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, February 26, 2011

Mt. Mitchell Challenge

Being sick all week, I decided to put off the Mitchell Challenge, despite having run it 4 times prior.  By Thursday I convinced myself to go out and run it, then that night a hacking cough and voiceless I thought to myself what a bad idea it would be to run up Mitchell in this state.  The weather up there is unpredictable.  I left the decision alone until 3:30am Saturday morning.  I felt great, and the meds I was on were working.  I sprang out of bed, pulled my shizzle together and hit the road.

I had been in bed in and out of work all week, so I was fine on sleep.  I charged my shuffle all the way to Caminos where I met with Jay and picked up my packet.  I knew I wasn't 100%, but I felt healthy enough to get out an run.  I saw Savage and Jeramey at Camions and wished them an awesome adventure.  Later I parked my car at the lake, and walked to the start where I saw many of my mountain running peeps.  I was excited to be out on what turned out to be the best weather I have seen on Mitchell in February.

We took off at 7am, and I struggled to run at a decent pace, but pushed myself early on.  Sickness coupled with poor conditioning forced me to slow my role.  I ran walked up the toll road to the parkway convincing myself that I would turn around, then re-convincing myself I would push on several times.  It was like a ping poing match going on in my head, all while the hacking cough came back.  I was feeling miserable.

When I reached the parkway, the sun shone directly on me, and I could see the summit, and commissary ridge in clear view.  I remembered last years nastiness, and the year prior when over a dozen were shuttled down via ambulance due to hypothermia.  I remembered how much fun I had to splash in the mud and run my tail off of the finish both of those years.  I also knew that had I not gotten sick 3 years ago and turned around at the parkway in 2008 this would be my fifth finish at Mitchell running the 40 miles.  I reached the parkway in 2:49 minutes, faster than what I expected.

Without hesitation my body propelled itself past the parkway aid station and I kept running until I turned right on hwy 128 when I began hiking up that steep road.  The horse trail was muddy, and I moved at a slow pace, but felt the sun give more strength.  I busted a left on commissary ridge when Ashley Funderburk was on my tail, a fellow Sultana.  I speed hiked up to the summit where slabs of ice appeared and I hop-scotched on dry rock riskily away and took off.  I want to say I was at the summit in 4:45, then took for the downhill.  At first I sped down hill, but then resulted to the same slower shuffle-speed hike pace.  The hacking cough never stopped. 

As I made my way down 128 I ran with Liz who then passed me on the parkway not to be seen again until the finish.  She mentioned she was struggling.  I pushed on to my favorite section, the downhilll toll road, of the Challenge.  Usually, if I'm feeling good, this is the spot I blast it.  Not happening this time, but made my way down to Appalachian Way.  It was 7:15 minutes into the run when I hit the asphalt.  I started doing all this math in my head to see if I could break 8 hours.  After running hard for a while I convinced myself it would be 8:01 or longer, so I slowed my role and listened to the thumping of my heart beat.  As I turned right onto a side street, and finally seeing the late I picked up my pace as I usually do, getting really pumped at the finish.  I had two minutes to circle the lake to break 8 hours, and I was determined.  I wanted to finish this run sub 8, albeit stick hacking out a cough.  Running that last 100 yards I remembered the past finishes and how those runs went.  As I veered to the right and crossed the bridge I saw the clock disappointingly read 8:09 and crossed the line in 8:14.  Still happy to have finished in the condition I was in.  Next year will be the penitential finish, and a hammer will need to drop. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Rattle My Heart 50k - 4th Annual

Distance: 30 mile loop
Net Elevation: 6,300 feet
Completion Time: 6:53
Photos: by Damion Wells

The fourth running of the Rattle my Heart 50k went down this past Saturday.   Summiting Rattlesnake and traversing Heartbreak Ridge in the middle of February is where madA devised the name of this challenging 30 mile loop.

I started in Montreat, along with 11 other runners.  I was feeling out of shape, and still not 100% on my game, but wanted to put forth the effort and challenge of this 6,300 foot climb while experiencing the adventure on what turned out to be another amazing spring like day.

The run starts in Montreat, and we run the trails towards Ridgcrest, soon after summiting Rattlesnake, and then dropping down to the Kitsuma trailhead and running up and down the rollercoaster ride of Kitsuma ridge to pop out at the Old Fort  picnic area.  Up until this point we have gone 10 or 11 miles and climbed 2,500 feet.  Smiles were still on many faces.  I passed Doug and caught up to Haley by the time I reached the Old Fort Picnic area and we both crossed Old Hwy 70 and found our way to the asphalt called Mill Creek Rd.  The railroad tracks were to our right as we headed north.  I let my legs rest as I speed walked and shuffled the next 3 miles of road and Haley took off in the distance.  To my left I reached Andrews Gyser.

Andrews Geyser is a man-made fountain in Old Fort. The fountain is named for Colonel Alexander Boyd Andrews, a North Carolina native who was the Vice President of the Southern Railway Company and one of the men responsible for the construction of the railroad between Old Fort and Asheville in the late 19th century.

Last year when I ran this loop I mustered up the energy to get into the yoga crow position and took a pass on that this year.  By this time Doug had caught up to me and we continued North on asphalt when we reached Graphite Rd.  From there we pass the The School of Urban and Wilderness Survival, or SUWS high ropes coarse.  A few hundred yards to our right is a trail that leads up to the train tracks, and after crossing them we reach the Heartbreak Ridge trailhead. 

Unknown to me we had water dropped at Kitsuma and near the Heartbreak Ridge trailhead.  I filled up my bottle when I saw excess water, but didn’t need to do so as I was carrying 2 liters in my pack.  Better to be well hydrated on a warm sunny day like this.  I began what seemed to be the forever climb up Heartbreak.  Doug and I hiked together until my pace seemed unbearably slow for him, and he took off.  I walked a lot, knowing I would need to save some juice for next week.  I took my time on this 8 mile, 3,500 foot ascent thinking much about the unrest in North Africa, the Middle East and Mid-West (Wisconsin) where thousands of people have taken to the street in peaceful protest.  What a blessing it is to live in a free land.  I reached the top of the trail in 2:42 minutes.  Several mountain bikers cashed in on the sweet weather and zipped downhill on Heartbreak.

I turned left on the toll road, which always brings back memories of the Mt. Mitchell Challenge.  Here, the grade is not very steep, and the downhill running action can be strong and put in cruise control.  Mitchell is a downhill running game strategy.  Save some juice in the tank for a strong run down and you will surely pass runners that miscalculated.  Watch out for the rocks, and don’t face plant as I have seen that happen on race day several times. 

Traces of snow and ice were still evident higher up, but as warmer weather continues this may change next weekend.  Expected rain may make the coarse sloppy muddy.  I passed Haley and Damion on my run down as they were taking their time making the descent.  Both smarter than I, knew that they wanted to save their legs for next weekend.  I found my way to

Appalachian way with joy and speed downhill to the lake Susan parking lot surprised to see Scott and Liz sporting their new home on wheels.  6:53 is what my watch read, and I was happy to get this one done and ready to throw down some calories at Ole Guacamoles!

Adam, awesome run as always!  I did catch the bug, and spent most of the day Sunday/Monday resting evidenced of the longer than normal blog post!  Hope to recover and bounce back fast.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Kitsuma Time Trial & Winter Backpacking

On my drive up to the Smokies for some winter back-packing I made a pitstop at the Kitsuma trailhead where I met up with MadA, Kay, Mike Vance, Joshua James, and a few other Charlotte trail runners.  I still feel a bit out of shape, and not up for a time trail, but what the heck, now I know I can smash this time later. 

The Kitsuma trail is a great 9-10 mile out and back and would be a perfect pitstop on your to and fro hwy 40.

Kay "Tasty Pie" Allen - 42:11/57:45 1:39:56 (2/12/11)
Sultan   - 42:30/1:01:04 1:43:26 (2/12/11)
Michael Vance - 43:02/1:11:09 1:54:11 (2/12/11)
Joshua James - 1:00:12 /58:45 1:58:57 (2/12/11)

I then scooted off quickly to catch up with some friends in the Smokies for a quick backpacking trip in the snow.  We hiked up 8 miles to Cosby Knob shelter off the AT and back on what was a sub-freezing cold night of about 15 degrees.  Searching for dry twigs in those temps was a challenge.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Sultan 50k

I could feel the thin layered salt that was pasted across my temples.  The mid day turned hot, and running with the crown on in January in Appalachia proved to be a challenge this year.  I was making forward motion, but slower than last year.  Another year had gone by and I found myself running with friends celebrating the freedom to run in the mountains, the freedom that many do not have.

This was the 3rd running of the Sultan 50k.  Runners are required to wear a crown, and eat birthday cake, it’s a party on the trail.  The official distance is 33 miles with only one aid station at the turnaround of this loly-pop course.  The route was first discovered by adventurer and ultra runner extraordinaire Senior Grand Kirk sometime within the last decade.

We started promptly at 10am and run uphill for about 10 miles at which point we enter the state park.  From there we take a few trails to make it to the half way point, the Jacob Fork parking lot.  I reached the 16.5 mile aid station in 3:03.  Birthday cake and hydration await runners here, along with anything they dropped at the start.  A big thank you to Lily, Charles, Erik, and Julie for helping out here.  After a headstand and refilling my bottles I took off to the waterfalls and then retraced my path back to the start/finish line.  I struggled on the return, but eventually made it back in 7:43.  A little warm mid day for January, but overall the weather could not have been more pleasant.

Thank you to all that made this event possible, and for another great birthday run!


Name Distance Off. Finish AS 16.5M Finish  (actual)
Hill, Adam 32 4:07 2:13 4:59
Kirk, Matt  32 4:37 2:13 5:07
Williams, Scott 32 4:51 2:25 4:56
Lundblad, Mark 32 4:52 2:25 4:57
Hargroves, Jeremy 32 4:52 2:18 5:12
Shuler, Dwight 32 5:08 2:41 5:23
Savage, Jonathan 32 5:15 2:25 5:20
Mrochek, Keith 32 5:24 2:20 5:29
Lilly, Richard 32 5:33 2:50 6:55
Wright, Wendy 32 6:00 2:30 5:30
Tribbett, Tammy  32 6:14 3:03 6:34
Blackford, Doug 32 6:17 3:39 7:24
Connolly, Mark  32 6:32 3:01 6:57
Leedy, Gail 32 6:41 3:33 7:55
Roberts, Charlie 32 6:50 2:53 7:15
Allen, Kay 32 7:10 3:32 7:30
Kumar, Naresh 32 7:19 3:29 8:03
McGonnell, Jeff 32 7:24 3:09 7:24
Idlibi, Mohammed  32 7:43 3:03 7:43
Wimberly, Psyche 32 7:45 3:47 9:45
Raffensperger, Charles 32 7:50 3:47 9:45


Austin, Jinnie 16 3:13 3:16
Austin, Stan 16 3:13 3:16
Foxworth, Terry  16 3:28 3:58
Funderburk, Ashley  16 2:54 3:14
Lewis, John 16 3:19 3:32
Minnick, Beth 16 3:10 3:14
Pryor, David  16 2:47 2:59
Chew, Betsy 16 3:11 3:14
Foxworth, Nichole 16 3:48 3:58
Paige, Greg 16 2:59 3:21
Roper, Hayley 16 ? NA
Ryan, Patrick 16 3:11 3:14
Harrison, Jonathan 16 2:25 2:41
Holland, Alex 16 3:39 3:42
McCaslin, Jeff  32 UNKNOWN 3:06 UNKNOWN
Shelfer, Drew 32 UNKONWN 2:30 UNKNOWN
Thrower, Brandon 16 UNKNOWN

Hannah - Brandon's GF 16 UNKNOWN

Lucchesi, DC  32