Monday, December 19, 2016

More Orchid shots

I just realized that 1/4 of my orchid collection is in bloom.  And they are all re-blooms (meaning I did not buy any of them in bloom at the store!).  4 orchids at the same time, wow!

This is the cymbidium that surprised us last year.  It decided to bloom again.  This time I did not have to banish it to the cold dining room to get the buds to open (must be way too cold here in OH).

Angraceum (same as last week, just a different angle).  I am worried that a second bud is not going to survive, as it seems to be yellowing.  There is still another stem, so we'll keep fingers crossed.

Epidendrum Star Valley: I bought this in Feb and it was in bloom, and rebloomed about a month later.  This time, it has a few more buds on it.

The  phalaenopsis in bloom was a gift from a co-worker for my retirement.  The original blooms all faded, but a few new buds showed up unexpectedly.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Cold day

it was cold today...but I did find a few interesting things to photograph:

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Angraecum leonis

I bought this Angraecum in Oct (I think).  It had a spike that was developing, which bloomed last night.  It still has at least two flowers, if not more on the way.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Stillhouse 100k (edited to add video)

Wow, what a race!  100k along the Cumberland Trail in Chattanooga, TN.  Welcome to the Rock/Creek Stillhouse 100k presented by laSportiva.

We had hiked some of the CT last year near Crossville, TN.  That should have been a warning:

So, I didn't get to run Cloudsplitter this year due to other commitments.  I really wanted to run a 50 mile or 100k this fall.  Then I found the perfect race:  Rock/Creek Stillhouse 100k in early Dec.  Along the Cumberland Trail in Chattanooga, with about 10k elevation gain.  This was an inaugural race, but the company puts on other races, to include one on the same trail called the Upchuck 50k (there is a story to the name of that race, look it up).  The Stillhouse 100k was going to be a double Upchuck.  Three trails: Soddy Creek, Possum Creek and Rock Creek, connected together.  They even wheeled to course to 61.66 miles (although my gps said just over 58).

Cool video from my Suunto:

From my GPS, here are the course route and elevation profile:

Given that I didn't 'need' a race, we watched the weather closely before signing up for this.  Another complication was the fires that were burning in the area.  At one point, it looked like the trail was closed due to fire (it was re-opened about 2 weeks prior).  The week before, rain finally came to the area (after 100+ days of no rain), but also brought high winds and a tornado.  Fires followed by a storms (to include a tornado) that left ankle deep leaves on the trails at night. Wonderful!

I signed up on the Saturday prior, and that night, on cue, both Mark and I got sick.  Just my luck...

One of the things that attracted me to Stillhouse was the 12:01 am start.  I've never run through the night, so this was a good learning experience for me.  The logistics of a long race are challenging enough, but add night and temperature changes, makes it even more so.  The race would start at ~45 deg, drop to low 30's, then rise to mid-50's.  I was not planning for Mark to crew for me, so I needed to be self-sufficient.  Originally, the race info said two aid stations ~15 miles apart (the first would be hit twice).  Drop bags at the turn-around, but also a few mandatory gear items. During the pre-race briefing, they announced that a 3rd aid station was going to be available at approximately the 23/39 mile mark.  Even better!

As I mentioned, this was billed as a primitive race, so I was prepared to follow the CT blazes on the trees, knowing it was going to be tough at night.  I was extremely happy when the RD announced that they had flagged the course with reflective tape and markers.  Although at times, we'd have to stop and search for a reflection, it made it much easier than I feared.

The race had an aggressive cut-off (in my opinion) at the turn-around, given the terrain and darkness of 9 hours.  The overall cut-off was 20 hours.  Once again, I set a goal of 16 hours.  And once again, I missed my goal.  However, I am much happier about this miss than the one at World's End.  More on this later.

Given the weather, we had to drive the six hours (poor plane just is not getting any love this year).   We arrived a bit later than originally planned, but I was able to get ~1.5 hrs of 'sleep'.  I use quotes, since I'm not quite sure I slept.  Mark drove me to Soddy-Daisy and the start. Shortly before the start, he headed back to the warm bed in the hotel, while I started my day:

While waiting for the start, I had a chance to meet some other runners from OH.  A group from Columbus had come down to run as well.  It was great to meet them, finally, as we all part of a FB running group, but I haven't been able to make any of the runs they host.

At 12:01, we were led out by a truck up the road to the trail.  I joked with one of the ladies as we were going through town that anyone up at that time must have been really confused as the 50 of us walked up the road at midnight.  She mentioned that it probably wasn't a good idea to be in this part of town at night alone...I hoped that I wouldn't have to do that on the return trip.

We hit the trails and wow, they didn't disappoint.  Rocks, leaves, twists and turns.  Another runner, Greg, and I stuck together for the first few miles.  It was nice having someone else to chat with, as well as find the turns.  We chatted about races and other stuff.  Turns out he had done Georgia Death Race in 2014 and was doing again in 2017 (same one I am doing). When we hit the area of the fire, you could smell the burnt, even though we couldn't see it.  I slowly pulled ahead of Greg and was alone in the woods.  Coming into the first aid station, I met up with two other ladies and two of us left at about the same time.  Leah and I would meet up and change positions (for 1st and 2nd, it turned out) all the way out-bound.  We enjoyed each other's company for a couple miles and chatted till one of us (mainly Leah) would pull away, only for me to catch up again at another time.  The first 13 miles took just about 3 hours.  I was told the next section, Possum Creek was a doozy, and it didn't disappoint.  It took 3 hours to run that 10 miles, due to the rocks and climbs.

Somewhere around mile 28, as the sun came up, I grabbed a bite to eat.  All of a sudden I felt it crunch a bit more than it should.  Oh-shit!  My temporary crown had fallen off my tooth. At least it didn't hurt, just a dull pain.  I wrapped up the crown, and kept pressing forward.  I hit the turn-around just over 8 hours, not bad considering the dark and technical course

At the turn-around, I needed to re-group.  A couple of cups of ramen later, and I was off.  I left just a few seconds after Leah and her pacer.  As we hit the trail, Natalie came running in, looking strong.  Leah had mentioned that Natale was a beast and this was her home trail. I passed Leah and figured this was a good time to put some space between us.  Not a good thing for me to think, as I probably redlined it too much going out on the flatter part of the course.  Natalie would ultimately catch me around mile 43 and win. (although I had assumed she finished at least an hour prior, in reality it was only 16 minutes).  Leah would finish 18 minutes behind me.  Only 3 of the 6 females that started finished.

Now the sun was up, although there was a shallow cloud layer.  The temps never did warm up too much, and I was glad that I decided to keep the tights and long-sleeved shirt.  But now that it was light I could see the trails that we had traveled in the dark.

The pictures start at the turn-around and work backwards to the start/finish

Not too bad, right?

Then you get this:

Lots of water falls and rock formations:

 While the picture doesn't make this look that treacherous, going down it on sore legs was brutal:

Coming around the corner at one point during the night, these leaves looked whitish in color.  I swear they looked like someone had hung a dead bird on the trail in front of me.

The last bridge over the Soddy Creek, into the area where the fire had burned:

The trails themselves were in good shape (where you could distinguish a trail):

By the time I got to the last section, I knew I wasn't going to make my goal.  I kept thinking maybe I need to stop being so aggressive on  my goals.  The one thing I didn't do was bag it in.  I had the cut-off made, and like World's End, I could have hiked it in.  I wasn't falling for that this time.  I kept pushing and running when it was flat and hiking when it was treacherous. I was kept telling myself that now that I could see the trail, there's no way that I would want to do it in the dark on tired legs.  I was going to finish strong.  When I hit the pavement for the last mile, I almost broke into tears since I was so happy that I had pushed as hard as I could.  I came in as strong as I could and finished in 2nd place, with a time of 16:38.  Not bad, considering very little to no sleep since 0700 the day prior.

This picture was taken a few minutes after I finished (about the time I realized I had not stopped my gps):

Not knowing where the 3rd place female was, they presented Natalie and I our jug:

This was a tough race:  49 people signed up, 29 finished, 8 did not start, 12 did not finish.  3/6 females finished.  Three of the five folks from Columbus finished, and Greg did finish as well, just making the cut-off at 19:56.  Poor guy had to run that last section in the dark and rain.  That was a great finish.  The leading man finished in 12:13, so about 4 hours ahead of us ladies.  I placed 19th overall.  Even better, I got to eat dinner with Mark after a long race race! (although I barely kept my eyes open).

So you may be wondering where Mark was...well he was able to get a round of golf in and meet me at the finish.  We were able to sleep in on Sunday and see my sister Kate for breakfast.  It was good to see her and hear how her career as a news reporter in Chattanooga was going.

This was a wonderful race.  I was impressed with the course markings, not once did I get off-course, even though there were times that we did have to stop and search for a few seconds.  The aid stations were well stocked and had hot tea/coffee/soup when needed.  (I heard they didn't flinch when one guy asked for ramen coffee).  The swag was pretty good too.  We got a nice cotton long sleeved shirt and finishers got a hoodie.  As 2nd place, I got a medium sized whiskey jug (unfortunately, not filled) from Chattanooga Whiskey, as well as a tour.  And I get to pick a pair of laSportiva shoes.  Cool!

Some lessons I learned on this trek:
1.  Starting at 12:01 is tough.  Try to get to race site day prior (Thurs for a Sat morning start).  That way you can wake up on Friday and then take a mid-day nap.
2.  Bank sleep week prior.  Since I was sick, that wasn't too hard.  I was getting 9+ hours for a few nights prior
3.  Caffeine only goes so far.  I started to get headaches, although I didn't take that  much.  I had caffeinated Tailwind, small cup of tea and some Run Gum.  I was most tired at about noon, but that was when the headaches were the worst (or was it a dull throbbing from my missing crown?)
4.  I ran with new shoes.  First time for a blister on the back of my achilles.  I originally thought a stick had cut me, but I'm not so sure.  It didn't bother me too much and I'd forget about it each time I'd come into an aid station. Other than that, my Altra Lone Peaks worked great (like normal).
5.  I figured out some technics on night running.  My new Petzel Tikka+ lasted the full 8 hours on one set of batteries. I had it on low, and used my Nathan Fire 300 handlamp on low as well (with one charge).  When climbing hills, I'd turn off the handlamp to save battery.
6.  When sending text messages to your family to let them know your status, make sure you inform them when unexpected aid station shows up.  I sent Mark a note letting him know I was at mile 39 aid station.  He didn't realize that they had added one and figured my 'math in public' was off.  And was bummed that he was going to miss my finish, since he was still on the golf course.
y.  Best of all:  I slew my demon from World's End.  I may not have finished with the time I wanted, but I finished by giving it my all.  I didn't surrender to that inner voice that kept telling me to walk it in.  First of all, there was no way I wanted to do those rocks in the dark again at that point.

Now on to Georgia Death Race!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Beet Cured Salmon

I decided to try to cure my own salmon this weekend.  It was tasty (although a bit salty).

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Woodman Fen

Dayton has a fen that is little known.  The metropark has restored it and built a small trail and boardwalk.  I went for a short walk there yesterday.  Looking forward to seeing it in the spring and summer.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Another Race Report: Feral Hog -- Really delayed, not many pictures

I was recently reminded that I never posted a race report on Feral Hog 50k.  So here it is.  I didn’t take a camera with me, so there are no photos that I can claim credit for. (thanks to Geri and Geoff Ahlers for the photos.)  

Feral Hog 50k 2016 was an inaugural event put on by Mary Vincent as Race Director. The Feral Hog 50k is a one loop course traversing the backpack and perimeter trails of East Fork State Park. The majority of this course is on trails that were first blazed by a man training to traverse the world on foot, Steve Newman, aka the World Walker.  It was these trails that Steve trained on prior to his solo around the world from April 1983 to April 1987.  Mary was even able to get him to come out and give a brief talk on his walk prior to the start of the race.

In 2015, when training for Cloudsplitter, I stumbled upon this trail, but was unable to find any info on markings or course, so quickly abandoned any plans on running the trails. (I don’t like the idea of getting lost, even within an hour of home).  When I found out about Mary’s race, I was in. Especially since I love single loop courses!  There were 3 training runs held in Aug and Sept, running different sections of the course for familiarity.  The first two sections were rolling horse and hiking trails, which then transitioned to the mountain bike trails. The last section was going to be the toughest, given the fact it was the hillier section, as well as had some downed trees from storms. 

Mary pulled together some great swag, to include a custom flask.  Originally, you had to finish in 6.5 hours for a flask.  After the second training run, I knew that was going to be tough.  Luckily, Mary recognized that and increased the time limit for the coveted flask to 7 hours.  (overall time to finish is 10 hours).  I wanted one…

Mary had a good mix of manned and unmanned aid stations set up along the course.  It was however a paper-less race, so bring your own.  I decided to take my smaller pack with one collapsible bottle of tailwind, carrying two tubes of additional for those in-between aid stations.  Drop bags were available at the 12ish mile point.  I put additional tailwind and my other collapsible bottle there. (as well as solid food).  In addition, I had 1.5L of water on me, so I didn’t bother to take an extra cup, knowing that I had the collapsible bottle that I could refill if necessary.

Due to some dental surgery in early Oct, I didn’t run a step for the two weeks prior.  I called it ‘extreme tapering’.  It didn’t seem to hurt, my legs felt fresh and ready to go.  In fact, they were too ready at the beginning, which was really runnable

The night before the race, Mark and I had a symphony to go to, so we didn’t get to bed till late, making that 5 am alarm even more annoying.  I drove down to East Fork with no traffic on I-75 or I-275, making for a pleasant morning drive.  It was still dark when we were supposed to start at 0730, so Mary held us off for another 5 to allow a bit more daylight to penetrate the forest.  Off we went:

I felt good, temps were in low 70s and expected to climb to the low 80s.  We hit the single track fairly quickly and with it the muddy hollows that come from the trails also being horse trails.  This was the first time I had raced with a gps, and in my occasional glances, kept thinking I was going out too fast.  I was with the lead men, but breathing easy and feeling great.  At one point, I made the comment that if we kept up the current pace, we’d be under 6:30 easily.  Bad thing to say that early in the race…

Around the 2 mile point, I reached for my tailwind, only to not find it…somehow it popped out of my vest!  No worries, I had packed the extra at mile 12, until then, I’d get by on water and the food I was carrying (except at the one aid station, there I grabbed a potato).  Got to mile 12 and my drop bag right on schedule, the Team RWB folks manning the station were great!.  I immediately downed a Tailwind and made another to go.  On the way out, I grabbed a cheese sandwich.  Imagine my delight when I took a bite and found out it had bacon!  I almost turned around for another, almost, but I had a flask to win.

Losing my tailwind turned out to be a bigger deal than I realized.  Around mile 18, my calves started to cramp, followed by my hamstrings, then my quads…I have not had this issue since Marine Corps Marathon in 2007.  I kept moving forward at the best I could.  This was the hilliest portion of the course, so it was slow already, but the cramping made it worse.  I started watching my time slip away.  I yelled at my legs to get moving, and to my surprise they did, only to cramp up a few minutes later.  I hit the mile 26 aid station, got some endurolytes and pickles, and refilled my tailwind.  I had an hour to do the last 5+ miles (turns out the course was a bit longer than 31 miles) and still get a flask (remember, finishing was not my goal…I wanted that flask).

Finally, I hit the last 2 miles (luckily flat) and I was running the best I could, and I was surprised to see I could still get average under a 12 min/mile.  I swear the end should have been around every corner, but it wasn’t.  Finally, I found the turnout of the woods and to the finish line.

I finished in 6:51, earning 1st place Female and 7th overall.  Best of all…I earned that flask!

This was a great race, the aid stations were manned by runners who knew how to keep one moving and what to do.  The swag was amazing.  Afterwards, hot showers were available and the town of Williamsburg was holding a BBQ Festival and invited runners to join them. The local brewery, Old Firehouse Brewery, offered a free beer to runners.  What a great after-party! 

I don’t know if I can run this next year, given that I will run my first 100 miler in late September, but if not, I do hope to volunteer and be part of the fun.

I did go back and try to hike the first few miles in search of my errant tailwind bottle.  I got about a ½ mile and slipped into the mud.  After speaking with the course sweep, who didn’t see anything, I decided that someone must have picked it up, or it is so lost that no one will ever find it.  Oh-well, need to be more careful with that pack.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

I am beginning to think...

that this blog is becoming more of a race/run report than a photo blog.  I may need to rethink my priorities, but I am taking photos while I run, so does that count?

I went out to the Cloudsplitter course yesterday for a run on the south section of the trail (Highlands).  The first 7 miles of this are used in the Cloudsplitter 100 miler, so I had not done them.  I was told it was the prettier section of the trail.  In all the trail extends 15 miles from the gas station in Pound, VA to the other trailhead, so 30 miles round trip.  A good mountain training run for me.  Towards the end, I've added some photos from the first 7 miles of the trail for my friends who are running the 100 miler in Oct.  I had taken my garmin for the first 15 miles to get an idea of the elevation, but the file has disappeared.

it rained late Friday and early Sat, which made for a cloud layer at the start (and some fog).  It also made the sandstone rocks a bit more difficult to navigate

While not the highest point on this trail, was more scenic...

Eagle Arch (just prior to the turn around)

Some of the trails...

Clouds went away

Looking east to VA:

Some of the sandstone that you traverse, this was a downhill section (uphill on the way out) that was pretty wet.  made for slow-going, as I had already fallen earlier on some other wet rocks.

More of the trail, this was double track, you can tell not many people come down this way.

Cool rock formations:

Unfortunately, since not many people hike this, the trail was over-grown in this section.  There was a gentleman clearing some of the path further out, so hopefully this will die or be cut back by race day. I don't know if this was stinging nettle, but it felt like a thousand razor blades were being drawn across my legs.

Salamander.  I saw one of these last year while racing.

What I felt like today.  It took over 9 hours to run this 30 miles (to be fair, I had to filter water twice, not a quick operation)

 I also saw a toad, a pileated woodpecker and a scarlet tanager.

#pinemountainscenictrail #cloudsplitter100