Warning: the following words and images will allow you to vicariously see the world with the eyes of Sultan. Read at your own risk. The name Sultan has many meanings, but derives from the peak Sultan Mountain in Silverton, CO!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

UCRR Snow Run

18 miles - 2:42 - University City

Despite the snow last night, half a dozen or so UCRR runners showed up for the 7am Saturday run. I was there to get in a few miles, and in for the thrill of running in (snow/wind) less than desirable conditions. Its good training.

When I arrived at 6:50am, the Caribou Coffee was open. No one had yet arrived, and I thought that perhaps people had bailed due to risky road conditions. Shortly there after, several runners appeared, with Savage arriving on foot. We took off...

I brought my camera along, as its rare that it snows like this in town, so I documented. Early on in the run, I pulled out my camera and accidentaly dropped my key without realizing it. I left the group, retraced my path, retrieved my key, and then ran for 2 miles to catch back up with the group at Citgo fields.

It has been a few years since I ran with the UCRR, so it was fun catching up with the gang. Diane gave me the Boston story, which went on for miles! Its inspiring to see people reach their goals, and share stories.

After 10 or 11 miles several runners pit stopped at the Caribou and I found myself continuing, running with Savage and Théoden. We headed back down the same road we started on, and then back on the greenway.

I was running in Mizuno road flats, which I ran the Sultan 50k in last weekend. I still had a few twigs and pebbles in my shoe lurking around my toes from the most recent adventure. By now the wind began to pick up, and snow was flying in my face, forcing me to squint at times. A buff would have been perfect to bring along. Although the asphalt was covered in snow, and in some sections ice, I was able to get a good footing and run at a comfortable pace.

According to Theoden's GPS, he and I covered 18 miles in 2:42. I went inside for a coffee and an oatmeal to go. Caribou's oatmeal rocks!
Later on in the day I put on the micro spikes and tested them out in the hood on sheets of icy roads. They work very well, but not recommended in flats. If you want to run tomorrow morning, I recommend you bring such gear, or a pair of crampons!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Sultan 50k+

results photos
33 miles - 6:05:38 - South Mountains State Park

The decade was coming to an end, and again I began the planning phase of the birthday run. This year I used the Hardrock name I acquired on the trail “Sultan” as the name of the event, fitting for the handcrafted crowns we sported. The Sultan 50k.

This is really not a run, but a birthday party with friends, celebrating everything that makes you feel alive. My brother Osama, whom I have called Ozmin almost his entire life, was turning 30 in January. He saw it fit to learn a little more about the ultra running culture, and decided to come along and volunteer at the 16.5 mile aid station along with Lilly, and document the adventure we all had. They both did a fantastic job, and braved the cold and mist for the day to help us out, you guys rock!

I met up with Jonathan Savage and John Lewis in Charlotte, and we all drove up to Morganton to the Coffee House. I passed out some recycled bibs to all the participants so that when they all came to the aid station our volunteers could record their 16.5 mile split time. Each bib came from some adventure I had participated it, and I tried to match up each runner with something they could relate to. We then all drove to Roper Hollow Road, snapped a few photos, and at 10:04am we began running.

The first 3 miles are uphill. I ran a little with Anne and Annette, and then pulled back a little to run with Greg, Keith, and Stu. It was great to be outdoors, and take in the fresh mountain air with friends. I pulled into the aid station in 2:52 surprised to see how well it was set up. Lilly and Ozmin did great work. At this point I had been anticipating the cake, and I was starving. I scarfed down a huge slice, and ate lots of salty chips and fluids. As Keith and I came in, we saw Annette, Mark, Dewight, and Anne on their way out. Wendy, Keiths wife stayed behind so they could run together. I drew my card and got a 6, this would shave 6 minutes off of my actual finish time. Laughs, headstands, and cartwheels were going on to humor our volunteers and get stickers added to their names which turned into points (big sticker = 20 min, small sticker = 10 min). I stayed at the aid station for 30 minutes to help out, and to meet as many of the runners as possible. Keith and Stu went on, as the body gets cold being stationary. D.C., Jonathan Savage, Greg and Hayley all rolled in. I gobbled up some more calories and saw Beth, Ashley, and Damian come thru. Everyone was loving the cake, and then I high fived Melinda and Patrick as they came in. At this point, I was feeling the cold get to me and decided to start moving back towards Roper Hollow Road.

On the return we climbed the stairs to the waterfall, which was frozen last year, with Ashley, Jonathan Savage, and D.C. We ran all the flats, and the downhill’s, and hiked up the hills. Magically Erik and Julie, friends from Charlotte, appeared with their camera’s on the trail, taking photos of us running threw the woods! Thanks guys, and thanks for sharing. Next time make sure to grab a slice of cake before your hike! Hate you missed it.

At this point we had exited the park and started to pick up the pace. D.C. and I ran together for a while, and met up with Beth who was jamming to her tunes. We ran for a while together, and remembered her help in finding a sweet trail while I was up in Virginia a few months back in the Iron Mountains. I could feel my legs a bit heavy, but wanted to run up the hills, so I did a few times. We then started running down hill fast, and D.C. and I kept thinking we had reached the finish, only to see another bend in the road. For 2 miles or so, we thought we were at the finish, and kept up a strong pace. We then finished the round trip time of 6:36:38. The distance was 33 miles, net elevation gain was 6,000 feet, and it was between 40-50 degrees, overcast clouds, and somewhat misty-drizzly. As we approached the finish, a fire had been burning and appeared to be toasty. We huddled around and cheered in the rest of the runners out there.

After all the runners came in, some of decided to go to Jalapanos for some Mexican food, which is very tasty. I want to thank the volunteers, and the friends that helped me make this possible. Happy Birthday! Happy New Year! Happy New Decade! Live it up.

This was an amazing time, and even more amazing people. For fun, I decided to barrow some of Chris Scott C2M idea’s and incorporate bonus points and boner points for an official finish time of all the runners. Here is how it works:

Bonus and Boner point deduct and add time to your actual finish time.

Bonus Points:

Ate Cake = 20 min.
Deck of Cards = # you drew, Ace was 25 min.
Photos on trail = 30 min.
Photos post/pre run = 10 min.
Course marking = 30 min.
Post run dinner = 10 min.
Big sticker = 20 min.
Small sticker = 10 min.
Hair cut into a crown = 100 min.

Being involved added more bonus points. For example, baking banana bread and sharing, bringing along firewood to help us avoid hypothermia at the finish, and posting an elevation profile that looks like our crowns all earned you bonus points!

Elevation profile by: Dewight Shuler

Boner Points:

If you didn't wear your crown, then 60 minutes will be added to your time. If you forgot to return your bib 30 minutes will be added to your time. This is all fun and games, anyone that got boner points surely made up for it and some in bonus points!

I couldn't agree with Annette more when she said in her recent email "HAPPY LIFE! That is what yesterday symbolized to me!" What a blast!
Photo by: Jonathan Savage
Charlie and Vonda critique my Yoga (standing warrior) at mile 20 on the 33 mile journey. My Ujjayi breathing techniques worked wonders!

Many of the runners asked about the cake, and who made it? Nona from Nona's bakery in Charlotte. That red velvet was gooooood. Also, a special thanks to Melanie and Lonnie who crafted our crowns for the second year. Thinking about throwing down the crown at your next birthday party? Well check out their website, all proceeds go towards their son Daniels therapies that aren't covered by insurance. Great people to work with.

To the next adventure!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Weymouth Woods 100k - 7th place

results splits photos
Finished 10:51:06 (100k PR)

Ok, so Im on a birthday high. After last weekend’s PR run at the Frosty 50k I decided to go ahead and run a 100k the following week. The morning started with a 4am buzzer and another bowl of that oatmeal! It seemed to do wonders last week, so heck, work with what works. I piled on blueberries, strawberries, bananas, brown sugar, and honey. I love that taste of fresh fruit in the morning.

Jonathan Savage, and I packed up and rolled out by 5am. We made it to Southern Pines by 7am and I began to prepare for a 62.5 mile journey. The course is 14 loops 4.47 miles long and is tough because the trail is infinitely covered in roots, with some sections fairly sandy. Jonathan reminded me it was the Sandhills after all.

Photo: by Unknown

At the start I saw a few people wearing down jackets again! My brain started sweating with just the sight of that much cloths. It was 40 degrees at the near sunrise start, and warmed up to 50 by the end of the day. I had on shorts, a tank-top with arm-warmers and gloves on. I started a bit cold, but knew that I would warm up quickly. I ran with Jonathan and Tom Gabell the first few loops and then I was feeling fairly good and decided to pass them, never really running much farther away. Pass Jonathan? Was I nuts? This guy busted out 133+ miles at Hinson Lake a few months ago. I knew I was going a bit fast, but heck, it felt good, and so I went with it. By the 5th lap I put my mind in a state of trance, and not paying attention went off course for a few minutes, quickly realizing I was on virgin trail, I back tracked and corrected myself. Shortly thereafter I was passed by several runners. I was in 4th place until this point. If I tried to keep that pace (just under a 9 min/mile pace) I would crash and burn later, so after crossing the 50k mark, 7 laps, I pulled back to a 10.5-11 min/mile pace. I ran the first 50k in 4:47:47.

Photo: by Mark Long

Marie Lewis, race director, did a fantastic job putting on the first running of the Weymouth Woods 100k. Despite me going off trail, the course is very well marked, and it was me that wasn’t paying attention that made me go off course. The trail does make a few sharp turns however. Aid stations were stealer nothing short of first class, and really gave off positive energy every lap I came thru. Susan Dummar, and her crew (wish I knew all of your names) did a fantastic job making sure all the runners were taken care of. The multiple handfuls of chips, chicken noodle soup, several slices of cheese pizza, grilled cheese sandwiches, PB&J sandwiches, pretzels and M&M's, half a hamburger with ketchup and mustard, coffee, boiled potatoes and salt, the 50/50 water/Gatoraid mix fueled my body to keep a trucking along. The last few laps I got a few coyote howls out of the aid station which gave me more energy to drop the hammer hard. Mark Long and company did an awesome job manning the second aid station on the trail. You guys rock!

I was beginning to feel my legs get heavy after the first half. I then slowed my roll a bit and was instantly passed by several runners, including getting chicked twice. I knew that I still had 50k to go, and it would be a long day, so I made sure I adjusted my pace and just told myself I would catch up with them soon. I ran a few laps alone, with unbounded thoughts racing thru my mind. I felt alive. Almost instantly I paid attention to my watch and it was three laps later just like that, it was like pressing fast forward on time. Amazing! I wish I could do the opposite sometimes and hit rewind!

Anyhoo, this is where I met Sage. Sage is a 3 hour marathoner, which is amazing. I haven’t tried to go faster than my 3:30 PR time at that distance, but I'm sure I can’t run a 3 hour marathon. The amazing thing about Sage is that she is a mother of two, and her youngest is 10 months, and she has never run farther than a marathon! Ok, so I'm a fast marathoner, let just take a stab at a 100k? Hell, that kind of reminded me of when I first started running some of these crazy distances. I jumped right into it. We kept each other motivated to complete laps 10, 11, and 12. Walking up the hills at times and compensating on the flats and downhills. Sage began to feel a sharp pain in one of her knees, so I asked her if she wanted any vitamin I. “I didn’t know there was such a thing as vitamin I?” I told her that was lingo for ibuprofen, and she downed 400 mg at the next aid station. When we finished lap 12 I pushed on with my journey, grabbing my flashlight as I wasn’t sure I would finish lap 13 before darkness. It was here I pushed myself, knowing this would be my last lap in daylight. Here was my chance to finish strong. I felt like I was in a full sprint, thinking I was running my fastest lap, I was moving 2-3 minutes faster per mile. During this fast lap something bizarre happened. Two people yelled out to me while I was focused on finishing this lap at what seemed to be a suicide pace, “Mohammed, nice blog,” or something to that effect. You know who you are! Post a comment if you read this, I’d love to hear from you.

I had to turn my flashlight on during the last mile so I wouldn’t trip on a root and face plant. I quickly came into the aid station filled up my bottle, yelled out another howl, and high fived Jonathan who was finished at this point (4th place). He asked me what pace I wanted to run? I wanted to finish in less than 11 hours at this point, so I yelled out “I don’t know 30 minutes.” 30 minutes is impossible to run, so I don’t know what I was thinking, but then quickly adjusted my expectations to 40 minutes. Jonathan at this point said he would pace me the last lap! This guy just finished, was he out of his mind? I thought sure, why not. I began to walk waiting for him to follow, then stopped for 20 seconds and yelled his name out 3 or 4 times, and then I took off like a tiger being let out of his cage. I was on a mission, and no one was going to stop me.

I finished lap 14 in 50:39, with a total time of 10:51:06. I placed 6th in Men’s, and 7th overall. Sage went on to finish her first 100k in 2nd female, rock on SAGE!! Jonathan finished 4th overall, and totally kicked some ass out there. My Sunnto Altimeter read a total of 3,691 feet of net gain and loss on all 14 loops or approximately 263 feet of gain per loop. I ran in my new inov8 212’s which I highly recommend for trail running. I was happy it was over with, but was still in a very jovial mood. Susan suggested I keep going and bust out 100 miles. I declined kindly, and proceeded to eat half a hamburger and down a coffee with some lentil soup.

I would like to thank all that made this adventure possible, and all the volunteers who made this first time event a success. This will quickly become a popular 100k event!!

Who's ready for the Sultan 50k next weekend?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Weymouth Woods 100k Trail Run

I'm usually not a big fan of running around in circles, but this Saturday I plan to run the first running of the Weymouth Woods 100k in Southern Pines, NC. The race is full, and has a sweet line up of athletes.

The course is described on their website as: Fourteen 4.47 mile loops (total 62.58 miles) through the trails of Weymouth Woods Nature Preserve. To alleviate trail congestion, the first loop will also include a .15 start from the park entrance to the trailhead. The trails are a combination of dirt, loose sand, packed sand, and some gravel. There are several wood plank boardwalks and two sets of wood stairs. Lots of slippery leaves, pine straw, and many exposed and hidden roots. Parts of the trail can be muddy and wet. Runners will cross the parking lot (several hundred yards) at the beginning and end of each loop. See the course map and the elevation chart for specifics. The course is not certified.

It should be a little warmer than the Frosty 50k this past weekend. I plan to ease off the pace a little and pull this one off in 11 hours, or just under 50 minutes per loop.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Salem Lake Frosty 50k – 12th Place

Finished 4:07:39 (50k PR)

I woke up at 4:45am, made last minute preparations, ate the best oatmeal breakfast with raspberries, blueberries, bananas, brown sugar, and honey for some fuel later on in the morning. A powerful energy lingered in me from last decade’s adventure on the Art Leob.  The drive up to Winston-Salem took me just over an hour.

Just before the start I met up with Jonathan Savage and the University City Road Runners. I was surprised to see them, as they usually only run asphalt and I rarely see any of them at ultras. Way to come out there and run one for the first time! Jonathan asked, “so are you going run this one fast?” I never come to these races with expectations other than enjoying the day with other like-minded trail runners. “Not sure.” I did have my new Inov8 212’s on, which I have tested out 4 other times while training. They are light, fast, and grip the trail like nothing else.

Photo by: Aaron Ligon

On the drive up, the batmobile gave me a reading of 14 degrees as the outside temperatures. The entire country was literally frozen. Even southern Florida hit record lows and dipped into freezing at night which is very rare. It was going to be a cold day. The forecast did not show that it would go above freezing at all during the time I would be running. We started in 18 degree’s. I was wearing shorts, a white cycling shirt, arm warmers, running glove
s, a hat that covered my ears, and my houdini. I was wearing much less than most people out there, some of which had full down jackets and balaclava’s on.

Photo: Unknown
The 50K course is a flat and scenic, beginning and ending at Salem Lake, 6 plus miles on asphalt Greenway, 25 miles on hard packed frozen dirt around Salem Lake. It is a double out and back. The start, finish and halfway are at the Salem Lake Shelter. So I broke this run down to 4 sections, each of which is just under 8 miles (7.775 to be exact). It seemed reasonable to try and run each section in one hour, but I knew that was below an 8 minute mile, and that my body would not be able to sustain that for too long on trail. But it was sub-freezing, and I had to stay warm, so I busted it out in that pace, and I felt good.

I finished the first section in 58 minutes, second section in 1:58, and third section in 3:01. I was feeling my legs get heavy at this point and slowed my roll just a bit. I ran behind Myron Coulson and put it in cruise control, only to see him get farther and farther away. I reached the aid station where the asphalt met the trail, and loaded up on fluids and calories. It was here I convinced the aid station volunteers to let out a load synchronized coyote howl. This gave me strength and reminded me of my Coyote 2 Moon experience. I started to move faster and knew that if I tried to run hard for the next 8 miles I would PR and set the bar very high for me to PR again at this distance.

It was cold, below freezing, and thoughts of hot yoga in my mind helped me thaw out a little. I sweat when I run fast, and the accumulated sweat around my waist strap froze into solid ice, and some hawaiian shaved ice action. I noticed it, and didn’t think much of it, but later realized the price I would pay, freeze burns around my waist which is extremely painful. I was running on positive energy that I picked up from so many other runners as we continuously passed each other on the out and backs. The University City Road Runners were my little cheerleading squad every time I passed them. After I rounded the last cove I could finally see the finish, and although I wasn’t going to pull this last section in an hour, I ran my hardest to finish in 4:07. What an amazing day with amazing people!

A new course record was set this year by Ethan Coffey of Knoxville, TN. He shaved just over one minute off the previous record to run an amazing time of 3:08:08, almost an hour faster than my time. Mark Lundblad, a Sultan 50k runner this year, came in at second place with a time of 3:24:23. I didn't even recognize him out there! I came in at 12th place with a time of 4:07:39, my fastest 50k to date.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Blue Moon ALTAR 30M

The Art Loeb Trail Adventure Run was in its 9th year, and two weeks ago, a snow storm forced the tradition to break its streak. The ALTAR is run on the winter solstice or shortest Saturday of the year. After our failed attempt, we decided to give it another shot on new years eve 2009 which was a blue moon night, a phenomena that would not reoccure for another 28 years!

We rendezvoused in Ashvegas and dropped off a car at Camp Daniel Boone, which would be our finish or our turn around had we tried to double the ALTAR. Yes, some of us thought this might be possible. Then we headed over to town for some pizza and went to Charlie’s to repack, get an hour of shut eye, and off to Brevard for a true Coyote midnight start. On our drive it began to snow yet again. We started at 12:01am December 31, 2009, and it would be our last adventure of the decade.

It was cold, but not as cold as I had expected at the start. I knew that as we climbed higher it would get colder and windier. The conditions here were very good, and much better than two weeks ago. Even the downed rhododendron here which forced us to crawl two weeks ago sprung back into life and opened up the trail.

The blue moon was out, and illuminated the bright white snow on the trail, allowing us to speed hike with no headlamps. I turned mine on every now and then just to make sure I was moving in the correct direction. We took turns to break trail in the fresh snow. The moon was very bright and powerful near Cedar Rock.

While climbing up Pilot Mountain, the longest climb to the ALTAR I felt very sleepy, and was practically sleep hiking at this point. I kept following the footsteps in the snow. We reached Deep Gap shelter just before 7am, and took a break to down some water and calories. Matt made a call to Carl and gave him an update. It was getting very cold at this point, and I remember having to hike up another 10 minutes to warm my body back up again, I had all my cloths on.

We crossed the parkway and found a few large ice formations. Ice stalactites were plentiful and very large. Matt and I decided to wake ourselves up by pulling out ice light sabers. I thought about calling my Avitar to the rescue, but then woke up.

Thus far this adventure was challenging, cold, yet fun. When we reached the Black Balsam Balds I noticed we were in much deeper snow. The Art Loeb trail here is usually a deep trail, and with more accumulated snow, if you tried to stay on trail, your in some really deep stuff. We all began to posthole. This slowed our roll big time, and became very challenging. Our pace slowed to just over 1 mile per hour, and I began to wonder if we would be spending another night on the mountain. Then it got worse with all the blowdowns. We had to bushwhack, commando crawl, orienteer our way out for miles. This part was not fun. It was both physically demanding and mentally challenging.

After hours we finally made it to the narrows, and then ran back down to Camp Daniel Boone. My watch read 16:01, about twice as long as it may have taken in normal conditions. With the Blue Moon ALTAR we sealed the decade with yet another amazing adventure. Thanks to both Charlie and Matt for helping me find my way out of there alive!