Day Hike in Gorges State Park


On Thursday, I went on a day hike with my friends Shawn, Sarah, and Abby the dog. It was my first trip to Gorges, the newest state park in the North Carolina system. It was beautiful! Simply a wonderful day spent with friends in one of the prettiest areas of the country. The highlight of the trip was 150 ft Rainbow Falls, and the great swimming holes that surround the area. If you are near Gorges this summer, make it a part of your day!

I made a short video of the day, hope you enjoy.

Update: Thanks to Mountain Xpress for sharing my video on their site! See it here.

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Running an Ultra Marathon: Technical Aspects of Training, Gear, and Nutrition


Training Program

As I stated before, I followed a regiment of training consistently at low intensity. For the first 2 weeks, I ran 3-4 days a week, with a long run of 10 miles. I also trained with weights, and swam twice a week.

In weeks 3 and 4, I ran 4-5 days a week, with long runs of 15 and 22 miles. Even with those long runs, my average distance during the week was only 3-4 miles. Keep in mind that all of the runs were done at heart rate levels of 60-65% of max. Whenever my heart rate went over 165, I stopped running and would walk until it slowed down. My pace was nothing stellar, but I kept running.

Weeks 5 leading up to the race was strange, I traveled that week, stayed up too late, and didn’t run very much. At that point in training, what’s done is done, but I feel better when I can be mildly active.

In review, I can’t be upset about the training because I did meet my goal of finishing the race. I wish I could have run a bit faster and with less pain, but that’s alright. With more time to run extra miles, and especially the long runs, would have remedied that.
I will add that I think this plan is very doable for anyone looking to run 13+ miles. Scale the program to your needs, and stick with consistency over intensity. The miles will come!

Nutrition
I have become a regular user of Hammer Nutrition products. I also like/use Clif shots/blocks, and Honey Stinger chews. But what I like about Hammer is how complete their offerings are. They have a full line of products for the different stages of training, competition, and recovery.

Hammer products I used:

The only “real” food I carried on the run was a ProBar Superfood Slam. ProBars are my favorite energy bars, and their whole food ingredients, high caloric content, and flavor make them great for endurance activities. Read a little about their offerings and food culture on Adventure Journal.

I also ate one for breakfast on race day, which gave me a nice store of energy for the beginning of the race. I am NOT a fan of beginning a race on an empty stomach.

Finally, I did eat some of the aid station food, whatever looked good at the time. Mainly I ate bananas, oranges, m&m’s, potato chips (mmm… salt), and some chicken noodle soup (wonderfully warm). I do not count on these options for my the bulk of race calories, but they are a nice change up.

Gear

I feel very strongly about running gear. It’s important to have quality, lightweight, functional layers on, especially in a winter mess like the Mt Mitchell Challenge. Temps ranged from 30 degrees at start, 45 degrees and sunny at 10 miles, then 10 degrees with 50 mph winds at the summit. Wrap that up with descending back to 55 degrees and sunny at the finish. My gear had to breathe, keep me from overheating, warm me from the cold, and protect me from the wind. A tall order, but I was extremely pleased with the pieces I wore.

Patagonia Houdini Jacket

I love this jacket, best piece of gear I’ve bought in years. I wore it during a pouring rainstorm, snow, and then 50 mph winds, and it stood up to all of them. The hood is great, and even with the extra ounce it weighs, totally worth it. The Houdini weighs just 4.3 oz, and packs in to it’s own pocket, or stuffs in to a front pocket in most shorts. Patagonia hit a home run with this piece.

Patagonia Speedwork Tights

My first pair of running pants, and I really like them. Stayed cool or warm in the right conditions, and mesh behind the knees allows them to breath. They don’t wrap muscles as well as Salomon or CWX tights, but they are also cheaper. They fit well, were tough through 2 falls, and kept me moving. Unfortunately this product seems to be in the process of being discontinued, so you can probably grab it on clearance somewhere.

Patagonia Capilene 2 T-Shirt I’m a big fan of Patagonia, as you can tell. The Cap2 shirt is fantastic across a wide range of temps, and paired with arm warmers and the Houdini, I was perfectly comfortable throughout the run. My favorite running shirt.

Smartwool Arm Warmers, Compression Socks, & Running Socks – Wool is a dream fabric to be outdoors in, and I love it for the extremities. In keeping with the theme of lightweight comfort across temps, all of these fit the bill. The arm warmers are on of my favorite pieces no matter what, because they are so easy to strip on and off during a run. They can also be pulled down to cover the hands as makeshift mittens. The compression socks are nice, giving me a little extra warmth, and caring for my calves. A complaint though is that over 18 months they have developed more holes and rips than I expected. The socks are fantastic, and I wore them over the compression socks because of the holes and cold (the compression socks are thin).

REI Stoke 19 Pack

I probably didn’t even need to carry this, but considering the conditions I knew it would give me some peace of mind. The pack is fine, I wish it was a little more stable, and I don’t need 19 liters of space. It’s more of a day pack, but I’m not going out to buy another pack simply for long-haul running. Yet. I was able to easily fit 50 oz of water, food & gels, my ipod nano (long time in the woods), a wool layer, extra socks, and YakTrax.

Nike Therma-Fit beanie – I picked this up at a Nike outlet, and it’s served me well. Soft shell outer, fleece interior, and wicking headband. I like it, but it’s not a game changer. Most beanies will do, depending on your preference. I would certainly recommend anything that wicks sweat and breathes. No cotton headgear!

Mountain Hardwear Momentum Running Gloves – I appreciate that they are light, and have a windproof shell. However, they do not keep my hands as warm as I expected. I attribute this mainly to “butter jersey” palm fabric. Yes, it’s soft, but the wind goes right through it, and doesn’t not hold heat well. Fine, but not a cold weather glove.

New Balance 101 Shoes (link to updated design) –

The foundation of a run is the choice of footwear. I have been running in these shoes since October 2010, having trained for and completed the Black Mountain Marathon, Stumpjump 50k, and now the Mt Mitchell Challenge. I have run an estimated 1000 miles in these babies, and this race was a fun send-off for them. They are light, breathable, have a 10mm heel-toe drop (which was awesome in October ’10) and a rock plate on the forefoot. Weight is an airy 7.48 oz. New Balance has since updated the model, but if you would like to read my original review, click here.

In Conclusion:

Overall, I did not need most of the stuff I had in my pack, especially the YakTrax. I could have been fine with 2 water bottles with hand jackets, and had a couple too many gels. But I wasn’t out to win, and knew I would be out for a significant amount of time. Better to be safe than sorry in that situation. Next year I will have trained and planned a little better, and even if there was a question of needing YakTrax, I could have holstered them on my elbows (picture to come). But that’s for a future run, and lessons I needed to learn on this one. Let me know if you guys have any questions about a topic I left out, or a fuller review of something.

Happy Running!

Never Alone


via buaiansayapanomali

I’ve talked about running a couple of times, it has been on my mind a lot as I prepare for the Black Mountain Marathon. It has been no coincidence that I have been thinking about running because I have had a lot of time to think while running. Especially yesterday.

Yesterday was my big run day, and I ended up going 22 miles. It was cold, windy, and snowing, but with enough functional layers on, I hit the trail. The first 10 I ran with my wife and dog, but then they departed and I went back out by my lonesome. I’ve been out on this particular trail enough that finding my way isn’t an issue, and can be alone in my thoughts. I expected to see more people on the trail, since it’s the actual race route, and 2 weeks pre-race is a fairly standard gauge for the big training run. But that wasn’t the case. I saw a total of 5 people in the next 3 hours, none going the same way as me, and went 2 hours alone, in the snow. I enjoyed the time running through the snow (1-3 inches) and the sound of it falling. This winter in Western NC has been very mild, with very little snowfall. In fact, my house is only 10 miles from the trailhead I started on, and had no accumulation. Of course, there is a difference of nearly 2000 vertical feet between home and where I was on the trail, and that made all the difference. I wasn’t carrying much on this run, so no pictures this time.

Now, I did bring an iPod nano with me, the first time I’ve done that on a long trail run. My thought was that when my mind starts to wander in a negative sense, I could pop in some soothing music and reel myself back in. That’s right, soothing. A 22 mile training run is no place for classic rock or rap, or really anything fast-paced. If I get amped up for 5 minutes, who cares? Only 205 minutes remaining! So I’ll listen to pretty chill music. Lots of instrumental music, Mat Kearney, Explosions in the Sky, Indelible Grace, and Mumford (the slower stuff, ala Timshel).

As I was making my way back, I thought about how I had just run a 2 hour section and hadn’t seen anyone. The weather was cold, the landscape white, and I felt very alone. The thought didn’t really bother me, but I dwelt on it. Within 15 seconds, the next song began to play. It was instrumental, with strings, then a faint humming. The hum grew to a chant, and I stopped. I knew this song, but hadn’t heard it in a while. What was it? The name of the song hit me, and I smiled, amused. It was God’s Theme, from Evan Almighty (give it a listen here). I’ve progressed enough in my faith to believe that God speaks and works through anything he well pleases. As Richard Rohr would say, “everything belongs”. That quote on your bag of tea? Yep. The idea in Fight Club that you are not your possessions? Yep. Cleaning a Haitian’s Sunday shoes? Yep. Hearing a song called God’s Theme after thinking to yourself “I’m all alone”? Yes sir.

via Mark Ragland

I couldn’t run for a couple minutes; just walked along and smiled at the frozen trees and grey sky. I felt God around me, and while the logical argument could be made that my feeling was a combination of the playlist, fatigue, and mysticism, you know what? Everything belongs.

I continued to run, and thought about how God is always with us, when we feel surrounded by love or totally alone. You are never at a point low enough that God will not continue to reach out and plea for you to embrace him. Now, the even more terrifying reality is that he is with us in our wickedest thoughts and actions as well. We may fool ourselves in to thinking that no one knows what we have done or are trying to cover up, but God does. I’m not saying this to paint God as the world’s greatest detective, who’s gonna git ya’. I’m saying to emphasize that we cannot run from him, or hide our past. But even in that terrifying presence, remains mercy. He knows, and so we do not have to pretend. He knows, and has paid for all of it. It is done and finished. You can be free from your own guilt, because our guilt will be the only thing holding us back.

I bet you didn’t expect for a post that started out describing a wintry run to culminate with the promise of God’s mercy, and to be honest neither did I. We never fully know where a day or story will take us. But, I hope you now realize that…

Everything belongs.

(also, the playlist was on shuffle)

Why Camp Rockmont?


I work at Camp Rockmont for Boys, and like thousands of men who have attended, it has definitively shaped my life. I am very blessed to work at a place where the mission is important, necessary, and tangible. For several months, we have been working on an illustrated short film that communicates WHY Rockmont is such a meaningful and important place. I hope you enjoy it!

 

I would love to know what you think, and if you have any questions about Rockmont and our mission, let me know that too!

Have a great weekend.

New Years Eve Hike, Screwtape Letters, & Siri gets Moralistic


Yesterday I got the urge to hoof it up our mountain to it’s highest point, roughly 4000 feet. I wanted to see the last sunset of 2011, it was a beautiful, clear day, and I knew the Lord would make it worthwhile. As I was lacing up the shoes, I had a brief but intense inner struggle of even going. It was getting cold, it would be dark, and the hike down is treacherous in bad (or no) light. What’s the big deal about this one day anyway? a voice whispered. I ended up pushing it away and embarking, as I went to the trailhead I thought of The Screwtape Letters, and a particular one where the Senior Devil, Screwtape, encourages his nephew, Wormwood, to keep his human from experiences and situations where may attain any type of natural pleasure, or something he enjoys just for the beauty of it. Because those are times humans may glimpse a bit of God’s wonder and beauty.

As I was hiking up, I started running on a flat section, and quickly hit stray branch, making an elongated and awkward fall to the ground. Now, I don’t fall very much, but when I do, it’s spectacular. I had my iPhone in my backpack (for emergency and photo purposes), and fell with such force that somehow Siri activated. I faintly heard the two-tone beep as I was yelling, “SHIIIIIIIITTTTT!” and writhing on the ground. Siri then politely said…

and I, frustrated and confused, yelled back, “I said SHIT!” (apologies to any family that reads this and hasn’t yet realized I curse from time to time, especially while in pain and surprise). To which Siri replies…

Thanks.

Anyway, I made it up to the top, was able to write and reflect as the sun was setting, and snap this picture before I headed back down.

It was beautiful, and yes a small glimpse of God’s handiwork. How much more amazing is he when fully experienced? I’m finding out day by day.

Happy New Year!