"Perhaps the genius of ultrarunning is its supreme lack of utility. It makes no sense in a world of space ships and supercomputers to run vast distances on foot. There is no money in it and no fame, frequently not even the approval of peers. But as poets, apostles and philosophers have insisted from the dawn of time, there is more to life than logic and common sense."
- David Blaikie

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Day 3 Jurassic Coast Challenge

Day 3: 5:46, 27.2 miles, 5th place overall for the 3 day challenge!

Overall Results

The sun was out today and I got some beautiful pictures. They are truly worth 1000 words each... I'm knackered and should just leave it at that but I'll write a few words until I get to bottom of this lovely Lugger Ale I'm having.

Overall another Epic day. The coastline here is just amazing (when you can see) and pictures can't begin to do it justice. We got off to a later start today than I expected and the weather turned out to be a bit warmer than predicted. I overheated early on and hit a rough spell around mi 7. The 6th & 7th place guys got in front of me around this time, but I kept on the fluids and S! caps and managed to pull out of the death spiral just in time to reel them in. The last 9 miles I had to fly to catch up to those blokes. My Garmin showed 7 min miles for a few miles on a very crowded boardwalk through the town of Swanage. Some strange looks from the locals.

Beautiful views like this all day. I kept thinking, "Sheesus, I've got to run all the way down there?!" I'd rather just take pictures and walk a bit... (which I did).

The elevation was just crazy today. Hardest day of the 3 day challenge. Again, it's not the overall elevation change that's so impressive (check out today's elev profile below)... it's the grade. Oh, and the mud made for some very comical steep ascents and descents! I took many falls and ended up a muddy mess, but so was everyone else and it made for some light moments.

This year's JCC exceeded my expectations again despite the crazy weather. I made some great friends this weekend... including a couple who are now seriously considering Bighorn 100. I am very pleased to come away with 5th place given the level of competition and just the overall number of competitors (we started with somewhere around 130, but the crowd seemed to slim down some by day 3). Definitely my best performance in terms of the percentages.

Alright, my pint is empty and I've got an early flight back to the States. I'm going to be starring at this elevation profile for a few days. I'm feeling soreness in muscles I didn't know I had... fortunately I don't think there's anything of this grade at Bighorn 100.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Day 2 Jurassic Coast Challenge

Day 2: 4:49 and holding strong in 5th place. 27.5 miles.

Did I say yesterday was muddy and windy? Double that. Winds along the ridges in excess of 50 mph and rain almost all day today. Total mudfest. Today was dubbed the hardest day in JCC history. The oner (all 78.6 miles in one go) was canceled tonight as the winds are expected to increase.

I ran a bit faster today, and a bit further than yesterday. Spent much of the day in 2nd place but then took a break the last few miles dropping back to 5th. That keeps my overall position comfortably in 5th. I'd be very pleased to end up in 5th overall. The folks in front of me are very talented and experienced stage racers. Lot's of who have done the Racing the Planets 4 deserts series, Marathon De Sables, etc.

Tough to get pictures today with all the rain, but I did manage to snap a couple toward the end. This really is a spectacular course.

Topped the day off with a nice soak in my tub and couple pints with some new friends.

Hopefully some better weather tomorrow!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Day 1 Jurassic Coast Challenge

Day 1: 4:44 and 5th place out of ~130.

A spectacular day along 26.6 miles of the Jurassic Coast from Lyme Regis to Chickerell, UK.

The weather was typical this time of year here - rain, sun, repeat. Winds in the 20mph range. I snaped some pictures from my iPhone when the sun came out. I don't normally run with gadgets, but this race actually requires that you carry a cell phone. Also required: 400ml fluids (duh), compass, flashlight with extra batteries, whistle, gloves, something warm in a waterproof ziplock bag, a "chocolate bar", notepad and pencil, and maps for the day. Sheesh. Fortunately everything fit in my Nathan pack quite comfortably.

I also opted to wear my Garmin Forerunner 205. I'm having some trouble getting the data out to motionbased.com but will add those details when I get that sorted out.

This is a tough course - much harder than I remember from last year. The overall elevation change doesn't tell the story here - these hills are super steep and require engaging some muscles that lesser grade hills don't reach. (Lesson learned.) I hammered the downhills and walked anything I couldn't see over. At one point I checked my pace on an uphill section: my Garmin showed 30+ min miles.

The course is really muddy this year too and my NB 790s were slipping a lot -uphill and downhill. I went down a couple times. Nearly lost a shoe in sucking mud twice. In some places today it was the sticky kind of mud that builds up on your shoes so it feels like you are running in high heels. I kept looking for rocks to knock it off. When we weren't in the mud we were often in cow pastures with hoof prints or along the beach in soft pebbly sand. I conveniently forgot about that from last year too.

I'm tired, but not too sore. Looking forward to seeing what tomorrow brings...

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Thurs Night at The Lugger Inn

Thursday night before Day one of the Jurassic Coast Challenge. After not sleeping particularly well on the redeye I thought I'd get to bed early and catch up on some shuteye. The party is still going on downstairs however. Sounds from the Lugger Inn (on the right) is an audio recording of the festivities that can be heard from my room.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Post from iPhone

Okay, this is geeky. I'm trying to post from my new iPhone with the
thought that I might not take my laptop with me to the UK tomorrow.
I'm hoping to post updates from the jurassic coast challenge each day
but don't feel like packing my laptop.

Got another pair of NB790s today for JCC. Let's try to add a picture...

Nags Head Woods

Visited Nags Head Woods for some easy running and hiking Sat and Sun.

Nags Head Woods is considered one of the best remaining examples of a mid-Atlantic maritime forest with deciduous hardwoods. This pine and hardwood forest harbors trees up to 500 years old and has an extensive system of dunes, interdune ponds, and wetlands. The forest's great natural diversity is due to the fact that it draws water from an extensive freshwater aquifer and is sheltered by ancient dunes.

The preserve is also an important nesting area for more than 50 species of birds, including green heron, wood duck, red-shouldered hawk, clapper rail, ruby-throated hummingbird, pileated woodpecker, prothonotary warbler, and summer tanager. The freshwater ponds are inhabited by turtles and salamanders and support a great diversity of floating aquatic plant life, including the rare water violet.

An extensive marsh system bordering Roanoke Sound on the western side of the preserve supports a wealth of wildlife including river otter, muskrat, egrets, herons, and many species of migratory waterfowl.

I did a lot of training for Western States 2000 here and really fell in love with this place. We bought
some property here in '03 (Walker Island) that has a great view of the Western border of Nags Head Woods. Caleb and I went out to the island on Sat and romped around among the oak trees.

Weekly log: March 17-23

Very easy taper week. Bit too easy perhaps...
  • Mon - 3
  • Tues
  • Wed - 5
  • Thurs
  • Fri -3 (15:13 pumpkin loop -where'd that come from?)
  • Sat - 4
  • Sun - 1 hike with the kids

Weekly log: March 10-16

Week 6 of training for the Jurassic Coast Challenge. Started out strong this week and then cut my long run on Sat short, deciding it was time to start tapering for Jurassic Coast. Bit of a Forest Gump moment there... "I'm pretty tired. I think I'll go home now."
  • Mon - 11 (2x15min tempo)
  • Tue - 11.5 (am 5.5, pm 5.5)
  • Wed -7.5
  • Thu - 6 (tempo)
  • Fri - 4
  • Sat -17
  • Sun - rest

Sunday, March 16, 2008


One of my favorite memories of my grandfather, who passed away peacefully this week at the age of 95.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Week Log: March 2-9

Week 5 of 6 in preparation for the Jurassic Coast Challenge. Another odd week that included a great business trip to CA for some hill training. Relatively lower mileage and less intensity.
  • Mon - 4.5
  • Tues - 5.5 hills
  • Wed - 8 mi hills (3.5 am, 4.5 pm)
  • Thurs - 10 mi hills
  • Fri - 0 (travel back from CA, ending a 31 day streak of running every day)
  • Sat - 24
  • Sun - 9 mi
Weekly total: 61 miles

Trying out something a little different with the taper for Jurassic Coast. I backed off a bit this week to get a little rest heading into my last hard week before tapering for 2 weeks. Picked this up from Eric Grossman during an Iron Mountain training run. The overall training cycle is supposed to like this (by week): hard, hard, hard, hard, moderate, hard, taper, taper/race.

Looking forward to some higher mileage this coming week and then getting some rest.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Maps for Jurassic Coast Challenge

Maps of the Jurassic Coast Challenge were just posted. A lot of the same ground we covered in last year's JCC.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Big Basin Redwoods State Park

I drove out to Big Basin Redwoods State Park in the Santa Cruz Mountains today for another look at one of my favorite Bay Area running spots.

Big Basin is California's oldest State Park, established in 1902. Home to the largest continuous stand of ancient coast redwoods south of San Francisco, the park is > 18,000 acres of old growth and recovering redwood forest. Elevations vary from sea level to over 2,000 feet so this was another good hill workout.

I have some great memories here. The first time I ran the ultra distance (29 mi) was in this park in 1998, the weekend after my previous distance PR of 18 mi... which was the weekend after my previous distance PR of 13 miles. That was an interesting month. Felt like I was living that dream where you find a room in your house you didn't know was there. I also ran my 2nd trail race here that same year, the Big Basin Marathon
(sadly, discontinued).

Today I set out with the idea that I'd follow the first 5 miles or so of the Big Basin Marathon course and then come back. I got a little off course the 1st mile and went out on what I think is the return leg of that course, heading up nice 500 foot climb and then linking up with the marathon course. Miles 1-4 bled off 1000 feet over soft trails with good footing that is so typical of the West. I like the challenge offered by the rocky, technical trails in the East, but the fast, soft trails here were my first love in trail running and today rekindled that affection.

At mile 4.2 there is a beautiful waterfall nestled in a lush canyon that I snapped a picture of. Unfortunately my camera batteries died shortly thereafter. There is another waterfall at mile 5 that requires some light climbing. Not recommended for acrophobics! I really wanted a picture of that one because I've talked about it frequently. Hearing that I run long distances folks always ask what my marathon time is. Well... I've only run 2 "official" marathons (both on trails) early in my running career, and Big Basin was the fastest at 3:50. Folks are usually unimpressed, and I feel compelled to add that it was a challenging trail marathon with some light climbing up a waterfall. Next time I'll get that picture.

The return trip of this out and back is a little tougher with >1000 ft climb from mile 6 to 9, then a quick 500 ft decent the last mile. All in all a spectacular day among the ancient redwood giants.

Oh, and on the way back to my hotel in Los Gatos I was passed on a double yellow lined windy mountain road by a Prius... that just seems odd doesn't it? Must be time to head back to NC.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Coyote Peak

After wrapping up a rather long, but successful meeting with a business partner today I jumped in the car and sped off to the Santa Teresa Park in the hills Southwest of San Jose, CA.

This park is nestled between IBM's Almaden Research Lab and the Silicon Valley Lab where I first interned with IBM and then hired on 10 years ago. This is also where I first got interested in trail running. These hills really call out to me and I spent a lot of time today just wandering around remembering different parts of the trails and the surrounding landscape.

Santa Teresa Park features acres of rolling hills, many native plants and wildflowers, and spectacular views in every direction. I also saw quite a few deer today.

The most prominent feature in the park is Coyote Peak at about 1150 ft.

I remembered my Garmin and got a nice profile. Sure felt more than 650 ft on the run up! There's really very little relief and the grade is steep (650 ft in a little less than 1 mi).

Los Gatos, CA

Sometimes I love my job. Especially when it takes me places with great trails.

Today started with a run in the Santa Cruz Mountains above Los Gatos, California. I managed to find a hotel that is literally 100 yards from a great trailhead I got to know while living in the Bay Area in the late '90s.

I have some great memories of this trail, one of the first I ever ran. As I ran today I thought about the time I nearly stepped on a rattlesnake here. And how another time I tripped and nearly went off a cliff. And how I felt on the downhills when I first ran in a pair of trail shoes on this trail - Montrails when they were known as OneSport.

This morning's run was more about memories and taking in the scenery, but there are some great hills here that snuck up on me. Next run I'll remember to take my Garmin and check out the elevation change.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Week Log: Feb 25 - March 2

Week 4 of 6 in preparation for the Jurassic Coast Challenge. Bit of an odd week that included a business trip to Boston, some time in the hotel weight room, a little stairmaster, and a hard 40 mile long run.
  • Mon - 2 miles bushwhacking
  • Tues - 11 mi
  • Wed - 6 mi (treadmill followed by 30 mins stairmaster)
  • Thurs - 3 mi (treadmill and weights)
  • Fri - 5.5 mi
  • Sat - 40 mi
  • Sun - 4 mi
Weekly total: 70 miles

Had a good session with local PT guru Brian "Gyro" Beatty this week at Balanced Movement. I've now got a new stretching routine that includes fun stuff like this...

I'm feeling pretty good about preparations for Jurassic Coast, but definitely feeling the accumulated miles after yesterday's Uwharrie adventure. I'm looking for more hill training this week and then back to back marathons Sat/Sun, starting with the Umstead Trail Marathon.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Uwharrie 40 Rematch

The Uwharrie National Forest is an All-You-Can-Run Buffet of the rockiest, most technical trails in the Piedmont of NC. Bob Boeder started a trail race here 17 years ago and used this area as his training ground for The Grand Slam of Ultrarunning and Hardrock 100. For my long run this week I ran the 40 mile course Bob laid out along the Uwharrie Trail.

But, this was more than a training run for me. This was a chance to even the score with the course where I DNFd last month for the first time. This run would be more of a hard core empty arena, cage match than my usual tranquil weekend long runs.

I set out with the same goal I had on race day last month: Sub 7hrs, organ donor's club. Only this time there would be no aid stations. No cheering fans along the way. No family and friends waiting at the finish. No other human competitors. No taper. And no official results.

I drove out to the Uwharrie National Forest Friday afternoon and stashed water at the 8mi, 11mi, and the 20 mi turnaround, then met my family at the Asheboro Hampton Inn for a night of bouncing on the beds, eating pizza, and playing in the hotel pool. Sat am I drove out to the Flint Hill Trailhead where the 40 mile course begins, getting there just in time for my target 7:00 am start (same as race day). It was a beautiful sunny day with temps starting in the upper 30s and topping out in the mid 60s.

The Trailhead was quiet as I laced up my NB 790s (arguably an insane shoe choice for this run), strapped on my Nathan pack, and hit the start button on my Garmin. I had no idea what the day would bring, and with the lack of cell phone service in the area I was a little apprehensive the first mile. Bella Fleck came up on the iPod and with the sun hitting me just as I crested the first hill everything seemed to be falling into place.

My strategy was to divide the run up into 5 x 8 mi sections. If I could average 1:24s for these I'd be right on the 7 hr mark.

After taking the first hill quite a bit slower than race day, I came through the 8 mile point about 1 minute faster feeling really good: 1:17. This was the confidence boost I was looking for and I was able to keep it going through the next 8 miles, dropping my time on that section to 1:16 despite taking a short break at mile 8 and 11 to refill my water. It was in this 2nd 8 mi section that I began to have ITB pain on race day and started walking the downhills. No problems today. I felt strong through the half way point, coming through at 3:14. The 3rd 8 mile section was a little slower, 1:26, but not bad considering the time I took at the halfway point refilling my Nathan pack and getting some food. The 4th 8 mile segment (mi 24-32) was hard. With each hill my average pace came up a few seconds and I wasn't making it up on the steep, technical downhills. The sun was beating down on me now and I was short on fluids. I slipped to a 1:30 for this section leaving myself exactly 1:30 again on the last 8 mi segment in order to break 7 hrs. I started getting nervous that I might really bonk with dehydration. Lost in my thoughts and wondering if Uwharrie might get the better of me again I failed to notice a tree that jumped in front of me. Ouch. The Uwharrie Trail wasn't going to let me win easily. Bloodied, bruised, and a little shaken I plodded along through the uphills and was finally relieved to find a few downhill sections that were not too steep to run.

Before I knew it I was making the turn back down to the Flint Hill Rd Trailhead parking lot. I cruised across the "finish "to an empty parking lot in 6:55:32 to tie up the score: Uwharrie 1, Marmot 1.