Grand Canyon Run

We started planning a Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim run many many months before the targeted date of April 18, 2023. But over the winter, we watched reports of serious snowfall, and worse, rock slides on the North Kaibab trail. A few in our original group decided not to go, but five us forged on. We had planned to go as far as we felt reasonably safe, and then turn around. There were reports of several runners making it al the way, but many more reports of people turning around. How far would we get? But then a few days before we flew out, the National Park Services closed the North Kaibab trail, and our hopes for a full R2R2R were finally off the table.

We opted to come up with an alternate route, including side trips to a few places we would have missed such as Plateau Point and Ribbon falls….. Route chosen was down Bright Angel to Plateau Point for sunrise, then back to Bright Angel continuing down to the river, crossing, hitting Phantom Ranch, and heading north until the trail was closed at Cottonwood. About a half mile short of Cottonwood there was a stream crossing that a few of the guys decided not to do, so we turned back. Then there was a major stream crossing to get to Ribbon Falls, which I had actually decided not to do, but then saw Hans on the other side, so across 2 of us went, while 2 more headed back to Phantom. The video makes this crossing look really sketchy, and maybe it was — but it was also relatively safe in that if you did slip and fall, you’d end up hitting the shore in short order without the chance of too much damage done. Ribbon was really worth it as you can see in the video. Then it was up South Kaibab, and 3 of us ran the rim trail back to Bright Angel, while 2 took the shuttle back.

I ended up with ~40 miles and ~8500′ of elevation.

I made a video include that here in lieu of photos….

A few more details….

  • Kelly and I flew out and met our friend Beth at the Airport. Riley and Casey also made the trip, with a slightly different itinerary.
  • But we saw them the 1st night at a great restaurant in Sedona, Javelina Cafe.
  • Met up with the guys, some for the 1st time, hung out in the canyon, etc.
  • Saturday I did a 6 mile hike down Bright Angel, partially scouting the trail to see if there was enough snow/ice to warrant spikes — there wasn’t.
  • Sunday I was up at 3:50, to get ready for our 4:30 a.m. start. The 1st issue was that our little hotel fridge had frozen my hard boiled eggs, and after one bite, I decided I would just put them in my pack and eat them later!
  • Riley and Casey had planned on just hiking to Bright Angel to Plateau Point, but when they were there by 9 a.m., and didn’t know what they’d do the rest of the day, they headed on to Phantom Ranch and up South Kaibab, turning a 12 mile day into a 22 mile day! I was shocked to hear Riley calling “Dad, Dad…” when I came in to Phantom Ranch from the north side!
  • Kelly and Beth planned on down South Kaibab, Phantom Ranch, and up Bright Angel, which they did, though they were both suffering at the end. I had finished up my run and could see them on Life360 not too far down, so decided to run down and hike up with them. While Kelly was surprised to see me, she was grateful I had a handful of potato chip crumbs leftover, just enough to give she and Beth the last bit of energy needed to finish.
  • I do hope to go back and run the full rim to rim to rim someday, as well as go back and backpack – it would be great to stay in the bottom of the canyon a couple nights someday.
  • And finally, I re-read this book leading up to, during, and after the trip. One of the all time great adventure books. And it reinforces my desire to some day take a wooden dory down the Canyon. With a guide, of course!

Ok, maybe a small photo gallery after all. Order is reversed — oh well!

2023 Mount Mitchell Heartbreaker 50-miler

Here it is almost 2 months later, so I better write something before I forget it all. This race was three weeks after the Mount Mitchell Challenge 40 miler, and I as I wrote there I was a little disappointed there was so much pavement in that one. So when I heard about this race and saw that it was almost entirely on trail, I signed up — even though it was so soon after the challenge! But I basically ran 5-10 miles per week at most in between, and felt recovered enough.

Tanawha Adventures puts on great races with great course, and this was no exception. The start and finish was at Camp Grier in Old Fort, and I was able to park the van the night before the race, and stay there again the night of the race. There was also great food the night before and at the finish line.

Because it’s been two months, bullet points:

  • Got sick two nights before, finally catching the crud that had been in the house the week prior, which I thought I had avoided. Still decided to drive up with the hope that I would feel better race day
  • Slept horribly due to illness, but still decided to start the race, to see how it goes
  • For the 1st couple miles, really thought I should turn around. But there was an option to drop from 50 miles to 55k at mile 15 (or was it 20?), so I thought I’d give that a go. (There was always the chance to drop at an aid station prior to that decision point, if it came to that.)
  • Eventually I reached a point where I didn’t feel awful, though I never felt great, nor even good. But I was trudging along making steady progress, albeit slowly.
  • The course was really hard — some gnarly technical trails with rocks and roots, some steep inclines and declines, and 3 massive climbs.
  • While the official race info stated 12,000 of climb, my GPS ended up at over 14k! I think that was likely a little high, but it wasn’t too far off.
  • I finally trudged in at 14 hours, 22 minutes, about 2 hours longer than I thought it would take. I attribute a lot of that to not feeling very well, though some was certainly due to the difficulty of the course.
  • And now just some photos:
    • (You may not be able to tell, but it poured in those 1st 3 images!)

Oh, and here’s a relive video:

2023 Mount Mitchell Challenge

This race has been on my bucket list since I ran the marathon back in early 2000’s (maybe 2002 or 2003?). I had either never gotten in via the lottery, or missed it due to Uwharrie being so close, or opted to do the Florida Sea 2 Sea 72 hour adventure race, which is often the same weekend. This year, they changed the lottery process so that everyone starts the marathon, and the 1st 250 runners that get to the marathon turn around point in time, can keep going.

The race was late February and I’m writing this in early April, so just bullet points:

  • I stayed in a boutique type hotel called The Monte Vista, which seemed quite nice. But unfortunately my room had an HVAC system right out side my 2nd story window that was acting up, starting and restarting, every few seconds, that kept me awake for a while. My room was also close enough to the open stairway leading down the lobby, bar, and restaurant, so it was quite noisy. Not good when you are trying to go to sleep early.
  • I woke up quite early with my bowels in serious distress. :-(. Luckily I had immodium and had to take several to calm things down. I don’t know if it was the Thai food the night before, or something else, but it was not a good start to the day! Luckily, the issue passed by the time l left my room around 6:45. (It was a very short walk to the start line!)
  • The race started and we headed slightly up on the paved roads to Montreat, before hitting trail around mile 3. I was taking it easy as I had no intentions of pushing having just run Uwharrie 40 miler 3 weeks prior. Nothing exciting here, other than it’s up up up.
  • About 2 hours and 50 minutes in, I hear a lady say something about “a race to the cut-off.” That was odd, I thought we had 4 hours to get to mile 14, not 3! We were a mile out, so I actually did have to push a little to make it in time. Got there in a group of 4 or 5 stragglers at 2:59! I would have been so upset if I had missed it — I had only come to run the Challenge not the Marathon!
  • Anyway, from there we headed out on the Blue Ridge Parkway for a bit, and then up the road to the summit. This is all paved, it’s raining a lot, and I thought we were supposed to take the trail to the summit. When I got to the trail, there were no race flags, so now what? I waited a couple minutes for runners behind me, and they didn’t know either. I decided to keep heading up the road. A few minutes later, the lead runners came flying down, and I asked them — they said pavement all the way! What!! I am not a roadie, and this was going to be 12 miles up and down to the summit and back to the trail that leads to town. All in all, of the 37-38 miles in the race, nearly 20 are pavement! (Race description says 40 miles but may Coros, which is usually very accurate, read 37 miles.)
  • The climb up was brutal weather. Cold, rainy, and windy. On the way down, my hands got really cold, but I knew I just had to keep moving, get to lower elevation, and I’d be fine.
  • The downs on the trail here are brutal — just lots of loose softball size rocks the whole way, so it can be slow going.
  • While I was in the last 4-5 runners to make the cut-off, I passed a lot of people from there on, and ended up 49th out of 72 finishers, in 7 hrs and 34 minutes. There were 170 finishers in the marathon. Many of those were there for the marathon, but some were there for the Challenge and didn’t make the cut off.
  • I ate a couple of hotdogs at the finish line, but walked back to the van, still parked at the hotel, toweled off, and went to My Father’s Pizza where I had a big GF Meat Lovers Pizza, a beer, and ordered the carrot cake to go. Drove the 3 hours home…

Uwharrie 2023

I missed Uwharrie in 2022 — dropped out the week before. I had COVID about two weeks out, and while I was feeling fairly recovered, I didn’t think it would be wise to push my body that hard… But I was bummed not to get that 10th finish. And while I was lacking motivation this year when sign up came around, I really wanted that 10th mug! So I signed up and did the training… Well, enough training to get by.

I won’t write much, just update the table:

YearTimePlace1st 202nd 20
2010 7:57 (short course) 30/71
2011 8:50:22 30/88
2012 7:57:17 27/148
2013 8:49:06 33/90
 20158:05:07 17/883:49:134:14:32
 20167:31:30 7/1013:33:423:57:48
 20177:43:54 9/943:29:044:14:18
201820 miler….11/1903:25:37

I admit I’m a little disappointed in that 2nd 20… Thought I would have held up a bit more. But then again, my current training is 20 mpw (avg over the year, but with some bigger weeks before an ultra like this), so not sure I should have those expectations.

What I have found is that in a race like this, that I have run so many times, it is impossible not to compare my current self to my past self. How much of the slow down is due to age, how much due to how my training has changed, or how much is it something else?

I’m sure it’s a combination…. I know I shouldn’t compare, but it’s not in my nature not to.

(I would note that my total training time per week is likely the same, if not a little more now, but instead of running 40+ mpw, I’ve added a lot of time on the bike, and a lot more time in the gym. I think I’m probably healthier overall, and my current training is more geared towards health span than performance. But I’d still like to perform well!)

Morning after coffee… I now have 11 of the big mugs (volunteered one year), and 1 medium size mug (the one year I ran the 20).

2022 year of training and racing in review

Another year has come and gone, so it’s time to write a little about it. Last year, I shared that I only had 3 races planned, Uhwarrie 40, Florida Sea to Sea, and Barkley Fall Classic. Well, a couple weeks before Uhwarrie, I got sick, and while a week out I was feeling ok, I thought it wasn’t really wise to push the body as much as a 40 mile race would take. And I knew there was no way I could go to a race and not push. So I ended up racing just two events: Florida Sea to Sea and BFC. S2S was good — 73 hours across Florida on foot, bike, and boat, with lots of navigation, but the navigation can be frustrating due to the quality of the maps. And BFC was a great day for me — started pretty slow, but worked my way up to 28th overall out of 400 starters! I was very happy about that. Very tough course this year, too!

Last year I shared that I was keeping the same goals, so I’ll just share the graphs here which show again that I missed on most of them!

First up, elevation, and this was the lowest in 3 years! I still want to hit 365,000 one day, but that day likely will wait until we live in the mountains full time.

Next up, total time. Pretty close to 500 (though the goal was 550), and more than I’ve done the past couple years, but all in the same ballpark:

Running was basically in the middle of the past couple years, but still not even 1000 miles:

And next biking, my lowest in a while:

And next, strength training, which I had mentioned last year was going to be a focus going forward. And it certainly was this year, as you can see in the graph. I surpassed most of my strength goals (though not all of them) and find myself stronger now than I was back in Weightlifting 101 at NCSU in 1990!

And next just a couple more summaries from Strava:

Next year will be more of the same — running, biking, strength training as the focus, but always looking for outdoor activities like hiking and paddling. As of right now, I only have two races: Uhwarrie 40 and Mt Mitchell Challenge. The latter is a race I’ve tried to get into for years with no luck. This year they’ve changed it, so everyone can run the Black Mountain Marathon (which I did in 2002 or so), but if the Mt Mitchell Summit is open, the 1st 250 runners are allowed to go up. The rangers normally don’t give an indication of whether the summit will be open or not until just a day or two before, and I have to admit, I’m not that interested in running the marathon. So if the summit isn’t open, I may skip this. I am on the waitlist for BFC and do hope to run that again. And apparently I’m joining the Knight Crawlers for the Blue Ridge Relay again this year, but the “mountain goat hard legs,” that I got to run last year, are going to the ladies.

I do have at least one adventure planned — plane tickets and hotel room booked for Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim across the Grand Canyon with a group of friends that I’m really looking forward to in April. (This is something like 48 miles and 10,000’+ of elevation change). I still want to run the Grand Loop of the Linville Gorge (34 miles). Weather permitting, I may do the little loop (23 miles) there in a few weeks, but the Grand Loop is going to have to wait until after the February races.

I still have a couple crazy ideas I’d like to attempt, like an Everesting attempt either on bike or foot (or both!), maybe even a vEveresting attempt on Zwift. On a bike I’m looking at 12-15 hours, and on foot, probably 28-30, so they are serious undertakings. I also saw someone do a marathon (42k’) on a Concept 2, so that would be a challenge.

I’m still extremely focused on strength. While the extra muscle is a pain to carry around the mountain, I think it is much healthier going forward into my mid 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s! I’m intrigued by Peter Attia’s “Centurion Olympics,” where you backcast from goals you have in your marginal decade… Let’s just call that 80-90, or even 90-100, and what you want to be able to do then. (Examples: Load your own luggage on an airplane, hike 3 mph, get down on the floor to play with your great grandkids..) And then you work backwards. Things like VO2Max look good for me (though I need to continue to train both zone 2 and VO2Max!), but some of the strength goals were pretty far off. And I definitely need some mobility work! 🙂

Two benchmarks that he has mentioned are a dead hang for 120s and being able to farmers carry your body weight for 2 minutes. I’m up to 90s on the dead hang, but farmers carry is just at 2×35 and I need to get to 2×75! (I’ve not tried the latter at the start of a weigh training session, only at the end, so it’s a little unfair. I will do one of these at the start with 40 lbs and see how it goes. I have carried 75 for 45-60s but it recked me for the rest of the workout!)

I also created a table of strength benchmarks based on both my weight and age, and looked at what intermediate lifters can do. Then I set my target at the lower of those two numbers. Upper body strength is in-line or very close for pull-ups, bench press, overhead press, and bar row. But lower body strength for squats and dead lifts has some serious work to put in this year. (Note, if I don’t have a measured 1 rep max, I use 120% of my best 5×5. This worked out well for most of the lifts for me where I have both, so I think it’s a decent approximation.)

Here’s the chart as of today, a little small but this is the best way to share it.

I don’t know if I can make all those green by the end of the year, but I’m going to work towards it!

See you on the mountain!

Barkley Fall Classic 2022

(I probably won’t post this for another week, after more photos are gathered, but wanted to at least write a little while everything is still fresh in my mind.)

(Still no photos so I think I’ll post now and either update later with photos or make a 2nd post instead!)

It’s six days later, and I’m still shocked and elated at my BFC performance this year! Even when I’ve not struggled at this race, my best finishes have been in the “top” 30-40%. Spoiler alert – this year I finished 28th out of ~400 starters for a top 7%!

2018 I was well trained but started cramping within the 1st two hours. Cramps moved from my feet, slowly up the body, to some muscles I didn’t even know existed, to my fingers cramping on my poles climbing Chimney Top. I think the only thing that didn’t cramp was my face! Despite the issues, I still somehow suffered through to a 50k finish, but learned my lesson — don’t burn too many candles too soon, especially in the heat and humidity. (It was a very HOT year!). Finished 108 out of 400+

2019 I was barely trained — I had taken off 6 months from running *completely*, from November 2018 to May of 2019, with ZERO running due to a sacrum/groin issue. (I had been on the bike and in the gym, though.) When I got the call to BFC in late August, I had run less than 200 miles all year, but could not resist saying “yes.” I had a more sane pacing strategy, but the lack of run volume caught up to me later in the race and my feet were shot. Finished 86th out of 400+

2020 was the covid year, when only ~120 runners started, and most of them had to have had a prior 50k finish.. It was a similar story to 2019 – lack of run volume caught up to me, but I probably felt the best I have at BFC, mainly due to an “easier” course, but also due to much color temperatures with a low dew point. Finished 37th out of 120+.

2021 – I got an invite 3 days out but had already made family plans to go to parent’s weekend at App State, including football tickets, etc. So I declined the invite. Laz made fun of me for going to parents weekend, saying:

i still remember my days in college
ridiculing the students whose parents came to parents weekend.


2022 — I ended up 29th out of roughly 400 starters! I’m still not running many miles, in fact my yearly totals to the start of BFC have been:

  • 2018 – 1322
  • 2019 – 200
  • 2020 -737
  • 2021 – 443 (did not run BFC)
  • 2022 – 608

But I have been much more serious about strength training in 2022, and am still getting out on the bike (or “getting in,” on the bike trainer!) a fair bit.

Now, to back up. I had planned to stay with my friend Carey who had moved to Oak Ridge recently, but the week before I’d be driving to TN, I got an email from TN state parks saying “we look forward to seeing you!” I had totally forgotten I had booked a primitive camp site in Flat Fork nearly a year ago. (Big Cove had already sold out! So I decided to drive the van over and camp. I wasn’t 100% sure if I’d be allowed to sleep in the van, so I did take the time to set up my tent:

After setting up I headed over to the football game to meet Carey and hang out. The runners got called out on to the field at half time, which ended up being a Coalfield blow out. I had not yet had dinner so I left after halftime and had a late Mexican dinner.

Friday morning I rode my bike around camp a little, and stumbled across Laz and crew at the start/finish area, so I jumped off and helped set up the barriers and helped hang the flags. After that it was off to packet pick up to get the maps, and then to the Prison to have lunch with a big group, study the maps more, reminisce, etc. After that I went to Starbucks to catch up on some work, grabbed some sushi from Kroger and headed back to camp, to put my gear together now that I knew the course:

It gets really dark early in Flat Fork, so I was probably sleeping by 9 p.m. I did wake up a couple times to check the time, but all in all, it was good sleep. I had set my alarm for 5:30 but when I woke up at 5:00, I decided I might as well get up and have a leisurely morning and enjoy my coffee:

Soon enough it was time to head to the start. I had decided to ride my bike the ~1.5 miles to the start rather than drive the van and have to park it in the crowded parking area, so I left Flat Fork pretty late, maybe 6:40. Got to the start at 6:50, locked up the bike, and started heading to the start line. I was probably in the front fifth of the pack when I realized I couldn’t see very well — I didn’t have my glasses on, and couldn’t find them!! Oh no! A little panic, but I went back to the bike to look around. They weren’t right at the bike, but about 15′ away where I had stopped to make some kind of adjustment to my pack or gear. Thank goodness — it would have been a VERY long day without my prescription sun glasses! I headed back to the start and ran into Carey. We were further back than I had been, but that was fine by me.

Pacing strategy was to take it easy to start — no more sprinting up Flat Fork road to get to Bird Mountain early to avoid the conga lines — especially this year when we wouldn’t go up the single track but would instead take Quitters Road up a few miles before hitting trails. I probably got to the yellow gate in 200-250th. I still took it easy up the climb, employing a 7-11 strategy — run 11 breaths, walk 7 — but only when the terrain wasn’t too steep. Too steep was all power hiking. I did pass a few here, but maybe 25 – 35 tops. Got to the 1st aid and just topped water and headed out as quickly as possible, probably passing another 15-20 folks who spent more time there than I did.

On the next two single track mountain sections, both up and down, I really started passing a lot of people. It’s a balance of not wasting energy, but also not losing too much time. I’m still glad I had started slowly, but a little bit of me wonders if perhaps the extra energy spent passing would have been better spent going just a touch faster at the start? At one point I was near some guys talking about their projected ultra-sign up finish times, and one was 13:21 (1 minute past cut-off), and another was even slower! I used that opportunity to say “I better get moving” and passed a few more. (Further conversation from those guys and one of them was a 7 for 7 50k finisher, but I felt good and wanted to keep moving.)

I don’t think there’s much need to do a play by play of the course, but will share a few photos:

And I will share my splits here, which show the story — slow to start, and fairly steady climbing up the rankings after that.

The anomaly is 80th on Prison ->Tub , which includes the prison on going up Rat. About half way up Rat I was really suffering and on the edge of nauseuosness — due to a mistake I had made at the Prison aid station. I knew heading back after the difficult out and back section, I really needed calories and salt. So I took a little more time than normal there, putting in two tailwinds in one bottle and an LMNT electrolyte packet in the other. My mistake — really laziness — was not getting out my bladder and filing it with plain water. And due to the heat and effort climbing rat, I really really needed plain water! So I had to slow and take some breaks on the climb, find a little shade from the relentless heat. It is odd that the numbers show me in 80th on that section, but only lost 3 spots overall?? Maybe a lot of those 80 missed the cut-off there or at the next one?

Once the climb was over, including the fire tower, I slowly head down to Tub and got a lot of fresh plain water in me, as well as a little more food, before taking it slowly down SOM so I could recover. After that recovery (48th) I got back in the mid 20s (place per section) for the last leg and an overall finish of 28th.

Here’s another view pacing and placement that someone on FB put together that I thought was cool:

This shows the. drops per aid station as well as 50k finisher times per split and where I was.

I would add here that when I got the map on Friday, I wasn’t intimidated by anything, I had seen everything on the course other than part of the 50k finishing loop, but in talking to others, that wouldn’t be too bad. In hindsight, I was wrong about the Tub to Tub section — it was a really difficult out and back section covering all of the hard, out of park hills, in both directions. I had never been down Rat or up Meth before. As I was climbing Rat, I realized that it was going to do in a lot of people vying for the 50k finish, and I was right.

A couple of anecdotes. Love this Facebook post by Laz:

I can say for sure, the one part of the course I thought would be hard was going up Meth, and I was right! Really takes a lot of energy to crawl up the side of a “wall” that is really loose scree and sand!

The main interaction I had with Laz was as follows… I got the the Decision Point about 10 hrs 15 minutes into the race, and came in solo with not anyone I could see in front or behind. I see Laz up ahead and he yells:

“Marathon or 50k?”

I say “Be honest with me, if I go left, will I win the marathon?”

Laz: “Yes you sure would! You’d get that elusive 100% on ultra sign up, what’s it gonna be?”

Of course, there was only one answer. I came for the 50k finish, so a right turn it was, for another ~ 6 miles and 2500′ of up and down! 🙂

Finished in 12:02 and some change, for 28th place, and my 4th 50k finish!

Gear: nike dry fit shorts, XO skin thin tight under neath, Stio Eddie button down (which I took off for the bushwhack sections — didn’t want to snag the shirt or get blood all over it!), injinji toe socks, bucket hat used only in the sun, Ultimate Direction middle size pack, goat skin gloves, naked running belt, Hoka Speedgoat 5.

Food: six packs (1200 cal) Tailwind; 500 cal Vfuel (gel, in a flask); 4 or 6 LMNT packs (electrolytes); 4 date rolls, half bar from the aid station at Tub, one Justin’s peanut butter cup at Tub outbound, as my “reward” for getting to my mental half way point. So maybe 2000 cal, or just over, for 12 hours. Overall I think I was fine on calories — the nausea on Rat was due more to not having plain water.

2022 Florida Sea 2 Sea adventure race

Writing this nearly 7 months after the fact…. Will keep it short.

After a ~15 year hiatus, I went back to Florida in 2021 for the Sea 2 Sea 72 hour expedition race. That ended tragically, so I went back in 2022 with Will and Ryan for another go.

We finished in 73 hours with something like 58 controls, which isn’t bad but not great. Our only real complaint about this race is the maps — sometimes there’s just so little accuracy, finding a control becomes an “Easter egg hunt.” You know you are in the general vicinity, but you could be 100m away, so we walk all around trying to find it. And it’s just a bit of luck sometimes, or perseverance…

The biggest leg this year was a 45 mile paddle that we started at nearly 11 p.m. on the 2nd night. Going in to the second night, with no sleep on night 1, on the water, is always hard, and a few hours in, we had to find somewhere to rest. We were all falling asleep while trying to paddle! But we are on a river in FL, which is often swamp like. I finally gave in and said let’s just pull over, I’ll sleep on the driest land I can find while you two sleep in the boat… We pull over at what I think is a good spot, and right where I would have laid down was a 4′ gator! That got the adrenaline going a bit and we were able to muster the energy to continue on until we found a “landing” — some sandy beach where we saw a few other S2S boats pulled over. Turns out we had found the beach for a camp ground.

I was so tired I got out and laid right down on the sand. We had one bivy for emergency use, so I put my big black plastic trash bag on my lower body, and put a fleece up top, and fell right asleep. It was low 50’s and after I while I was so cold, I couldn’t stand it. But I was so tired, I didn’t want to get up. I really wanted to wake up to a new reality. It’s the only time I can recall having that feeling — that I just wanted to wake up to something completely different.

I had just read Victor Frankel’s “Man’s Search for Meaning,” and I here I am, a little cold doing something I chose to do “suffering.” But he and millions of others suffered for years in much worse conditions. How could I complain?

After about 3 miserable hours I got up, found the camp rest room, and then wandered a bit trying to find Will and Ryan, which took a while. I finally found them, woke them up and said we had to keep moving, I was too cold to be here any longer.

That’s the one story I’ll share from the race, but Kristen did put this little video together which does capture some great aspects of AR.

2021 Hellgate 100k++

I used to be very good about writing race reports, but not so much these days. So this is only 4 months late, and won’t have much detail.

But with that said, I will write a little… Some of you know I had sort of lost interest in most races, and this was before covid even started. I’m not sure why I lost interest, but traditional races like WS100 or UTMB that I once had on my bucket list, no longer called to me. Maybe it’s temporary, maybe not. What did interest me were crazier races and events, such as Barkley Fall Classic, Rogaines (24 hour orienteering events), and “projects” — self supported efforts like the Linville Gorge grand loop, SCAR, the Quad, etc.

But one day late September, Hellgate suddenly popped into my head… Not sure why, but I thought that would be “fun.” I figured it would be sold out, but a quick search found that it is application based and I had a week until applications were due around the 1st of October, so I waited for the application to be published, filled it out, and waited to hear something.

Funny thing — I received the following text from David Horton, legendary ultra runner, Barkley Finisher, and the RD:

Guess he couldn’t read my writing on the app! I responded with:

“woohoo! That’s exciting! And Terrifying!”

So now my current training philosophy would be put to the test — I want to be able to jump in to *any* *event* (running, biking, hiking – anything!) with just 2 months notice. With minimal run training (10-15 mpw), now I suddenly had two weeks to get ready to run 66.6 miles with 13,000′ of climb.

Quick report: Felt really good until about mile 45, then there was the “forever section” which was rocks and roots, all covered by a thick layer of leaves. I think that strained my R knee, which began to really hurt around mile 55, where I was reduced to a shuffle. And my feet started to fall apart. I went from being close to a “Horton Time” of 15 hours, to a finish in 16 hour 49 minutes. But now I want another shot, to have a good run here! Lack of run volume really caught up to me after mile 45…

And some photos:

On the one hand…

I fell short of all my goals. 😦

But on the other, I had a solid year. 🙂

But falling short of all my goals is a bit harsh — these were the distance, time, and elevation goals, that were always going to be a big stretch!

My most ambitious goal this year was to climb 365,000′, or average 1000’/day, across all sports — running, hiking, walking, biking, including indoor/virtual running and biking. And I was close!

The other big goal was to “strength train” for 50 hours. As I’m 51 and counting, maintaining strength and muscle is quite important, and while I love the endurance sports, those aren’t helping to fend off sarcopenia. Again, super close here, and just as important, the graph shows I was a lot more consistent than in prior years – not many flat line sections at all:

The distance goals for biking and running were a bit further off, but with the elevation goal, that is somewhat expected:

Biking distance
Running distance

And time – here I had 550 total hours which would include the 50 of strength… So a bit further off, and slightly less than last year, but still nearly 500 hours of “exercise.”

So, on the other hand — a solid year? Why say that? Well, I had another sub 8 hour Uhwarrie 40 (and another top 10), I did my 1st expedition length adventure race in 15 years, the FL Sea 2 Sea race, and I finished Hellgate (not quite as strong as I would have liked – blog post to come on that later). And outside of racing, I also got a couple more 14er’s in, and as you can see from the “exercise time,” spent a lot of time doing what I love — hiking, running, and biking, especially in the mountains.

At this point I’m keeping all the goals the same for 2022! It’s good to have big stretch goals even if I know it will be hard to hit all of them. I will again prioritize elevation and strength in 2022.

Current race plans are: Uhwarrie 40, Fl Sea 2 Sea, Barkley Fall Challenge

Addition projects I’d like to tackle: The Linville Gorge big loop, and to Everest (probably on the bike, and probably indoors!)

UPDATE: I forgot these two screen shots from Strava which have a a little additional info:

I like this one as it shows how I did elevation-wise per month:

And then this just included total days active and total distance:

37,000 feet

Putting this out there — maybe the public notice will get me motivated.

I set a goal this year to climb 365,000′, across all disciplines – running, hiking, trekking, biking, including virtual runs/rides (treadmill / trainer), and while I started the year well, I have fallen way behind.

Almost 37,000 feet behind! Or roughly 1300′ per day.