Adventures in Pisgah

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Pisgah 55.5 Ultra Run

The 108 miles I rode, ran, walked, and crawled during PMBAR and PRAR somehow gave me a case of runner's knee so in the two weeks leading up to the 55.5 I wasn't running at all and thought for sure there was no way I could run the race or even start it. With stretching and rest I found I could run some so I decided I would start the race knowing that I wasn't going to be able to finish. Going into the race certain to DNF was an interesting way to start and even though I had secret hopes of pushing through the pain and finishing I knew that wouldn't be happening. I used a drop bag for the first time ever and put two PBRs in a ziplock bag filled with ice so I would have something to drink while I waited for a ride and sent them a head to the Turkey Pen parking lot you knowing that is as far as I would be going.

The  mountain bikers left at 10am and then myself and 3 others started the run 15 minutes later with two others having started running at 8am. I started up Black running with Yuri and was surprised when we caught the first rider before we even got to Thrift Cove. We caught a couple more bikes on the way up to Hickory knob and with my knee already starting to hurt I urged Yuri to go on ahead without me. From there on I would spend the rest of the race going back and forth with a group of racers on bikes. I would catch and pass them on the climbs and then they would do the same to me on the descents. Turkey Pen Gap trail is like a sinister game of shoots and ladders with the trail either going straight up or straight down so our game of leap frog went on and on. I got to the aid station at Turkey Pen Gap feeling okay. I could have kept running up to Yellow Gap but knew I wouldn't be able to handle the descents on Pilot Rock and Black Mtn. and after much contemplation pulled the plug there as I'd previously planned. 

So what would lead me to start a race I knew I wasn't going to be able to finish? Well, first of all Pisgah Productions puts on great events and I figured a DNF would be better than not starting at all and since this was the first year for runners at the race I thought one more starter might tempt more people to give it a try next year. And even though I only made it ten miles or so Black > Turkey Pen is still a good run and nothing could have been better. Thanks Pisgah Productions!

Monday, May 11, 2015

sympathy podium

After ten years it is hard to know what to say about pmbar anymore. The most notable thing that happened was when early in the race on Turkey Pen Gap trail my headphone wire got snagged on a tree branch and broke. That meant no music for me, no sweet distraction if things started to get unpleasant, and nothing to do except talk to my teammate who only seemed interested in talking about the race.... Other than that it was just business as usual. Much like last year, our plan was based on survival so we could live to run strong on Sunday. With that in mind we did the math and figured the Laurel Mountain checkpoint was not worth the effort for the time bonus and picked the shortest route. That meant several very long and flat stretches which absolutely suck on a singlespeed but is still much better than the alternate routes. Surprisingly most teams took other routes and we spent a good part of the day riding by our selves. We started seeing teams once we got over to the hatchery and had company from there to the finish.

PRAR the next day was just more of the same. This year Pisgah Productions shuttled us over to the Fish Hatchery for the start where we would run to 4 or 5 checkpoints before returning to the finish at the Black Mountain trail head. That meant teams would be finishing mainly on the Art Loeb trail and seeing a different part of the forest from last year. We decided to go for all the checkpoints and headed up 475B for the Sunwall checkpoint on Looking Glass Rock. Yuri and I were the second team out right behind Jay Curwen and as we fell into our pace on 475B all the fast teams steadily passed us. Out and back to the rock and then a long stretch of road over to the Farlow/Daniel checkpoint before climbing 475 to Glouchester Gap and a checkpoint on Rich Mtn.There was another team at the CP and we followed them down what we thought was the Art Loeb but after a few minutes when we hadn't reached 471 I knew we were off the trail and headed for Outward Bounds. So we backtracked back to the CP, found the Art Loeb and continued on to Butter Gap leaving the other team to an unknown fate. After loading up with water at Butter Gap it became all about the Art Loeb. It is a difficult stretch of trail and the previous days 70+ mile bike ride plus 20 miles of running started to work my left knee. We still had to get to Bracken Mountain and then back down to the finish so I paced myself and just kept moving forward. Bracken came easily enough and from there it was all downhill to the finish. In the end we ran around 32 miles and while it hurt pretty good it was still a ton of fun. Mark your calendar for next year. This race is only going to get better!

While our double podium luck from last year didn't hold this year we somehow ended up on a podium for doing second best in both events over the weekend. I think Eric just felt bad for those of us who were dumb enough to do both.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

a pair of shoes to last through may

The end of April in Pisgah can only mean one thing: hardcore training for the spring race season. PMBAR and PRAR are the first weekend in May and then later in the month come the 111 and 55. PMBAR is indisputably the biggest race of the year and is truly a local's event. This year will be my tenth time participating in the twisted fun of pmbar and my second time trying my luck at prar. While other's have legitimately been training I have spent the winter and spring just trying to have fun. Vegas and Tahoe with some local runs and a ride or two scattered about. Big mountains, maybe, but no big miles. So be it, I'll go out there, see what happens and hope to have an adventure or two along the way.

Here is a snapshot of my training regimen:

So, it is Sunday morning and I'm sitting in my truck at Fisherman's trying to decide where to go. Around me several groups are preparing for one last big ride before the big day - heading up to Laurel Mtn., no doubt - and I'm trying to decide where to go fishing. I want to go to the waterfall on Slate Rock Creek but that sounds like a really far way to ride a bike so I decide to head a much shorter distance to the Hendersonville Reservoir instead. The ride is short enough that I am able to pretend I'm Superman and the fishing is good.

Wednesday afternoon and I'm pulled up at Fisherman's once again. This time I have to do the ever important Test The Bike Ride and head to the reservoir, of course, where I know the fishing will be good. The ride is short enough I am able to pretend the bike is in brand new condition.


Saturday, April 4, 2015

Lake Tahoe Basin

What can I really say other than I just spent a week in South Lake Tahoe and did pretty much what you would imagine: Ran some mountains, rode some bikes, drank some beers, and hung out with my wonderful wife. The scenery and weather were amazing and it was a trip to remember. While I didn't head too deep into the mountains (that isn't what this trip was about) I did manage to check out both Maggie's Peak and Mt. Tallac as well as plenty of other miles of trails. Starting runs above 6000' was a contrast to the elevations around here but overall the elevation gains were lower than here and other than a huge tallas field on Tallac and big exposure on Maggie's the trails were not overly technical or strenuous.


For my first full day there I went for a short run close to town up Tahoe Mtn. This was a good shakedown run that gave me a feel for the mountains and the trails. Tahoe Mtn. was a very fast run with enormous vies of South Lake Tahoe all around but I didn't get started until late in the afternoon and almost skipped the summit. I'm glad I didn't because once I made it to the top of the ridge I was greeted with my first up close look at Mt. Tallac across Fallen Leaf Lake which had been on my mind since first driving into town.


The next day Terri and I did a fun hike to Eagle Falls and then Eagle Lake in Desolation Wilderness. Much like some of the Wilderness Areas in WNC this part of Desolation was hardly wild with hundreds of people out but the scenery and weather were simply amazing.


After our hike we drove down the road a hair and while Terri opted to relax and read a book I opted to run out and back to the top of Maggie's Peak.

My route put me on the shaded side of the mountain and what had been bright blue skies with dry and perhaps even a little hot trails became cloudy and a little bit cold with Granite Lake almost frozen.


Once the climb started in earnest I quickly hit the snow line and was reminded of many such runs here at home with knee deep post holing as I worked my way to the summit. 


At the top of the ridge things once again dried out and I got a good view of the Eagle Lake area where I had just been.


From there it was a short off trail hike through deep snow to get to the top. There was some big exposure and I was wishing I had packed a little more gear for the week. Traction devices would have been good to have so without them I took my time and tested each step before committing. Once at the top Mt. Tallac was directly in my face and my fate with that mountain was sealed. I knew I would be on that summit soon.


The next day was a rest day but come Tuesday I was up early and running to the summit of Mt. Tallac. Not knowing any better, I took the standard mile round trip route up Floating Island trail. This gave me the full climb to the top and I was feeling good as I started up. It was another perfect weather day and I passed several more lakes as well as other groups of hikers as I slowly gained elevation. Eventually I hit the snow I was expecting and once I passed Cathedral Lake the views opened up and I was staring at a huge snow filled bowl where the trail was supposed to be. To the right there was a big tallas field. It was quite the sight.



The scale is hard to tell but those are all very big trees and the snow in the bowl was corniced and foreboding looking.  So, up the tallas I went. By my calculations I was still almost 2000' from the summit so when I met some other hikers on their way down reporting it was very sketchy higher up I went back down with them to see if we could find a safer way around either the snow bowl or the tallas. We couldn't, so faced with either not climbing the mountain or working my way up 1000' feet of very loose and jagged rocks, I started back up the tallas again. Several other groups had caught up to me by then and they all said they were going to try it but by the time I gained the ridge I could see they had all turned around.

Once I hit the 8700' mark the weather quickly deteriorated and a mixture of sleet and snow were driven at me as I continued to pick my way through the jagged rock maze.


Things got a little easier as I approached the top as the rocks were covered with a deep blanket of snow. Try as I might I could find no signs of a trail or any human tracks indicating an easier passage for the return trip back down. Navigation was no problem as all I had to do was keep going up while not falling off. When there was no other place to head up I snapped a picture and headed right back down. No grandiose views of Lake Tahoe this day.


Going down is always harder than going up and down climbing 1700' of rocks with sheer exposure all around was no different. I took my time and tested every foot and hand hold before committing.


About halfway down the lightened a little and Lake Tahoe made an appearance.


Once out of the rocks it was blue skies and I was running again. This was a big mountain run and would be the highlight of my trip.

The next day Terri and I rented mountain bikes and played around on the trails down around town. It was nothing mind blowing but was still a whole lot of fun!


The day after that the days started to blur together but in the afternoon I headed up to the Tahoe Rim trail for a fun run around Castle Rock. There was none of the craziness of Maggie's Peak or Tallac, just lots of really good single track with abundant views.


For our final day and last outing Terri and I headed up to the Pacific Crest Trail for a great hike around Lower and Upper Echo lakes. By now we were used to just how perfect it all was and had a great time tromping around these two high mountain lakes even if my legs were beginning to feel what a long week it had been.


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Bootleg Canyon

Waking up in Las Vagas on Sunday I opened the shades and was relieved to see mountains on the horizon. Bright lights and big cities are lots of fun but I knew I would go to those mountains. We spent the morning and early afternoon checking out Vegas and then I made a feeble attempt at running to the mountains I could see. Horizons are tricky things and after running for an hour the mountains in the distance where only a little bigger and I turned around defeated.

Monday was to be the day, however; and I rented a car and headed out to Bootleg Canyon where I had plans to rent a mountain bike. Jimmy, the World's Best Bike Mechanic, previously from the Hub, works out there now and it seemed like a pleasant way to spend a day.

All Mountain Cyclery where Jimmy works and where I was getting the bike didn't open until 11 on Monday's so I took my running shoes along so I could get in a run as well as the ride.  I hadn't done any research on the area other than ask the guy on the phone when I reserved the bike what it was like (he said it was the most technical stuff I have ever seen which I assured him sounded like a wager to me) so when I pulled up at the trail head I didn't know where to go or what to do. I parked in a parking lot at the base of a little mountain, tied my running shoes and took off up a trail like thing and ran to the top of that little mountain. The trail was steep and covered with small jagged pieces of volcanic rock and made for hard going but also fun going. The trail eventually disappeared, or I followed the wrong trail, and it turned into a scramble to the top.

Once at the top of that little mountain I was granted a 360 degree vista that revealed many more mountains all around me. I decided then I would see how many of those mountains I could run up before I went to get the bike. I spent the next several hours doing just that. I ran on the downhill trails and then the cross country trails and went over three or so mountains in the process. The desert environment is obviously a lot different from the southern Appalachians and I was enjoying the varied terrain and bountiful views.

I was tempted to just run all day but I also wanted to say hi to Jimmy and check out the trails from the comfort of a mountain bike. So I did just that. The trail system was very accessible and I was out of my running shoes, off to the bike shop and back to the trails in no time. Jimmy set me up with a Rockhopper - the closest rental they had to a hard tail singlespeed - for a rare geared ride and my first ride on a full suspension bike since 2008. It was a lot of fun and I spent the afternoon riding around on the cross country trails. They were very much purpose built bike trails but there were enough jagged rocks and surprised shoots to keep me on my toes and the lack of vegetation had me amazed at the views all around me. I smoked my way through most of the bike trails and was then back in Vegas before the sun even set.

Lots of pictures: