Saturday, August 17, 2013

Tangled Up In Blue...and White...and Red...and...

"50% of running is half mental more than 90% of the time" - Charlie Engle

As I've been alluding to frequently in my RWA blogs, I'm currently in the middle of Birmingham's Southeastern Trail Race Series. This is the brainchild of Race Director David Tosch and involves running (give or take) 7 trail races in 7 months. Now, David's idea is that these races get progressively harder and longer as you get sucked in. I've completed 3 of the first 4 races (out of town for the Memorial day race) and I've developed a clear understanding that training definitely is advantageous to doing these. Although I'm slow as molasses in Alaska in December, I do love running on the trails and am trying to get out there at least once a week to run on the course of whatever race is next on the schedule. But, this morning's run had a different twist or two.

As I said above, the Race Series has 7 races, but one race is actually 3 races - the 3-Stage, 3-Mountain Race the end of September. I can wrap my head around going a long way in a single day, but this will be 3 races on 3 different days on 3 different trails (Moss Rock - 16 miles, Red Mt - 15 miles, Oak Mt - 22 miles). Now, this will be interesting. So, David decided to throw AN ADDITIONAL race into the 7 month fray with the Birmingham Track Club Trail Race on September 7th, the day before race #5 of the SETRS (a 21 miler). The BTC race is free to BTC members and has 3 distances, 4-8-14.5 miles, so what better way to train for the 3 -stage race than to do a 2-stager, so I signed up for the long option (sounds easy sitting at your desk). And that's where I went this morning.

I won't go into a big description of the course, but with 2000' of elevation gain in the 14.5 miles, it does have some uphill grinders. There is a pull up to a place called Eagle's Nest at about 11 miles that rises 200' in less than 1/4 mile (yes, a 25% grade does sap your legs) and several other climbs of >20% grade. Took a little over 4 hours. Whew! I must say though that I was as occupied with staying on course as I was to physically finishing before the sun went down. I decided to memorize the course instead of taking a map. I've been running Oak Mt for many, many years, but this series of races have shown me trails I've never seen. Today I went Yellow - Yellow/White Connector - White - Red - Green - Green/White Connector - White - Blue - Blue/Red Connector - Red - White - Yellow. And I got back to the car!!! Woo-Hoo. The memory of an ultrarunning elephant!

Now, last week I did one loop of what will be the 2-loop 21 miler the next day. That race will have >3000' of elevation gain. So, as I said, training has it's benefits, but it was about 15 degrees hotter last Saturday and I ran out of water at about 8 miles (I usually carry 2 bottles when there's no water on the route). So, with a little help from my BUTS (Birmingham Ultra Trail Society) friends, this week I got a Sawyer Squeeze Filtration System (Amazon - $34). It has a 32 oz. collapsible bottle that you fill up with water that might have some microbial critters in it (like at the bottom of Peavine Falls), screw on the filtration cartridge, and then squeeze the filtered water into your water bottle. It takes a little ingenuity to figure out how to carry it, but it worked perfect with my Fuelbelt. Now, 5 hours after my run, I haven't had to make any "pants-on-fire" runs to the bathroom, so I guess it worked!

Before I close I want to wish my friend, Eric Strand and fellow BTC members Owen Bradley and the aforementioned David Tosch good luck as they tackle the famous Leadville (Co.) 100 mile Trail Race today (and tomorrow). I'm crying about 2000' elevation gain in 14 miles and these guys are doing 14,000' of elevation gain in 100 miles...all at 9000'-13,000' above sea level! Just quit whining Al. 

OK guys, that's about it for this week. Hope this cool weather continues, but I know better. This is Alabama. This is August. I'll just take one day at a time and one mile at a time. I'll see you all on the roads - Al   

"One child lost is too many...One child saved can change the world"

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