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!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Baratram Trail - 4 Day Stage Run

12/29/07 Stage One: 23.1 miles (4,560 feet of gain)12/30/07 Stage Two: 33.7 miles (8,360 feet of gain)
12/31/07 Stage Three: 22.8 miles (6,700 feet of gain)
1/1/08 Stage Four: 25.4 miles (6,080 feet of gain)
The weather today was fantastic. It started off with a cool mist, and then the sun broke out later in the day. I was planning to run easy so my legs would still function for the next three days. We started off at the southern terminus of the trail with our feet on the SC side of the trail, and crossed highway 28 into Georgia. The Georgia portion of the trail is entirely in the Tallulah Ranger District of the Chattahoochee National Forest and is managed by the United States Forest Service. It was me, Matt, and Brian, and we all started off running easy.

After reaching Warwoman Dell I passed thru Martin Creek Falls and Becky Branch Falls, and ran down the wild and scenic Chattooga River which is the lowest point on the entire trail. Vistas from Rabun Bald were visible, and a great deal of scenic beauty filled the day. I finished the first day of 23 miles in 5:42 and burned 4,616 calories with a total gain of 4,560 feet. I still had 82 miles left to go, so I soaked my feet in the cold mountain waters at the finish of stage 1. I knew tomorrow would be a difficult day.

Today we had a 7am start, and it was pouring rain from the time I got out of the car. This stage would be the most difficult of the 4, with the longest section, the most elevation gain, and now the most drastic weather conditions. The temperatures were in the mid 30's and pouring rain. It was just warm enough not to be freezing rain or snow, but cold enough to make you go hypothermic! The wind was unforgiving. I knew if I wore gloves there would instantly get wet and make my hands colder, so opted for no gloves. I did however take my Gore-Tex sombrero which helped me keep my head dryer and warm. Matt took off in order to keep warm, and I knew I had a long 34 miles ahead of me. I wasn’t able to carry my camera because it would get soaked. It was difficult at first to get moving because the legs were a little stiff from yesterday, but after a mile I was back to normal. It was very cold, windy, and the rain never stopped as I reached the summit of Rabun Bald, 4,696 feet (1,431 m), the second-highest point in Georgia along the Eastern Continental Divide. I crossed the Georgia/North Carolina state border and then met Brain who saved the day by deciding to crew, and greeting me at mile 18 with a Subway sandwich which I gobbled up along with a left over slice of pizza from yesterdays dinner. Then another major ascent up Scaly Mountain. I remember running thru a rushing creek as the trail had now become flooded with water. The rain eased up on the climb up Scaly, but then started coming down hard at the summit. There is plenty of large rock at the top, and some of it was completely flooded with water. I slalomed down Scally between the rhododendron’s flying down the switchbacks. I finished the run at Buckeye Creek, and then laid inside of the creek waist down for 7 minutes. It was freezing cold. I completed the second day in 8:54 and burned 5,908 calories with a total elevation gain of 8,360 feet.

I began to feel the effects of a multi day run today. The weather was beautifully chilly. Me and Matt started at the Wallace Branch trailhead. Brian was running in the opposite direction so that we could do a key swap. The sun shined on the left side of my body warming my left arm and keeping my right arm cold. I wore my gloves today as I didn’t expect much rain. Again, Matt took off, and I was alone in the wilderness. I remember climbing up a couple hundred feet, only to come back down. This happened a few more times, and then Wayah appeared before me. From afar this peak looked like a giant. At this point I began to descend again, I knew that every foot I lost in elevation here, I would have to climb again. Reaching the summit of Wayah Bald, 5,385 ft (1,641 m) I felt a great sense of relief. There is a cool building at the top. I was greeted by 10 or so trolls that drove to the top! From here I began to descend. I met Brian on the way down and kept moving nicely. It was after Sawmill Gap the elevation began to drop steeply. I was loosing more than 100 feet per minute as I ran down hill. A few minutes later I was off the mountain and reached a road with view of Lake Nantahala. The sun glistened over the body of water, and I felt like I was making great time. I made a left and ran West. After a quarter of mile something didn’t feel right and I pulled out the map. I quickly noticed I was traveling in the wrong direction and remembered Brian had mentioned to turn Right when I got to the road. So I turned around and ran back. The last few miles I could feel the effects of my body pounding on the downhill’s and I slowed my pace as I reached Appletree Campgrounds. I was glad to get this day done with. I completed the third day in 6:27 and burned 4,506 calories with a total elevation gain of 6,700 feet. I opted to not soak my legs in the water as I was cold, fatigued, and wanted to take a hot shower. Tonight we would spend the night in a sweet cabin at the Nantahala Outdoor Center near the river. I went to bed just before 10pm and slept the night away.

The last day of the Bartram Trail. My legs were feeling the beating they have been taking for the last three days. I had a marathon left to go to finish, not so bad? We started at the Appletree Campgrounds where we finished the day before. It took me more than just a mile to warm up on this day. It was beautiful and sunny. A slight wind at the low elevation meant it would be really windy at the top of Cheoah Bald, 5,062 feet (1,543 meters). I remember jamming to my iPod while moving slightly faster than a shuffle and being startled by 6 hounds and two hunters. I immediately froze and took out my ear buds slowly. The hunters chuckled and told me Matt was 30 minutes ahead of me. I kept trucking along. I remember feeling exhausted just before the train tracks. After crossing the tracks I began the steep ascent of Cheoah Bald. It would be a 3,000+ ft. climb to the top. The temperature must have been below freezing above 4,000 feet and the wind made it feel much colder. After reaching the summit, I snapped a few photos, and then began my decent on the AT. At this point I had completed the Bartram Trail, but still had 8 miles to go on the AT to make it back to the NOC. I felt a sense of accomplishment knowing that its mostly downhill from here on. I started to move faster on the decent and was able to be back in the cabin within 1:50 from the summit. Then I drove down to the Nantahala River and attempted to submerge my body in the freezing waters for 5 minutes. I lasted 3:10. The air temperature was 37 degrees, the water felt much colder! I completed the last day in 6:53 and burned 4,505 calories with a total elevation gain of 6,080 feet.

Statistics over 4 days

Distance: 105 miles
Time: 27 hours 55 minutes
Elevation: 25,700 feet
Calories: 19,535 calories
Peaks summited while on the run:
Wayah Bald, 5,385 ft (1,641 m)
Cheoah Bald, 5,062 feet (1,543 m)
Scaly Mountain, 4,820 feet (1,469m)
Rabun Bald, 4,696 feet (1,431 m)
Lowest Point:
Chattooga River, 1,500 ft (457 m)

Sunday, December 23, 2007

7th Art Loeb Trail Adventure Run

Every year the ALTAR is ran on or around the winter solstice. The idea is to start when the sun comes up, and finish before if comes down. Due to a late departure, I arrived at the Vance Lodge in Camp Daniel Boone at 1:30am. The guys left the back door open, and I just threw a sleeping bag onto an empty couch and crashed. I woke up at 4:45 and got my things in order.

17 people lined up at the start. Unlike last year, this year the run was self supported, you carried everything you needed all the time. You can’t really drop out, you can just turn around. The temperature this year was in the 40’s which is a bit warm, but the wind, rain, and fog made if feel a little colder. The first half of the run tackles 80% of the gain which needs to be done in a controlled pace in order to finish.

After reaching the Blue Ridge Parkway you enter into an alpine forest which looks like it belongs in Canada. The site is truly amazing and it is one of the reasons I like these types of adventures. Then you reach the Black Balsam Balds, some of the few balds in NC that are above 6,000 feet. The visibility up there was 20-40 feet, and the wind gusts easily could have been 40-50 mph. The wind felt good, and instantly dried my wet shorts for me. The fog on the other had was a bit frustrating because you couldn’t see where you were going. I relied on my instinct, and the foot prints in the mud to lead me back into the protection of the forest.

Towards the end of the run I felt a little fatigued, but I kept my sight on another runner in front of me and hung in the entire distance, finishing in 9:19.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

2007 Thunder Road

The only local marathon, Thunder Road in Charlotte is a must run for me. Every year however I do think to myself that I should be out there in the middle of the night and freezing cold running the Hellgate 100k. Maybe next year.

I was coming out of a cold, and my chest was congested. I felt a little weary about pacing the 3:45 team, not being sure that I would be able to make even splits for the runners that followed. Then I found out I would have two other pacers at the same time, so I had nothing to worry about. When I showed up a few minutes late to the pacer meeting on the day of the race, I was informed that the 3:30 pacer dropped and I was to lead the 3:30 runner. I have run a 3:30 once, a PR, in Columbus earlier this year. I knew I wasn’t in any shape for a 3:30 in Charlotte while still coming out of a cold. I took the challenge, and told the pace director I would take the runners only half way at that pace, and then they were on there own, I did just that. After the half way point my run went downhill, as I struggled to keep my pace. I finished in 3:54:04.

Overall, I’m happy I ran and was able to volunteer. Next year I will run a stronger race, or maybe end up at Hellgate.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Mt. Mitchell Ascent

18 of us made the attempt up Mt. Mitchell. It’s December and the weather was warmer than expected, and what was forecasted. The leaves blanketed the first half of the trail up. It was a little slippery, and made for a difficult run down the mountain.

As we reached the summit, the temperature dropped close to 25 degrees from the start. The wind had picked up which made it feel colder. We took a break, ate some food at the summit, and then headed back down. It was nice to take a small break and leisurely hike up and enjoy the mountain.

Coming down the mountain I began to feel sick, and developed a hacking cough.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Five bridges, five boroughs, and more than two million spectators make the ING New York City Marathon a race like no other.

Ok, I’ve had enough asphalt for 2007. Two marathons in two weeks really pushed my asphalt capacity.

Sunday was a beautiful crisp fall day. Although I had to get up before the sun did, and had to wait until about 10:20am to actually start running, I was in a good mood. My mind was set on doing what I had planned. Run and see the city for what it has to offer. Travel thru all five boroughs of New York City by foot.
Me and 39,000+ other runners started on the Verazano-Narrows Bridge in Staten Island. Not much time spent in Staten Island at all. When I crossed the bridge, I was Brooklyn. The sheer number of the runners running in unison was amazing. More amazing than this was the number of people that came out to support the run in Brooklyn. This was something I have never experienced before. For the next 12 miles or so I ran North thru the borough of Brooklyn on 4th Ave. From there I crossed another bridge to enter Queens. The crowd again was vibrant and encouraging. I knew that I didn’t want to run a fast marathon because of the number of people that were on this run, and because my body was a little fatigued from the previous runs in the last few weeks. So I ran a 1:55 half. From Queens I crossed the Queensboro Bridge to enter Manhattan; I was on the Upper East Side of the island. I was cold and windy. Traveling North for a few miles I entered The Bronx. Only running about 1 mile in The Bronx, I continued back South into Manhattan. Running thru Harlem and down the side of Central Park. I knew that the finish was close when I entered the park. Masses of people for the last two miles filled the sidelines of the park. The crowd was cheering every runner. I pulled into the final stretch, and finished in 4:11. Although I expected to finish in a slower time, I didn’t expect it to be over 4 hours. The experience I had in NYC was fantastic, and I would recommend this run to anyone to try at least once if they can get in.

More than 2 million spectators came out to support this run.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Black Mountain Crest Trail and NYC Preview

On Sunday, me and Eugene made out annual pilgrimage to the Black Mountain Crest Trail (BMCT). We got up early and drove to Bowlens Creek. I got my thighs pumping quickly during the beginning of the hike up from Bowlens Creek as this is the steepest section.

This is the best time of the year to plan an out and back on the BMCT, and despite that the weather is always questionable. The first 6 miles of this trail is untamed, and I would consider it to be fairly technical and rugged. This is what brings me back every year. After hiking for almost two hours I encountered some fairly wet vegetation that was taller than me. This meant that although it was not raining I was as wet as could be. The temperature at the trailhead was 49 degrees which mean that it would have to be at least 5-10 degrees cooler at this point in the hike. I felt like I was frozen with the 15-20 mph winds started gusting from the North. Gloves at this point would be useless as they would also get wet and make my hands colder. I began to go numb in my fingertips, placing my hands in my pockets and rubbing them next to each other as to create friction. It was here that the urge to eat something came to me. I pulled over next to a large rock to protect myself from the wind, and pulled out a few power bars and my fleece vest. I put on the vest and when I tried to zip it, I noticed that my hands were not doing what my brain was telling them to do. I lost some dexterity in my hands and I could not zip up my vest, nor tear away the wrapper of the power bar. I struggled with this for the next 40-60 minutes until I could get a power bar into my system. I was cold.
The sun began to break thru the clouds and slowly I dried up a little and warmed up, and my hands came back to life.
Here is a description of the BMCT:
The BMCT is referred by many sources as "the most rugged trail of the South East". It is also the highest with twelve summits over 6,000 feet. The total elevation gain is 6,235 feet from Bowlens Creek to the summit of Mt. Mitchell and 2,540 feet in the opposite direction. The distance is 12 miles from start to finish. From the trail head in Bowlens Creek (elevation 3,075 ft), climb 3,085 ft on an old logging road to traverse Celo Knob (6,327 ft) at 6160 ft., taking a right at the fork. Turning left will lead you to the summit of Celo Know. Continue through Horse Rock (Percy's Peak, 6,212 ft), Gibbs Mountain (6,224 ft), no-name knob (6,160 ft) and three or four minor bumps over 6,000 ft to a gap (5,820 ft) under Winter Star (6212 ft). Turn right at the top and traverse Deer Mountain (6,160 ft, on the right), a sub peak of Winter Star. Go down to Deep Gap (5,720 ft) and pass Colbert Ridge Trail on the left just before the gap. Gain 755 ft on the climb to Potato Hill (6,475 ft). Continue through Cattail Peak (6,583 ft) and Balsam Cone (6,611 ft). Continue to Big Tom (6,581 ft), Mt. Craig (6,647 ft), to the shops, museum and then the summit of Mt. Mitchell (6,684 ft).
Needless to say, I don’t plan on running a PR in New York this weekend.

Race CoverageA one-hour national highlights show will broadcast on NBC, and an international highlights show will be broadcast in more than 125 countries (check local listings). You can also watch the race live in the U.S. on NBCSports.com and internationally on WCSN.com. Click here for more information.


Check out NYRR's race-day coverage, featuring news stories, videos, and photo galleries, on the marathon website.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Columbus Marathon - PR

Sunday 10/21/07 was the day I ran the Columbus Marathon. The weather was perfect, although slightly on the high side with a high of 77 for the day. 5-12 mph winds made it feel a little cooler.

The start time was 8am, 57 degrees, and I stood among the 3:30 pace crowd. It took about one minute after the horn blew for me to actually cross the start line, and we were off. Everything seemed perfect. I started the run with a slightly faster pace than 8 minute miles hoping that I could keep it up and slightly beat my 3:30 desired time. Previously my PR for this distance was set in my home town of Charlotte, NC at 3:37:33 on a much colder day. I like the cold when it comes to running vs. the hot.

I was not carrying a bottle as I usually do. I knew there would be plenty of water along the way and didn't want to hassle with a bottle. I made sure to drink at every aid station and keep my system hydrated. As a result I had to take a bathroom break (counted 22 seconds in the porta-John) at around the six mile mark.

I felt strong at the half marathon point, and was right on target for a 3:30 pace, but the pace team was still a few hundred yards behind me. Eventually they caught up to me at mile 17, and by mile 19 I decided to let them go ahead. I felt that my 3:30 time was slipping away from me. I could see the white balloons of the pacer keep getting farther and farther away. Keep the balloons in sight is what I kept telling myself. Between the half point and mile 20 my pace slipped to 8:18 which would make it impossible for me to reach my goal if I continued at that pace or slowed down.

At mile 21, while on the largest campus in the United States, a second wind hit me. I felt a burst of energy in me as I began to pass a large number of runners. At this point I began to tell myself that it was only 5 more miles to the finish line. My pace improved to a 7:58 for the last 6.2 miles. I finished in 3:30:41 which I am pleased with, and is a new personal record for the marathon distance.

Columbus, OH is an all American city which definitely had a "hometown feel" to it. I am certain to come back and visit.

Average finish time 4:11:08 for all 3,636 runners.

Splits and Pace

5 mile: 39:04 - 7:49
13.1 mile: 1:43:58 - 8:01
20 mile: 2:41:17 - 8:18
26.2 mile: 3:30:41 - 7:58!
Overall: 3:30:41 - 8:02
Consumed 3 cliff gu's and drank approximatley 100 oz. of water/Gatoraid

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Pitchell Report by: Adam Hill

The Pitchell 100k+ and the FAC 50k are two of the toughest ultra courses around. In the 3rd running of the Pitchell and the 2nd running of the FAC, a handful of incredibly determined adventure runners took it to task and came out on top. There is certainly no "beating" these mountains that the course goes over...mountains that those of us who are local look at day in and day out. One can only hope to fall into place in these majestic mountains, then feel the flow. From Asheville, one can look to the west and see Mt. Pisgah looming in the distance with its distinct tower. It is here, below this tower of flashing red lights, that 7 runners started off to tackle this beast of a trek! If one looks to the east while cruising through Asheville, you might catch a peak of Lane Pinnacle and the Craggy's. These are the "in your face" mountains that Pitchell and FAC runners will share in their quest to reach the summit of Mt. Mitchell!

Friday night, October 5th, came quickly this year with promise of warmer temps and less fall colors. We all gathered at my house and sorted gear and aid, and appropriately scarfed down some much needed nourishment. The FAC runners headed off to get a nice night's sleep, and the Pitchell runners ditched their cars at the Folk Art Center and carpooled up to Mt. Pisgah. The runners were Brian Beduhn, India Coleman, Mohammed Idlibi, Charlie Roberts, Stu Gibeau, Kevin Lane, and yours truly. With a staggered start we made our way at our own pace down the summit of Mt. Pisgah, and encountered quite a thick cloud of fog that made finding your footing tricky. Before we knew it we were all down and across the French Broad River with the help of some aid drops and Sarah Almodovar who was meeting us between aid drops. Arriving at the Folk Art Center, I was a little bit behind schedule, but was trying to take it easy and leave some bounce in my step for all of the climbing up ahead.

The FAC runners had started at about 6:30 am, and I had missed them by about 30 minutes. Those runners were Matt McFee, Rob Rikoon, Mike Piercy, Steve Parrish, and Andrew Moore. I enjoyed some much needed coffee provided by Matt McFee (wow...thanks), and munched on some egg and cheese bagels brought by Steve Parrish (amazing!). The easier pace paid off and I ran quite well through the first aid station until the climbing got steep up Rich Knob. It was over the next few bumps and up Lane Pinnacle that I started to crash. Stu, Mohammed and I arrived at the second aid station at Bee Tree Gap together, then left together to tackle the next 5 rocky miles to Greybeard Overlook. I arrived at Greybeard Overlook to hear the cheers of Matthew Johnson and Jon Snow. Shortly after I arrived, Stu arrived, then Mohammed pulled it a few minutes later. Unfortunately, this year I would not have the mental fortitude to continue on, and after examining a nagging tendonitis problem in my foot that had slowed me to a crawl, I decided that this would be the sorry excuse that I would use to explain my demise. I hope that my negative energy did not wear of on Stu, because he decided to call it quits too. We didn't exactly try to hide our pain, in hopes of bringing another foot soldier down with us....however, Mohammed was too strong and displayed a will to continue despite the circumstances. His solution was to take the Parkway the rest of the way, and we bid him farewell and well wishes for the remainder of his journey.

The word on the street was that everyone up ahead was doing quite well, and that Kevin and Andrew were kicking butt and taking names! We sent ahead all of the positive thoughts that we had left, then hunkered down and waited at that third aid station for Brian and India. When they arrived, we figured that they might fold...however, they informed us that they would go on. India had heard that no other female had completed this foot odyssey between Mt. Pisgah and Mt. Mitchell! She wasn't about to stop until that title was hers! Go girl! After a car drop scenario was set up for Brian and India to finish on their own, everyone headed off of the mountain to bid farewell to an amazing day spent on the trail...

Amazing efforts were made by all, and the Pitchell had more finishers than ever before. A trend that I hope to see continue! Matt McFee completed an impressive first ultra on what is certainly one of the toughest 50k courses in the country! Kevin set an impressive mark for the Pitchell that will be hard to eclipse in upcoming years. Hopefully we will have some folks go after his mark next year...great job Kevin, and great job to all the runners! Thanks a ton for sharing a beautiful day out on the trail, and I hope to see you all out for the next fun run! Thanks also go out to our incredible volunteers! Sarah Almodovar for helping through the night stretch...Matt Kirk for getting us all through the Folk Art Center...Mike Jackson for aid station 1...Todd Bray and his father in law for aid station 2...Matthew Johnson for aid station 3 and his summit work...Jason Hayward for aid station 4 and for dropping off coolers where needed...and Jon Snow for aid station 5! You guys rocked the house...thanks for sharing in this adventure with us!


Finish times:

Pitchell 100k:
Kevin Lane 15:18!
Charlie Roberts 18:11
Mohammed Idlibi 19:00
Brian Beduhn 23:50
India Coleman 23:50
Stu Gibeau DNF @ 55 miles
Adam Hill DNF @ 55 miles

FAC 50k
Andrew Moore 8:29
Rob Rikoon 9:??
Steve Parrish 10:30
Matt McFee 10:30
Mike Piercy 12:10

Sunday, October 07, 2007


Mt. Pisgah to Mt. Mitchell
One year ago exactly I ran my very first ultra marathon, the Triple Lakes 40 in Greensboro, NC. Who would have guessed I would celebrated my first year by running Pitchell? From the day Adam Hill mentioned this run it was on my “must run” list. Although I had signed up for the Triple Lakes 40 again this year, I decided to run Pitchell instead, promising myself I would go at least 40 miles if not longer.

I knew this run would be a challenge. This is the 3rd year that Pitchell is run, and in the previous two years only two runners have ever finished the entire distance. The run begins on the summit of Mt. Pisgah which is 35 miles South West of Asheville and ends on the summit of Mt. Mitchell 33 miles North East of Asheville. The majority of the run is supposed to be run on the Mountains to Sea Trail and goes right thru the city of Asheville. This year 7 runners would attempt this monster.

To give myself the best chance of completing this run I decided to leave an hour earlier with other running friends Brian and India. We were at the summit of Mt. Pisgah at 10:24 pm. The fog was very thick in the air, and I couldn’t believe it was this warm in October. My body was completely wet at the top of Mt. Pisgah and the run had not even started. We casually hiked down the 1.5 mile trail and met with the 4 other runners who would be starting at 11:30pm, Kevin Lane, Charlie Roberts, Stu Gibeau, and Adam Hill.

We turned left on the Shut In trail which is also part of the MTS trail. This would be my first time running the Shut In completely. We had dropped 6 bags filled with aid along the parkway, and the MTS weaves in an out of the parkway more frequently than I though. Visibility was 5-10 feet, and I could not see very much in front of me. While running I startled a very large animal that seemed to be lying down very close to the trail. It ran about 10 feet away and I shined my headlamp at it. The animal turned around and all I could see was the florescent glow of two large eyes looking right at me. This wasn’t good so I began to make noise and yelled bear to your left to the runners behind me. We clapped our hands and made more noise to alert animals that we were running thru. This happened two more times along this section of the run. The first 35 miles of the run in the dark went reasonably well for me. Other than the fact I felt like I was in a rain forest from the humidity, I felt great.

Within the first two hours Charlie zoomed by me, Brian and India. It was here I decided to step on it a little harder and picked up my pace. 20 minutes later Kevin rolled up behind me and we ran together until we reached a drop bag, he then took off. Later I met up with Adam and we ran several drop bags together. Sarah Almodovar volunteered to stop by between our six drop bags and support any runner.

Click on the video to see Stu's comments on this run. He is a sub-24 hour finisher at Western States.

Me and Adam rolled into the Folk Art Center together at 6:48am. This is where I had my car parked. I changed my shirt refilled my water, and had a cup of coffee. I tried to not spend too much time here and was off on the trail within 12 minutes. Daylight was just breaking and a new day was starting. Matt Kirk was manning the Folk Art Center aid station, and he led me to the trail. I felt very good at this point and I was running my best. I was at the next aid station by 9:00 am. Here I refueled, took in some fruit and pretzels and was off. At this point Kevin Lane had a 50 minute lead. I was also only 10 min away from the last 50k runner. The 50k runners started at the Folk Art Center at 6:30am (me and Adam missed them by 18 minutes). I still felt strong, and mentally told myself that I would catch up to the 50k runners, this was my goal at this point in the run. I was so wrong. This next stretch of the MTS trail was incredibly steep and long. The hills were relentless. One difficult thing about Pitchell is that most of the elevation is the second half of the run.

Me, Adam and Stu took a 10 min break on a rock outcropping on top of Lane Panicle. We were all out of water at this point and just wanted to make it to the next aid station. After some more climbing and descending we were there, Beetree Gap. I had 3 slices of cold cheese pizza which never tasted so good. We all sat down on the asphalt for another 10 minutes then took off. Adam had mentioned that the next aid station is only 4 miles away. The previous two were 8 miles apart, so this mentally psyched me up. I had a fresh pair of shoes, socks, shorts and t-shirt waiting for me there. These 4 miles reminded me very much of Massanutten. I let Adam and Stu pass me as I took more time climbing at this point. I missed one switchback and got lost for a good 15 minutes. I retraced my steps and found my friend the white dot and kept trucking along. I met Adam and Stu again at the Greybeard aid station where I saw to my surprise them changing into regular clothing. I never thought about dropping out of the race until this point. Was I going to be able to finish this adventure? Was I being unreasonable in wanting to keep shuffling? Mt. Mitchell State Park closes its gate at 7pm. This means I would have to summit Mt. Mitchell a little before 7pm and ride down with the finish crew before the gate is locked. Could I run the next 12 miles and make it out before dark? It was questionable considering my pace and condition after 56 miles. I was not about to quit.

I’ve wanted to get this run under my belt for a year. It combined my love for the mountains and distance running. I pulled out the map and looked at the option of completing this run on the parkway versus the trail. Its an extra half mile on the road, but I knew that pounding the asphalt at this point would be much easier than the trial. It certainly would eliminate the technical running (roots, rocks and uneven terrain). I had been running for 56 miles and my legs were trashed at this point. I changed into my fresh cloths and changed my socks and shoes. I took off running on the parkway. This was a little dangerous but I wanted to summit Mt. Mitchell. I wanted to run from Mt. Pisgah to Mt. Mitchell even if it wasn’t all on trail, I wanted to complete the run.

I reached the next aid station 4 miles away Balsam Gap. It was here I again contemplated dropping out with only a few miles to go. I was falling asleep on the parkway. Sleeping while running opposite of traffic on a beautiful Saturday afternoon is not a good combination on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I downed a coke and sat down for 2 minutes. It was here I was encouraged by Matt Johnson a volunteer. He told me I was making good time and I could easily finish before dark. After running this kind of distance my math in my head is not very accurate, so having someone confirm my fuzzy math is always encouraging.

I reached the summit parking lot of Mt. Mitchell at 5:24pm exactly 19:00:21 after I started the run the night before onto of Mt. Pisgah. I did not reach the true summit as the park ranger did not allow us to do so due to the construction of the new watch tower that is still going on. According to my polar watch, I burned 13,744 calories.

Kevin Lane set a new record and finished in 15:18. Charlie finished 12 minutes after I did, but started an hour after I did and ran it entirely on trail. I later found out that Brian and India finished in approximately 24 hours. 4 new names were added to the list of Pitchell finishers.

I want to thank all the volunteers who made this adventure succesful and without them would be extreemly difficult to do. I also want to thank Adam Hill for puting on this fantastic event!

6 drop bags were left 5 miles apart from each other: Adam Hill
Shut In Mobile Aid Station: Sarah Almodovar
Folk Art Center (mile 35): Matt Kirk
Ox Creek Rd Aid Station (mile 43): Mike Jackson
Beetree Gap Aid Station (mile 51): Todd Bray and his father-in-law
Greybeard Aid Station (mile 55): Matt Johnson
Balsam Gap Aid Station (mile 60): Jason Hayward
Hwy 128 Aid Station (mile 65): Jon Snow
Summit Aid Station (Finish): Matt Johnson

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Hinson Lake 24 Hour

The course is the 1.52 mile inner loop that circles Hinson Lake which is in Rockingham, NC. The surface is a soft clay maintained trail through the woods. I ran over 16 small wooden foot bridges including an 300 foot bridge that crosses over the lake 43 times. This was a last minute run for me. I wanted to log in some distance miles and give this run a try. Running for 13 hours and 6 minutes I ran a total of 65.36 miles (105 kilometers). Some runners continued to the end of the run and hung in there for all 24 hours! Im also saving a little juice for Pitchell next weekend.

Tom Gabell put on a fantastic race that I would recomend to anyone trying their first ultra distance or anyone that is looking for a good time on flat trails. I do have to admit I did get a little dizzy towards the end.
I drove home the same night and the photo to the left is of me standing in my kitchen.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

37 Miles on the AT in the Smokey Mountains

At 8:35am I was standing on Clingmans Dome. The weather was fantastic. Clear sky’s, 68 degrees, and the view was amazing. I ran down the winding ramp that leads up to Clingmans Dome and turned right on the AT. For the next 8 miles I ran up and down to reach New Found Gap. This would be the only access point to a road for the entire day. I topped off the water bottle I consumed in the last 8 miles and kept heading North East on the AT. I was carrying 3.5 liters of water and some food in a day pack.

Reputedly known as "Kuwahi" (the mulberry place) by the Cherokee Indians, the mountain was originally dubbed "Smoky Dome" by local Scots-Irish inhabitants. In 1859, the mountain was henceforth renamed for Thomas Lanier Clingman (1812-1897), who extensively explored the area in the 1850s and spent many years thereafter promoting it and was also a lawyer, member of the U.S. Congress (House and Senate), and a brigadier general for the Confederate States of America, by compatriot Arnold Guyot. Guyot named the mountain for Clingman due to an argument between the U.S. Senator and a professor at the University of North Carolina, Elisha Mitchell over which mountain was actually the highest in the region. Mitchell contended that a peak by the name of Black Dome (now known as Mount Mitchell) was the highest, while Clingman asserted that Smoky Dome was instead the true highest peak. Guyot put the dispute to rest when finding that Smoky Dome was 39 feet (12 m) shorter than Black Dome.

After passing the Boulevard Trail that leads up to Mt. LeConte the AT runs along one of he most amazing ridges I have ever hiked on. At this point in my adventure I was alone, and continued to be alone for the rest of the run.

2 hours into the run I was at New Found Gap, 5 hours into the run I was at Pecks Shelter, 6.5 hours I was at TriCorners, 10:58 I was at Davenport Gap. It rained during the middle of the day, but overall the weather was very nice. I consumed 7 liters of water, and ate a little over 1,000 calories which is not enough for a run like this. My heart rate monitor told me I burend over 9,000 calories in my 10:58 of running.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Smokey's 60k Preview

This Saturday I will be running one of my favorite trails in the South East, the AT in the Smokey’s. I have done the 31 mile section from Newfound Gap several times and want to go a little farther this time and will start at Clingmans Dome (37 miles). Clingmans Dome is the western terminus to the Mountains to Sea Trail that begins and is the highest point in the Smokey Mountains at 6,643 feet. Only Mt. Mitchell rises higher east of the Mississippi.

Myself and a few friends from Charlotte plan to get an early morning start. We can drop some aid at Newfound Gap which is six miles away from the start. Once we pass Newfound Gap there will be no aid stations and the run will be 100% self supported. The weather can be very tricky in this area, but so far we are looking at a fantastic Saturday.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Ramadan Is Here

Thursday the 13th of September is the first day of Ramadan. It is a month of fasting for Muslims around the globe from sunrise to sunset for a full lunar month. It is not only about fasting from food and water, its about being good, moral peace keeping people. More importantly, it is a bout a spiritual purification that comes from being deprived of the basic necessities of life in order to appreciate the blessing bestowed upon us, and to realize that there are people worse off, and that it is our duty to aid them. It can be seen as a detoxification period that trains the body and mind.

You can’t run very far without water or food. So how does this affect my training? Ill be running a lot at night.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Table Rock to Montreat - 39 Miles

Table Rock to Montreat is a run from the summit of Table Rock that follows the Mountain to Sea Trail to the Black Mountain Campgrounds and then is run down to the city of Montreat. Planned and organized by Adam Hill, a friend, and an unltramarathoner. Many thanks to the volunteers that helped with the aid station and with the entire logistics of putting on a long distance point to point run.

After meandering our way thru the gravel roads that lead to Table Rock, we all unloaded our gear and started packing essentials for the night and everything we needed for the next morning.

Nine runners and a few volunteers all hiked up to the summit of Table Rock (3,680 feet). It was a perfect night, the stars were bright. After seeing a shooting star, and Brown Mountain light up a few times I shut my eyes and passed out around midnight. We woke up at 5:30am, gathered everything, and at 6am started running back down the mountain. Our cars were along the way which is where I dropped off my sleeping bag and pad. We continued along the Mountains to Sea trail (MST). It would be 11 miles before we would reach our first aid station.

The views along the ridge off of Table Rock in the morning made me feel like I was out West. As the sun started to rise, and faint red glow was painted along the horizon. We headlamped it for the first hour. I wasn’t expecting it to be so hot before the sun came up, I remember being drenched in sweat as we passed Chimney Gap and the sun wasn’t even up yet! Approaching Shortoff Mountain (2,880 feet) I couldn't help but notice how much of the forest had burned. The trail blazes and the trail itself was also burned, making the route difficult to find at times. My legs, and arms were black with char all over my body. We descended steeply down Shortoff and climbed towards Pinnacle were the green forest came back to life. We climbed 1,200 feet in less than a mile to reach the top of Pinnacle (2,400 feet). Atlast the first aid station! I needed some calories and certainly needed to fill up my bottles.

After refueling, me and Marc descended down the Overmountain Victory trail for a short while, then turned left on a gravel road. It was here I kept telling myself that this would be a long day, and not to push myself too hard. I alternated the running with some brisk hiking, it was becoming very hot. I then passed Dobson Knob (3,440 feet) and then Bald Knob (3,495 feet), kept going up and down. I was rationing my water as I knew I still had to pound out a few miles. I had been running alone for the past 2 hours at this point. When I reached a set of train tracks I made the mistake of turning as I remember seeing a sign to the left. This was a mistake. I ran and hiked down the train tracks for half a mile in the exposed sun. I realized there must be something wrong and decided to take a water break and sit down in the shade and pull out my map. I could hear and see the river, and I made it out in the map. I decided at this point to start bushwhacking back to the trail. I had already lost too much precious time, and I needed to get to the next aid as I didn’t have much water left. I picked up to sticks and used them to cut thru some of the vegetation while trying to cross. I crossed the river, again getting my feet wet. Then crossed a nasty swamp and climbed up some steep section which is where I heard voices. I started to yell out and sure enough it was Rob. I started whacking more vegetation trying to get closer to his voice. I made it back to the trail, but now out of water and exhausted. I took a sip of water from Rob and kept moving, we still had another mile and half to the next aid. After crossing a 5 lane highway (221) I finally reached the second aid station. I drank a cold coke which never tasted so good. Ate a cheese sandwich and took my socks and shoes off. I had another pair of socks I would put on. At this point I was ready to drop out of the run. After taking a 15 minute break, Rob talked me into getting back on the trail. We had run 26 miles at this point, well if you factor all the bushwhacking, maybe 27, and the next section would be another 13 miles, much of it uphill. I was up for the challenge, re-laced my shoes and pushed on.

We walked passed Grassy Knob (1,800 feet) pulled the map out a few times to find out way up to Woods Mountain (3,646 feet). We turned left and ridge hiked after passing Woods and alternated with the running and fast hiking. It was here we met Marc again on the trail and kept moving as a group of three now. Then just a mile before John a volunteer met us out on the trail with Gatorade. Wow, I was relieved. I had been practicing Sip Control Management for the past 3 hours. This was a strict policy of one sip every 12 minutes. If I took in more than that, I would go dry and suffer miserably with the heat. So when I saw the cold blue Gatorade that John brought out and he was giving it out to us, I guzzled down when I had and refilled my bottle of water. He told us we had 30 min, which also psyched me out, so we kept pushing. I ran to the end until I got to the BRP and Hwy 80. I was beat up, dehydrated, but very happy I had gone this far. The temperatures must have been in the 90’s and going for 40 miles and climbing no less than 8,000 feet was a difficult task for me to do. All runners dropped out at this point.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Mount Olympus, West Peak 7,965 feet and Mt. Baker 10,790 feet.

This mountain has a very long approach. 44 miles round trip. While this would be manageable running with two water bottles in hand, it’s an entirely different experience with a 60lb Arct’yrex Bora 95 pack! Day 1: The first day was flat and cloudy with some rain mixed into the hike. From that point on until I got back to the parking lot 4 days later my cloths never dried. We spent the first night at Lewis Meadows, set up camp, cooked dinner, and prepared for the next days hike which is where the elevation started taking place. I dropped some food and dry cloths at Lewis Meadows and lightened my load by a few pounds. Day 2: The next day we hiked up to Glacier Meadows following the Hoh river which is where most people end their journey. It was there I met the white mountain goat. I also found weird bones left on the trail, not sure what kind of animal it was (photo). I knew we didn’t have much time as we were planning on getting up at 3am for an alpine start at an attempt to summit the West Peak of Mt. Olympus. I can see why not too many people attempt this climb, the approach is extremely long and tiring if you are carrying all the necessary gear for a safe climb. Along the way we met an Italian team and a San Francisco based team. The Italians didn’t seem to have all the necessary gear for the climb, but appeared to know what they were getting themselves into. They had rope, but no harnesses, which can be scary while traversing over ice bridges and crevasses. They explained that they were used to glacier and snow travel as they lived above 6,000 feet in Northern Italy. Giovanni and Paula were their names.
Day 3: We got up at 3am, and ate breakfast and began gather our gear (crampons, anchors, harnesses, rope, etc.) We hiked up the moraine and down the moraine in complete darkness by way of our headlamps. The sun began to come up while we were on the blue glacier. This glacier is one of a kind and is filled with small crevasses with blue ice frozen over and is almost never covered in snow. You literally are walking on ice that is tens of thousands of years old and is distinctly blue. After crossing the Blue Glacier we continued up to the Snow Dome at 6,600 feet. Moving towards the left we entered an area called the keyhole and turned around the summit. It was there we ended up on rock and not glacier. We rock climbed to the summit, and reached it at 9:40am PST Tuesday.

As we headed back down the snow conditions were much different after a few hours of sun light. The snow was mushier and now less safe to travel. I lead our rope team on the decent. This can be a tricky job. If an ice bridge weakens after the sun heats it up and thus makes it unstable, I will be the one to take the fall. Good glacier knowledge and glacier travel technique is certainly something you need to know at this point. I made it back to Glacier Meadows camp at 1pm. We all gathered our gear, repacked our bags and continued down to the Ranger Station another 10 more miles down. We pitched the tent near the Hoh river hoping it wouldn’t rain and that the breeze would carry the mosquitoes away.

Day 4: We repacked everything, and hiked another 9 miles out to the cars. My legs were trashed at the end of this climb. Too much hiking with a heavy pack left my muscles and my joints felling it. We still had another mountain to climb.

Our gear was wet, we were all exhausted and we decided to take a rest day, and quickly changed our minds on climbing Mt. Rainier and used our back up option, Mt. Baker via the Easton Glacier. I had done Mt. Baker a year ago with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Washington. Last year I climbed it via the Coleman Deming Glacier. We headed north and crossed the Olympic Peninsula via a ferry to Oak Harbor, Washington. We spent the night in the Auld Holland Inn (http://www.auldhollandinn.com/) which I recommend if your looking for a good deal in that part of Washington. There we washed cloths, lets our gear dry, and planned for our summit bid on Mt. Baker. The plan was to climb Mt. Baker in 24 hours. This is a lofty goal alone, but to do it after a 4 day climb up Mt. Olympus was a bit of a stretch.

Day 1, 3pm: Because we had planned to do this in one day our load was light. We carried enough food and gear only for a night and the next day. Approaching Mt. Baker from the North we hiked in 2.5 miles and set up camp on the base of the glacier. It was there we spent 1.5 hours digging and building a platform on the ice for our tent. 10 feet away there was a crevasses. I believe we were safe however because we were very close to the rocks. We pitched the tent, began cooking dinner, and watched the sun go down. I have attached a video of my friend Tito giving a pre-climb report.

Day 2, 3am: We woke up, made some oatmeal, and gathered our gear and were roped up and climbing by 4am. The ascent up Mt. Baker started off easy, but quickly became steep. We reached a 40% grade which is fairly steep for me. Your crampons have to be able to dig deep into the hardened snow and you must trust them to hold you and your entire loads weight. We reached the summit at 10:20 am PST for a beautiful morning. The weather could not have been better. We stayed at the summit for 40 minutes and then began our decent. Again, I took the lead descending. We were descending about 2.5 to 3 times faster than our ascent. By this time we were all feeling the fatigue in our system, but kept moving along. We would be traversing around crevasses and ice bridges. Finally we made it back to camp at 2pm. I knew that I would not make it out of there in 24 hours, I still needed to pack up all my gear, and hike down a very steep 2.5 miles out. I was back at the car at 4:20, 25:20 minutes to summit Mt. Baker and back. Last year it took me 3 days to reach the summit and get back, so Id say it’s a bit of an improvement.

It certainly is good to be back on land, and back in Carolina trail country.