Sunday, July 24, 2011

Catherine's Fat Ass 50K

Drew, Mike, Chris, Christian and Joey joined me up in the Massanuttens for the annual Catherine's Fat Ass 50K. Here is my blog post on our adventure!

Pictures by Christian

Made with Slideshow Embed Tool

Pictures by Brad Koening (VHTRC)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Byrom Park

The Scoop: The Patricia Ann Byrom Forest Preserve Park

After a quick Blackrock Gap jaunt Saturday morning, I headed to Byrom Park to do some trail work and get the scoop on what is sure to be a great addition to the county park system and a climbing park for trail runners.

Climbing park?

Byrom park is 612 acres cut right into the base of the Blue Ridge, and the trails start with an aggressive gravel road climb out of the parking lot. We rode a gator up the “draft” trails on Saturday and my quads were twitching with excitement. At present, the plan is to have one of the loop trails totaling 5-6 miles completed by August 19th, which is when the park will open officially. The next phase will be to finish clearing and then open a larger concentric loop and connect a trail that currently goes to nowhere (Shel Silverstein part II) back to the entrance (old logging roads have been converted to trails to deer stands as the property was leased to a hunting club).

Bears? You bet, with the plentiful berries around and the clear evidence that one had been using a wood trail intersection marker as a scratching post.

Blaze? The current “blazing” is letters on foam, which are temporary markings from the county-sponsored “Bioblitz” (a summary is available here). The recommendation relevant to trail building that came from this exercise was to “[p]lan trails and recreation areas so that there is minimal disturbance to the few identified unusual species (ex. American chestnut, American elm, Big-toothed aspen), groups (ex. ferns, orchids), geology, and habitats (ex. seeps, wetlands, and streams especially where streams and old logging roads intersect or adjoin (along trails A and E)).”  I'm sure the first trail will be blazed at opening, and its would be a true joy to get the first runs on it with the CAT group.  

So what is in store for the future of Byrom Park? Why should I be so excited?

1. SNP Connection: The property has a thin corridor that makes it contiguous with Shenandoah National Park. It is a mere 8 miles by road away from the turn that goes to Sugar Hollow on 810 (just keep going right at the store). The county is going to apply for a trail connection, which is complicated as it will require (1) the approval to build a trail leading out of Byrom, (2) a trail built from the SNP side, and (3) the federal government paperwork mill.   By my cursory map-gazing, this puts a possible connector trail to Loft Mountain/Big Flat Mountain? I could be wrong here, any insight from the more map-able is welcome.

2. Mountain Running:  This will be a mountain running playground, and its unlikely to receive the same pummeling as Preddy Creek as the grades are quite steep.  Your calves and quads will thank you when you knock out >3-4k elevation in a 5-6 mile run. 

3. The work continues!: Tucker Rollins who has been organizing the volunteer trail work, and has a passion for the park and its potential, will be hosting monthly workdays again September throughout the winter.  In addition, he would be more than happy to schedule a workday for us sometime.  Anyone game for August 6th?


Monday, July 11, 2011

More SNP fun July 16, Grindstone July 17

We had so much fun running back-to-back mountain runs over July 4 weekend that we decided to do it again! This time we will run the gorgeous 24-mile lollipop from Sugar Hollow to Blackrock, Jones Falls, Doyles River and back to Blackrock via the AT on Saturday, July 16 ay 7:00am. Bring enough fluids for 4-5 hours. There is a spring along the course, and incredible waterfalls, but better be safer than sorry and death marching it.

Sunday, July 17 we are going to run on the Grindstone 100 course, starting from Dowells Draft ( mile 20/80) and going to the top of Elliotts Knob (mile 10/90) and back. We will have aid at mile 7ish and 13ish. This run is 20 miles and has big climbs and lovely descents.

No need to RSVP but if you need directions or have questions, email me at hope to see you out there!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Here is my story about 2011 Western States

Report filed by Sniper
The flight from Richmond to Dallas went went until we landed and I got a phone call as soon as I turned on my phone. It was the Reno police, spcifically the drug unit calling me. I could barely understand since I was still on the plane but the package that I had sent federal express to my hotel with my dropbags in it has raised some suspicions. I explained to him that the contents were the following: juice boxes of yoohoo since northern California doesnt have any there, cups of applesauce and baggies of white and brown powder which everyone on the east coast knows is my tea and sugar mix. All of the bags were labeled with the aid station names and my bib number and also a note inside explaining what everything was for. After telling the officer all of this he agreed that I was in fact telling the truth, could anyone in their right mind make this up? haha. He told me that the package was already on its way to be delivered, and I work for the company too.
So, after that situation was averted I met up with Mark Rodriquez, who paced me at MMT, at the Dallas airport and took him some VHTRC shirts. Even when I am on my time I am still making deliveries, haha. We hung out for a bit until it was time to get on the flight to Reno, NV. The flight went well until we got there and it was a rough landing, lots and lots of wind. Got the rental car, called Mike Bailey and headed to Squaw Valley. My pacer would arrive later tonight. I got to the start line of the race and met up with Mike and Ed and we walked around a bit. I did get to meet some of the other people who are trying to run the Grand Slam this year. The GS consists of Western States, Vermont, Leadville, Wasatch. I am trying to run the Last Great Race which includes those 4 plus Old Dominion and Angeles Crest. I recently ran Old Dominion along with Dan Brendan who is going for the LGR again this year. He's got fire in his belly this year since he just turned 60, this guy is tough. We have run about 16 races together, putting in at least a few miles together during each. After the meet and greet, I checked into the hotel and went back to Reno to get John may pacer. We arrived back at the hotel and met up with Mike who was staying with us and settled in for Friday's check in.
Friday Check-in:
We got there about 9:30am and there were a lot of people already there. Check in is more like marathon packet pickup than most ultras. You get in line, get your schwag, weigh in, get your blood pressure taken and get your medical wristband. It was pretty cool all in all, I met new people and saw old friends and had a good time. Western States is a point to point race and I enlisted the help of Mike Ryan, brother Dennis, and Dad Lou to help get the cars to the finish line. I don't think Mike ever grasped the idea of how his car was gonna get to the finish line but I told him to trust me and he did. Mike seemed in a daze on Thursday and Friday, not sure why but we all have our own way of getting into the mindset we need to run a race. We had lunch with the Ryan boys and James from the UK, James is also trying to run the GS this year. We met at Old Dominion in 2008, this year he has had a stress fracture and not sure how WS would go. We listened to the pre race briefing and saw all of the frontrunners, they didn't call my name but I know they didn't want to cause a big disruption, haha. We all separated for the evening and would see each other in the morning. John, Mike, and I just bummed around town for the afternoon.
Race Check-in:
We left the room and got to the start a bit later than I would have liked but it was ok, just a simple 10 minute drive. We checked in and got our bib numbers and before you know it, it was time to start. I left the car issue up to John to find Ryan;s dad and brother and work it out. Mike almost lost his pack and jacket because he separated from us and left it inside the building, John got it for him.
We started out and Ryan and I did not start out together as we planned since it was so many runners. No worries. I started up the climb and eased into a powerwalk, it is afterall a ski slope. The first aid station at the Escarpment was about a half mile sooner due to snow. I filled my other handbottle and then hit the snow. We had a beautiful sunrise and the temps were perfect, the snow wasn't too bad but I knew it would get deeper. Ed C and I went up together and then headed down the other side and then we got into the snow. I took my time somewhat and did not have that much issue with it until a couple of miles into it when I jumped down about 3 feet and I didn't stick the landing. My feet went through the snow and my right knee hit a rock or stump or something. OUCH!!!
I got up and limped down the trail and took a look at my knee and it was bleeding and cut up. I started running again and made it to the aid station, fueled up, and headed on down the trail. I got to the Poppy aid station and met up with Ed again and we left together and ran around French Lake Reservoir. The trees are HUGE and the pine cones are HUGE also. Further down the trail getting to Mosquito Ridge it was like going up the Bald Mountain jeep road. It was hot which wasn't bad but there was no breeze at all. James and I ran the loop together and then I left him and headed to the dreaded Devils Thumb climb around mile 47. I went up the climb with a couple of guys who had run the race many times before. It was one of the few times that I was with someone and we were talking. The best way to describe the climb is to give you the numbers. Elevation gain 1500 feet, distance 1.6 miles, switchbacks 36. There were places where you would see someone who is ahead of you and you look straight up to see them. Upon reaching the top I promptly gave Devils Thumb a good look at my middle finger, haha.
The next couple of sections went by pretty good and I got to Forest Hill mile 62 a couple of minutes slower than last year but considering the course change I say the same time. I changed shoes picked up my pacer John and kind of knew at this point that breaking 24 hours was not going to happen so I decided to have some fun. Leaving the aid station I acted as if I were on tour and yelled "Hi, I 'm David Snipes from the east coast. I'm big time over there and I'll be in town all weekend." Everyone was laughing and it gave me some much needed energy. The next game to be played was to see how long I could go before turning on my headlamp. John turned his on behind me around 9pm. I was a few feet ahead of him and could still see and his light didn't bother my nightvision. Finally at 9:26pm I decided to turn mine on only because we were in a hollow and under tree cover.
I got to the Rucky Chucky river crossing and weighed in, by this time I had weighed in about 7 times during the race and I think the first scale at mile 31 was off because it said I was down 4 pounds from my starting weight of 169. Mile 43 I was up 6 pounds to 171 and from there all the way to mile 93 aid station the weight stayed the same, no problems there. On the climb up to Green Gate at mile 80 I told John that considering what we had left it would be too much of a push to try and break 24 hours for sure and I was ok with just finishing and feeling good. He too was ok with that. Leaving Green Gate the next section is a worn down section of trail that runs long and at night it kind of sucks, it seemed to take forever to get to the next aid station. I was also starting to fall asleep on the trail, caffeine wasn't really working anymore either.
Dawn came as we were on our way to highway 49 aid station at mile 93 and I started to wake up and finally was able to take off the headlamp. After awhile you just get tired of looking through LED lights. We left there after I was interviewed by this guy doing a documentary of Western States, of course I had been telling everyone the same thing as I did at mile 62, which got tired crews and aid station workers laughing. When we got to mile 96 at No Hands Bridge there was a volunteer eating a breakfast burrito. We asked for one and he said "you don't want one of these this late in the race" I said I had run 96 miles and could eat anything. Two of them were quickly made and OMG that was so freaking good. Eggs, bacon, potatoes, and cheese all together. AWESOMENESS wrapped up in one tortilla just for me.
John and I set out for Robie Point, the last aid station, and then I was in need of a bathroom. No worries, I told John that after the finish while he was getting stuff to cleanup with, I would be in the medical tent for the weigh-in and blood pressure check and stuff I would meet him at the showers. My stomach had other plans. At the last aid station there was a port-a-john, I stopped there and then asked John how many runners had passed me. He said 2 along with their pacers, no problem. I ran the last mile and caught up to each one and gave them a hard time about passing a runner when they were taking a bathroom break, haha we laughed and then we hit the track. I sprinted as fast as I could and I got the to the finished line in 26:35:22, a bit slower than last year but it's all good.
James finished in 28:28:00 and Mike Ryan in 29:05, Mike Bailey in 25:29, and Ed C in 27:08. These are close to correct without looking at the results.
Western States is a good race and it is very well organized, but if you are like me and like to be sociable while you are running it will be hard to find it here as everyone is in the mindset of not talking much. I think the weigh-ins are a bit much, between pre race and post race I weighed in a total of 12 times. The aid stations are great and the fans are awesome but you have to remember to run this race like you run any other and not get caught up in the hoopla of it all.
Below is a link to my pics that were taken during the race. The guy in the white shirt with black stripes is John my pacer. The pics of us with life jackets on are of us crossing the Rucky Chucky river. The pics of me with the lake in the background I think are the best and that is French Meadow Reservoir that we are going around. The last pics are of me running around the track finishing up.
Happy reading,

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Sophie's Summer Death March (SSDM)

This past Saturday Sophie Speidel hosted a group run at White Oak Canyon in the Shenandoah National Park.  The course was a slightly changed version of the popular VHTRC event  Vicki's Death March that takes places in the winter. Of course, if VHTRCs' ambassador calls, many cool trail peeps come together because they know that this will be a guarantee for a fun and good organized run.

Shortly after Drew, Nick and I arrived at the lower parking lot of the White Oak Canyon trail many others followed so that we soon filled up the parking lot and had about 45 (!) people gathered. People came from a multitude of places: Lynchburg, Harrisonburg, D.C., Richmond, Charlottesville, Morgantown WV....

Quickly we came together for the obligatory "before" picture:
45+ Runners of at least three clubs (VHTRC, CAT, WVMTR)
Sophie gave out maps and turn sheets that looked very straightforward and manageable. We took a quick look at the info and off we were....

Lots of climbing shortly after we started...

oh yeah, did I mention climbing?

 Little pace groups formed pretty quickly, the fastest being lead by Sabrina Moran and Neal Gorman. The weather was moderately warm in the beginning and trails were mostly shaded. Later in the day it got hotter and more humid, carrying a 70 oz plus a 21oz hand bottle was a good choice. The trail offered stunning views and varying terrain..
Who would want to run roads if you can have this? course towards Fishers Gap

Marc Griffin, Jack Broaddus and Jared "from Lynchburg" and I were cruisin' down the mountain enjoying the technical trail, stopped briefly to verify our direction and kept going.... until we ended up on a Fishers Gap parking lot - not where we should have been (5mi north on Hawksbill Gap). Oh well. After looking for trail markers, consulting a hiker and the map we took the AT north towards Hawksbill. About 3/4 of the way at another intersection we ran into Matt Bugin and Holly Baker who also got lost.
We had hoped to make it to Skyland Lodge in time to meet at least some slower runners of our group but didn't. Upon asking an older lady at a cash register if they had seen runners she just replied "Runners?.... oh yeah, I've seen runners.. lots of them! But that was about 30mins ago." Anyways, after re-fueling we decided to take a short cut on White Oak canyon fire road to be back at base in time for the party. ...and we made it! We actually ended up with the same mileage as the planned route:
Distance: 25.53 mi | Elevation Gain: 5,572 ft | Moving time: 5:08hrs

Tailgate with lots of good foods and tales from the trail

It was a fantastic day with many old and new friends and good times on and off trail. Thanks again Sophie for hosting this great event, I am sure many of us will make it a regular event to attend to.

Q's pictures of the VHTRC trifecta:

Sabrina Moran's blogpost: 

Phil Turk's blogpost: