Sunday, December 25, 2011

Sorting through My Life's Debris

Mt. Mitchell Challenge 2010 - Summit

Merry Christmas to all, and sort through all your accumulated rubbish. Well that is what I have been doing. My work is mostly all manual labor that really requires two arms, or at least I'm not good at doing it single handedly yet. So sorting through my rubbish seems like a good thing to do with one arm. I would definitely be considered a pack rat. I have kept remnants of my life from early childhood until present. I can't help thinking that I'll want to look the items again someday. Sorting through this has rather confirmed that assumption. So below is some of what I have learned in my perusing my life mementos.

I've forgotten a lot of my life. I found ticket stubs of concerts, sporting events, trips, etc. that I barely remember or don't remember at all. Plus photos and news clips of events I'd long misplaced in my mind. These items would bring a nearly dead neuron back to life with the a unique memory of that time, or at least some false memory I like better. So maybe I'll keep most of these bits of neuron reviving hardware.

If it's still useful, but you're not using it, maybe give it away. Someone might really appreciate my junk. Give to Goodwill, Salvation Army, friends, kids of your friends, kids you coach, whoever. I'm not the best at gift giving, or receiving. I just don't really need much, I definitely don't need more junk. I also don't see the point in getting some random thing for someone. I prefer to get or give something useful or meaningful or nothing. So this week I gave Cory some of my junk for Christmas, here's the list:
  1. A semi-dirt covered can of beer I found in the woods while running earlier this week. Comedy for us.
  2. A single sock of his from a year and half ago I acquired while we were "water tower adventuring." Another good memory, plus don't know if Cory still has the match, but if not it'll unite with another unmatched sock.
  3. A recycled Christmas card. I don't often do real cards, but I do sometimes give someone a card someone else gave me. Just mark through their name and add mine. It's alway better if something good was written in the card.
  4. A pair of La Sportiva Raceblade shoes. I took them off and gave them to Cory after the run we just did on some muddy trails. I wasn't sure when I'd ever make good use of them and they only had 12 miles on them including that day's run.
  5. A pair of Terramar gloves. I actually bought these as Cory had borrowed a pair of mine for a run and really liked them, but is too cheap or anti-gear to buy any for himself.
Cory is strange, kind of like me. You wouldn't know he is just meeting him or being around him sometimes, but if you get to know him, he's strange. Cory doesn't care for gifts much, he said these were spot on gifts for him. Additional Cory info, he basically said recently that his gift to me was running with me and give me his time. I really appreciated that, but both of us agreed that most people would not like hearing him say that to them. For those of you who don't know, Cory is a 22 year old former high school runner that I coached. So lesson two for me was give it away.

My final lesson that I'll share is random mementos reminded my why I live like I do and what I
enjoy about running. Almost all good memories are connected to people for me. Notes, cards, and news clips from or about the kids I've coached remind me of the impact coaching has on
them. Running and racing with friends is one thing I love about my sport. Yesterday, I went to a road 5K to watch a friend and her daughter run. I was watching Stacey race when a guy asked if I had run Salem Lake 30K. At first I didn't remember. He said you let me beat you at the end, you ended up pacing me, and he ran his 30K personal best. I did remember then. I was running it as workout wanting to click off steady 6:10 to 6:15 miles. This guy was running hard going for a best time. It didn't make sense to run with him for 3/4th of the race comfortable and then sprint away from him at the end when he was laying down a max effort. I did remember rather enjoying pacing him. It was good to know that he had remembered that as a good memory too. By the way, Anthony Famiglietti, a two time Olympian and six time US Champion, was there. It was cool to meet him, plus see him interacting and encouraging the runners of all ages.

I enjoyed looking through memories of my running life, seeing things I'd kept from big races and travels. On the personal level, running is about being free, exploring my world far and near, exploring my body's possibilities and limitations, and just being several notches off the normal(see my dumb bio in newspaper clipping). I need to be reminded of my joys while waiting on the arm to heal. Plus after a couple of years of pushing my body in training and racing, I probably needed the break mentally and to renew that internal fire.

Other tidbits:
Alison's quote out of context, said to me: "At least you don't give me any gifts."

A Cory quote out of context: "I've experience about everything." Already at 22.

Arm update: Still broken ;) Last doctor's visit showed that the bone has not healed any yet. Kind of a bummer. Doc said it was not surprising with the severity of the injury. The range of motion is still rather limited as well. I'll try to post soon about what happened and my lessons learned. Thanks for the comments and encouragement on the last posting.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Reports of my Beheading were Somewhat Exagerated

One Man's Pass - Ireland

It's been a while since my last post. Oh well? I've written some stuff, but never got it posted. I'll
give a quick update for anyone who still checks or stumbles across my blog. The first half of the year was good running and racing. I raced in Slovenia in June at the World Long Distance Mountain Challenge. It was a beautiful place and a purely awesome race, as in brutally difficult. The race was 23.3 miles and was my slowest average pace in any race ever, ultra or not. (I did a write up for La Sportiva on the race.) In July, Alison and I traveled to Ireland for the IAU World Trail Championships. We got in some nice runs in the northern part of Ireland in the days before the race. Then the race was another brutal one, just as I like it. Still my average pace was faster than Slovenia even though the Ireland race was 44 miles. (Again here's the full write up for La Sportiva, if you're bored.) My back started going bad through July and I limped in on the
La Sportiva Mountain Cup. I hung on for 4th in the Cup, but in a sad looking way. Then began the DNFs. UROC 100K in a Virginia was supposed to be the focus race for the fall, but the bad back made me the first DNF of the day, I think. I still had a good time watching the race and cheering friends. I then went to North Face Atlanta 50 Mile a few weeks later for another DNF. I fully expected this one, though I lied to myself in the weeks leading up to it. I had already entered. Alison was running, so we were going regardless. So I figured I'd just as well to start, plus a good friend, Ryan Woods, was running. I went out easy, but that had no positive effects on my back. I regrouped, did some small, short distance, more local races at the end of October. Then broke my left forearm pretty bad on Nov. 2. I'll post a photo at the bottom of this post. DO NOT SCROLL DOWN IF DON'T LIKE TO LOOK AT TRAIN WRECK LIKE STUFF. YOU'VE BEEN WARNED!

My doctor just said it was okay to start running again after 6 weeks off. So I ran Thursday and Friday. Then raced this morning at a 5K at Pilot Mountain State Park. It was an uphill trail race. I was second. Maybe good motivation to get my fitness back on track. My up coming races on the schedule are a snowshoe race at Beech Mtn. in January, Uwharrie 20 mile in February, and Nueces 50 Mile in March. Probably not much in between. Nueces will be my main goal, hope to run fast and see what happens.

Other updates, I got the head coach position for XC and Track at Surry Central HS this summer. I felt really good about our Continental Divide Trail Race. It was very competitive for the men and I think went well overall. I did a lot of gypsy moth hunting this year, over more really tough terrain. I did have a guy pull a revolver on me. That was the first time I've ever really felt in danger of being shot. The guy was mentally unstable. One minute I didn't see any gun, then the next he's holding one in his hand and waving it around. Another day I almost laid down on a rattlesnake. That's gypsy moth hunting.

Hopefully I'll become a regular at posting on my blog. We shall see.


My somewhat broken arm

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Training Weeks of February 27 - March 20

Week of February 27

Total mileage: 70
Races: Nueces 50 Mile 3rd 6:51.35

Sun - Off

Mon - Morning 4m @7.29; Afternoon 5m @8.00 Total - 9

Tue - Afternoon 7m - Track Tempo 3m - 17.15 (5.45, 5.46, 5.43) Total - 7

Wed - Off

Thu - Lunch 4m @7.57 w/ Cory Total - 4

Fri - Off

Sat - Morning 50m - Nueces 50 Mile 6:51.35 - 8.14 Avg. Total - 50

Week of March 6

Total mileage: 10
Bike: 22
Races: None

Sun - Off

Mon - Off

Tue - Off

Wed - Off

Thu - Afternoon 7m @~7.30 w/ Cory Total - 7

Fri - Afternoon 3m @~7.30 Total - 3

Sat - Afternoon - Bike 22m @19.8 mph

Week of March 13

Total mileage: 5
Bike: 136.5
Swim: 2
Races: None

Sun - Afternoon - Bike 15 @17.8 mph

Mon - Morning - Bike 12m @19.2 mph; Afternoon - Spin Bike 25 minutes(=8m)
High Spin(120 rpm)-Climb workout Total Bike - 20

Tue - Afternoon 5m @7.38 w/ HS guys Total - 5

Wed - Morning - Swim 1m @33.52; Afternoon - Bike 23m @ 20.4 mph

Thu - Afternoon - Bike 10m @ 21.1 mph

Fri - Morning - Swim 1m @33.42

Sat - Morning - Bike 68.5m @20.1 mph

Week of March 20

Total mileage: 30
Bike: 16
Swim: 1
Races: Bel Monte 25K 2nd 1:59.33

Sun - Afternoon - Swim 1/2m @17.20

Mon - Morning - Bike 16m @ 20.4 mph; Evening 5m @~7.26

Tue - Off

Wed - Evening 8m - Track Tempo 3 1/2m - 20.13 Avg. 5.46 Total - 8

Thu - Off

Fri - Off

Sat - Morning 17m - Bel Monte 25K - 1:59.33

I thought I should get my training up so everyone can see how messed up my training gets sometimes. The right ankle/foot issues from Nueces have been a bit worse than I would have hoped. The pain is on the inside part of the ankle and runs down into the arch of the foot. Running can irritate it significantly. Biking bothers it somewhat and swimming sometimes. Then again it hurts just walking sometimes and definitely hurts some working at the nursery. By two weeks after Nueces, it didn't hurt while running or biking, but would be worse afterward. It was feeling much better last week, almost well. Of course I took a lot of time off. Then I ran Bel Monte. The foot starting hurting a little two miles in and progressed to quite painful by 40 minutes in. The race was quite fun otherwise. Ryan Woods and I ran together for the first 10 miles or so. We were running comfortable(other than my foot) and talked throughout the 10 miles. Everyone seems to think I did most of the talking. Ryan talks a bit too when we run together. Coming down Torrey Ridge trail before the drop off the mountain, Ryan decided to go by and secure the win. He broke Aaron's course record with 1:56.04. I got in under 2 hours with 1:59.33. I think we are the only three to run under 2 hours. I was surprised to run that fast with how we ran the first 1:06. I think both of us could have run several minutes faster, that's only conjecture though. It was fun hanging out afterwards. Alison ran and finished second to Annette Bednosky. Alison hadn't run for 9 weeks, but got in a couple of days the week before the race. We hung around to see my friend, Mark Lundblad, break my 50 Mile course record by about 40 seconds. A fun day.

I've been icing my foot a lot. I found a walking boot and have been using it as much as I can this week. I've been using a lace up brace to work. I've done some laser treatments and DMSO. I'm doing a half-marathon in Boise this weekend, part of the La Sportiva Mountain Cup. I think I'll be fine, it'll just hurt, right?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Neuces 50 Mile - Back to racing smarter.

Nueces River along the course

Saturday was Nueces 50 Mile, the USA 50 Mile Trail Championship. I had decided to do Nueces after doing Bandera 100K in January. The trails in that area of Texas a fairly technical, being rather rocky. Technical trails help me hang with the faster guys, as I have no true leg speed (look at my personal bests along the right side). I had taken some chances at Bandera with

going out faster than I knew I could sustain. You've got to take chances sometimes, but oncemay be enough. I tend to know my abilities all too well, not many surprises. I was in a world of hurt at Bandera for the last 30+ miles and had no intentions of repeating the experiment at Nueces. I had multiple pages of course breakdown to compute pace over each section of the course. Using the profile map, I figure my time on segments down to 1 tenth of a mile in places. I had hoped to hit pace for the first two loops of the three loop course. Then I hoped to run a faster third loop, but at least not do the trudge of death to the finish on the third loop.

Alison and I drove over from San Antonio on Friday, the speed limit on the two lane road was
70. Then a turn onto a rough dirt road with 8 miles to the race site. It was rolling scrub brush countryside. The land was dry, then we came to the river by the race site. It was still dry all around, but a nice spring fed river cutting through it. We meet up with friends throughout the evening, did the pasta dinner, and hit the bunk house.

The 6 am start required a headlamp with the temp around 40. Soon a guy doing his first ultra was out front and pulling away. Dave James gave chase thinking it was Jason Schlarb, but Jason was back with a group of us that hung together through the first aid station. Alison was at one of the aid stations and said the front guy had no bottle, plus was taking very little fluids or fuel at the aid stations. Dave said he had advised the guy to fuel more. I was right with Steven Moore, a top local runner who I ran with a bit at Bandera. I don't have very good night vision and ended up turn my right ankle a couple of times in the dark, once pretty significantly. Several of us did a bit of talking about who all was there. After the first aid station was my favorite section. It was a rough trail that Joe, the RD, had cut cross country to link over to another trail. I passed a few guys and pulled away slightly. Then out onto a fireroad and the parade went by. Jason Schlarb went by first and I looked at his compact, efficient stride. I knew then that he'd be tough as I watched him run out of sight. Then Steven Moore, Jack Pilla, and Jeremy Pade. Back onto some single track trails and I passed Jeremy and caught up to Steven at the next aid station. All four of us were close through the first loop. Mostly it was Steven and I running together, so of course he got to hear a lot of talking. We did the first loop in 2:13.36 with first place 13 minutes up.

The second loop Steven, Jack, and I ran together mostly. I enjoyed the company as we all talked

some, okay I probably talked most. I really wanted to hold pace for second loop. As we hit each aid station, I saw that we were holding pace well. I thought that some guys have to be starting to slow some now. At the biggest climbs around 10 miles into the 16.67 mile loop, I was still climbing well on the second loop. That was great as my back is almost 100% and I'm finally starting to climb well again. I pulled away from Steven and Jack some, but they pulled back close on the descents. I left for the third loop with a 2:14.34 split for the second loop. I was pleased with that. The first guy had dropped, I believe Jason and Dave were still about 12-13 minutes up. Jack was with me leaving and we stayed close to the first aid station of the loop. I had slipped off pace a little to this first aid station. I hit the rough, primitive trail well and was now on my own. The right ankle was starting to hurt and I really had to concentrate not to limp any. I had slid off pace more at the second aid station but had closed some on Dave to about 8-9 minutes. If I could run the last 7.2 miles in an hour, I'd still hit 6:46. Then I hit the big climbs again and had to walk on steep parts this time. That really added some time, 4+ minutes on this section compared to the other loops. At the last aid station 2.25 miles out, I knew I wouldn't catch Dave. I took a little extra time there, thanked the volunteers, and apologized for being a frantic psycho most the day. I finished up in 6:51.35. Jason Schlarb won in 6:28.26, Dave James took second in 6:43.24. That is my 7th third place finish at a trail or ultra USATF championship with 4 times being under the previous course record. Not even the bridesmaid like Dave James, I'm the other random person you ask to be in your wedding party. Hey, at least I was at the party. Steven Moore caught Jack Pilla in last mile to go 7:00.07 and 7:01.01. Jeremy Pade also got under the previous course record for 6th in 7:14.45 and Liza Howard set a new women's record with the win in 8:09.59.

I faded the last loop, mostly the last hour, with a 2:23.25 final split. The right ankle was fairly sore afterwards. It was tough to put a shoe back on after the race. Then it hurt as soon as I moved it Sunday morning, before I even put my foot on the floor. The hamstring on that leg is sore from compensating I think. I think both will snap back quickly. Otherwise, I don't feel to bad. This race definitely proved to myself that I prefer running smart/even. I think I'll be back to finishing races strong again soon as I get more healthy and fit. The Crosslite 2.0 really worked well. This was the first time I've done an ultra in a racing shoe. Most don't provide enough support for me, this shoe is awesome, support in the right places, flexible everywhere else. I've really enjoyed the courses at the two Prusaitis races, tough technical trails. And I appreciate the new friends met at the races.

Me, Dave James, Jack Pilla, Steven Moore
Some great guys, as well as runners.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Training Weeks of February 13 - February 20

Week of February 13

Total mileage: 57
Races: Pilot Mountain Payback Marathon 1st 3:05.56 CR

Sun - Off

Mon - Afternoon 8m @7.24 Total - 8

Tue - Morning 4m @7.50; Evening 6m @7.43 Total - 10

Wed - Evening 6m slow w/ Abran marking the PMPB course Total - 6

Thu - Afternoon 4m slow w/ Stacey Total - 4

Fri - Afternoon 4m @7.15 w/ strides Total - 4

Sat - Morning 25m - Pilot Mtn. Payback Marathon(24 miles) 4400' climbing
3:05.56 - 7.45 Avg. Total - 25

Week of February 20

Total mileage: 60
Races: Hardcore Serious Trail 10K 2nd 42.15

Sun - Off

Mon - Evening 10m @7.35 Total - 10

Tue - Morning 4m @7.36; Evening 8m @~7.30 Total -12

Wed - Morning 4m @7.29; Afternoon 8m - Hills- 830m@5.23 pace, 700m@5.23 pace,
565m@5.17 pace, 320m@5.00 pace Total - 12

Thu - Afternoon 8m @~7.34 Total - 8

Fri - Afternoon 8m @~7.20 Total - 8

Sat - Morning 10m - Hardcore Serious Trail 10K(~7m?) 42.15 Total - 10

There is a 7th grader who runs with our high school group some named Elvis. His older brother ran at the high school a couple of years ago and Elvis started coming with him this summer. A week or so ago, Elvis asked if anyone has ever run across all seven continents. I said I didn't know of anyone, but I wasn't sure. Elvis said he wants to be the first and asked if I would help crew him. He said that he wanted to be an ultra runner when he gets older. After a little more conversation, he asked me, "Are you an ultra runner?" Yes Elvis, I am. He had been looking on the internet about various extreme running adventures. I'd say most, if not all, of the kids I work with wouldn't know I was an "ultra runner." They just know I run longer races than normal, they're busy being teenagers. It was a fun conversation with Elvis. He asked what I thought of his future plans and if they were crazy. I told him to keep dreaming big things and imagining what it'd be like to do them. Crazy dreams keep us smiling.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Pilot Mountain Payback, Turned into a Race

Last Saturday was the 2nd year for the Pilot Mountain Payback. A friend Abran Moore is the race director and does a great job with the race. I met Abran to help mark some of the course on Wednesday evening. It was cool to hear how he started running just a few years ago and has already put together a new race. The course runs over most of the trails in Pilot Mountain State Park. The start is down next to the Yadkin River. After a short loop in that section the course follows the Corridor Trail which is narrow strip of the Park cutting through the countryside over to the main section of the Park at Pilot Mountain. This trail is a wide groomed trail that is also a horse trail. At around 8 miles the course heads onto the Mountain Trail, the only "real" trail portion left at Pilot Mountain. It is 2.5 miles of most steep climbing on rocky trail with some tight laurel thicket sections. The rest of the trails are groomed, crushed gravel. There are several steps going up to the summit and around the knob, then rock steps back down to Grindstone Trail. Grindstone drops steeply in sections back to the park office where the course takes the Grassy Ridge Trail back to the Corridor Trail and back to the finish. The Corridor and Grassy Ridge Trail are constantly rolling up and down hills. My GPS watch had the race gaining 4457' in elevation and the distance as 23.5. The distance is probably close to 24 miles. Here's a link to my GPS data for anyone interested:

So on to the actual race. I am running Nueces 50 Mile on March 5 and was hoping to do PMPB as hard long run. The race is just ~15 miles from my house, but I was surprised at how many people knew who I was. It was nice to have several people cheering me by name during the race. My area is far from a running mecca. Warming up I saw Josh Wheeler, but he was there for the half-marathon. At the start, I got out just enough to check bibs for who might be marathoners. Just one tall, really lean guy was a marathoner. After a big climb and descent to 3/4 mile, several half runners and the lean guy started to pull away. I was just thinking to stay steady and relaxed over to the mountain section. The Mountain Trail is through open woods and as I neared the top I was surprised that first place was still not in sight. I would normally expect to close the gap on a big climb. I had forgotten to look at last years splits before the race, but thought I was running well, thought I was climbing well. At the summit, I heard that I was between 2 and 3 minutes back of first place. I began to reanalyze my race plans. With Nueces in two weeks, how hard did I want to work. To be honest, I felt a little pressure to win being the local and hearing folk's encouragements. I had already planned to go down the mountain fast and free, something I've really worked on in the past year. I continued to question how hard to go over the next twenty minutes, but planned to push a little on two miles of Grassy Ridge, then go harder from 7 miles out.

Nearing the bottom of the mountain someone said I was only 30 seconds back. I assumed they were wrong, but about a mile from the park office the lean guy was coming back to the course after missing a turn. I was relieved. I figured that I should be able to go by and cruise home. I planned to stay steady and I'd break away shortly. As I began to set the pace, he laced on. It appeared that I was climbing easier and descending the steep hills better, but I could tell he had more true leg speed on the flats. The two miles of Grassy Ridge clicked by and the lean guy was stuck to me like glue. I could tell he was working hard, but I could tell he was a racer. He was not going to break easily. As the Corridor trail went by, I surveyed my race strategy once more. I felt like we were standing toe to toe trading punches. I thought I was throwing more punches than him and hitting a little harder. But I questioned if I could keep throwing punches and could he take all my punches, throwing a final knock out. I pondered picking up the pace slightly at 4 miles or hard 2 miles out. Then at about 4 1/4 miles out we hit a long hill. About a 1/4 of the way up I felt him drift 10 yards back. My thoughts were to stay steady and keep climbing. I could feel him falling back more, listening for the sound of footfalls and breathing. No checking the shoulder. I think it is crushing to watch someone pull away and never give even a glance back. A mile latter on some switchbacks, I could see easily back up the trail and he was nowhere in sight. Now what would my new course record be. I finished in 3:05:56 compared to 3:15:15 last year. Compared to last year, I was 2:28 faster over the first 8 miles, 3:32 faster over the middle 9 miles, and 3:19 faster over the final 7 miles. When second place finished in 3:10:16, I noticed he was wearing a 100K World Cup shirt from 2005. He had run for the US Team. He was Mark Werner. I checked him out when I got home and he had a nice running resume. No wonder that he was so hard to break.

It turn out to be probably a perfect prep race for Nueces. The racing was good for the head and I didn't end up sore any. I ran very even which I hope to do at Nueces. I want to be much more of my typical strong finisher than I was at Bandera. I'd rather be hunting at the end of a race than begging for the finish line. It was great hanging out after the race, meeting some new folks and catching up with some others. The race was well done and I'd recommend checking it out if you get a chance. I was trying out the new La Sportiva Crosslite 2.0. They worked really well and I plan to do Nueces in them. Compared to the Crosslite, they are lighter and probably more flexible, but a little more supportive in the heel/arch area. They are also lower profile than regular Crosslites. So I haven't decided whether to do a trail 10K this weekend or not. What do you think?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Canoeing the Nantahala River - February '99

Coach Mitchell Running the Nantahala Falls '98

Life is surprising. Sometimes the most significant events in a person's life might seem ordinary to an outside observer. What is possibly the most significant event in my life, caught me entirely by surprise. It was a canoe trip on the Nantahala River. It was the moment I was standing cold and naked on the bank of the river. To be more accurate the precise moment was just after I put clothes back on, but it sounds more dramatic to say when I was cold and naked. I didn't see this event coming, but life doesn't always happen as one plans it. So here's the condensed version.

The Nantahala is a whitewater river in western North Carolina. I went there for first time in August of '98 with my high school running coach, who taught me to paddle. I was taught old school, open canoes, not kayaks, no floation. I liked the larger rapids and bigger waves on the Nantahala. At the end of the eight mile paddle is Nantahala Falls, a Class III rapid with a tricky entry and a significant hydraulic at the end. On that first trip I ran the Falls upright and fairly correct, but took on too much water and ended up “swimming.” I flipped the canoe. That was my first time “swimming” in my 8 years or so of canoeing. Coach Mitchell said it was good to finally see me swim, I wouldn't say I felt the same. I went back in February of '99 to conquer the river. You can guess that things did not go as planned.

It was cold, probably 30s, but the river is always 45 degrees as water is dumped into the stream from the bottom of Nantahala Lake on top of the mountain. If I flipped at the Falls, it'd be no problem as it is at the takeout. Fortunately, I was not so arrogant as to not prepare for the unlikely possibility of overturning on the eight mile paddle down to the Falls. I had a change of clothes stashed in a dry bag, just in case. I would not have fared well being wet for an hour or more in 30 degree weather. I set out on the two hour trip with the river all to myself. I rolled through Patton's Run, Pyramid Rock, Delebar's Rock. This river was far too easy, was the water low? I was ready to get to the Falls and conquer, find a more challenging river. Of course, that is when life happened in the form of Quarry, a rapid with some of largest waves on the river. And I had always tended to aim at the biggest waves or toughest part of a rapid. The canoe went half airborne, I had done that before. Only now, the wave kicked the canoe tilted to the left. I knew I was in trouble as soon as the canoe shot up out of the wave. I was out of the canoe and in the water immediately. The tame river just moments ago didn't feel the same as I grappled for paddle and canoe. Getting to the shore was a struggle, the current was strong and volume was high, not low. When my feet found riverbed, they were met with the jolt of stationary rocks as my body was now part of the fast moving current. I finally got to the shore about ¼ mile downstream. I was cold. I grabbed the dry bag and stripped naked. I was colder. I got dry clothes on, packed up the wet ones, dumped water, and prepared to return to the river. Then life really happened and I paused. I had the strangest feeling and even stranger thoughts. It took me a moment to identify the sensation. Then I recognized it, it was fear.

Honestly, I don't think I had ever experienced real fear, at least not since childhood. I was a good paddler minutes before, I was now a sloppy paddler. I didn't act on instinct, I thought, I doubted. I made bad strokes. I was actually not a very good paddler for probably a year. I'm probably still not as good. (Or maybe just a different paddler?) I questioned if I could even make it down river to the Falls. I questioned if I should go over the Falls. The fear grew, I was afraid of what life held for me. I became more fearful about life than about the river. And then I knew life was about to send me a rapid that I was not going to run dry. I was going to “swim.” I prayed a lot on the rest of downstream ride and not about paddling. I believe in God, so personally this experience was God's preparation for me to not get trapped in a hydraulic of life and drown.

For the next hour, I continued to question whether to run Nantahala Falls or pull out above the Falls, give in to the fear and go home safe. Most canoe paddlers don't run the Falls anyway. People are often surprised to see a canoe try the Falls. But another thought began to echo in my head somewhere, “I didn't come here to not go over this Fall.” I did run the Falls, but badly. I'm not sure if I even made a single paddle stoke to orient the canoe correctly toward the Falls. I never had a chance, I was sideway and rolled in the hydraulic like a novice. I did save the canoe from getting wrapped around a rock, but got my hand trapped between the canoe and rock. A couple of new scars to add to my work beaten hands. Deciding to run the Nantahala Falls, knowing I was going to “swim,” was one of my best life decisions.

A week later I was in the river of life, no longer riding on it. I think I swam for years, not a ¼ mile. But the more significant life experience was being on the river, in the river, cold and naked on the shore, on the river a different person, and “swimming” again. Not the Class VI rapid of life that I eventually survived. I tipped over the precipice on February 28th, the marriage downturn that led to Kathy's and my divorce. Not sure of all the life lessons that began that cold February day. I did eventually learn to deal with fear. I did learn how to “swim” when forced or warranted. I learned that I don't control life as much as I thought. I became more human. When describing this experience to a teenager in our church youth group shortly afterwards, he said, “Welcome to being human. Not to be mean, but its good to see you fall off your pedestal.” I said that I had never tried to be on a pedestal, but he said I was on one nonetheless. I was definitely not on a pedestal any longer. When nerves hit on the starting line of races or doubt creeps in during a race, I sometimes think, “I didn't come here to not go over this Fall. Sink, swim, or conquer.” I say this phrase to myself often with various life experiences. I did go back and run the Nantahala again, almost 7 years later in December 2006. This time Alison was shuttling me, last time it was Kathy. I promise to post that story in March, a little tease. That trip had more life lessons and two unique twist at the end.

My advice is: Of course, run the rapid. You never know what might happen. You probably won't die.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Training Weeks of January 23 - February 6

Week of January 23

Total mileage: 90
Races: none

Sun - Off

Mon - Morning 4m @7.47; Evening 10m @7.50 Total - 14

Tue - Morning 4m @7.44 Total - 4

Wed - Lunch 10m - 6 x Haynes Hill(1/4m ~8%) 1.33, 1.32, 1.32, 1.32, 1.32, 1.32;
Evening 6m @7..30 Total - 16

Thu - Morning 6m @7.53; Afternoon 11m @7.18 Total - 17

Fri - Morning 10m @7.32; Evening 6m @7.28 Total - 16

Sat - Morning 20m @8.34 at Stone Mtn. ~3000' climbing, ~6m in snow;
Evening 3m @8.13 Total - 23

Week of January 30

Total mileage: 40
Swim total: 1/2
Races: Uwharrie Mountain Run 20 Mile - 4th - 2:37.34

Sun - Off

Mon - Afternoon 5m @~8.00; Evening swim 1/2m @18.11 Total - 5

Tue - Afternoon 4m @7.23 Total - 4

Wed - Off

Thu - Afternoon 5m @7.25 Total - 5

Fri - Morning 4m @7.50 Total - 4

Sat - Morning 22m - Uwharrie Mountain Run 20 Mile(20.5) - 2:37.34 Total - 22

Week of February 6

Total mileage: 72
Swim total: 1
Races: None

Sun - Off

Mon - Morning 4m @7.46; Evening 8m @~7.50 Total - 12

Tue - Afternoon 9m @~7.25 Total - 9

Wed - Afternoon 9m - 4m progressive run w/Raul - 6.10, 6.05, 6.00, 5.47;
Evening swim 1/2m @17.45 Total - 9

Thu - Afternoon 8m @~7.25 Total - 8

Fri - Morning swim 1/2m @ 17.41; Evening 6m @~7.54 Total - 6

Sat - Morning 28m @~8.55 - Mt. Mitchell course(Rainbow Tr. to Steppes Gap and down)
~ 4000'+ of climbing w/ Mark Lundblad Total - 28

On January 29th I had a good run at Stone Mountain State Park. I was doing an easy long run up the mountain, about 1400' to 3400'+. It is about 6 miles from the trailhead to the Blue Ridge Parkway. The top half of the climb still had about a foot of snow on the ground which actually was fun to run in, especially coming down. On the way down, I wanted to run more free and condition my quads to downhill running. I was running 5.30-6.00 pace a lot of the last 3 miles. At the bottom I ran up to Wolf Rock and back to get 20 miles. I did a short 3 mile run that evening and felt fine. Sunday morning I knew I had screwed up. My quads were sore, the fast downhill running. I didn't think my legs were that de-conditioned to downhills, but I hadn't done any long downhills in a while. I chopped my milage back for the week, hoping I could get my legs back for Uwharrie Mountain Run. The first race in the La Sportiva Mountain Cup.

Jared Scott came out from Arizona and stayed with some friends of mine. He followed us over to the pre-race dinner. Sean Andrish was there and it was good to talk for a while. We talked about meeting up to do ultra sometime this year. Jared, Alison, and I drove over near the start to camp in our cars. A large truck pulled up shortly after we got there and guy came over. He said not to be alarmed by all the guys running around with rifles, they were doing a military exercise. It rained a good bit on Friday and some overnight. I did a short warmup with Ryan Woods and Scott Williams. The rain stopped just before the start, so the course was muddy and waterlogged. Within the first mile I was settled into 4th. I was by myself all day and never had legs. I was off, it probably cost me one place. Not knowing the course, I kept questioning how slow I was going. I knew I was a bit slow at the 8 mile road crossing. When I hit the aid station that said 17 miles, my increasing slowness was confirmed. Oh well. I had a good day running trails in the mud. I had been thinking about my running lately and it's place in my life and my faith. Here is a apocryphal story (not in the Bible) that I had read the week before the race:

One day Jesus said to his disciples: “I’d like you to carry a stone for me.” He didn’t give any explanation. So the disciples looked around for a stone to carry, and Peter, being the practical sort, sought out the smallest stone he could possibly find. After all, Jesus didn’t give any regulation for weight and size! So he put it in his pocket. Jesus then said: “Follow Me.” He led them on a journey. About noontime Jesus had everyone sit down. He waved his hands and all the stones turned to bread. He said, “Now it’s time for lunch.” In a few seconds, Peter’s lunch was over. When lunch was done Jesus told them to stand up. He said again, “I’d like you to carry a stone for me.” This time Peter said, “Aha! Now I get it!” So he looked around and saw a small boulder. He hoisted it on his back and it was painful, it made him stagger. But he said, “I can’t wait for supper.” Jesus then said: “Follow Me.” He led them on a journey, with Peter barely being able to keep up. Around supper time Jesus led them to the side of a river. He said, “Now everyone throw your stones into the water.” They did. Then he said, “Follow Me,” and began to walk. Peter and the others looked at him dumbfounded. Jesus sighed and said, “Don’t you remember what I asked you to do? Who were you carrying the stone for?” - Elizabeth Elliott

I thought about "who am I carrying the stone for" often through the race. Then late in the race I thought I should have picked up a smaller rock. That made me laugh at myself.

This past Saturday I drove up to Asheville to do a long run with Mark Lundblad. We ran a large portion of the Mt. Mitchell Challenge course. We had some snowy sections and few icy areas. I enjoy the added variety of surface. Mark is one of my favorite people to run with. We seem to have similar running styles and paces, which is nice. He either tolerates my talking or likes it. I enjoy the conversation. I think I had looked at my watch twice when I saw 2 hours. On the rare occasions that Alison and I run together, we barely speak. Really Alison prefers to run alone. On a run with Alison this past fall, I commented on her running faster when I'm with her. She said that she doesn't like people behind her. Knowing what she'd say, I said that I could get in front. Alison said, "I don't like people in front of me." Interestingly we talk a lot at other times, Alison just doesn't like to talk running. I run alone most of the time and especially most long runs. I hope to get together with friends for more runs this year and cut some races. I left Saturday's long run feeling recharged and I need more of that.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Training Weeks of January 9 & January 16

Week of January 9

Total mileage: 10
Swim total: 2 1/2
Races: none

Sun - Off

Mon - Off

Tue - Evening - Swim 1/2m

Wed - Evening - Swim 1m @34.46

Thu - Off

Fri - Afternoon 4m @9.42 at Pilot Mtn. SP; Evening - Swim 1m @34.09 Total - 4

Sat - Lunch 6m @8.51 Total - 6

Week of January 16

Total mileage: 89
Races: Charlotte Running Co. Trail Race 13.1 - 2nd - 1:24.01

Sun - Lunch 6m @8.05; Evening 4m @8.08 Total - 10

Mon - Afternoon 8m @8.15; Evening 4m @7.53 Total - 12

Tue - Morning 4m @7.41; Afternoon 8m @7.52 Total - 12

Wed - Afternoon 8m @7.42; Evening 4m @7.31 Total - 12

Thu - Morning 4m @7.43; Afternoon 8m @7.42 Total - 12

Fri - Morning 4m @7.39; Afternoon 6m @7.25 Total - 10

Sat - Morning 17m - Trail half-marathon @~6.27 avg.; Evening 4m @8.05 Total - 21

I believe that is the most sore that I have been after a race. I gain 9 lbs. in 24 hours, basically swelling I think. The swelling in my legs peaked on Monday morning. Not only did my muscles feel stretched but the skin in my calves got to feeling stretched. I lost about 3 lbs. on Tuesday, then lost the other 6 on Wednesday, returning to the same weight as the night after the race. Not all the soreness left until the 11th day. I was 147 on Sunday evening. I haven't seen that weight since an extended injury break in the early 2000s.

The Charlotte Running Co. Trail Half-marathon went okay. My legs were dull and had no pep to them. It was good motivation to do a long tempo effort. I went out easy in around 6th place. Kevin Lisska got an early lead of over a 1 minute and I was never able to run him down. He finished 1.13 in front of me in 1:22.48. It was a good day out some different trails, but races are getting so expensive. I think I'm going to have to cut back on races just because of entry fees!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Local Legend???

Running makes life interesting or maybe how I run makes life interesting. I think most people who run have more interesting lives. I did my second run last night after 11:00 pm in sleet and freezing rain. Yesterday's schedule got out of whack a little, but I wasn't going to miss my runs. I'm already known as the crazy guy who runs all the time. My family has been asked if I work, since I am seen running so often. Yes I work, I work for myself, so I run whenever, and wherever, it is convenient. So my running times vary, even late at night. It is kind of fun to be asked, "Was that you running at 1:00 am last week?" Yes. Well that story is from about 10 years ago. Hopefully I am working on the local legend that will be "that guy who has been running around here forever." Since my area is small and rural, there are not a lot of runners in the area. Plus most any guy seen running is assumed to be me. I seem to stand out though, bolstered by the fact that I run at odd times, in any weather, half naked, and all around the area. Also showing up in the local newspapers from time to time, the guy who runs absurdly difficult and long races, probably makes me a little more known.

I'm always hearing, "I saw you out..." or "Was that you...?" "Was that you running up Fancy Gap mountain? Or Oklahoma road?" Yes, both are about 20 miles from home. I should tell people I ran there and back, but I want the legend to be somewhat accurate. Of course if folks alter the story over time, I don't have to correct it. I am well known at Pilot Mountain State Park. I do call Pilot Mountain, My Mountain. I think all the rangers know me for running up the road to the top. I know I'm not the only person who does that, but probably the most regular. There are endless remarks about the conditions I'm seen running in or questions if I run in whatever the recent weather was. Yes, I run in any conditions, some I probably shouldn't. I'm a little extra crazy in that department. If it's time for my run, I go most of the time. Example from a couple of years ago when I ran through a massive storm. It was March 4, my sisters birthday, and I had a busy work day. So the run was at night after cake with family, just as a thunderstorm was said to be coming. At 4 miles it started to rain, then a flood hit with absurd wind. The rain and wind were so hard that I could not see both sides of the road, even with my strong headlamp. It was hard enough that the rain hurt significantly. This route is a loop where in the day I can see the road loop back by at the 6 mile point on the other side of a farm. (I'm known at the farm as it a summer water stop of mine.) When I got to 6 miles, there was debris all in the road and trees were down. The wind had torn 200' off a chicken house. I heard later that the chicken house was scattered over 60 acres. I also once tried to ride my bike through a storm that turned into tornado warning. I had to hitch a ride home for that one as I literally could not keep the bike on my side of the road, 60+ mph winds. These experiences make the comments about cold and heat downright laughable.

My experience back in November was one of the best, it was 60 degrees and a light rain was falling. I had run a few miles out from Dobson to do 1 mile hill repeats on Turkey Ford road. As I was running back down after the first repeat. I was stopped by a sheriffs deputy. Yes, pulled over while running. He asked who I was (how could he have not known?) and what I was doing. He seemed to ask expecting me not to answer. "I'm Jason Bryant and I'm running hill repeats." Someone had called about a guy in his underwear down by the bridge on Turkey Ford. Yep, that was me. I was shirtless in short running short. I have often heard that I was seen out in my underwear, many locals seem to think my shorts are underwear. Getting pulled by a deputy was a new one though. The deputy just laughed and said be careful. Hopefully, someday I will be the really old guy out in his underwear. Maybe when I'm old I will literally run in my underwear. And the legend grows.

This week a couple of students in Alison's class at the community college told her a story about me from high school. Before I had my own car I borrowed my moms. I would sometimes need it on a work day, but she'd need it after work. Mom would get a ride to work with someone. I would then drive the car to her work, leave it there for her, and run home. It was just somewhere over 10 miles, so no big deal. But I guess another "crazy runner" story about me.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Training Week of January 2

Joe Pursaitis, Co-RD, Dave James, Dave Mackey, Jason Bryant

Week of January 2

Total mileage: 77
Races: Bandera 100K 3rd 8:57.19

Sun - Afternoon - Swim 1m @34.44

Mon - Afternoon 9m - Track tempo 3.5m - 20.00 @5.43 avg.(5.44, 5.42, 5.42, 2.51) Total - 9

Tue - Off (Chiropractor)

Wed - Afternoon 6m @7.25 Total - 6

Thu - Off

Fri - Afternoon 3m walk/hike

Sat - Morning 62m - Bandera 100K - 8:57.19 Total - 62

Bandera 100K was host for the USA 100Km Trail Championship. I had this race on my race schedule since the fall, then 5 weeks ago it was made the championship. Since then the competitive field really expanded, Geoff Roes, Dave Mackey, Dave James, Chikara Omine, Dan Olmstead, Mark Godale, Steven Moore. The course was a two 50k loop course with short steep climbs and descents. The first 1/3 of the loop had three climb and was technical and rocky. The middle 1/3 was flatter and more runnable. The last 1/3 had 5 climb and was the most technical and rocky. My goal was give myself a shot at winning. So I had decided to take some risk and go out a little harder, which I did. I ran the first loop in 4:05 and I was 22 minutes behind the leader! Everyone when out fast. I didn't try to stay with anyone, which obviously I did not. I was just trying to hang it out there a little more for myself.

I ran most of the first loop in 6th, moving up to 4th in the last 10 miles of the first loop. At 50k Geoff Roes dropped so I was now in 3rd. My legs were not feeling good at 50k, but I thought maybe I got a shot if I can hold a reasonable pace. That thinking was short lived. I closed on David James to the next aid station and then I became a survivor. I had gotten about a 1 minute lead on Dan Olmstead near the end of the first loop. He stayed close to that throughout the rest of the race. He was often coming into the aid stations as I was leaving. I noticed that I was actually doing better on the more runnable sections, which is not typical for me. So I decided to try and gain an advantage on these sections so I could walk more of the climbs and descents. Obviously my quads were shot. The 2-3 foot drops off rocks and the super steep down grades in the last 10 miles were really rough on me. I actually spent most of the second loop tell myself that I would walk in, once Dan caught me. So the stubborn side of me tried to keep him from catching me. The mental games we play with ourselves in races? The second loop was 4:52, ouch. Most everyone slowed about 50 minutes on the second loop. Dave Mackey destroyed the course record by about 1 hour in 8:16.48 with the win. Dave James was second in 8:33.36. I was third in 8:57.19, and Dan Olmstead right behind me in 8:57.42. We were all under the last years course record, 9:16.

I have no regrets on taking the risk, I doubt it cost me a place. Plus I think I learned more about myself. More toughness, there is a limit to this right? Also if I could have run on flat, runnable ground, I could have run another loop and probable at ~8:00 to 8:30. I'm still pondering what that means; poor race fueling, pacing, training inadequacies? When I was in a group early in the first loop, someone commented on the fact we were racing for a top five. I said, "I'm not." I was racing to win. I don't care who is there, I'm not ready to surrender on the starting line. Maybe it's the stubborn, bull-headedness in me or my delusional view of my world. But I'm not going to start giving out congratulatory handshake at the starting line. I'll choose delusion at this point in my life and maybe I can steal a few more races.

Hope to see some of you at race soon. We can all be delusional.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Training Weeks of December 5-December 26, 2010

No Worries, Photo from December 2006
I was hit by pickup cycling. This is kind of how I started doing ultras.

Week of December 5

Total mileage: 80
Races: none

Sun - Morning 8m @~8.00 w/ dd and Paul; Evening 4m @7.40 Total - 12

Mon - Morning 4m @7.20; Afternoon 4m @~7.20 Total - 8

Tue - Afternoon 30m @7.22 Total - 30

Wed - Off

Thu - Afternoon 10m - 4 x 200, 200, 400(36, 36, 74 - 36, 36, 74 - 36, 35, 73 - 35, 36, 73)
= rec. Total - 10

Fri - Morning 4m @7.20; (Chiropractor visit); Afternoon 6m @~8.00 Total - 10

Sat - Lunch 6m @~7.45; Evening 4m @~7.45 Total - 10

Week of December 12

Total mileage: 62
Races: none

Sun - Off

Mon - Morning 4m @7.20; Afternoon 9m - Dobson Tempo ~3.4m @5.47 avg. Total - 13

Tue - Morning 4m @7.15; Afternoon 8m @~7.30 Total - 12

Wed - Afternoon 25m @~7.30 Total - 25

Thu - Afternoon 2m @8.16(Very icy) Total - 2

Fri - Afternoon 10m @7.40 Total - 10

Sat - Off

Week of December 19

Total mileage: 80
Races: none

Sun - Afternoon - Swim 1m @35.10

Mon - Morning 4m @7.20; Afternoon 10m @~7.15 Total - 14

Tue - Morning 8m @7.30; Afternoon 6m @7.30 Total - 14

Wed - Morning 4 1/2m @7.25; Afternoon 8m @7.35 Total - 12 1/2

Thu - Morning 5m snowshoe @9.12 - 5m run @7.57; Evening 4m @7.42 Total - 14

Fri - Morning 5m snowshoe @9.34 - 4m run @8.03; Evening 4 1/2m @7.26 Total - 13 1/2

Sat - Morning 12m @7.48 Total - 12

Week of December 26

Total mileage: 55
Races: none

Sun - Afternoon 8m @9.36 at Great Seal SP, Ohio in snow Total - 8

Mon - Lunch Swim 1m @35.46

Tue - Morning 4m @8.40; Afternoon 9m - Stanley Mill Tempo 3 1/2m @5.50 avg. Total - 13

Wed - Morning 4m @8.00; Afternoon 8 1/2m @7.35 w/ strides Total - 12 1/2

Thu - Off

Fri - Lunch 8 1/2m @7.23 w/ strides Total - 8 1/2 (Chiropractor visit)

Sat - Morning 9m @7.11; Evening 4m @~7.42 Total - 13

December Milage: 307

2010 Totals:
Run - 2797 miles
Bike - 363 miles
Swim - 3 miles
Canoe - 1 mile

Seven weeks with no races!!! What is wrong me me? Or right, some would say.

Bandera 100K, USA 100Km Trail Championship, coming up next Saturday in Texas. Probably not the most fit I've been in the last year, but the most healthy since March.

My back is much improve since November 12, had x-rays with my chiropractor. He found an odd kink at my L2 that was unnoticeable without x-rays. He was amazed by the 40 degree kink in my neck. He said that is still from getting hit by the pickup truck a few years ago, Dec. 27, 2006. As you can see from the photo, my face got slammed into a gravel driveway. The driver never saw me, he was doing about 55. I'm also trying to add a swim weekly to help my back, plus adding a couple more stretches for hip flexors and glutes.