Nuunbassador 2017

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Hobbs Island 10K! Always a Good Time.

Hobbs Island 10K 

The Hobbs Island 10K is quickly becoming one of my favorite races.  It's wedged between the Turkey Trot 5K on Thanksgiving morning, and the Rocket City Marathon, two weeks later.  It seems the 10K distance is becoming an endangered species in the running community, giving way to a plethora of 5Ks.  That's why this race is all the more special.  My friend Martin Schneekloth is the Race Director; he transformed the Huntsville Track Club's (HTC) scholarship fundraiser into a new distance. I recall, in the past, it was an 8K.  The race also has a new location. It's been moved from Downtown Huntsville, to Ditto Landing, on the Tennessee River. Martin may have had some help with the distance and location from the Track Club, but nonetheless, the outcome is one great race.  It's going on its 3rd year.  

I've ran each of the three years.  The course changed after the first year, due to some conflicts with the Huntsville Police Department.  I think it was a public safety issue. Sections of the race were run on roads that were not closed off, this caused the HPD to have understandable concerns. Also, I recall there was a staffing issue.  Given that the race falls on a Holiday weekend, I think it was straining HPD resources.   

Anyway, it all worked out for the best.  While the HPD still supports the race, it doesn't require as much manpower and the new course is flat and fast.  However, I can't explain how my course PR was set on the old course which had a sizable climb about halfway through.  I'll chalk it up to younger legs.

(Early into the race.)

It's a incredibly scenic race, taking you down and back on the Aldridge Creek Greenway and then circling by the Tennessee River.  I couldn't appreciate all of the views, because I was sucking wind for most of the race.

Somewhere around mile 4, I got my second wind and had negative splits for miles 5 and 6. Although it was a cold start, I'm glad I ditched my jacket before the start of the race.  Many runners dressed for the cold start, and I think they started melting around mile 3. I've learned the hard way that it's better to freeze at the start of a race, rather than overdressing and turning your clothes into a mini sauna.

(Crossing the finish line, with this nice couple.  They kind of made me feel bad because they were racing with hydration packs on, and I still could not seem to pass them. :/ )

One great aspect of  Hobbs Island is to be able to hang out at the finish line and congratulate runners as they cross the line.  If you haven't given this race a shot, I would highly recommend it.  It's well organized and the door prizes are over the top.

I've never received one. Hint, Hint.

My Times

2015: 48:16:00
2016: 51:16:67 (too much Thanksgiving leftovers)
2017: 48:46:07 (30 seconds off my PR)

Monday, November 20, 2017

A Rough Dizzy 50K and My Hopes for Becoming the Hulk are Dashed

The Dizzy Fifties 50K 2017

A New Course

I will get to the Hulk story in a bit, but I will start with my history at the Dizzy 50's.  I've toed the line at this race five times before, and one year I did the 40 mile option, along with Suzanne Erickson.  I was training for something, I guess.  Anyway, over time, things changed and Ryan Chaffin has taken over as Race Director and along with that, he laid out a new course.  I'm going to say it is much more difficult than the old course, simply because I clocked a terrible time on this course - 7:39:37.  

Before the race, I was feeling pretty good about the race, because I had dusted off my old Youngren training plan from the Graveyard 100 in 2015, and re-purposed it for the Lake Martin 100, which I'm going to be running in March.  I was well into training, putting up a 60 mile week before Dizzy, and running another 60 mile week with the inclusion of Dizzy.  

However, my mistake was that I had run most of the miles on the road, with very little trail running at this point.

Once again, as part of my overall training for Lake Martin, I had signed up for the Huntsville Track Club's Grand Slam.  The Grand Slam consists of completing the Dizzy 50K, the Rocket City Marathon, Recover from the Holidays 50K, and a little ol' run on Monte Sano called the Mountain Mist 50K.  All of these races take place in roughly a 10 week span of time.

 (A picture of this year's Grand Slammers, before the start of Dizzy)

(Tim Pitt getting dialed in before the race.)

Let's Start the Race

Ryan Chaffin gave a few pre-race announcements, pointing out the layout of the course, which only served to confuse me.  Anyway the race started with a shout of go, followed by a late air horn blast, by James Hurley, which was pretty funny and good for a laugh as things got rolling. 

The course consists of a north loop, which is pretty technical, followed by a south loop which is less technical, but it's where I like to fall - a lot, just to spring me back into the moment. There's nothing like falling on a gravel road to make you feel like a true trail runner. 

(This is a picture coming up a climb on the South Loop.  I look deranged.)

 (A couple more pics.)

The Loops Keep Coming 

The Dizzy consists of three full loops that are approximately 10.5 miles.  As I came through my second loop, I see my friend, Cary Long sitting down in the pavilion.  He said two loops were all he was doing today.  Cary had come off the Barkley Fall Classic, and had not been doing a lot of running since.  I felt his pain, but I decided to keep pushing for the finish, even if it would mainly consist of the "Shar Shuffle" - a horrible name that has been given to me due to a few slow finishes, when I fake running by simply swinging my arms, and kind of shuffling.

However, I think we will have to call two loops at the Dizzy -- the Fun Run.  

(Cary Long before his Fun Run) 

Now the Story of the Incredible Hulk

I was on my last loop at Dizzy when I see Collen Wilson-Hodge catching up with me.  Her husband Andy had already witnessed at least two of my spectacular falls -- but I digress.  With Collen closing in on me, I knew I had a great opportunity to find out if I could get hit with enough gamma rays, could I become the Incredible Hulk -- which would be really cool.

Collen is a NASA scientist, and the Principal Investigator (or PI as those of us in the community call it), on the Fermi Gamma Burst Monitor.

Here's an excerpt from an interview with Collen: 

"When we built GBM and launched it on Fermi in 2008, we designed it to detect gamma-ray bursts well," said Wilson-Hodge. "Back then, it was only slated to fly for five years. Today, GBM is at the forefront of an entirely new type of science, ushering in this new era of multi-messenger astronomy."
Gamma-ray bursts are the most powerful explosions in the cosmos. Since beginning operations, GBM has triggered on over 2,000 gamma-ray bursts. With 14 detectors pointed in different directions, GBM sees the entire sky not blocked by Earth. It's sensitive to X-rays and gamma rays with energies between 8,000 and 40 million electron volts (eV). For comparison, the energy of visible light ranges between about 2 and 3 eV."
So, I asked Collen, if I could get hit with that level of Gamma radiation, could I become the Hulk?!?
As, she passed me, she said, "No, you would die."
(A picture of Collen on the course, before she dashed my dreams)

Well, I regrouped from the sad news, and managed to finish the race.  All in all, it was a good day on the trails with a bunch of good runners.

(Crossing the finishing line, with Melissa Hopper on my heels.)


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Barkley Fall Classic 2017

The Barkley Fall Classic
Embracing an Epic Fail

"It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere." -- Voltaire

Base Camp Wartburg
(The smile of a man who has no idea for what awaits.)
I arrived in Wartburg, TN and made my way to the American Legion building for packet pickup, feeling confident in my training for this adventure. After all, I had run over Green Mountain, logged many miles, and had several runs over Cecil Ashburn.  Surely that would serve me well for this race.  Right? Wrong.
Nothing in my experience prepared me for Frozen Head.  Nothing.  I remember talking to DeWayne Satterfield after the Firecracker 5K on July 4th.  When he found out I was running the BFC, he laughed and said, "I can't wait to hear what you think of Rat Jaw." I laughed and said, "I'll let you know."

The Start

I arrived at the starting line and quickly several Huntsville (and vicinity) runners started to gather.  As I recall, we were talking about everything other than the race.  Cary Long was enthralled with
Dr. Robert Youngren's short sleeve shirt.  It looked like something that came off of the set of Sanford and Son; however Dr. Youngren said he liked the ability to unbutton his shirt to stay cool.  The thought of this made Cary swoon.

When Laz lit his cigarette the race started, and we were off.  The first stretch was down a paved road, past the yellow gate and then we veered off onto Old Mac, or Mac something.  Anyway it was a trail much like you would find on Monte Sano, so I was right at home.  The sun had yet to rise, but there was  enough light to run on the trail.  However, the race soon became like another Tennessee 50K -- Stump Jump.  Conga lines were forming.  I didn't get too concerned because I figured we were all in the same situation. 

Now you're going to have to forgive me, because I didn't know where the hell I was most of the time during this race, but the next thing I recall I was running down this really pristine trail that had shards of sunlight streaming through the trees.  David Nast caught up with me and said I had a really good pace going.  So, I had that going for me. 


Then, the next thing I know, I was running/sliding/falling down Testicle Spectacle towards a little white church. At some point, I did a slow motion tumble over a log, and of course David Nast was there to laugh at me.  That's what runners do. It was along this stretch that I saw Dr. Robert Youngren approaching me in the opposite direction, coming back from the church.  Now, Dr. Youngren and his wife Kathy are the new parents of a beautiful baby girl.  So as Rob approached, I yelled, "Hey Pop!"  At that moment, Rob laughed (I guess), took his eyes off the trail and fell ass backwards into a stream -- which I'm sure was chock full of raccoon fecal matter.  With a smile on his face, I heard him blame me for his fall, and as any good trail runner would do, I just kept running (or crawling). Also, I saw Dana Overton, Martin Schneekloth, DeWayne Satterfield and others coming up. 

So after getting my bib punched at the church, I started the climb back up Testicle. Actually, the ascent was a lot better than the descent and I was feeling pretty good about my prospects. 

 (making my way up a kinder section of testicle spectacle)

(Topping out on TS)
One's reward for making it to the top of TS, is to descend down Meth Lab Hill.  It is a sharp descent and most of my time was either crab walking, sliding on my butt, or occasionally being able to stand upright.

 (Saying a prayer and checking my hose before descending Meth Lab.  She was checking her hose too.)
After getting down to the bottom of Meth Lab, we hit a nice and welcomed runnable trail that emptied out on a road that took us over to the Brushy Mountain State prison.  We ran through some Walking Dead like cell blocks, out into the prison yard, climbed a ladder up and over a wall, then went under the prison to a dark tunnel with running water under our feet. (You're more than welcome to diagram that last sentence.)  I had my headlamp in my pocket, and held it in my hand as this other dude and I made our way out.  He thanked me.

(Escaping Brushy Mountain Prison)
As we approached Rat Jaw, I heard some guy say we had 30 minutes to get to the top, climb the Fire Tower and get our bib punched.  That sounded doable.
The first several yards of Rat Jaw were not bad at all.  I was thinking this thing is overrated.  Testicle was tougher than this.  That mirage soon disappeared into a god awful slog up the side of this mountain.  I made it to a small clearing and there was this guy who was talking to a volunteer and he said he couldn't go back down, and couldn't go up. The volunteer told him the Park Rangers could get him off from this point, but they might not be happy.  I decided at that point, that my Barkley "win" would just be to make to the top of Rat Jaw. 
To appreciate Rat Jaw is to understand there are no switchbacks, just a straight up climb.  At times you are reduced to crawling.  While Sword, an electrolyte drink, had served me well to this point, it had gone warm in my hydration pack.  Every sip simply came back up.  I threw up three times and laid down a couple of times to cool down and regroup.  For those that finished this thing, I know this sounds sad. 
Long story short, I finally made it to the top of Rat Jaw.  Later I took a count of my yellow jacket stings. I had 24.  I knew I was getting stung, but after a while I just didn't seem to care.  In fact at one point a yellow jacket sat down on my knee, and said, "Hey friend, since you are moving so slow, and are pretty much a sitting duck, do you mind if me and a few of my buds sting the hell out of you?"  I was feeling pretty generous, so I said, "Have at it."

 (An anonymous young lady doing a good job of summing up Rat Jaw - stock photo)
The Park Rangers at the top of Rat Jaw were great.  They let me lay down in their John Deere Gator while we waited on a couple of other runners to crest the top of Rat Jaw. 
I heard them talking about the Tennessee / Florida game.  I confessed that I was an Alabama fan, and if the they wanted to dig a hole and bury me here, that would be fine.  They laughed and said they didn't want to pollute their park with an Alabama fan.  We all laughed at that one.  But I noticed they were packing Glocks, so I didn't revisit the offer.

After we started down the hill, in the ride of shame, we picked up a young lady from Australia at an aid station. She said her quads locked up and she was done.  We had a nice conversation going down. She was from Sydney, and said to get any kind of elevation training, she and her friends had to drive (on the wrong side of the road) over an hour to get to some hills.  She said, they just ran them up and down.  The Park Ranger that was driving us down, said he wanted to run the BFC next year.  My Australian friend replied that he will gain a whole new perspective of his park -- mostly on his hands and knees, and butt. He laughed.

We continued chatting after we got dropped off, and I found out she was staying in Oak Ridge.  I suggested she try Outback Steakhouse for dinner. 


I'm not going back.  I'm in awe of finishers like Liz Canty, Dana Overton, Martin Schneekloth, Dr. Rob "Pop" Youngren, Jay Crosby, Jeff Deaton and David Thurman -- getting the Croix de Barque on his third attempt.

The marathon finishers deserve a lot of praise as well.  That's a hell of an accomplishment in its own right.

Laz described the Barkley Fall Classic as a wilderness run, and it surely is.




Tuesday, May 2, 2017

St. Jude Rock n Roll Nashville Marathon 2017

30,000 Runners, Heat, Humidity and Hills - What could go wrong?
The End is Near
As I crossed the finish line, I made my way to a guard rail that separated the runners from the finish line spectators.  I grabbed the rail leaned over and threw up, and then once more for good measure.  The heat had beat me down.  I collected myself long enough to make it to the nice volunteers who were handing out finisher medals. Generally, the medal is placed around your neck, but in this case I just asked them to hand it to me.  I didn't want to run the risk of throwing up on an unsuspecting volunteer. 
I told Rose that I would meet her at the Beer Garden after the race, so I walked a few hundred yards and made it to the entrance.  I was in no shape to go into the "garden," but since they were only serving Michelob Ultra, it wasn't a huge loss.
I laid down under a tree, threw up again, which prompted Rose to seek out a couple of EMT's from the nearby medical tent.  This whole scene takes place in the parking lot of Nissan Stadium, home of the Tennessee Titans.  The EMT's helped me over to the medical tent, and sat me down in a chair, got some ice on me, checked my blood pressure, took my pulse and listened to my heart rate.  Apparently, they did not like what they were hearing. My heart rate was erratic.  They said it could be caused by an electrolyte imbalance, but to be safe they wanted to get me to an ER to get checked out.   So, here comes an ambulance.  I get loaded up, and the first IV of the day gets started.
On my way to the ER, I had a chance to reflect on how it all ended up this way.
Race Day Morning

As I made my way from my hotel to the race start, I could tell the forecast was accurate.  It was already in the 60's and the high was expected to reach the high 80's, with the humidity hovering around 70%.

There were 40 corrals, with full and half marathoners placed in the same corrals. Although I was placed in corral 15 with an anticipated finish time of 4:05, I wasn't too concerned. I knew this was not going to be a PR kind of day, but I wanted to get into an even pace and work through the miles.

Due to the anticipated heat, the race officials decided, rightfully so, to move the start time back to 6:45 am.  Once the gun sounded, my corral made it to the start line by 7:03.  Less than a mile into the race, many runners had started to walk, as the race moved from a four lane boulevard to neighborhood streets, people were now walking 3 and 4 abreast in the middle of the street.

As I picked and weaved my way through corrals that were ahead of me, I knew I was expending energy, just trying to get a clear lane, and set a decent pace. 

The half marathoners split off at 11 miles, and that really opened things up.

The Course

The course is scenic and provides a great tour of Nashville.  It takes you by the bars and honky tonks on Broadway, downtown Nashville, Music Row, and at mile 17 you even get to run around the Nashville Sounds ballpark -- you swing down onto the outfield track, run past third base, around home plate, past first base and then back to the outfield, and then you exit the park -- pretty cool.  The Rock and Roll part of the race really plays a motivating factor.  Every couple of miles there is a band playing.  Also, through the neighborhoods, people would have their own sound systems cranking.  I heard everything from Devo's Whip It, to the theme from Rocky. 

Once I factored in the heat, and the fact that this was as much an event, as it was a marathon, it was just easy to go with the flow.  The medical tents were great, they would hand out Gatorade, with salt already mixed into it. They were usually stationed about a half, to a quarter of mile from an aid station, so you could quickly get the salt taste out of your mouth with a cup of water.  Also, there was one aid station that offered ice cold pickle juice, to help with cramps.  I love ice cold pickle juice.  It really helps.   

Around mile 22, I was reduced to the old marathon shuffle.  I was just trying to grind it out. The heat and humidity started taking a toll.  Did I mention that there are a bunch of small, rolling hills?  If I didn't, I'll just say, there are a bunch of small, rolling hills. By the time, I reached mile 24, the occasional dry heave had started.

I got across the finish line, and you know the rest of the story.  I will just say the ER doctor and nurses at Saint Thomas were great. I got two more IVs, they ran an EKG -- my heart is in good shape, and they took some blood. I wasn't crazy about them taking my "core" temperature. Let's just say it's the opposite of opening your mouth and saying, "ahhh."

As I walked out of my room, I heard a nurse call from down the hall, "Do you need a wheelchair?"  I looked around, because I was sure she was talking to someone else.  I said, "Who, me?"  I told her I could walk out.  We skipped the cab, and walked five blocks back to the hotel.

Everything turned out okay.  I got a medal with lights, a finisher's jacket, and a nice tech shirt.  And more than anything, I was able, with the help of friends, to raise money for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.  It's a great cause, but a tough race.


(Managing a smile after upchuck 1 & 2. #Nuunbassador2017 #NuunLove)

Friday, March 24, 2017

HTC Rocket Run 10 Miler

The 43rd Annual Rocket Run 10 miler
I'm just getting around to it.
New Stuff
Every year I try to enter a new race, or at least new to me.  For years, I've seen the Rocket Run 10 miler pop up, but I never registered for it.  I guess I couldn't appreciate the distance.  Because it's not a 10K or half marathon, just something in between, it didn't resonate with me.  My outlook on this distance changed last year when on a whim, I signed up at the last minute for the Firecracker Chase 10.2 mile race in Fayetteville, TN.  I realized this is a great distance for a race.  It really allows you to push yourself.  There's not a lot of managing a race at this distance.  It's all about how much you can pour yourself into it.
A Historic Little Town
The race takes place in the historic little town of Mooresville, AL.  The town is about the size of a postage stamp.  It's small, but consists of beautiful old homes, and the race starts at the "Old Brick Church."  This race is free to members of the Huntsville Track Club, so I was surprised to see that Martin Schneekloth was not at this race.  Apparently, he chose to run the Savage Gulf Marathon, which requires an entry fee. I will leave it to the reader to discern what I'm implying.   

The Race Begins

I went out at a pretty good clip.  At one point I looked at my watch and realized I was running below a 7 minute pace.  I knew I had to slow down or I would blow up at some point.  As I passed the 1 mile mark, I was running about 7:45.  I maintained an 8:00 minute pace as I ran up a long frontage road that ran parallel to I-565. From miles 3 to 4, the gradual climb and rolling nature of the road began to take its toll, and my pace fell off to around 8:19.

The Middle and the push to the Finish line!

At mile 5, I clocked an 8:29 pace, and by mile 6, I was at 8:44.  As I reached an aid station on the other side of 6 miles, I saw Graham Gallamore working the station.  Graham gave me a shout out and that was a much needed lift.  Graham is a ten time Mountain Mist 50K finisher -- a proud group who has an awesome jacket to prove their accomplishment.  If I'm not mistaken, Graham is also the visionary who created the Dizzy Monkey.  This is a challenge that requires one to finish the Dizzy 50K on Monte Sano Mountain in Huntsville, AL, on Saturday and then make the trek up to Nashville, TN to run the Flying Monkey Marathon on Sunday.  Thus, the Dizzy Monkey.

Somewhere between mile 7 and 8, I see Carol Phelps doing a walk/run thing.  I knew something was up. Carol is a really good runner, with a super smooth gait (and she consistently beats me.) Carol and I ran together to the 8 mile aid station, and she said she was still exhausted from a fast run earlier in the week.  It can happen.  Fatigue can catch up with you at all of the wrong times.  I told Carol to hang in there.  She's the real deal and she wound up finishing strong. 

I knew I needed to pick it up and between mile 9 and 10, I posted a negative split -- from 8:41 to 8:22.

I almost beat Kathy Youngren

Kathy and I have a running joke (see what I did there) that goes back to the 2016 Delano Park 12 Hour run.  A well meaning and kind runner, sincerely told Kathy that she almost beat her. 

I needed someone to pace me for the last few miles, if I had any chance of getting a PR.  Kathy was sitting down with a bunch of friends and it looked like she had called it a day, but I convinced her to get back in the race, to help a brother out.  This very nice young woman was convinced she would have posted more miles than Kathy, if she had not reentered the race.  I don't think that was necessarily true, and may have been a case of alternate facts, but needless to say, she didn't beat Kathy.  However, since then it gives me great joy to tell Kathy that I almost beat her.  In fact my life coach, Dr. Stephen Hawking assures me that in the overall space time continuum, that the difference between my finishing times, in any given race, and Kathy's are infinitesimal.

So, back to the race.  As I was about a half a mile from the finish line, Michael Smith comes blazing by me.  Michael is the wrangler for the Thursday morning Fleet Feet Breakfast Club runs. This group meets at 5:30 am.  Those early morning runs must have paid off, because he shot by me and there was no catching up to him.

In any event, I finished the race in 1:23:58, with an 8:24 overall pace. OA: 57/230 AG: 7/21 - Meh.

There were some great performances out there.  Brandon York won with a mind blowing time of 54:09, and a pace of 5:25. My daughter still gets a laugh thinking about the time we ran the Cookie Dash 5K together and Brandon ran and won the race dressed in a rabbit suit. 

Lauren Mitchell won with a time of 1:06:12.

Rob Youngren was in the mix with a 4th place finish followed by, in his words, a 24 mile cool down run.  Me thinks Rob has his eyes focused on the Barkley.

Dink Taylor, Chad Ayers, and Todd Parsons all had top 20 finishes.

Eric Fritz, who's been dealing with a nagging injury, finished in 1:17:35. Way to go Fritz.  You nailed it.

Brad Ryder just keeps getting faster.  He passed me.

On the women's side, Anya Gluzek, Aleisha Chaffin, and Kathy Youngren all had a great day. They're fast.

 It's always good to see my friend Donna Palumbo.  Donna is one of the nicest people in the world and she keeps knocking down those distances -- from 5Ks to marathons.

Ainsley's Angels
The Huntsville Track Club is working with a great organization, Ainsley's Angels, which gives people with special needs the ability to experience an endurance event with the help of Ainsley Angel volunteers.  This year, Shannon Green experienced the Rocket Run 10 miler with several Ainsley Angel runners assisting her throughout the race.

 (Shannon Green approaching the Finish Line!)
Many thanks to Race Director Valerie Connaughton, all the volunteers, and race sponsor OTBX (the Old Town Beer Exchange)!  The beer at the finish line was much appreciated.  It was a fantastic event and I look forward to making up for lost time and running this race for years to come. 
Finally, I will leave you with this quote. 
"I want my time running to serve as a reward." -- Frank Shorter
 Races are the icing on the cake.  It's the everyday run that will make all the difference in your life.

Monday, March 6, 2017

1 Wedding, 2 Runs and no Funeral

Enjoying the Sites of Mobile, AL
A Trip South
This past weekend, I traveled to Mobile to attend my niece, Amelia's wedding. My Mom came along with me.  At 85, Mom is still sharp as a tack, but her body has started to turn on her.  After several back surgeries and a partial hip replacement, Mom uses a walker to get around.  So, we took our time, but had a nice trip as we made our way from the top of Alabama all the way down I-65 to the Azalea City, of Mobile.
After we checked into our hotel and I got my Mom over to the rehearsal, I took the opportunity to go for a run through town.  I knew the route from our hotel to the church, where the wedding would take place, so I headed in that direction.  The route took me down historic Dauphin, Street, where there are a variety of restaurants and bars.  There were still signs of the Mardi Gras parade that had taken place earlier in the week -- strands of beads could still be seen scattered along the sidewalk and street.

When I reached the church, Dauphin Way United Methodist, I crossed the street and headed back. The sun was going down and various lights of the city were beginning to shine.  As I made my way up Dauphin St., I decided to swing through Bienville Square and see the fountain, that by this time was all in lights.  The Square was named in honor of the founder of Mobile, Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville.

So, it will come as no surprise to those that know me that the inevitable was about to happen.  As I exited the Square, I got turned around and after running up and down several streets trying to find my way back to my hotel, I finally had to walk into the downtown Police Station, and ask directions back to the Hampton Suites.  My 4 mile run turned into a 6 mile run.  But hey, it was a beautiful night, in a beautiful city.

(Stock photo of Bienville Square Fountain)

After I got back to the hotel, I showered and decided to go out for a bite.  My Mom was at the rehearsal dinner, and so I had some time on my hands.  I asked the lady at the desk for a recommendation for the best place for a burger and a beer in walking distance.  She said the LoDa Biergarten had the best burgers in town and had over 40 beers on tap and 100 plus beers in bottles. Now, I don't eat red meat often, but when I do, it has to count.  This place did not disappoint.  I highly recommend it.

When I arrived I sat at the bar, ordered a Good People IPA, and struck up a conversation with a guy from Virginia, who traveled all over the East Coast repairing Coast Guard helicopters. When I worked in Washington, DC, I knew a couple of guys that flew MH-65 Dolphins for the Coast Guard, so we had a lot to talk about.

I was also sitting in front of a sign that highlighted their Moon Pie Burger. Although very tempting, I had to pass on it.

(I took a picture of the LoDa Biergarten the next day.)

(I had to throw in a picture of an MH-65 Dolphin because I think they're cool.)

The morning of the wedding, I headed out on a short run.  I ran down to Fort Conde.  It's a partial replica of the old French Fort.  When I was high school, the state Key Club convention was in Mobile. One of the Key Club "sweethearts" and I slipped out of the convention and walked down to Fort Conde. We held hands.  It was a tender moment.  Years later, I ran into her in a grocery store. The snow was falling; it was Christmas Eve.  I stood behind her in the frozen foods and I touched her on the sleeve.  She didn't recognize the face at first, but then her eyes flew open wide.  She went to hug me and she spilled her purse and we laughed until we cried.

(Fort Conde, complete with 1700's fire hydrant)

I ran back down Dauphin St. and passed the original Wintzell's Oyster House.  No offense to the other locations, but nothing beats the original.

 The Wedding

The wedding took place at 5:30, Saturday evening, and it was a lovely ceremony.  Amelia wed Josh Rabbit.  A young man who has just completed dental school, and as I understand it, will be going into pediatric dentistry.  I think the future will be bright for this wonderful couple, and a pediatric dentist named Dr. Rabbit will surely be a hit with little kids.

The reception was held at the Carnival Museum. It highlighted Mobile's rich Mardi Gras history.  The band consisted of a bunch of guys dressed in Elvis jumpsuits, wearing afro wigs.  Great look.  Good band.

It was a great weekend, and if you have a chance to run through the streets of downtown Mobile, I'm sure you will really enjoy it.  Again, it is a beautiful city, with very nice people -- and if you get lost, the police will point you in the right direction. :)


Friday, February 3, 2017

Mountain Mist Trail Run 2017

Elvis, Dr. Nick, and the Mist
A couple of weeks prior to Mountain Mist, I went out for an easy 10 mile run.  When I came back, I noticed a twinge in my back, but dismissed it and proceeded an hour our two later to go over Cecil Ashburn Drive, to get a little more elevation for the day. For those not familiar with Cecil Ashburn, it is a pretty steep road that connects Huntsville proper, with the quaint little town of Owens Cross Roads. 
On Monday, prior to the Saturday start of the Mist, I went out for a 13 mile run on Redstone Arsenal, when I got back home, I experienced some acute back spasms.  I've never experienced anything so painful, and I've broken my hand on a run, but nothing touched this kind of roiling pain.  The next day on an 8 mile run, I had to stop and walk for the last 3 miles because the back spasms hit again.  
I was at a loss as to what I did to mess up my back, but more importantly, Mountain Mist was only four days away.  So now, the Elvis Presley connection. As you may recall, Elvis never took illegal drugs, he just took an incredible amount of prescription drugs, administered by his personal physician, Dr. George Constantine Nichopoulos, or Dr. Nick.  Now, I did not have a trove of amphetamines, barbiturates, narcotics, etc., but I did recall that I had a bottle of prescription muscle relaxers (Robaxin 750mg)  that I had from a few years ago, and my go to bottles of Aleve, Advil, and Tylenol. I also had my handy heating pad, and a bottle of gin -- which by the way, is a great recovery drink given that it is made from a variety of botanicals, coupled with tonic water, which contains quinine, a known leg cramp remedy; it's the perfect elixir.  So, in effect for the next few days, I became Elvis and Dr. Nick rolled into one.  The patient and the physician.  To say I was, at times, a little loopy is an understatement, but I was going to do everything I could to prevent back spasms on the trail.  
The morning of Mountain Mist, I started the race with a muscle relaxer, two Aleve, and some aspirin for good measure. The ensuing result...I was slightly uncoordinated -- just a bit.  So, let the race begin....

Start of the Race through the O'Shaunghnessy Point Aid Station (6.4 miles)

(Flying out of the gate!  I see Riddle!)
The race started with a rendition of America the Beautiful, followed by the Star Spangled Banner, and the traditional big ass rifle shot...I don't know if that thing is a musket or a buffalo rifle, or what, but it's big, and it's loud, and it is an attention grabber. 
I was running pretty well through the early stages of the race, but things were going to change.  Somewhere along here I took a fall, I can't remember where, but it was nothing serious. So, I picked myself up and kept going.

O'Shaughnessy Point to Goat Trail Aid Station (11.9) miles

I could feel my back tightening, but I wasn't experiencing any spasms.  I was concentrating on keeping well hydrated, with my bottle of #nuun, and every time I was on the edge of a cramp, I would take a hit of my Base salt.  My friend, Tim Pitt suggested I start using salt after an unusually warm 2015 Rocket City Marathon. The conditions that day resulted in me having terrible leg cramps. I've found taking a pinch of salt immediately calms leg cramps, as opposed to electrolyte caps or pills, which take longer to work.  Anyway, I digress.  I headed down Warpath and made my way to the Powerline section of the race. It had sections of thick mud, but for the most part, it was in pretty good shape this year. I headed up K-2 at a slower pace than I wanted, but I kept moving -- Relentless Forward Motion -- I kept running that mantra through my head.  When I topped out on K-2, I headed towards Stone Cuts.  Call me crazy but I always enjoy this section of the race.

  (Slicing my way through Stone Cuts -- like a danged ol' Ninja.)
After I got through Stone Cuts, I headed towards the Sinks trail.  I usually head down this section of trail at a pretty a good pace, but today it was slower.  I could not get in a rhythm.  At some point, as I headed over to the Fearn Drive Aid Station, I heard Dana Overton coming up behind me, I fell not once, but twice in this section of trail. After my second fall, Dana said, "Shar, I can't take it. You've got to stop doing that." (That's a close facsimile of what she said.)  Anyway, I didn't realize at the time that I was running in rarefied air! Dana was going for her 10 year jacket. (Spoiler alert: She got it!)

Fearn Drive (mile 17.1) to Land Trust (21.1)
After refilling and dropping a nuun tablet in my bottle, I was ready to go.  Oh yeah, I saw a couple of Advil on the table, so I took them. (Keeping count: 1 muscle relaxer, two Aleve, a few aspirin, and two Advil.)  My back was hurting, but no spasms!  I made my way across High Trail and used this runnable section to make up a little time, because I knew what was ahead.  As I turned onto Bluffline, I knew that this section had been my nemesis in the past.  Last year, I made it to the Land Trust aid station with no problems, but the year before I had taken a nasty fall.  Needless to say, my luck from last year did not hold.  The closer you get to to the aid station, the more technical the trail and roots.  Anyway at some point when I was running at a pretty good pace, I toed a rock or something, and went head over heels and landed in a puddle facing backwards. 
Three nice ladies that were running behind me helped me out of this mini wading pool.  As I got up, the leg cramps immediately hit, so I salted.  One lady asked me if I wanted her to walk with me for a while.  Apparently, when I fell, I also hit the back of my head on a log, and they were concerned.  I assured her I was fine and I encouraged them to keep running and I would walk it off. Amazingly, I think the hit to my head, improved my vision.  Like little Ruby in Christmas Vacation.  "She falls down a well, her eyes go cross. She gets kicked by a mule. They go back.  I don't know." -- Cousin Eddie. 
I picked up my pace and made it the Land Trust Aid Station.  I think it was here that they had Advil, it could've been another aid station, anyway I took two more.  So, the count now is 1 muscle relaxer, two Aleve, some aspirin, and 4 Advil.
Land Trust to Monte Sano Boulevard Aid Station (25.1)
I moved at a descent pace down Old Rail Road Bed and Toll Gate, as I made my way over to Alms and to the base of Waterline.  As I was making my way up the steepest section of waterline, I hear a voice from behind say, "Get your ass moving!"  I look back and realize it's my friend, and world traveler, Christian Griffith.  I'm thinking, great I've got to pull this big lug up to the top, and he's probably thinking, great I've got to push this tub of goo up to the top.
Now, I was convinced it was a 6 hour cutoff at Monte Sano Boulevard, and so when I get to the top of waterline, I start hustling over there as best as I could at that point.  I make it to the aid station with 3 minutes to spare, only to find out from a laughing Kathy Youngren that it's a 6 and half hour cutoff.  So, I was in good shape.  I told Kathy, I was saving up for a sprint up Rest Shelter starting at Kathy's bench. I think she started laughing at me...again.
Monte Sano Blvd. to Rest Shelter Aid Station
I don't know what happened to me through the final stages of the race, but I could not muster a respectable pace at all.  Christian Griffith was long gone, I came across Brad Ryder who was nursing a bad knee, and said he was going to walk it out.  I think he found another gear because after I passed him, he caught me and finished ahead of me.  Casey Fritz and her band of women warriors overtook me after cry baby hill.  During the slush mile Suzanne Erickson tried to cheer me up by saying we didn't have that far to she passed me.  It wasn't a good climb up Rest Shelter, and no, I didn't start sprinting at Kathy's bench.  I started swinging my arms to mimic the motion of a run.  When I got to the Rest Shelter Aid Station, there was concern expressed about the way I looked, but I found out that my brother had come through about 30 minutes earlier.  That was good news, because he was convinced that he was so undertrained that he was going to have to drop at some point.  Again, I was convinced that I was bumping up against the race cutoff.   I was having a serious case of runner's fog. I was reassured by Kim Holmes, Mona Parker, and Chelsea Schiavone that I had plenty of time to finish the race.   I downed a cup of beer, got some pretzels and headed for the finish line.
Rest Shelter Aid Station to the Finish Line
I picked up my pace on the South Loop and headed for the finish line at the Monte Sano Lodge.  At this point, my sad, sad, goal was to go under 8 hours. I finished in 7:57:53.  As I sat on the wall at the Lodge, one of the ladies that helped me out of the pool I fell into on Bluffline came up to me with her hands on her cheeks, she said, "Oh my, I'm so glad to see you finished.  I wasn't sure you were going to make it after that fall you took."  I thanked her profusely for her help, but man was that embarrassing.
The silver lining is this:  It was a great day to run on Monte Sano.  The conditions could not have been better.  I got to run with, and see many of my running friends.  David Holliday and I crossed paths at about the same spot we see each other every the bottom of Sinks.  My back held out. It hurt, but it held out.  Finally, I finished my 8th Mountain Mist.  I DNF'd in 2008 and 2010.  In 2009, the year I finished for the first time.  The ultrarunning legend David Horton spoke at the pre-race dinner.  His words that night summed up my race this  year:
 "It never always gets worse."
 (8 Mountain Mist Finisher Plagues)