Tuesday, March 2

Mount Mitchell 40… um, 36… miler

I have a history with this race.

I first signed up for it in 2007. I'd heard stories, seen pictures, and wanted to get get a piece of the action. ITB soreness (and beating myself up a few weeks earlier at Mountain Mist) caused me to drop down to the marathon distance (still an accomplishment but not what I set out to do). I was back in 2008… but this time a groin pull had me out for a month prior, so I played it smart once again and settled for a mere 26. Then 2009… oh, what a bad winter. Ankle injuries had me out for 2.5 months. No race at all.

2010. This was THE year. I was going to do it. Mother Nature, on the other hand, had a different plan. I'm not quite sure what happened to the south this year, but we've had crazy amounts of snow. The good: I got lots of training runs in thru snow and over ice. I was prepared, both mentally & physically (Thanks Matt!). The bad: due to the obscene amounts of snow on the trails in Mount Mitchell State Park (we're talking 50"+, with drifts well over that), the course had to be modified. So instead of 40, we got a mere 34-36 miles. Still, with snow, ice, wind gusts topping 50mph and single digit temps at the summit (no, that's NOT including wind chill! remember, we're on the highest peak east of the Mississippi. that means extremes!), we were promised an epic race.

The race weekend started by escaping work early and driving to Asheville with teammate Kathy and R/C trail series race director Jonathan out to spectate & support, and NOT direct for a change!). We met up with more teammates, Natalie, Krissy & Matt at the pre-race briefing, where Jay wow'd us with amazing photos from earlier that day. It was not just winter up there - it was more like a desolate frozen tundra. gulp.

After some catching up, we retired to our accommodations at the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly - a very cool lodge minutes from the start. (Thanks William & Adam!). Dinner, race prep, sleep.

Krissy & I, ready to get moving

We gathered at the start, thankful to have Matt & Jonathan to grab our down jackets before the gun went off. The race began with a 3.5 mile road run from downtown Black Mountain and thru Montreat. Normally we catch some singletrack, but our first reroute had us skipping this and heading straight up some heinous hills that warmed you up quick. From there we accessed the Toll Road - a 9 mile forest service road that led us so the Blue Ridge Parkway. Normally pretty rocky, the snow and ice almost worked to our benefit here to fill in the gaps and smooth things out a bit. The hard part was negotiating the narrow "path" left by the snowmobiles. Sometimes it was nice and wide; other times a bit too narrow for 2 feet to easily fit. After a few slips and increasingly tentative steps, I pulled on the Yak Trax - definitely good move, giving me the confidence to step wherever I wanted.

My Pics from Mount Mitchell 2010

There was a strict cutoff for the Challenge once runners got to the Parkway. Make it before 10am, and you can motor on to the summit. 10:01, and you turn around (but can still complete the Marathon as an official finisher). I cruised thru at 9:22, feeling strong and rather positive. Onward and upward! I took a moment to refresh at the aid station (all of them were lavishly stocked! I took a liking to the animal crackers today), take off the Yak Trax (we would now be on a plowed road), and put on some more clothes. Once we rounded a turn, the winds coming thru the gap stopped me in my tracks. Seriously. So strong I could barely move. Luckily this would be the worst of it, but I hung around a group of others as we slowly climbed up to 6,684'. Clouds hung low, so we saw no spanning vistas; instead, we were transported to a crazy land where the trees were not only covered with snow, but reminded me of those fake white christmas trees you see. Surreal! I snapped a few pics, but the temps kept my fingers tucked inside warm mittens. Finally, a few hundred feet from the summit, we escaped the pavement and hit some trail. The early runners probably had it easiest - walking on top of a frozen crust of snow & ice. But by now it had been stirred up and I had to negotiate thru a mess that was nearly up to my knees. Once we tagged the sign at the summit, we were signed off and now officially half way done! It was all downhill from here. Literally. How hard could that be? (well, Black Mountain does sit around 2,300'....)

Me all bundled up! © Asheville Citizen-Times

When you don't run on pavement too much, it's a killer. There was a nice, snow-free road luring you down… begging you to haul ass and make up some time. My knees & hips were warning me though, so I was somewhat conservative. I was super happy to hit the toll road once again - snow & ice was better than asphalt. I cruised down, trying to ignore some of the aches that started to pop up. I forgot my iPod, but enjoyed listening to the woods or chatting with other runners. Time passed. And then the evil road was here again. Somehow that last 3.5 miles always takes an eternity. In my head I thought 40 minutes; 3.5-4 miles…. I can average a 10min/mile pace and make it right around 7 hrs. That should be no problem. Um, yeah. Not quite. At least half those steps were painful (I swear my kneecaps wanted to pop off my knees); sometimes I was just happy to keep a forward movement.

Finally the Lake Tomahawk came into view, along with the finish line. I hobbled across, happy to have finally made it! 7hrs, 10 min. This was good enough for 5th place which I was thrilled with! I think I surprised from friends there too :) After some delicious hot soup, dry clothes, and picking up the prized finisher's fleece, we headed back to the lodge to get cleaned up. Kathy had finished the marathon earlier that morning with a great time as her debut back after foot surgery last year. Natalie had a strong day, finishing 4th. Krissy easily won the women's division, in a speedy 5:10. It would have been great to stick around for the awards ceremony that night, as the podium went thru 5th place (Rock/Creek ladies representing!!), but the long drive back had us ancy.

me + monica, happy to be done! ©Chris Brown

Jay & I. um, not quite sure what I'm doing! ©Chris Brown

my set up. much more than i normally carry, but I have to say
I was 100% happy with the choices I brought along. ©Chris Brown

Definitely happy to finally check this one off the list! Thanks to Rock/Creek, Patagonia, The North Face, Vasque & nuun for all the support! And a huge thanks to Jay Curwen and all of the race volunteers, rangers, & medics on the course ensuring us a fun and safe race!

The gear:
Vasque Blur SL shoes - These are what I've been running in all winter, so I figured I shouldn't change them up last minute.
Yak Trax
TNF Flight Series windstopper vest & momentum top
Hincapie wool longsleeve baselayer
Insport tights
Smartwool socks
Nathan hydration vest
nuun - banananuun flavor. thinking tropical to keep me warm. :)
Marmot Randonnee mittens - yes, my hands get REALLY cold, but these were worth a million to me!
Marmot Dryclimb jacket - outerwear for the ascent
Mountain Hardwear fleece beanie
Buff - the ultimate piece of gear. (wore as a neck gaiter, balaclava, and headband)
Tifosi sunglasses
CEP recovery socks
CW-X stability tights, worn for recovery afterwards

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Sunday, February 28

Mount Mitchell Challenge: press & pics

I survived! Still writing the race report, but there's been so much great press about the race I thought I'd compile some here and get it up now. stay tuned...

Rock/Creek Pres Release

Photos by Chris Brown
Pics by Wilderness Adventure Photography
Post-race article from Asheville Citizen Times
Pics from the Asheville Citizen Times
Pics from the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation
Pics from Steppe's Gap

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Friday, February 26

the summit, 24 hrs before the big day


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Wednesday, February 24

snowshoes, anyone?

Saturday I will be at the 13th running of the Mt Mitchell Challenge. Lucky 13.... yes, it will be a special year. Check out the weather report for today:


Saturday's forecast keeps changing... currently 38/22, with snow showers in the afternoon. Cross your fingers that it's cold enough for it to just be snow - last year's weather went from bad to worse, and runners were being rescued off the mountain. Of course the two previous years I've been out there (running the marathon distance), we had picture perfect sunny days. Maybe I'll bring some sunshine again :)

I have no idea how ready I am. Sure, physically I feel great (thanks, Matt!) Mentally I am there, pulling from that adventure racing fortitude that I haven't tapped into for a few years. I guess it comes down to gear and specific conditions. The course has been greatly modified due to the snow. (55" and 10'+ drifts?!!) Some of the trails are closed, so we'll be using the road to reach the summit. It was plowed this week, but after the snow today and tomorrow, who knows what sort of shape it will be in. Some folks are using snowshoes. I have yaktrax ready, but am not prepared with gtx shoes or gaiters. fingers (or rather toes) crossed that the fleece toe covers I've been using inside my Vasque Blurs all winter will be enough for the conditions ahead.

I'm taking my camera and will be sure to capture some epic conditions. Meanwhile, here are some my friend Chris took out there recently:

And check out this article in the Asheville newspaper today.

And finally, a webcam from the summit. It's dark out now, so I'm not quite sure what it looks right now. white, i'm sure!

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Wednesday, November 5


Since I've been so bad at reporting back lately, I'll write something quick while I can instead of waiting months... (uh, Leadville!)

One of my favorite races of the year is the Shut-In Ridge Trail Run, over in Asheville. It has quite the cult following, with the starting line crammed full of local, regional, and even some national hotshots. It sells out quickly and I was lucky to snag an entry again this year.

Autumn colors were at their peak, the skies blue and sunshine abundant, with small patches of snow greeting me in the Mt. Pisgah parking lot as a friend and I dropped a car by the finish early. While it was probably in the upper 30s to 40 at the start of the race (at the Arboretum), we warmed up quickly and I shed my long sleeves at the 2nd aid station. (I was wearing our new team shirt from Icebreaker, which was the perfect weight. And while I'm at it, my shoes were Vasque Velocity - definitely my current fav, although I'm itching to test their VSTs.)

I started off too quick as always, but that tends to be my MO. I knew after a mile or two I'd settle into my pace and all would be good for the next few hours. With this new heart thing going on, I'm trying to be more aware of my heart rate so that I can actually make it to the finish line. (although my tight achilles was worrying more race morning!) It took longer than I anticipated to settle in, due in part to the nice climbs that greet us from the start - afterall, the race is basically uphill! Most of the time we run along the ridge, following the Blue Ridge Parkway. Crossing it usually meant a steep downhill and uphill; otherwise it was a nice rolling ascent. The colors were stunning - sometimes you'd just be glowing from the sunlight filtering through the leaves. 

I was feeling great and running strong... amazing what a bit of frustration can do to power you up the mountain. I did see 2 girls on a switchback that made me nervous, but I dug in a bit deeper and never saw them again. All too soon, the final 2 miles were upon us - this is the epic section that goes (almost) straight up & is nearly unrunnable. (I'd love to see the leaders tear this up!) I had a girl on my heels most of this time and she didn't want to pass.... but eventually did and unfortunately I never saw her again. I kept a good forward momentum, but my hammies & quads were quivering - I was really noticing my lack of hill work here. Once at the top, we had a short downhill that had my calves all but giving out on me. Finally the finish line cheers greeted me - yeah! 

My final time - for the 17.8 brutal miles with about 3000+' of elevation gain* - was 3:41, 17 minutes faster than last year! This was good enough for 15th female and 97th overall (out of 195 finishers). The awesome stained glass awards were still out of reach though...  so my quest for a top 7 finish will continue next year hopefully :)

Big thanks to Lorrin & Jay for providing impromptu support (I left my gels in my car!) and cheering loudly along the way. 

* I need to confirm this, as my watch said 5000'... I've seen a few different references online.

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Tuesday, February 26

more maps from black mountain

being the map geek that i am, jay sent a few others to me. looks like the elevation gain was around 2790' (most of it being in the first half!). also, robert from wilderness adventure photography sent me a pic right before the first aid station. it was a pretty steep area; i had to fake my run :)

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Sunday, February 24

black mountain marathon

i am back from a wonderful weekend in asheville! the drive over on friday started off with rain, but blue sky peeked through as i was driving through the nanty gorge. the weather for saturday ended up being perfect! temps began in the mid-40s and probably got close to 60. as we gained elevation, the wind did whip around a bit and temps remained lower, but it was quite comfortable thoughout. sections of the trail were wet & muddy from the rain, but nothing to slow you down too much. 

the race starts in downtown Black Mountain (elevation 2400'). after running through the small town of Montreat (all of this being on pavement), we hit the dirt. these 2 sections seems to be the steepest uphill of the marathon course - or maybe it's just the first one of any significance, so it feels that much worse. otherwise, the next 10 miles are just a steady uphill, with a few flat spots and maybe 1 or 2 teeny downhill sections. we spread out pretty quick, so the few miles on tighter singletrack aren't problematic. the majority of the marathon is spent on an old dirt road (trestle trail?!), littered with lots of rocks.with a good bit of rain this past week, some sections were muddy and the rocks slick;  while i had a few good trips, i thankfully didn't take any spills and my feet stayed dry.

map of the marathon

my plan for the first half was to remain consistent and strong, keeping any walking to a minimum (and only when my heart rate/effort felt too high). i kept fueled with the hammer gel & heed supplied at the great aid stations (and a few refreshing orange sections); i brought 2 espresso hammer gels for the latter half of the race to give me a kick. (i started the race with my water bottles filled with nuun - 1 kola, 1 lemon-lime. yeah, i did carry 2 water bottles - i tend to drink a lot and hate to go thirsty. while i do carry a bit more weight that way, i do save a little time going through the aid stations. not sure which is wiser though!) while i'm on the subject of gear, i was sporting my new orange shuffle, which arrived friday about 30 minutes before i hit the road - what timing! and on my feet, my trusty montrail hardrocks - hey, that's annette (marathon winner) featured on that page!)

at the marathon turnaround on the blue ridge parkway (approx elevation of 5100', around mile 14), the wind had picked up and we were covered in clouds. after checking in quickly, i turned around and picked up the pace. my time was 2:43 and if my counting was correct, i was in 10th place. it had been about 5 minutes since I had seen the last female, so i had my work cut out. (i had passed the leading female and eventual winner, annette bednosky, on her way down around 2:28; the winning male, jared crave, at 2:12). most of this section i was flying solo... i'd catch up to a few people (unfortunately always males), and a few would pass me (luckily just males). i got to the 2nd to last aid station shortly after 4 hrs. i was told almost 7 miles were left... hmm, a sub-5 time was going to be tight. it was mostly pavement which, while fast, hurt more. then there was approx .5 - 1 mile of what i think is the toughest section of the entire race - steep steep downhill, partly paved, partly dirt road. you want to fly down it, especially with it so close to the end, but that is just a recipe for knee issues and shin splints. after this bit of torture, we ran back through montreat (thankfully using a trail part of the time) then finally towards the finish at lake tomahawk. i felt great and ran as hard as i could (at a pace i knew i could sustain for 4+ miles). finally the lake came into view along with the finish line. now, just 1 loop around the lake path...  i came under the finish line banner feeling (& hopefully looking) strong, with a time of 4:52:53; 10th female, 50th overall (out of 139). this was 17 minutes faster than last year!
the post-race food was great, with homemade soups from the chamber of commerce. all finishers received full-zip fleece jackets embroidered with the race logo. after hanging out with friends, i went back to the curwens to force myself into an ice bath (i swear this was the most pain i felt all day, made bearable only with a hot latte & liz on the phone chatting). that night was the awards dinner back at montreat college - great food and more friends. the awards for the winners were amazing - gorgeous original watercolor paintings of mount mitchell by local artist scott lowrey (he has created something new every year the race has happened - this was its 11th year). 

the rest of the weekend was fab too. i went to the bike love party saturday night with a friend - this was a fundraiser for asheville on bikes to raise $ for the downtown bike locker initiative. it was a wonderfully diverse crowd, with young and old, athletes, industry folks & commuters, great live music and beer from the french broad brewery (abbey ale - mmm!) this was held at the wedge gallery, in the river arts district (looks like a cool place to check out one day). chattanooga really needs an event like this! sunday i got caught up on my play time with chilton - we goofed around with photobooth on my computer making pics & videos. we checked out a new place for brunch - cafe azalea. good food and away from the hustle of downtown, so service was quick.

i drove back to chatt sunday afternoon - a lovely 4 hours (not really; i got sleepy & my legs are now stiff). hopefully i'll feel ok tomorrow and can have a good recovery week, followed by a taper week :) as i prep for my next event in 2 short weeks: the checkpoint zero adventure race

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Thursday, February 21

off to asheville for a little old run

tomorrow i'm headed to asheville for the Mount Mitchell Challenge; however, for the second year in a row, i'll only be running the Black Mountain Marathon. not that a marathon is anything to turn your nose up to, but I've had my heart set on the 40-mile Challenge for two years, and each time, circumstances have forced me to drop back to "a mere" 26. Last year it was ITB trouble not yet cleared up from the Mountain Mist 50k 3 weeks prior; this year it was my 6-week training hiatus during the holidays (the groin strain & sinus infection that caused me to sit on my butt way too long). i just have not been able to get the mileage necessary to safely run the full 40. in fact, i'm hoping to finish the marathon somewhat respectably; my longest runs post-injury have only been 3 hrs. my goal would be to beat last year's time of 5:09 (which earned me an 11th place finish in the women's division). hmmm, maybe a top 10 this year? the weather for saturday looks good right now (partly cloudy, 55/35), although right now they are under an ice storm warning!

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Sunday, November 4

Surviving Shut-In

I've heard a lot about this race... there's the challenge of getting in (it sells out every year), the challenge of the weather (warm or cold? how many leaves will be on the trail, hiding the rocks?), and the challenge of the terrain (17.8 miles, 5000' of cumulative elevation gain). I've been warned the last 2 miles are unrunnable. Despite all of this, I was excited for my inaugural event.

First, a bit of history... the trail was initially developed by George Vanderbilt, as a way to get from the Biltmore to his hunting lodge on Mt. Pisgah in the 1890s. Now, a large section of the trail is part of the infamous Mountains to Sea Trail (yeah, the same one I have a love/hate relationship with, from the Overmountain Extreme AR).

Saturday morning, my friend Stephen and I shuttled cars, leaving mine at the finish and taking his to the start at the NC Arboretum (luckily the race didn't start till 10am, so we didn't have to get up too dreadfully early). The drive down the Blue Ridge Parkway was stunning. Fall colors were close to their peak; the sun filtered through the trees and intensified the yellows, oranges, rusts, crimsons, and greens. The temps were brisk to start - mid to upper 30s? - but were to warm up to near 60 midday. The first few miles followed a gravel road through the arboretum and spread out the crowd of nearly 200. It was a gradual incline which was not my favorite way to start, so I took it a bit easy in an attempt to find my pace. Once we hit the singletrack, the trail alternated between hard packed dirt and rocky sections, and between ups, downs and flats. It was quite ideal; a gorgeous course. The variety kept it interesting and challenging.

Racers were encouraged to have a support person meet them at aid stations, as only water was provided along the course. I'm sure it helps the top athletes move quicker, but independent me got long ok without. I used my Ultimate Direction dual water bottle holder that had a small zippered pouch for a few gels and clif bloks. I also attached a small pouch to the belt to hold my inhaler and endurolytes. Sure, I could lighten my load a little bit, but when I'm used to my adv racing pack, it wasn't that bad :)

When the course crossed the Parkway at the intersection of 151, the "fun" began. We had a pretty intense climb, but nothing that wasn't doable with a solid hike. Then we were up on the ridge and could run some more. But then there was more... even steeper. And then more. Wow, it just wouldn't stop. It was the kind of hike where you put your hands on your thighs in order to move, praying you wouldn't cramp up with the next step. Luckily I managed not to, but I passed a few folks immobilized along the way. My back was pretty tense from bending forward in order to move ahead. As I finally crested the hill we were on and began the final descent into the parking lot (and finish line), the tenseness spread throughout my midsection and I was all but doubled over. I kept looking at my watch, which was creeping quickly to 4 hrs (my initial goal of 3:30 now a distant memory). Finally I could hear cheers at the finish line and knew I was close. 3:58.43. phew! That was good enough to crack the top 20 female finishers (19th), with an overall place of 114 out of 170 finishers.

After an ice bath back at the cabin (yeah, it totally sucks but the few times I've done it the recovery time has been incredible - and now 24 hrs after the event, I'm feeling great!), I realized that driving 4 hrs home was just not going to happen, so I headed over to the Curwens for dinner and a great night's sleep. Breakfast the next morning was at the Over Easy Cafe - very yummy! I had the hotcake special: strawberries, goat cheese, & chocolate chips (just a few so not overly sweet) with maple syrup. Delish! Asheville really has the best breakfast spots :)

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Thursday, November 1


I'm headed to Asheville tomorrow for the Shut-In Ridge Trail Run: 17.8 miles, starting elevation around 2000', finishing elevation around 5000'. and I'm sure there is some rolling terrain inbetween!

Here's a peek:

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Thursday, September 20

Overmountain Extreme

Amazingly this was only my 3rd adventure race this year (CPZ in March, then the Greenway Challenge in May). With so many shorter events filling my schedule, my mind was a bit unfocused, especially considering this year's OME had a 32hr time limit. Luckily, as I started packing up the gear and hit the road, the excitement and adrenaline was building.

The low point was driving 5.5hrs from Chatt to Morganton in the rain Friday afternoon. Alone. (I'm not a fan of driving.) Once there, we had a busy few hours organizing gear, getting it all into the support minivan, and working on maps & our route. I hit the hay around 12:30am....

The alarms sounded at 5:15 and we were up shortly thereafter. We were on task and in the car by 6am to head to the start, which was the same as last year: on top of Grandfather Mountain. However this time it looked much different. See for yourself:


While the temps weren't that cold - mid/upper 50s?!, the fog was thick and wet and winds were sustained at 25-30mph, with gusts up to 50mph. WOW! It was a bit unsettling walking across the mile-high swinging bridge when you couldn't see the other side. We followed the Grandfather, Daniel Boone Scout Trail, Cragway, Nuwati and Asutsi Trails that led us on a breathtaking trek across MacRae Peak (5939') and Calloway Peak (5964'). This year we actually didn't hit the top of MacRae because of the weather - a bit too exposed. There were a few ladder to rock face transitions that had me literally shaking. No room for error. But we all got through safely. Since we can't race through the park, the race clock didn't start until we got to Serenity Farms. That didn't mean that we could lollygag through this section though - even though it was still morning, we were working against the clock. We wanted every minute we could get for the orienteering section later.

Notice the tree branches blowing sideways in the pics above & below. Yikes!

At Serenity was a bike drop. We transitioned quick (since the support crews weren't there), stashed our trail shoes in our packs, and hit the road. After a quick paved section, we hit some gravel roads that led us to a trail that followed Yancey Ridge, where CP5 was. We actually blew right by it and realized our mistake once we hit a nasty rutted out descent. This should have been an easier point to find and we just didn't track it right. I chalk it up to still getting in our groove :) We then had a few hours on forest service roads, including a stop at Little Lost Cove Cliffs. Here we were allowed to send 1 runner to get the CP, which allowed Daniel and I to rest our feet and study the maps. (Others just relaxed...)

A few hours later, we were running low on water and was able to use a local resident's hose to fill up. He was quite concerned that it was too warm; we didn't want to wait! But it was straight out of the mountain and delicious. From Gingercake, we followed some fabulous singletrack down to 181, which led us to our first encounter with our support crew at Bark House. We kept our transition under 10 minutes, paying special attention to our feet for the section ahead. It was good to see some friends in the chaos (Monica+Chilton, Lauren+Wyatt & Gavin). We left right around 6pm with a snack of boiled potatoes (unfortunately they lost the salt!).

The Mountains to Sea Trail would become our home for nearly the rest of the race. My memories of this trail from last year were not good - yes, it is scenic, but it crosses the creeks constantly which meant wet feet for hours. With all the rain we had Thurs & Fri, we were worried the creeks would be swollen. Somehow though we lucked out and the water was even lower than last year. In fact, it never took us more than 30 sec or so to find rocks to hop across on. We weren't going to waste time looking for a dry route, but if it's just sitting there waiting for us, why get wet?! The goal was to preserve the condition of our feet as long as possible. (And I actually made it through without any blisters, although the soles are bruised/sore). The orienteering section was basically a loop, partially in this area. We nabbed CP8 & 9 in the daylight, then it set on our way to 10. With headlamps on, we continued to run on towards 10 when a rock jumped up and tripped me. I fell hard and this section of trail was not very soft. I had a rock nail the upper side of my right ankle and I writhed in pain for a few minutes. It was hard to shake off that intense bit of impact. I was able to get up and move around more or less ok, although it would slow us down considerably. Hunter & Daniel were great in taking my pack so I'd have less load to carry. (I do feel weird doing that, but they are so strong, it evens things out a bit).

CP 12 was a bit tricky and took us an hour to find, but we did it which meant we cleared the o-section. Yeah!! However, getting back to the transition area would prove to be tricky. The USGS map showed a trail we were on connecting to the M2S trail; the Nat'l Geo Trails Illustrated map showed it not. The alternative route was a longer and on hard paved road, so we took our chances. Well, it didn't work out quite as planned. The trail terminated where we thought it might, so our next plan to bushwack north to the M2S went into action. It worked, but was heinous. Rhodo hell! Possibly worse that CP13 at CPZ.

We ended back at the Bark House transition area at 2am... about an hour later than we planned, but an hour earlier than the cutoff. After speedily refueling, we actually set off on our feet again. We had only 1 more CP to get before heading to the summit of Table Rock, but it was quite a treat to get. We came across a few teams on the trail that were doubling back, as they seemed to think the trail ended at a creek. We were a bit disappointed to see this, but pressed on... finding success. We hoped the others wouldn't see where we went - they didn't, and we were able to break away. The trek up to Table Rock was long. By now my ankle was bothering me more and I coudn't run at all. I'm not exactly sure the elevation gain here, but TR sits at 3909' and I know we were below 2000'... so a hefty hike to say the least. We had joked earlier in the race about seeing the sun rise here (we expected to only see stars). The sun came up on our hike up - the camera was stashed though, so no pics of that, but a here are a few from the top.

Back at the parking lot of TR another bike drop awaited us... it was around 8am I think. Chris (the race director was here) and seemed excited that we had gotten all the points so far - apparently many teams had skipped o-points. We fueled up and put on lots of layers for the descent ahead. The paved road was steep and full of switchbacks. I was getting too much speed for this hour of the day with no sleep, but made it down ok. Once we hit the gravel roads, I felt more at home. We grabbed 1 point on the way to the final transition area. The ride was about 2.5 -3 hrs, then we arrived at Lake James. Time to paddle!

We had the fastest transition recorded - we needed every minute on the lake. A few points had been eliminated to shorten the course, so the opportunity to portage twice saved us a chunk of time. I did have 1 mishap though getting back into the canoe after one portage - I lost my balance and fell right out... and into the water. Luckily I didn't tip the boat over, although I got soaked and knocked the crap out of my calf on the side. The sun was shining strong and warmed me up sufficiently. As we got closer to the inlet where the finish was, we checked our clock. 58 min until the cutoff. There were 2 possible points to get on the lake... 1 being not too far away. We went for it. I timed us from a point across from the inlet, estimating the time to get in. We'd have a certain do or die time to get the point before we'd have to turn around. We paddled hard to the cove, which then seemed to go back forever. We went ashore with 10min available to find the point. We ran to the back point and only needed to spread out for a minute before Hunter saw it. Yeah!! While we wouldn't have enough time to get the last point, we'd finish only missing the one.

We finished with about 20min to spare (compared to last year's stressful 10 min!) Chris and Michelle had a great cookout going and we also celebrated Carol & Neal's birthdays. mmm, brownies!

The final results for coed elite were:
1. Enduraventure
2. Black Dome (both of these teams predictably top place finishers)
3. Charbon's Outfitters --> That's us!! (we also got 3rd place overall, out of 27 teams)

We are all super psyched with our final results. We also won some $ which is nice to help offset the entry fee (and give a little thanks to our awesome support team of Robby & Christy). We are already getting amped for next year's season, which looks to include 3-4 30hr races. We're hoping our solid performance also nets us a more solidified sponsorship from Charbons. (Big thanks to them for supplying us with food and technical t's for this race).

Thankfully, I was able to crash in Asheville with the Curwens and slept for a wonderous 13 hrs. I am feeling pretty ok now, although my feet were still sore when I tried to run last night. My ankle is still a bit swollen, but there's really not pain unless I press the injured area. Now to recover quickly so I can keep the mileage up and be ready for Stumpjump in 2 weeks!

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Tuesday, September 11

Tsali Challenge

This is one of those races that inked in on my schedule a year out - always a ton of fun with great competition - and this year was no exception. The weather was great, so Carol, Jim, Ted, Kate & I camped out (I even had to put on fleece tights & hoodie to keep warm at night!) Saturday was the solo competition. The last two years I was 9th and 8th in the women's open division. While I definitely wanted to improve upon that, and felt I was in better running and biking shape, I've hardly paddled this year. In fact, I didn't even have a boat secured until a few days prior. I used Jim's squamish, rated a 5. Even though this was the most crowded wave, I think I had a better paddle than last year, when I had the Simril's potato boat. With the water levels super low, the island we paddle around had a larger circumference, lengthening our paddle by about 1/2 mile (about 4.5 miles total).

As expected, my legs were all but asleep getting out of the boat. I tried to shake it off best I could before heading in to the trails for about a 4.5 mile run. Immediately we have 2 small (but hefty) hills that feel absolutely awful, but after that it's flat and rolling and fairly manageable. I finished this leg feeling strong (although it looks like my pace was somehow slower than last year?!) and was excited to get on my bike. I think this was my racing debut with the Lynskey.... she did great! I haven't ridden Tsali since the end of May, when Amanda and I were out there. The singletrack was dusty and loose. (Some call it fast, but I don't often get to really use that word with my riding!). I liked the way my bike handled and felt pretty confident, with only a few areas tripping me up (like that one tight rocky/rooty area with a drop off right there...). Almost halfway thru I passed Shannon and another girl walking their bikes out. She had apparently crashed (and likely broke her wrist). She was leading at the time too... (heal fast!) The last half of the bike was fine - more climbing, but it was slow and steady (it's nice to pass people walking up!) When I got close to the end of the final climb, I saw another person turning onto County Line Road... another girl?! As soon as I hit the top, I grinded it out as hard as I could. Carol and I had ridden the road Friday evening, so I knew where the soft sand and loose gravel were. A few turns from the finish I caught up, and passed, the girl I saw, which snagged me a 4th place women's open finish. Yeah!! (Now, if Kim had raced masters instead of open, I could have gotten 3rd.... :)
kate at the start of sunday's team relay

Sunday was the team relay. Carol and I were teaming up again, to defend our female team championship from last year. Ann was supposed to run for us, but is still recovering from an injury, so our plan was to scope out the attendees and snag someone fast. Friday night we saw fellow adventure racer/ultrarunner/general badass athlete Enid, who just happened to be unattached for Sunday's event. Sweet! She'd run, I'd bike, and Carol would paddle. Carol actually was able to borrow Robert's boat and improved her paddle time by several minutes. Enid had another strong run. My bike was actually 6 minutes faster. I felt good, although could definitely tell I worked hard the previous day :) When I headed out, I knew I was the 3 or 4th woman out.... it was hard to tell though who was coed and who was in our division. Immediately I passed 1 woman with a flat. Shortly after, I passed another. Hmm.... I yoyo'd with 2 guys a bit - it was nice to keep the pace up. On one tough switchback, I saw a bit of Norma's jersey peeking through the trees. Darn! but it was good to see her riding strong again. She passed and I just couldn't hold on. We ended up with a 3rd place female team finish. The competition this year however was much stronger, so I'm still pretty psyched with our finish.

me, enid & carol

more pictures here

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Sunday, June 3

playing hookie

amanda (my colorado cousin) got into town on tuesday morning for her whirlwind trip thru tennessee. after some coffee, we headed up to lookout mountain for some hiking. i'm not too familiar with the area and wasn't sure how to get us to sunset rock. finally we found the incline and parked there, depositing all the quarters we had (1hr, 45min). we walked down to point park, but not wanting to pay the entry fee (yeah, we're cheap), we walked 30min along west brow road (gorgeous homes!) and finally got to sunset rock.

from there, we hiked along the bluff trail and went in the back way to point park. by now we were running low on meter time and hightailed it... but alas, the evil meter maids had left me a nice lil present. (luckily only a $5 fine). then we hit the Y for a swim (first time i've been in the water since last summer's xterra!).

on wednesday we hit the road and headed east to asheville. we stopped at the ocoee to check out the whitewater center (site of the 96 olympics). the water was down on the upper section, but still cool to look around.

next, we headed up the nantahala gorge. after a late lunch at the River's End restaurant (using a gift cert I won at last year's tsali challenge), we hit the trails for some mountain biking. i got the old tre8k in working order for amanda to use. even though she usually rides a full suspension, she rode strong. we did both the left & right loops plus the overlook, for a total of about 20 miles.

after, we snuck a quick shower at the campgrounds and headed to asheville. we stopped in at my friends' house for a bit (chilton had just gotten a new rope swing in the tree and was having a ball!). then on to see amanda's old roommate sara, whom we stayed with.

thursday, after a lazy breakfast at the early girl eatery (my fav there), we headed to out for some more mtn biking at nearby bent creek. this was my first time here and sara led us on a great 2+hr ride. these gals love their downhill! (greens lick trail nearly licked me!) after a late lunch and shower, i headed back to chatty.

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Monday, March 5


lorna pointed out that i did in fact squeeze into the top 10 in the marathon. wahooooo!!! i swear i counted differently before. perhaps the eye were tired too!

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Sunday, March 4

an ultra fun day.... even without the ultra

The 3 weeks since Mountain Mist went quickly... I did a lot of resting, trying to get my tibialis muscle all healed up. It was feeling good, so I joined the Wed Night Trail Run crew the week of my race for some confidence building - needed a nice run off road to ensure I was ready to go. It felt good, so I went with it... perhaps a little too much. The next day I woke up with IT Band pain on both legs. Yikes!!! The next two days were lots of self-massage, epsom baths, and some anti inflammatories.

Friday evening I drove to Asheville to check in for the Black Mountain Marathon and Mount Mitchell Challenge. I was signed up for the Challenge, the 40-mile race that takes runners over the summit of Mount Mitchell, the tallest point east of the Rockies. I had been preparing for this since... September or so? I was ready for this... but the small injury during my training run at Mountain Mist, and my ITB pain due to my silliness at the run this week seemed to be changing my plans. Jay (director of the race and a friend), understanding my conditions and desire to do the full thing, was trying to get me to run sweep on the Challenge (following the last runner to make sure they were fine). Hmmm.... long and slow, but perhaps a way to do it??

Saturday morning I woke up early and headed to the start in downtown Black Mountain. My legs just weren't feeling it and I didn't want to take the chance of injury so early in the season, so I decided to switch to the marathon (which sounds funny - I'm only running the marathon! As if that itself wasn't going to be tough!) We started at 7am, with about 250 runners toeing the starting line. The first 2-3 miles were on pavement, not ideal for my sensitive legs to warm up on. It hurt. I even doubted as to whether or not I'd finish. We wound our way up through Montreat and finally find some off road stuff. It was mostly forest service road, with some single/double track thrown in. The first 15 miles were uphill check out the elevation profile here. (remember it's showing the Challenge, so just look at the first 15 and last 6 miles). I kept my pace even and conservative to ensure that I wouldn't blow up for the last half. Part of the course is there and back, so when I saw the first female turn pass me, I started counting so I could estimate my place. I hadn't looked at the stats of previous marathons to see what the average female time was and guess where I could place, but I was feeling pretty good at this point and a bit optimistic at a solid finish. I counted 9 by the time I got to the 15mile turnaround point at the Blue Ridge Parkway. At the aid station there was another 4 or so... Hmm, so I'm around 14th now. Not so bad....

The aid station marked the turnaround for the Marathon folks, while the Challengers pressed on for the summit. Mount Mitchell loomed in the background. It actually made me think and almost reconsider. But while I was feeling pretty decent, the tightness in my ITB told me to play it safe. After taking a moment to put some band aids on my heel that was starting to rub, I took off feeling refreshed. It wasn't long before I came up on 3 women taking it somewhat easy. I passed them, thinking Hmm, around 11th. I was making good time on the downhills, despite the rockiness in some sections. Usually I'm a bit more timid on stuff like this, but race adrenaline can do wonderful things :) I passed a few guys, then another woman. 10th now?? Nice!! I came to an aid station that in my mind was around 20. I managed to pass a few more guys, hoping one of these short haired people would actually be a girl - no such luck. I noted the last 5 miles (where the last aid station was.. supposedly...) were done in 45 minutes, so I thought wow, maybe 60 minutes and I'll be done! My watch showed a time of 3h45m so far. Nice! During this last steeper section on FSR, the men's 1st place Challenger, Will, flew by me. wow. impressive! Then we hit some pretty steep sections on pavement, as we exited Montreat College. The guy I was running near wondered how pavement could stick at this angle. After about 45 min, we hit another aid station that I wasn't totally expected. They said another 3-4 miles till the finish. What?? By my calculations, I should be a mile or two away. Hmm... Then out of the blue another aid station appears... 2-3 more miles. I obviously didn't have the distances right in my mind and this was quite demoralizing. The pavement was hard enough to deal with; but having to run an extra 30 minutes was killing me! Finally the lake where the finish was came into view. I could see the banners off to my right a short distance... but oh, we had to run 3/4 around the lake to the left before we can get to the finish line!

My official time was 5:09.45... 51 overall out of 129 runners, and 11th out of 40 in the women's division. (dang! my counting was off...) Still, I'm quite happy with the time. It was only about 5 miles shorter than a 50k, where my times have been around 6 1/2 hrs... so I think I'm improving. (It was also a PR for my marathon time, but it has been 4 years since I've run a road marathon!)

Jay and the rest of the Black Dome Crew put on a fabulous race. The volunteers were great, the aid station packed with goodies, the post race meal by Montreat College was absolutely delicious and filling, and the swag itself worthy of the entry fee (we got custom embroidered North Face fleece pullovers for finishing, as well as SmartWool socks and a nice CamelBak water bottle). It was great to catch up with some friends there - Tony pulling in an awesome 6:22 for the Challenge, and Lorna & Stephen having solid Marathon times as well.

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Sunday, February 4

report from the summit of mt mitchell

3 weeks until the Mt Mitchell Challenge...
I'm a weather addict:
conditions at the summit
picture from the summit


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