Monday, June 2, 2014

Hiking The Great Smoky Mountains

Hiking The Great Smoky Mountains
Back in October 2013, a few outdoor buddies of mine; Ed Mckeown, Gregg Ferguson, Robert Drinkwater and me were doing a 21 mile kayaking trip on the James River. We were all trying to come with an idea for our next adventure, when Ed suggested hiking the Smokey’s. Within two weeks a Facebook page was created, a few more good friends were invited and before you knew a plan was already in set. The date was set for May 21 – 27. A few couldn’t do it because of work or personnel reasons. So it ended up being me, Ed, Gregg and Robert for trip. Here is a brief summary of our trip.
                                                            Travel Day
                      Ed was good enough to volunteer to drive us. After making rounds around the city to pick everybody up, we were head South on I-81 to the Big Creek ranger station in Davenport to meet our shuttle service; A Walk Through The Woods to take us to Fontana Dam, where we would camp for the night.
                      Our driver was named Mike. He was real knowledgeable and quick thinking. No sooner that we were about to hit I-40, there was a major traffic jam. So he whipped the van around and headed through the Smoky Mountain National Park. After a few delays for road work, we finally arrived at Fontana Dam. When we got to Fontana, things at first didn’t go to smooth. First, Mike thought we were staying at the Fontana Hilton, a big shelter on the Appalachian Trail (AT), but we were staying at the campground at the Fontana Village. Mike was real cool for driving us to the check in lodge. When checking in we asked about a map and a trail that lead up to the dam. We were told that there was no trail going up to the dam and that we would have to use a shuttle service to get us up to the AT. After setting a shuttle to pick us up at 8:30 am and goodbyes to Mike, we decided to a quick dinner at one of the restaurants.
                      After eating we had to hike about 3 miles down to the campground on a curvy busy road. After setting up our tents, I notice a blue blaze on a tree at the end of a fire road that lead into the woods. A blaze is a colored mark that has been placed on a tree or object for hikers to follow so they won’t go off. I showed the blaze to Robert and we decided to follow them to see where they lead to. Well after hiking about 1 mile or so, guess where we came out at? At the top of the dam. What a bunch of dumbasses back at that the check in. We returned to camp to tell Ed and Gregg what we found. After a rock toss game, in which Ed won, we decided to hit the sack for a good nights sleep.
                                                              Day One
                    Woke up at sunrise, had a quick breakfast and packed up the tents, decided to not to wait for the shuttle service and then the trail at about 7:30 am. We headed up the trail that lead up to the dam. Got up there, took some pictures of the dam and then walked across it to the trailhead of the AT. Our adventure was just beginning. Our first 4 miles was a 2000’ elevation climb to the Shuckstack Tower. I swear the last 1000’ had to be in the last quarter mile. There we climbed up the tower, took some pictures of the dam that we just left and had lunch. We headed back to the trail to come up on our first opening to see down into the one of many valley’s that we would encounter. There we also ran into our first thru hiker, a young man who just finished college and was trying to cram the hike in before he had to grow up and get a job. The rest of the day’s hike was full of steep climbs, more than what we were expecting. To explain how slow some of the miles were, when we came upon a sign saying we only 3.3 miles to the shelter that were staying in, we thought we will be there in a hour, try an hour and a half. Arrived at the Russell Field Shelter beat and hungry. Had a nice dinner of Mountain House chicken breast and mashed potatoes. Laid down about 8:00 pm to be waked up at 9:00 pm to a light and sound show from Mother Nature. That night the sleeping was a little rough, getting use to the shelters was a little difficult to get used to. Quote of the day, Gregg saying when he arrived at the shelter “That was the longest @#$!@ 5k I ever hiked”
                                                               Day 2
                         Again we woke up with the sun, had breakfast, topped off our water and headed into a very foggy trail. Surprisingly my body felt great and the soreness was gone. Hiking in the fog was real cool and took your mind off some of the climbs. When we finally reach Rocky Top (elev, 5440’) you could see why it was called the Smoky’s. You couldn’t see a thing. What was wild, is we hike another .6 mile up Thunderhead Mountain (elev. 5527’) the sky finally opened up and you see the still see the fog lifting out of the valleys. Again the climbs were steep and long. About at this point I started notice that when we were descending that my shoulders were beginning to ache. The last 4 miles were rough with a 700’ steep climb, where at one point I was ready to throw my backpack off and sleep on the trail because of the pain. We finally made it Double Spring Gap Shelter. There we met a couple from West Virginia, who already had a fire going in the fireplace. This was the longest (18 miles) and hardest day, but we knew that at the beginning of the day. Then I finally realize that I was hiking with about 35 lbs. on my back, that’s carrying a toddler around on your back all day. That night I slept real good.  
                                                               Day 3
                       Again up with the sun, oatmeal and coffee for breakfast. Gregg and Robert headed out before me and Ed, to get a jump on the climb up Clingmans Dome. It was a beautiful morning, a lot sunshine and very little clouds. The 2.5 mile hike up to Clingmans Dome was the most beautiful hike I’ve ever taken. Me and Ed was on a ridge that where all you could see was nothing but mountains for miles. The highest peak I ever been on before is Flat Top 4,001’ Clingmans Dome is 6643, the highest point on the AT and the state of Tennessee. The views were breathe taking, this trip was well worth it. But this trip was also beginning to get to Gregg. The miles were long, hard and steep. We all under estimated what it would take to do this trip. He decided to call it off, hitch hike into the closest town, send the night and rent a car back to Roanoke. I hated that Gregg was leaving, but I also understand if you’re not enjoying yourself, why suffer. Gregg is cool and class act of man and I hope to enjoy more adventures with him in the future. After saying good bye to Gregg, we hit the trail .A cool thing happen on this stretch of the trail. We were going to haveto go off the trail to a spring to fill up our water bottles, all of the sudden we hit a real wet section of trail, looked off to the side and there was a spring shooting out of the side of a rock. There we filtered out the water, refilled and continued on.
                       The next interesting stop was Newfound Gap, the NC – TN border. It’s the only place where the AT crosses a road in the Smokies. This overlook was jammed packed. The climb from the overlook was by far the hardest of the whole trip. It was steep and you had to step up onto and over rocks, sometimes having to pull yourself up. To add to it, we were going to have to an additional 3.7 miles off the trail to a shelter. In the Smokies you have too reserve shelters in advance. We all couldn’t get this one shelter all together so we had to get Kephart Shelter. The extra miles were worth it, we got to see three waterfalls and the shelter was located next to a creek.
                                                            Day 4
                     After hiking an additional 2.5 miles back to the AT, we were off and rolling. On the trail there was not a lot of interesting things going on at first. The climbs weren’t too bad. The only bad thing at really happen to me, was that one of the straps on my backpack that was holding my tent came off, causing me to rearrange my load. This caused my pack to pull more down on my shoulders. After lunch I was able to rearrange my food and sleeping bag so my pack felt better. Right before we got to the Tri Corner Shelter, we had a downpour that was hard enough to make us use our backpack covers. When it quit raining, the clouds and fog were pretty wild looking coming off the mountains, again another reason why it’s called the Smokies. When we arrived at the Tri Corner Shelter, it was already crowded. There was a family of five, husband, wife , two girls and a boy that were so amazing. They were doing the same hike we were doing, but doing it in four days. A young lady who was thru hiking that had recovered from a brain injury and a father and son team who were just sectional hiking. That evening was the only night we didn’t go straight to sleep after eating, we all stayed up talking to at least 9:00 pm. That night I also saw the most amazing thing that I haven’t seen in a long time. I got at 11:30 pm to use the bathroom, when I looked to the sky, the clouds have lifted and the stars were the brightest I ever seen. You could literally reach out and touch them.
                                                         Day 5
          The last day. We knew at the beginning this was going to be a fast hike. There were only a few climbs, with one steep and then a 3100’ descend. The father back at the shelter told us to look for pieces of an airplane that had crashed there years ago. We found it with no problem. The next thing that happens was funniest thing of the whole trip. Robert had been hiking either in his five fingers, sandals or barefooted. This day he was in his five fingers. Ed was leading, Robert following and me in the back. All of the sudden Robert slips and hits the ground. When I get to him, I hit the same rock and bust my butt. Well here we are on the ground, Robert saying he can’t move because he laying with his arm pinned behind him, me laying on top of my backpack, not be able to get up because the weight of it is holding down. Ed has this puzzled look on his face trying to figure who to help up first and me kicking my legs up in the air looking like a turtle on his back. No one was hurt was so we continued on. My last little adventure was a .6 mile side trip to see the Mt. Cammerer fire tower. It is a western style octagonal rock fire tower. I had to scramble over some rocks to make up to it.The views were great but I had to cut short because of the threat of rain. After a real quick descend, the next thing you know we was at the ranger station. Since it was about 4:30 pm and Roanoke was only 4 hours away, we decided to head home and go eat some real food at Cracker Barrel.  
Some interesting facts about this trip:
We travel an avg. of about 16 miles a day. With 18 the longest and 13 the shortest.        
Avg about 10 hrs. On the trails, including breaks and lunch.
No cell service for 5 days.
Didn’t drive for 6 days.
Didn’t shower for 6 days.
Didn’t hear a TV or radio for 6 days.
Started out with backpack weighting about 30 lbs.
Lost about 2 lbs.  Off the backpack a day.
                          Would like to thank Ed, Robert and Gregg in doing this hike and especially my family for letting me leave for a week. Can’t wait for our next adventure.

Friday, August 17, 2012

New River Duathlon

                        August 4 2012 Fries Va. The New River Duathlon. It was a cloudy morning with the temperature about 73 degrees almost a perfect day for the race except for the humidly. This is the first duathlon that I have every competed in. A duathlon is a race that consists of three stages of running, biking and then running. Today’s race would start out with a 5k (3.1m) run around the town of Fries, then a 21-mile bike ride along the New River Trail and finishing up the run with the same 5k course.

                          After arriving at the starting area, Fries State Park and finding my trail running buddy Jerry Ballard, I got checked in and received my race packet. After putting my race number on my bicycle, and myself I chatted with some of the locales that had done the race last year. My biggest concern was the run course. One guy told me it had some rolling hills and a set of stairs that we had to climb. The bike part was no concern because I’ve hiked the New River Trail before and knew it was pretty well flat the whole way.

                            After a short race meeting, it was time to start the race with the first 5k run. Not knowing the course I decided not to start out to fast. At the sound of the horn we headed towards a dam, then across a parking lot. Up a short climb that put us on Main St. Here was a straight shot with a little descend at the end, where we a turn around in The Fries Cemetery. Then we head back up Main St. arriving at top of the climb where they had an Officer stopping traffic so we could cross the street. This is where I spotted the staircase that we were going to climb. When arriving at the beginning of the steps, the first thing I said was “Hell no!” all I saw was a steep flight of steps a quarter of a mile long and then a image of me, Rocky Balboa and Frank Fitch; a good friend from Philadelphia that I’m teaming up with to do the New River Triathlon in September climbing these steps. But once I got started, I realize it was short climb of about 30 yards to the next street. After a short downhill run through a small neighborhood, we got on Riverview Ave that was above the state park. This was a straight shot, down small set steps and through a tunnel that was under the New River Trail, to the finish line for the run and the transition area for the bike ride. My time was 24:38 a little slower than what I wanted.

                               After sending about a minute and 7 seconds in the transition area switching from my road running shoes to bicycle shoes and putting on my hydration pack I was off on the 21 mile bike race part. Like I said I knew the trail was going to be flat and the only slight incline was coming back to the finish of the bike race. The trail is an old railroad bed that has a gravel surface, a little too rough for a road bike, but perfect for a cycle cross bike in which I do not own. So I used my Specialize hard tail mountain bike. I increased the psi in the tires up to about 55 lbs. for a more solid ride. At the beginning I caught and past a couple of riders.  Then about 5 miles into the race, a group of cycle cross bikes caught me and passed with ease. The only way I pass one back was when he had a flat tire. At the turn around point, it was about four of us that were riding together. Then I had to stop for a moment because I was having trouble opening a gel pack. After sucking down the gel pack, I finally caught backup with one of the riders. From there I learned how draft off of somebody else (it was legal) By tucking in behind them, you can increase you’re speed a couple of mph and use less power. About with five miles to go, my body was beginning to stiff up a little bit, making me come out of my bike seat to stretch out my muscles. After taking turns drafting with the other ride, we had another cycle cross rider catch us with about two miles left to go. When he passed us, I tried to stay with him, but only could do so for a mile.  When I arrived back to the bike finish my time on the bike was 1:24:33. Still a little slower than I wanted, but hey I just got finished running 3.1 miles.

                              Back to the transition area, where I switched back to my road shoes and dropped my hydration back in about 2 minutes and 6 seconds. The last stage of the race was a repeat run of the first 5k run. I started out a little slow, but within the first half mile my running legs came back for me to past the rider on the cycle cross bike and almost catch a younger runner at the end who doing the race as a team. That would have been funny for an old man who was doing the race solo to catch a younger runner. My final time of this leg of the 5k run was 29:07, making my final time 2:19:34. I was hoping for a time less than 2 hours, but considering this was my first duathlon and not knowing the running course, I was somewhat pleased. Next I know I can knock off 20 minutes to finish under 2 hours.

                             My finishing positions were: 18th out of 33 (all categories) 8th out of 20 (solo division) 1st out of 3 (age group 40-49) I would like to thank Wellness Center of Twin County Regional Healthcare (TCHR) and their volunteers and the Town of Fries. Next event: The East Coast Surfing Championships (ECSC) 8k Virginia Beach VA.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Odyssey Sprint Adventure Race

                            July 21 New Castle VA.  Odyssey Sprint Adventure Race. The race I’ve been waiting for. This will be the fourth sprint adventure that I’ve competed in and am by far my favorite event that I do. An adventure race is an event where you run/trek, mountain bike and kayak to different checkpoints (CP) throughout a laid out area. You are giving a topo map, a rules of travel and a passport. The topo map is a 1:2400 scale map of the terrain of the area with checkpoints mark on it. The rules of travel gives you the location of the checkpoints and how to get there. The passport is a piece of paper that has square boxes on it with an checkpoint number next to it so when you find the checkpoint you use a punch to stamp in the square to show that you have been there. The passport is the most important piece of paper that you must keep if you want this race to count. You lose it and whatever you did that day goes down the drain. Once the race starts you got six hours to find as many checkpoints as you can. You ever finds the most and is back at the final checkpoint the fastest is the winner. Oh yeah, another important detail, if you are one minute over the six hour time limit, you are listed as DNF (Did Not Finish)
                            I arrived at the base camp; Wilderness Adventure Eagle Landing about 7:30 am to check in and transport my kayak to the put in spot along Craigs Creek. After dropping my kayak and returning to base camp, I sat down and started plotting out the routes that I was going to take throughout the race. This year’s race you had to find to five mandatory checkpoints and they were 1, 8, 11, 12 and 14 in any order with number 14 being the final checkpoint. CP 1 and 11 you had to acquire by foot, CP8 by bike, CP 12 by boat and CP 14 had to be last. At 8:45 am there was a prerace meeting with event director Ronnie Angell, who went over the rules and what to do in case of emergencies. In the past races you had to find the checkpoints in order and had a mandatory time to be at one pacific CP, but this year you acquire the CP’s in any order. So the plan I laid was to get CP 1 first by foot as required and then ride my mountain bike to find CP’s 2-10 and CP 13 over in the Fenwick Mines Campground area and then ride back to base camp, restock my supplies and run to CP 11 to the boat put in. Float to CP 12, from there I would run back to CP 14 for the finish.
                            At 9:30 am the race started. Like I said I headed straight to CP 1. To get there you go up a pretty steep climb and then follow a fire road to CP 1. I knew CP from last year’s race so that was going to be an easy find. The problem I had, was when I was coming back, I missed the single track trail that got me to the fire road, so I ended up following it back to base camp losing about 5 minutes. When I got back to base camp I mounted my mountain bike and headed to CP 3, which was a cemetery. To get there I traveled along Route 689 to a gravel road, down an old railroad to the cemetery and find the grave of John L. Reynolds CO B 28 VA INF CSA. Another easy find. Then I headed for CP 4; a hilltop. I rode down the railroad bed to a fire road and climbed it until I thought I found the single track that would lead me to CP 4. I got off my bike and started bushwhacking up the trail. I search for about twenty minutes and could not find it. Deciding I have wasted too much time I headed back down to my bike to seek out the next CP. By stay on the fire road, it took me too CP 8 at an metal gate (mandatory). Then from there I hook up with a four person team from Charlottesville and together we found CP 13, which was a reentrant about .4 miles off the fire road. Back on my bike I headed to CP 6 an edge of a clearing, another easy find. Then from there I rode up to end of the road to look for CP 10 located on a hilltop. But when I looked at the distance and knew I just had trouble trying to find CP 4 on a hilltop, also I check my watch to see that I just three hours left to the finished I decided to fore go this CP and head back towards base camp seeking the remaining CP’s along the way. CP 9 was an old quarry pond. It took a little bushwhacking and a few quick bearing reading from the compass for another easy find. I got back on Route 689 and rode down to the picnic area and from there I followed path to CP 5, an overlook were we had to write down the mountain that the sign said that we were looking at, which was Bald Mountain. Got back on my bike, rode down the same path I came up to CP 2; a waterfall. Here I had to take off my bike shoes, cross a small creek and climb down to the punch. I apologized to Ronnie later for cussing him when busted my butt on slippery rock at the base of the waterfall. Then I headed straight back to base camp staying on the pavement for a quicker ride back.
                            When arriving back at base camp, I switched out my water bladder for another bladder, got out a powerbar and start eating it as I ran to CP 11 SR 614/ river intersection. This was a 1.6 mile run. Running a slow pace, I took time to feel my stomach up and to rehydrate. In the past races the last two hours of these events is where you start seeing a lot of racers begin to cramp and start to fall out from the beating of the terrain and heat. When arriving to the kayak put in, I had about 1 hour and 40 minutes left to go. The float was going to be 2 miles and from past races you had to get out and drag your kayak through the sallow parts of the creek, eating up valuable time. Will this year thanks to some heavy rain the week before and some kayaking training runs with Ed Mckeown and Gary Sheehan, I did the creek portion in about twenty five minutes. With very little trouble getting hung up and by being able to read the creek a whole better, I was able to get off the creek faster than I ever have, thanks guys you were a big help. Now I had to get back to CP 14 and finish this baby. I headed up Route 606 across Route 615, down the old railroad bed to the cemetery, back across 615, up and over a small ridge and back on Route 610 to the finish. This was about a 2.5 mile trek and I did it in about 30 minutes, pretty good considering I have just covered about 17.5 miles. For the first time ever in any event that I’ve ever done, I started getting goose bumps and a surge of energy that I’ve never felt before. To me when you accomplish an event like this, you have really done something.
                            My overall time was 5:22:00 4th place out of five in the solo division and 15th out of 27 overall. Would to thank Ronnie Angell and Odyssey Adventure Racing, all the volunteers and Wilderness Adventure Eagle Landing for hosting a great event. Next event: The New River Duathlon August 4th.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Mountain Junkies Fat 5 Endurance Race

          June 30, . Falling Creek Park Bedford VA. Before I go into details about the race, I would like to give a big shout out to Kenny Palmer, Bedford County Parks and Rec workers and the volunteers. The night before the race a major storm hit the area with winds topping at 85 mph. That morning Kenny and his crew were out clearing the trails that had over 20+ trees to fall and block the trails. I believe that most race directors would cancel the race, but we were only delayed for 20 minutes. GREAT JOB! Now about the race. The object of this race is to get as many laps in as you can in a 5 hour time limited.The distance of a lap was 7.5 miles. At the start of the race it was already hot. Kenny told us to kind of take easy on the first lap because there were so small debris on the trails, so that's what I did. The first half of trail has always been difficult for me, but I made through without any major incidents. The next part of the race we on black top road to the pond. We went around the pond, over to a new trail that lead to the bike park. A quick lap around the park, then over to the new downhill course. The downhill course was a huge relief, you got rest your legs and let the breeze cool you down some. The next section had a few tough hills, which I pushed my bike up every lap.Then we ended up on Creekside for a fast rolling ride. Then onto Ridgeline for a ride over some tough roots. The last part was a short climb up Lower Deer Trail and then past the picnic Pavilion. Like I said my first lap was slow and and with caution. When you come in on each lap, you can stop at the water stop and cool station or go to your own pit area. On the first lap i went to my pit area, eat a power bar, suck down a gel, rehydrate and tried to cool down. My second lap felted good and I was think about using the rest of the race as a test section. At the end on my second lap, I did the same thing I did on the first, but the heat was really beginning to rise. About half way on the third lap I notice that I have lost my water bottle, but I was not to concern because I had my hydration pack on with a 2 liter bladder of HEED. I stopped at the water stop at the halfway point  drank some water, ate a brownie and took an ice soaked towel to put on the back of my neck to cool down. As I was finishing up my third lap I notice that I was starting to tire more and drinking more from my pack. Then when I was climbing up Lower Deer Trail my thighs started cramping, but I rode through it and reach the time line. I went straight to the cool station to let some cold mist blow on me to bring my body temperature down. With plenty of time for me to get one more lap in, I started back out. But when I got to the first difficult curve, I got off my bike and walked around it, Then when I started down a small hill, I was having problems keeping my bike on the path. That was enough for me to decide to call it a day. I was real lucky because when checked my hydration bladder it was completely dry and with no water bottle on my bike and the next stop was about four miles away, they have properly would had carry me back. I did 3 laps in 3:28:08. Again I would like to thank Kenny, his staff of volunteers, Bedford County Parks and Rec workers and all the sponsors. Next race:Odyssey Sprint Adventure Race

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Fat Tire Frenzy at Falling Creek

        June 16 Falling Creek Park Bedford. I was returning to a race were last year it had me wondering about my ability to ride a mountain bike. On the second lap last year I wreck, got dumped by roots and didn't have enough strength to climb some of the hills. When I crossed the finish line, I loaded up my bike, changed cloths and went home more disgusted than I ever been after a sporting event. I showed up this year with the attitude that I was going to beat these trails. With a new and better bike, confidence to clip into the pedals and just plain out hard training on the trails this year. Everything paid off. The beginning of the race was a little different than what was last year, We started out going the opposite direction and then took a u turn back to the path that lead us to beginning of the single track trails. With vary little rain that week the trails were in great shape. The first trail we were on was Deer Trail, it has one tough switchback and some short steep climbs with some roots to cross. This trail has given some fits in the past, but on the first lap I made it through with no major issues. Then we had to climb the toughest hill of the race. This hill is an rutted out old road were you have to go side to side to climb it. I made it to the top without having to get off and push the bike, a first for me. That put us on Piney Ridge for some fast rolling hills. Next we enter Pond Loop a short section that for some reason I end up messing up some how. This year I had no problem at all. Then we rode the easiest part of the course Beaver Dam, Turkey Hill, Sleepy Hollow, Blue Bird Trail. Most of these trails are flat with some bank turns where really open it up. Then we hit the Ledge Trail where I pushed my bike up a small, twisting hill, I knew I could not make. Then onto White Rock Trail that have some tough roots to go over and real tough switchbacks.. Then we rode Slick Rock Trail where again I push my bike across the small creek, but this time I finally climbed the steep hill after it for the first time. Then we went down a hay field over onto a flat section where you was able to get up enough speed to clear a steep hill. Then we hit Fat Albert for a slight climb and a couple of tough turns. The next section of trail is the one that whipped my butt last year, Ridgeline Loop. A narrow single track trail that is real doable, but leaves very little room for error. The toughest part I find about this section is that has a lot of large roots that upset the handling of the bike. The first time through I did a pretty good job and even past some other riders. With clearing that part, the rest was on a fast downhill onto a flat trail called Creekside and then a short climb up Lower Deer Trail to the finish line. My first lap was 57:52, about were I wanted to be. On the second I very little trouble and even did the tough climb again without getting off my bike. But when I got to Slick Rock my legs were beginning to get a little tried, so I already decided to walk the hill, but when I got there, my teammate Paula Schimizzi had done fallen and dislocated her shoulder, so I just took my time walking behind her as another rider helped her up the hill. Then when I got back to Ridgeline Loop for the second lap, my legs were really beginning to feel like rubber. I took my time and rode with caution. I had one little mishap were I let the bike slide out from underneath me on a small downhill. I pushed my bike for about thirdy seconds to regroup. After that I hit everything just right and no problems back to the finish line. My final time was 1:59:19 beating last years time by 35 minutes.. Even though I didn't place in my age group I felt like I won the race. I would like to thank all my mountain biking friends who have been telling me that I been really improving and giving me some pointers. Would like to thank Kenny Palmer, his staff of volunteers and Bedford County Parks and Rec for putting on an great event. Next event: Mountain Junkies Fat 5 Endurance Race. 5 hours on a mountain bike, YES I HAVE LOST MY MIND!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Conquer The Cove 25k

           June 3rd Carvins Cove. The second annual Conquer The Cove Marathon and 25k. It was a perfect morning for a trail race, temperature mid 50's and low humidity. I signed up to do the 25k and was a little concerned about how I was going to do. This here race was going to be the longest I've ever had raced and one of the most challenging courses around with a 1.1 mile climb at the beginning and a 3 mile climb in the middle. With cramping a major concern, I decided to do some changing up for this run. First I switched from Gatorade to HEED, a high electrolyte sports drink with less sugar to sip every two miles, do the gels every four miles instead of five, pop some Endurolytes capsules and force myself to eat something at water stops 2 and 3. With this plan in place I was hoping for a time around 2 hr 30 mins, but would be happy with a time of 2 hr 35 min to 2 hr 40 mins since it going to be 15.8m in distance. The race was 6:30 am start At Loch Haven Lake and the funny thing about this start was that nobody was in a real hurry to get to the front like most races. When the air horn went off, the majority of the runners were still chatting and started out with a mild jog. We started out going up a gravel road and then took a right on to Tinkerview Rd for about 1.25m on pavement. I also decided to try and do 10 min splits the whole race, so I wasn't really pushing myself and was having a lot of runners past me. Tinkerview Rd took us to Carvins Cove trail system where the majority of the race was ran. The first trail we hit was Trough, a 1.1m climb that starts out flat with a slight climb, a rolling hill and then a calf burning climb. At this point I was beginning to catch other runners who were walking, forcing me at times to walk myself, in which I didn't mind. At the top of Trough we took a left onto Brushy Mt. fire road for a .4m descend to the first water stop. Then we continued onto Buck, a fast and technical downhill with some water bars and fast narrow switchbacks, again I was catching a lot of runners, so I was having to back in it down a bit until there was a safe place to pass them. Then we switch onto Hotel, a rolling trail with one bad rutted out section where if not careful you could go down real quick. Then we was on the Bennett Springs side of the Cove, getting onto Hi-Dee-Ho for a short climb then onto Four Gorge. While going across the bridge a wasp or some kind of bug stung me on the shin. Luckily there a short climb that got my mind off the pain. On Buck, Hotel and Four Gorge trails I knew I could make up and gain some time for the next  part of the race. When we came out of Four Gorge we were at water stop #2, this is where I pop four Endurolytes capsules, ate a Raw Energy bar and headed up Brushy Mt for a 3m climb. At this time I noticed the legs were still pretty strong and I had no cramping. On this climb I had a few people started passing me including my New River Tri partner Frank Fitch. With Frank being a strong hearted runner I knew if I could keep him in sight, I would be alright. But while climbing I also kept my training partner Gary Sheehan in my mind telling me "Let's make it to the next bend" Thanks Frank and Gary, without you two I never would have ran the whole 3m without stopping. When I reached the top of the mountain and started down a small descend, I notice my legs had more power in them from the previous training runs. Then we came to water stop #3, the last stop for the race with over four and a half miles left to go. I was still a little hungry, so I grabbed a handful of chocolate and headed down the Gauntlet. The Gauntlet is the most unforgiving trail around. It has rocks, roots, water bars and jumps for the mountain bikers. One quick stumble and you end up twenty feet down a bank. When I caught Frank on this section, my legs were feeling great, so I decided to open it up a little more. On one of the flat parts of this trail, I tripped over a root that sent a small cramp into my right calf. instead of trying to walk it out, I kicked it in another notch and told myself out loud "NOT TODAY." From the Gauntlet we turned onto Horsepen Trail. A old fire road which to me is the toughest part of the course. It is a slow climb with enough elevation that drain you of any remaining energy. I actually past about 3 to 4 runners here and on the last steep little climb I found myself again shouting out loud that I wasn't going to stop. The next thing I knew I was back on Tinkerview heading back to Loch Haven. Most of this was downhill leading to a trail back to the lake. When I got to the finish line my time was 2:39:32. I was real happy with this time and personally think I can knock 5 to 10 minutes next year. I placed 4th in my age group (again) out of 12 and 35th out of 125 overall. RoanokeOutside.Com/Mail-it Plus teammate Bob Bowman did the 25k in 2:58:15 7th out of 12 in his age group and 66th overall. Would like to thank the Mountain Junkies and all their volunteers for putting on another super event, Loch Haven Resort and Roanoke City for using their facilities Next Event: Mountain Biking Fat Tire Frenzy at Falling Creek Park Bedford. .

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Montvale Time Trail Race

          Montvale Park, Bedford Va. May 19th. The Montvale Time Trial race is the first stop of the 2nd annual Bedford County Mountain Bike Championship series.  The course was 6.25 miles of 95% single track.  Racers race against the clock separated by 1 minute intervals for the fastest time around the course. The race started at the picnic pavillion and skirted  the outside of a field that lead you to Goose Creek. A few weeks ago when I pre rode the course, the creek was deep then and when I crossed it, it took then a pretty good effort to pedal across it. The week before the race it rain about 5 inches so the creek was running pretty swift. So when I got there I decided to pick up my bike and foot it across the bridge. Got back on my bike and continue to follow the trail along the creek to the access road. The access road was a steady climb that took you to Beale's Treasures trail, a short and fast twisty trail. Then you continued onto Easy Street, the beginning of this trail is fast with a steady incline to the parking lot on Quarterwood Rd, When cross the parking lot back onto Easy Street the trail gets real fast, with some swooping curves to slow down some. Then go over onto Ridgeline trail for another fast and rolling ride. After Ridgeline you climb Coyote Ridge for a short bit and another quick descend, that leads into steady climb up, with you finishing a real fast downhill where if you are not careful you will miss the sharp left turn onto Cliffhanger. Cliffhanger has two short climbs that squeeze some the last strength out of your legs. Then you get onto Yellow Drum that is another fast and rooty ride. This brings you back to the second creek crossing. This one here, if go a little to far to the left, you sink into about a four foot hole. Again I didn't like the looks of things so I footed it again. This put you onto a flat path back to the finish at the pavillion. My goal time was to finish under 40 minutes, I ended up with a 39::03, again beating my set time. Also I believe this is the first time I avg. over 9 mph for a race. Other Plus riders finished: Warren Schimizzi 2nd Expert Men 30:03, Paula Schimizzi 1st Expert Woman 35:14, Jen Divers 1st Sport Women 39:53 and Todd Gilley 1st Clydesdale 34:39. Would like to thank Kenny Palmer, his staff of volunteers and Bedford County Parks and Rec for putting on a great event. Next race: Conquer The Cove 25k June 3rd.