Winter Solstice… sort of

21 12 2008
  • Distance- 30.9 miles
  • Time: 8 hours and 45 minutes
  • Participants: Janice, Trevor, Robert and ladies & gentleman the Reverend Craig Anderson,

It was pointed out to me on the drive up to the trailhead for the Duncan Ridge, that this was now officially “Reeve’s Day BEFORE Solstice run,” and my partners in crime wanted to know why they even joined me.  Good question… but all shall be revealed in time.

I awoke at 4 am, and immediately began the process of breakfast, & Trevor joined me shortly after.  I made as much noise as possible (according to my wife) while prepping breakfast.  I on the other hand, thought I was displaying my mad ninja like qualities of domestic morning duties.  Anyway she mumbled something to me about the dog, and I was out the door on my way over to Janice’s for a 5 am rendezvous(that’s a ninja term for those of you that are unlearned).  We loaded the car and soon we were on our way to the three forks trail head, but first we had to stop at our sponsor QT and acquire a few more provisions; pringles, chocolate milk, gator-ade, peanuts, water, and I believe someone even got a can of skoal, so we would not stand out anymore than we already did with the hunters.   Craig showed off his skills as the mad navigator/crewman. As a runner, I now know the most valuable piece of gear is a Craig.  I do not think you can get them anymore, and I am positive this was the last of a series, but if one ever pops up on ebay, Bid and bid high!

We reached the trailhead just before dawn and met a couple hunters. They asked how far we were going, and someone mentioned 30 miles.  It was still kind of dark, but I think he shook his head, mumbled something and he was off into the woods, luckily in the opposite direction of us.We waited until there was enough light to head out without lights and we were off.  Below is the elevation profile of what happened next.

Duncan ridge Profile

Duncan ridge Profile

This was my first solstice event where other people would be joining me for the duration of the day, which mentally changed things for me.  The challenge I had put before myself, was now being taken on as a group, which raised my level I believe of completing it.  Plus was a little fun having a few catholics (yes “catholic” is not capitalized, here… forgive me father for I have sinned) participate in a pagan ritual.
The trail started off moderately enough and my stomach was feeling great.  I am pretty proud of myself for getting my nutrition dialed in and not feeling as if my stomach was trying to crawl outside of my body. We crested the first peak at about mile 2, a nice grassy bald, and posed for a couple of pics, and I took in the first long range views that the Duncan Ridge trail provides.  It was a dark, grey day but you could see for miles & miles, and included in those miles and miles were several of the ridges we would be climbing, today is going to be great!
We headed downhill from there and were treated to some nice views and a steep decline, to our first aid station at about mile 8 where we were met by  a smiling Craig.  He had been rally driving the hills of North Georgia and as fast as a man with a pretty mouth has to in these parts.  We reloaded on fuel and crossed the Toccoa, at possibly one of the most over engineered bridges I have ever seen.  I could not believe such a bridge existed just for a trail.  I am becoming a big fan of the forest service.
We saw a couple more hunters after leaving the bridge, and they were in just as much awe of the bridge as I was.  I think its kind of interesting, as far away as I am from being a hunter, how much we share in our passion for the outdoors.  Now there are some fundamental differences, but there is no denying how much they value the forest.
We crested the ridge and were met by Craig, again (are you beginning to see the value in a Craig yet? Add to not only his generous support of us but he kept me & Trevor laughing for most of the day).  Trevor got off the train at this point, as he had styled the first part of the run without doing further damage to his foot and was not intent on doing so.  We refueled, as I rummaged through my bag looking for  food it finally hit me what Corinne had said earlier in the morning  about the dogs, “he ate your Clif bars.”  MOTHER of Pearl.   Janice shared her pringles, and I downed an Enervitene, quite an interesting mix.
I was ready to go and in my mind I was thinking, in theory this is one of the most difficult trails in Georgia and I am feeling great, this is not so hard, I am  CHAMPION.
I was told this weekend, by someone with the social skills of a rock that I enjoy conflict, and while I disagree with how she intended it, I can see a little bit of conflict here, or what my seventh grade literature teacher introduced to me as Irony.  I much prefer the word Irony, and witnessed a healthy dose of it the rest of the day.
The climb after mile 12 was grueling.  The ridges allowed me to truly understand the Sisyphus myth, sans rock.  I was amazed at the beauty of the trail and baffled by the topography.  Who in God’s name designed this trail, I want to see the quads on this person.   At about mile 16, I got off trail for a little bit, searching for the blaze.  My misadventure took me down the side of the mountain, until I heard an “on on” form the top of the mountain.  Crikey, I have to climb that hill again.
The good thing about the Duncan Ridge roller coaster is that it does allow you to find some sort of rhythm.  Up, down, up down, up down.   The profile, may look like a cokeheads EKG, but there is a cadence in there and I felt like I found it. For the first time on a long run, I was really good about nutrition and never once did I feel dehydrated or hungry, or desalinated. We made it to the next aid station, at about mile 23 and was greeted by Craig & Trevor,
“what took you so long?  It was only a 10K!!!”
I have a whole new respect for those who participate in 10ks now.  If you can finish the Peachtree in under an hour you are CHAMPION.  Rob got off the train here and Janice and I got back on for another stupid ascent.  This trail was not holding back any punches, and was landing each one it threw squarely.  At one point the DRT intersects with Duncan ridge road and parallels it all the way to Wolfpen Gap.  Someone had mentioned this earlier in the day, and I did not give it much thought, however when I saw it there was no question in my mind that I was going to be a roadrunner for part of the day. The road itself is a challenging run and we still managed some good ascents & descents, but on much better footing the rest of the day.  There was a good bit of walking involved for this section and at one point were passed by some people in Jeeps offroading it enjoying the outdoors and Duncan ridge is a slightly different way than us.  I was suddenly jealous, and wanted my own ORV (hunter orange of course), with flames on the side, a boar’s head as a hood ornament, a booming system so all the wild animals in North Georgia knew to get back because they do not know me like that, and case of beer for good measure.
We made it to Wolf Pen gap, and decided that for the Day Before Solstice Run this distant would suffice.  The original plan was to make it to Neel’s Gap, however I was worried we would not be able to do this and still have daylight, so our crew hurried us along to get changed and get in the friggin car.  I know Chopper would have been disappointed in us, but I felt great about our run.  The DRT in its completion may have to be a summer mission, or to add to the theme an equinox event. Either way this trail is worth the effort.

I accidentally ran a marathon…

15 10 2008

This past weekend Rinne & I headed to Jackson for my neighbor’s wedding in beautiful Mississippi.  It was a challenge giving up a fall weekend in NC or North Georgia for a trip to Jackson, but well worth it.  The service was beautiful and it was an added bonus seeing f my sister who was also able to come in from Phoenix.

According to my running schedule I needed to get a long run of 18 + miles in one day.  This can be challenging enough to find suitable trails around here for this, much less in Jackson MS, but at least it was a guarantee it would be a flat course.  I woke up early Saturday morning at my father’s house and left from there heading toward the trails of the Pearl river.

I have been playing in these woods since I was about 10, and by playing I mean doing what stupid young boys do, starting fires (on the beach of course), making little bombs, smoking cigarettes and other recreational agricultural products, drinking, going off rope swings, doing the past 3 things listed simultaneously.  I come back to visit these woods on almost every trip home and find a new appreciation for them each time.  And over the past 10 years or so it is nice to see them in a healthy manner.  The woods seem the same as they always have, except now it  just seems a shorter distance on the trails to reach the river.

I ran for about half a mile on road until I reached the entrance to the trails which was afield overgrown with tall grass, and my dry foot-ware became immediately soaked from the morning dew. Cest lavie.  I ran past points along the trail that threw my memory back in time and brought what I am sure was a stupid grin to my face.  A tornado had touched down here in the spring so the trails were not as clear as I had hoped but thanks to the ATV enthusiasts everything was easily passable.  I never thought I would be grateful for the ATV riders, but if it were not for them, none of these trails would even exist.  I kept moving at about a 7:15 pace for the first part of the run.  For me, going long distance, this is flying, I could get used to running in Mississippi.  The trails dumped me out at my old soccer fields, ( I really sucked at that sport, but had a blast playing it).

I meandered through a few neighborhoods until I could reaccess the trails along the river.  I had to back track now & again when the trail would just suddenly stop. At about mile 7 I found myself in the middle of a cypress swamp and about 20 feet of water separating the other part of the trail I was supposed to be on.  The swamp seems to be unaware of the drought going on around the Southeast.  I walked up about 30 feet and crossed the water on a beaver dam, where from the looks of it some deer had had the same idea.

Kermit in swamp

Kermit in swamp

In my mind I was completely expecting to see Kermit the frog here, but he made no appearance, which is just as well as I am not fond of hearing banjo music when I am in the woods.  (Mental note, must sneak the duelling banjos tune on a trail runner’s ipod).  After the swamp crossing, a mile or so more through the woods, I made it to an aid station (translation convenience store) and loaded down on Pringles, Gatorade and more water.  Life is a bowl of cherries. I crossed a bridge to get over the river, and my plan was to head back upstream on the Pearl river on trails the whole way to the Reservoir, that was my plan anyway.  I headed back into the woods and was on great single track for a mile or two and crossed some ladder bridges over a creek, and was soon on fairly well maintained gravel roads on the edge of pine forests.  I had seen this area from google maps which meant I was on course for 18-20 miles.  What google maps did not point out, was this was private land.  I figured it was a hunting camp of some kind, and the deer stands on the edge of the forest with steps up to them affirmed my hunch.  I knew it was not season, so I figured it was allgood. The road was very straight and I could see a T intersection ahead, and I had my eyes set on it for what seemed to be 15 minutes, and when I was about a 100 yards from the intersection I saw a large white F-350 cruise by.  Uh oh.

As I made it to the intersection, I could see the truck making its way toward me at a high velocity in reverse. Ok, I thought this is going to be intereseting. The man driving the truck rolled down the window and his first words were “you’re not from round here are you?”  I already knew the answer to this question, “hell, no, I’m lost as I can be.”  This nice older gentleman who was obviously not too thrilled to see me on his private hunting grounds gave me a small lecture  about private property and public property, which I took several notes on, and thanked him for setting me straight.  He had a gun sitting on his passenger seat, which he never let his eyes direct to, but which mine were setting up a permanent camp at.  (I know I ended the sentence with a preposition, however let me remind you the setting is Mississippi, so when in Rome…) At the end of my lecture about property and property rights he pointed me ever so kindly in the direction to leave his property, which was only a bout a half a mile to the gate. I gladly started off in that direction, but about 5 steps into it, I realized my run was going to be a lot longer than I expected, and even worse I was going to have to run on the road.

Running on the road was not as bad as expected, but contending with motorists on a Saturday in MS on their way to watch football, aaiiyyyeeeeeeee!!!  I kept cruising along the roads hoping to find another way into the trails.  I took a turn after the trailer park at the Shady Oaks RV Park sign, which seemed like a good idea…  I am not sure if I was seeing things or not, but there was an Indian temple under construction on this road.  My first thought is I am hallucinating, this is not a site I expected to see on a run, much less what started out to be a trail run in Mississippi that has already gone through a swamp.  So I stop and look at this place a little befuddled, and I ask one of the workers what is going on.  It turns out he is the foreman from India and he invites me in for a tour of this 80% complete temple.  Now 80% of the construction is done, but none of it has any color, it is just grey.  If this were not surreal enough already, now I am seeing real life in Black & White.  I satiate my curiosity of the place, thank the workers for the tour and make my way back toward home.

I run along the edge of another hunting camp, knowing that my tress-passing, at least on hunting camp property for the day has ended.  I climb a fence into the Jackson Country Club and run along the levee separating the golf course from the river and with each step getting closer and closer to home.  I was only supposed to do 18 or so miles, but I am already at 25 by the time I hit the country club. I arrive back at my dad’s house with a little over 27 miles on my legs and am beat, but at least no one asked me to squeal like a pig.

Click below to see a map of the run, minus 3.5 miles or so of it.

Back in the woods…

20 09 2008

So I’ve taken a little time off from reporting what I have been up to in my life, mainly because work has been so busy, but since my last report I’ve had my eyes checked, run 14 miles at Fort Mountain as training for the marathon up there, managed to get stung by no less than 6 yellow jackets within the first mile of the run and done a huge hair show for 5000+ people in Minneapolis.  I used to make fun of my boss for not having time to do anything before I was employed by him, saying “it’s only 4 hair salons, how hard can it be?”  I believe the term I am looking for is eating crow.

Well while in Minneapolis I was able to go on a few good runs crossing the Mississippi a few time on a pedestrian bridge and going down to check out the site of where the bridge collapsed into the river.  After our mainstage performance on Sunday evening there was an after party at Prince’s or the artist formerly known as Prince’s nightclub.  We were escorted along the red carpet past the crowds and straight into the club, kind of odd, but fun none the less. This is the closest thing I have ever experienced to being a celebrity.  Once inside the venue, I talked to a few too many people about hair and salons and decided it was my cue to leave.  As I left there was a 50 minute wait to get into the venue and I walked past the line which extended for the entire block.  I got back to my hotel and went for another run around Downtown Minneapolis which was relatively deserted.  This was one of the cooler runs I have done on pavement.  Late night in a city I did not know, looked deserted for the most part, you could run a long the river, and I borrowed an Ipod full of music I do not have nor would ever admit to having but loved listening to.  I will not divulge who it was but somewhere along the lines of 80’s metal hair bands, You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone. 

At the event we worked an average 15 hours a day, and it has taken me a while to get back to feeling normal.  I’ve been sleeping like a baby and for about as long.   I managed only one run during the week, and this morning for the first time I got in a real run at Kennesaw.  I had a challenge getting motivated this morning as I was eating breakfast, so I went here and reread the book.  Motivation challenge was crushed!  I want to be an animal, preferably one higher on the food chain than most. 

I do not however want to be this animal.  I’ve never seen this thing before, and luckily some kind stranger on the trail stopped me halfway up the mountain to point it out and was kind enough to send me a picture of it.  This thing is something fierce I am pretty sure, and if it is like most caterpillars it will become a flying creature of some sorts, definetly not a docile butterfly, if anything it will become Mothra.  Maybe this is a Pterodactyl in it’s larva stage.  Whatever it is I think I’m going to have nightmares about it.  But hey if this thing can climb the mountain, I should be able to as well.  New motivation for the rest of the mountain.  The motivation started with the Run Like an Animal Campaign, then shifted to a woman of larger stature than most, who was giving it her all around Kolb Farm.  The look on her face, even though she was moving rather slow, was pure unadulterated determination.  She was definelty in the pain zone, but kept giving it her all. I am humbled, and motivated.  My final motivation for the day after making it over the mountain, meant there was some chocolate milk in my near future 5 miles more but it’s in the near future and keeps me going. … Chocolate Milk is under rated.   

Oh and for those of you wondering about my eye…no patch, and my vision is getting better & better.  No Glaucoma, so the prescription I was hoping for will not be doled out this week, but just you wait once I get it, we will have an essay contest and pass it on to, not the person who needs it most, but who is the most creative and can make me laugh.  So start gathering your stories and you might run into some legal issues, but I know a few good attorneys… Oh wait, back to the eye, I still see spots, but not nearly as many, and my central vision in my left eye is distorted, but my peripheral is amazing.  So as long as I do not focus, everything is allgood….  that sounds very Zen like… Oh my sweet Jesus, I’m turning into a hippie.  I’m going to go take a shower!!!

Tuesday at Kennesaw

19 08 2008

Went for my regular Tuesday night run at Kennesaw with the GUTS group this evening and for some reason thought it would be a good idea to go over the mountain instead of the normal run. I managed to get over the mountain, but not in a normal running style, it hurt. Perhaps some of it was me not being fully recovered from the weekend, or maybe I just need to ramp up my training. Isn’t there an easier softer way…

On a positive note my downhills are improving. The technical rocky terrain still gives me a few issues and messes with my head more than anything. I only rolled my ankle once this evening!

On another positive note, when I got to the bottom of the mountain, I was 3rd in a group of 5, so I started my way back up the mountain to make sure the 5th was still in working order (this trail has taken its fair share of strong runners down into the dirt). He was not too far behind, so my uphill was limited, and for this I am truly grateful. But this is not the positive note, had I not turned around on the trail and backtracked, I would miss what about 7 people in the park were able to see with me…

DISCLAIMER:These are not the actual deer I saw, but they look similar.

Pretty friggin cool thing to see on an after work run in Atlanta. Actually I think it would be pretty cool to see no matter when or where, but this was a bonus for the run.

1280 foot elevation gain on the run, maybe 6 mile trail run, wild deer and fawn feeding in a true woods setting all during rush hour…and Atlanta gets a bad wrap for not being a good outdoor town. We should try and keep it this way.


18 08 2008

Spent the weekend in NC, arriving late Friday night too much cooler than Atlanta temperatures, which was more than pleasing to me. On Saturday morning I woke up and did a nice 4.5 mile run on Flint Ridge which is directly above the NOC where you gain about 700 feet in the first mile of the run. The Flint Ridge trail was built as part of a trail building camp hosted by NOC and IMBA a few years ago, so the result is a nice smooth trail that is is mountain bike friendly the whole way. Translation: the whole thing is runnable because of the grades not being ridiculously steep. After the fun climb in the beginning it is a nice rolling trail that you can get moving fast on. This was a nice warm up fro what was to come Sunday.

I spent Saturday afternoon teaching a friend to paddle on the Nantahala. I forgot this river imports its water from a glacier. I can not believe I spent a good part of my life in this river without jumping inside a woodstove like our friend from Plumtree.

Now onto Cheoah…

Trevor, never one to turn down stupid adventures, came to join me for the Cheoah Bald “bad idea” run. This is is part of his preparation for his first marathon in November. The area was packed with people who were planning on kayaking the Cheoah the next day, and Trevor and I were mistaken by a few as kayakers when we told them our plan was to run to Cheoah.  I was slightly insulted (not sure why),  my priorities have shifted a little to say the least, as there was a time when paddling was all I thought about, & cheoah meant really only one thing to me.  Dont get me wrong, not that paddling is not fun, I just do not have the drive that I once did, plus if you only do it about 10 days a year, things can start to get scary again, yeah Horsepasture!

We started our approach to Cheoah bald on the Bartram trail along Ledbetter creek at roughly about 1900 feet. When we started to cross the creek we came across the President of the NC Bartram trail Society building a bridge across Ledbetter creek. Spoke with him for about 5 minutes and thanked him for his work and discussed volunteer opportunities as I feel like I owe some serious time in the trail maintenance department.

To give you an idea of how steep the first section is, it took us 23 minutes to climb .9 miles and my heart rate was in the 150s. The trail diverts away from Ledbetter during this time, but comes back to the creek and you follow it for its entirety until it runs dry, well at least this year. We ran what sections we could along this part, but for the most part, this was just an anaerobic hike. After the creek goes dry you can run at a decent pace for about a 1/4 of a mile, where you cross an unused forest service road. At the junction of the road and trail I believe there was a butterfly convention. I have never seen so many in one place before, and the variety of colors, it was like a being surrounded by a bunch of flying flowers, not to mention there were flowers, although that had not taken flight, (I am still somewhat of grounded.)

Elevation Profile. Apparently I fell off the mountain 33 minutes in, and it did not hurt as much as I thought it would.

After the butterfly convention we headed back into the woods for the most miserable climb of the day. And by miserable, I mean painful, and by painful I mean i hurt in a place I did not know existed in my body. The trail was goregeous but relentless in its ascent. This is for about a 1/4 of mile before it makes a sharp right hand turn and becomes a manageable climb. Whoever blazed this trail was one tough… person. We continued up and met up with the AT about a 1000 feet from the summit.

Cheoah bald is at an elevation of about 5064 and roughly 4.25 miles from the mouth of Ledbetter creek. A little over 3000 vertical feet not counting any ups and downs in about 1:34 . This is the fastest I have made it up here. We dropped our hydration packs, broke out Gator Ades, Clif Bars and the camera and enjoyed the views. The dogs enjoyed the rest, and the extra food packed for them. I became chilled much faster than I anticipated on an August day, so we packed up took a few pictures and started moving.

We started the rapid descent from the bald and Trevor, tried to wrap himself around a tree, and was fairly successful. Luckily his pack afforded him some protection, not much but some. When he & I run together it is usually me who ends up hurting himself, so this was a nice change, but was in the front of my head the whole time. We dropped down to Sasafrass Gap, 732 foot descent in about a mile. Only 7 more miles to go, and my quads were yelling at me already. We managed to keep a good pace, and were much more talkative on the way down than on the way up. We were able to run most of the trail except a few steep rocky declines and a couple inclines. Even the smallest of ascents had my quads yelling expletives to the rest of my body within 10 seconds of staring a hill. We continued on down to the Nantahala for a total of 12 miles for the day with a total time including our rest on top of Cheoah in about 4 hours. I climbed into the icy cold river and soaked my legs along with Java soaking his entire body, 12 miles was rough on the both of us.


10 08 2008

Small break in the weather here in Atlanta on Friday, and I believe I ran the fastest I have run in a long time  What a difference 10 degrees makes.  In keeping with the flow went on a 20 mile road ride on Saturday and realized that when riding I always look over my left shoulder, which means I look with my left eye for traffic.  I had never noticed this before, and realized how this is now a challenge.  My left eye is not completely back to normal which causes the vision to still be a little distorted.  I guess I am going to have to be more conscious of it all now.  

After the ride Trevor and I wen on a nice casual pace run.  It is the very least I could do since Trevor led the bike ride at a comfortable pace.  We went to Sope and headed towards the river.  I thought we should run down to the river and straight back up and decided Graveyard trail would be the easist one to go down for footing.  I chose poorly…

Roughly 200 yards into the trail my left foot caught a root and I like many causes of the common cold, was airborn.  I thought I would be able to pull my feet under me, but as soon as that thought came in I was on my chest sliding down the trail.  My water bottle abandoned ship on the way down and landed about 10 feet from me.  Trevor caled “safe,” and pointed out that I had slid about 5 feet.  I could not get up at first, as I was doing a mental check to see if my body was ok, and then I could not get up because  I was laughing.  Its been a while since I have taken flight running.  When I got home I noticed the waist band of my shorts was full of debris from the slide, and I had some brusies to match those on my arm underneath the shorts.  

Now off for a Sunday jaunt, that will hopefully be less exciting.

Sunday at the river

28 07 2008

Got up at 6:50 to try and get a longer run in today. I had to work this afternoon, hence me getting out fo bed earlier than normal on a weekend. I had every intention of running ath Kennesaw, but as I awoke a little late I had a inkling to go to the river. Maybe it was the shorter distance helping to influence this decision. Started out at the Sope Creek lot and stayed on the main trail all the way down to the river, and managed to keep from seeing anybody until I hit the gravel path.

Snuck under the bridge at 285 and crossed the river and headed down the trails on the river left side for a few miles. Ran all the way down to I-75 with no challenges. From the bridge onI- 75 down to highway 41 the trail does not get much use, and a has what i would call a plethora of underbrsh including some thorns & stickers. Hit Hwy 41 and used the BP as aid station at about mile 7.5 and then headed upstream on river right and back toward the car.

Felt good about the run, but was shocked to see it took me 2:20 to cover 14 miles. I’d like to think the heat was a fator, but since it was realtively ealry run I’m not sure I can blame it on that. Maybe I’m getting slower. I’m using the Garmin 405 now so maybe it can help speed me up. Oh another thing that could have slowed me down, was when I was cleaning up I found 3 freeloading ticks on my legs. They could’ve been on me the whole run, that should add 30 minutes or so right? I hate freeloaders, I think I’m going to blame being slower on them for right now until I come to terms with something people call acceptance.