Thursday, September 27, 2012

2012 - 25th Annual Pisgah 50k Recap

Sunday September 16, 2012

For the long time readers of this silly blog.  I'm going to start sparing writting blog posts about the course year after year.  If you want a more complete recap of the course filled with photos please refer to (2005, 2008, 2009, 2010 , and 2011)

Instead my goal is to try to capture/document the highlights of the year.  We'll see how it goes...

It was great seeing Izzo and Delbac from the VT Ultra crowd at the starting line.  Steve and Loni both getting their second place metals that they didn't pick up at the Moosalamoo Ultra a month prior.  John gave the Team Robert clan (Rik, Steve, Loni, Grant and I) crap at the starting line.  "So this is how you guys do it huh?  You start at the back of the pack and it's all up from here isn't it?"   Apparently our tricks of the trade are becoming well known.

Grant and I take our time in the first section running with Rik, Steve and Loni before the split.  At the split we turn on the gas and dart ahead.  The bridges are the dryest they've been in years and we time our steps so the bridge bounces what feels like at least a foot up and down between strides.  We laugh about how funny it would have been for it to just break in half spilling into the water.  Some shocked runners ahead of us turned around and said, "sure, funny if it was just you guys on it."  To which I said, "well sure, we're all human. Imagine how funny It'd have been if it was on youtube?!"

Occationally Grant will check his watch and comment about our pace.  I feel like we're cooking along at a decent clip, but it's still to early to really tell, all i knew is that we'd been passing people left and right and no one had caught back up.  After passing a woman that says, "make sure you save me some rice pudding!"
we catch two runners from Connecticut named Al and Tim.  Al is a veteran of the distance and had/has/still? coaches a guy and gal that have both won the 50k and set the course record respectively.  Tim is the ultra virgin who laughed when i called him, "the sacrafice."   Grant and I fill them in about the course ahead while Al tells us about his upcoming Rim2Rim2Rim run in the Grand Canyon in November.   The miles melt away.  Grant hitting lowes while I hit highs and vice versa.

At mile 17 we catch up to another ultra runner i've spent some miles with named Eric and we chat briefly before the climb up Pisgah Mountain itself.  Tim comments, "ah, so we're finally seeing some ultra tricks."  To me as I pick up a walking stick for the upcoming climb.  He's kind enough to snap a photo of us at the summit.  We lose them on the decent and dont see them again. 

Pisgah Photo

Grant and I catch Delbac and two other runnres at the Kilburn Loop 1 aid station and like everyone else.  We quickly grab food and take off and never see them again.  Only one woman catches us on the loop. And that is very brief before we pass her back and leave her in the dust.  

Grant - "dude! pick your damn feet up!"
Me - "I think i kicked that root so hard i can now fit into a smaller shoe size."
~Later in the same stretch of trail~
Grant  - "Jeez, are you TRYING to kick everything"
Me - "I don't know, but i think i just broke my back and threw out my shoulder"   (Refering to me trying to catch myself while falling)
The last section of trail is always the hardest.  I again go to my staple of finding a hiking stick.  Grant follows suit and we power hike past another 4-5 racers that had been ahead of us all day.  When we hit the last downhill Spanish Train comes to mind.   Like a dork i sing a verse of it and explain how this song comes to mind every ultra at the end as a sign of the devil letting go of your soul.  Best half-animated youtube clip here. We hit the gate, skip the water and race down the hill side by side.  I ask grant to check his watch, "(are) we gonna break 7 hours??!"   "We've got 14 minutes."

Similar to Moosalamoo we set goals (in this case telephone poles) down the road to run and/or walk to to save our legs so we can finish strong.  Occationally checking over our shoulders to see if anyone was trying ot reel us in.  Not a chance. I swear we did the final mile sub 9 minutes, or perhaps it just feels that way after 30 miles and the better part of 7 hours in the woods.  Either way, we crossed the finish line in 6:54.  Laughed, ate burges and dogs, and chatted with our ultra breatherin for the next hour or so until Loni rolled in.

Another ultra in the books, the VermonT 50 on the horizon. My 13th consectutive start. Both Loni and Grant, still looking to break the 50Mile mark in their ultra careers.  Wish them luck!!

Monday, September 24, 2012

2012 App Trail Section Hike - Quick Links

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5

2012 AT Section Day 5

Appalacian Trail - Day 5 - 8/23/12

Happy Hill Shelter - Velvet Rocks Shelter - Parking Lot (9.5 Miles)

Leah - "did you hear the coyotes last night?"
Me - "yeah, why?"
Leah - "it scared the shit out of me.  The material on this tent isn't that thick."
Me -  "seriously?  there's a dude over there just in a sleeping bag next to a giant pickle"
and this is how sketch's nickname became "reuben"

We zip out of camp as quickly as possible in hopes to not interact with the ATers.  Dustin, lula and i take the lead and power down the few remaining hills towards Norwich.  The girls chatting away a turn or two behind us on the switchbacks.  It's funny.  The thought of beer, non-space food, a shower and a bed has increased our pace from 1-2 miles an hour to 2-4.

Norwich is hopping with construction, traffic, and people.  It's a HUGE differnce from the woods.  The pace is blistering compaired to how we've lived our life for the last week. Something I had called “life simplified.”  Which consisted of simply getting up, walking, eating, and sleeping. 

We pause briefly on the VT/NH line for a couple of photos and then climb up to the Dartmouth green.  On the green we're approached by a fella asking if we are renting packs.  What the hell?  I was amazed that he couldn't smell the week worth of stink on us.

Dustin and I leave the girls and start "slack packing" up and over the velvet rocks.  We laugh about how easy this is.  After carrying a 50lb pack for 5 days.  Walking with just ourselves was amazing.   We pause a few times to try to catch a photo of a pialated woodpecker and a view or two, but similar to Lucia Lake the scrub brush had grown up over the summer and not much was around.

At one point the trail is so steep that there is a rope to climb it.  I comment that I can’t imagine doing this in the rain with our pack on.  We cross a wooden bridge i assume that was similar to the bridge that was washed out back at the ottawaqueece a few days earlier. 

We quickly knock out the remaining miles and reach the truckster.  Before we know it we’re  picking  up the girls and head for the grocery store. Pizza, beer, bbq chicken and a shower is just a few miles away!   The PackCow is very pleased to be knocking out the miles without having to walk.

As much as we enjoyed out time on the trail, we were ready to be off of it for now. It didn’t take too long for my hiking amnesia to kick in though.  As I’m writing this blog post a week or two later, the trail is already calling me back and I’m planning my thru-hike of 2013.  I can only hope the weather and the trails are as beautiful as they were this year. 

QOTD – “Hey Buddy! Your daughter is a whore!”

Friday, September 21, 2012

2012 AT Section Day 4

Appalacian Trail - Day 4 - 8/22/12
Thistle Hill Shelter - Happy Hill Shelter (8.8 Miles)

I awake first with a sore back similar to every other morning thus far on the trail.  Being up first I head deeper into the woods to snag tinder and sticks to have a fire with breakfast.  We take our time this morning knowing we’ve only got a few miles today vs our longest day yesterday.

I snap a photo of the pooper with a view as we leave camp.  I feel confidant on my decision to not use this effective, yet odd privy.  Just like the past couple of days, after an afternoon of climbs we start the day with a long decent into the little town of Hartford.   We're treated with more southbound views towards Askutney throughout the morning.  Occationally we'll come to a nice field sections that seem completely out of the blue in the middle of the forest.   

The group decides to break for lunch on the banks of the White River, cook up some food and go for a swim.  The damage from Irene are still viable along the riverbanks and the buildings that line the waterway.  Rumors were that the next stretch of trail was very sparce of water so we fill our water bottles and figure better safe than sorry even though we've got a long climb ahead and this will add a few extra pounds to our packs.

On the climb out of town we cross train tracks just ahead of a train.  I pause briefly to snag some grapes on the tracks.  Before too long, but what feels like forever on pavement we head into the woods and climb up happy hill.

We pass some more runners on the next climb and PackCow tries to get in their way.  I grab her and say, “come here bonehead.”  Blonde running down the trail says, “awww bonehead?!”  It gives Inchworm and I something to chuckle about over the next few miles.  About how ‘turkey-brain’ and ‘bonehead’ were used as both positives and negatives by our parents.

As Inchworm and I wait for the ladies at the spur to the shelter a wide eyed barefoot hiker approached.  His earbuds are in and can hardly hear us when we wish him hello.  He asks about water and we tell him how the water by the shelter is dry, but there are a couple of streams just ahead that he could filter some water from.  He looks thru us, but seems to aknowledge, and then moves forward.  We scratch are heads and just assume dude must have been in the woods too long by himself.   

The girls catch up with The PackCow and we head down to the old cool shelter.  We think about how nice this is going to be to spend our last night on the trail while grabbing wood for a fire.  Then they start rolling in.  One after another.  And the droves.  About 15-25 hikers pass through the site over the next 3 hours, some dropping their packs and setting up camp,  some just passing through.   What was once a quiet shelter and promise of a fire and fun turned into a ‘hey look at me, I’m a thru hiker with tons of money’ frat party.  A lot of the SOBOs having just drank their butts off in Hanover and ready to get back in the woods want to share their stories over and over with anyone that will listen. "WHOAA look at the size of that pickle!" and "I think whoever built that privy was a hobbit," had to be the two that cracked me up the most.  They seemed like jovial folks but the volume level which was once birds and squirrels was unbearable.

A short time later, the same sketchy guy wanders back into camp with 90 nutragrain bars.  He stands there for a bit and appears as if he's surprised to see people.  After what feels like forever he says he's from Boston and doesn’t have any way to purify the water up the trail.  Luckily for him he buddies up with the AT-ers and they help treat his water for him.  God knows what is going to happen to this guy if he ever leaves the pack.

We decide we don’t want to be part of this and debate packing up camp and heading into Hanover and potentially the truck tonight.  After taking a deep breath, and setting up our tents further away from the shelter we play some cards and try to stay to ourselves while they talk over and over again about the AT and pies.  With the knowledge of us leaving the trail tomorrow Leah and I surprise the Fortin's with our early anniversary gift of little cans of champane.  I think it was exactly what the doctor ordered as the chatting from the ATers went from painfully annoying to a pure specticle to watch.  It was like being at VTC all over again.  8 men, 1 woman. Each guy trying to one-up the other in hopes to winning her favor.   We continue to play rummy 500 while murmuring to ourselves things like, " that dude eating his tuna with a stick? You've gotta see this!"  and then we'd laugh hystarically. 

QOTD - " happy I want to grow a penis and slam it in a car door"

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

2012 AT Section Day 3

Appalacian Trail - Day 3 - 8/21/12
Wintturi Shelter - Thistle Hill Shelter (11.6 Miles)

We wake up pretty early on day three to find the ATers still in camp.  I’m a bit surprised after not waking up until well after everyone else had cleaned out of camp the last two nights.  I pack up my gear and head out of camp early alone.  I want to spend some time by myself this morning and it's a perfect day for it.   I trek through the woods and down down down to a road crossing. I pause and use the facilities near where someone had wedged a shoe in a tree.

A NOBO-er who spent the night at “The Lookout” last night passes me and climbs the trail about 200 feet when he pauses and grabs something off of a pine branch on the trail.   As I catch up to him he announces, “hey i found a joint!"  I laugh and tell him "Its trail magic dude!”  “I havn’t had weed for months,” he gasps unbelievingly.  I chuckle and head off again on my own never seeing dude again.  I suspect he found a nice field and smoked his find.

(no rhyme or reason for this, but it cracked me up and was completey in the middle of nowhere)

I pause and talk to a few chipmunks before getting to a south facing open ridge views of Askutney Mountain.  The old guard maple tree watches from the side of the trail on the next decent just before we pop out on the top of this amazing field.   

It’s sunny and cool, the bees are buzzing around the wildflowers. I actually run through some of the fields before laying on the bridge at the bottom of the hill and wait for everyone to catch up.

The gang catches up and the trail turns onto the road.  After walking down the pavement for what feels like forever the trail cuts back across a small field and we head up Dana Hill sweating buckets all the while.  The hill levels out briefly as we step over the barbed wire fence crossings and are treated with plenty of butterflies in the fields


A few stream crossings and log crossing later we catch up to Clothespin, Inchworm, and The PackCow eating lunch.   I have no idea what the context of this quote is, but it stuck out in my head and made me laugh so I’m including it.  “she's from new zealand, that means shes' not really a person."

The trail switchbacks for awhile and then we pop out into yet another picturesqe Vermont field.   A few ATers that passed us an hour ago are snacking under a tree near the stonewall.   The field is neatly mowed around the corn but the typical AT 4x4 uprights and well worn single footpath leads you down to the road.  It's simply beautiful.

After a short climb and steep decent over yet another ridgeline we pause for water and a wonderful swim in Pomfret Brook.  The cold water feels great on our tired feet and muscles.  

After cleaning up and grabbing a snack in the stream we have another sweltering climb up to the top of another peak with views back west over Pomfret and Suicide Six.  We chat about seeing Great Big Sea two years prior while chomping on another snack.  After catching our breath from the climb we head down what was once known as Kings Highway, a long since forgotten thuroway out of Pomfret of years and years ago.  The stonewalls are still amazing and I snap a photo or two and pause to ponder the crazy mount of labor involved and think about how soft we’ve become as a species (at least here in the US). 

("When in doubt, the AT always goes up")

What feels like hours later we arrive at camp at last.  The site is pretty trashed.  Lots of garbage and wrappers kicking around really erk me.  I chat briefly with Journeyman & Trinket (on their own section journey to Katahdin) who share the shelter with a brittish fella that has just started his own sectioning journey south towards Bennington.  I guess as they've been making their way from Connecticut(where they started this year) they've found a lot of waste left behind from the "more entitled thru-hikers" as he put it.   He was pretty fired up about how it makes the rest of us out here look poorly, so sat back and enjoyed the venting session for awhile.

The 5 of us find our own tent site behind the shelter with our own fire ring and benches and make ourselves at home.  Not wanting to hear anymore about AT thru hiking and just in general wanting to be to ourselves.    We found some wood, and pumped water, the typical nightly chores while the PackCow snored away behind the benches.  The highlight of the evening had to be when Clothespin created a Mac'n'Cheese-Cheese amazing meal combining a mountainhouse with another packet of deliciousness. 

 QOTD -  "'s like fat chicks man.  If you want to fuck em all you gotta fuck the fat chicks"

Saturday, September 15, 2012

2012 AT Section Day 2

Appalacian Trail - Day 2 - 8/20/12
Stony Brook Shelter - Wintturi Shelter (9.9 Miles)

When we arise in the morning the AT-ers are long gone.  The sun is shining as we pack up and sit by the remains of the fire and eat breakfast. 

I read ahead in the guidebook and inform the gang that we’ve got a Ladder ahead and we’re all a bit concerned about how Lula is going to get around it.   When we get there I’m ahead of the pack, but Lula really likes being with the lead hiker so she’s with me this morning.  When she sees the ladder she makes quick work of it.  Quickly finding a way down and around before we can even wonder how we’ll get her around it ourselves. 

We enjoy the long long decent of wonderful switchback to stony brook where the bridge has also been washed out by Irene.  The water is cool and wonderful as we half bathe while lula splashes around.    I said, we should have shadow camped here last night commenting on how calming the bubbling brook was.  Only to 5 feet further down the trial see where someone had actually beat us to it and was tucked away next to some trees. 

The trail rolls up and down with a few road crossings until we stop to eat lunch at Lakota Lake Lookout.  While this may have been a nice lookout in the spring, at this time of year, if you stand on your tippy toes in one location you can actually catch a glimps of the lake.  The lack of view doesn’t bother us and we spread out on a couple of stones to bask in the sun for a bit while we snack away on our trail mix.  

After passing lots of SOBOs throughout the afternoon we treat ourselves with another rest at "the lookout." A privately owned cabin on the top of the next climb that the owner lets hikers visit for views, but doesn’t want campers. Although it was obvious people have disregarded this and have been camping here for some time (more on this later).

On the last decent down to the Winturri shelter from the back of the group we hear.  “OH OW OW OW.  SHIT OW FUCK FUCK FUCK!  WHY WON’T YOU STOP HURTING!” I drop my pack and start running back only to see Leah still walking.  Thankfully she hasn't broken her leg or anything, only a pretty rugged bee sting.  

We grab some wood and have a fire while playing rummy 500 after setting up camp.  Trail Dawg, Agent Orange, and another fella (SOBOs) show up and fill us in on the latest and greatest of what lies ahead for us on the trail.  Then lots and lots of AT talk, although these guys at least seem a bit more down to earth than the guys we shared camp with the night before. 

QOTD - "We call those guys, ‘daywalkers.’"

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

2012 AT Section Day 1

Appalacian Trail - Day 1 - 8/19/12
VT Route 4 - Stony Brook Shelter (10 Miles)

Hours removed from Moosalamoo it was time to shoulder our packs.  As Dustin loads up his rig with our packs he yells out a, "JESUS CHRIST!" between each lift.  I can only laugh and say, "yeah, we didn’t pack well for this did we?"  Twenty minutes later we pulled into the Sherbern Pass packing lot and have a few Long Trail hikers snap a photo.  A goofy kid with a white afro runs out of the supply truck and shouts out "say cheese!!"  Lula wanted nothing doing with this guy and goes nuts. (you can see her giving him the look in the photo)

Lula bounds past us happy as can be even though she's wearing her pack for the first time.  "Huh, leash didn't last long," Dustin says while we chat about our first time thru this stretch.  The good memories and bad memories of this trail.  Dustin and Heather with fresh legs after two zeros heading toward Quebec.  Leah and I happy it's not pouring like it was for us last year.  At the split it feels good and odd to leave the Long Trail.  I’ve hiked some of the AT prior in segments in Maine and obviously when I hiked the LT, but never with the intent on hiking the AT.  The trail is realitivly well traveled being a beautiful Sunday in August.  People see us, and the size of our packs and assume we’ve been on the trail for weeks.  I feel oddly sheepish saying, “well, we just started today,” as we pass.    "I think her laziness is working in her favor"  Dustin says about Lula.  “She should work coorporate,” I chip in.  Dustin follows it up with, “she could be CEO!”  “She should work for the government,” Leah says.  It’s obvious we haven’t shaken the office attitude yet.

Leah, Heather and I chat about our gardens and picking adventures when ahead of us we hear a yell.  "oh no....OH NO! NO NOOO!"  We race down the trail and I start laughing histarically. The girls are quickly behind me and looking very concerned.   Turns out that Lula has found a really nice mud pit and decided to roll around in it to cool off.  

As we head through Gifford State park I laugh about the experience from Day 5 where we tried to stay here years before.  (blog link)  

We get to the first detour from the Irene storm a year ago around kent pond before getting to a wonderful view out and over the water.   The trail borders the pond for a bit before coming out to a nice fire ring and dock at Mountain Meadows Lodge.

A few miles later and we are forced onto another detour around thundering falls. I’m bummed because I was really looking forward to the boardwalk over the ottawaqueechee bog area. After reviewing the Long Trail magazine the photo and article they posted made perfect sense for why they detoured.

(Full Article can be read from the GMC website here)

The detour ended at another road crossing and we’re faced with our first serious climb of the day. And the climb continues, and switchbacks, and continues more. We pause and wipe the sweat from our heads. The Fortin’s and Lula dart ahead seemingly as fresh as daisies. Leah and I sucking wind, legs exhausted from the race the day prior.

We eat our lunch on the trail and push forward.  A couple of runners heading south on the AT see Leah's Peak Ultra Race shirt and tell me that i'm crazy for running it.  I say, "well I didn’t do the death race. It was only the 53 miler."  I guess i am crazy.  It’s amazing how your perspective changes.  I tell them i'll see them at the VT50 and we part ways toward camp.

The four of us are physically spent as we make the last decent to the shelter. After setting up camp Dustin and I walk down the trail for a bit, free of our packs for the first time of the day and pump water for dinner. 

We share Stony Brook Shelter with 4 NOBOs (North Bound AT Hikers).  They’ve got plenty of stories.  One couple actually had been on the AT in the 100 mile wilderness during the week of Irene last year and had been fording water crossings that were 3’ higher than they were normally.  Feeling completely exhausted we all turn in well before the AT-ers.  It was comforting falling asleep to them chatting away by a crackling fire.

(Day 1 - Home Sweet Home)

QOTD - "What kind of bird was that?!?"