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.