Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Miller Trek Trail...again

At the top of the ridge with Spot. Only one loop this time. :)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Wayah Bald Run and St Patrick's Day 5k

On Thursday, I ventured up to Fontana Dam to pick up Bryan. Fontana is where the Appalachian Trail enters the Smokies going northbound. He'd decided not to go on because of the national park "no dogs" rule (except in Shenandoah and parts of North Cascades), which is funny considering we took Coy through the Smokies in 2003, and she's even been through Yosemite. We did get caught with her in Crater Lake National Park and slammed with a $200 ticket, but we still wouldn't let Miss Perfect Ranger drive us out of the park; we walked the road 11 miles out of the park. Take that, Ranger Girl.
So, anyway, we picked up Bryan and drove Rt. 28 (probably the curviest, slowest road I've ever driven on) to Franklin to pick supplies for trail magic. After that, we drove up to Wayah Picnic Area to camp. When we arrived, we found 3 older gentlemen camping there for the last night of their section hike. We had a great time by the camp fire under the moon with them. They were old classmates from the Citadel who had decided to section hike the AT over the next few years. That was definitely a treat, and it's what I love about the trail. Camaraderie, despite age, background, whatever.
The next morning, we bid them farewell, and I prepared for my 8.8 mile round trip run on the AT up to Wayah Bald and back. The trail started out somewhat steep, but after it crossed a forest service road, it leveled out pretty much all the way to the top. I stopped at the FS road for a drink out of a piped spring.

Once I reached the top, I spent about ten minutes hanging out. The view was superb and the weather wonderful. I ran into a couple of people but only spoke to them for a few seconds. I tried to get my dang camera to work for self-portraits, but it seems to be having problems focusing. Oh well. It was time to get back down to the picnic area anyway. The way back was super fast. A little rocky and rooty in some places, but I was down in no time. We had one hiker there when I arrived, and over the next 5 hours, we had a good flow until we were nearly out of food and drinks and packed it up. I love how small of a world it is. One guy who came through had worked with my aunt on St. Simons Island, Ga. for 10 years and was now out on the trail. Another group of guys used to live in Fayetteville, NC, where we just came from. Another guy lives in the town just north of where we're moving in New Hampshire. Such a great community; I really enjoyed chatting with them all and providing some much overdue trail magic. In the last 13 years since we became thru-hikers, we've never been givers, so it was time. Even cheap hamburgers, hot dogs, chips and soda can make a thru-hiker's day (fortunately, we didn't have any vegetarians or Bryan would have gotten a huge, "I told ya so!" since I told him we should get some veggie burgers, too).
We came back to my parents' house in Hayesville for the night and got up early for my 5K race. This was the Young Harris St. Patrick's Day 5K held in Young Harris, Ga. When we arrived to check-in, the woman there told us John was the only kid signed up for the Kids Fun Run (say, what?!). John immediately burst into tears. That was it; he was already in a bad mood, so he went back into the van and didn't come out until it was close to awards time after the race. That meant Bryan had to stay up there with him, and I had to venture down to the starting area by myself. It was pretty weird being in a place I didn't know anybody. I'm used to my peeps in the Fayetteville Running Club or all the trail runners I met over time in the Raleigh area. So I just spent the time checking out the other runners. I had on one of my best "you-can't-tell-I'm-kind-of-fast" outfits, so no one was really checking me out. The Young Harris College men's and women's cross-country teams were there warming up. I chuckled to myself remembering those days and how ridiculous I always thought it was to do a mile warm-up for a 5K. I still refuse to do it. I saw one girl that looked like she was running an entire 5K before the race, and she was moving along at a good clip. I figured she'd be the one who might give me some competition.
A little after 9am, we lined up at the start. Warm-up girl got in front of me with some of her other running buddies, and about 6 guys from the cross-country team got in front of them. I decided to go out fast, and I did. By the time we reached a half mile, I was already first female and about 7th overall. The course wasn't actually flat like I thought it would be; it was pretty hilly. Nothing crazy steep, but the first half was mostly uphill. I passed two of the guys from the cross-country team right at the first mile. Just before the turn around was a short steep downhill which meant a short steep uphill right after it. I have been doing some really good treadmill training that I think helped because I hit those hills strong and fast and passed another of the cross-country guys. After a good stretch of downhill and flat, the course hit a small section of the cross-country course before finishing on the soccer field. I thought for sure I'd blown a chance at a PR (my previous was 20:17), so I was shocked when I realized I'd just run that 5K in 19:28, finishing 1st female and 4th overall. Talk about a major PR. I don't even run many 5Ks or train for them, but I guess the training I have been doing really paid off in the speed department. Warm-up girl came in about 2 minutes after me, followed by some of the cross-country girls 3 or 4 minutes behind me. I should have gone to Young Harris! I wasn't as fast then as I am now, but I still could have made the team.
I hung out for awhile to watch the finishers. My favorite was a girl who was so nervous beforehand and running a 5K for the first time. She came in last with a big smile on her face. It was good to see, and people would be surprised to know that I've been there. I could barely run 2 miles after I had John, so I had to work my way back into it. I was that slow, larger girl huffing and puffing up the hill, but I just kept training and came back faster than I've ever been.
John eventually got out of the van to play on the playground and grab a cookie from the snacks. I got my award and we went on our way back to Fontana Dam where I dropped Bryan back off for his hike south back to Springer Mountain. He's going to run into those people we gave trail magic to, as well as some old hiking friends, Miss Janet and Hopeful. I'm so happy that Bryan has been able to do this. It's what he needed after over 7 years in the Army. I'm already noticing a calmness coming back to him that I haven't seen in a long time.
So, I still have one more 20-mile run to do sometime this week. Normally, it would have been today, but it's going to have to wait until we pick Bryan up in a few days so that he can hang out with John while I run. I'm tempted to run the Dupont Trail 12K Race over near Brevard this coming weekend, but I don't think it's going to work out. It's just a little too far away. But that's okay. Boston is coming up, and, surprisingly, I'm starting to get excited about it. I downloaded Greg Maclin's Boston Marathon Pacing Spreadsheet (which, by the way, is a pain the ass if you have a Mac, but I finally got it working). I think it's going to be the best thing for me, and I'm so excited to use it.
I signed up for the Pat's Run Boston Shadow Run for April 16th. It's going to be a 4.2 mile fun run along the Charles River to support the Pat Tillman Foundation. The real run takes place in Tempe, Az, but there are shadow runs that take place all over the country on the same day. I'm looking forward to that, as well. It will be a good way to start off that Saturday in Boston, since I'll hit the Expo/packet-pickup after that. And if we have time, we'll take John to the Children's Museum. It should be a really good day. I'm definitely starting to look forward to it all.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Boston Marathon Trail Training

Yes, I got the memo. Boston is a road marathon, but I just can't bring myself to running on the road, so I'm sticking to the trails.
I had a fantastic run yesterday at the Jackrabbit Trails here in Hayesville, NC. They are mostly used by mountain bikers, but foot traffic is welcome. The trails aren't too difficult. No big climbs like last week's mountain run. Just a simple trail run. The trails are numerous and cover over 13 miles. I chose to do all but 2 of them for two loops, going in one direction for the first and the opposite direction for the second, and came out to about 20.75 miles. Link to my Garmin
The day was gorgeous. A little on the hot side for me at first, but after the first 5 or 6 miles, a cool breeze came in off the lake making it perfect. There were a few mountain bikers for the first 15 miles, but after that, they just kept coming and coming. I was happy to be close to finishing since it was starting to get old jumping off the trail for all the bikes. I really didn't mind, though; the mountain bikers are the ones who made these trails, so I was perfectly fine with giving them all the right-of-way. I've been experimenting with better fueling lately. I'm not a big fan of gels, sports beans, etc., but I've been using them some. I do like the Jelly Belly Sport Beans somewhat. I was chosen as a tester for Liquid Gold Organic Energy last year. It's pretty good, but I didn't feel it really gave me the energy I needed, and the molasses is kind of strong. I have been using the Perfect Foods Bar for my pre-race meal with great success, so I'll probably continue that, but yesterday, I decided to experiment with the Big Sur Bar, and it is by far the best energy bar I've ever had. These bars are packed with about 600 calories a piece. I ate half of one around mile 11 and the pick-me-up it gave me was amazing. So I'm planning to use this for Boston. My only issue is figuring out how to pack it since it's like a small brick. I'm thinking of slicing it and putting it in a ziplock and in my skirt pocket. We'll see.
Next week is another 20 miler somewhere around western NC. Bryan is on the Appalachian Trail right now for a section hike. He started at Springer Mtn. on March 3rd, and I dropped him off at Winding Stair Gap today. He should be at Fontana Dam by Friday or Saturday, where he thinks he might want to stop. If he does continue on, he's planning to skip the Smokies so he doesn't have to worry about having Chill on the trail. We got away with sneaking Coy through without an issue in 2003, but we've gotten two tickets before for having Coy on a trail AND off-leash in Crater Lake National Park, and it's pretty pricey. I don't think he's up for another $200 dog ticket.
If Bryan does stop at Fontana, then we're all moving back into the van and doing a little traveling along the AT for dayhikes and trail running until about April 11th. We have to go back to Fort Bragg to get our stuff out of storage for the drive to New Hampshire. Then, it's Boston Marathon weekend. So we'll be busy. If Bryan stays on the trail, then I'll just go up to Massachusetts for the marathon with John and then come back down here to pick Bryan up at the end of April. It's kind of up in the air right now. I do have to be in Mass by May 5th since I'm doing the Cape Relay starting on the 6th.
I'm starting to get anxious about getting this new chapter of our lives started. It's a little scary knowing that the Army paycheck, healthcare, etc. are about to cease, but I know we'll be fine. I think we'll be pretty settled by the end of July near Plymouth, NH somewhere.
I've managed to keep with the flow of normalcy by setting up my race schedule for most of 2011. I just added the Cranmore Hill Climb to my list yesterday. I used to carry my son up and down Cranmore Mountain when he was a little over a year old. It was not easy just to walk it. Running it will be a whole different story, but I'm not looking to win or even do that well. It's the USA Mountain Running Championships this year, so there will be plenty of elite runners there who will be racing for the win. This will just be a "fun" run for me.
I'm looking forward to all the New Hampshire races I have coming up. The trails are typically more technical than here in North Carolina, so it will be a whole different ball game, and I'm hoping to get in better mountain running shape over the summer. Next winter, the plan is to try snowshoe racing, too.
So, I have a lot of things planned. How that goes over with whatever job I find, I don't know, but I'll do my best to fit it all in.
So, anyway, this has a been a pretty boring blog entry. I think I had a more interesting idea of what to write while I was running yesterday, but I tend to leave my best thoughts out on the trail.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Museum of Aviation 1998 Half Marathon Results!

I can't believe it! I finally found the results from my first half marathon. It was the Museum of Aviation Half Marathon on Feb. 28, 1998. I ran it in 1:40:55 with two pulled muscles in my leg, but I felt great. It was a month before I started my first thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail which then marked an end to racing for me for years. I didn't run another half marathon until 2009. So anyway, here's the list!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Miller Trek Trail

Miller Trek Trail Run in Georgia

I was bummed about not being able to run on the AT, but little did I know the Miller Trek Trail would give me just as good of a kick in the pants. I learned, once again, that my hill training is lax. Wait. Did I say hill training? No, I meant mountain training. What I did today was run up and down a mountain 3 times. I climbed so high that I found the source of the gushing creek down at the bottom of the trail.
.1 into my run, I nearly busted ass on a super slippery bridge. It was a good save, thank goodness, because it would have been a bad fall. After that, I walked slowly across every other bridge.
I'm glad I didn't know this trail went all the way to the top of the mountain, or I probably wouldn't have chosen it for my 18-mile Boston Marathon training run. That's right. I ran 16 miles on a trail in the mountains for my road marathon training. LOL. Goes to show how much I care about the Boston Marathon. Not too much. I'm doing it just to do it, but, honestly, it's not my thing. I don't like crowds, people cheering for me or running road marathons, so, yeah, don't ask. I don't know. I qualified. I felt it was something I had to experience, but I might be a poor sport and black out my name. I can't stand people calling out my name. Will I be slapping hands? I bet not. BUT, I do expect to PR because nothing could be as bad as how I felt at Outer Banks Marathon. If I can't run faster than I did there when I felt like death, then that means I just gave up mentally. I think I can run a 3:22, so that's my first goal.
Anyway, back to the Miller Trek Trail.
I pulled into the "Trail Parking" area, got out of the van and then realized there was no trail at the trailhead. Hmmm, so, remembering what I read on some website, I ran up the road a little bit and found the trail beginning under a huge wooden archway. The trail was a creek for the first .3, and immediately began climbing. The trail, literally, did not stop climbing until 2.5 miles later. The trail was great. No mud, a bit rocky, not many blow downs and well marked, despite the blaze color changing from orange to lime green once I entered the Natl Forest. It's a well-maintained trail, but not heavily used at all. It's kind of a hidden gem around here.
The trail wound up to the ridge and continued to follow it until reaching its high point about 50 ft below the summit. Then came the long descent. At one point, I came across a gushing spring right next to the trail. If you know me, you know I'm a spring fanatic. I love finding a spring. I love spring water right out of the source. In NH, I used to carry a 3 gallon bottle in my backpack out into the woods to a spring and pack it back out. It was about 2 miles. So, I dumped what was in my bottle, filled it with spring water and then took a picture of the spring. So exciting... to me. I filled up again on the 3rd loop.
The trail descended pretty easily, but it was rocky and narrow enough that I couldn't put on the high gears. It didn't matter anyway. I was out there to enjoy myself and that's what I was doing. Marathon training be damned.
The trail looped back to where it began, and I went up and down two more times. I felt really good. I love that kind of run, and I'm really looking forward to doing more mountain running when we move to NH next month. I've learned I need to run more steep hills.
This run was great. I loved it.