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.