! And how fitting that each year on the weekend that celebrates his birth, my VHTRC friends and I celebrate the freedom we enjoy as healthy, able-bodied trail runners to explore Virginia's Massanutten Mountain.

The annual VHTRC Martin Luther King weekend double is comprised of the first 50K of the MMT 100 on Saturday, and miles 39.8 to 64.9 of MMT on Sunday. I have never attempted the double, as I am always in recovery from Hellgate 5 weeks prior. But the party this year on Saturday night at Kerry's house in Front Royal was a treat---a chance to connect with old friends who live in New Hampshire, Ohio, Michigan, and North Carolina who made the trek for big miles in the Massanuttens.

Kerry is a gracious host and there is always plenty of food, spirits, and floor space for her fellow ultrarunners. I stayed up way past my bedtime yakking with Kerry, Mike Mason, Mike Bur, Keith Knipling, Quatro Hubbard, Deb and Steve Pero, their friend Gary, Kirstin and Tom Corris, Mike Dobies, Bob Combs, Bill Losey, and Moose...we talked about the current state of ultrarunning, the lure of Facebook, The Barkley, debated the Western States lottery issues, cool ultra websites, and whether running "several" 100-milers means two, three or get the picture. Basically lots of blabbering about innocuous stuff and nothing about serious topics like the current state of the economy, thank God. After all, ultrarunning is my escape from the real world and we need to keep it that way.

Tom and Kirstin hosted the Saturday training run that took place in single digit temps. They had 44 runners show and thankfully, no serious mishaps or issues with the cold. Runners provided their own drop bags that were shuttled to two aid stations, and were treated to a warm bonfire at the finish. Tom and Kir are very experienced at hosting MMT training runs and many successful MMT 100 finishers have credited these runs as the top reason for their finish.

On Sunday, we ran the "Gap to Gap" out and back run from mile 39 at Gap Creek to mile 64 of the MMT course. I started with the group (which numbered over 50 runners this year, above photo), but after running/walking the first sick, ridiculously rocky section on Kerns Mountain with Jill and Deb, I ran an alternative course that includes running down Waterfall Mountain. This section has been included in past MMT races but will not be part of the 2009 course. Nevertheless, I managed to convince Greg Loomis and John Casilly, both of whom will be running in MMT this May, to join me. We had a great time pointing out significant MMT landmarks for John, who is a MMT newbie, and pushing the pace up on the rocks at Bird Knob. (full disclosure: I DETEST the rocks of MMT but I try to tolerate them once a year with my best Shining Attitude).

Each runner is asked to contribute to the aid stash--there are three aid opportunities at Gap to Gap. The run is always expertly organized by Quatro Hubbard and Mike Bur, who make sure that others make donations to the bonfire firewood stash and to the post-run food buffet. This year I thought I made enough Brunswick Stew to feed an army but when we returned after 6.5 hours, all the stew was gone. Bummer! I heard it was well-received, though. year I guess I need to triple the already tripled recipe.

After the run, we warmed up by the bonfire telling dirty jokes, comparing the day's adventures, and sharing upcoming racing plans. Jim Beam made his usual appearance as well as hot chocolate and Jill Quivey's healthy recovery bars. Each year I always have the same reaction when I run into Gap Creek after 25 miles on the trails of Massanutten Mountain: "Thank God I am not running MMT---I HATE those rocks!" This year was no different--my body, particularly my feet, takes a beating on that trail. I am truly in awe of the folks who run MMT year after year. It may be beautiful, but is a brutal trail.

When I got home I curled up on the couch and watched the "We Are One" inaugural concert with Rusty. In my post-run weariness I got weepy at different moments, like when Tom Hanks read Aaron Copland's salute to Abe Lincoln, when Martin Luther King III reflected back on his father's "I Have a Dream" speech, when Obama addressed the screaming crowds on the Mall, and when the crowds sang "This Land Is My Land" along with Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen. And I really lost it when Josh Groban and Heather Headley sang "My Country Tis Of Thee," as my inner trail lover was reminded once again of the soulful lyrics from the second verse:

My native country, thee,
land of the noble free, thy name I love;
I love thy rocks and rills,
thy woods and templed hills;
my heart with rapture thrills, like that above.

Today and tomorrow, we celebrate history! Dr. King's birthday, the National Day of Service that commemorates his legacy of service, and the inauguration of Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States and our first African-American president. I am numb with emotion and hopefulness and overwhelmed by the significance of it all.

Perhaps the rocks, and the real world, aren't so bad after all.

More pictures from the run are here.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Off season is over---time to ramp it up!

I enjoyed my four weeks "off" from serious training and am ready to get back at it! This year I am not racing until the end of March, at the Terrapin Mountain 50K on March 28. The past two years I have raced Uwharrie 40 at the beginning of February, and each year I have had slower times from my first year in 2005 when I ran 7:47 and finished second overall. In retrospect, I realized that I had not given myself a sufficient off-season after Hellgate in December, so this year I took a substantial amount of time away from running long distances over the Christmas holiday, and instead slept, ate, relaxed, swam, and hiked with my family. It was really nice to not be following a training schedule but now I am itching to get started again, so that's a good sign!

Speaking of training plans...I have been asked to help two friends prepare for MMT100 this May. In no way do I see myself as an expert on 100s, but I do see myself as someone who can offer some advice and I enjoy sharing some of the lessons I have learned while training and racing for the big one. It's been fun to put together their training schedules and I am looking forward to seeing how they respond to the programs!

I am also very excited about being coached this year for Grindstone 100---I asked a 100 miler specialist to help me prepare for the 2009 race! I wanted a new perspective on what I had been doing in training and I believe there is always room for improvement. He is going to ask me to put in some big mileage weeks starting in April (6 months out) which I hope I can handle with work. We will see!

I am logging all my training on RunningAhead, a cool online training log. This past week I ran about 43 miles with a hill session, and next week will be 60+ miles with a fartlek and hill sessions as well as a long training run on Massanutten. I like this site because it has cool graphs like the one at the top, as well as a calendar format that allows me see the entire month at once.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

My goals for 2009

As promised, here they are (you will notice that while they are mostly ultra goals, there is also a smidge of the personal and professional in there, as my ultra, personal, and professional lives tend to reflect the others...):

In no particular order:

Train more effectively and efficiently by using the RunningAhead training log and by trusting my coach!

Rest more.

Break 15 hours at Hellgate 100K, weather permitting.

Improve my time at Grindstone 100.

Break 9 hours at Bull Run Run.

Spend more time with my kids, my hubby, my sis, my mom, and my friends.

"Let it go, let it roll right off your shoulders." (RT)

Be mindful and live in the moment.

Pay attention to what people are saying and not saying, and really listen.

Give more, take less.