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!

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.

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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