Sunday, October 27, 2013

Pitchell 100k(ish) Fun Run

When you hear the words "fun run" what do you think? 99.9% of you probably think of that group run after your local 5k. Am I right? Well ultrarunners tend to take things too far... literally. A perfect example of this is Adam Hill (Mad A). Adam's idea of a "fun run" is a 67 mile, single track adventure with 30,000ft of elevation change. To make things a little more interesting... it's basically self supported (with the exception of gallons of water laid out every 3-8 miles) and starts at midnight. Sounds fun right? Absolutely. Hands down... the best adventure I have ever experienced to date.

The cool thing about the Pitchell fun run is just that... it's a fun run. It's not a race. It's not advertised. It's more or less, invite only. I've never even heard of Pitchell until it was mentioned in passing during a Pinhoti adventure run in September. And honestly... Pitchell is more of an experience than anything. I will never be able to explain it to where you understand it... it is one of those things you have to experience first hand to grasp.

Being that it basically follows the Mountains to Sea trail up in Asheville, NC (our favorite city), we decided to use this opportunity to take a short vacation for my birthday weekend. The plan was to head up on Thursday night with our good friend Katty, roam around downtown Friday, and then have the ladies crew me on Saturday. Due to some changes in the Andrews' household, we didn't really have the money to be throwing around for a getaway. So after some logistic planning and pretty much vowing not to sleep all weekend, I decided to venture out solo. I planned on staying in Atlanta on Thursday night and carpooling over on Friday with hopes of coming back to Atlanta and crashing sometime late Saturday/early Sunday morning.

I arrived in Atlanta just in time to have a few beers and tacos with Brandi (female winner of The North Face 50 Mile Endo Challenge in ATL), Erin (2nd overall female at the StumpJump 50k), and several new faces from the local Thursday night running club. We chatted about upcoming events and then called it a night.

I tried sleeping in... and of course sleeping in was 6:30am. After a quick stop by REI for a map of the Mt. Mitchell area and a new pair of clearance Patagonia shorts (score!), we set off for NC. The drive took roughly 3hrs(ish) and somehow or another, Rabun Bald was brought up. They say it's good to stop every couple of hours and stretch your legs right? I honestly don't think "they" meant... stop at the bottom of a mountain and climb 1.5miles to the top... but hey... it's open for interpretation. Probably not the best decision to be hiking a strenuous 3 mile out and back before running all night, but you only live once... and like I said... I've never seen Rabun Bald.

Sitting in MacDonald's, calculating up the most massive caloric intake possible, we took a look at the weather for Saturday. The weather looked like it was going to be perfect with it being in the upper 30s on the summit of Mt Mitchell Saturday night. We walked over to Big Lots to grab some gloves. Of course... the only gloves they had were purple... with a mustache on the finger. $2 for Puppa Staches... heck of a deal.

We knocked on Adams door and he immediately invited us into Chateau de Hill and introduced us to his wife and 3 kids. Adam by far is one of the most genuine, down to earth people I have EVER met. I was completely blown away by his hospitality. We were early, so there weren't any runners there yet. After hide and seek and some indoor soccer with the youngsters, people started arriving. People from all over came to run Pitchell. Leadville, Indiana, Alabama, Georgia, NC. The group from Leadville came bearing gifts. They brought a wooden carving (scaled down of course.. haha) of the Pitchell course. It was amazing!

8:20pm - Matt and Lily brought pizza.

9:15pm - Adam serenaded the group with a private performance on the guitar in his living room.

9:45pm: Everyone loaded up and headed to the FAC (Folk Arts Center).

Pulling into the FAC, there was a small group already in the parking lot. The FAC was the halfway point. It was where everyone parked their cars with supplies for the second half of the run. We all gathered around for a quick briefing. Adam passed out some emergency contact information... which was basically a list of numbers you could call/text and someone (if awake) would come and pick you up if you needed to bail earlier than the FAC. After the briefing we all piled into cars that were designated to shuttle us to Mt. Pisgah. (HUGE HUGE HUGE thank you to all the volunteers that shuttled runners up to Pisgah!!). After a winding drive down the Blue Ridge Parkway, we  made it to the Mt. Pisgah parking lot. Of course the race starts on the summit, so with headlamps shining, we stomped 1.5 miles up to the summit.

12am - Adam says a few words... and it begins.

There's really not much to report for the first few hours. It was a lot of technical, descending single track, where you passed by some creepy tunnels with graffiti. At one point we found ourselves wandering aimlessly on top of a mountain in fog thick enough where you could hardly see your hand in front of you, just praying for white blaze. After thoughts of being brutally murdered by the crazed psychopath killer that we thought was stalking us... we found a white blaze and descended out of the fog.

Sleepy Gap...  the sign sayeth "Sleepth not at Sleepy Gap"...(we won't go into detail why you shouldn't sleep at Sleepy Gap... but I'm sure you're smart enough to figure it out). Do you know what it's like to be completely sleep deprived in the foggy NC mountains... and stumble upon a white horse head? Gives you a little bit of a heart attack. But of course... what else do you do at 3am, but ride the stick horse? Crazy? Damn right.

I can't recall exactly when Erin rolled her ankle... I believe it was sometime between Sleepy Gap (mile 14) and the French Broad River (mile 20). It was bound to happen to one of us throughout the night. I slipped and rolled ankles throughout the night, but hers was bad. We continued over the French Broad River bridge and headed back into the dark forest. Again, things get fuzzy because it's not a race where aid station volunteers can give you updates and to be honest... I've only ran about 4 miles of the trails out there, so it was all new to me. We continued through the night.

A hint of light does wonders to your spirit. After being in the dark for the past 7hrs or so, the sun was finally coming up. We were closing in on the FAC. A mile or so before the FAC, we crossed over some train tracks and then hopped a fence and continued through a cow pasture that ran under the Parkway.

We came into the FAC around 8-830ish? Not really 100% on that one either. After going through some scenarios the last few miles leading up to the FAC, Erin decided to drop. Her ankle was giving her trouble and was making her overcompensate with other areas and her form wasn't where it should be. If she kept it up for another 33 miles, she would have injured herself further. It was the right decision. Like I said... it's no race. You can't just roll into another an aid station and drop. That is just not an option in Pitchell and honestly, if you wanted to bail after the FAC... it almost means hitchhiking back. So Erin decided to crew me for the rest of the run. I changed socks, devoured a 6in Philly Cheesesteak, and headed back for round 2.

Pitchell gets harder as you go. You start on top of Mt. Pisgah and drop into the valley. Well, if you are going up to Mt. Mitchell... you must go up. Sooooo muuuuuuch climbing on the second half. Quickly after leaving the FAC I started to climb. I quickly settled into a rhythm and the next thing I knew, I was at Craven's Gap (mile 40). Coming up on Craven's Gap I saw Erin's car on the side of the road. As I came closer, I saw her sprawled out in the front seat zonked out. You have to remember, we've been up since 6:30am on Friday... it was now Saturday morning and well over 24hrs. I honestly didn't need anything major from the car, so I let her sleep and just sent a quick text and told her I'd passed through and would meet her at Bee Tree Gap. I crossed the road and started back on the trail. At this point, I hadn't really seen anyone from the group in quite some time. After a mile or so I came up on a runner I recognized from our original starting group. She was jamming out with her ear buds in, so it took a few minutes for me to get her attention. I finally caught her attention, we swapped a few words, and she let me pass.

Bull Gap (mile 43) was inhabited by a group of about 5 when I came through. I quickly filled my bottles up and carried on. I guess I should have looked at a course description or some elevation charts before setting off to run this event, but I was basically told... it's hard, has a ton of climbing, and not a lot of people finish. So really... what would be the point of knowing what you had coming up? You have to make the climbs regardless. It was the climb out of Bull Gap where I really started to notice the beauty of this place. It was Fall here. Beautiful, bright colors filled the trees... the weather was crisp... the smell of October filled the mountain air. It was perfect. Alabama (Roll Tide) had not yet experienced Fall this year. It was still green.

Bull Gap (mile 43) to Bee Tree Gap (mile 51) was an extremely hard section, but probably my favorite section of the run. I felt really strong so pushed it pretty hard during this 7 mile stretch. I basically climbed, dropped down a little, climbed some more... this continued for miles until I came upon the summit of whatever mountain I was climbing. The effort was worth it. The single track revealed a gorgeous overlook (the guy I passed at the top mentioned "Pinnacle" - so maybe it's something along those lines). I stood on the rock facing for a moment and smiled at the mountains in front of me.

Coming out of Bee Tree Gap I saw Erin's car again... zonked out. I asked how her ankle felt since she had it elevated while asleep. She said it was sore, but it would be fine. I filled my bottle with some electrolyte mix, took a few swigs of coke, and set off again.  The next few miles were beautiful... which brought company. Groups of hikers were out enjoying the Reds, Oranges, and Yellows... the cool air... the overcast sky... this absolutely amazing place.

I came into the parking lot at Graybeard Overlook (mile 55) and saw Erin sleeping again. This was the one time where I was envious. I was hungry and sleepy. I refueled on the second half of my foot long Philly Cheesesteak and downed a good portion of the 2 liter Coke in the back of her car. I grabbed a few gels and stuffed them in my pack since it was only a 3 mile section before I'd be at the car again... or so I thought. My phone was dying when I got to Balsam Gap, so before my phone died completely, I shot a quick text to let Erin know that I'd just meet her at Hwy 128 (mile 63).

After realizing the climb out of Balsam Gap was going to be a long one... I took off my pack, grabbed my zip lock bag of Sour Patch Kids, and marched upwards. The best damn Sour Patch Kids ever!!!! I destroyed the entire zip lock bag before I reached the top. NomNomNom. Once at the top, I ran/hiked the ridge for a while. I felt completely alone. It was a very remote section of the trail. And it was here... where I saw a monkey. In my heart... I KNOW there are no monkeys in the Asheville wilderness... however... my mind made me take a detour off the trail and tap this "monkey" with my foot. Guess what it revealed? A stump. I am on top of a mountain... in the middle of no where... and I am taking a detour off the trail to prove to myself that I'm not seeing a freakin monkey. The last time I eat out dated Sour Patch Kids...

I finally ran across a hiker and we stopped and chatted for a few minutes.

Steve the Hiker: "Are you not cold?"
Me: "Nah, I've been out here a while and my pack is keeping my core pretty cozy."
Steve the Hiker: "Where you headed?"
Me: "Mt Mitchell."
Steve the Hiker: "Oh yea? Where you coming from?"
Me: "Mt Pisgah."
Steve the Hiker: "HAHAHAHA! Long day for ya ain't it son?"
Me: *laughing* "Yes sir... it most certainly has been!"

I couldn't help but laugh. It was ridiculous.

Before we parted ways, I asked how much longer till I hit Hwy 128. Steve the Hiker told me "Oh, just about a mile or so." Wrong. Steve the Hiker had betrayed me. My mind said, "1 mile. Downhill. 20mins tops." Lies. I ran down the mountain FOR-EV-ER. All I remember is going down and down... on technical, hard rocks... switchback... after switchback... after switchback. I just wanted to be at the bottom. I thought I kept hearing the road... it was the wind... just the wind... every single time. I threw myself a little pity party. God must have heard. I came out of the woods and stood on a rock, staring at the gorgeous Fall mountain colors in front of me. *smack* Slap in the face. "Stop feeling sorry for yourself and enjoy my beautiful mountains. It's not supposed to be easy." - God -
Ok ok.. I gotcha... geez ;)

As I approached Hwy 128... I came across a zip lock bag before I hit the road. Hours before... we were instructed to check off our name before starting up Mitchell. I dropped to both knees. I made it. I made it to the zip lock bag of destiny. I signed my name and walked across the road. It was getting cold so I put on my purple gloves and threw on a pullover and my BUFF. Erin handed me two half empty Red Bulls. I car pulled over and rolled down the window. The excited woman in the driver's seat asked if I was a Pitchell guy. "Yes mam." She congratulated me and drove off. It amazes me... all the excitement and support for outdoor adventure from the people of the city of Asheville... it's simply amazing.

This was it. Last 4ish miles up to the summit. I ran for the first two miles... it was gradual climbing and I felt good. I thought... "this isn't too bad... I thought the last climb would be the worst." I came across a gravel road and I followed that a few yards before hitting the woods again. Straight up. There we go! I knew it was bound to happen. The sun was setting quickly, it was getting cold and dark. I wanted to make the summit before nightfall, so I pushed it a little bit. There would be no running the last 2 miles... power hike all the way. The trail started to straighten out a bit and ahead of me was an opening. I saw a group bundled up in warm clothes, walking on concrete. When I left the woods... a huge gust of cold wind hit me. I was there. I walked up the pathway... circled to the observation deck... and with a huge smile on my face... I stepped on the highest point east of the Mississippi.

Pitchell complete. 18hrs48mins. No view from the summit... only cold 36degree gusts of cold wind and grey clouds... and it couldn't have been more perfect.

I walked down to the parking lot and was greeted with an excited hug from Erin. I turned around and found myself immediately wrapped in a huge bear hug with Adam. This guy had finished in an incredible 13hrs34mins and still waited all day on all the runners at the summit. Like I said... one incredible guy.

On the way back to Atlanta, we discussed the adventure. Somewhere in the conversation, Erin mentioned a low growling cat sound she had heard several times during the early morning hours... I cut my eyes over her way. I had heard it too, but didn't mention anything about it at the time because who wants to be thinking of a wild cat stalking you at 4am? Not no one that's who.

After a hot shower and a few cold beers... I laid down on the couch that I had woken up on 42hrs earlier...

Till tomorrow...

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Smiles & Silence

Looking up towards the canopy I could finally see the outline of trees against dark purple. I'd just reached the top of the Red trail and turned onto the Orange/Blue connector when my headlamp started to flicker. The batteries were about to expire. Luckily, my destination was only a mile or so away and the sun was well on its ascent.

I love sunrises and sunsets. They mean the world to me for various reasons. There's something special about greeting the day. When you're sitting on the edge of a cliff, seeing the vivid colors slowly start filling the horizon... it's almost as if the world is brand new... like the world is seeing the sun for the first time. Sunsets are my favorite though. In April of this year, I stood and watched a complete sunset for the first time in my life. It was perfect. I couldn't have asked for a more perfect scenario. When the sun sets, it isn't leaving forever. It's simply saying "till tomorrow." You know it'll be back... ready to fill you with its warmth and love. It's the one thing that will never let you down.

I made it up to King's Chair when the sky was turning orange. The sun had yet to break the horizon so I threw down my pack, pulled out some crackers and waited. It finally felt like Fall and the breeze had me tossing on the pullover I had packed away earlier. After a few minutes the sky started getting brighter... and brighter... until the sun finally peeked over the horizon.

Perfect. While the majority of the South's population is still fast asleep, brewing coffee, or making their way to work... I'm thankful to be alone on a mountain. No words necessary... only smiles and silence. The only thing that matters is this moment. Work... bills... worries of every day life... none of that matters... right now they don't exist. Incubus said it best, "In this moment I am happy."

I climbed up to the top of the big boulder on King's Chair to lay down and watch the sky transform from a bright orange to light blue. As I laid there I thought of how blessed I really am to have the opportunity to witness these moments first hand, to have the ability to climb mountains, to run through the forest. I laid there for a few more minutes before gathering my pack. I stood up, took another look back at the sky, tossed a "thank you" into the wind, and made my way back onto the trail.

I urge you to break your routine. Even if it's once month... once a year... whatever it may be... get out and catch a sunrise and a sunset. If you come back and tell me that you felt nothing or it wasn't worth it... I'll buy you a beer to compensate for wasting your time.

Till tomorrow...

Sunday, October 6, 2013

StumpJump 50k - The Sting of Summer

Humidity and bee stings... October in the South.

Hands down Rock/Creek puts on some of the best races in the South, if not the country. Everything from the expo, pre race dinner, accommodations, swag/giveaways, to the downright near perfect organization of the races.

Matt Johnson (runner from Mobile) and I decided to car pool up to Chattanooga on Friday to catch the expo. We walked around the expo and put our names on every piece of paper we saw with the hopes of winning something worthwhile. Won nothing. I did walk away with enough water bottles that even that Waterboy himself, Bobby Boucher, would salivate over. Oh, and enough stickers to paint the back window of my car and become the "please look at the rad, extreme life I live and I'm obviously funny because of all the witty bumper stickers I have" guy. Yea... I long to be that guy. It was good seeing some faces I've not seen in awhile. Phil (Pearl Izumi rep from Asheville) had a booth set up, Sean "Run Bum" Blanton, Erin Hannen, and Keith Mcabee to name a few.

After the dinner we headed over to the soccer fields to set up camp. A middle-high school near the start/finish area were gracious enough to allow us to set up camp on one of their spare soccer fields. After the cheerleaders and band stopped with the rah rah rah team spirit piece, the world became still and I was laid back under the stars with a beer in hand... the good life.

Woke up to a text saying "You breakfasting?" After spending a few minutes trying to figure out the devil device that wouldn't spit out my coffee (aka - Keurig), my dark roast was ready for consumption. Muffins and coffee... these are just a few of my favorite things. Relaxing conversation was thrown into a spin when Matt mentioned that we should probably start getting ready since the race started in less than 45mins. You would think with all the technology and all updates that a certain company makes you go through... that the least your "smart" phone would do would be to update time as you traversed time zones. No... no it doesn't.

Race time. The gun sounds and we're setting off. The first few miles were paved/gravel road for the most part. I came into the race with intentions of running it hard and fast, so I tagged along with Phil since he was shooting for roughly the same time goals. We opted not to stop at the first aid station. Close to 350 runners were on the 50k course, so I really wanted to try and get as close to the upper half as possible so I wouldn't get caught in the cluster. Felt strong going as I came through the second aid station at Suck Creek Rd. I was in a group of 4 as we all left out of Suck Creek and started along a beautiful scenic ridge line. At mile 7.6 we saw a swarm in the middle of the trail. Ugh gnats. I thought gnat season was over?!? Good thing they weren't gnats. Yellow jackets. A sharp pain on my inner thigh provoked a few obscene words that I threw down the steep ridge and into the Tennessee River. I looked down to see 4 more yellow jackets glued to the front of my shorts. After the swift removal of these unwanted visitors, I carried on... grumbling for the next mile about how painful that sting had been.

I rolled into Indian Rock House aid station at mile 10.6 for a quick refill. I had just enough time to grab a banana and top off my water before Phil slapped me on the ass and darted down the trail. Onward! We followed a Runners Roost girl for the next few miles. Worst form ever. It was absolutely terrifying to watch this girl run. Her ankles were literally rolling and hitting every rock she crossed. She took 3 massive spills (this was just the time I spent running with her) but she bounced back up and continued without hesitation. I can't hate though... she went on to win the women's 50k.

I still felt fantastic as I cruised into Haley Road aid station at mile 16.8. I was on pace for a new PR. Everything was fine and dandy. I started the climb out of the aid station and felt a little twinge in my inner thigh. No worries... happens all the time. Well, it got worse. Never full out cramped but had to continuously stop and stretch. I battled and battled to get back up to race pace. It didn't matter what I ate or drank... I just couldn't recover.

At Mullens Cove I made the executive decision to stop racing it hard. I trail run because it is something I love to do and it is enjoyable. If this was my first year of trail racing, I would have powered through and tried to kill myself to finish strong. Wisdom comes from experience. I knew if I powered through and tried to continue racing it hard, I would probably get hurt and this would mean taking time off from being on the trails daily... and I WOULD HATE THAT. So I slowed everything down and decided to enjoy the last half of the race. Best decision ever.

I laid back and put it on cruise control. A good amount of runners passed me when I slowed things down. Now in the past this would have bothered me. Being passed in the late stages of a race is like blood in the water. Shark eyes would have taken over and kill mode would be initiated. I let it go. I was in a good place and really having a good time at this point. Erin and Sean passed me at the top of one of the climb. She was looking strong and still had a huge smile on her face. She was in second and not too far behind the lead female.

I don't care if you are a drinker or not but in every race there is a "beer moment". A moment where you just want nothing more than a cold beer. This always happens to me... without fail. That moment came at mile 22. I hopped off the trail for a quick water release and quickly started back on the single track goodness. A few minutes passed before I felt a sharp pain from inside my shoe. SON OF A BEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!! Sting number two. A yellow jacket had stowed itself away. Ugh. The euphoric feeling was gone. Pissed. I just wanted this to be over now.

I was still highly irritated when I arrived at Suck Creek aid station the second time, but that quickly diminished after seeing the smiles of all the volunteers. Volunteers make races. Anyone who volunteers for these ultra events are special people and I honestly don't think they realize how much they affect the spirits of the athletes. From the bottom of my heart... thank you guys for everything you do. You truly are amazing people.

I left Suck Creek happy again. Happy to be able to spend my entire Saturday morning frolicking in the woods... doing what I love to do. I made the climb up to the final aid station. I turned the corner at Mushroom Rock and I could hear the aid station volunteers. "What can we get you? Water? Heed? A beer?" Surely this was a mistake. I checked. I was still completely coherent. I yelled up the hill. "Are you serious about the beer?" A big smile came across the volunteer. "Absolutely."

With 26.8 miles of rugged trail completed and roughly 5.2 miles to go, I was handed a PBR. This was fun. This was trail running. I chatted with the volunteers as I enjoyed my cold beer. The beer moment became a reality long before the race had ended. I thanked the volunteers for the beer and headed out to finish up the day.

6:04 (51/343). Not a terrible day by any means. It wasn't my best and it wasn't my worst... but I had a blast! Met some new people that I will now be seeing in a few weeks up in the Carolinas, saw some familiar faces, and ran some gorgeous single track. Another amazing adventure in the books.

Big congratulations to Erin for her second place finish! And to Matt... who wanted to leave with a battle scar... you got some buddy!!

I guess it's time to finish up my last cup of coffee and go out and enjoy this beautiful Sunday. Maybe sneak in an evening run and work some of this soreness out ;)

Till tomorrow...

Thursday, October 3, 2013


I got arrested.

No... no I didn't. I lied. Breathe again mother. It was a joke. Seriously though... I did almost get arrested last night.

Shenanigans pretty much sums up my life in college. I went to a small university where everybody knows everybody and even if you didn't know someone's name, you knew a way to describe them in a few words that would get your point across. ie: the graceful guy, the pirate, the acid dude, body guard, the 50's girl... the list goes on and on. Being an athlete (baseball player) pretty much gives you a rep from the get go... NOT the best one might I add. So the only way to battle this is to NEVER wear your gear around campus and to NEVER introduce yourself as an athlete. One minor flaw in that plan... the cafeteria. Silly click tables...

My collegiate baseball life consisted of performing at a high level on the field and in the classroom. The other part of my collegiate life was filled with dorm craziness, bars, sororities, ghost hunting (Montevallo is a very haunted place), exploring buildings after dark, and pranks. Out of all the ridiculous situations and stupid stunts I pulled in this small town, the things I didn't get arrested for... it is 4ish years after graduation where I almost get arrested for... *dun dun dun*... running. Well, technically "trespassing."

I parked my car, tucked my headlamp into my shorts, and took off down the asphalt. I didn't have the time or energy to make it to the state park today, so I settled for a quick spin around my old campus and college town. I ran the same streets I use to stumble down in the past... oh  to be 21 and invincible again. I took a left through campus. I passed by the "hands" and King House. Made my way down the rough streets where many a sorority girl have valiantly attempted to wear high heels, just to be proven that their grace and beauty are no match for unstable, late 19th century brick. No judgment, for I too have fallen victim to these godless bricks, however, my story includes chocolate milk, white basketball shorts, and a group of Phi Mu spectators. I'll let you piece that one together...

I passed by the UM soccer game before exiting campus. Finally... peace. I cruised down a county road for a bit before making my way over to the campus lake. The city has recently established a running trail that runs from the local park, through town, around the campus lake, ending at some local baseball fields. It's mostly crushed gravel with less than a mile of single track, but I'll take that over the streets any day. The sun disappeared and the headlamp came out. I received a few obscene words from the frat house as I passed by but *insert dbag voice* "like brah... like I really just... like..." I really don't care. Go drink your Natty Lite and dry hump that Freshmen 15 that's smoking her Marlboro Reds for the first time.

Anyways... like I said... peace. Goosefraba.

I finally cut back down to the park. As if my week hasn't been bad enough... low and behold!! A cop at my car. Thanks universe. I dim my headlamp and slow my pace. He drives away. I grabbed my keys and unlocked my car.

Blue lights flashed. After a tire peeling and what I must deem unnecessary, U-turn, I'm now cornered. Officer Farva is already out of his vehicle with handcuffs in hand.

Farva: "What are you doing?"

Me: "Finishing up a run."

Farva: "You know I should arrest you."

Me: "For what?!?"

Farva: "Trespassing. This park closes at dark."

Me: "I'm sorry officer." (as I turn and look 25yds away at a group of 7 in the same park...)

Farva: "They're looking for lost keys, but are leaving now."

Me: "I didn't say anything officer."

Farva: "I don't want to see you back in this park."

I chuckled and walked away.

Oh yea... I forgot to mention that I'm a trail gangsta... and damn it feels good to be a gangsta.

Till tomorrow...

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Heart Shaped Rocks

Misjudged a limb. Drilled forehead. Huge knot. Went to sip from my handheld. Slipped on loose rocks. Bloody lip. The heart shaped rock behind me reminds me of one thing: love your life... even when it's rocky.

Hi. I'm Zachary. I'm a trail/ultra running, wine/beer/coffee loving, tattooed boy from the south. After waiting in line with a bunch of workers wearing sombreros, I'm sitting on the tail gate of my Element with my friend Aimee. We're devouring glorious tacos made from a rolling restaurant in a gas station parking lot. In this moment, after enough peer pressure from my wifey (Kati) and friends, I decided to start a blog of my running adventures. I will rekindle past events (been trail running for 3yrs now) and basically write about my daily life.

Now back to me drilling my head...

Taper: to diminish or reduce in thickness toward one end.

In the running world, taper basically means to reduce the amount of running before an event. I've tried tapering and I have come to the conclusion that it must be against my religion because I can't seem to get the hang of it. I like to race. You meet new people, see new places without having to do much planning, somebody feeds you every few miles. It's fantastic. But... I LOOOOOVE to run. I love the idea of being able to run trails every single day. Sometimes this means not doing as well in a race, but lets be honest... who really cares? It's all about personal accomplishment anyways. I'm no Kilian, Dakota, Anton, or Sandes. I'm Zach remember?

I'm running the Rock/Creek StumpJump 50k this weekend so I should be tapering. However, stress from work and the Fall weather had me on the trails Monday.

The run started like most every other run. Grabbed my handheld, threw a gel in my shorts, and headed out. An hour in, I start down a steep rocky section. I go for a  little sip from my handheld and the next thing I know, I'm trying to catch my balance on loose rock. I catch myself before I completely lose control. I go to wipe off my lips with the back of my hand to reveal a bright red substance I've not seen in a while. I chuckle and carry on.

Another hour passes and I'm flying down some of Alabama's best single track. I'm about to pass under a branch that I've ran under a hundred times. I continue my pace and dip my head. I am now on the ground. I'm sitting slumped over with my arms resting over my knees... my water bottle is a few yards to the left... and in this moment I can't help but laugh out loud. This is my life and I love it.

It's been a rough few weeks for me, but the Fall air is bringing change and big adventures. I can smell it.

Enough for now. The sun is setting, my glass of red wine is empty, and I need to be making my way to the trails. I really just wanted to introduce myself. We'll get more detailed in the future.

Till tomorrow...