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!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

8th Art Loeb Adventure Trail Run

The eighth running of the Art Loeb Adventure Trail Run was a success yesterday. Every year the ALTAR is ran on or around the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. Running this rugged trail is a challenge in itself, but running it on the shortest day of the year, and winter weather only adds to the challenge.

This year, Matt and his family put together the lodge again at Camp Daniel Boone which makes for a comfortable start/finish. Spending time with the other runners is a special part of this adventure.

More runners were at the start of this years run compared to last year. The weather was unseasonably warm, with a high chance of rain later in the day. I wasn’t expecting any aid this year and prepared myself to go the entire distance with what I was carrying with me. Almost all of the elevation gain is in the first 18 miles of the trail.

After the first few miles I found myself running alone on the trail, enjoying the majestic sun shining down on hills. I was sweating, and drinking more water than anticipated. After climbing up and down several times, the massive climb up Pilot Mountain was upon me. I think this is the hardest section of this run. This is where David Horton and Jennifer Davis passed me. I met Jennifer and her husband the night before at the lodge and heard of her new AT female record, 57 day and 8 hours. We exchanged hellos and told them I would see them soon.

After crossing the Blue Ridge Parkway the Art Loeb shares the Mountains to Sea trail briefly. The climbing doesn’t stop, and we continue to ascend up high above onto Silvermine Bald. This is where I ran back into David Horton and Jennifer Davis. From here we crossed Black Balsam Bald Road which is where I was able to get a liter of water from Matt’s mother.

I immediately threw on my rain jacket and gloves kept trucking along. The wind on the balds must have been 60+ MPH. Some parts of the trail I could not run in a straight line. It was cold, light droplets of rain would freeze and pellet me in the face. Despite the rain and wind, the view was better than last years fog. After climbing up a few balds, the wind died down, and the sun came out again. In the distance, you could see Mt. Pisgah and a rainbow wrapped around it.

Conversations with David and Jennifer about her recent accomplishment made this section of the trail that much more enjoyable. We continued along a flooded trail and ran into Richard Lilly. Before reaching Cold Mountain, we turned left on the Art Loeb and headed back for the lodge. I finished this years run in 8:53, almost an hour and a half better than last year’s time!

Length: 30.1 miles
Location: Pisgah National Forest and Shining Rock Wilderness Area (NC, USA)
Trailheads: Davidson River Campground to Daniel Boone Boy Scout Camp
Highest Point: Black Balsam Knob (6,214 ft)
Lowest Point: Davidson River
Elevation Gain: 8,720 feet

Top photo and middle photo taken by Matt Kirk
Bottom photo taken by Jennifer Davis

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Thunder Road Marathon

In the midst of a collapsing economy, the mother of all ponzi schemes, and billions of dollars bailing out the banking and auto industries I decided to run the Charlotte Thunder Road Marathon. The world is changing rapidly, and the future is uncertain.

This would be my third time running this marathon which I have grown to enjoy. This year I would be pacing the 3:45 group of runners. We started in front of the Charlotte Convention Center and the thermometer read 32 degrees. It was chilly, but didn’t feel like it was freezing at the start. We were off and running and I tried to maintain an 8:35 pace from the start. After a few miles went by, a few runners began to ask if there was a 3:40 pacer. Sure, I said.

I crossed the half point in 1:51 which is just under the 8:35 pace I wanted to maintain, and I felt great. The sun was shining, and the day had warmed up nicely. Despite the cooler temperatures, my clothes were socked in sweat. It was mile 17 that I knew my pace would not hold. I crashed, and even slowed to a walk a few times. This was a clear sign of my physical condition. Later in the race I was motivated to see ultra buddies John Teed, and Bedford Boyce which gave me the energy to continue running hard the last two miles to finish in just under 4 hours.

I’ve certainly run better marathons, but it was a great day, and a great run!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

South Mountains 50K

Matt Kirk and I have talked about a South Mountains 50k for the past few months now, and today we made it happen. Matt found a route from Hwy 64 to the park, so we decided to do an out and back each of us started from different ends of the run. We both met up at the visitor center around 10:20am. My car measured the temperature at that time to be 37 degrees, and I was cold. I brought some food with me because I knew Matt would be a little hungry from running the first leg of the run. We both ran back towards Matt’s car. About a 1/3 of the run is actually in the park, and the other 2/3rds are on a single toll road that leads to Hwy 64. As you exit the park, the toll road weaves in and out thru some amazing views. Mountain vistas like the Black Mountains can be seen here.

We both made it to Matt’s car in 3:10. I refilled up my water bottle and popped two larabars dipped in peanut butter and started my return to the visitor center. My return took a little longer with several speed hikes involved. I couldn’t take my time because the days were short and the park locked its gates at 6pm. I used this as mental pressure to run harder.

The trail was certainly not flat. My altimeter gave me a reading of 6,240 feet of net gain/loss. Its important to note however that it is barometrically calculated and there were low lying clouds which may have affected an accurate reading. On the final stretch I passed the Shinny Creek Campgrounds which brought back many memories of my childhood as we had camped here during my younger days several times. It was getting dark, and although I was carrying a headlamp, it was a race between me and darkness. Who would reach the car first? I sped up despite some slight cramping in my hamstring and beat darkness to the car, reaching the visitor center at 5:41pm. The entire 32 miles took me 7:12.

I cleaned up in the parking lot and drove past the main entrance exactly at 6pm where a park ranger was waiting for me to leave. It was pitch black at this point. This run will surly happen again!

Photo taken by Matt Kirk.

Ultracentric 48 Hr

Two weeks ago I was at the Ultracentric 48 hour race in TX. After running slowly all day, trying to conserve energy, I retreated to my car form the extreme cold and wind. I slept in the car for a few hours and tried to get back out but I was unprepared for the cold and the wind. I didn’t realize TX could be so cold. That plus poor conditioning forced me back into my car until the morning. The next day I ran for a few more hours and decided to stop running at 100k. Although it was a great experience for me, I wouldn’t attempt the Ultracentic again.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


Senator Barak H. Obama won the historic election last night against John McCain.  It was only the day before that Barak visited UNCC at a rally in Charlotte, NC.  This is a great time in history and I am glad to have been able to witness it.  The photo below was taken on April 13, 2007 while Barak was visiting Charlotte for the first time at a breakfast function.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Dowd YMCA Half Marathon

Two years ago I ran the Dowd Y half, and I relived that same race again this year.  Motivated by racing buddies Greg and John I signed up the morning of the race.  I was surprised to see Sarah Almodovar from Asheville drive down for the half.  We exchanged hellos and talked about the new 24 hour race in NC at New Years.  The morning was chilly for Charlotte standards with temps in the upper thirties.  I felt good in the cold.

After running the first mile with Greg and John we all clocked a 7 min mile, and I decided to let them go while I enjoy this run.  The weather could not have been better.  I progressively slowed my pace throughout the run.  It has been a while since I have run a half marathon, and it felt good to run hard.  I finished by 2:25 slower than the last time I ran it two years ago.

After the run we all drove down to the Einstein Bagel and had breakfast.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Hwy 40 - Max Patch - Hot Springs 31 miles

We camped out the night before, and left the campground at 6:15am. Kemper volunteered to drive us down to Hwy 40. I miscalculated the time it would take to get to Hwy 40, that mixed in with not being able to find the right trailhead lead to an 8:07am start. I began hiking up Snowbird Mtn with Greg, and John. This was Johns first attempt at a 50k trail. We stuck together for the first few miles, and then Greg took off. This section of the AT resembled the Dow Jones index the last few days, steep ups and downs. When we reached an area that looked like the parking lot we didn’t see Greg. I had the key, and I knew he would want water. Me and John kept going for a while, and then decided to head back to the car, no Greg. John spent 10 min and then took off. I stayed back for another 10 min answering the call of nature. When I headed back towards Max Patch I took the Max Patch loop trail which was a mistake, and then the AT junctioned at the end of that trail. I decided to turn away from Hot Springs for a while so get to the summit of Max Patch as I have never been there, and head back.

The clouds reduced visibility to maybe 40 feet, so I didn’t hang out to see the views. It was in the 30’s at Max Patch and I was getting cold, so I quickly moved towards Hot Springs. After a few miles Greg startled me by tugging on the back of my pack. I thought to myself, How did he get behind me? He explained that he backtracked back to the car. We must have missed each other while I was on the loop trail. We both kept trucking along, hiking and running for a while. I gave Greg a bottle of water as I knew he might be short on fluids. After a few miles I decided to start running harder to try and catch up with John. I crossed the road into Hot Springs at 4:47pm, 8:40 minutes after we started in Hwy 40. Now I had to hike a mile into the campgrounds. I later found out John had finished 12 minutes before, which is amazing for a first time ultra runner, way to go John!

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Looking Glass 30 miles

I left the house by 5:30am so that I could meet Charlie, Matt, Adam, and Brian at the bottom of the Art Loeb trailhead. I was running low on gas as I passed Hendersonville and no gas station had any gas left. As I parked my car I wondered if gas would arrive by the end of the day.

We all headed up the Art Loeb and Brian took the car up to the Black Balsam Balds (18 miles away) which is where we would refuel. He would start there and run down to the Davidson River Campgrounds (our start/finish). Adam quickly shot up the mountain, and shortly after Charlie was off in the distance. I ran and hiked up the steep sections at my own pace. The day was perfect and the foliage was colorful.

After our aid station I took a right on the Mountains to Sea Trail. I headed up that trail for a little over ten miles and then I decided to hit the asphalt on Blue Ridge Parkway. I had planned to run to hwy276 and hitch I ride back to my car, which is when I saw all the guys on the side of the road waving at me. We all dropped our ambitious goal of 43 miles at mile 30. After over 9,000 feet of gain and 30 miles I was done for the day. I was able to find gas and make it back home with my car.

I would like to come back and finish this one day!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Hinson Lake 24

I enjoyed my time last year at The Hinson Lake 24hr and I was looking forward to another great 24 hour run with Tom and his family. This would be another year that Hinson Lake was in the month of Ramadan. Also, a week prior to the race hurricane Ike hit the coast of Texas which has caused and continues to cause a gasoline shortage in the southeast and specifically in Western North Carolina. I was forced to wait 40 minutes in line to fill up my take Friday before the race. It was either that or not make it to Rockingham.

We started at 8am and I was running a 10 minute pace. I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep that pace, but felt good starting off. After running the first loop I realized how muddy the second half of the trail was and knew that the more feet pounding that section of trail, the more sloppy it would get. It reminded me of the time I got stuck in the mud in our safari Land Cruiser in the middle of the Ngoro Ngoro crater. All up in it with the lions, water buffalo, and other exotic wild animals.

Hinson Lake is a 1.52 mile loop that circles Hinson Lake in Rockingham, NC. It was muggy and humid that morning. My shorts were drenched within a few loops. I started off running with Scott Brockmeier. We got lost in discussions of Russian adventures and I lost track of how many loops I had run. After about 10 loops I pulled back and let Scott go, he later went on to win the event running an amazing 79 loops totaling 120.58 miles!

After about 10 loops I took a little break and lied down, I was feeling a little tired. I grabbed a few salty potatoes and went on my way. I met many failure faces and a few new ultra runners. Along the way I ran into Laura who is always in the greatest of spirits. It was her birthday, and she was celebrating. I also ran into Lane who I met briefly at the Florida Keys 100, it was great to connect.

After a few more loops I began to feel hungry and sleepy. I usually don’t have these feelings, but I thought it might be due to the fasting of the last 23 days. I took a 15 minute nap and then drove off to a Wendy’s and grabbed a spicy chicken sandwich. I gobbled it up, it was great.

After my friends had learned of my side trip I quickly gained the trail name spicy chicken. I didn’t mind. At this point I was walking and running and talking to my new trail buddies. It took about 3 loops for the spicy chicken to settle in.

After 27 loops I talked myself out of the race. I sat down in my lawn chair and could feel a throbbing blister on my right foot. I had fun, but I was going to bail on the remainder of the run. I cheered a few runners and just sat in my chair for 45 minutes or so.

I was getting yelled at by this point and got up to walk a loop with Byron. I then decided to up the mileage to 50 for the day and was happy to finish with that. It took me 11:50 to wrap up Hinson Lake. Next year I plan to finish all 24 hours!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Mt. Rogers 5,729 ft (1746M)

This past weekend I made the trip to the Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area for the first time. Most of this recreation area is in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest. 78 miles of the Appalachian Trail runs thru the recreation area. Mt. Rogers is also the highest point in Virginia. The trail up to the summit is 4.5 miles one way. After running past the ponies reaching the summit I ran on the AT for a short spur of 3 miles.

The day was beautiful and abundant with sunshine. I ran back to the parking lot finishing well before my friends that had planned to hike at a fast pace. I decided to run down to the welcome center from the parking lot giving me a total mileage of just under 15 miles.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

100 Fasting Miles in Ramadan

Today is the third day of the month fasting, the month of Ramadan. Ramadan is the 9th lunar month in the Islamic calendar. I always look forward to Ramadan because it is a month of self-restraint and is an amazing way to purify and clear you entire body. I always find my running stronger during and after a long fast. The fasting starts at sunrise and ends at sunset for 30 consecutive days.

This year I have committed to run 100 fasting miles. 60-30 minutes before the sun sets, at the time I am most dehydrated, and at the time when my stomach searches for empty calories. Running while in a state of fast is truly a challenge. Last year I ran a handful of miles which I thought were difficult. You really have to reach deep within to be able to run.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

The Running of Laurel Valley

Claude Sinclair put’s on the Laurel Valley 35miler on the Foothills Trail. This race is 100% self supported, and is run in August intentionally so it can be hot as hell. This year fortunately the high never broke 90 degrees, it was at least 10 degrees cooler from last year.

I was running with Bedford, John T., Jim Musselman for most of the trail. I ended up finishing with Jim in 8:01:06. Great run!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Russian Federation Report

I have always been intrigued by Russia, and how it is portrayed in world history. That combined with my interest in the seven summits and my love for mountaineering led me to this amazing adventure. I do feel truly blessed to have had the opportunity to have traveled to this part of the world.

I had just spent 4 days traveling from Switzerland thru France and up high into the Italian Alps, and back. This was a warm up hike in preparation for Mt. Elbrus. My plane landed at 4:12pm in St. Petersburg, Russia and I was being stopped by the Russian immigration officer. After examining my passport for 10 minutes, she signaled for another officer to take me away. The airport seemed in worse shape than the Moroccan airport I fly into the city of Tangiers, a city that is literally 100 times smaller than St. Petersburg. No one wanted to ask me any questions, and no one was answering any of my questions! That pisses me off. After about 25 minutes of silence I was free to go. I picked up my bags, a large North Face duffle and an Arctyrex Bora 95. I immediately met Vern Tejas, our American guide, when I exited the airport. Shortly after Jason and Georgina followed. We rode a bus into town and checked into our hotel. That night the entire team arrived and we had a group meeting. We discussed our itinerary over the next two weeks. We would plan to spend two days in St. Petersburg, two days in Moscow, and the rest flying down to the Caucuses and climbing Mt. Elburs.

7/14-7/15 – St. Petersburg, Russian Federation – 36 feet
St. Petersburg the city is much better than its airport. The buildings are endess and the city is a labyrinth of rivers crisscrossing each other. We stayed in the Azimut Hotel (I would not recommend this place if your looking for a nice hotel) and my roommate was Joe from Tacoma, WA. The next day we took a tour of the city and had a chance to view the Hermitage. I felt like I was in a history class. By this time I was itching to go south and get up some mountains.

7/16/08 – Mineral Vody, Russian Federation – 1,020 feet
The 13 of us boarded a Russian flight from St. Petersburg to Mineral Vody. The flight sat on the tarmac for 30 or so minutes and everyone was instantly sweating as the AC doesn't even work! The plan appeared to have been built in the 1960's. After a few hours we landed and took a 4.5 hr. bumpy bus ride to the Baksan Valley. We met our Russian guide Nicolai, checked into the hotel and slept.

7/17/08 – Azau, Russian Federation – 7,500 feet
After breakfast we all hiked up a mountain closest to the boarder of Russia and Georgia. Here we had to carry our passports and there were tensions between Russia and Georgia and Russian military was patrolling the area. They could ask you for your passport on demand. The plan was to acclimatize. We took a chair life up to 8,700 feet and continued to hike up to about 10,985 feet. It was a sunny and beautiful day in the mountains. That night Vern played his harmonica for us. He told me he learned how to play in the Alaskan back country, which is where he is from.

7/18/08 – Azau, Russian Federation – 7,500 feet
The plan again was to continue to acclimatize. This process is extremely important in high altitude mountaineering. The human body needs to adjust when going up so high. If you climb high too fast you can suffer from AMS (Altitude Mountain Sickness). Pulmonary and Cerebral Edema can be life threatening. So we took our time going up and down several days before getting on the big glaciers. Today was about a 3,000 foot hike up to about 10,000 feet in complete rain. It was a bit chilly, but when I got moving I warmed up quickly.

7/19/08 – Barrel #7 (Base Camp) – 12,000 feet
I wasn't comfortable riding up gondolas and chairlifts to the base camp of the Barrels (ill get to this later), but hey, that's what the itinerary called for and I was sticking to it. We took up two gondolas and a chair lift to take us right to the Barrels. How convenient? I was staying in Barrel #7 which was next door to the Norwegian team. I noticed that the Norwegians like to roast in the glacial sun. They don't get enough of it in Norway. Once settled in we pulled out all of our sharps and practiced our mountaineering techniques and self arrest moves. The weather was perfect.

7/20/08 – Barrel #7 (Base Camp) – 12,000 feet
After breakfast we headed higher towards the Postakov Rocks (4,700 M). This is a rock formation created by lava flow the last time this massive volcano erupted. Several people set up tents here and this would be considered a Camp 2 area for those trying to climb without using the huts or the barrels. A few days ago however they had white out conditions up here and 16 tents blew off the mountain. Most of the team headed back after the reached the bottom of the rocks, but me and a few decided to continue to the top of the rocks up about another 100 meters. The day was mostly sunny, with clouds on the descent. I ran down to the barrels in 50 minutes.

7/21/08 – High Huts (Camp 1) – 13,700 feet
We hiked up 1700 feet from the barrels to the high huts and immediately began to start packing our summit packs and resting. We would plan to summit tomorrow. The teams plan was to take a snow cat from the Huts to the bottom of Postakov Rocks (where most left off yesterday). I decided that I would rather hike up to Postakov vs. the snow cat. Dr. Jeff Prchal, a Czech native living in French Canada decided to join me and skip out on the snow cat.

7/22/08 – High Huts (Camp 1) – 13,700 feet - SUMMIT DAY 18,510 FEET / 5,642 METERS
Me and Jeff work up at 1:15am, had breakfast with Nicolai, and had our crampons strapped on and ready to go by 2:30am. We met the rest of the group at lower Postakov at 4:30am. Me, Jeff, and Nicolai had been waiting about 15 minutes. My hands almost froze off at this point. I wanted to keep moving, but Nicolai insisted we wait and stay. The Russian tolerance for the cold is amazing. The temperature was better than expected at about 15 degrees Fahrenheit. The entire team was together after the snow cats arrived and we pushed upward at a slower pace than what me and Jeff were going a few hours earlier. This was good because I could feel a headache coming on. My plan was to not take any medication (diamox) at all, and climb this mountain el natural. I had done this before on Kilimanjaro the year prior and was confident I could do it again on Elbrus. I was pressure breathing like crazy, with three short power breaths in one long push. This helped tremendously. When the sun came up with was scorching. The weather was the best Vern could remember that high up. We all made it to the summit and took some photos and congratulated each other. We then hiked back down and made back to the High Huts safely. It took me 12:20 round trip to summit with a net gain of 5,080 feet.

7/23/08 – High Huts (Camp 1) – 13,700 feet
After getting some rest, and some calories, we all hiked down to the barrels and took the first chair lift down, and then two gondolas down back to Azau and crawled back into our hotel rooms. After a few hours of rest several of us went out to eat. After lunch I felt like going for a run! I ran down the road away from Azau and back to the hotel for a total of 11 miles. I lost about 1,200 feet of elevation while running down and gained it all back on my return. During my run I had thoughts of the climb being too easy. The lifts made it so much easier. For this reason I had planned to get up early the next morning and hike up to the Barrels from the hotel room. Basically hike up what the two gondolas and chair lift would take you, about 4,500 feet of elevation gain. I ate dinner, packed what I needed for the next day, and slept early while the entire team was out celebrating the success of the summit.

7/24/08 – Azau, Russian Federation – 7,500 feet
I woke up at 4:30am. I had everything read to go, so I was on the trail within 10 minutes. Today was a planned buffer day for bad weather. Because we had amazing weather and summated a day early, I had the opportunity to hike up this section. When am I coming back to Azau, or Russia for that matter? I was determined to take the opportunity and hike up while I had the chance. It took me 3 hours to reach the barrels. This section of trail was definitely less than 3 miles. This gives you an idea of how steep this section is. It's made up of scree and you can slide around easily. The most difficult part was the last 1/3 mile up to the Barrels when I hit the glacier. I had carried an ice axe with me, but didn't feel the need to carry my crampons, as I wanted to run down, and move lighter. I took me a long time getting up on the glacier and I was slipping all over the place (not recommended). We I finally reached the top of the Barrels I was pleasantly surprised by anther European sun lover! They were not expecting someone running up the backside of the mountain this early in the morning. I snapped a photo and began my descent. I ran down in about an hour. My total time up and down was 4:03:53.

7/25/08 – Azau, Russian Federation – 7,500 feet
After waking up casually and having breakfast we took the same bumpy ride back to Mineral Vody. We pit stopped along the way for lunch, and then took a flight to Moscow.

7/26/08-7/29/08 – Moscow, Russian Federation – 830 feet
We toured Moscow. This is an amazing city. You can really see the effects of communism here. The contrast between the old and the new is clear. I could have spent a few more days here.

Several days after returning back home to the states war broke out between Russia and Georgia.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

European Adventure Update - The Italian Alps

The weather was bad on the Swiss-French side of the Alps, so we headed towards Italy by way of Aosta. Two days hiking, slept at almost 10,000 feet, snow, and really amazing views. I'm in the airport on my way to St. Petersburg. The remainder of this journey will be in Russia. More details later.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

European Adventures

I leave for Switzerland today. Tomorrow I will be hiking somewhere in the Alps between the boarder of France and Switzerland, one foot in each country. I’ll be there for a few days (warm up) before heading to St. Petersburg, Russia. There I will check out the town and see what it has to offer before I fly south to Mineral Vody, Russia. I will take a bus down to the Caucuses and begin to wander around until I find my way to the top of Mt. Elbrus. Once I reach the top and snapped a few photos, I’ll run down the mountain. From there I will fly north to Moscow and check out that town before heading back to the hills of North Carolina.

More details and photos whence I return!

Monday, June 09, 2008

Clingmans to Davenport

The Smokies is always a great place to visit, and running the section of the AT from Clingmans Dome to Davenport Gap I have only done once before. The weather was warmer than last and I started in temperatures just under 80 degrees only to get warmer for the next few hours. This is very warm for the Smokies. I walked up the half mile paved path to the summit of Clingmans and headed Northeast on the AT. I started at 9:05am. With in a few minutes I ran into a group of volunteers working on the trail. This would happened a dozen more times as they were working on the entire section I was running. What a great way to give back to something you cherish.

I arrived into Newfound Gap in 1:45, and took a 10 min break to take care of some business. I was surprised to see that the bathrooms at Newfound Gap had been renovated. There are no longer sinks there, just toilets and hand sanitizers. So don’t rely on getting any water here unless you drop it.

As the day warmed up, the bugs were evident on the trail. I had to dodge some of them out of the way in order to avoid getting them in my eyes, nostrils, or swallow them. I was drinking more water than normal and I knew I would have to refuel sooner rather than later. I was carrying 4 liters with me at the start. This was completely self supported, so you had to carry everything you need for the entire 37 mile section. You can refill water from the spring along the way at the shelters.

I started this hike/run with 8 other people. 7 of which were attempting to hike 24 miles. 4 from Newfound gap to Cosby Campgrounds, 3 from Cosby Campgrounds to Newfound gap, 1 was attempting from Newfound gap to Davenport gap (31 miles), and I was going from Clingmans to Davenport gap (37 miles). The logistics were a little tricky, but with a few that volunteered to hike in the opposite direction, and with a car drop, we were on our way to a well planned adventure. The group of 7 hikers had started 1 to 2 hours before me from Newfound gap or from Cosby, and I was 7 miles away from where they were starting. I eventually reached them at Pecks Shelter which is where I needed to refuel and refill water (4:45pm).

For future reference, I don’t recommend filling up water from this shelter, it’s almost a mile off the trail round trip. Fill up at Tricorners which is much easier and faster to get to. I spent about 40 min eating my turkey sandwich I brought along, and filling up all 4 liters again, hiking up and down to the spring. I wanted to keep moving because I still had another 20 miles to go, I wasn’t even half way!

At this point I was hiking a healthy pace up the hills, and shuffling the flats, and running the downhill’s. The last climb of Mt. Cammerar was the longest. I finished in 10:37, a 21 min improvement from last time. I ate approximately 1,700 calories which included a bag of honey mustard pretzels, a turkey sandwich, 2 energy bars, 2 mango gu’s, and several ginger chew’s. I burned 7,775 calories, and drank all 8 liters of water, it was hot.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Weekend in the Black Mountains

Saturday I made it back out to the Linville Gorge. I was wearing a heavier pack, and the weight was something I felt in my legs. We started on the Connelly Cove trail which descends into the gorge and crosses a bridge. The vegitation was thick and was growing fast. If I was hiking down the gorge this way again, I wouldnt wear shorts. My legs got chewed up. From there we ascended the Little Table Rock trail which is steep. The weather was warmer than I have been used to this year. The breeze was refreshing at the summit of Table Rock. Here we had lunch and enjoyed the beautiful weather and views. We then descended back down to the river and swam in the water which felt perfect. Hiking back up to the car I walked past a loose rock and fell over a steep ledge. Luckily a sturdy tree branch caught me and prevented me from falling further down. Other than a few scrapes I was good to go. The fact that I have been running more than hiking with weight was evident in my speed and ability. I will be focusing more on pack training and starting to do more heavy weight hiking to better prepare myself for Mt. Elbrus.

Sunday I was back out in the Blacks. I was leading a group of 9 hikers up Mt. Mitchell from the Black Mountain Campgrounds. This is an 11 mile round trip ascent, and truly never gets boring. The weather at the top was 53 degrees about 20 degrees cooler than the campground. We lost about 5 degrees every 1,000 feet of elevation gain. On the return I lied in the South Toe river to cool off.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Keys Ultra - 50 Miles

This past weekend the Florida Keys 100 raised thousands of dollars for prostate cancer research. The ultra marathon had over 100 runner running mostly the relay, with 20 runners starting the 50 miler, and 19 starting the 100.

My brother Hazem joined me on this adventure and was crewing for me while I attempted the 100. We began the run at 6am with a 77 degree start. I knew it would be warm and I started with a slower pace than usual.

After the first 25 miles I changed shoes because I had sweat all the way thru them and they were sloshing around. By this time the heat was really on. The high temperature for that day was 93 degree. I made sure I was downing electrolytes and water regularly.

The road was very flat. Bridges were the only places we had any elevation. I had packed ice on my back, head, and chest at times to keep my body temperature from over heating. It was humid. After running 50 miles I decided to drop out as the heat totally exhausted my body.

After the run we both checked out Key West, and made the short flight over to the Dry Tortugas Islands.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

MMT out and Keys 100 in

This year I attempted to get into the Massanutten Mountain 100 but unfortunately signed up the same day but a few hours too late and was wait listed. The race director informed me that I would not make the cut! So I quickly moved to plan B, the Florida Keys 100 Ultra. I have never been the keys, and what better way to experience an area than to run thru it on foot.

Some major contrasts between the Keys Ultra and Coyote are the Keys Ultra is flat vs. 28,000 feet of gain. The Keys Ultra is hot with humidity vs. dry heat. The keys Ultra is on asphalt self supported vs. trails with aid stations.

This should be an interesting experience!!

Live updates will be posted on this blog and facebook.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Blue Planet Run for Africa 12 Hr

I arrived at Camp Rockmont sooner than I anticipated with a whole 70 minutes before the start to register, gather my provisions, and possibly get some rest before what I thought would be a 24 hour run. I met up with Richard Lilly, Brian Bedhun, Mike Day, Mike Piercy, and Drew Shelfer.

The course is a 5 mile crisscrossed loop that has a few steep climbs and descents, which don’t seem too intimidating the first go around, and some flat sections with large chunky gravel, and some grassy flat sections near the lake and near the start/finish area.

I ran half of the first loop with Mike Peircy who had only planned to run for 6 hours. He told me a little bit about the history of Camp Rock mount and how it used to be Black Mountain College. I learn something new every time I attempt one of these long runs.

I ran a few more loops alone then got lapped by Drew and later by Richard. These guys were pushing it a little harder than I was and I didn’t let it get to me because I was attempting the 24 hour and they had only planned to run for 12. The relay runners would zip right by you some of which clipping 7 to 8 minute miles. Sometimes I would try to keep up with some of them, but that only proved to be no good. By lap 10 (50 miles) I really felt exhausted and sleepy, the sun was setting, so I grabbed my headlamp. I really didn’t get a good amount of sleep for the three days leading up to this run due to work and woke up at 5:50am the day of the race to drive up to Black Mountain. I slowed my pace a little for the next two loops and finished lap 12 in 12:01:45. I sat in a chair at the start/finish for 10 minutes and walked over to the time keeper and let them know I would drop out of the run at 60 miles. I was too sleepy and some stomach issues were bothering me.


Sunday, April 20, 2008

Fontana Village 30 miler

Fontana Dam is a Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) hydroelectric dam on the Little Tennessee River in the state of North Carolina. The dam is 2,365 feet (721 m) long and 480 feet (146 m) high making it the tallest dam in the Eastern United States. It impounds Fontana Lake. For thru-hikers on the Appalachian Trail (AT), it marks the beginning or end of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, depending on their direction of travel.

After scratching plans to run from Clingmans Dome to Fontana Lake solo due to weather conditions we came up with a new itinerary. It was me, Ann, Paul, Jason, and Wendy. Everyone was interested in a 13 or so mile hike, and I really wanted to get a long 30 mile’s out of my system. So we planned to take two cars and drop them at the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) and Stechoa Gap. Paul and Ann would hike in the direction of the NOC and me, Jason and Wendy would hike from the NOC to Stechoa gap. When we intersect, we do a key swap. My plan was to keep going from Stechoa gap and run all the way back to the cabin in Fontana Village 16 miles away from Stechoa.

We began the hike a little later than I would have wanted around 9:55am. It had been raining all night and had just stopped raining around 9:30ish. We strapped our packs and headed up the AT towards Cheoah Bald, 5,062 feet (1,543 m). This 8 mile section of the AT wasn’t new to me, and recent memories of finishing the Bartram Trail came back to life. I climbed 3,700 feet to reach the summit in 2:35 and with almost perfect timing meeting Ann and Paul. After spending a little over 15 minutes at the top I decided to keep trucking along. Despite weather forecasts, the day was pleasant with a sprinkle here and there. I picked up my speed after the summit on the downhill and I was alone from here on out.

Every April hundreds of thru hikers start a journey from Georgia to Maine to cross the entire 2,174 mile of the Appalachian Trail. I started passing a few thur hikers at this point stopping for a few seconds to exchange hellos. When I reached Stechoa Gap in 4:10 I unlocked my car and grabbed a turkey sandwich, some salty chips, and drank the rest of the water I had in my car. I was down to a one liter bottle of water.

I still had 16 miles to go, and the next 2 miles were uphill. This section of the AT was new to me. It was getting very warm and I was drinking more water than I thought I would and by this time I had drank a little over 3.5 liters. I stopped at Brown Fork Shelter and filled up 2.5 liters to take me the entire way. I kept running the flat and downhill sections and hiking up the hills. There were many stealth knobs that don’t show up on the contour lines on my map. When I reached Cable Gap Shelter I had 6.6 miles to hwy 28 or 8.8 miles to the Cabin. I met a few more thru hikers, most of which had been hiking for three days from the NOC to reach Cable Gap Shelter. A few miles later a great view of Fontana Lake appeared and the Dam was visible from high above. I knew I was getting closer at this point and from here on out it was downhill. Although I was tired, I was still moving. I finally reached hwy 28 and turned left. Two miles left on asphalt to make it back to the cabin. I began to run, and then it was impossible to run because the road was too steep. This slowed me to a hiking pace, and I finished the 30 mile speed hike trail run in 9 hours exactly.

Ann, Paul, Jason, and Wendy all made it back to the cabin with all the vehicles and the logistics worked out perfectly! Maybe next time I am in Fontana I will have bagged the Clingmans Dome to Fontana 30 mile section.

Start time 9:55am
Finish time 6:55pm
Start at the NOC
Finish at Fontana Village
Total distance 30 miles
Total calories burned 7,880
Total elevation gain ~6,700 feet
Summit: Cheoah Bald 5,062 feet (1,543 m)

Friday, April 11, 2008

Tim Long's Thursday Night Fun Runs 4.44 Miles

Mix it up a bit. Fast pace, fast twitch action Tim Long puts on races all over the map. He brings his skills to the local running community in Charlotte all for the sake of a good time. With a water stop and being timed! One of the reasons I fell in love with running a few years back is people like Tim who actually give back to the community and ask for nothing. This is a pretty common trait among most of the trail runners I meet. Although I am more used to trail, and slow paced longer distance running, the fast pace fast twitch action will certainly be part of my game plan this year. Look forward to more great running

The run starts at 6:30pm at the Charlotte Running Company (1412 East Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28203). Good times.

*photo by: Jim Payne

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Umstead 50

I packed a thin lightweight rain jacket as the forecast mentioned rain all day. At 6am fireworks set off to signal the start and we were off running. The first loop went well, and I was running well. The air was humid, and no rain yet. My body doesn’t react well to the humidity and I sweat a lot, much more than the average runner. So I have to make sure to replace the fluids and electrolytes I lose while running. The Umstead 100 is a 12.5-mile loop with spurs in Umstead Park (Raleigh, NC). The course will be repeated eight times equaling 100 miles. There is also a 50 mile option, so if your not feeling the 100, then you have the option of just finishing 50 miles. This is a huge psychological game when your at mile 50. During the second lap I began to feel the effects of my short recovery from Coyote 2 Moon two weeks ago. Coyote 2 Moon was the first 100 I had ever finished. It took me 38 hours and had 28,000 feet of gain. I did not run a single time between finishing Coyote and Umstead. I know this sounds like bad planning, and it is. My legs felt like there were at mile 70 when I was only on mile 14. I also made the mistake of wearing Gore-Tex shoes. I figured It would be raining all day, and Gore-Tex would be the right option, wrong! I was sweating profusely and soaked my socks and shoes. The sweat in my shoes had no where to escape as the Gore-Tex wouldn’t let them. So I squished my way back to the aid station fully intent on dropping. I knew this wouldn’t be my day. As I shuffled into the aid station I saw Charlie, who I had met at Adam Hill's Pitchell run last year in October. I told him I was dropping and that this run was just bad timing. He told me to "take a break, and go slow and steady."

That’s what I did. I ended up running another painful two loops, and met up with Fred Dumar on the 3rd loop. No sense in dropping at the third loop and DNF'ing when you can just finish one more and get credit for a 50 mile run. He was right! I kept telling myself to keep going and finished the 50 miles.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Coyote 2 Moon Report

7 has always been my lucky number, and I have never had that number as a bib ever until Coyote 2 Moon.

So I have never successfully finished a contiguous 100 mile run, why would I choose Coyote 2 Moon to be the one I try to finish? I was asked that question by most on the run. A runner would approach me and say, “ohhh, you’re the first time 100 miler.” Probably feeling sorry for me, and thinking what a bad choice for a first 100. Maybe it’s because I love the mountains and a natural desire to explore new areas. I have never been to California. Los Padres National Park just above Ojai, CA is really a fantastic area and to top it off, have you seen the belt buckle?

This is certainly not a traditional 100 miler. It's a staggered start, so different people start at different times depending on their past experiences in running 100's with similar elevation gain and their ability. When Chris Scott, the race director, asked me how long I thought I would finish, I told him 38 hours. The cutoff was 40 hours. I ended up starting with the 40 hour group, which meant we could take full advantage of the 40 hour limit. No one took this run seriously, it was just one big party going on all weekend. I started Friday at 4pm with a group of a little over a dozen runners, all of which had completed 100 milers in the past, and some really tough ones too. I met too many random runners that had completed Badwater. I was the odd one in the bunch. The next group would start at 6pm, 9pm and so on with each runner trying to finish before 8am Sunday. The fastest group started at 6am Saturday morning, 14 hours after I did!

We were off, and I took it slow from the start. My training had not gone well at all for the past two months. The entire month of February I was down with the flu which forced me to turn around on Mt. Mitchell at the BRP for a marathon finish. Up until the day of the race I had questioned my self and my ability. I had though many times to switch to the 100k, but mentally I convinced myself this was a run of a life time. It would the first year they run the Coyote 2 Moon.

At 4pm on Saturday it was hot and by the first aid station the volunteer looked at me and told me that I had sweat too much. My sweat rate is higher than normal, and I down more water and keep a close monitor of my electrolytes because of that. I had not focused on a certain pace, or speed, but rather just enjoying the nice day in the mountains with a bunch of other lunatics trying to do the same thing I was.

This run is not easy to follow. The easiest way to describe it is the ridge acts as the spine, and from the ridge there are 8 out and backs. I was on my out to the Sisar Valley, the first out and back on the course. From the ridge I was running downhill, and it was here I picked up my pace. I felt good and wasn't running hard, just running leisurely downhill. On my way down I passed a group of three runners. As I passed them, a guy yelled out and said I had to wear this sweaty goofy looking hat with a pin wheel attached to it. Something a clown would wear. Apparently I didn't realize that the lead male and lead female for each group must wear this goofy hat, or they get penalized on their time and risk DNF'ing even if they finish in the 40 hour time. I thought this to be odd, but played along. At this point I lead the entire 4pm group. That made me feel as if I was going out too fast, and rethought my plan and slowed down a bit. After reaching the Sisar Valley aid station I downed some calories, grabbed some warmer cloths that I had dropped and turned around to run back up what I just run down.

It was getting dark and cooling quickly. Half way up I was passed by Linda McFadden who was wearing the same goofy looking hat I was signifying that she was the lead female for the 4pm starters. I hiked up at a fast pace to keep up with her and I kept asking her questions to see if that would slow her down, but this women was tough. I learned she had completed Badwater and continued to climb the summit of Mt. Whitney, then continued to hike the John Muir Trail. For someone like me who would be happy just to finish this run, I began to be concerned again. Was I following the fast people too closely. But I kept telling myself I had 40 hours to complete this and just go with the flow. At that point we hit an aid station, and Chris and Sue were working it. Sue told me that she was planning a summit attempt at Denali later this year. Chris, the race director, said I was doing good on time. I had some quesadillas and went off to the summit of Topatopa the highest point on the run. Before I left Chris told me that I would find a deck of cards at the summit and I needed to bring a card back with me. This guy kept coming up with creative idea's that really made this run different from any I had ever done before. It was dark and I could see Linda's headlamp ahead of me, she was now clearly ahead of me. I kept running until, to my surprise, I saw Linda standing on some snow with a layer of ice that made it almost impossible to walk on without risking a nasty fall to the bottom. I attempted to get onto the snow and was able to carefully walk without slipping. Did Chris know how dangerous this was for other runners? I mean crampons were certainly called for here. I thought this was part of the game and kept hiking up ice until I reached a section of trail that kept going higher with little or no ice. Finally I could see what I thought was the summit of Topatopa and was inclined to bushwhack and grab a card and run down. No other runners were in sight, but I was leading at this point. I thought I had gained a sizable lead. No sign of Linda or any other runner. For some reason I didn't think too much about that, and kept trying to find the summit. I ended up bushwhacking up three summits at my altimeter read 6,300 feet which was close to what the summit of Topatopa is. But no deck of cards to be found, no other runners to be found. I climbed up two other summits which appeared to be higher than where I was, nothing. I realized something is really wrong, and turned around. You cant run downhill on ice, you will slip and fall right away. I had a makeshift ice axe out of a branch I broke off a tree and carefully walked down back towards the aid station. At this point psychologically I was drained. I had gone over two miles off course. Plus extra elevation I didn't need!! Arrgh!! When I hit the trail section I noticed the turn that me and Linda had missed because I could see all the headlamps climbing up the summit trail. A truck was driving towards me on the ridge and it was Chris asking where the hell I had been. Several runners had come thru the aid station, up to the summit, and all said they had not seen me at all. I told him what happened and I went back to the aid station skipping all together the summit of Topatopa. I offered my makeshift axe to Chris in exchange for a card! He accepted. I warmed up with a cup of soup, and thought that I still had plenty of time to complete this challenge.

At this point all the runners I was with were long gone and the aid station volunteers told me that I could still make it, and that to not let it affect me. Are you kidding, I was still feeling great and was planning on crossing the finish line before 8am. I kept heading North towards Rose Valley and ran this section alone. Almost all the 4pmer's had past me and several 6pmer's had passed by this point. When I got to rose valley the first time I didn't linger around, it was freezing. I later found out it was 22 degrees there. I grabbed some food and started the hike back up what I just ran down.

I was beginning to feel the discomfort at this point and remember taking my time hiking up. It was here I met with Brian Clark. Me and Brian ran together for the next two aid stations and we kept each other going. We were on our way to Thatcher School and daylight broke. On our way down Thatcher I saw three runners hiking up, they must have had a 9-10 mile lead on us at that point. We got down to Thatcher refueled and hiked back up what we just ran down.

It was hot as all get out, and I kept downing water and eating salty pretzel sticks and chips and taking an electrolyte tablet when I felt necessary. This was a true adventure for me as I have never run under two moons. I have done several all nighters, midnight marathons, and you can't beat the night running. I was not expecting the large variance in weather from night and day. The low for Friday night was 22 degrees at Rose Valley (mile marker 32 and 62). On the ridge the highs reached over 80 degrees and the sun was pounding down hard. There are no tree and very few area's with shade. Very dry area compared to my home state of North Carolina. It reminded me of the desert heat of the Grand Canyon. After getting back onto the ridge and running for a while the sign to Rose Valley appeared and the decent was steep. My feet had blistered up at the ball of my foot pretty bad and it was compounded by the next two miles of steep downhill to the bottom of Rose Valley. When I reached the aid station, I took my shoes and socks off and realized I would be spending some time here. Linda was leaving as I was coming in. She over heard me say something about blisters and kindly offered to use her blister kit, and I needed it. Gillian, a co-owner of ZombiRunner.com came to my rescue and cleaned up my feet, wrapped them up, and got me going again. The pain didn’t got away immediately, but felt much more bearable. I have to say, if it wasn’t for this blister repair, I would have DNF’ed. Thank you Gillian!!!

I started back up the steepest 2 miles and towards the end every bend of the trail I would tell myself was the last and the end was near. But it kept going forever. When I reached the ridge I felt relief, and began to run again. I kept going, and finally reached the Gridley top aid station. Refueled, drank a full bottle of water, and kept the quesadillas coming. They never tasted so good. I left and hiked/ran down to Gridley Bottom.

I was feeling good psychologically at this point. I still had plenty of time, and just had to hike up 3,000 feet back to the ridge and run to the bottom of Cozy Dell and back and I was done. I was told that Cozy Dell was the gentlest part of the run. I had two burritos and some more food, and headed back up. On my way up I ran into another group of runners doing the 100k. I also met up with Rob who was a 9pm starter for the 100M. He looked fresh, and was leading the hike up at a good pace. I figured If I could hang with these guys I was in the clear. It seemed to take forever, but we finally made it back up to the aid station. It was dark and I had to barrow a headlamp as I forgot mine down at the aid station. I also lent out my spare to Brian. One of the greatest things about the ultra running community is that they are always happy to help someone succeed.

To my surprise out of the aid station we started hiking up when I thought we were headed down to Cozy Dell. We climbed maybe 2,000 feet then descended again down. The group I was with ran down, and I hiked slowly down at this point. My feet kept bothering me. I had to convince myself to ignore the pain and catch up with Rob. I let a faster runner pass me and I followed him for a good mile downhill fast. The pain was there, but I was ignoring it. I passed Rob and finally caught up with the 100k group I was with earlier and let the fast runner go his way. The run down Cozy Dell wasn’t so cozy for me, it was harder than I had imagined. I kept going and going and finally, I could see the lights of the aid station. It was at least a half a mile farther down. I felt like I was moving fast, but my pace was very slow. Some huge boulders showed up and I hoped a few of them here and there and finally stumbled into the aid station. They had some awesome chips and salsa here which I munched on for a while then had some soup. I was here for less than 5 min as the 100k group got back up and was out on there way. One of them had dropped here. A few other runners were sitting in chairs with blankets covering their shivering bodies.

I knew this would be tough, but I had to climb back up what was extremely difficult to run down. My body had been trashed, and my feet swollen and blistered. I kept telling myself it was the last big climb and just to keep moving. This section I did alone. I kept moving, and hiking up as fast as I could. I was moving maybe at 2 miles per hour uphill. It took forever, but I made it back to the aid station and sat down for 10 minutes. I knew that they longer I sat that the chance of my legs working again kept getting smaller. I had refueled and waited for the next runner to show up so we could go out and tackle the last three miles of this run. It was a mile a half up hill on the ridge and another two miles back to the ranch on single track trail. I kept pushing myself to the very last minute. I crossed the finish line at exactly 6am for a 38 hour finish.

I wrapped myself in blankets and ate another burrito, soup, coffee, and started to come back to life. My body has never been so wasted before.

I was glad to have finished this beast of a run! Thank you to all the volunteers and to the people that made this event possible! Without them, none of this would have happened.

Start 0 miles
Sisar Valley 17.2 miles
Topatoap 25.8 miles
Rose Valley 31.8 miles
Thatcher School 49.4 miles
Rose Valley 61.4 miles
Gridley Bottom 72.1 miles
Cozy Dell 85.6 miles
Finish 97.1 miles

Lost for +-2 miles