Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Race Ruminations -- Promise Land 50K

This is a race report written by my friend Dave Simmons, whom I paced this past weekend at the Promise Land 50K.  Enjoy!

Promise Land Run-2011
By Dave Simmons

After a half hours sleep, through a night that reminded you it was there, I started up the road with three hundred or so of the like minded into the last of the night that began the Promise Land run. I recognize again how odd it all seems. Venturing past houses here and there that sit in places most would call nowhere. It must seem to those who hear us that there goes the remnant of a tribe that used to move across the earth as people no longer much move. Or so I think. I wonder if they stir.
My friend Adam Casseday wants to run with me. I think I know why but we don't much discuss it beforehand. Nor should we really. But as I run up the road with most of the headlamps in front of me, I'm very glad he's there. Right away other friends of Adam are happy to see him, since they usually don't. The conversation is light. They seem to get a sort of spring in their step while talking with him.
The trip up to the top of Onion Mountain is a long one. The lower foothills of West Virginia where I run are steep, but give up their tops much sooner. I wonder about the pace, my heartrate, when Adam begins the first passing on to me of what i'm after, saying "Just go with what feels good here, no need to press at this point." So that's what I do.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Introduction: Adventures on the Appalachian Trail

My wife Kadra teaches elementary Art and set-up this new blog for her students to follow along with us and to learn more about the Trail this summer.  She did a 15-week study of the Appalachian Trail with the kids this year -- teaching them about everything from blazes, shelters, gear, ethics, and wildlife -- all through various art mediums.  This blog is going to be completely geared to a child audience, so if you have any youngsters that might be interested, you can tune in soon as the adventure begins in only 9-days!  Check it out at:

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Back to the Promise Land

Promise Land 2007 (Me, Lehmann, Potts, Gillanders)
I'm excited to be heading back to the Promise Land 50K this weekend after a long hiatus.  The only other time I've been able to run this race was in 2007.  I can’t believe it’s taken me four years to get back!  Training for the MMT-100 in '08 and '09 kept me away and an injury in '10 was the hindrance in returning.  This is one of my all-time favorite ultras and I’m excited to get the opportunity to run it once again.  Since I’m starting the AT in less than 2-weeks, I’m going to be running very easy and will be pacing my friend Dave Simmons.  This will be Dave's third ultra and hopefully one of his most enjoyable and successful ultra finishes.  There’s nothing like the freshness of spring and the opportunity to spend a day in the mountains with over 300 of my favorite folks!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Spring is Finally Here!

What a difference a week made in the Highlands of WV! On Saturday I got to run on some of my favorite trails around at the Spruce Knob National Recreation Area -- same trails that the Trilogy uses. It was a beautiful day to be in the mountains witnessing the splendor of spring while running some snow-free trails . . . finally.  Enjoy a bit of a photo dump from the day.

Ramps were abundant

North Prong Trail

Judy Springs

Good Water
Judy Springs Trail
I'd never noticed this plane wreckage (below) before and I'm not entirely sure of the history.  I believe it is from the 70's, but the trail guide book places it on the Huckleberry Trail.  I spotted this through the trees on Lumberjack, close to the High Meadows Tr. junction, and walked about a 100 yards down the bank to further inspect it.  Pretty wild site and admittedly a little creepy.

Notice the crosses in the foreground

Wreckage strewn about for several hundred yards

Plane Window

View North from High Meadow

Seneca Falls
Wet shoes and socks and a mess of ramps

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

More Lessons in Adversity

Clay Warner-L, Me-R (photo: Dan Lehmann)

This past weekend, I was hoping for one last big training weekend.  What I got was snow, and lots of it.  My plan was to get in around 90-miles over three days.  What happened was more like 65.  Friday's run was with my friend John and made tougher by 3-4" of fresh snow -- totally doable though.  Saturday was down right miserable up on Dolly Sods.  Cutting it short was the only option. 

Roaring Plains Tr. (photo: Michelle Price)

In the misery, was some striking beauty.  I'd never seen Flatrock and Roaring Plains draped in such splendor.  12-16" of snow is beautiful, but it turned the planned run into an overglorified hike and downright dangerous due to some missed turns.  Getting everyone from the Highlands Trainer off of the mountain safely was the only concern in everyone's mind.  We had a good time despite the conditions with the whole crew of 20 sticking together. 

Tired of snow, I opted for a moderate run on the railtrail from Parsons on Sunday.  It was crazy that there was only snow in spots in that area, just a few miles from where we all were the day before.

With just 4-weeks to go until I start the AT, I'm starting to realize that the hay is nearly in the barn.  My training has not been "exactly" what I hoped, but it's been solid nonetheless.  I've never had a training cycle go perfectly.  I'm counting on 8-years of ultra experience being my true strength.  My living room has been taken over with sleeping pads, mats, shoes, gels, stoves, and a bunch of other gear.  4-weeks to go and I can hardly contain myself . . . or all the supplies!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Barkley . . . For Real This Time

Credit: RW- Fox
Since I posted last week about Barkley and was embarrassingly a week early, I thought I'd keep everyone in the loop about the real deal this past weekend.

Well it looks like there was a 10th all-time finisher in Brett Maune from California. Not much out there about Maune except for a questioned JMT speed-record from '09. Guess there's little doubt now? This guy is legit.

As you look at the short list of ten finishers since the race's inception in 1986, it is clear that most of the successful folks have one thing in common -- other than being male, it's experience and success on long trails and multi-day treks. The list of finishers stacks up a veritable "who's who" in the realm of speed-records. There's a reason why this race chews up and spits out the toughest ultra-sport folks that are used to suffering -- they're evidently not ready for that much misery, for that long. 

When will there be a female finisher? My friend Kim Love posed that question the other day and here was my comment:

I mean this will all due respect to the opposite sex and intend zero sexism in this comment. . . There are undoubtedly women out there that CAN finish Barkley. The question is though, of the women that CAN finish, how many have the DESIRE? There are far fewer women than men in the sport of ultrarunning so the number of possible finishers is already reduced. This race is as sadistic (and tough) as they come and requires more suffering than most (including me) desire. So will a woman finish? . . . someday (and I hope this year), but if I were a betting man I wouldn't be tossing much money to the bookie. I personally know a few women that have as good of a chance as any of the top men, but they simply don't have the key ingredient - DESIRE!

Now that there are 10 male finishers of Barkley, it's time that some capable women step-up and give it a legitimate shot.  They're out there, I know it.  To my knowledge (which is not that good), Sue Johnston has made it farther than any woman -- doing 3.5 loops in 2001(and she's about as tough as they come).  If you know a tough female ultrarunner, backpacker, or endurance athlete of any kind, encourage her to give Barkley a shot next year.  Do what you have to . . . pester, heckle, and harass the toughest women you know with whatever approach you like.  The negative reinforcement approach may work for some (ie. "A woman can't finish the BARKLEY!") or kindly build them up to take on the monster with a feminist flare (ie. "If a man can do it, you know you can!").  Regardless, it would be awesome to see a half-dozen serious women ready to take on this monumental challenge in 2012!

Me, I'm too much of a sissy.  I'll be cheering from the sidelines.