Thursday, March 1, 2012

2012 Mount Cheaha 50K Trail Run

Another report from the Mount Cheaha 50K trail run. But this year in a different capacity for me and Clan Kennedy! After the reverse double stunt last year, I decided that there was little else I wanted to accomplish on the course. Love running the trails, just not much up for grinding through this tough, rocky 50K these days. So instead, we volunteered this year. Matthew, Andrew, and I were in charge of the Hubbard Creek aid station at Mile 18 of the course, the remote site not located on a paved road. Along with the help of Ken Weatherman and his son, we had a swell time in fine, sunny weather. We even made a weekend trip out of it, staying overnight in the Bald Rock Lodge at Cheaha State Park. I must give a shout-out to race directors Todd and Jamie Henderson for putting on such a great event. They do such a wonderful job of turning a tough 50k race into a whole event: from arranging the amenities of Bald Rock Lodge at Cheaha State Park, the transpo necessary for a point-to-point course, great aid stations, plus post-race chili party on Sat evening. Not enough good things I can say about this pair: good, good peoples.

We left the house just after 6am on Saturday. The XTerra was full of aid station equipment borrowed from Dink Taylor (of Fleet Feet Huntsville and the Huntsville Track Club), including tables, coolers, chairs, a tent, etc. After a stop for coffee and snacks at Starbucks in Oxford, AL along Interstate-20, we drove up to Cheaha State Park. Made a quick stop at the park store to fill up the water coolers around 8:30am, then met up with Ken and headed for the aid station site to be set up by 9am.

Since the race started about 45min late, we had plenty of time. So got the tables, coolers and food arranged, then was playing catching with the boys. Chilly this morning, but plenty of sunshine that promises to make a pleasant afternoon. Our ham radio operators arrived around 0930 and we had a plenty-good BS session going.

The first runners arrived just before 1100, with trickle of folks through noon. Then it got quite busy for the next 90min as the major volume of mid-packers rolled through. Most were quite gracious and moving well, just needed some water and/or HEED before pressing on the Lake Chinnabee 3.6mi away. It started to wind down about 1330 and the last 50 runners struggled to keep steady running as the afternoon appeared. I would say the back-half of the pack needed the aid station far more than the first half, the relatively short 3.5mi legs could take upwards of an hour for the slower folks.

Matthew was a champ through the crush time, slicing up oranges, making PB&J sandwiches, opening cans of soda to start de-fizzing them, etc. Glad to have him there. Andrew was less interested in helping, but did call out every runner as they emerged from the woods: "Look, it's another runner! It's number [fill in the bib #]!" Which continued to be cute even after almost 200 runners. We finally got just about everyone through about 1400 and began packing up the aid station. Left a little water and food for co-Race Director Jamie Henderson, she arrived about 1430 and called it a day. Bless her heart, still had a smile on and enjoying the day. I crammed the boys in the back seat, let Jamie sit in the front, and headed up to Mt Cheaha and Bald Rock Lodge.

We dropped Jamie off, found a place to park, then wandered inside with the boys. They immediately grabbed a slice of pizza and some junk food. I mingled in the crowd some and jawboned. Then I took the boys for a walk down the boardwalk to Bald Rock Point and let them get a look of the valley below. They saw all the rocks up there, so went jumping around on those. I stationed myself at the end of the boardwalk overlooking the Bald Rock precipice and just prayed no one fell off….

Ventured over to the observation tower and let the boys take in the scenic view from the Top of Alabama. Gorgeous day, 50 miles of visibility. Of course, the boys looked at it for 30 seconds and then climbed back down, shouting at each other and fighting the whole way! Oh well, I appreciated the view. Managed to get them to stand still for a photo at the tower. We went back to the lodge near sunset, I let the boys grab some toys from the truck and head inside. They had earned some vegging out upstairs after a full day outside. I chatted with Will and Emily Ansick, bunch from GUTS folks, Dana Overton, and others while we watched the final runners get to the finish line. We also gave Dana a ride back to her truck down at Adams Gap before she headed home.

Todd graciously handed over the keys to one of the lodge rooms that had been left vacant by one of the runners heading home, so I stuck the boys in there for the night. I took the boys in the kitchen to show the food offerings: chicken noodle soup, pizza, and pasta dish. But Andrew opted for a plate of Doritos as his dinner, and Matthew made a big PB&J for his. Why not? It's the weekend with Dad, gotta flex a little! Matthew spent some time getting the fire in the lobby going, then helped Jeff Bryan with the dining room fireplace. After sunset and last light, I took the boys down the boardwalk in the dark, let their night vision adapt, and walked out to the overlook and valley below. By now it was about 7:30 and fully dark, but great visibility, so we could see lights all the way to Talladega and Birmingham. They really enjoyed that.

Got the boys cleaned up back at the lodge and into PJs. They wandered around the lobby and main dining room for a bit, Andy cute as hell in his pajamas. But then he sat down on the couch with me and it took all of about five minutes in front of the fireplace for him to fall asleep. Long day for that kid! I put the boys to bed and headed back into the main room. BS'ing with Todd Henderson and a group of GUTS folks. It is a pleasure to see the easy social atmosphere of that team, always a good time hanging out with the Atlanta ultrarunners. Marty Coleman shared a fine craft IPA brew with me, talked some shop with Sally Brookings and Todd Henderson about details of putting on ultra and trail races. Todd had another abandoned room available downstairs in the lodge, so I called it a night about 2200, cleaned up and went to bed.

I woke at 0600 the next day, pulled on my clothes then went upstairs to check on the boys. Both were still sleeping, so I went into the dining room and began helping with the clean-up process in there for an hour. Matthew woke around 0645 and got dressed, Andrew up around 0700. We sat by the fire in the lobby enjoying the early morning and conversation with some of the stalwarts who were also awake already. We helped pack up the trailers with race gear, talked with Todd and Jamie some more, and headed out about 0830 for Oxford. Took the boys for a good breakfast at Cracker Barrel, whereupon a hungry Andrew destroyed two big pancakes and one of my biscuits, while Matthew took down 3 pancakes, eggs, sausage, and OJ. $36 lighter in the wallet, we headed up US-431 on the drive home. A good weekend for me and the boys.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

CrossFit Level 1 Certification Course, CF Atlanta, 18-19 Feb 2012

I got the opportunity last month to attend the CrossFit Level 1 Trainers Course at CrossFit Atlanta. Thought I would share my experience online for those who wish to read. I had been looking forward to attending the 2-day course for about a year now, but I thought it best I get past the WS100 first before going off on some other damn fool venture! So the report here will summarize the flow of the 2-day course, my thoughts, even a couple of WOD PRs!

The certification course was held at the home base of CF in metro Atlanta area, CF Atlanta. Our trainers included Chuck Carswell, Mike G, Chris (active duty Navy), Christmas (yes, that's her name, phenomenally fit athlete), and Andy Hendel (the old veteran athlete and coach of the group). We kicked off at 0900 sharp on Saturday morning. Opening lecture covered the definition and philosophy of CrossFit. This is the remainder of the agenda for Saturday:

  • General Physical Preparedness, 10 definitions of physical fitness skills, Power, Work Capacity
  • Squat series demo then hands on, practical exercise training (including picture-perfect air squat, the front squat, and overhead squat)
  • Press series (Shoulder Press, Push Press, Push Jerk) demo then hands on training
  • Deadlift series (deadlift, sumo deadlift high-pull, and med ball cleans) demo then hands on training
The lunch break was an hour. Some folks ventured off, others stayed and got to watch the trainers put on a lunchtime WOD demo. In this case, they did Fran (21-15-9 of 95# thrusters and pull-ups). I watched Mike G do it in 2:06. Pretty darned amazing, especially considering I might have the round of 21 complete in that time. Then after spending most of the day cycling between uncomfortable plastic chairs and the above exercise demos, at 5pm we all got notice that FRAN was coming for us! So about 5:30pm I got my turn along with 20 others (60 folks attending, we did three heats of 20 each). Of course, the energy in the room was fantastic, but it had still been a long day for many, especially those who worked all week then all thru Sat. Regardless, I completed the WOD in 6:15 (PR by over a minute). Would like to break 6min at some point, then drive it down to an ultimate goal of 5min.

Met a lot of good folks, talked a lot about CrossFit (obviously) and their home boxes. I was surprised to understand that well over 2/3 of the attendees were fitness professionals and this certification course was a really big deal for many. Several owned gyms or are personal trainers. Others were opening their own CF boxes inside of a month, so the course and the test were no-joke for these folks. I was one of the few in attendance that was just there for kicks and grins. Many folks were talking shop about the economics of their box (or their personal training business), so when several folks asked if I owned CF Huntsville (uhhmm, no; but was wearing a CFHSV shirt) and I admitted that I did not, they weren't much interested in talking with me anymore! I never offered my own professional pedigree, but when 2-3 folks actually asked my occupation (aerospace engineer), the non-plussed look from them was slightly funny! I can imagine the same folks with wild stares if they asked Larry Lowe about his day job (Ph.D. in EE). Oh well, did meet some reforming ultrarunners and we shared mountain running war stories.

Saturday evening was pretty chill for me. I was blasted from working all week, and needed to study for the next day's test, so I stayed in that night. No wild partying in Atlanta, I must be getting middle-aged. Sunday's agenda included:

  • Lecture on Technique vs. Intensity
  • Hands-on review of the Push-Jerk and Med-Ball Clean (two of the more complex movements)
  • Lecture of CF's nutrition prescription. Meats/eggs/proteins, veggies, nuts/seeds, some fruit, little starch, no sugar. If possible, do it in Zone-proportions per Dr. Barry Sears' recommendations. 3-5g per day of fish oil (EPA and DHA)
  • Demo on proper way to perform, and more important, how to teach, the kipping pull-ups. Then hands on exercises for the kipping pull-ups. The trainers did not cover butterfly pull-ups for the group, though offered to do so for those interested after class time.
  • 10min AMRAP WOD in teams: KB swing, 200m run, squat jumps. Pretty nice little routine: one person did KB swings while the other completed a 200m run. But when the trainer blew a whistle, all athletes stopped and did 5 squat jumps. Score was total KB swings by a team in 10 minutes.
  • Lunch for an hour. We were treated to the trainers doing a variant of Fight Gone Bad for the WOD: 75# squat snatch, box jumps, pull-ups, 75# thrusters, and something else I can't remember.
  • Afternoon started with a lecture on the GHD and associated exercises: back extension, hip extension, hip-back extension, and GHD situps. No hands-on work with 60 people in the room and only 4 GHDs.
  • Snatch demo and hands on practice
  • Muscle-up demo and hands-on. Got my first MU! Then came back and did 2 linked!
  • Lecture on CF Programming lecture and short review of test materials
  • And because CF Level 1 is now accredited by ANSI under its certificate accreditation program, we got to take a test! 50 multiple choice questions, and it was no joke! I had to pay attention, for sure.
  • Flowmaster Chuck Carswell finished the day around 5:30pm with some closing remarks. I chatted with Chris for a while talking Navy stuff and how he is managing his moonlighting job as a CF trainers. Then I wandered over to the rings to try the MU again, make sure they weren't a fluke. Performed 3 strict, linked!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Mountain Mist 50k - 2012

Welcome to my race report for this year's (2012) Mountain Mist 50k, the South's Premiere Trail Running Event. There a few photos available, I have them all collected at my Picasa account.

I woke up 0600, pulled on my gear, kissed my lovely wife and pulled the covers up tight to her, then headed up to Monte Sano by 0635. Spent some time jawboning, talking TeamRWB photos with David Riddle, Marty & Carol Eaton, Suzanne Erickson, and others; enjoying the brisk morning, casual chatter and catching up with some folks I hadn't seen in a while. Took a photo with the TeamRWB athletes in the race before the start; none of us would see David Riddle until much later in the day!
From Mtn Mist 50k - 2012

The race started 0730, I was in mid-pack, just stayed steady and chatting with a few folks. Overcast but only a bit chilly at the start, I had nothing but a short-sleeve tech-shirt and a set of gloves (shucked those by the first aid station). The normal conga line ensued when we hit the trail, I took it easy down the Cold Springs section, then onto the Mtn Mist. Had to pee 3-4 times in the first half of the race! Steady pace, slower than norm (obviously) thru the aid station at O’Shaughnessy Point.
From Mtn Mist 50k - 2012

From Mtn Mist 50k - 2012

Ran into Perry Sebastian (GUTS) and jawboned for a bit on the early part of Warpath Ridge. Then got on the stick and descended it faster, it is a home-court advantage. Muddy as hell, pretty treacherous. Lost a shoe at one point, got stuck in the mud. Must have been a funny sight with me hopping around on one foot back to the stuck-in-the-mud shoe, then sticking my foot back in the shoe and breaking it free of the mud suction! Passed some more folks on the Red Lizard portion before breaking out onto the Power lines. Took some time to swallow calories and electrolytes, then braved the sticky mud around the PowerLines trail. Decent running as we re-entered the trees and finally began the climb up K2. Ran fairly steady; most folks at the pack were power-hiking.

Ground down the Goat Trail, hips and sciatic are beginning to feel stiff from the morning's efforts. Mentally I was OK but not great. Made A/S #2 w/o incident, re-filled my water bottle and kept rolling. Talked with Janice Anderson for a few hundred meters, then into the line of runners again. Pretty sloppy going around the backside, including the climb back up towards Stone Cuts. The Cuts were fun as usual, but my hips were not cooperating very well and I was grumbling and grunting a bit. Had some low points in through the Sinks Trail, legs not cooperating much. Finally found a good place to pull-over on Mtn Mist Trail, took a 5+min break there to relieve myself. Climb up thru Cold Springs was OK, steady. Made Fearn Dr in about 3:27, so right on my target of 3.5hr (aiming for a 7hr finish today).

From Mtn Mist 50k - 2012

From Mtn Mist 50k - 2012

The first parts of the Land Trust were not fun. Mud along the High Trail was pretty nasty. Lost a shoe again at one point. I enjoyed weather and the muddy trail, but my hips and sciatic were grumbling at me, tough to run hard through that. Pushed steady down the Bluffline, but needed a 10min walk break once I reached the intersection at the bottom of it. Trail over to the Land Trust a/s was sloppy as well, but I arrived faster than I anticipated.

Old Railroad Bed wasn’t bad, though several folks passed me in there as I took some walk breaks. Finally re-gained a good rhythm on the last mile of Alms House, had another lady right behind me and caught a good groove over the rocks; this is always a tough portion of the course, even on a dry day. Passed 6 people right at 3 Caves, then found another gear to start climbing the Waterline. Passed about 20 people total between these aid stations, ranked #107 for the segment (vs 163d place), I always like to make a strong showing here. Got the top with a steady effort and then headed for the Trough Springs parking lot.

I stripped off the singlet underneath my TeamRWB shirt at the road crossing, Suzanne Taylor graciously took it back to the lodge for me. Re-filled the bottle and headed out. Hips really don’t like me now, and this is the toughest section of the course, especially on muddy days. Crossing SOB Ditch fun as always, but the rest of the trail gets worse every year from constant erosion. I wonder if there is a possible long-term plan that we can put together to stabilize some of the Natural Well Trail, from the old 4WD road to the section pas the well. It is really treacherous in the mud.

Let myself down the trail into McKay Hollow (vs running down it hard), slipped once and fell on my ass on a rock. That hurt! Ground out the climb back into the bottom of the Death Trail. Then entered the Slush Mile, and today it earned its namesake! My shoes were soaked before, now they were obliterated in the mud. Worst I have ever seen it, fun and challenging if you put the right mental filter on it! Got thru the Slush Mile, made another silent prayer and thanked Him for keeping me safe and smiling this far into the race. Took a walk break up to Kathy’s Bench, then reached for the reserves and ran (barely) the climb to Rest Shelter. A point of pride to be able to climb at that point, but it is a gorgeous early afternoon, and this is the last Mountain Mist, and what other way would I want to finish it off?

Caught up with John Nevels and Lonnie Vogan up at Rest Shelter. Grady offered by a beer, but politely turned that down for another hour! The last 1.8mi were the most pleasant, linked up with John and finished off the race. We chatted amiably along the way, and the final 15-20min went by fast (at least emotionally). But I was ready to be done. I urged John to get ahead of me at the last bridge crossing to get his own finish line photo, so he bolted up front (got some legs left), finished 3-4 sec ahead of me. Then I made an uncharacteristic leap as well, just to put the finishing touches on the race. The fifth, and final, Mountain Mist 50k for me.
From Mtn Mist 50k - 2012

From Mtn Mist 50k - 2012

Spent some quality time jawboning around the finish area with Paul Dubey, Jeff Bryan (newly minted 10x finisher) and others. Stripped my shoes off, wandered inside, sucked down some Recoverite. Back outside into the gorgeous sunshine and talked with some more folks, thoroughly enjoying the crowd, the view to the south, and the afternoon. Content inside, emotionally. Grabbed some pizza and soda back inside, talked with Suzanne Erickson a bit, called Kirsten to let her know I was done and OK. Wandered in-out a few more times. Finally took up the offer of a Yuengling from Paul Dubey, sat there sipping it and talking with Rob Youngren and Eric Fritz. The big bags under Rob’s eyes became the tell-tale signs of an all-night run, the crazy dude did a reverse double stunt again! Finally put our backs up against the fireplace wall outside and drew heat from that. Saw Matthew walk by with the scout troop and waved to him. Around 1700, as the lodge was clearing out, limped out the truck in my bare feet. Went over to the camping around to check on the scout troop for a while, then went and found a shower, some dinner, and a bed!


But yes, this is the fifth and final Mountain Mist 50k. For several years I had planned to become a 10x finisher. I love running up on Monte Sano, and thoroughly enjoy the Mist course and the runners out there with me. I was actually entered in the HURT 100 in Hawaii, among the toughest and gnarliest 100s on the planet, ran each mid-January just outside Honolulu. I had taken a long break after Western States, running scant few miles in July-August. The only serious running I did was a stunt with TeamRWB on 10-11 Sept, going about 60 miles overnight from the West Point cemetery, right down 9W to Ground Zero and Liberty State Park with seven other ultrarunning nuts. After that I was wiped out for the better part of a month. I had little desire for running beyond some easy miles now and again; I was enjoying some Fall mountain biking and spending time with my CrossFit brothers and sisters at CF Huntsville. I was actually entered in the HURT 100 in Hawaii, among the toughest and gnarliest 100s on the planet, ran each January just outside Honolulu. If I was going to pull it off without seriously hurting myself, I needed to start training around early October.

But by mid-October, I took a good long look in the mirror and looked at my motivation for the race, and in particular the training necessary. And you know what? It simply wasn’t there. I had no appetite for it, and I knew it. In contrast, when I began the 6-month road to Western States just before Christmas 2010, I was dead-set on the path ahead, the miles to come, the long grinding trail runs, the deadly WODs at CrossFit, the crushing sessions in the squat rack, the excruciate massage sessions that I would submit myself to, and basically whatever it took to be prepared. But for HURT? Nothing. I just couldn’t see myself grinding down all the miles, there was no motivation nor deep longing for it.

During the past few months I have enjoyed a period of contentment and satisfaction with ultrarunning. Over the Fall and early Winter I simply never developed the deep desire to put in the training miles to do well at the Mist, never felt that strong pull and the call of the trail. Ever since completing Western States, there hasn’t been a strong desire to put down big ultra performances. Western was really what I got into ultrarunning for, and having the sterling silver belt buckle on my mantle at home what was I really going after. And now that I have it, I don’t feel burned-out, but rather fulfilled and contented; the burning desire in the gut has been satisfied, “the stuff in the basement”. After 25 years of chasing, I did what I had set out to do. Sometimes these clips from Rocky Balboa express the deep desire I felt, and the knowledge I could do it. And now the "stuff in the basement" has been qualled.

I had enjoyed some longer trail runs, especially a day exploring Desoto State Park over on Lookout Mountain. But getting ready for the Mist felt more obligatory rather than with a strong drive for serious running performance like it did a year ago. It was fun and enjoyable, the runs I pulled in January before the Mist become long runs that went past enjoyment of the trails to more simply grinding it down. I did not enjoy the ache in my legs, nor the stiffness in my hips; not during the run and sure as heck not the next morning! I wanted to run decently at the Mist, to make a good showing and have it be enjoyable, but I also knew it was be a tough day just to keep a steady effort and finish with grace and satisfaction.

So I pulled that final pitch up the Waterline, that slippery, treacherous descent into McKay Hollow, the muddy crossing of the Slush Mile, the grinding climb past Kathy’s bench and up to the Rest Shelter aid station (where I will take over next year as aid station captain), and finally the pleasant last miles with John Nevels heading back to the Monte Sano Lodge and the finish line. I took a matter of satisfaction and pleasure that this was the final trip across the Mountain Mist course. I looked down into McKay Hollow, towards the sun in the western sky on a gorgeous afternoon, taking in the view. I smiled gently and took pleasure in the running conversation with John, a very good young runner and budding professional engineer in his own right. I took satisfaction and contentment in those final moments of the course, and watched the sun set over this chapter in my athletic life. And the next chapter is just beginning….

From Mtn Mist 50k - 2012