Going the distance
Life is like a long distance run. Most of the time you're looking forward, but occasionally you look back at what you've covered… You know there will be obstacles throughout the journey - but deep down, you know you can handle anything that comes your way. Most importantly... you keep putting one foot in front of the other and let 'NOTHING' stand in your way!!!
Monday, January 28, 2013
Sultan 50k The EVENT
A winter storm blew through North Carolina on Friday evening. This left roads iced over and caused many accidents. The question was asked, "Is it even a good idea to still attempt this?"
Vince offered to drive Jonathan Savage, Joshua James and myself so we met him at Caribou. After getting our coffee and watching Josh demonstrate how to fall on the ice.We picked up Savage and drove to Morganton. The roads were fairly clear. However we observed several vehicle casualties from the icy roads.
We gathered at the rendezvous and waited for the Sultan to arrive and caravan us to the start area.
The race/run is held on mostly fire roads across the South Mountains and into South Mountain State Park.
At the parking area I found shotgun shells and noticed no hunting sign that had been used for target practice. Then about 10 min before the horn went off A big 4 wheel drive truck rumbles past us and up the road we are getting ready to run. I was beginning to worry. What did I get myself into. Maybe the point of the bright yellow headgear was more than mere amusement. Safety yellow could save our lives out there.
A group photo was taken and the horn went off. We were on our way.
I wore my Pure Gritts that are worn down and have little traction on wet surface.I had watched some people adding screws to the bottoms of their shoes. Since I did not think of this option I had to find a way to gain traction. The road leading up the trail was like a ice rink. I found the only way to get grip was to stay on the side or in the center of the trail where it was more jagged. This worked well until the center of the road became grassy. Then the grass was making my shoes wet.
My initial fear on this was the elevation and getting dropped and running alone. I did not want to roll in DLF. So with that in mind I chugged upward and onward. I was alone for a while. I tried to keep up with Phyllis, but apparently she is part mountain goat and disappeared in the distance. This put me about 6 back and I knew there were many behind me. I could hear The Sultan and a few others talking. Looking back Mo was gaining on me. Looking out to the right we had a clear view of of the Blue Ridge range. This was just one of many extraordinary views. We stopped and had a quick photo op moment.
Knowing the race has bonus points and boner points I decided to pick up some points by picking up trash on the trail. I picked up a Sun drop bottle that I ended up hauling all the way to the turn. Originally I was going to get more but once I saw the amount of litter I decided to just make the difference with my one. The crushed beer cans and plastic bottles made me wonder what happened to the monster truck that was ahead of us. Where did they go? I kept waiting for them to come around a corner and forcing us off the trail.
Sultan,Crystal Beth and the other Beth were now all with me.We leap froged back and forth the rest of the way to the turn around. We enjoyed the many scenic views of the blue ridge. Up and down the saw tooth course. I more than once cursed the next uphill. I also made the statement of this is the last hill. Beth started asking me, "So is this the last uphill?" I gave up trying to guess how much further we had. You would think the downs would be welcome but the trail was often so lose and rut filled it made it difficult to open up and let it go. This is truly where the statement of running down hill is harder than running up.
This trail offers some incredible views and challenging sections. Yet was hard to look up and see my surroundings. Given the difficulty of the trail/road. We passed through one long section covered with rhododendrons that I would love to see in bloom. One thing did surprise me was the lack of wildlife. I know it's winter but I only saw a few birds and never saw any squirrels.
The last down drop into the parking area was a wicked, stone and wood staircase cut into the mountain side designed more for the casual hiker, not suited for running. This prevented a full out down hill sprint. I nearly did the splits on one wood step. I was lucky not to bite it, the ice had thawed from the morning and everything was wet. As I descended there was a photographer getting picks of everyone. I decided now was a good time for a stunt and did a jumping heel click on the stairs. Thanks to www.pinkcrowphoto.com
There were some hikers that had moved to the side to let us pass. They looked on with amazement of how fast we were navigating the steps.
When we reached the bottom the trail turned into paved walkways and parking lots. It became a sprint to the shelter. My legs were toast and did not know how to react to solid footing and a level surface. I ran in with David and the two Beth's.
Once in the shelter and around the food and warm fire it was time for some bonus points. The tribal council put on a huge spread with cake, chips, dips, and many other snacks. The tribal council delegates we judging tricks and giving out points. After my heel clicks, I broke out my hot water and hot coco mix for some bonus points with the delegates. The council was satisfied. I made a small plate and refilled my camel back. Here I had to make the decision of pulling out at the half or to continue on to the full. Of course my mind won with the thought why do things half way. I drank some coke and waited for the word to depart. I made arrangements for my drop bag and firewood I brought to be returned to the car. Then we were off.
The way out takes us on a stair climb along the waterfall. The falls were half frozen and we made a few stops to observe and get in some photo ops. Then it was time to climb. Up and Up, I was thinking when does this end? Why an i doing this second half? We finally made it back to solid ground.(or trail) I soon realized I had made a mistake drinking the coke. ( Note to self: Shake and let the fizz out before drinking coke in a race) I opened a couple ginger chews hoping this would help settle my issue.
I knew there were 2 guys and a girl just ahead of me. And The Sultan just behind me. I kept chugging onward and what seemed forever to be upward. At one point I decided I'm tired of being alone. So at a trail junction I sat and waited. A few min later Mo caught up and we continued on. He was not moving fast and seemed to want some solitude. So I decided to keep just ahead of him. I few miles later we were caught by Richard. He chatted and ran with Mo for a bit. Then Mo slowed down and we carried on. At every turn I dreaded the next accent I was able to put in some decent runs on the downs and flats but only some steady walking on the ups. Rich told me a couple times this is not steep enough to walk. So I went off his lead and ran until it became too steep to run or my energy fell out. At one point I lost my footing and nearly went off the edge. I was able to grab a tree to keep from sliding down the hillside.
We knew we would be racing the sunset.My goal was to beat it but had no idea how fast it was setting. I was glad I had decided to pack my headlight.
About mile 29 we started a long decent. I thought this is it, I let out a loud howl and opened up the pace. About a half mile in i looked back to see how Richard was doing and he was gone? I slowed down a bit and kept trying to see where he was. I was in a long curve to the left that had good views of the trail behind me. I stopped to make sure he was still moving. Once I knew he was good and still making forward progress I picked up the pace again. Alone again I started to question my direction. The mind plays many tricks on you when your alone. Footprints made by smaller running shoes in the mud confirmed I was going the right way. I ended up on one more climb, so while I walked I dug out my headlight. Mile 30 and I could tell it was all down from here.
I turned a bend to the right to be met by a pick up truck. As I passed the pulled to the side and backed into a turn around. My heart started racing and in my head I could hear banjo music. Thoughts of Zed from Pulp Fiction flashed before my eyes. They started down the hill.(This was one reason I didn't want to be alone out here.) I jumped into the hillside to let them pass. As they rolled by the window started to open and the passenger said "Jump in." I just waved them on and started back down behind them.
Watching the sunset over the mountains is a beautiful sight... Normally . Not too settling when Zed is in a truck just down the trail from you.
Mile 31, My quads were burning. You would think a all out down hill would be fun. But the ice had thawed and left the road muddy and slick. Just as I turned on my headlamp,I noticed lights coming from behind. At first I thought Mo and Richard were catching up. Then I realized another truck was coming. This one passed with out incident. As its tail lights disappeared I saw a light off the trail and thought YES! its the finish. Only to find out it was a porch light on a house off the trail.
Mile 32? Where is the F-N finish. My quads were now shredded and the cold was settling in. Does this thing ever end? I came around the next turn and there it was the finish. I could see the fire burning and people were howling. I heard the air horn and let out a primal howl announcing my arrival. .
6:41 32.65 miles 7,633 ft of elevation gain and loss. The Sultan 50 k was done. I had beat my fears.
After some chatting and getting thanked for bringing the fire wood. I came to the realization of how cold I was getting and I did not leave any clothes out. Vince was not back and the car was locked. I huddled around the fire to try to warm up. I drank what was left of the hot water in my thermos. Finally after about 30 min of attempting warmth I asked to borrow a coat or a blanket. Jonathan lent me his. No one of had thought of getting the key from Vince. Originally I had a jacket in my drop bag to go to the turn around. I pulled it out thinking I'll never need it there. Never realizing I would need it at the finish.
Richard finished, then The Sultan. We were waiting on 3 more. Mitchel, Kelly and Vince. We knew they were coming, but had no idea when. Mo had confirmation from some people in jeep who had seen 2 guys and a girl running behind him. We waited another 30 min. Then Mo decided to drive up the mountain to find them.
He car came back to report they were still a mile up but moving steady. Savage had jumped out to join them and run them in.
Turns out Kelly had them take a wrong turn. They found their way back but Kellys and Mitchel's phones were both dead. Kelly's Garmin died, Vince had no Garmin on. They had no way to track the miles or call for help. Good thing they had headlamps.
All in all it was a great run. I was able to conquer my fear of elevation and had a awesome day doing it. I have a newly earned respect for mountain trail running. As I write this waiting for pictures to post I wonder? How will I recover from this one? My wife asked why I'm walking like Frankenstein? But don't regret a thing. I'd do it again next weekend. Now If I can just get up and walk to the kitchen.
For anyone wondering the rules of the Sultan 50k and what the bonus and boner points are about I have included the rules and some FAQs
Sultan 50k FAQ
How can I sign up for the Sultan 50k?
You should send an email to the Sultonic tribal council at email@example.com. If you are a new runner, meaning you don’t have a crown or have never run this course you need to do a little extra work by having an existing Sultan 50k finisher vouch for you. If you know no one how has finished the Sultan 50k, hard to believe, but anyway back to the point, you will need to submit a description of why you want to run.
How can I earn bonus points?
Bonus points are everywhere, you just have to look for them. Any volunteer, or member of the Sultonic tribal council may offer bonus points to any runner. This is how runner receive bonus points during the run. There is a multitude of ways to earn bonus points pre and post run as well. Some examples are:
-Singing happy birthday out loud = 5 points *add 10 points if you have opera skills.
-Shaving your head into a crown = 100 points
-Marking the trail with ribbons = 25 points
-Sweeping the trail and removing ribbons = 25 points
-Joining us for dinner post run = 10 points
-Funny gifts (Sultan brand coffee, lottery ticket) = 10 points
-Creative poster for the run = 15 points
-Yoga moves = 1-20 points depending on the complexity of the move and how many miles are on your legs.
-Headstands, cartwheels, funny faces to entertain volunteers = 1-5 points
-Assist with checking runners in/roll call = 10 points
-Come up with a creative trail name = 5 points
Note: if you’re a half distance runner a 50% reduction in point takes place to ensure relative value of points.
How will I earn boner points?
There is a multitude of reason for earning boner points. If you think you may be in violation of the tribal council’s rules, then more than likely you are, and thus will receive boner points.
No trace left behind event: There is no reason to leave any waste, trash, or used gel packs on the trails we have been given permission on to run.
I have also included a link to Jonathans Wiki recap of the day.
If you have questions or would be interested in joining the WNCTrailrunners