Monday, September 29, 2014

Pinnacle Mountain

Allie, Jack and I climbed Pinnacle Mountain on Saturday morning.  We left our camp at Maumelle Park around 10:00 and headed to the state park visitor center to get more information on the route we needed to take.  We checked out a few maps, and in hindsight should have talked to one of the park rangers to get a better understanding of how we should approach the hike.  The closest trail to us was the East Summit trail so we headed in that direction. 

We loaded up with plenty of snacks and water and headed up the trail.  Allie and I each carried a hydration pack that I used in the past for running.  Jack just carried his "spyglass" (my binoculars).  The first 15 minutes of hiking included flat sections with a few gentle switchbacks.  After that, we were in for a shock.  The remainder of the hike was almost completely scrambling over large rocks.  Allie lead the way with Jack and I trailing.  About halfway up, I decided that getting down would be extremely treacherous and paused for a moment to determine if we should keep going.  The kids ate a quick snack while we watched large groups of adults struggle to make their way up the mountain.  I can't imagine how they felt seeing a 4 year old up there. 

During our break, I asked the kids if they were ready to turn around?  I explained the difficulty of getting back down but they wouldn't accept it.  Against my better judgement, I decided that we would continue on with the hope that the Western trail would provide an easier descent.  The picture doesn't do the climb justice, there was typically much less ground and more rocks the higher we climbed.

We reached the summit and the kids were amazed at the views.  Jack checked out all of Arkansas with his spyglasses and we had another snack.  There were large groups at the top, all dirty and exhausted.  The vast majority of which had wisely climbed up the West Summit trail. After a few minutes, we made our way down the west side and back to our car along the base trail.  I washed the kids off with a bottle of water, changed their clothes, and gave them more food before heading home.

Just a few days before our camping and hiking trip, we watched the kids playing in the back yard and I mentioned to Paige that I thought they might be a little soft.  By this I meant that they are somewhat spoiled and haven't experienced any sort of hardship.  Our Pinnacle Mountain trip has definitely changed my view of the kids.  Not once did they complain about the bumps, bruises, and scratches while climbing up or down the mountain.  You would have thought they did this on a regular basis.  I think Paige grew tired of me saying how impressed I was with Allie.  She led the entire way carrying about 6 pounds of water on her back and was as happy as could be.  And Jack was covered in dirt from head to toe and didn't complain a bit until we weren't climbing or descending a mountain anymore.  Simply hiking through the woods had become too easy for him and he was bored on the base trail.

Now I know that while my kids may be a little more spoiled than I'd like, they definitely aren't soft. 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Cross Timbers "Race" Report

I finished the Cross Timbers Trail Marathon yesterday in over 6 hours. The first half of the race went wonderfully, hitting the halfway point in 2:45 with plenty of energy. I ran with an older gentleman named Mack from Vicksburg, Mississippi and a guy named Paul from Fort Worth. Both were very experienced runners and it was great hearing about the various races they had run.

The primary mistakes I made in the first half all had to do with nutrition and hydration. I had hoped that I could use the race to practice eating from the aid stations and drinking whatever electrolyte drink they had on hand. I spent hours walking on the trail lamenting the fact that I tried to use a race on a hot day to practice nutrition and hydration. At the 3:45 point in the race my stomach locked up and I couldn't keep anything down. Mack and Paul left me behind and the vomiting began. I threw up a few times but tried to keep running. Finally, my stomach completely emptied what appeared to be all the liquids I had consumed so far in the day. Not only was my stomach queesy, but the heat started taking it's toll. I couldn't even keep water down at this point so I became very dehydrated and considered dropping out at the last aid station. I had never been this dehydrated before and it was a very odd feeling. I poured a bunch of water over my head at the last aid station (2.5 miles from finish) and the water that ran down my face was saturated in all the salt I had lost. I felt very defeated at this point because my stomach felt terrible, my head hurt and I had zero energy. I kept thinking that there's no way I'd every be able to particpate in ultra events if I couldn't even finish a trail marathon. I also remembered reading online about some pretty epic failures other runners have had and the only way to get over the bad days is to focus on lessons learned and apply this knowledge in the future. I don't have a choice but to look at it this way since I've already signed up for the Grasslands trail marathon next month.

Lessons learned:
1) I haven't practiced eating real food enough and should stick to gels or shot bloks during races
2) Stick to water rather than Heed or whatever else they are serving (also need to practice with electrolyte tablets to replace sodium)
3) Take it easier than usual when temps get over 70.

Cross Timbers trail is a relatively difficult trail and makes Northshore seem flat as a pancake. There are a few sections that you have to climb/descend using your hands to navigate the terrain. The first 6 miles are definitely the most difficult and take a great deal out of you. The race is out-and-back so you get to cover this section twice. I was worried the course would be muddy from all the snow and ice from the weeks beforehand. Apparently the heat we had in the days leading up to the race dried everything out, so footing wasn't a problem. I'm very impressed by the 20 or so runners who participated in the 50 mile event out there. It'll be a while before I would consider trying 50 miles out there, especially in those temperatures.

My feet were uncomfortable during the last few hours, but no blisters formed and I didn't have any issues with toenails. Next race I need to use a little more Bodyglide on my feed just to be safe. New Mizuno running shirt kept me pretty cool and dry during the hottest part of the run.

While I spent many hours yesterday cursing the course, I'd definitely like to run the marathon there again sometime.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Cross Timbers Trail Run

I recently signed up for the Cross Timbers Trail Run which takes place on February 19 on the shores of Lake Texoma (the Texas side of course). I participated in a practice run last weekend on the trail and found it to be much more difficult than expected. I finished 20 miles in just under 4 hours. The practice run provided me with an appreciation for the difficulty of running this particular trail as well as trashed quads (took 5 days to fully recover).

I finished a second 20-miler this morning and will be tapering over the next couple of weeks. My training has only been consistent for about 6 weeks so I fully anticipate struggling through the race. I placed this early marathon on my race calendar in an attempt to get motivated and increase the consistency of my training - it seems to have worked.

Cross Timbers provides 50 mile, marathon, half marathon, and 5 mile race options. It's historically been a small race but has received favorable reviews. I'll be running the marathon. Trail marathons by nature are more difficult and time consuming than street marathons. That is especially true of races like Cross Timbers that take place on relatively technical courses with considerable elevation gain/loss. CT Marathon has over 5,000 feet of elevation gain/loss. With all that said, my primary goal is to simply finish the race without sustaining a terrible injury caused by falling down one of the steep drops. My secondary goal would be to finish in the 5:15 - 5:30 range. Looking at last year's finishing times, that what I would need to finish in the top half of participants. A reasonable finish should propel me toward a few weeks of consistent training leading up to Grasslands in March.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Rockledge Rumble

In order to get motivated and back into a running schedule, I've decided to run the Rockledge Rumble on November 13th. It's a 50k trail race held at Lake Grapevine on the North Shore Trail. I chose this race as my first ultramarathon because its relatively short (31 miles is considered the minimum distance for an ultra - most are 50 or 100 miles) and is held on the trails very close to my house that I'm able to run on a few times each month. From everything I've read, there are huge benefits to running your first ultramarathon near home and in a familiar area. I'll have to get the most out of every week between now and then in order to finish the race. I feel like I'm starting from scratch and wasted all the endurance I developed during 2008.

OHT Section 2

From May 21st - 23rd we (EA, Keaton, Keith, Seth) hiked the second section of the OHT. This section began at White Rock Mountain and traveled east to Cherry Bend Road. The section covered about 20 miles and included a considerable amount of elevation gain. Whiting mountain was the largest climb and increased in elevation over a pretty short distance. As with our last trip, we spent only one night out on the trail.

The parts of the trip that really stand out to me were the extremely dense jungle sections (probably b/c I'm sure that's where I picked up the bulk of my poison ivy), the bushwacking we had to do in order to get up Whiting Mountain, and the time we spent eating and relaxing at Fane's Creek. As with the first trip, my favorite part was hanging out by the water while filling water bottles and eating lunch. Having a few cups of coffee after lunch definitely didn't hurt. Having an opportunity to wash off the dirt and cool off in the river rejuvenated the group and prepared us for the remainder of the day's hike.

We finished the hike late in the day on Saturday and stayed the night at a large campsite across the street from the Turner Bend Store. We were all able to shower and change into clean clothes. Unfortunately, there were a number of loud, drunk idiots staying at the campgrounds which prevented us from getting decent sleep before the long drive home on Sunday.

I used my new Osprey Aether 70 (which was about half full) and carried everything comfortably. I had no discomfort on the trail and am extremely happy with the pack. Because of the warm weather, we were able to make the trip without sleeping bags, which had a significant impact on our pack weight (I think my bag is just over 3 pounds). I wore my Salomon XT Wings and had comfortable and mostly dry feet the entire trip. I got a little wet on one crossing, but the shoes dried quickly and a change of socks did the trick. Keith and I utilized our new Steripen and Pioneer Pro water filtration system with great success. Our water tasted much better than when we used the iodine pills. We cooked with an old aluminum pot of Keith's and the MSR SuperFly stove, which worked well. My menu consisted of Starkist tuna packets, tortillas, ramen noodles, oatmeal, trail mix, and Clif bars.

Lessons Learned from my second trip:
1. Wear Pants. World Record case of poison ivy.
2. Coffee on the trail is a great luxury. I'm glad Keith invested in a coffee press.
3. Water is still really heavy.
4. Taking a bach in a river at the midway point enhances everyone's mood.
5. Hiking is great for weight loss when you don't eat three meals at the Swinging Bridge Cafe and carry too much food.

Ozark Highland Trail Section 1

I believe I've officially become a hiker. To date, I've hiked approximately 40 miles of the Ozark Highland Trail in Arkansas. The trail stretches 165 miles from Lake Fort Smith State Park to the eastern boundry at the Buffalo River State Park. I hiked the first leg of the trail last fall over a three day weekend. We hiked from Lake Fort Smith State Park to the top of White Rock "Mountain". This 19 mile section proved difficult for the group - EA Hoppe, Keaton Hoppe, Keith Reasons, and myself. All of us were out of shape and carried too much in our packs. Although, my pack was relatively light b/c I was carrying a small Kelty Redwing and Keith carried the tent we were sharing. It's more typical to share weight on items you're both intending to use.

We ended up hiking about 7 miles on the first day and 13 on the second. In hindsight, we should have done a better job of splitting the mileages especially given the climb up White Rock on the second day.

I carried my small Kelty Redwing. It was relatively comfortable and I ended up with none of the hip soreness I expected. I wore a pair of old running shoes rather than purchasing hiking boots. I'm sure having such light weight shoes helped me finish the section comfortable, but the lack of water resistance continually worried me on the trail. We had a number of small water crossings that took me a while to get through due to fear of getting my feet wet. We borrowed a cookset from Keaton that used propane and worked well for oatmeal and ramen noodles. The rest of my menu consisted of Starkist tuna packets, tortillas, trail mix, fruit bars, and Clif bars. My Marmot Neverwinter sleeping bag worked extremely well as did the MSR sleep pad. I used a stuff sack with clothes for a pillow.

Lessons learned from my first hiking trip
1. Water is freaking heavy. 2.2 pounds per liter is no joke.
2. Spend time analyzing your food choices to find the right balance of calories and weight. I ended up bringing too much food - especially since we at at the Swinging Bridge Cafe three times.
3. I can't sleep well in the woods even on my relatively comfortable inflatable pad.
4. Iodine pills make your water taste terrible.
5. Don't pack something unless you know it will be used. B/c it was going to be chilly at night I packed too much clothing.
6. The OHT is a great trail that is extremely well marked. We didn't get lost once.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Race Results

Results of the Grassland run were just posted. I finished in 3:03:00. That's terribly far from my Personal Record of 1:38:00, but is a time I'm proud of due to the conditions on that day. I finished 47th out of 139 participants. There were 280 people signed up to participate which means half the field was too chicken to participate in the mud run. I look forward to participating in the event next year (marathon hopefully), assuming its dry and warm.