Warning: the following words and images will allow you to vicariously see the world with the eyes of Sultan. Read at your own risk. The name Sultan has many meanings, but derives from the peak Sultan Mountain in Silverton, CO!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Nantahala Adventure Run v2.0

In 2007 a few friends set out for an adventure to run the entire Bartram trail in 4 days.  It was cold, painful, wet, hilly, and long.  The challenge shaped my trail running for years to come.  Along the way I noticed that the Bartram trail met up and partially overlapped with the Appalachian Trail twice.  It formed a ring, or a circular path, the Nantahala Ring. A few seasoned trail runners attempted to complete this run earlier this year dubbed the Nantahala Adventure Run, most finished the 58 mile grueling journey, yet I did not.  I was determined to go back and conquer this trail.

The NAR v2.0 was a success despite iffy weather forecasts, conditions were ideal. Early in the run the humidity was challenging and for a moment, in my sleep deprived daze during the middle of the night, I thought was in Borneo (tropical jungle) and not in the Nantahalas of Western North Carolina. My shoes soaked in my own sweat, and moister was everywhere. Lots of downed trees, and the trail was definitely more overgrown than NAR v1.0 earlier this year.

I started my morning at 2am to get an official 6:15 am start at Appletree. I was moving well early on and caught up to Denise & Wayne going up Cheoah and hiked with them to the summit where I was introduced to the yodeling pickle. From there I descended to the NOC and said hello to Sarah a few miles from the summit on her way up to meet the rest. I paid more attention to my foot placement here as I picked up some speed and didn't want to tumble—tuck and role was all I could think of. The summit was cloudy and cool, however the NOC was sunny and hot. It was packed and children were swimming in the river. The line for food was unjustifiably long, so I filled up my bottles with water and ice, dumped my trash, and didn't look back.  The last time I was here, my mind sucked me into the NOC, and I dropped. I remember it was very hot.

I made my ascent up towards Tellico feeling good about my journey thus far. I wasn't happy about my shoe situation, and felt my feet swell a little more than usual and blisters prematurely arrived into the equation. It took me a while to get to Tellico Gap, but was greeted with a cool ginger ale and some pickles, I am a believer. Thank you Denise!

I kept trotting to Burningtown and made my way up to Wayah, now slightly hobbling on my swollen blistered feet. In my mind I debated whether I would see the sunset over the summit of Cheoah bald, or see a sunset over the waters of Lake Nantahala. I reached the summit at 7pm and took a few moments to soak up the views.  It's really an awesome view from up there, and never gets old. I still had an hour or so of ambient light and made my way down the mountain, slowly.

My mind was solid, my conditioning was better than expected, yet my feet were a mess. Swollen and blistered, now from the top of my toes in addition to the bottom of my feet, I was forced to slow down to a hike when normally I would be happily blasting these trails at insane speeds going down the steep sections. I remember running the Bartram years ago, and this section was day 3 (of a 4 day stage run), and literally remember running so fast down Wayah on a very steep section that when a hiker emerged from no where on a bend in the trail. At that given moment I had a split second decision to make, collide into the hiker and both of us tumble down the mountain, or hurtle them completely Hussain Bolt style. I made the latter choice and during my gizmo days remember reading and average of 178 vertical feet of descent per minute on this section, that my friends I can assure you is descending at a pace that is out of control. I was young and dumb. What a massive contrast that was to my descent on the NAR v2.0. I walked and hobbled down to the road in an unbearably slow and painful 3 hours.

I was broken by the time I reached the road. Had I had a way to drop and get picked up I would have. Absent that option however I kept moving along and told myself to get my shizzle together and get er done! The cabins that dottet the lake were alive and I could hear music, and smell the grills of jovial people enjoying their Saturday night. I was rocking my fenix handheld light and knew that people would notice some stranger walking down the road with a flashlight. One person chose to shine their flashlight on to me, and yelled out some obscenities. I was motivated to move faster.

The  first shop on the left a mile down the asphalt I remember had a water source that I used in 2007, but this time I noticed a lock. It was past 10pm, and no one was around, so I moved along with no water at this point.  I saw the sign that said 4.9 miles to Appletree and I knew I could get this loop completed before midnight.  I was almost wrong by a few minutes. Total time on the trail was 17:53.  My splits below based off of memory.

Appletree start @6:15am
Winding Staircase 2 hrs
Cheoha 5 hrs
NOC 7 hrs
Tellico 10 hrs
Burningtown 11.5 hrs
Wayah 12.75 hrs
Nantahala Lake 15.75 hrs
Appletree Finish 17:53

Needless to say, I might not be joining my weekly Muddy Monday run in charlotte today.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Umstead Marathon 2013 - The year of the Duck

The last time I ran the Umstead Marathon was in 2008. After running the hills on this run yesterday, I now remember why I held off on signing up to run this for 5 years. It's deceivingly harder than what you would expect, and has a mixture of single track, and crushed gravel trails.

This year I toed the line with several old friends that I haven't seen in years. A few Charlotte runners made it out to run and support, and all did very well. I started off too fast as usual, and hung on for a 4:28 finish. I kept my output at a healthy intensity, surly to save some juice for next weekends Graveyard!

This is a fantastic trail marathon that will challenge any runner of any shape, and will surly get your quads pulsating...

Many thanks to all the volunteers and organizers that put this event on every year!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Rattle My Heart 50k

6:16:01 (short)

Roses are red
Violets are blue

Was it so smart?
I rattled my heart
A week before Mitchells start?

Run with gentle force
Drop the hammer on the coarse...

It's really not that far
Will I PR?

Meet new faces, and old
Listen to stories unfold.

Such a sensation
To partake in the Pisgah Nation!

Thanks to all that made this event possible, and a big thank you to Suzanne, Adam, and Lindsey (major congrats to you & Tim on the double trouble) for the aid station!

On the following day, made the traditional hike to the summit a week before Mitchell in several inches of snow and bitter cold.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Mill Stone 50K


On Saturday I ran the inaugural Mill Stone 50K. What a great well run event. Went out fast on the first loop and splashed in the knee high creek, only to numb my feet and legs for the first 30 minutes of the freezing start. Second loop reality set in and I slowed my roll, and opted not to run thru the creek. On the third loop it felt like spring and it warmed up a bit, so I opted to splash the feet again.
Great job to the Rock Hill Striders and thank you to all the volunteers!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

En route to the bottom of the earth...

Boarding my delayed flight to Miami, then off to Santiago, which is when I bypass the volcanic eruption of Copahue volcano while heading to Punta Arenas! From there I head to Antarctica in an Ilyshin 76 jet and land on a frozen landing strip. Thence we board a twin otter plane to the Ellensworth mountain range and land at the base of Vinson Massif to start our expedition.


Miami airports' international terminals make you feel as if you are in South America already! Love this place, and the people...


Almost got arrested for carrying turkey jerkey into Santiago. Didn't think of it, but they sure did. Fligt over otherwise was amazing.


Flight to Punta Arenas was scenic. Saw much of Patagonia by air when it wasn't cloudy. Also met a few Wharton MBA students on their way to leadership training on the island of King George in Antarctica.

Tomorrow debrief with ALE, and the day after fly to the bottom, pending good weather of coarse.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

12th Annual ALTAR

Distance: ~30 miles
Trail: Art Loeb on winter solstice
Time: 8:41:04!
Current events: This post was written on Christmas day, and the US govt still appears as if they are falling off the fiscal cliff, the Pope pleas for peace in Syria on Christmas day, and a volcano simmers ready for eruption in middle of Chile in my direct flight path to Antarctica.

The room was pitch black, everyone was silent for a moment, and the glow of a well burnt fireplace crackled in the distance. "The Mayans were right" someone yelled out. Everyone fumbled for their headlamps. The Vance Lodge lost power, certainly due to the stormy winds we were all cautioned about, and heard roaring all the way on my Friday afternoon drive. A strong wind advisory was issued for Friday night until noon Saturday, but the tradition of the ALTAR continues.

I love this run for many reasons: it ends my year, and puts the new running year into perspective, I connect and reconnect with the people of the Pisgah Nation & the Sultonic Tribal Council, enjoy the community we have built over the years, share a meal over baclava, and share a rugged trail on the shortest day of the year. It's a keystone Pisgah Nation run!

That night we heard from Scott & Liz about their amazing 2012 year of running the most hundreds (36), from Adam the father of the Pisgah Nation recapped our year in the making, and Brew Davis highlighted his adventures in Espana and Iceland!

We gathered our shizzel, hoped into a car and ferried over to the start at the river of Davidson. On the drive over a red morning glow illuminated a mountainous background indicating the  clearest skies would be had for our viewing pleasure. Departing a little later than years past, I mobilized my legs at 7:20am.

It was well below freezing, maybe 25 degrees, but I quickly worked up a sweat as I climbed up the Art Loeb trail. Even at lower elevations, I could simultaneously see farther than I have ever before with clear visibility, and hear the rage of the winds blasting. I feared that some of us would fly away on the Black Balsam balds, thus ate three dates and made a prayer that the winds would die down as we climbed high above.

Other than the start, I found myself alone in nature moving forward. My left soleus muscle below my calf started bothering me a few days back and I questioned weather I should even attempt this run. I wasn't going to push myself hard, and wanted to stay healthy, especially for the adventurous to the frozen lands down south. I made sure to pack a headlamp in case I needed to hobble into the darkness.
I ran past many of the miles of trails which I have run many times over in the past, in both directions. This would be my 6th Altar finish. I passed Cedar Rock, filled up a water bottle there, passed the first shelter, and  climbed Pilot Mountain, which never disappoints. At the next shelter I made sure to fill up all my water bottles as it was clear that I would be running in the snow for anything higher above. I feared any of the streams or springs above would be frozen.

I was at the Parkway in 4:47, my average time here is about 5 hours. I climbed above the Parkway wishing I had the same microspikes that helped me summit Mt. Washington only a week ago here. Carefully ascended the icy trail to reach the MST junction in 5:20.

When I finally made it to the balds my prayers were miraculously realized; the winds had died down significantly. I traversed the ridge, soaking up perhaps the clearest and most spectacular views from that vantage point in recent memory. 

The trail appeared to have been flooded and then froze solid where you could have ice skated all the way back to the lodge. I then reached the narrows for another amazing sight on both sides of the ridge and then finally made that left turn to head downhill back to Camp Daniel Boone.
I finished this years run with the most daylight to spare when compared to years past. Much gratitude and many thanks to all the people who put this on, the Kirks, the grand Kirk, and everyone who made this possible! Merry Christmas, Happy holidays, and have an amazing 2013!