Sunday, October 28, 2012

Update on CAT Activities and Fun

It has been awhile (July!) since we have written anything on this blog, but the Charlottesville Area Trail Runners have been busy training, racing, pacing, and having fun!  Below, we post a collection of short write-ups by CAT members on what we've been up to for the last four months.

Before turning to the write-ups, here's a list of the great training runs we now have going each week.  Note runners of all levels are welcome at these outings and that we have a "no drop" policy, in that we wait for everybody. So come out whether you are fast or slow, and new or old to trail running:
The reason we do the Thursday Happy Hour run.
  • Sunday Sixer.  Starts around 8 am from a variety of locations, usually within the city limits of Charlottesville. This 5-7 mile run is a great way to meet new members of the group on the weekend without joining a longer mountain run.  These days, these runs are usually headed up by Nick Hamblet or Barb Shenefield (see Barbara's write-up below).
  • Tuesday Pantops Run.  Starts at 6 pm from Frost Montessori School. Runs up trails on Pantops mountain, usually lasting 4 to 9 miles, with a decent amount of climbing.  The usual run organizer for this run is John Gulley. A headlamp or flashlight is required for this run during fall and winter months.
  • Wednesday No-snooze Run.  Starts at 5:30 am from Slaughter Recreation Center.  This is a 4-6 mile hill-training run, utilizing the ups and downs of Observatory Hill (O-Hill) trails to do hill repeats and hill fartleks.  The usual run organizer is David Smith. A headlamp or flashlight is required for this run during fall and winter months.
  • Thursday No-snooze Run.  Starts at 5:55 am from McIntire Park (West) in the parking lot near the softball field. This is a nice recovery run for those doing hills earlier in the week. This 4-6 mile run winds its way in and around roads and trails connecting to the Rivanna Trail.  The usual run organizer is Nick Hamblet (see Nick's post below). A headlamp or flashlight is required for this run during fall and winter months.
  • Thursday Happy Hour Run.  Starts in the area of 5-6 pm time from Whole Foods Market as a recovery or Thursday double run, lasting 4-5 miles on the nearby Rivanna Trail.  The run finishes in about an hour in time to enjoy outdoor live music, pitchers of beer, and food at Whole Foods Market on Thursdays.  This run is sometimes weather and schedule dependent, so check in with the CAT email list each week to see whether the Happy Hour Run is a go.   

Now, here's what has been happening in the CAT world over the last couple of months:

Sunday Sixers
by Barbara Shenefield

Barb Shenefield (far right) and Sunday Sixer runners

Recent Sunday Sixers have explored the Old Mill Trail alongside the Rivanna, down to the remnants of Charlottesville's Industrial Age locks, canal and aqueduct. Or ventured into our newest State Park, Biscuit Run. Recent wildlife sightings: Eastern Box Tortoise; Golden Orb Spiders; Red Fox.

I enjoy hosting this run when other CATs are off conquering mountains. My version of the Sunday Sixer is an in-town, or close to town, trail run. As is always the case with the Sunday Sixer, pace is easy. We wait at intersections if you are hanging back - maybe it's 'cause you're busy talking :-). Personally, I like to introduce people to area trails and to the pure joy of trail running. It's being close to nature. It's being easier on your joints than the road is. Some may not feel comfortable on the trails alone. So join us Sundays at 8 am.

No-snooze Thursdays
by Nick Hamblet

No Snooze Thursdays: Damn they're early - and they're still not as early as Wednesday's version! We've been meeting at McIntire Park pretty regularly for a few months now for this morning run. We started with 6am, but moved the start time up a few minutes to 5:55 so that folks with kids had some extra time to get back. Darker mornings have accompanied the start of the school year, and, in fact, for the last few weeks it's still been not quite light when we finished.
Nick Hamblet (2nd from L) with other CAT runners

We've had a good crew out for these runs, and I want to thank Chris Engel and Christian Dahlhausen for being so consistent in coming out each week. We've settled into a nice regular loop, heading out from McIntire toward the "Whale Tale" Art in Place installation along Rte. 250, running back behind the elementary school and through Greenleaf Park, then hitting the hill up Oxford Road before heading back down on Blue Ridge Road to pick up the Rivanna Trail behind the Bodos on 29. From there, we take the RT to 250 and either head back along 250 for a 4ish mile loop, or keeping going on the RT around to Brandywine (or further when they weren't doing construction) before heading back to McIntire park. 
These mornings will be getting colder, but hopefully we can keep on No Snoozing through them. It hurts getting out of bed that early (for me anyway), but once you're out there, you realize just how great it is to start the day with a trail run with friends.

By Drew Krueger

My memory of the 2011 running of Catherine’s was pretty simple: It was HOT! The heat overshadowed what was otherwise an absolutely top-notch event. So, when Catherine’s 2012 was held under cool, drizzly July skies, I couldn’t have been happier!

VHTRCers and CATs at Catherine's 2011
The weather for the day alone was a fantastic respite from the oppressive heat and humidity. Add in the option to run 30 miles through the mountains with friends and enjoy an unsurpassed post-race party, and for me, Catherine’s 2012 hit the pinnacle of what trail running is all about!

If you haven’t been to a VHTRC fat ass event yet, make it a priority to do so next year. The events are top-notch, and a whole bunch of fun!

More info:

By Drew Krueger

As trail runners living in central Virginia, we are blessed with an abundance of great trails to explore. We all have our regular, pound it out, sections of trail, but we also have our special spots. For me, TWOT (The Wild Oak Trail) is becoming that special place. It’s the scene of my lowest point in running-struggling up the Little Bald climb during Grindstone in 2011. It’s also the scene of one of my highest points in running-cruising down the Little Bald Climb during Grindstone in 2011! I have also done a few solo runs on sections of TWOT, a few runs with friends on TWOT, and I also ran the Martha Moats Baker (MMB) fat ass, which takes place on parts of TWOT, in 2011. 

I absolutely loved running MMB in 2011. It’s a fantastic course, and it’s just special being out there. I anxiously signed-up to run MMB again in 2012, and was happy I did! 
Christian (L) and Drew (R) at the 2011 Martha Moats Baker 50K
Leaving the TWOT lot, Neal Gorman, Josh Finger and I climbed together up Little Bald. The morning was cool with a nice breeze, and it simply felt great to be out in the mountains on such a great day. It was one of those great days of running where no moments really stick out as the great moment of the day, instead, it overall was just one of those great days.

Neal, Josh and I all ran together into the Dog Grave Yard aid station. After the aid, Neal suggested we pick-up the pace a bit and shoot for a sub 6hr finish. I laughed at Neal’s suggestion, having run MMB in 7:50 in 2011, while running slowly and relaxed. We were informed that the course record (CR) for MMB was 6:56, so a sub-6 finish certainly seemed ambitious. At any rate, we hammered the next section to the third aid station, dropping Josh during that stretch.

Once we hit the arduous climb up Groom’s Ridge, I knew I needed to pull back a bit and try to push in some calories for the last bit. Neal kept on the pace and set a blistering CR of 5:36, while I came in ten minutes later at 5:46. We had to cruise back to Charlottesville immediately afterwards, so we unfortunately missed out on the always great post run festivities.

More info:

CAT Summer Social, August 25th, 2012
by Christian Dahlhausen

"CAT" Abby joined for a trail run
Setting up Pavillion #2
To celebrate fellowship on the trail and having most of the humid days behind us we organized a summer social at Walnut Creek Park. We started off early in the morning with group runs (naturally) on the park's trails. Showers were predicted that day, but it stayed dry for most of the morning. Despite the weather forecast (we are trail runners after all) we had great attendance across different pace and distance groups. Following the run we socialized with drinks, potluck-style breakfast, brunch, and BBQ, and shared stories from the trail. We even attracted some roadies for this relaxed event. It's fantastic to have such a great running community in town to share friends & fellowship with.  This will certainly not be the last social and we are looking forward to keep it going! Happy trails.

Re-fueling at the potluck after the runs

The Best and Worst Grindstone 100 So Far! October 5-6, 2012 
by Marc Griffin

Editor's Note: On October 5th, starting at 6 pm, Marc ran his 5th Grindstone 100 mile race

My training this year has been great, I have been running faster and felt stronger than ever going into Grindstone!  My goal this year was to finish under 30 hours, which I have never done.  Even if it was 29:59:59 I would be happy.  So the night before the start, I stayed up late and slept in the morning of, got up, and went to the pre-race briefing at 1pm.  At one point Race Director Clark Zealand asked all the rookies to stand, there were a lot of first-time 100 mile attempts happening this year, I hope all had a positive experience.  From there, Clark called out the names of this year's door prize winners and I actually won a pair of Patagonia shoes!  So far, 2012 Grindstone was off to a good start.  I went back and set up my tent and got things all set, and then laid down just to close my eyes and get off my feet for a little while.  I knew sleeping was out of the question this close to race time since the nerves were already kicking in.  
Aid station worker at Lookout Mountain
Well before I knew it, 5pm came around. I got up, dressed, and got ready. In a blink of an eye it was a few minutes to 6pm.  I walked around, spoke with some people, and then the countdown began.  The first 5 miles we mostly ran since these are probably some of the easiest trail miles of the race.  The first aid station came and then the test of endurance started.  The next two climbs were tough, Elliot’s Knob and Crawford Mountain.  I felt great and climbed with ease.  I ran with Bill Potts for most of this and I felt very comfortable.  Soon Bill turned it up a notch and left me in the dust.  This is where I started running with Alex Hall and another gentleman.  The three of us stayed together until the turn around and had some good laughs.  Not sure if the jokes and comments were that funny or if it was because we were on a 7 mile climb up Little Bald at 3am in the morning.  I got to the turnaround still in darkness, which I have never done before.  I am usually two aid stations back when first light hits, so I knew I was way ahead of my previous splits. I was running really strong and was actually on pace for 26 hours at this point.  

On the return trip, things were going well until mile 60ish.  Then the wheels fell off!  I was chafing badly and things just shut down.  I made it into North River Gap aid station (AKA, the TWOT parking lot), and was very happy to pick up my pacer, Christian Dahlhausen.  Just standing there in the parking lot, my legs were shaking and throbbing.  This is the closest in 5 years of running Grindstone that I almost quit and went home.  
Things were bad, but Christian got me out of the aid station and we started up the next big climb.  This climb up to Lookout Mountain is one of the worst of the race, it is steep and long and comes at mile 67ish.  We got up and over and Christian got me running when I didn’t want to.  Every slight downhill or flat he said,  "Lets go!", and made me run.  Boy, at that moment I was hating him!  But, this was the best thing for me and Christian did an amazing job.  So we headed down Dowells Draft trail and I started to feel better, so we picked it up.  We were “flying” down the trail at one point and Christian asked if I wanted to know how our pace was, I said sure and figured we were running at least 8 minute miles or better, but he told me it was an 11 minute/mile pace. They sure felt faster to me…lol.  So we hiked and jogged and climbed back over Crawford and back over Elliot’s Knob.  I actually got to climb Elliot’s Knob on the way back in the light this year, again I have never done this before, it’s usually dark way before the last aid station.  Boy is this an advantage, the trail is very rocky and to do it in the light makes it so much nicer.  So we get down near the bottom of Elliot, which is relatively flat, so I start jogging, thinking I am doing at least 10-12 min miles I look over and Christian is just walking beside me like its nothing.  Your perception sure is off after running for 26ish hours. 
Finally, we make it to the last aid station and there is only 5 miles between me and finish number 5.  Those last miles are the rockiest, most technical and long five miles of my life.  After kicking every rock on the trail we make it back into camp and around the lake and in to the finish.  Usually, when I finish around 30 hours, it puts me in at around 1am or so.  This year it was nice because there were people at the finish and spectators to cheer me in.  I think I need to run this race faster every year!  My finishing time….28:07:20, over two hours faster than my best time.   

I was so happy, I hung around the finish for a bit then started to get cold so I walked up got showered and off to bed.  I woke up the next morning, saw a few people just finishing up in the rain and got some breakfast.  This year because it was the 5th year of Grindstone and 5 of us have done it and finished each year, Clark gave us a special buckle.   Not sure I could wear it because it is so big but it sure looks great, like I said, it was my best Grindstone because of my finishing time but my worst since I don’t think I have suffered like this in any of my previous attempts.  This year I went for it, it was a risk but I wanted to try. Heck, if I didn’t have that bad spell from miles 60-75, who knows I could have shaved another few hours off my time!  
Thank you Christian for getting me to the finish thanks Bob, Drew, Sofie and Neal for cheering me on and giving me advice!  Bring on number 6!

Grindstone Pacing, October 5-6, 2012
By Drew Krueger

When Neal Gorman told me he was thinking about signing-up for Grindstone, I immediately volunteered to pace him for the final 36 miles, if he was interested in having a pacer. Neal took me up on my offer, and I eagerly anticipated cruising the back roads along the Va./W.Va. border all night following the action of the race until it was time to start my pacing duties.

Neal came in second place! The race itself is Neal’s story to tell, so I’ll leave that up to him.

Neal has 100 milers figured out. I don’t have any distance figured out! Needless to say, I was excited to hang with him and see how he does it, and what, if anything, I could pick up for watching him race this distance.

Neal certainly didn’t need me along for the ride. I didn’t have to spur him on, tell him to toughen up, or anything of that nature. My pacing duties more or less felt like we were out on a training run together, talking about anything that came up, with me occasionally giving Neal estimated distances to the next aid and describing upcoming sections, where I could.

The fastest four at Grindstone 2012 (Neal 2nd f.r.)

Neal ran a heck of a race, and afterwards it was fun to listen to Karl Meltzer (famed 100-mile racer and Grindstone 2012 winner) and Neal talking about how the race unfolded, neither of them sounding like they had just busted their tails for the better part of a day, shattering the old course record in the process!  

Sophie Speidel also has a great Grindstone report from pacing the women's 2012 winner, Jennifer Nichols. See here.
CAT Jenny Nichols (L)

Hot TWOT, October 13, 2012
By David Smith

Because of all the great things I had heard from my fellow CATs about TWOT (The Wild Oak Trail) training runs and races, I was really psyched to try a run out for myself.  As others have written above, the TWOT area is home to a lot of VHTRC events, including the (cold) TWOT 100, Hot TWOT 100, Martha Moats Baker 50K and the Grindstone 100 miler.  TWOT lies in the mountains of the George Washington National Forest, on the western side of the Shenandoah Valley, just north of Churchville, VA. The official TWOT 100 (the "Cold" TWOT) is run in February and consists of four 26-mile loops of the entire TWOT.  Most runners opt to do only one loop, so that it turns out to be a one-marathon distance training day in the mountains.  I signed up for the Hot TWOT, run at the beginning of October of each year.  Long time VHTRCer, Dennis Herr, is the race director for both TWOTs and he was wonderful to finally meet.

David (2nd from L) at Hot TWOT 2012

CAT members Christian Dahlhausen and Kate Stephenson also ran Hot TWOT but started at 7 am and cut their run a few miles short to get back early to Cville.  I started at the official start time at 8 am with the "bigger" group, consisting of about a half dozen of us. The race took place on a beautiful fall day, with sunny temps starting in the 40s and climbing into the 60s.

To put things quite simply, TWOT consists of a lot of climbing.  Over the course of the day, I was reminded of that Escher drawing in which a square stair case appears to be going up forever.  Although the course was a loop, it seemed to consist mostly of going up, I think. The climbs included Big Bald, Little Bald, and steady ups and downs over Grindstone Mountain. Actually, besides the climbing, the course was great. It involved a lot of ridge running and I like running on ridges, but it did mean following a lot of mountain contours up and down, up and down. As it turns out, there were also some big descents, many of them quad-bustingly steep. 

I finished in around the time I guessed I would finish, 7 hrs and 42 minutes.  Importantly, I finished with that endorphine-enhanced peace I get from running long in the mountains on a beautiful day.  Nothing can beat that!