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, February 28, 2010

Mt. Mitchell Challenge 2010

results photos
35 miles - 5:39:27 - 2010 Mt. Mitchell Challenge
photos below: Citizen-Times

This seasons winter has been brutal, and has resulted in changing the courses of some well run ultra's. The Mt. Mitchell Challenge and Black Mountain Marathon were not immune to this as the snow and downed trees forced organizers to make changes. At the pre-race meeting, it was confirmed that the Challenge will be modified which resulted in a shorter run, and more asphalt vs. trail.

I made a last minute decision to wear a cycling jersey. This gave me more warmth than any other short sleeve shirt, and allowed me to run without a waist strap, or pack, as I stuffed the three back pockets of the jersey with additional gear. Instead of shorts, I put on my tights which I will only do in case of extreme cold (below 20 degrees) and wind. I was carrying one hand-held bottle, arm warmers, convertible gloves, a buff, my houdini, espresso gu, a beanie, and of coarse my shuffle.

Just before the start we all congregated and I saw many new and old faces as this would be my 4th running. It always great to catch up with old friends and make new ones. I was very well rested from the night before and felt powerful energy from the start. I started in the middle of the pack. The initial part of the course bypassed some of the Montreat trails and headed up Appalachian Way. This section of asphalt is very steep and is equally as painful running downhill as it is uphill. Actually, I didn't see anyone running very far up Appalachian Way, more like a run-walk-speed hike.

Once we hit trail on the Mitchell toll road the grade became runnable. I ran in my Inov8 212 Talons. I also made a last minute decision to not carry my micro-spikes or yaktracks. I felt confident that the grip of the trail running flats would give me the added confidence to travel across the packed snow and ice. I was making a bet with myself that the asphalt sections high above the parkway would be clear and free of any ice. If route 128 up to the summit was covered in ice, I would have been forced to turn around while microspike runners would have pushed on. Running on the trail section early in the morning I wondered if I had made a bad choice.

The start of the run was well below freezing so the trail was solid ice and packed snow for most of the morning. I concentrated on foot placement while running and tried to land my foot on the tire tracks which were the most compact sections of snow. This was challenging because often times the tire tracks were narrow, so the feet had to land in a single file style of running. I could run harder, and faster, but knew I wanted to keep some juice for the second half of this run. This is where the excitement starts in my book. I got into a comfortable pace, and turned on some tunes.

I filled up my bottle at a spring as there were no aid stations until I reached the parkway. At this point, anyone carrying yacktracks had them on. Many people pulled off the side of the trail, fumbled thru their packs, put them on and kept going. I made it to the parkway in 1:59 only to see David and Terry manning the aid stations. We ran together much of the same trails only last week. I pushed out of the aid station as quickly as I could, knowing that if I hung around I would freeze.

I ran to 128 and turned left. The sky was clear at this elevation, and I could see a beautiful sky with Table Rock clearly visible to my right. It was here that I heard the loudest wind howl of the day. I pulled my Buff around my face and ears which offered great protection from the wind. The mountain raged with anger and I looked up to see frozen trees disappearing higher above in the clouds. I knew when I reached the cloud that the temperatures would drop very fast.

Jason Bryant, who eventually won the Challenge in 4:31, said "The wind chill was the worst factor. I wish I had something to cover my face.” The Buff certainly saved my face from wind burn, as there was gusts of 30-40 mile per hour winds at the summit. After running for a mile up 128 I began to run walk. I wanted to keep my legs healthy for the descent. For the next 3 miles I was passed by at least 6 runners. I promised myself I would need to pass all of them on the return.

This year's run was a true out and back, so I saw runners on the return and knew what place they were in. Drew Shelfer always amazes me at this race, as he came off the summit in 3rd place. I high fived him on his way down. Not too far in 4th was fellow UCRR runner Jonathan Savage. You could tell he was running strong on his return and evidently see the positive energy running downhill. Byron was just coming off the summit as I started my posthole action to the top. I had less than a mile to go to the summit, and picked up my pace to run all the way until I got to the short trail to the summit. It was deep snow, and we were postholig all the way to the top. My hands were frozen. I tried to drink all the water out of my bottle before filling up, but it was frozen. I tapped the summit sign, and returned to the ranger station which is where I shoved 3 handfuls of sun chips, and downed half a liter of water and coke.

As I was shamelessly stuffing my face with any calories I could get in I recognized ranger Matt! Ranger Matt helped me and Greg during our 98 mile stage run fight off a bear on the summit of Mt. Mitchell last year after the bear broke into Greg's truck and ate all of our food. Ranger Matt, thanks for helping out!! We exchanged hellos, and I grabbed one more handful of chips and refilled my bottle.

It was 6 degrees at the summit and the wind made it feel like it was -20! My hands were still frozen and numb. My water bottle was dead weight, as it remained frozen the entire run down 128. On the way down I saw D.C, Wendy, Liz, Doom, and many others! Here I ran a bit faster and consistently downhill. I noticed someone on the side of the road taking a photo of a tiny mouse as I pushed downhill at a faster pace. I wanted to get out of the cloud, and I kept telling myself that it was a really hot day in Black Mountain.

I came back thru David and Terry's aid station. Here I saw a few runners putting on yacktracks again. David hooked up some hot tea in my water bottle and I was out of there in 30 seconds. Guys, thanks for an awesome aid station. I peeled off the gloves as the hot tea did the trick in bringing the fingers back to life. It took a few tries before the hot tea worked its way to the nipple of the bottle and finally some hydration. I kept up my pace, knowing that this is where I could make up time.

It got much warmer, and I stripped down to my Jersey, putting everything I had worn into the three back pockets. A few miles later I passed Dwight Shuler who was running strong with the biggest "sweatcicle" I have ever seen. He had on microspikes. As we dropped in elevation, it got warmer, and the sun began to shine. I ran hard all the way to lake Tomahawk which is where I saw Mad A who ran a few hundred feet with me to the finish. I was the 15th challenger to cross the finish line in 5:39:27. The range in temperatures from lows on the summit with windchill of -20 to upper 40 degrees in Black Mountain made this years challenge that much more of a challenge.


Race Director Jay Curwin:

"The 13th Mount Mitchell Challenge and Black Mountain Marathon saw some of the most extreme weather yet.
2010 snow levels prevented runners from traversing the summit trails, limiting them to an up and back trek on the paved section of the Park road, but this meant for a 10 mile stretch of complete exposure on the summit ridge, with winds topping 50mph and 6 degree temperatures.
Marathoners and Challengers alike, faced conditions on the 18 mile section of the Toll Rd. that ranged from ankle/shin deep snow to stretches of hard ice and softening mud...Even with a shortened marathon course, times for the shorter race were slower than years past.
With the abreviated Challenge course, times were a little faster (about 30 minutes for the top runners)...due, in part, to athletes simply wanting to get down out of the arctic cold as fast as possible! Volunteers told stories of aid station supplies freezing solid while sheltered inside summit buildings...In a word; it was cold!
The Challenge provided no drama for the overall wins this year...2008 champion and LaSportiva athlete, Jason Bryant bolted from the start and led wire to wire...Bryant held a 20 minute lead by the halfway summit turnaround and had extended that to almost 30 minutes at the Lake Tomahawk finish line...his time of 4:31:16 provided some redemption for his 2009 DNF...On the women's side, Vasque's Krissy Moehl had no trouble with the conditions...Being from Washinton state, she faces mountaintop snow on a regular basis...and demolished the women's field by over an hour to win with a 5:10:38."

Monday, February 22, 2010

Rattle My Heart 50k

Adam Hill puts on many fun runs throughout the year. This is the 3rd year for the Rattle My Heart, and my first time! The weather could not have been better, with temperatures going above 50 degrees. I am running the Mitchell Challenge next week, and wanted to get some live views, and a test run on part of that trail.

Matt and Carl both started the night before at 8pm from Marion. Pulling a coyote run all night in the cold, and sloppy trail conditions. It took them just over 13 hours to reach us in Montreat by Lake Susan, 30 miles from where they started. They looked a little beat up, but a few calories, and a change of cloths got them going again. They are training for an adventure called the Barkleys! The rest of us started at Lake Susan. My plan was to go the entire 30 miles.

Adam navigated the dozen or so runners to the Rainbow trail, and up to Rattlesnake Mountain. On the way up a large branch that appeared to have snapped with a very sharp edge somehow whacked my left ear. Instant pain and blood followed. I put a little snow on the ear, and ignored the pain, and just kept pushing along. At the end of our day, I discovered a chunk of ear missing. The summit of Rattlesnake gave us 360 degree views of the snow covered Appalachian range. You could hear several people point into the distance and naming off peaks. Seeing the mountains covered in snow gave off a Colorado vibe, and I could tell it would be a good day.

We all descended from the summit and made our way to the Royal Gorge Overlook. Everyone here took the time to take in the views and down a few calories. The sun was out and about, and I smelled Spring. It was a real adventure having snow on the trail. It certainly added to the challenge of it all.

We pushed on to the Kitsuma/Youngs Ridge trailhead. Here a few opted to bypass the Kitsuma climb and took a 5 mile shortcut. After climbing up Kitsuma, we descended and hung a left on Mill Creek Road for a 3 mile asphalt run. At the end of the road was Andrew's Geyser.

We were surprised to see the Geyser pumping water into the sky. It was here the yogi was calling from within for the crow. I saw a rock that was large and flat enough, and pulled the move without face planting. This was at about mile 14 of our 30 mile journey. We crossed the railroad tracks and pushed up to Heartbreak Ridge.

Photo by: Adam Hill

The next 8 miles involved countless switchbacks, and an incline that would make you climb about 3500 feet. Adam hopped up the trail like a little bunny. The next few miles I hiked up alone, and enjoyed the views, the sun, and the snow. My feet did start to get a little cold, so I tried to pick up the pace a little. I then passed a few runners that took the bypass earlier. Finally, I reached the Mitchell Toll Road. I was surprised to see how much snow there was up there.

I couldnt run downhill without concentrating on exactly where I needed to place my foot. A 4 wheeler had obviously come up this section in the snow, and their tire tracks is where I wanted my foot to go. This offered the most compact snow, so my feet wouldn't slide around and I could get somewhat of a good footing. This was a challenge, and forced me to work harder. Normally, I would want to fly down this section of the trail, and pick up some pace, but with the snow I doubt anyone will be setting any PR's next weekend. That is unless we get some heatwave ant it all melts away, unlikely.

You know your close to getting off the trail when it gets really nasty steep. Many runners cant even run this section on the Mt. Mitchell Challenge, fearing their knees would blow out. It was here that I felt like I was skiing in my shoes. You really had to have some good balance to move at a faster pace as the snow/mud eliminated much of the friction my feet were used to. Finally I hit Appalachian Way, and crossed Oklahoma, Arkansas, Florida, and Missouri and knew I was done when I saw Lookout road. My watch read 7:47.

Adam, thanks for putting on another amazing run in the hills of Appalachia! Carl and Matt, you guys rocked out another 100k out there, battling harsh winter conditions, rock on. And finally, thanks to all the people that came out, what an adventure!!

The Elevation Profile:

Another beautiful day was had on Sunday, so I went out for a the first bike ride in over a year. The legs were a little wobbly.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Uwharrie 40 & Adventures In The Mud

results photos
38 miles - 6:33:50 - Uwharrie Mountain Run

Vonda, Charlie, and I parked our car near a church, and hoped into a shuttle. Heather, from Asheboro was our volunteer driver, she helped us make it to the start, with enthusiasm I might add. Not a single rain drop fell as we huddled around a campfire to stay warm anticipating the start. The air was a little humid, that feeling you have after it had been raining for days. Many of us shuffling thru our drop bags, and making last minute decisions on what to carry along the run, and what to drop.

photos by: Anthony Carriveau

Byron was in his sleeveless, which is his classic look (2009 Mt. Mitchell), one that I choose to sport every now and then, even in cold temperatures, with arm warmers of course. "Mo, your overdressed." I agreed, and dropped my rain jacket, and gloves. I had on cycling arm warmers, my hardrock shirt, shorts, and a beanie. I put on the hardrock shirt for good luck with Sunday’s lottery, hoping I would get in! We had aid every three miles, so I rocked one hand-held bottle, knowing I could re-fuel at any of the aid stations.

Just before the start, the organizers, which I respect very much for putting on such a well organized run with all the bad weather possibilities this weekend, made a few announcements. This year, they were not timing the run, and they re-routed part of the course after mile 14. This made the race a bit flatter, and many mentioned even shorter. Some had been disappointed to hear this, but I was just stoked to be outside in these conditions on the trail. I enjoy the different elements of nature during these endurance events, and seeing how I cope with them. I also love mud!!

We took off, and my strategy was to run hard, and see if I can maintain a solid pace. Byron, Mark, Brad, and Ronnie lead in quattro action. After the first big hill, I let them disappear in the distance. I kept a pace up with two other runners for the next 10 miles or so, until we all broke up and ran solo. I was in 6th place, but I tried to take my mind off of this, and focus on my run. I was having a great time, high fiving volunteers, jamming to my tunes at times, and watching light snow flakes fall from the sky at other times. I love running in the snow too!!

I began to feel cold in my hands, and wished I kept the gloves. This was a bad choice on my part, but no worries, I just pulled my arm warmers down a bit and covered my fingers, bam. You have to improvise on the trail. After reaching mile 14, we turned left down a gravel road all the way to the turn around. This was the fast section of the run, and really where you could make up time. I kept telling myself I would push it harder on the return, so I took a nice steady pace. Before I knew it, Mark, Ronnie, Byron, and Brad passed me on their return. All appeared to be in high spirits, and looking strong. They were all minutes from each other.

When I got to mile 20, I downed a salty potatoe, a couple of fig newtons, and guzzled down some mountain dew, or Nitro as the kirkmister calls it. I also grabbed my gloves out of my drop bag, and attempted to put them on. My fingers were frozen at this point, and tangled into each other with no dexterity. I couldn't even put my gloves on! Marie, thank you for helping me put those suckers on. It was 3:15 when I left the aid station, and I kept trucking along.

It was here I began to pass many of the 40 mile runners who were on their way to the 20 mile aid station. Uwharrie 40M is an out and back. I high fived many of them, and picked up tremendous positive energy, which was reciprocated, from all of the runners. Some runners don't like to talk to people when they are focused on a race. I'm the opposite, I love the energy that gets passed around. Two runners, who I don’t know, yelled out "Sultan! I read your blog" as they ran past. You know who you are! I hope your run went well.

I reached the 14/26 mile aid station in 4 hours, and pit stopped for some Nitro and calories, and took off. I was back on the single track. I remember sprinting downhill on a section only to come up to a stream that was knee deep. Opposite of the stream was a 20 mile runner that was searching for a way to cross without actually getting his feet wet. In full jubilation, I leaped forward from my sprint into the stream, causing tidal waves, and a splash that was louder than my coyote howl soaked my legs and cleaned off all the mud on my lower body. The other runner decided to do the same!

I was pacing myself at 30 minutes per aid station which was challenging. I reached the 32 mile aid station and had a chance to chat with Joe Lea, a Hardrocker, and Kean Hankins a Coyote! I refueled, wished them luck on both lotteries of Wastach, and Hardrock. We were all in the same lotteries!

A mile or so later, I saw Byron in the distance. I eventually caught up to him, which seemed like it took another mile or so. We ran/shuffled together, and then I let him go, only to see him waiting for me at the mile 35 aid station. I downed a hot chocolate, and a few calories, and continued to push on. A few miles later we were passed by Willow. You’ve gotta love the trailheads and all of their trail names! Sultan likes that.

We both followed Willow to the last aid station at mile 38. We exchanged a few words, and I learned she would be running Western States later on this year! Before you knew it, another runner came up on us with less than a mile to go, Anthony Corriveau. 5th, 6th, and 7th place all finished within seconds of each other. Byron had a stronger finish than I, and dropped the hammer to finish in 5th. Willow finished first female, rock on.

Uwharrie was a great race. Special thanks to all the volunteers who helped make this event possible. I later found out that day I did get into Wasatch, along with Joe, Kean, and Flame! But with no luck at Hardrock…210th on the waiting list! Kean rocks out and got into both.