Tuesday, March 30, 2010

experiencing purity

this years barkley is over.
i am really happy.

being out there may have torn me down again,
but it was a healing time that i've been needing, too.

i've experienced heart break, starting a business, and the continuing search for goals and wants and needs and meaning.
some things have not felt certain or concrete, and i have struggled.

i have been reminded that it is absolutely glorious to be alive.

my highlights:

pre-exploration with GOOD FRIEND byron, in the snow on monday

pre-exploration with GOOD FRIEND mike, in the beautiful warmth on wednesday

complete purity and joy blasting down trail with byron and mike, meeting JB and travis.

in camp shenanigan's all week, dinner with johnny D, leonard and byron.

feeling so good and relaxed on loop one. i haven't been that happy in a long run or event in over two years.

meeting blake and cracking a joke as i descended rat jaw. the view of the petros valley had me in a state of purity and bliss.

leading most of the loop with jim nelson, and being the first ones to go through the tunnel. SO COOL!

heading out on loop 2 and being ready and happy.

turning my light on while collecting my page at the base of the spectacle on loop 2.

enjoying the breeze and the beauty of evening on loop 2.

waiting for jim and sharing raw dog falls, pig head creek, rat jaw, and the prison
on loop 2. still leading....fun.

watching jim disappear strongly on the bad thing.

nailing the needle's eye and competently hitting the bottom of zipline alone on a

moonlit night with intense downbursts of cool air blowing the leaves all over big hell.

friends in camp after 20:45 for two loops.

dad being there with me.

hearing gary say i am "easily on pace for 5 loops." (chuckle)

resting with a stomach that was having a new experience...shutting down.

descending hell on loop 3, asking alan for an aspirin and losing a minute because i stopped being vigilant, just for 10 seconds.

starting up zipline and hearing the rain move in like a locomotive from the SW....a LOCOMOTIVE!

adrenaline pulling us up zipline in survival mode.

slowly nailing the descent of the bad thing.
FREEZING toes under the prison.

quitting at the prison but still climbing uber rat jaw.

o-meliating back to camp

dad being there with me

telling everyone alan wouldn't do it on his own, and being wrong. (very impressed, alan)

laying in the van "coming down."

sharing in camp

witnessing the 3 talented, skilled, strong, tough fun runners come in.

witnessing JB's STRENGTH.

knowing that it's within each and every one of us.

having a place in this world, and knowing that WE'RE ALIVE!

peace barkers

Monday, March 8, 2010


after a good february of long stuff, last weekend i bailed on my double GAAT adventure, i was intimidated by the distance and the terrain and the weather, and i just wasn't excited enough to go after the experience.
i still needed a last long training excursion however, so this weekend i took a shot. all week i was trying to create an adventure that was inspiring and tough.

after an initial crazy idea of a 4 day hike from springer to NC and back while fasting, i decided i would need a shorter, more intense trek, because there is fun exciting shop work calling.
dad offered to pick me up if i went one way.

saturday i went to atlanta and fixed a machine issue for a friend, that took all day, and i drove up to amicalola falls state park.
amicalola to dicks creek gap is 76 miles and both ends are on paved roads.
springer to NC is 76 miles and both ends require extensive forest road travel, much of which is covered in ice right now.
the decision to shift the run 9 miles south and start at amicalola was easy.

arriving after dark, i climbed into the back of the van and packed my backpack with various food items, wind pants, two headlamps, body glide, lighter, balaclava, a couple chemical hand warmers, two water bottles, and a space blanket.
it was a calm clear night in comparison to some of the frigid tundra nights we've seen recently, so i started in a longsleeve shirt (with sleeves long enough to pull over my hands), and short sleeve shirt, my wind shirt, and my woodsman shorts (a couple good pockets, ultralight material). also, i decided to wear the new balance trail 100's, since my other flats didn't have any tread on them, this was a gamble that ended up paying off very well i think.

the approach trail from the visitor center has been rerouted since my last visit, so it took a minute of wandering to figure out where the trail was, but soon enough i was climbing the 400+ stairs to the top of the falls.

the 8.8 miles to springer felt like a little "pre-late-night" prologue. i reminded myself that even though it was night time, i shouldn't be tired because if i was at home, i would not even be thinking about bed yet.
after flurries in athens on tuesday, this week featured a few relatively warm days, so i was assuming that even after the horrific ice storms that demolished the mountains last month, the trails would be nice and clear......i was wrong. south facing slopes were generally very nice, one would think it was normal late winter / early spring conditions, a little frozen mud but generally great trail. north and west facing slopes however were generally pretty bad. with all the thru hikers starting out, at least there was no post holing for me (which would have been rough through some of the 4-5 foot drifts!). however the thru hikers also meant that the deeper snow was packed down, melted in the warmer days, and refrozen into slick patches during the evening. the crusty stuff gripped ok on the shoes, but there was plenty of slick stuff, and this, combined with the sidehill nature of some of the trail, meant that the going was sketchy in many places.

the 30 miles from springer to blood mountain were the balance of the first night miles. and they treated me really well. i was in the early stages of the adventure, naive about what was ahead, and overly enthusiastic about my own toughness. i was daydreaming about potentially adding 20+ miles to the trek and having dad pick me well inside NC, making it a 100+ miler.
that enthusiasm would wane later.
machine shop stuff was playing a major role in my mind as well, mentally i was designing some tools and generally trying to be creative about shop plans. fun.
interestingly, during the witching hours of 2-4 a.m. i passed 3 (count them, 3!) campsites where people had fires going. wha!? who was up tending fire all night (?), it's not like there were groups of people partying. just one or two tents and a roaring fire. i only noticed a single person at each site (and they were miles apart). still unsure about this one, although my best guess is that since there are alot of fresh thru hikers on the trail right now, perhaps they are not yet accustomed to life in the dark woods, and they find it comforting to keep the fire up all night?

i also passed one campsite where i was "greeted" by a couple of snarling dogs. if they were thru hikers, i'm sure they'll become more accustomed to random folks walking by "their" territory at night.

as the sun emerged i was near the side trail to dockery lake, and i marveled at the high rock bluffs to my left. great barkley training there, but i had a destination. i started mixing in good jogging throughout this section, as my legs were begging for some real use. all the 10-14 hour training hike have paid off.
it is a travesty that i left the camera in the van, as the views from blood mountain (and green clifftop and blue mountain and tray mountain) were very special.

arriving at neels gap, and the mountain crossings store, i was hopeful to find a hot breakfast and supplement my foodstuffs. while i didn't sit down to bacon and eggs, i did manage a hot sandwich, a coke, snickers, banana, and oatmeal cream pie. the 10 minutes i took there were well worth it, as i remembered the lifegiving "meal" i received a couple weeks ago at the heartbreak 100k.

the 6.5 miles to hogpen gap laid the groundwork for the day. i was more than halfway done, but the miles were to come much harder now. the sluchy snow and rock were less conducive to easy motion, especially the skiing descent to tesnatee gap and the slick trail up wildcat mountain.

the next section, 14 miles to unicoi gap featured both the best running of the trek, and the lowest mental state. i was still far from done (almost 10 hours to go!), but i was also getting sufficiently tired that eating was less enjoyable, and the snowier sections took alot more concentration. the treacherousness of the trail was obvious, shown by the number of footprints i avoided where someone else had already slipped off the sidehilled trail.
it was early in this section that i re-committed to the full 76. i had been daydreaming about changing the rendezvous point to mile 60 rather than 76, but i knew that the mental training was crucial here. i adopted the just do it attitude. my legs were sore and i was tired. the response to these complaints was to keep going. no need to indulge in the wimpy thoughts.

reaching unicoi gap meant i was set for the longest climb of the trek, and the impending evening.
i struggled up rocky mountain and tray mountain, seeing the deepest drifts, and navigating some slippery refreezing slowmelt. atop tray mountain the views were again amazing, so i lingered to snack and take them in.
the north side of tray mountain was hit hard by the ice stroms, so reroutes were the name of the game on this descent. soon enough the sun slipped below the horizon and i was in my own world again. the normally very runnable (mostly) descent from tray to dicks creek gap was made uber treacherous at times by the ice. i ate it fully once, and went down to all fours on numerous occasions.
i knew if the conditions were good i had a shot at sub 24 hours, but throughout this section the necessary ambitious pace was negated by ice and limbs. the next goal became 25:20, which would mean a pace of "exactly" 3mph. unfortunately the final descent was the worst ice and snow of the entire trek, and i meandered down to hwy 76 at 9:45pm, for 25:30 elapsed.

i was spent pretty good, but with a good meal and a little nap i could have gone on, which is exactly what i will have to do in a few weeks!

the mt100's were actually awesome for the crusty ice, as the rock plate kept the bottoms of my feet relatively happy, and thank goodness i didn't take the 152s with no tread, i'd still be out there.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

76 to 76

well i don't need to see crusty ice and snow again for

just got in from the 76 to 76.
drove up to amicalola falls saturday,
packed my pack, and headed north at 2015 saturday evening

although there was annoying ice and snow over significant portions of the first 40 miles, i was rockin and rollin when i hit neels gap at 0945 sunday morning, 13.5 hours in.
grabbed handfuls of food from their stuffs, to supplement what i was carrying.

the trail through the night was frozen solid and crusty, affording decent footing since most of the trail is on south facing slopes, with the snow melted thin.

holy cow, the last 36 miles had plenty of runnable dirt, but had i known ahead of time what i was committing to, there is no way i'd have gone after this beast. from tray mountain north, i was ice skating my way along the sidehilled trails. had i not been exhausted, i would have been majorly discouraged....as it was, i just needed to get to hwy 76, where my dad was going to deliver me from my sins.

25:30 after the start, a couple hours after dark sunday evening, i had gone from amicalola to hwy 76......76 miles, around 21k +/- elevation.
without the snow and ice i think i'd have eclipsed my 22:50 similar route of two years ago by a fair margin.

comments on a nike slogan applied to hard runs:
after rockin and rollin all night, i had begun to have serious doubts around mile 45. these doubts were shouting in my face by mile 50, with the option of having dad pick me up at mile 60 rather than 76.
the order of the day was to just do it, discomfort can be its own bedfellow!