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    Sunday, June 21, 2009

    Highland Sky 40 Race Report


    Overall an excellent event and West Virginia Mountain Trail Runners did a great job putting on the race. I highly recommend anyone thinking about it to register for next year's edition when available.

    The weekend started out with good weather for the drive from Alexandria, VA to Canaan Valley State Park, WV. Just a bit over four hours travel time - not bad. The campground was excellent with superb views of the Canaan Valley and surrounding mountains. The pre-race dinner was about average - spaghetti with meat sauce, veggie lasagna, bread, cookies, etc. The stand-out was the local beer from Mountain State Brewing in Thomas, WV. After dinner the clouds starting rolling in, accompanied by thunder - uh oh.

    After raining through most of the night the 4:00am wake-up was actually nice, cool temps with a slight breeze. After a quick breakfast - just coffee, fruit, and a few sweets - we boarded buses to the start. Portajons at the start were superb, I hope they sustain this performance in the future.
    Promptly at 6:00am the field was off and running!

    The first two miles were on a paved road following a river until we came to a Forest Service right of way through two fields. After the turn-off was Aid Station 1 a short distance across the field. We began heading up steeply alongside Flatrock Run. The first Thunderstorm started about 30 minutes into the race and began dumping buckets. The trails were already inundated from previous rainfall so the trail conditions were quite challenging. Much of the trail was under standing water or on the inclines under moving water! After climbing from 2500 ft to just over 4000 ft elevation the trail crossed the Roaring Flats. Imagine running through gutters filled with black mud while surrounded by mountain laurel and rhododendrons.

    After hitting Aid Station 2 in 2:30 at mile 10.5 the trail continued across the Plains until dropping down the side of the mountain. A 1200 ft descent down mountain to the South Fork of the Red Creek and then following creek to Aid Station 3 for a 1600ft climb kept things interesting. The rain continued to fall through this portion of the race. Crossing near the head of the creek was interesting to say the least - the water was fast and cold. After Aid Station 3 the trail ran through the Red Creek Plains - more water logged singletrack. There was some excellent - and dry! - running in some pine groves on the higher ground during this portion. Near the end of the Red Creek Plains we crossed "10 Bridges," ten wooden foot bridges through a very swampy area. Just after the last bridge the trail hit a forest road and headed about a half-mile down the road to the half-way point (20 miles) at Aid Station 4.

    Since Aid Station 4 was the half-way point the drop-bags were laid out. I did not dare change shoes since the course was proving to be "wet, wild, and wrocky" as advertised. I only changed socks, dropped my IPOD and gorged on peanut butter and jelly sammies. There were lots of families and spectators here and it made for a festive mood. Great atmosphere. I even got a hamstring knot massaged by one of the volunteers! My time at the half was 5:00, right on my target pace of 10 hours.

    The next section of the race traversed a Forest Service road known as "The Road Across the Sky," it had some killer views over the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area and the Monogahela National Forest. Thankfully the sun had come out and the rain went away. Since Aid Station 5 was only three miles from 4 I did not even stop, just grabbed a drink of water on the jog. I made it into Aid Station 6 in just under an hour; not bad to put together seven 9:00 minute miles after the first twenty! At this point I started thinking I had a chance to really make a good time and beat my goal of 10:30. However, this superb effort came back to bite me a little later.

    By the time I hit Aid Station 6 it was windy and cold. The route followed the Raven Ridge Trail across the Dolly Sods. I fought bad winds until the trail crossed a small stream and went into the trees. The rolling open hills and sparse copses of trees during this portion made it very beautiful and fast. I ate up the hills and was able to run very well over the flats. At the end of this segment was a superb boulder field that was approximately a mile long - some you could run between, some over, and some around. However, navigation was tricky and challenging. A long gradual climb through some open forest ended at Aid Station 7.

    After passing through the aid station I picked back up my run but my stomach went into revolt. I had to walk about 35-40 mins to get it to calm down; not to mention drink a lot of replacement fluid and eat a ton of Skittles. After my stomach finally settled back I was at the bottom of a huge ski-slope at Timberline Ski Resort. This was a hard long climb and the sun was out in full force. Once at the top the trail immediately started downhill on the infamous "Butt Slide" portion of the segment. I was able to run the entire slide quickly. I firmly think that rock climbing and mountain biking made me an excellent downhill runner because I can pick a line easily. Also, my renewed emphasis upon core workouts helped my body control at speed.

    After coming down out of the woods and running a dirt road I hit the Aid Station 8, the last one. From here I knew it was all a matter of pain tolerance. I opened up my pace and ran the last 4.1 miles to the finish at about a ten minute/mile pace. After crossing back into the Canaan Valley State Park the route followed the entrance road for about a mile before going onto a walking trail. A final 50m climb up from the trail to the grassy back lawn of the resort was followed by a quick 100 yards to the finish. My time was 9:23, good for 60th overall out of 201 starters.

    Final thoughts - the hosts were superb, I cannot say enough about the fun, family-friendly atmosphere, kudos to the WVMTR. My Montrail Hardrocks performed flawlessly. I almost ran in my Mountain Masochists but they were pretty light and I wondered about the steep rocky descents during the first 10 miles. This was the best decision I made all day, my feet only had one small blister on one toe. Perhaps if I had not pushed so hard on the "Road Across the Sky" I could have broken 9 hours; lesson learned for next time. My Nuun Hydration products were excellent. I only recently started using these and they proved their worth at Highland Sky.
    All in all it was excellent race and a great experience.

    My final final words are reserved for my family. Thank-you to Angie my wife who supports my running/outdoors/adventure habits with early wake-ups on weekends as I get out of bed to run and camping in biblical floods at ultra-races. My kids are the world's best pace crew, thinking of them is motivation to run fast to the finish! Thank-you honey for all that you do and supporting me.

    Wednesday, June 17, 2009

    Taper Week and Pre-Race Thoughts

    This week I have not really done any "hard" training. I have maintained some intensity with my runs by doing a short three miles at 7:30 mins/mile and a four mile run at 8:00 mins/mile. Last Thursday was my most recent real training run of 10 miles.

    I feel well prepared for the race. Only two real concerns, nutrition and weather. I am planning to pace my friend the first half over the large climbs. This is where I tend to get myself into trouble because it is hard to "go slow." The weather can only be endured!

    My next post should be a successful race report - stay tuned!

    Picture me rolling - Highland Sky 40 preview


    The point to point course begins near the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area on Red Creek in Laneville, WV. Following a 2 mile paved section, the trail ascends to Roaring Plains, Flatrock Plains and Red Creek Plains into Dolly Sods. The course proceeds north along the Allegheny Front to Bear Rocks. Here runners will turn west crossing Dolly Sods to the rim of Canaan Valley north of Timberline Ski Resort. A descent through Timberline leads to Freeland Rd and into Canaan Valley State Park.

    The course climbs a total of 5474 feet and descends 4856 feet and is basically in three sections; the Plains, the Road Across the Sky, and Dolly Sods. Two significant climbs occur in the first 15 miles where a 2300′ ascent is followed by a 1700′ descent, and then another 1200′ climb. In the first half of the course highly technical (rocky), single track sections occur from mile 7-11 and 16-18. The Dolly Sods section has an exciting boulder-hopping section from mile 30-31. The course is 75% trail, 15% Forest Service road, and 10% paved road. There are eight aid stations.

    The difficulty can be gauged by the fact that this 40 mile race has a time limit more commonly found on longer 50 mile races. The first ten miles are key, basically you are running up the entire time and must make the time gates in order to continue with the race. The only worry I have for this year is not making one of the intermediate check points and being pulled from the race. That would really bum my weekend. After picking my drop-bag at the half-way point I plan to tweet my progress so tune in on Saturday to Facebook and Twitter (key word: Hoyawolf).

    I am running the race with Bob Holzhauer, aka the NOVA Sasquatch. He is fresh off a monster effort at John's Run, a 200 mile crossing of Maryland from Cumberland to Bethesda. We have turned this jaunt into a carnival complete with camping families.

    Several links to race reports by Team Montrail, iPlayOutside.com, and Virginia Happy Trails Running Club.

    Gearing up!

    Tuesday, June 16, 2009

    Running of the blogs

    The always entertaining posts by Anton Krupicka about mountain running. I think he sums up the "why" quite succinctly for us trail runners, "The trail turns upward and I'm out of the trees and on the tundra and holy shit, THAT is a mountain, until suddenly there I am toiling up an impossibly steep slope." If you have not looked at Anton's blog, Riding the Wind, before this is the perfect excuse.

    AJW's blog has been logging a lot of mileage in the uber-running geek world about his nice poll about the upcoming Western States 100 potential winners. You can catch up on all the latest gossip right by checking out AJW's Blog. His training summaries and insights are also pretty good reads as well.

    Over at Team Montrail you can find a handy gear review on the Mountain Masochist. I will be wearing this shoe on Saturday at the Highland Sky 40 myself. Look for a full report to follow! A great review of Inov-8 hydration systems was posted at iRunFar by guest reviewer Meaghen Hicks. If you are about to spring for an upgrade or new pieces I suggest considering the Inov-8 products based upon her review alone.

    The weekly video comes to us via Mountain Hardware's Blog. A new film, Terra Antarctica won at Savannah's Blue Ocean Film Festival. Watch the trailer - excellent!

    Sunday, June 14, 2009

    Two weeks out and staring to taper

    A good week of training as I start to ramp down towards my run on 20 June. I took adequate time off and still managed one or two good workouts.

    Monday - Complete rest day following nice back to back long runs over the weekend. It was well spent!

    Tuesday - Excellent pool workout in the morning. I swam 3000 yards in 4x250yds, 4x200 yds, 2x100yds, 6x50yds, 2x200 w/board, 2x200 w/buoy, 200 KOS. The workout was preceded by my smashing two toes. It hurt, a lot! Thankfully there were not broken. I ran that afternoon and did a short but fast five miles on the treadmill at 7:30 mins/mile.

    Wednesday - Hit the gym early. Definitely looking forward to changing up my routine and am very motivated in the gym because of this. Afternoon run was only about 45 mins, 15 mins of which were on the stairs of the local high school football stadium. Good finishing work.

    Thursday - 2000yds in the pool, nothing special. Same workout as above minues the drills.

    Friday - Gym in the morning. Right after work I headed to do a quick ten miles on a local trail. Ran with some friends, a good time and decent pace. Just under 1:30. Faster than my race pace but good tune-up prior to starting my taper.

    Saturday - Spent all morning on the river kayaking. Hip flexors sore from "rolling" for about two hours solid! A good time though!

    Thursday, June 11, 2009

    Running of the blogs

    Last week's Teva Mountain Games produced a lot of buzz in the outdoor sports world. Lots of good entries from which to choose. Here you can find Team Inov-8's take on the games. By all accounts it was a smashing success.

    If you are laid up with an injury or are stuck inside due to incessant thunderstorms a good book is always nice. The new title by Chris McDougall, "Born to Run," is apparently a decent read. You can check out fellow trail runner cum book-reviewer Scott Dunlap's take on it here. Definitley sounds like it is worth picking up.

    There is a lot going on out there, I hope you are all getting after it. If you need a few reminders of all the upcoming events check iRunFar. As usual they set the standard for the trail running blogosphere.

    For your viewing pleasure check this sweet video from Piton Productions of some nice mountain running in Utah.

    Saturday, June 6, 2009

    Run and a taper - two bits!

    Saturday - Trundled out of bed at 5:00 am to head out for a long run. Temperature was low 60s will little humidity given the amount of rain we have had recently. I drove to Burke Lake Park and ran one lap by myself, completely alone in a park that is usually crowded. Very nice views of the lake with a bit of mist hanging about the trees and water. The Northern Virginia Minotaur turned up to take two turns around the lake with me before heading back to his house. I ran a final lap and change by myself for a cool 20 miles at 2:51 ~ 8:33 mins per mile.

    Sunday - Legs felt pretty good and I spend most of Saturday afternoon reloading my calories - otherwise known as gorging! Met a running/swimming friend back at Burke Lake for a few laps. We ran two laps and change for 10 miles in 1:22 - most of the run was a good solid pace but the last 3/4 of the final mile was a flat out sprint! Argh, my quads were screaming for relief by the time we hit the cut-off for the parking lot trail.

    I feel that I have some miles in me over the past month and that I am ready for Highland Sky despite my long-ish break in training from travel and sickness. Over the next two weeks I will post my taper workouts, race preview, and some gear reviews.

    Friday, June 5, 2009

    Mediocre week?

    Monday - Good swim. 2000yds 4x250, 2x100 w/buoy, 2x100 w/board, 100 KOS, 10x50. Felt really good in the pool, tried to concentrate on my drills to improve my stroke so that I do not "short" myself on the pull.

    Tuesday - Another very good session in the gym. I am definitely feeling good lifting right now and although I want to change my workout am hesitant. I also ran 3.5 miles in the afternoon, temps were in high 80's and very humid. Ugh - not really looking forward to summer.

    Wednesday - A run in the morning, short but quick three miles. This was followed immediately by a good core routine in the gym. I need to rest the next two days for my Army Physical Fitness Test on Friday morning.

    Thursday - Off day.

    Friday - Army Physical Fitness Test; I did 100 push-ups in two minutes, 100 sit-ups in two minutes, and ran two miles in 12:35. Off the rest of the day.

    Saturday I am looking to run 20 miles and Sunday run a 10k. Monday starts my 12 day taper to Highland Sky.

    Thursday, June 4, 2009

    Running of the blogs

    Kudos to Mountain Hardware for sponsoring a group of wounded veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as they climb Denali. The expedition consists of four wounded veterans, their two mentors and one guide, as they move from the base of North America's highest peak in Alaska's Denali National Park to the mountain's base camp at an elevation of 6,850 feet. You can donate to their climb at this website. A good cause indeed.

    If you are by lucky chance in Golden CO in the near future definitely stop in at the American Alpine Club Mountaineering Museum. A nice collection of Bradford Washburn photographs are going on display. Priceless and well worth a look!

    Fresh off his win at the MMT 100 Karl Melzer outlines some of his upcoming plans. It looks like you can find him racing at the Big Horn 100 in the near future on 19 June. Looks like Team Inov-8 will be busy all around the country this weekend. I bet the Teva Mountain Games will be the place this weekend. Hopefully we can get some coverage on tv over the weekend.

    Here is another great video from our friends at trailruningsoul. Check this one out - the La Granja de San Ildefonso race took place on May 10. Brilliant footage. Patagonia's blog - The Cleanest Line - also has a great surf video posted. Both are well worth a look.

    One final shout out for The Great Outdoor Provision Company. If you are from North Carolina odds are you know this great company that embraces everything from fly fishing to mountaineering. They are up on Twitter and Facebook. Highly recommended!