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Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Grand Viduta Stage Race April 27-29, 2018

A Three Day Journey Through Mud, Rocks, and More Mud


For those not familiar with a stage race, it's a race that takes place over several days.  The Grand Viduta Stage race is a three day affair that is run on the trails of Monte Sano mountain, in Huntsville, Alabama.  The race starts with a 13 mile run on Friday, followed by a 16 miler on Saturday, and finally a 14 mile run on Sunday.

I ran this race a couple of years ago, but last year I opted for a marathon in Nashville.  Needless to say, I decided it was time to return to the trails. I'm going for my 10th finish at next year's Mountain Mist 50K, and I really need to work on my trail running.  

Day One

Brandon Mader is the race director for the Grand Viduta, and he said the first day was going to be a lot of rocks.  It didn't disappoint.  There were plenty of rocks.  In addition to the rocks, it had rained several days leading up to the race, so many of the rocks were slippery.  The neat thing about this race is you run on several trails that are unique to this race. Wagon trail and Wildflower trail are a couple examples of trails that are not part of Mountain Mist or the Dizzy 50K.  Also, Brandon does a good job of mixing things up.  We ran down Waterline and then at another point in the race we were dumped out on Waterline again going back up.  

The first day ended with a run up Toll Gate to Old Railroad Bed, and back to the land trust parking lot.  

(Heading out on Day One)
(A well deserved beer at the end of a 13 mile Day. We had a choice between PBR and Rolling Rock.  Not even close.)

Day Two

The second stage of the race was billed as the most runnable, and it lived up to it's billing.  Although it was three miles longer than the first day, I finished 3:50, compared to 3:38.  The second stage consisted of the Cold Springs Trail, Mountain Mist trail, and Fire Tower trail, to name a few -- all nice single track.

About 12 miles into the run, a nasty fly started buzzing around my head.  I tried everything to shake him.  I sped up and lost him for a moment.  I think he was only resting, because he caught back up with me.  I took off my hat and tried to whack him, but to no avail.  Finally, he made a critical mistake; he flew into my ear.  I trapped him with my glove, and sent him to his final resting place, somewhere on a trail on Monte Sano.  R.I.P.

(Running on a pristine section of trail)

(David Holliday and Mica Aguilar)

One aspect of the Grand Viduta that is really nice, is that after each stage, you have a chance to hang out with friends and drink a few beers.  I think Ryan Harbaugh was the photographer.


Day Three

The final day of the Grand Viduta was a total sufferfest for me.  I was spent, and it showed.  It was my slowest day.  I'm used to running through mud.  We have a lot of it on the slush mile in McKay Hollow, but nothing prepared me for the endless, deep mud on the Arrowhead trail. It seemed like it would never end.  Also, due to some storms earlier in the year, there were several trees that had fallen over the trails.  Some I could climb over, but some I had to crawl under.  

Earlier in the day, Brandon had us running down K2 (Goat Trail) and then spilling out onto Powerline. This is the exact opposite way that you run this section for Mountain Mist.  So, my head was spinning.

Anyway, the race ends with a climb up Death Trail to the State Park's Amphitheater. 

(A deceiving picture.  This had to be one of the nicest sections of the third Stage.)

(Three Days of Trail Run Glory)

Finally, many thanks to Brandon Mader, Sean Allen, and all the volunteers.  Thanks to Melissa Hopper for the race photos.


Thursday, March 8, 2018

Delano Park 12 Hour Run 2018

A Return to Delano


What a Long Strange Trip It's Been

After this year's run at the Delano 12 Hour, I took the opportunity to go back and add up the years and miles that I've ran in this historical park in Decatur, Alabama.  The park was established in 1887, and was later named after President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's mother. I wasn't on hand for the ribbon cutting.

I've always opted for the 12 hour solo run.  However, a 50 mile solo and Relay Team option are offered. I first toed the line in 2009, and have ran it 6 times since.  I've amassed 324 miles to date, with a PR of 58 miles - that was the year, in 2016, when I won the Master's division.

2018 was a stellar year at Delano with 32 State records set by 30 runners!  I wonder if that is a State record for a race to have garnered that many records on a single day? The list of record setting runners is available on the Delano Park 12 Hour Run Face Book page. Alas, I was not one of the record setters, but it was a privilege to share the track with so many fantastic runners.

I'm in the midst of training for the Lake Martin 100 mile run, later this month. However, I'm a little concerned.  I racked up 54 miles this year at Delano, but I definitely faded.  I hit 31 miles under 6 hours, but only added 23 miles over the next 6 hours. There was nothing consistent about my running.

However, enough about me, a very sad and horrible story must be told.  If you are faint of heart, I would suggest you stop reading this report now.

The Story of DeWayne Satterfield

If you are somewhat familiar with this story and feel I am beating a dead horse, you’re right. It pretty  much is the story of a dead horse - a Stallion of a runner who left us too early, only to return.


I don't actually recall the year, because I did my best to erase it from my memory.  You probably have heard the story; the legendary DeWayne Satterfield came across the finish line at Delano, only to lay down and pass away -- next to a feminine looking cooler.

His family was distraught.  They came to me looking for answers.  They asked if there was anyway to bring DeWayne back.  They said, they knew I was aware of something called a Pet Sematary, where animals and people could be buried, only to come back to life. I told them they were referring to a Stephen King novel and movie, and that it was pure fiction.  They said, Shar, you know it is for real.  I told them, it is true ....but sometimes, dead is better.

They would not listen to reason, and I gave in.  I threw DeWayne's stinking body over my shoulder and I headed to the Pet Sematary. To be respectful of the dead, DeWayne's stinking body was not due to death, but he'd just ran well over 60 miles - runner's staunch.

(If it were only fiction)

I buried DeWayne in what the Native Americans knew was poison soil, due to a failed Auburn University agricultural project that had gone wrong.

As I waited and visited the site over the next few days, the inevitable happened.  I saw a hand reaching through the rocks.  I grabbed DeWayne's hand and pulled him up.  He smiled, and said, Hey Shar, thanks for bringing me back from the dead.  At that moment, he lunged at me and attempted to stick two fingers into my eyes -- Three Stooges style. I quickly lifted my hand between my nose and forehead in a defensive move to avert the eye poke. 

However, at that moment, I knew DeWayne would never be the same. His family and friends would soon know the truth of the Pet Sematary.

-finis-
(or is it?)



Friday, February 9, 2018

The Blount Hospitality House Mardi Gras 5K

A Question

So, I started thinking about the relationship between 5Ks and Ultra Running when I saw the following post from a guy on the Trail and Ultra Running Face Book page:

"Serious question.  If you are an ultra runner, do you register for 5K races? Why?"

My response to the post was, "Yes, speedwork is essential. It compliments endurance running."

I had just finished the Mardi Gras 5K, on March 3rd, when I read this post.  I wasn't alone in making the connection between speedwork and ultra running.  Many of the responses were along the same line.

I couldn't believe the response to the post.  I stopped counting, but I bet it was over 50.  Some people said they ran 5Ks because they are usually tied to a good cause, most often a deserving charity or civic organization.  A few people said they used to run 5Ks, but gave them up for the trails.  The ones I liked the most, were a few people who said, they stopped running them because they were just too painful -- That, I get. ;)

At this past year's Spooktacular 5K, Christy Scott and I were running side by side for a bit, when either she or I said, 5Ks suck!  Now Christy is a seasoned Ultra Runner, with many trail runs, and 100 milers to her credit.  But we know the truth of the 5K.  You run as hard as you can for 3.1 miles.  There is no managing the race, gauging your pace, making sure you are properly fueling and keeping your electrolytes in balance.  No, none of that.  Just hard, hard running all the way to the finish line.

To lend credence to the connection between Ultra Running and 5Ks, the following folks were at the Mardi Gras 5K:

Martin Scheenkloth: This past year, Martin has raced at the Yeti 100 miler, the Barkley Fall Classic, the Fat Dog 120, and a stage race on Mount Everest... just to name a few of his 2017 Ultras.

Anya Gluszek: Anya, is a superb Triathlete, also she's finished the JFK 50 miler, the Dizzy 50K and she's ran a couple Mountain Mist 50Ks...Just to name a few.

Eric Fritz:  Eric ran the Tunnel Hill 100 miler this past year, the Miwok 100K, and has over 10 finishes at the Mountain Mist 50K...again, not enough room to list all of his Ultra finishes.

Dink Taylor: Dink is the creator of the legendary Mountain Mist Trail Run and a quick look on Ultra Signup, shows Dink has ran over 135 races -- and that's just on Ultra Signup. There's no telling how many other marathons and other races he's ran over the years, not to mention that he was running on trails in Alabama, before there were actual trail races in the state.  Also, it looks like Dink has ran the Strolling Jim 40 miler, 32 times, starting in 1987, and he's won it twice, and finshed in the top 3 several times.

The point of this is to show definitively that ultra runners know the benefit of running the 5K.

So, sign up for a 5K, get in that much needed speedwork, and more than likely you'll also be contributing to good cause.    


Thursday, February 1, 2018

Mountain Mist 50K 2018

Mountain Mist 50K
&
The Huntsville Track Club's Grand Slam


Mountain Mist 50K

In the past, I've given an aid station to aid station description of Mountain Mist.  If you're interested in that, you can go back and read my previous Mountain Mist blogs.  But this year, I'm going to just hit the highs and the lows of this year's race.  

I felt really good when the race started, and fell into a steady pace. As usual I fell 3 times, but none of the falls were serious, and I just popped up and kept going.

Actually, my falls were kind of weird.  I got tripped up twice on Powerline, by vines that were stretched across the trail, kind of like trip wires.  My second fall happened on the way up to the Fern aid station, but amazingly, I didn't fall on the second half of the course, which is way more technical.  Go figure.

While I felt I was running well, the truth of the matter is, I must have been running at a slower pace than I realized.  I made it to the Fern aid station with 23 minutes to spare.  After making my way down Bluffline, I made it to the Land Trust aid station with 18 minutes to spare.  However, as I was running down Bluffline the memory of my first Mountain Mist came streaming back. I recall coming across an elderly lady with a floppy hat, she extended a bony finger and said, "The hardest part lies ahead." I kept running, and as I looked back, she was gone.  I DNF'd that year at the top of Waterline.

I knew I had to keep pushing it.  I couldn't shake the memory of that DNF. Along the way, I came across my fellow Grand Slammer, Mitch Tiffany.  For what ever reason, Mitch and I had not connected on any of our previous races.  So, Mitch was behind me going down the Alms House trail, heading toward Waterline.  He was explaining to another runner that he was involved with Ainsley's Angels (AA).  AA is an organization that focuses on the special needs community, and AA Ambassadors push special needs individuals through races to give them the experience of the race.  Mitch explained that the first time he "pushed" was at the Marine Corps Marathon.  I've seen Ainsley Angels at some of our local races and it always brings a smile to my face to see these kids, and young adults enjoying a race.

I made it to the top of Waterline, and over to the Burritt aid station with 15 minutes to spare.  By the way, Mitch passed me and finished the race 6 minutes ahead of me. 

As I was running across slush mile, a bit of controversy ensued.  Why I always get wrapped up into these kinds of things, I'll never know.  I heard Suzanne Erickson call my name from the other side of the McKay Hollow trail.  The year before, I'd been dealing with a terrible case of back spasms that I couldn't shake.  I was overly medicated heading into the race, and on slush mile, I was overtaken by Suzanne, Casey Fritz and their gang.

I didn't want that to happen this year, so I picked up my pace. However, along the way, I came across a group of Mountain bikers.  I said, "About a mile behind me, you will see a group of ladies running in pink shirts.  If you can, slow down and see if you can help them out.  Now, Suzanne says, when she came across the Bikers, they said, I told them to "take them out." First of all I would never do anything like that.  Do I look like a Tonya Harding?  I don't think so. If anything, I was the Nancy Kerrigan in this scenario -- the innocent victim.

Anyway, I wound crossing the finish line, and racked up my 9th Mountain Mist finish, and my 5th Grand Slam. Suzanne and Casey were hot on my heels.  I've got to up my game for next year, I don't want to cut it close when I go for my 10 year jacket.   

 (Finishing my 9th Mountain Mist. The final leg of the Grand Slam.)

(Picture of the 2018 Grand Slammers prior to the start of Mountain Mist - missing a few people.)


(Running on a trail during the Dizzy 50K.  The first leg of the Grand Slam.)

(Running at the Rocket City Marathon. The second leg of the Grand Slam.)

 (Running at the Recover from the Holidays 50K. The third leg of the Grand Slam)

Finally, and most importantly, none of these races could take place without dedicated Race Directors and volunteers.  Thanks to Ryan Chaffin for directing the Dizzy 50K.  Thanks to Suzanne and Dink Taylor for directing the Rocket City Marathon and the Mountain Mist 50K.  Thanks to Christy and Tony Scott for directing the Recover from the Holidays 50K.  Thanks to Casey Fritz for coordinating the HTC Grand Slam.  Each of these races come with their own set of challenges, and this group of RDs do a fantastic job.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Rocket City Marathon and Recover from the Holidays 50K



It's a Twofer!
RCM & RFH 50K


This is a tale of two races.  Both are part of the Huntsville Track Club's Grand Slam. With the Dizzy 50K in the books, it was time to take on two more of the four races -- the Rocket City Marathon on December 9th, and later, the Recover from the Holidays 50K, on December 31st. 

Rocket City Marathon

A cold snap hit Huntsville the week of the marathon, and starting temperatures were in the upper 20's.  I knew from past experience that if you dress like an Eskimo at the start of a cold race, you will wind up melting as the temperatures begin to rise.  So, I opted to wear a toboggan and gloves. (Yes, my northern friends, the thing on your head is a toboggan and the thing you ride in the snow is a sled. A sled is not a toboggan.)

As the race progressed, I was feeling pretty good.  I was hoping to break 4 hours and I was hanging with the 3:58 pace group.    




Around mile 18, a bit of a controversy ensued.  As you can see from the picture below, I was clearly by myself, in the lead of the 3:58 pacing group.  Running fast, as the Saturn V was about to launch.  However.....


As you see here Kathy Youngren, superimposed her picture into this frame to give the appearance that she was ahead of me.  So sad, so unnecessary.  Kathy has ran in several 10Ks, marathons, and other races -- there's no need to list them, we'll just call them, "other races."  So, she has nothing to prove, and yet this.  Anyway, out of the goodness of my heart, I let her cross the finish line ahead of me, by a few minutes.  Did I mention that it was out of the goodness of my heart? Well, it was. I didn't break 4 hours.  I finished in 4:00:18. :/
(Kathy wrote her name on her bib)

Recover from the Holidays 50K

Well, time marched on, and as the end of 2017 approached, I once again toed the line at the Recover from the Holidays 50K.  Christy Scott is the race director.  Along with her husband Tony, they've made RFH a truly great event.

(An artist rendering of Christy. She's my friend.)

 It was the coldest start of the RFH that any of us could remember.  I think it was around 21 degrees and it never got above 27.  Also, there was a strong north wind that kept one wide awake during the race. 

(Starting the race, with my Alabama Crimson Tide gloves. The next day we beat Clemson. Also, I have to say, #nuunhydration kept me going.  Love the grape flavor.)

RFH is a loop course, and on every loop we get to run up and down this little hill.  As the day wears on, the hill gets steeper and longer. Go figure.

 The eventual winner of RFH was Josh Whitehead, pictured here.  Josh is super fast and a really nice guy.  Each time he lapped me - which he did frequently, he offered a word of encouragement, to an old broken down trail runner. Josh finished in 3:59:49.  I finished in 6:20:15.  My life coach, Stephen Hawking, assured me that in the overall space time continuum, that really wasn't much of a difference. -- practically inconsequential.

A couple other people I need mention:  Lindsey "Slim Shady" Hardesty tracked me down like a wounded animal.  Every lap I could see her chipping away into my lead.  Eventually the inevitable happened; she passed me and said, Eat my dust old man, and she tripped me, and threw a rock at me.  No respect for her elders.

On the flip side, Brad Ryder finished ahead of me, but shouted words of support when he saw me. I appreciated that Brad.

I can't say enough about the volunteers who weathered the extremely cold temperatures to work the aid station, and the timing table, and all the other behind the scenes work that went into the race. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

So the final race of the Grand Slam is Mountain Mist, at the end of January.  I'll let you know how it goes. I'll probably fall and lose some teeth. Karma. 




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.)