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 27, 2009

MST 27M

4 days before the Blue Moon ALTAR, Charlie and I decided to do a quick out and back on the Mountains to Sea Trail. The parkway was shut down in Ashevegas due to ice and snow, so we had to meander a bit on the drive the Folk Art Center.

Photo by Charlie

From the Folk Art Center we ran 13.5 miles all the way to the French Broad River in 2:33:30. The condition of the trail was good. Some sections had snow on the trail, and some sections the trail was clear and visiable as the snow on it had melted. We decided to try and negative split the return, throwing down a strong pace.

The temperature began to climb to a high of 50 degrees, and although I knew it would be a little warmer and sunny, the warmth gave me a healthy sweat rate. The negative split was still in sight as we passed Hendersonville Rd. We opted to not retrive additional water here so we could maintain our pace, which ended up being a mistake. We ran dehydrated to the Folk Art Center and finished in 5:08, positive splitting the run by one minute. Great training run!

in 2:03:30 one way, touched the French Broad River sign and headed back. Challenging ourselves to negative split this section of trail that blazes right thru Asheville. We were on pace, and felt great for the majority of the run, but ran out of water at Hwy 25 on the return and slowed our place due to mild dehydration. Positive split it by 1:01! Great run today Charlie. Now its time to rest the legs for the Double Altar on Blue Moon New Years Eve. No other way to end a decade!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

9th ALTAR

The 9th ALTAR this year never took place. A winter snow tsunami hit Asheville, NC Friday night shutting down all major interstates and dumping more than 10 inches of snow. Travel to Asheville was possible but risky, thus many of the runners bailed out. Scott, Liz, and Carl, all from Georgia made it to Camp Daniel Boone and went on a hike up Cold Mountain and back on Saturday.

Charlie, Matt, David, and I made it to Brevard late in the morning and decided to go for a short run/hike. We ended up running an 8 mile loop. Downed rhododendron’s made many sections much harder and slower than they would have been. The wet snow was perfect for making snowmen, but made the run harder than it would have been with powdery snow.

Word is out that the ALTAR maybe put on in the weeks to come.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Pre-Winter Solstice Run on the Art Loeb Trail

The 9th running of the ALTAR, an invitational winter ultra run on the second solstice of the year, is upon us. Winter starts on the solstice, and it will roar like a beast this Saturday in the mountains of Western North Carolina.

Photo: View from Camp Berlin (19,490 ft) on Aconcagua taken by the Sultan.

Weather Update:

WINTER STORM WARNING IN EFFECT FROM 6 AM FRIDAY TO 7 PM EST SATURDAY...
THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN GREENVILLE-SPARTANBURG HAS ISSUED A WINTER STORM WARNING FOR HEAVY SNOW... WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM 6 AM FRIDAY TO 7 PM EST SATURDAY. THE WINTER STORM WATCH IS NO LONGER IN EFFECT.
SNOW... POSSIBLY MIXED WITH SLEET AND RAIN... WILL SPREAD INTO THE SOUTHERN AND CENTRAL MOUNTAINS OF NORTH CAROLINA... THE ADJACENT NORTH CAROLINA FOOTHILLS... AS WELL AS PORTIONS OF THE MOUNTAINS OF SOUTH CAROLINA FRIDAY MORNING. THE PRECIPITATION IS EXPECTED TO FALL MAINLY AS SNOW THROUGH MUCH OF THE AFTERNOON... ALTHOUGH A CHANGE TO A MIX OF SLEET AND RAIN IS POSSIBLE ACROSS THE SOUTH CAROLINA MOUNTAINS DURING THE EVENING. PRECIPITATION WILL GRADUALLY TAPER OFF FROM SOUTH TO NORTH FRIDAY NIGHT INTO SATURDAY.
STORM TOTAL SNOWFALL IS EXPECTED TO RANGE FROM 4 TO 8 INCHES ACROSS THE SOUTHERN FOOTHILLS OF NORTH CAROLINA... AS WELL AS PORTIONS OF THE SOUTHERN AND CENTRAL MOUNTAINS... GENERALLY IN AREAS WEST OF INTERSTATE 26 AND ALONG AND EAST OF THE BALSAMS. ACROSS THE GREENVILLE AND PICKENS MOUNTAINS... TOTAL SLEET AND SNOW ACCUMULATIONS OF 1-4 INCHES ARE POSSIBLE.
THE SNOW IS EXPECTED TO CONTAIN A LOT OF MOISTURE AND WILL EASILY ACCUMULATE ON TREES AND POWER LINES. IN ADDITION... NORTHEAST WINDS WILL BECOME BREEZY ON FRIDAY AND WILL REMAIN THROUGH FRIDAY NIGHT. THE COMBINATION OF THE WEIGHT OF THE SNOW AND GUSTY WINDS MAY DOWN TREES AND POWER LINES... CREATING AREAS OF POWER OUTAGES.
Photo: 2008 ALTAR start, taken by Patty Kirk.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...
A WINTER STORM WARNING FOR HEAVY SNOW MEANS SEVERE WINTER WEATHER CONDITIONS ARE EXPECTED OR OCCURRING. SIGNIFICANT AMOUNTS OF SNOW ARE FORECAST THAT WILL MAKE TRAVEL DANGEROUS. ONLY TRAVEL IN AN EMERGENCY. IF YOU MUST TRAVEL... KEEP AN EXTRA FLASHLIGHT... FOOD... AND WATER IN YOUR VEHICLE IN CASE OF AN EMERGENCY.
... MAJOR WINTER STORM TO AFFECT THE AREA FRIDAY THROUGH SATURDAY AFTERNOON...
A STRONG COASTAL STORM WILL SPREAD WIDESPREAD PRECIPITATION ACROSS THE REGION FRIDAY INTO SATURDAY. TEMPERATURES ASSOCIATED WITH THIS SYSTEM SHOULD REMAIN COLD ENOUGH TO SUPPORT SIGNIFICANT WINTER WEATHER ACROSS THE MOUNTAINS AND THE INTERSTATE 40 CORRIDOR ACROSS THE NORTH CAROLINA FOOTHILLS AND PIEDMONT. PRECIPITATION RATES WILL GENERALLY DECREASE ACROSS THE REGION SATURDAY AFTERNOON AS THE LOW TRACKS NORTHEAST ALONG THE ATLANTIC COASTLINE.

Words from race director Matt Kirk:

“Guys, this may be the year that puts '03, '05 to shame. The year you wished you stayed home. If you come, travel safely at your own risk. There are no guarantees that the back roads will be passable.”

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Thunder Road Marathon 26.2

An estimated 9,000 attended both the half and full marathon yesterday morning. I arrived in the convention center a few minutes after seven am to attend the pacer pre-race meeting. I was assigned to pace the 3:45 group. A pacer is a runner that runs a consistent pace throughout the race and helps other runners stay on target. We were running 8:35 minute miles.

I learned I would be pacing with John Teed, this meant good times and laughs were in order. I also met up with Bedford and DC. This kind of made up for my miss at Laurel Valley, and I had a chance to catch up.

On the asphalt, another successful year was had at the Thunder Road. After the halfway point a few more ultra guys popped up? Richard Lilly also came out of the woodwork after the midway point and finished with me and our pace group. Along with JT I was able to navigate a few runners to the finish just before our intended target finish time completing the 26.2 miles in 3:43:54. A few runners qualified for Boston with seconds to spare. It was a cool 27 degrees at the start, but felt warm compared to the brutal summit of Aconcagua with the wind speeds of 80 mph and a windchill of -40 degrees (more on this later). Richard and I decided to take the tops off and finish shirtless at the finish in a full sprint!

Other news on the run, John Crombez a friend PR'ed at 3:28:42. John Lewis finished his first official marathon in 3:55:26, and old time friend Assim promises to start training for a marathon next year!

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Big A - No Summit

I am back in the town of Mendoza. After fighting off bad weather for 5 days, 4 of which Erik and I were hunkered down at camp Nido de Condores (17,600 ft) in a tent torn apart by snow, wind, and ice, we attempted our summit. On our 6th day we slept at Camp Berlin (19,000 ft). We left camp by 3:35am and ended up turning around at 6:30am just below Camp Independencia at an approximate elevation of 20,700 feet due to high winds, and sever cold. I wanted to keep my toes.

This trip has been an amazing experience, and I will surly write more on this when I get stateside. Ciao!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Plaza de Mulas 14,000 feet 26 hours

26 hours after landing in Mendoza, AR I reached Plaza de Mulas at 14,000 feet with my new Erik a Puruvian mountain guide. The weather looks bad for the next 4 days, which makes plans unpredictable up here. Amazingly they have internet at high camp for a hefty fee.

Last night was spent at camp Confluencia, and again, amazingly we had steak for the first night out here. Not soo good for the stomach.

Will keep you posted later.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Colberts Ridge Loop 22M

Early Saturday morning, Greg and I got up and parked at the Colbert's Ridge trail head. We started just after the sun came up. The temperature was just at freezing, but the sun shined down, and as we ascended we warmed up quickly.

It had been a while since I was on the Colbert's Ridge trail, so it was refreshing to experience it again. The leaves made the trail look very different from the last time I was on it.

Within an hour and half we ascended to the Black Mountain Crest Trail, 3000 feet higher than our starting point, and hung a left. This area is know as Deep Gap, from their we began to ascend Potato Hill, and continued climbing up to Cattail Peak. After Cattail, we pushed on to climb up on top of Big Tom, then Mt. Craig, and then finally the summit of Mitchell.

It was certainly a challenge, but the cool crisp air along with the clear sunny views made it natural and the views from the summit were amazing.

From the summit we descended down the infamous Commissary Ridge and hung a left onto the Horse Buncome Trail. We continued onto this trail until we reached a section of road, which we took back to the Colbert's Ridge trail head.

Along the Horse Buncome Trail it felt like spring time. The weather was fantastic, and couldn't have asked for better conditions, with the temperatures reaching 60 degrees for the high. Fresh bear dung was evident, which meant that we wernt alone. We spent 10 minutes enjoying the day at Maple Camp Bald as the views are amazing. We then continued to push and descended down the Maple Camp Ridge until we reached the road.

Afterwards we headed into the small town of Marion to meet up with Matt, who has helped me customize a pack I plan to take with me to the highlands of Argentina. Never failing in the hospitality department, Matt offered some of his mothers homemade pumpkin pie, which I couldn't turn down. It was delicious! Thanks for the pack and pie!

Next week I plan to stand on the roof of the America's. Surely a grand adventure, which I plan to document on this blog.


Friday, November 13, 2009

Working in Florida

I’m down in the Sunshine state for work, and hate that I am at sea level, but I am making the best of it.

Thursday I took the elevator down 20 flights and turned left on the beach running towards the sun coming up. I ran for 20 minutes and turned around and chased my shadow back towards the condo for a 4 mile round trip sunrise run.

Friday I started by taking a right, and chased my shadow again on the cold sand. My feet were practically numb in the sand, but thawed them out in the warm salt water. I ran for 30 minutes this time, and then turned around. I was facing the sun, which was bright, and warmed my body a bit. I negative split this 6 mile run by 3 minutes on this Friday the 13th.

Saturday I had Oz drop me off 10 miles West of the condo. I ran back, all facing the sun while running bare foot. It took me 1:38 to cover the distance, and I had tiny blisters on my toes more than likely from rubbing the moist sand the wrong way. I sat in the hot tub after the run, and enjoyed the sunny Florida weather on my drive back to the foothills of the Carolina's while pondering a 100 mile barefoot panhandel run from Pensacola to Panama City. You interested?

Monday, November 09, 2009

ACONCAGUA – 6,962 Meters

At 6,962 meters (22,841 ft), Cerro (Mt.) Aconcagua is the highest mountain in the Americas, and the highest mountain outside Asia. It is located in the Andes mountain range, in the Argentine province of Mendoza. The summit is located about 5 kilometers from San Juan Province and 15 kilometers from the international border with Chile. It lies 112 km (70 miles) Northwest of the city of Mendoza. Aconcagua is the highest peak in both the Western and Southern Hemispheres. It is one of the Seven Summits.
The camp sites on the normal route are listed below (altitudes are approximate).
  • Puente del Inca, 2,740m (8,990ft): A small village on the main road.
  • Confluencia Camp, 3,380m (11,090ft): A camp site a few hours into the national park.
  • Plaza de Mulas, 4,370m (14,340ft): Base camp, claimed to be the second largest in the world.
  • Camp Canadá, 5,050 metres (16,570 ft): A large ledge overlooking Plaza de Mulas.
  • Camp Alaska, 5,200 metres (17,060 ft): Called 'change of slope' in Spanish, a small site as the slope from Plaza de Mulas to Nido de Cóndores lessens. Not commonly used.
  • Nido de Cóndores, 5,570 metres (18,270 ft): A large plateau with beautiful views. There is usually a park ranger camped here.
  • Camp Berlín, 5,940 metres (19,490 ft): The classic high camp, offering reasonable wind protection.
  • Camp Colera, 5,980 metres (19,620 ft): A larger while slightly more exposed camp situated directly at the north ridge near Camp Berlín, with growing popularity.
  • Several sites possible for camping or bivouac, including Piedras Blancas (~6100m) and Independencia (~6350m), exist above Colera, however seldom used and offering little protection.
    Below is some information about fastest known times on the ascent up Aconcagua.

Although Aconcagua is a massive peak, the normal route is non-technical, and makes conditions ideal for a speed ascent. If you don’t pass out from the lack of oxygen, a good trial runner could technically challenge the current records.

Andinist and Peruvian mountain guide Holmes Pantoja Bayona has made the round trip ascent and descent on the big A in 20 hours 35min. The previous record was held by the well known Argentinean mountain guide Willy Benegas of the North Face Team, who did the same trail in a little more than 23 hours.

Jorge Egocheaga's was claiming a much faster round trip time of 14:05:54. However, that has been called into question on the basis of there being no evidence at all for the claim.

A speed attempt on the Big A can be very dangerous as it is very high altitude. Without proper acclimatization a casual trail run up the Big A would not be a good idea.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Asphalt 13.1 - Trail 18 - Ride 17

This weekend included a half marathon asphalt run, a 18 mile trail run, and a 17 mile bike ride!

I ran my personal best half marathon this past Saturday in 1:37:03. I came in 98th place out of 998 runners, running a 7:25 pace for just over 13 miles. Greg, and I tried to keep up with John for the first 3 miles at a 7 minute pace, but realized quickly that wasn’t going to happen for the entire distance and pulled back. I was jamming to my tunes running on a beautiful bright sunny day that was cool to the point my breath was visible. After six miles or so, I dropped off my gloves with Leah who was riding her mountain bike. Although I ran my best time, I felt as if my pace kept slowing, and I was running a poor race, being passed by more than I thought was acceptable. I haven’t run an official half marathon in a while, and don’t plan to run another one anytime soon, so I pushed as hard as I could to the finish. After the run, we all headed up to Einstein Bagel and grabbed a late breakfast.

After the half, we headed over to Virginia. My family and I planned to ride bikes down the VA Creeper trail. I knew this would be mostly downhill, and would challenge me little. So I planned a 18 mile trail run the morning before our ride so that I could level the playing field between my brothers and I.

I arrived at the Caboose in Damascus, VA and put on what cloths I needed and headed out on the trail at 6:40am. The sun was still hiding, but I could make my way down the well groomed crushed gravel trial. I headed South on the AT, and began to climb steeply. After going up a few switchbacks, I could see the sun rise above Damascus. I headed down the AT and crossed into Tennessee. I kept trucking along until I hung a left on the Backbone Trail. This trail descended steeply all the way to Backbone Rock, a sweet rock formation and appears to be a bridge from Hwy 133 South of Damascus. I climbed over the bridge, and then found my way to the road and headed north for a few hundred yards, and turned right on a gated forest service road.

It was here I was happy I had received local trail running feedback. The locals have painted their own orange blaze on this service road which leads up to the Iron Mountain trail. This trail headed uphill and meandered a few times, and never seemed to end. I heard a constant loud roar. At first I thought it might be a helicopter, but then it just got much louder. A sound I had never heard before, then I thought it might be an ATV, so I quickly moved to the right of the trail not wanting to get run over. Seven dirt bikers roared past me on the trail and flew by. This along with the beauty of the day distracted me. The trail finally hit a T, and I knew to turn left on the Iron Mountain Trail. I was on a jeep road, and saw no blazes however. Had I missed a turn? I knew I had to turn left and head North back into Damascus, so I kept going. I finally decided to come to my senses and stop, and consulted the map. I could not tell if I was truly on the Iron Mountain Trail or not. In the distance, I saw a bright orange object hanging from a tree, and I approached. It was a hunter just hanging out on a tree, literally. I asked him what way the Iron Mountain Trail was. My told me to stay on the ridge, and I would find it. Not wanting to get shot at, I quickly moved away and headed towards the ridge. I finally found a trail, and saw a blaze. Unfortunately it was the wrong color, it was blue and not yellow. I knew I had to head north, so I just kept going. I looked around for the tallest ridge, and I truly felt as if I was on it. Finally I reached a sign that said to Damascus as I passed the Ahistadi campsite. The blue blaze eventually turned into the Yellow blaze and I was happy to see the color change! I descended off of Big Butt Mountain and headed back into Virginia and finally made it to a road which I turned left on. I knew this would be the way to town. I have never seen as many vicious dogs chained to school buses and trailers in my life. I was happy to see they were restrained! I kept moving and finally made it back to my car. I made the loop in 3:50. It was a great way to spend the morning.

We then all hoped into a shuttle and drove to Whitetop Mountain, which is where we started the VA Creeper trail. The ride downhill was about as exciting as this sentence!

Monday, November 02, 2009

Woods Mountain 26M - Hwy 80 to Woodlawn and Back

Another impromptu run was set up. I would drive up to the parkway and Hwy 80, park, and all the way to Woodlawn on the MST. I left the house at 7am, it was raining on my way out. The rain came down hard, and I wondered if I would get poured on in the mountains. Once I reached Marion, the rain stopped, and the sun was smiling.

It was 50 degrees when I started, cool, but sunny and beautiful. I threw in some gloves and arm warmers incase the weather turned. I took off at 9:30am exactly. I could feel the cool, crisp leaves crunching as I ran past the purple, red, yellow, orange, and brown. The colors were still amazing.

I made it to the sharp right turn on Woods Mountain in 1:16. I wasn’t in any hurry, and I not trying to blast it, but I was checking my watch to see how I progressed. This sharp right turn is a good midway point for this section. I knew I would be ahead of our scheduled meet up time of 12 noon. So I took a few photos, and videos.

With all the leaves and color, I somehow got off trail, and took a 15 minute detour. This always seems to happen on this mountain. In the lower elevations, the leaves turned mostly to brown. A few pine needles and having to deal with a little mud mixed it up a bit.

I saw Matt, Lilly, and Uwharrie at 12:10, after running for 2:40. I refilled up my bottles, and downed some calories, and turned back around with Matt. On my return, I knew I would be climbing more up hills, and that this would slow me down. I expected to finish in 6 hours, and set that as my goal.

After reaching Woods Mountain again, I threw on my arm warmers and gloves as a cool chill moved in with overcastted clouds. I was moving slower, but still moving. I made it back to my car in 6:03. Net elevation gain on my watch read 6,300 feet. I was hungry and thirsty, but my legs felt good.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

PITCHELL - DNF

PITCHELL is an annual 65 mile pilgrimage from the summit of Mt. Pisgah to the summit of Mt. Mitchell usually run in October all on the Mountains to Sea Trail. Adam Hill puts on this run, and is usually a fun group of ultra runners that just like to go out and hit the trails and have a good time.


(Photo's by: Chris Brown)

This year brought on some bad weather in the form of snow and ice which made logistics very difficult, but none-the-less a valiant effort was put forth. I had many things on my mind, and was zapped by the cold, only to drop out a few miles before the Folk Art Center, which is 34 miles away from the summit of Pisgah. Below is a written account from the man himself, Adam Hill:

"One probably shouldn't use Pitchell (the annual traverse from the summit of Mt. Pisgah to the summit of Mt. Mitchell) as a good way to gauge one's fitness. Many things can occur physically, and the mental side of the challenge is quite formidable. Looking back to the weekend's endeavor for me, I could easily get quite discouraged, as I was treated to a few unpleasant surprises while trudging down the dark, surreal, green and white (yes, white with snow) tunnel that made up the Shut In Trail. It was this that I was thinking about today as my sore legs felt the need for something stimulating, just one full day removed from when I was "rescued" from the intersection of the Mountains to Sea Trail and Hwy 25!

What better way to cure my Pitchell blues than to get out the door and try to pound out a personal best up one of my favorite backyard climbs on a trail behind the Swannanoa 4-H Center. This approximately 1.5 mile route starts off with some paved road that gets the legs moving quick (wow...I am surprised at the spring in my step), then takes a sharp turn around a newly constructed building and starts some climbing (uh-oh...I started out a bit fast). The sore feet are soon greeted by some nice, soft doubletrack that roller coasters briefly before turning to singletrack and cranking up the gradient (here we go...). After some steep climbing on semi-technical trail, the two main switchbacks are a welcome relief, as it turns the notch down on the steepness just enough to get the lactic acid loosened up before the final pitch of singletrack that gains the dirt road (dig deep baby). I set my eyes to the ground to count each step off as I run (should I walk....I feel like walking...NOPE, I did enough walking during Pitchell) and grunt up to the dirt road. Hang a right and power home (breathe and flow). I turn two more corners and power up the final pitch and to the left of a backcountry shelter up there, then click the split button....9:58!!! All right...mission accomplished...by 1 second!

I laid my body out on the shelter floor and thought about the difference in what I had just done, and in what I had done (or attempted to do) the night before last. The joy of running is at the root of both challenges. Lace up the shoes, get your mind right, and go for it. I think that the physical breakdowns that we can experience (some of which I experienced during Pitchell this year) certainly demand our attention, but it is the mental breakdown that we must do our fiercest battle with. This weekend, I lost that battle, but was able to witness the perseverance of two runners who braved the cold and cranked out the miles with the mindset of "get it done"! Byron Backer and Brad Kee were the only two that pushed on past the Folk Art Center out of 8 runners. We all started the journey by trekking up the Blue Ridge Parkway from Hwy 151 in the freezing, snowy tundra for nearly two miles before arriving at the trailhead of Mt. Pisgah. Once arriving at the snow covered peak, we excitedly gathered around and everyone clicked their watches as I yelled "Go".

After DNF'ing, Charlie and I drove up the road to provide aid for Byron at Bee Tree Gap, and it was quickly evident that this was where the finish line would be for 2009. The Parkway was closed from this point onward because of road conditions, and according to some nice rangers up there, would not be open the rest of the day. Ross (who drove runners up Hwy 151 and then provided aid support for Brad and others), Jeremy, Charlie and I chuckled at the mindset of the "out of towners" who were noticeably miffed at the closing. It was humorous in contrast to our friends that were about to be running down the trail out of the rime ice-covered trees having just covered 50 miles of burly trail! Both runners handled this unfortunate stopping point with class, and expressed looking forward to tackling this run another time. It was an epic adventure for all of us, and one that I will not forget each time I lace up my shoes and step out the door for yet another glorious run!" - Peace Adam

Pitchell Runners and mileage (not counting the 3 mile approach to Mt. Pisgah):

Matt Kirk- 20 miles
Jeremy Hargroves- 20 miles
Adam Hill- 26 miles
Mohammed Idlibi- 32 miles
Charlie Roberts- 34 miles
Mike Mason- 34 miles
Byron Backer- 50 miles
Brad Kee- 50 miles

Aid Help and other runners that participated:

Ross Britton- tremendous help with his van and encouragement- thanks a ton!

Matt (?)- friend of Brad and Ross who also helped out with aid and encouragement- thanks!

Dave Pryor- provided use of his car for transportation, aid help, and got in a good run also!

Brian Beduhn- came out to cheer us on, and got in a good run as well!

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Marion to Table Rock - 30M

Labor Day was approaching and I had a three day weekend with no plans to scale a mountain or run an ultra. I had to figure something out, so I called up the Grad Turk. A plan was devised, committed to, and swiftly executed.

Greg and I rolled up to Marion just after 8am. After taking my morning constitution we made it to Matt’s new pad around 8:30am. It was there we learned that Scott and Liz were still on their way over and we hung out with Matt and Lilly for a while.

Liz, Scoot, Matt, Greg, and I squeeze into a ride and make it to the Woodlawn trailhead on the Mountains to Sea Trail. We were off by 10am, and just kept looking for the white dot. We quickly began to ascend Bald Knob which was a nice climb. 8 miles into the day I stood on top of Bald Knob at noon really feeling the heat. I knew the day would be long.

We then ran down towards the Linville River. This section was very steep, and you were forced to run down whether you wanted to or not, gravitational pull was at work here. As the trail became less steep me and Greg began to see structures, and homes around us. We kept looking for the white dot, but we saw foot prints in the mud along with what we thought were Uhwarrie’s tracks. Finally we reached a road and realized we were off trail. At this point I knew we would be low on water, and the day kept getting warmer and warmer. We asked a nearby homeowner for some H2O and he offered it in the cold form! It tasted great.

As we crossed the Linville River we saw Scott and Liz who apparently also went off trail for a while. It was good that we were all together at this point. Climbing Shortoff Mountain was no easy task in the exposed heat. But we knew that there would be spring at the top, some of us had no water as we ascended.

When we reached the spring it was dry!! What bad luck, we needed water as the heat was roasting us all day long. We attempted to collect droplets of water that would take an hour to fill an entire bottle and kept a hiking pace. We all agreed at this point that we would drop out at Table Rock. The original plan was to continue all the way to Hwy 181. When we finally reached Table Rock we now had to find a way to make it to 181. Scott hitchhiked all the way to the campsite to retrieve our vehicle and pick us back up. We kept walking for few miles from Table Rock to where we were picked up. I was getting cold, so I put my map to use and blanketed it over my shivering body to retain some warmth!

Great adventure, but the heat and lack of water rocked me on this one!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Mt. Mitchell Iftar - Midnight Hike

On the 8th day of Ramadan, in the year 1430 Hijra, four brave souls made the attempt to midnight hike up the highest point east of the Mississippi River, the Black Mountain, more than a billion years old. Later named Mt. Mitchell, it stands highest above all in Appalachia at 6,684 feet.

Before midnight, we drove to the summit, pitched tents, and soaked up the views. Later the clouds rolled in and brought on cooler air that was refreshing compared to the 90+ degree humid heat in Charlotte. As the sun began to set, and our mouths salivated just thinking of food, our other friends Fares and Hazem and company joined in. We grilled burgers, chicken kabob, veggies, and calzone along with other great food. I don’t have any shots of the food because just as it turned 7:55pm a light rain visited. We retreated to the shelter on the summit and began to devour our food. It rained harder, and we all left just before 9pm when the gate closes on Mitchell.

As we retreated to our tents, the rain subsided, and lit a campfire. Four of us remained, Abu Yasir, Amin, Mr. H, and the Sultan. After getting really toasty from the campfire we drove down the Black Mountain Campgrounds, and began our midnight ascent of Mt. Mitchell. Started at 3,000 feet we noticed a considerable difference in temperature, maybe 15-20 degrees warmer. I was the only one who had done this before, many times before, and the rest were rookies. So I decided to move at a slower pace so we could all enjoy the night hike. 3 hours later we made it to the summit, a successful climb, and all were in good spirits. We then walked another mile on asphalt to get back to our summit campsite and went to sleep. All this was done in complete darkness, and we fasted the 9th day of Ramadan the next day.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Toubkal 13,671 ft – Ramadan

Today is the fifth day of the Islamic lunar month of Ramadan. It is the 9th month and requires all Muslims around the world to fast from sunrise to sunset: No food or water. I usually slow my running down during this month.

The toll of Hardrock, a sub 24 hour Smokies crossing (SCAR), and a second summit of Toubkal is taking itself on me. Perfect timing as I begin my fast of Ramadan.

After flying for almost a day, I landed in Casablanca, which is where my cousin Ahmad picked me up. We drove south towards Marrakech. It was here we decided to load up on some calories and ate cus cus on the streets of this picturesque Moroccan city. The atlas mountains were visible, and are snow caped half the year. They were dry and I wondered what the weather would be like on the mountain. It was over 100 degrees in Marrakech.

We then drove farther South to Imlil. After getting lost, we finally found our way and began a 5 hour trek to the French Alpine Refuge 10,200 feet, mostly in the dark. We spent 5 hours sleeping at the refuge and I got up at took off at sunrise. I reached the 13,671 foot summit of Toubkal for a second time in less than 2 hours. I drank tea, and snapped a few shots for some German climbers (they returned the favor), and I ran right back down the scree slops of this mountain, making it to the refuge in 1 hour, and back to Imlil in 1:16. I soaked in a waterfall while I waited for Ahmad as he rode a mule off the mountain.

Back in the US, I have slowed down, and plan to rest and recover during the month of fasting. A possible foothills trail crossing is in the works, and Hinson Lake 24hr is certainly on my list.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

SCAR - 22:12:12

Brian Behdun, Mike Day, Matt Kirk and I all attempted to run the entire distance of the AT in the Smokey Mountains. Crossing the entire park has been dubbed the SCAR (Smokies Challenge Adventure Run). It certainly is a challenge, and alto ugh the distance is 71.2 miles, it is more difficult than some 100 milers that are out there.

My legs and I celebrated our Hardrock victory by coming into Davenport Gap in just over 22 hours. My goal was to break 24 hours and try to come in before dark. I walked the last few miles and made it in with a headlamp.

I want to thank Lilly for having water for us at the Derick Knob Shelter, those two liters kept me moving. Greg Paige and Mrs. Kirk had a killer aid station set up at Newfound Gap with assorted fruit and gourmet sandwiches! I spent 16 minutes here devouring as many calories as my body would take in, and filling up on liquids. David Petroski hiked into Tricorners knob with water and food which was a life saver for me. I went threw a very bad low spot between Pecks and Tricorners. Taking in more calories and water where David was definitely helped me cross to Davenport.

Great job everyone!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Hardrock 100 - 37:33:40

In the adventure of life there are those who live it vicariously and enjoy the ride from the safety of an armchair, and that is good. There are those who have a few chances to realize incredible and life changing experiences and though they don't repeat them, they carry with them a growth and personal philosophy for the rest of their lives. And then there are those for whom a taste is never enough. For whom the lust of adventure is never insatiable. To the end of one adventure only signifies the beginning of another!

The Hardrock 100 is the king of all mountainous 100 milers. It has over 33,124 feet of net elevation gain and loss, at an average elevation of over 11,000 feet, and is gnarly and “wild and tough!” This adventure demands elevation gains comparable to running from sea level to the summit of Mt. Everest and back. This running includes going over 12,000 foot above sea level thirteen times, above 13,000 feet an additional seven times and summiting one of Colorado’s famed “14ers,” Handies Peak (14, 048 ft). After each long climb comes an equally demanding and punishing descent only to climb yet again. “To the summit” I kept telling myself.

The Hardrock Hundred race course links the history of the towns of Silverton, Lake City, Ouray, and Telluride, Colorado. These picturesque mountain towns stand as testaments to the spirit of men and women who chose to carve their lives out of the rocks and lofty crags, seeking fame and fortune from the minerals hidden in these mountains and valleys. It is in the spirit of their perseverance and dedication that the Hardrock Hundred is held every year. Runners from 27 states as well as Australia, Switzerland, Canada, France, and England competed in this years run.

Does that sound like fun to you? It did to me, so I applied. I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to participate in this event, as many previous runners were denied entry to the run due to limited space. Entry in the run is conducted thru a lottery system. I would also like to mention some names and thank the people that made this even successful and possible for me. Matt Kirk, my pacer, and good friend from WNC to whom I owe many thanks for helping me cruise thru the mountains and countless miles of adventure in Appalachia. Adam Hill, a running machine that is always helpful in planning fat ass events and is always willing to assist with his vast knowledge of the Appalachian Mountains (hope the toe is healing nicely). Scott B and Liz who showed us around at the Hardrock and ran the Trot Thur Hot (70 miles) with me. Greg Paige, whom a BEAR tore into this truck during day 1 of a multi stage training run on Mt. Mitchell (Damn that Trader Joes is good). David Petroski and John Lewis who joined me on Day 2 and Day 3 of the 98 mile multi stage training run. Brian Beduhn who helped us map out the 7Sisters summit double loop! Jim Cobb, Barbara Babb, and Bruce Babb who ran the Roan Adventure Marathon (RAM) with me. Charlie Roberts who ran much of our short stint on the BMT with me. Bill, Pamela, and Georgina who climbed two Colorado fourteeners (Quandary Peak and Mt. Elbert) with me a month before the Hardrock. Jay Batchen who helped me get into the Marathon des Sables in Morocco, a multi day stage run in the deep Sahara Desert of Morocco. Annette Bednosky who made it out to the birthday run this year and who has given much advice that has proved to be valuable on the trail! I know have missed some people, but thank you to all of you! I couldn’t have made it here alone.
PRE RACE EVENTS:
JULY 3rd
Matt and I made it out to Colorado July 2nd and we met up in the afternoon for dinner in Frisco, which is where we rented a car. We had planned to climb a few fourteeners as acclimatization for the Hardrock. We had our eyes set on the Mosquito Mountain Range in Colorado which includes Mt. Lincoln 14,286 feet, Mt. Cameron 14,238 feet, Mt. Bross 14,172, Mt. Democrat 14,148, and Mt. Sherman 14,036 feet. We climbed up all of these mountains in one push with the exception of Sherman on the 3rd of July. Bill was in town and joined us up the steep ascent to the top of Lincoln. After the summit he decided to descent and retreat back to his car. Me and Matt pushed up to summit Cameron, Bross, and Democrat. While on the summit of Democrat we enjoyed a beautiful view and the weather cleared up from the days previous rain/mist. Pasta primavera was on my mind so I pulled out the stove and cooked a meal on the summit.

We descended into a steep scree field and then into a valley of alpine tundra. After filling up our water bottles we surveyed the area to look for the trail that lead to the gravel road, but all we could see was shoulder height shrub and game trail. I bushwhacked for well over an hour and crossed into freezing snow melted streams. After much work I finally found the gravel road. I didn’t expect to bushwhack this much and remember saying “scratch the thighs, not the eyes,” while protecting my face. This was great training for Hardrock, not only was I acclimatizing to the elevation, but also to the cross country mindset you must have to finish this course!
JULY 4th


The next day we camped out near the trailhead of where would start our climb for Mt. Sherman, it was independence day! Mt. Sherman would be our 5th 14eener climb for the trip. Keep in mind these fourteeners are not very difficult to climb, so we decided to route ourselves on more technical terrain to reach the summit. Often times, not knowing what we would expect. We bushwhacked, crossed sreams with snow melt (my feet would go numb instantly). The day was beautiful and sunny, and we could not have asked for better weather. On our ascent we spotted 20 or so elk in the distance, they were far away up high on the mountain. After hitting the summit of Sherman we headed towards Mt. Gemini, a mountain 4 feet shy of being a fourteener standing at 13,951 feet. After soaking up some sun on the summit of Genini, both Matt and I descended down snow fields practicing our heel step and recording a descent of 200 feet per minute while on the white stuff, flying! We then hit some more scree, then alpine tundra, and finally hiked thru an alpine forest which was often flooded in some areas making it a soggy trip back to camp. We then made the 5 hour drive to Silverton. We drove into town just as it was getting dark and parked infront of the Avon hotel owned by a really cool fella named Tom. It was from his second floor deck we enjoyed the bombastic sounds and visual effects of the Independence day fireworks show! Hearing the mini explosions bounce sound off the walls of the mountains was a new thing for me. I had a chance to meet a few runners this day. We camped out at little lake Molas for the next two nights. I pitched my tent next to Fred, a fellow Coyote 2 Mooner! Who would have known that Fred would finish just four minutes ahead of me?

JULY 5th

After waking up late and lounging in the sun for a while, Matt, Scott B, and I decided to go for a high altitude training run. Prior to the run, I had some fatayer (meat and cheese pies) that my mother made! These little things fueled me for the first 5 days in Colorado to climb up steep peaks, and they were tastey! They taste better at altitude as well.

We ran the last 12 miles from the KT aid station to the finish. The purpose of this training run was to see what we thought would be a night time run. Running this section during the day would prove to be helpful later on. We crossed freezing streams, mushy flooded areas, and ran/hiked up to the Putnam basin. Scott was helpful in pointing out parts of the coarse. We lounged a little at the top of the Putnam basin and then ran down the mountain onto large sections of scree, and then finally into a green trail which resembled Appalachia for the last mile before Mineral Creek. Then we crossed Mineral Creek while holding onto a fixed line as the currents may have swept us off our feet. We then crossed 550 and ran in the last three miles of the course on a scree/gravel road. As we descended into Silverton the local High school was to our left, and we ran it in as if it was the race. This proved to be very helpful during the last moments of the run, and I recomend future runners to get to know the course as much as possible. Later we scoped out the hot spring in Ouray and then hit some Mexican food (great Guacamole!!).

JULY 6th

Me and Matt both wanted to be high up in the mountains, but I wanted to walk that fine line of active rest just before the biggest run of my life and didn’t want to push it. While most runners were sleeping in some comfortable bed in breakfast in Silverton, Matt and I decided to go for a backpacking trip to a grand mountain that faces the South West of Silverton, CO, SULTAN MOUTAIN. I had to climb this mountain, and the trail name Sultan was born. We drove our car to Silverton, CO packed our bags, I had a spare watermelon in mine and hitchhiked back to the trailhead near Lake Molas. Matt was able to work his hitchhiking skills and we were able to get a ride in no time! Our approach started on the Colorado trail. Although my feet were on this trail for a short period of time, I think I will be back. After hiking in a few miles we found a good spot to camp out. We studied the mountain, and it was steep. We discussed tackling the summit up a direct route, or switching back and traversing the mountain before reaching the mountain. We both didn’t know what route to take, so we decided to figure it out in the morning as we ascended. We attempt the direct route, and if it proved to be more challenging than we though, we switchback. To make the trip even more special, it was a full moon, an alpine start was in order.

We pulled out the watermelon and creatively began to devour it, which made for a great appetizer. For dinner, I had a freezer dried meal, which was a tasty lasagna made by mountain house. After filling up our tanks, we retreated to our tents to get some shut eye so that we could get in an alpine start in the dark at 4am.

JULY 7th

This is a very special day for me! It was 4am and packed all of our gear knowing that we would descend into Silverton on the other side of the mountain and not return to our campsite. Once at the base of Sultan we climbed steeply. I let Matt go ahead of me, I wanted to keep me legs fresh and didn’t want to push it fast. As we climbed the moon glowed above and was more round than the watermelon we devoured below. I let out a Coyote Howl which I learned back in Ojai, CA. There was something special about the moon tonight, and I knew someone very special was watching the same moon I saw high above in the sky.

As I reached closer to the summit, I made sure to stay on scree mixed in with some vegetation. It held up better. Finally I was at the summit. Matt had been waiting for a while and had the stove out. He quickly started making his special soup, and a new sun was born. It was here that I took this video of both a full moon and a new sun atop of Sultan!! It couldn’t be any better. The soup warmed my body, and was tasty.

We descended and did not care to try summiting the Grand Turk, a peak to the South of Sultan. It looked very technical with three jagged mini peaks with loose rock, and I did not want to risk it at this point. On our descent we made sure we had our rock climbing helmets on. Loose rock was everywhere, and I was on all fours descended, and butt sliding down rock. Some parts were a little scary. We finally made it into a snow field and descended down some alpine tundra.

Looking back at Sultan I was impressed at what we had accomplished with a full backpack on. We had two choices to make on the descent. Go down the Northeast side of Sultan, or take the Southeast Deadwood Gulch. 50/50 chance on getting this one right? We had no map, no guide, no beta, no information, so we took a chance and descended down the Deadwood Gulch. If you ever climb Sultan the way we did, never descend down Deadwood Gulch! It was a bushwhack all the way down, steep descents. We finally had to jump into the creek and hike down the creek to get onto 550. We walked the last 2 or 3 miles of road into town. Had we headed down the Northeast side of Sultan we would have hit a nice trail and hiked right into Silverton!

video

JULY 8 and JULY 9
We checked into the Teller House hotel where we met both Rudy and Ally. Both very nice hosts, and Rudy can cook up a killer breakfast! These days were spent as relaxation, and a time to meet other runners, check in, and let the legs rest as much as possible.






I had a chance to meet a few of the runners before the run. Bob Combs shared his views on MMT vs. Grindstone, Mike Dobies told stories of the Barkleys, and other runs he had under his belt, and Robert Andrulis shared his organizational skills on what to put in drop bags, and how to keep up with all the items. I found Andrulis' strategy to be helpful, so I crafted something very simular.
I set my alarm for 4:30am on the night of July 9th and lie in bed at 9pm, trying to get as much rest as I possibly could before the race.

JULY 10th

I woke up nearly every hour from 1am onward. The next thing I know I wake up and read my watch and it says 5:27am!! “MATT” I yelled out, its 5:27am. Shit, the race starts at 6am and I have a deadline to check in at 5:45am or I lose my spot to a waitlister. There was three waitlisters that were not guaranteed to run and flew out to Colorado waiting for someone to not show up, or fail to wake up on time to run. I was about to make their dream a reality. It was a close call, but we made it to the gym and checked in. I didn’t train, fly out here, acclimatize only to sleep in.

Silverton START (9,310 feet) – Mile 0

I felt good despite the sleeping in. It went by fast, 6am, and we were off. I ran a little fast during the start as I had heard of the beaver damns where you could be bottlenecked behind a trail of slow runners. So for the first few miles I thought I would hang with Scott B. After crossing a cold creek and getting our feet soaked we began to climb steeply which slowed us to a hike uphill. I met more runners and exchanged names and states. Many of the people that run Hardrock are return runners over 2/3rd and the rest are first timers like me.


Scott and I ran into Joe Clapper whom I met for the first time. We were all East Coasters hiking up the hills at a steady pace. Scott pointed out to me that we were within 150 years from at least 4 previous first time finishers. Was I moving too fast? Would I crash and burn later on in the run? I hoped not and kept moving forward. Here is what was going on in my mind at this time. I am running the Hardrock, one of the toughest foot races in the world. I have Matt as a pacer (I don’t think I could have ask for better), and I was feeling great. I wasn’t pushing hard, but I was moving faster than what I previously thought I would do.

After a few miles I kept pushing on and Scott pulled back. My main goal was to finish, but would love to finish strong for the first time I run this crazy loop of over a 100 miles. I ran with one hand held bottle and a cycling shirt on, the kind that has three pockets in the back. This was ultra light weight, but would do the trick until I reached Cunningham Gulch, where I dropped my waist belt.







Cunningham Gulch (10,380 ft) – Mile 9.2 – 4 minutes at aid station

Matt was waiting at this aid station and had my waistbelt out waiting for me. I filled up my water bottles, grabbed a pop tart, strapped up and was out of the aid station in 4 minutes. I was focused and felt great. I went into a state of trance after pulling out of Maggie Gulch. My legs were moving, and I was running, but my mind could have been on another planet. I felt great, and I was focused on running a smart race. The weather was perfect, a little warm at the lower elevation points, but overcast. The sun wasn’t an issue yet. I passed some, and few passed me.

Maggie Gulch (11,840 ft) – Mile 15.3 – 1 minute at aid station

I flew by this aid station only to grab a few chips and fill up water. I wasn’t too concerned about filling up water at the aid station because every time I saw a beautiful stream I would fill up my water bottle there too. I don’t think you could ever get dehydrated on this course (except going up Virginus Pass) because there is plenty of creek water available out there. I continued to run the 4.3 miles to the next aid station on rolling green hills as we were in alpine tundra. It was here I ran with Kim Holak from Minnesota for a mile or so, and then opted to pass and push on.


Pole Creek (11,460 ft) – Mile 19.6 – 1 minutes at aid station



I again only spent a minute at this aid station, refilling water, and grabbing two mini turkey sandwiches with cream cheese to go. I was leading at this point with Kim maybe 300 meters behind me. I took a wrong turn here and bushwhacked back to the trail only to pass the same group of runners again. I was reluctant to pass because I didn’t want to get lost! The tail is marked, but I had a tendency to go off trail. It was here that Mike Burke from Oregon passed me and I tried to keep up with him on the hills. He was a strong climber, I let him go only to catch him on the descents. We ran together for a while, alternating the passing, taking turns on the lead. We descended a gulch to reach the Sherman aid station.

Sherman (9,640 ft) – Mile 28.7 – 5 minutes at aid station

I can’t say enough about the people that man this aid station. They have spoiled me for life, and now I hope I don’t have a new standard for aid stations. 300 meters before reaching the aid station orange signs appeared, “Grilled Veggie Quesadilla, “spaghetti,” “Hot Soup,” Smoothies!” Wow, I was getting sucked into the king of aid stations. I needed the calories to stay on my running high, but I needed to focus.

Immediately when I got into Sherman my bottles were filled and my grilled veggies with spaghetti on top was before me. As I began to devour the calories I felt a cool wet cloth go over my face and neck, whoa! This aid station rocked. The people that manned this aid station were the friendliest, most amazing volunteers I have ever met. Sherman was awesome. On my way out I grabbed a banana strawberry smoothie and a banana. I could see Mike a minute ahead of me, and I speed walked in an attempt to catch him. I wanted to let me food digest, and I was in no mood to run at this point. The section out of Sherman is up a gravel road which can be dusty when there is vehicular traffic. We walked for miles, and Mike was still ahead of me.

We finally got off the gravel road and started ascending the base of Handies Peak, the only 14ner on the course and the highest point at 14,048 feet. It was here that I lost Mike and a group of other strong climbers. I hiked and ran slowly uphill until I was joined by Ronda Sundermeier. We hiked uphill together for miles. Few words were exchanged as we were both jamming to the tunes of the hills.


I remember pressure breathing and rest stepping all the way up to the summit of Handies Peak. As I reached the summit I took 30 seconds to glace around, it was 5pm exactly. Ronda still appeared to be 5 or 6 minutes behind me. Looking around I saw expansive views for miles. The day was clear, and the dry Colorado air chapped my lips but allowed me to see far away in the distance. I descended down some fine scree, knowing that I would eventually be passed soon. Somehow me and Ronda both went off trail and ended up bushwhacking/climbing down scree to get back onto the trail. During the mix up we were passed by a Coyote Two Mooner, Howard Cohen. Ronda took off and passed us on the downhill, never to see her again.

Fourteeners Redcloud Peak, and Sunshine Peak from high up on Handies Peak.

Fourteeners Mt. Wetterhorn and Uncompahgre Peak from Handies Peak.

Descending into American Basin.

Grouse Gulch (10,710 ft) – Mile 42.1 – 12 minutes at aid station

When I reached Grouse I was greeted by Matt. He was very helpful in getting my drop bag, food, etc. I immediately jumped in the creek and took a 1 minute bath. I did get a few weird looks, but it felt good. I changed my shirt here and spent 12 minutes at this aid station. Looking back at it all, this was too long. But I was having a good time, and that’s what matters.


We packed up, thanked the aid station volunteers, and took off at a hiking pace up a long, swervey gravel road. We were ascending up to Engineers Pass. As we reached the summit of the pass the sun was setting and some amazing views were off in the distance.

We descended down on single track, cross country terrain. I remember slipping here as it was getting dark getting my arm all muddy. We trotted down to the Engineer Pass aid station.

Engineer Pass (11,800 ft) – Mile 42.1 – 2 minutes at aid station

I picked up a turkey sandwich here, and filled my water bottle with hot chocolate! Having something warm made me feel good especially as the day turned black. Our headlamps were on at this point.
The long descent into Ouray was slow going. Although we were running, I definitely hit some low points here and walked some, even downhill. It was dark, the stars were out, and there was a large moon, just shy of being full that was hiding somewhere in the distance. My feet began to talk to me, I told them to quiet down until Ouray.

Ouray (7,680 ft) – Mile 56.5 – 31 minutes at aid station

When I reached Ouray I was at the lowest point of the run elevation wise, and was still in a low spot both physically and mentally as well. I was low all the way around in Ouray. I needed to change my socks, reapply desitinen to my feet, and tape them up. Changing shoes helped out a lot as well. Matt came to the rescue even when he wasn’t feeling it at this point and assisted as best he could.

Billy Simpson aka Woodstock rolled into Ouray 9 minutes after we did. Woodstock looked fresh and appeared to be having the time of his life. This guy was always fun to be around, and would always find a way to make you laugh, even when your stuck in a low spot. We tried to hurry and head out with him, but managed to leave 5 minutes after he did, never to see him again. After the finish he admitted he thought I was hurting really bad in Ouray and didn’t think I would make it. Had I gone out too fast? Had I pounded my body to the point of no return? I was hurting, but wanted this run bad enough to just push thru the low spots. Trick your mind I kept telling myself.

videoWe took off one minute before midnight and began the steep ascent uphill on a gravel road to Virginius Pass. Here me and Matt cracked jokes and told stories to stay awake. We met a couple burning a wood fire watching all the runners having a grand time. After a mile or two, Molly Zurn pulls up with a fast uphill pace on two hiking poles. She was jamming to her iPod and wasn’t interested in conversation at this point. Its 1am go figure.

Governors Basin(10,780 ft) – Mile 64.4 – 9 minutes at aid station

The hike up took a long time, and felt like forever to Governors Basin. I remember being cold here, and just wanting soup. This aid station had limited supplies, but somehow I managed to stay for 9 minutes. After seeing another Coyote Two Mooner, Fred Ecks roll into the aid station, we took off. Fred later passed us on the uphill before reaching the pass, strong climber. He reached the pass a whole 16 minutes before I did. Getting up on to the pass was tricky. The sun was not up yet, but it lit up the sky. The snow had frozen over and was icy. We had running shoes on, no crampons, or axes (Fred had his ice axe!).

We managed with what ever footing we could kick in, and then improve on previous runners foot work. This would normally work well, but the foot work disappeared into the distance and we were left with a slab of ice. One runner’s pacer slid about 15 feet and was freaked out of her mind. I was on all fours trying to figure a way up the pass. Someone yelled to get on a small section of scree and climb up it. I managed to find some rocks to climb up, and then traverse back to the ice where I reconnected with a previous runners foot work. Kicking in foot work this time of the day would be impossible as the snow may have been a large slab of ice. Another small climb ahead on some more ice, this was more manageable. Then finally, the last steep climb all the way up the pass on ice, this time with a fixed line we could hold on to. This section was a little dicey, but hey, this is hardrock. No one said it would be easy.

Virginus Pass (13,100 ft) – Mile 67.6 – 2 minutes at aid station

I made it Virginus Pass at 5:27am and watched the sun come up while sipping warm broth. I was cold and tired. I didn’t have time to waste, so two minutes was my limit up here and then I headed down a steep scree section. I was skiing in the scree practically. The next 5 miles or so would be a steep downhill all the way to the mountain town of Telluride. We ran and hiked fast downhill. The last two miles I remember busting out a super fast pace with a little motivation from Matt. Passing 4 or 5 runners, including Fred. I remember running into the town of Telluride, crossing Colorado St. in a full sprint. Was I going too hard? I didn’t know, but I felt great as a new day was born.

Telluride (8,750 ft) – Mile 72.6 – 17 minutes at aid station

I rolled into the aid station 9 minutes after 15 time finisher Kirk Apt and 11 minutes ahead of Fred and 31 minutes ahead of Blake Wood. These names will be important later on in the run. Matt, Scott B., and I left the aid station within minutes of each other. Both Fred and Scott passed me on the uphill out of Telluride. I remember struggling with my breathing up these hills and couldn’t climb nearly as fast as other runners. I appeared to be loosing my kick, some runners wrote me off here.

The sun blasted in the morning, and some sections were exposed, so the sun could really rock your body here. The climb never seemed to end, when we reached what appeared to be a pass, we would descent and climb yet again. This was difficult mentally and happened three or four times. Matt decided to take a nap here as I climbed at a much slower pace, and then he would catch up later. I was in another low spot here. “Ride it out, let your mind wander while hiking up as fast as you can. You didn’t come to Colorado to drop out 3/4ths of the way,” I kept telling myself. I soaked my head in cold water ever chance I got.

Matt caught up to me. After his power nap he was feeling full of energy and began to concoct his idea. He busted out some math and explained that if I maintained a certain pace I would finish in 40 hours or so. This was amazing as thought of failure only 25 miles back in Ouray were floating in my mind. So I tried hiking as hard as I could trying to maintain a dignified pace, it was slow going. Finally I reached Oscar’s Pass and descended the few miles to Chapman Gulch.

Chapman Gulch (10,190 ft) – Mile 81.9 – 20 minutes at aid station

Fred made it into Chapman a whole 38 minutes before I did, and Scott B. 39 minutes before me. Blake has managed to narrow the gap between me and him only leaving the Chapman Gulch aid station 10 minutes after I did.

I ate a bean and rice burrito smothered in salsa and cheese along with two cokes and some turkey sandwiches. I remember refueling my body with as much calories as I could take in here. I spent 20 minutes here, which is a long time compared to Blake’s 3 minutes.

Matt and I took off with high spirits and I knew I would finish this run, I had that feeling of success in me. I found a stick in the woods and used it to help me climb up Grant-Swamp Pass. Blake and his daughter passed us up on the climb and passed them on the descent. I remember asking Blake if he thought we could break 40 hours. “At this pace we will break 38 hours” he replied back with enthusiasm!

Could it be? My first time out here, break 38 hours and finish in the day? Coming from Blake, who has finished this run 14 times, I did not need to hear anything else. My pace gradually began to speed up. I flying on the downhills, my mind began to play tricks on my body, and I was hiking uphill with a steady fast pace. We reached a high enough point where would could see the road that led to the KT aid station, but the aid station was hidden behind the mountain. Here Matt and I ran downhill hard. I had planned to save the hard running for the last few miles, but my mind was out of control at this point. I remember pushing myself to my limit.

KT aid station (10,630 ft) – Mile 89.9 – 3 minutes at aid station

We reached the KT aid station 58 minutes after Scott B. and 41 minutes after Fred and left 8 minutes earlier than Blake. Blake’s gap kept narrowing and I knew he was on my tail. This guy is experienced, but I was determined to give this run 100% of what I had. I kept remembering all the people that mattered in my life, all the training that I put in, all the effort that was involved in the Hardrock project.

The 3 minutes I spent at KT involved eating a pumpkin pie and downing as much watermelon as my belly would allow me to stuff. The volunteers appreciated this as no one else had been eating the red stuff. I grabbed some more food and took it to eat up the ½ mile gravel road portion. Just over 10 miles to go I thought to myself, I smelled the finish line.

Earlier in the week, Scott B., Matt, and I ran the section from KT to the finish, so we had a good idea of what were getting into. There are three climbs, from there it was downhill. I knew what to expect, and paced my uphill climbing. I surprised myself when I started passing people uphill. A second wind was born. Up on the Putnam Basin I shook hands with Kirk Apt, a previous first time finisher, and the only runner to finish 15 Hardrocks. Very humble and cool guy to meet. Blake and his daughter were in visible sight, and they were on my tail. Blake is also a previous first time finisher with only one less finish than Krik. These guys knew this area well, but I had to put my foot ahead and push on. This was my chance to break away. I pushed up the third climb and a short light hail storm came thru, it was beautiful. Then the descent came. I can not describe in words what happened to me here, I transcended reality with the help of my iPod. I dropped the hammer as hard as I could, red lined the engine and passed more than a dozen runners.

At some point I felt as if I was pushing myself too hard, running over creeks, scree, steep trail, high in the sky, but I felt strong and I pushed even harder.

Then I coughed out a green bugger from my mouth. My shortness of breath was not just from exerting all the effort I had in my body, but I knew that I might have a mild case of edema. I was a few miles from the finish, and I didn’t want to think about edema at this point, so I pushed harder and passed more runners.

We passed Joe Clapper whom I had not seen for the past 85 miles! He was suffering, just as I was, from a mild case of edema. This man was clearly in pain, but pushed thru to the end.

Putnam Basin (11,400 ft) – Mile 94.5 – 0 minutes at aid station

I flew thru the Putnam Basin aid station with a “checking in and out” fly by. They were happy to see me moving well. Later I passed Mike Burke whom I had not seen for over 63 miles since that milkshake at Sherman. I made sure he was ok and kept pushing hard. It seemed that I was picking up energy from people that I passed and would hit the gas a little harder.

I began to breath heavier and harder and pulled back just a little. Then I passed yet another runner, and started running as hard as I could. Then finally I hit Mineral Creek. I jumped into the water and grabbed onto the fixed line and pulled myself across the other side. Doing this section before gave me the confidence to push as hard as I could.

We were on the final stretch and Matt saw that I was struggling with my breathing and appeared to be spent. The words that came out of the Kirkmister was as follows:

“Sultan! I stand before you today as you reach the finish of the Hardrock. It is today that you have the chance to write the final chapter in this epic adventure.” Or something like that, my mind was fried at this point. Whatever he said, I pushed harder and harder. I still walked up the hills. Finally we were in Silverton and I ran downhill towards the gym, turning left and running in as hard as I could for a finish I never imagined in my dreams that I would ever reach during the day. Dale shook my hand after I kissed the rock as all runners are required to do.



videoI finished the run 69 minutes after Scott B. did, Scott B. ran in from the Putnam aid station to the finish 1 minute faster than I did. Scott has never run the Hardrock in under 40 hours and had an amazing year, Rock on! Fred managed to finish 4 minutes ahead of me, I narrowed the original gap of 41 minutes by 38 minutes at the finish. Had I known I was that close to Fred I would have tried to push harder at the end. I managed to widen Blake’s gap of 8 minutes to 20 minutes at the finish line. I poured everything I had in the last 15 miles of this run, and I am very happy with the result! Matt, thanks for being there!

Silverton FINISH (9,310 feet) – Mile 100.4 – 7:33pm – 39th place 37:33:40

I leave this post with the same way I started it. In the adventure of life there are those who live it vicariously and enjoy the ride from the safety of an armchair, and that is good. There are those who have a few chances to realize incredible and life changing experiences and though they don't repeat them, they carry with them a growth and personal philosophy for the rest of their lives. And then there are those for whom a taste is never enough. For whom the lust of adventure is never insatiable. To the end of one adventure only signifies the beginning of another!

Photo's taken in this write up were from: Blake Wood, Matt Kirk, and the Sultan.