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August 27 - Crater Lake -> Eugene -> Portland

I woke up around 06:00 to take a shower, it was needed not because I was dirty but because I was so cold. I was wearing pants, a sweater, my nano puff, and a hat and still was frigid. After I packed up my tent, organized the truck, packed a bag for the first night in Portland and left Crater Lake. The drive was foggy and gorgeous.

 

By changing my camping plans I wound up being much closer to Portland than I anticipated. So, with a few hours to kill I had to find something to do. So I decided to stop in Eugene to at least check it out a bit. I drove by my soon to be apartment and was amazing as to how close it was to the gym and track, and then I stopped at Cornbread Cafe which is a super old school vegan cafe that serves soul food. It is ideal, and it will be dangerous to have it so close. Eugene is a bit more urban than I anticipated but it seems good for cyclists and pedestrians despite that.

 

August 26 - Winnemucca -> Crater Lake NP OR.

I woke up at 05:00 in order to have time to eat breakfast and pack before checking out of the hotel at 06:00. I wanted to get to Oregon as soon as possible as the campsites tend to fill by early afternoon and there is no way to reserve them.

When I arrived I thought I would check the Mazama campground despite the reservations being full. There is a laundry facility and shower there which was enticing as I wanted to be all cleaned and packed for returning to civilization in Portland the following day. Luckily they had some sites available as they only reserve 75 percent of them an the rest are first come first served. With that peace of mind, I began my drive around Crater Lake. I was a bit anxious and very hungry but I wanted to get the sights in. About a third of the way around Mt. Scott appeared and I figured I would run that at that moment versus driving all the back to it the following morning. The run was fast as the trails were buffed, my legs were still hurting from my run up to Grandeur Peak but I still managed a decent time. After, I cooked up some lunch and finished the drive around the lake taking in all the sights.

After the drive I went back to camp. I got there around 17:00, I set up my tent, took a shower, ate, and went to sleep around 20:00.

August 25 - SLC -> Winnemucca, NV

I woke up pretty late (around 07:00) as I was out so late. But despite my grogginess I wouldn't allow myself to skip two runs I had planned so I packed up camp and headed to the Grandeur Peak trailhead. I decided to switch packs last minute which proved to be a grave mistake as I forgot to move my nutrition to the different one and thus was so hungry and shaky toward the end of my run. 

Ill use the word run loosely as this was such an insanely steep trail that running simply was not possible (for me or any other sane human at least) and it even required me to get on all fours at some points. It climbed 3,333 feet in 2.5 miles. I thought the top would never come and contemplated returning before reaching the summit a number of times. Ultimately I am glad I persevered as it was a wonderful view and made the short run felt worthwhile. It may have been short and slow but I hadn't hurt that bad in a long time.

When I got back to the truck I was too hungry to think about cooking food so I drove to a Taco Bell and fueled up before heading back on the road to Nevada. On the way I stopped at the Bonneville flats which was so cool. I am gladI made the pit stop.

The drive felt pretty fast surprisingly and I arrived to Winnemucca around 15:00. The truck was a mess, I had school emails to take care of, and desperately needed to shower and reset. I wound up getting to sleep around 22:00 as I knew I needed to get up super early the next day.

August 24 - Arches -> SLC

When I woke up I was still wildly tired so I had a slow morning and decided to skip my run which consisted of 14 different arches. A bummer, but I cant squeeze absolutely everything in. I had already seen quite a bit of the park already. I sat in the shady spot and made breakfast and read a bit before starting the relatively short drive of only 4 hours. 

The drive was beautiful but felt like any other 6 hour drive for whatever reason. I took many breaks (I think I was still pretty exhausted) and arrived in SLC only a couple hours before I needed to be at the venue for a show. I set up camp at the KOA right in downtown SLC and lied down a bit before cooking up some quick dinner and editing some photos (there was wifi in my tent!). 

I got to Diabolical Records about 45 minutes early so I was able to browse the shop and I found 3 tapes I am really excited on. I then went to Pie Hole which had decent vegan slices and then Monkeywrench ice cream which is an activist oriented home made vegan ice cream shop.. that was incredible. When I returned to the venue I saw my buddy John who I hadn't seen or really spoken to in 6+ years when we worked together at Fun City Tattoo in NYC in 2011/12. He is into film and sound stuff so we immediately got deep into an exciting conversation on upcoming projects and ideas and such. It was really nice. The other acts pulled up and along came 20 or so of their gaggle of people which was nice to see. 

The first acts a rock band and was pretty good but madam pretty nervous to play a drone set afterward. My fears proved to be true and many of the audience left during my set a they didn't really like noise. I didn't take it personally though, sometimes you get thrown on a bad bill. The other acts were similar in nature but I enjoyed them and I enjoyed talking to the owner of the store afterward about noise and metal. 

After the show I got back to camp and immediately fell asleep, around 00:00.

August 23 - Denver -> Arches NP (Moab, UT)

I woke up before sunrise and got immediately in the truck to head to Moab. I was excited and just wanted to get there and relax alone for a little bit after a couple days of more social interaction than I am used to. The drive felt long but just like any other. My gps directed me onto some BLM roads that was supposedly a straight shot to the park. I don't mind gravel roads but these roads were pretty rough for some sections and my truck's suspension is not what it used to be 10 years ago. It was a bit of a nail biter for about an hours worth of off roading until I saw some other cars stopped in the road. I got out to see what the commotion was and it turns out 15 minutes before I arrived a huge sinkhole formed and swallowed the "road" making it impassable. So, with that I turned the truck around and drove back to where I came. Once I got back on the highway I took the 45 minute detour around and finally made it to the park. The welcome center is amazing and truly museum quality. I poked around and learned about how the arches formed over time and then headed toward my campsite. The drive was long, steep, and incredibly beautiful. My campsite was nice and secluded despite being right by the bathrooms. It backed up a giant sandstone cliff which provided a bit of shade where I hung out until I got restless and decided to go for a run and knock out one of the sights I wanted to see. I hopped back in my truck and drove farther down the valley to the delicate arch trailhead, The trail is about 3 miles and somewhat technical but relatively easy. I guess I was having a good day as I managed to bang it out in the 22nd fastest time ever according to the 1500+ strava uploads. The arch was really beautiful. 

Afterward, on my way back to camp I stopped at an overlook and called mom. Once I was in camp I was super tired and hungry so I made dinner and immediately went to bed around 20:00. 

August 22 - Boulder -> Denver, CO.

I woke up around 07:00 and decided to go for a short run around their place. It was a nice and easy 3 miles on the road which was a welcomed change to the intense mountain stuff. After, I showered and had breakfast with Kellie.

Scott and Kellie had things to do through out the day so I figured I wouldn't overstay my welcome and head to Denver for the day. I arrived to Denver around 10:30 and parked my truck in a lot near the venue I would play at the end of the day. I took my bike out and rode to downtown and checked out the Museum of Contemporary Art which was only okay, but the book selection in their gift shop was great. I bought a $5 little exhibition catalog from there. I then went to the Denver Art Museum which was incredible. There was an exhibition of contemporary / experimental landscape photography which was right down my alley. I really enjoyed it. During breakfast Scott and Kellie raved about the Clyfford Still museum which was across the street. After hearing it was strictly painting I was apprehensive but curious, and I had lots of time left to kill. Ultimately I am so glad I went as it was one of the most powerful art experiences I have had in a long time. They were not wrong, it is incredible. Still is most definitely my favorite abstract expressionist now. I wish I could've picked up one of their books. 

After the museums I went to a consignment outdoor store, and the REI. The REI was amazing, it had its own climbing wall right in the store and was 3 stories. I picked up a pocket knife and a climbing guidebook which I am eager to dig through and learn as much as I can.

At around that time I had to bike back to my truck to get organized for the show. When I arrived to Bar Max there were already some folks waiting which was reassuring. Jacob who booked the gig was incredibly nice, and the other acts were great. There were 3 people who made interactive visual projections for each act based on the latest album of each artist which was really cool. After the show I crashed at Jacob's place only for a few hours as I had to get an early start on the next day.

August 21 - Cedar -> Boulder, CO

When I woke up, the rain had soaked my tent (but luckily not me) but had since subsided. I cooked up some oatmeal really quick and broke down camp. I drove to Boulder without much excitement. When I got close I hit up a friend I knew through instagram who is an athlete and is vegan straight edge as well. We decided to meet at the trailhead of Mount Sanitas. It is a pretty crowded trail but seeing as we both only had a few hours it made sense as it is right in town. The distant wildfires had made the air extremely smokey and hard on the lungs (on top of me getting used to altitude) so the run was insanely difficult. It is a pretty steep and technical trail as it is but the conditions just set it over the top. However, despite all that, it was so nice to meet Jon in person and it was so nice to share stories about both endurance and music.

After the run he had to head to Denver so I decided to go to one of my favorite restaurants Native Foods. It was amazing, and well deserved after such a run. There were storms brewing and I still had an hour drive to Golden where I planned to camp. I posted a photo on instagram of being in Boulder and Lauren (who is in Portland) saw it and told her folks I was in town so naturally they wanted to meet up. I wasn't sure how I felt about the whole situation but I did miss them so we agreed to meet for dinner at their place (plus that meant I could shower!). Ultimately, I am very glad I did as it was nice catching up with them and the shower and real food were also much appreciated. With the storms rolling in and an hour drive left I decided to take them up on their offer to stay the night. This dashed any plans to run the trails in Golden but I didn't mind as I was just happy to be in a real bed and have real food in my stomach. I wound up sleeping at around 00:00.

August 20 - Kansas City - Cedar Bluff State Park (Ellis, KS)

I woke around 07:00 and took another shower just because I could. Cleaned up my stuff and relaxed for a bit. I checked out at 10:45 as the cafe I wanted to eat at didn't open until 11:00. 

I ate at Cafe Gratitude which was pretty good but pricey and then hit the road for Kansas (the state). The drive was pretty good but boring. However, it was the first time I felt like I was actually heading west. The landscape changed so dramatically in those 6 hours in the truck.

When I arrived to Cedar Bluff State Park I passed a really beautiful gravel road. So when I parked my truck in my site and pitched my tent I decided to shake the legs out and explore that road along with the rest of the park. 

The views were amazing and it felt so nice to ride my bike after so much time in the truck. Afterward I settled in camp a bit and then decided to find a good swim spot. The lake had a forest of dead trees in the center of it that you could swim through. When I was swimming all the other folks were eating dinner so I had it to myself and it was so refreshing. As I concluded my swim the sun was beginning to set and it was really beautiful.

When the sun set I made a quick dinner and hit the hay. It was really chilly which was a nice change.

August 19 - Jackson Falls - Kansas City MO

When the sun finally rose, I threw everything in my crash pad and gave finding the trail (see yesterdays post) another go. At this point I was incredibly tired and dehydrated and I gave up only a few minutes in thinking I would just waste my time, but then I saw other climbers who I figured I could follow. At this sign of positivity it began to rain, dashing any chances of bouldering in the next few hours anyway. Defeated, I got back to my truck and began the 7 hour drive to Kansas City. The sunrise coupled with the fog was beautiful.

The drive was straight forward, I couldn't check into my airbnb until 16:00 so I took frequent breaks and kept my heart rate low. I arrived to Kansas its around 14:30 so I checked out an art supply store and got a smoothie as I waited. I checked into the airbnb at 16:00 just as it was raining hard. 

It is incredibly nice and just what I needed after a pretty rough day at Jackson Falls. I took a much needed shower, shaved for the first time, and made dinner. 

I went for a walk and explored the city a bit and then relaxed and caught up on some emails and such. 

August 18 - Chattanooga - Nashville - Jackson Falls

Corey took me on a 4 mile running tour around downtown to show me the sights of Chattanooga. Afterward, I hopped in the truck and headed to Nashville.

I arrived in Nashville about 2 or so hours later. The couple days of grime (especially with a few humid runs the past couple days) I was getting sick of feeling nasty so I stopped at a planet fitness to shower and it gave me a second lease on life. Afterward, I organized the truck and headed to the Southern V for amazing vegan southern food which I ate with Nort and their friend. Nort wanted to give me a little instrument they had been working on so afterward I drove to their place to pick it up. It was incredibly thoughtful and I am very appreciative. 

I hit the road shortly after and drove the additional 3+ hours to Jackson Falls in Simpson IL. The drive was boring but manageable. The county roads leading to Jackson Falls were a bit sketchy but thankfully the truck handled it with ease. With a few hours of daylight I thought I would check out the various easy boulders I wanted to do on my own but after some time I couldn't find the trail down to the valley for the life of me. I chalked it up to being hungry and irritable so I headed into town to buy some snacks and gas up the truck. When I returned I tried finding the trail once more but only got myself pretty damn lost with daylight fading fast. I finally found my way back to the trailhead haggard and frustrated. Without climbing there the entire reason of staying there that night seemed a bit pointless and I contemplated hitting the road and stopping on the highway overnight. But, instead I found a nice campsite down the dirt road and hopped back in the truck with the thought that if I slept early enough I could wake up in time to pack climbing gear and have an hour or so to find the damn trail with an hour of bouldering before heading back to the truck to hit the road. The night was one of the most humid nights I have ever experienced, and the bugs were so bad that it sounded like hail was hitting my truck.  It was a miserable night.

August 17 - Great Smoky Mountains NP - Chattanooga, TN

Alan made breakfast for us all and I finished packing the truck up. I left around 09:15 to Abrams Falls in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park where I planned to do a quick run (mostly to say I went there) before finishing the trip to Chattanooga. 

The park was very pretty, but because of my slow morning I was a bit worried about timing and thus did not appreciate the full beauty of the place. When I arrived to the trailhead I threw my shoes on and started toward the trailhead. Like my time in Shenandoah the trail was packed, but people were very friendly and courteous when I passed them. I guess its the southern hospitality. The trail was pretty smooth the whole way through with a bit of rocky technicality toward the turnaround point at the falls. I anticipated a steady climb and then fast descent but the trail was surprisingly rolling. My enthusiasm / anxiety got the best of me about halfway through where I was opted to walk for some time. The falls were beautiful, but after dunking my head in the water I turned right around (there were so many people hanging out there anyway) and ran back. The entire run was about 5 miles and I am very glad I did it. The strava link can be found here.

When I returned to the truck I took a baby wipe bath and got back on the road. However, thanks to my Garmin that found a "shortcut" I found myself on a 16 mile winding one-way and incredibly narrow road that though beautiful, ate up a ton of my time. Ultimately it worked out so I am glad I did it, but it was a nail biter both technique and time wise.

I arrived in Chattanooga around 18:15 where I would meet Corey and his vegan meet up group at the restaurant Cashew. The food was incredible especially as I love southern food, and the company was nice. One of the folks who was there was a head chef in NYC and has worked at some of my all time favorite places there.

Afterward it stormed harder than I had ever seen so Corey drove me to my truck and I then followed him to his apartment. We hung out and talked running and cameras for a while before we both settled in and I edited photos before sleeping. I wound up sleeping at around 00:00.

August 15 - Shenandoah -> Asheville

I woke up around 07:00 - another long night of sleep. It rained quite a bit during the night which is not what you want to see when you have to break down camp in the morning. Knowing I had some time to kill, as my drive to Asheville was 6 hours and Alan wasn’t out of work until 19:00, I took my time and enjoyed the morning.. I wish I ran even just a few miles but I didn’t despite the AT being right down the trail. I was unsure of whether or not to wait even longer and have my tent dry in the late morning sun or to just hit the road and see where the day takes me. Ultimately I decided to hit the road around 08:00 and dry my tent out at Alan’s place the following day. 

The drive to Asheville was straight forward, but incredibly daunting. I suddenly realized what I had done to myself designing such an aggressive itinerary. These almost daily drives are going to be a challenge mentally. The highways all look the same (considering I haven’t even left the east coast yet - maybe this will change and be more stimulating), and much of the drive was a weird amusement park-esque celebration of everything corporate America. The half hearted interactions with various gas station employees, and rarely knowing exactly where I am is all a bit flattening and disorienting. Hopefully this becomes less unfamiliar as the days continue.

I arrived to Asheville around 15:00 and stopped at Liberty Bicycles as my rear derraillure was way out of wack probably from cramming it into the bed of my truck for my time in nyc. It still isn’t perfect, but they only charged me ten bucks and did it immediately so its all good. I then went next door to a fancy ass whole foods ripoff as they had internet and power where I could kill time and catch up on blog entries, emails, and texts.

I met up with Linnea (Alan's partner) and Alan around 19:00 - we got dinner at Rosetta's and then drove the 25 minutes to Weaverville where they each have a trailer. I slept in Alan's where they stayed in Linnea's and I caught up on blog posts and talked to Mary on the phone and eventually went to sleep around 23:45.

 

August 14 - Old Rag (Shenandoah)

I woke at 6:00 which was incredibly surprising seeing as I haven’t been sleeping much at all. I think I needed it though. Oddly, much of the campground was still asleep. And I enjoyed some chilly air and mountain views completely alone and in silence. I packed up my truck with the exception of my bike, tent, and sleeping gear and headed to the Old Rag Mountain trailhead. I was unsure if I was feeling up for it, but I knew I would regret not going.. and I felt stronger after so much sleep. Sometimes I need a big push like that to kick myself into healthier habits.. and seeing as I had so much planned for the rest of the trip I needed to at least convince myself I was in shape.

The drive down from Loft Mountain was so beautiful and also incredibly quiet. 

The trailhead was busier than I expected, I heard reports of it being pretty grueling so I was surprised to see so many folks there and for many of them to appear inexperienced. Everyone is welcome to hike, it was just surprising. 

Sort of thrown off by the casual nature of the crowd I wasn’t exactly sure what to pack - plus all of my gear was sort of a jumbled mess. I threw some essentials in a pack and knew I just had to tough out somewhere between 7-10 miles and that I clearly wasn’t going to be alone which was sort of a relief.

There was a bit of a walk on a paved road to the trailhead which allowed me to sort of feel my legs and get back into the mindset I long since forgot. Once I reached the trailhead I picked up the pace to a run and found myself flying up the trail. It felt great, and I felt strong.. knowing full well that once the switchbacks ended that I’d get a reality check. But for now I was enjoying it.

The trail was moderate in technicality for the first few miles. Some switchbacks (which are a rare occurrence for me) with loose gravel, dry riverbeds, and more roots than anything. I climbed it pretty quickly but found myself power hiking once the dirt gave way to bare stone.

The trail seemed to climb and climb and increase in technicality every foot. I reached what felt like a summit only to realize that the trail did not stop, it just turned into exactly what it is famous for.. incredible scrambling.

At this point I found myself behind 3 older dudes who were currently doing an 18 mile loop connecting various fire roads along with the Old Rag loop. Ultimately I was thankful for them as I am not sure I would’ve found my way to the summit without them. I didn’t see some markers because I just thought there was no way a trail would be that precarious or require that much actual rock climbing.. and yet it did.

For the next 3 or so miles my pace slowed to a crawl as I squeezed between boulders, under ledges, and tested my Akasha’s smearing capabilities. This pace allowed for some conversation with them which I thoroughly enjoyed. I hope to be as adventurous and as downright fast as they are when I am older.

When we reached the summit, they took a break and I decided to push on (a shower, thorough cleanup of my truck, and some mental recalibration seemed more appealing than soaking in some views). The other side of the summit was a 5+ mile trail which was a bit daunting as I had really beat myself up getting to the summit and the trail up was so gnarly (and amazing!). But, to my surprise and sort of my disappointment, the other side was mostly a gravel carpet of fire roads. Ultimately, I think its nice to have two options for folks who may not want or are not capable of the shorter more treacherous trail, but knowing such, I probably would’ve gone back the way I came for adventure’s sake.

 

I reached the trailhead in an all out sprint as 2 hours approached on my watch and I convinced myself it was vital to get under 2. Sometimes I needed those arbitrary goals to get myself moving though. Alas I missed it just by a hair.

The run can be found here.

When I finished, I threw my sandals on and hopped back in the truck. I found a Sheetz along the drive back where I set up shop to edit some photos and take advantage of having cell service to let some folks know I was doing well. 

After, I drove back to Loft Mountain and took a shower, a thorough clean of the truck, made a backpackers meal, and fell asleep around 21:00 (I was ready at 18:00 but knew that would make me wake much too early).

August 13 - Shenandoah National Park

I left Joe’s place around 6:00 or so in the morning. The drive there felt incredibly long despite it only being 6 hours or so. I think the subway train, the new jersey train on top of the drive is what did it. I was also pretty emotionally and physically exhausted after a lot of goodbyes and frantic packing the past few days. 

I was pretty excited to be in the mountains, though wasn’t quite ready to be alone just yet. None the less I enjoyed the views and took some really nice photos along the way only to realize I didn’t have an SD card in my camera.. I’m still getting used to the new camera I guess.

By the time I arrived to the Loft Mountain Campground in Shenandoah National Park it was around 16:00 and my truck was a disorganized disaster. Having been away from it for a few days, along with storing both my bike rack and the bike itself in the bed meant that it needed a full clean out. However, being the afternoon in the mountains meant that a storm was brewing but luckily it didn’t last long and I was able to sort it out enough to at least grab my tent and some food. My site wasn’t a pull through which I prefer for traveling but the trail was only a few feet away. I pitched my tent and brought up the essentials, made dinner, and edited nyc photos with the last bit of my computer’s battery.

Being so drained I wasn’t sure what the following day was going to bring so I just left it up to my body in the morning. I wound up going to sleep at 7:00.

August 10-12 - New York City

I left Auburn around 06:00 and arrived in Secaucus around 12:30 with very little traffic and only one break. I was a bit nervous to leave everything I owned in my vehicle out of eyesight but there really wasn’t another option.

Aside from being able to see Joe, Kate, and some REI folks.. NY was sort of a sham. I spent much of my time wandering. Luckily I had a camera although nothing too fruitful formed. Nothing too much to report on.

Pacing & Crewing at the Hellbender 100

The past couple days I've been just outside of Asheville, North Carolina where the inaugural Hellbender 100 took place. It was a solid weekend of pacing / crewing with my buddy Sam for our friend Alan. It's always an incredible time when we can all meet up and this was no different. I'm pretty tired and have a lot of life stuff to do, so I don't have a ton of time to explain the race in detail (not to mention I only witnessed a small portion of it) but I was at least able to take and post some photos.


I flew to Asheville on Thursday morning, I started off the trip pretty exhausted as I pulled a few night shifts at work beforehand. Traveling was pretty easy altogether however.

Alan, Linnea, and Sam picked me up from the airport and we made a quick stop to REI for some last minute supplies. Afterward we headed to Vortex for donuts and to iron out some details regarding the race. We were still pretty hungry afterward so we stopped at Bean for an incredible dinner before packet pick-up at Camp Grier.

Once we had our packets we headed to the grocery for some supplies and then home to pack for the early morning ahead. Alan was noticeably quieter and was starting to focus as he packed his final drop bag. 

A 3AM alarm sounded followed by piling into the car headed to Camp Grier for a 5AM start. It was chilly, and we were all a little nervous.

It was hard not to get excited with so many enthusiastic (and terrified) runners buzzing about. It really solidified my already certain decision to run a hundred myself. The gun went off and the runners began to hike toward the first of many big climbs right out of the gate.

Once the gun went off and the runners cleared Sam and I found an empty bunk room at a cabin many of the runners stayed at the night before. We were able to sleep a few hours but once the sun was out I couldn't sleep much. The day was absolutely beautiful. 

A short while later we drove to the first aid station accessible to the crew (mile 24 I think?). Alan looked fresh and was well within our time predictions. 

With how limited access is between the runner and crew Sam and I found ourselves with loads of time which was nice as we hadn't really hung out much without having to run ragnar legs or something in between. We spent most of our time driving on roads that a Honda Insight should never be on and making fun of how much shit Sam brought (though admittedly it was pretty helpful in the long run). 

We were able to see Alan one more time before he set off on a pretty long and brutal stretch of the race on his own. He was still in high spirits and almost acting like he hadn't run at all and wasn't in the middle of a 100 miler. The predictions began to lag.. not into cutoff territory, but it was a surprise and concern none the less. 

With plenty of time on our hands we decided to head back into town to update friends and family and possibly find real food. While this was our plan, we ultimately got pretty fucking lost and wound up on the top of Mount Mitchell. It turned out to be a pretty big win though as they had wifi and the best view I've seen in a long while. Sam and I made dinner on the top and relaxed a bit as we knew the race was about to get pretty real as night was settling in and our pacing duties were to begin shortly.

Once the sun set, Sam drove us to the aid station where my pacing duties were to begin (around mile 53). I suited up in the warmest clothes I had and anxiously waited. Hours ticked by, and the predictions were thrown out of the window. Everybody who came through looked terrible and could not stop talking about how awful the past 20 or so miles had been due to their technicality. We weren't too worried, that is until around 11pm where cutoff territory was approaching. Still no Alan. I hopped back in the car to try to keep warm and sleep a bit while Sam waited at the aid station. Finally, at around midnight Alan appears out of the woods looking like hell. The past couple hours broke him pretty good (and many others as many of the DNFs did so at this aid station).

Dropping was on Alan's mind without a doubt.. but Sam and I were not about to give in that easy. We had around 9.5 hours to go 20 miles which with 50+ miles on the legs, 20+ hours already on the feet, icing trails and that fact it was in the middle of night made this a daunting set of restrictions. Sam fed him coffee as I got his gear ready and I told Alan the very real concern of not making the next cutoff.  With that he shot up and we started hiking down the road. Shortly after a small road section we began a pretty intense climb which Alan's legs did not much prefer. As the ascent fought Alan our pace dropped significantly and the chances of making the cutoff seemed pretty dismal. But, as there was nowhere to go really, we just kept pushing to see what we could do.

There were two small aid stations before the big one with the cutoff where Sam would ultimately swap pacing duties. I tried to get Alan focused on just getting to these stations one at a time instead of thinking about the 20 miles and ticking clock. This worked well, but it didn't look like it was working well enough as Alan had to continuously stop to stretch his legs and try to regain his vision. Luckily these stations had a fire where Alan enjoyed his provisions and tried to get feeling back in his limbs. At each fire, there were a number of individuals battling hypothermia and exhaustion. It was hard to talk to Alan over their dry heaving and crying. 

Alan was fairly coherent thankfully, and this made talking about the future of the race pretty easy. At every glance of the watch it kept confirming that making the cutoff was indeed possible but barely. Things needed to change pretty drastically if we were to make this. At the last aid station before the big exchange I poked Alan with his trekking pole to wake him up, threw a bunch of potato chips in his hands, and said that we gotta at least try to make it.. as logistically we have to get there anyway. 


Once there was a glimpse of sun the trail widened and started to descend. Everything seemed to line up all at once and Alan began to pick up his pace bringing it down to 18 minutes! I told him if we kept this up we would have plenty of time.. he responded well and we had a few hours of glorious running as we watched the transition from dawn to sunrise. This was by far the happiest I'd been running in a long time. 

After almost 9 hours of hiking in the dark and cold we reached the aid station where Sam met us with enthusiasm (luckily he was able to sleep almost the whole night). We were well within the cutoff and both of us were pretty surprised at this. Relieved and exhausted, I helped Sam and Alan get ready for the remaining 27ish miles. I was able to stop and see them 7 miles in and they both seemed positive and strong. Their paces dropped significantly as the worst climbs were behind them and trails widened up to roads in some sections.

Left without much to do but wait as crew access was not available anymore, I headed back to Camp Grier for a much needed shower and then went to the finish line down the road. I waited for hours anxiously checking the big clock. 2 hours short of the cutoff Alan and Sam come barreling down the final section of trail and it was all over. He made it!

Alan has always been such an inspiration for me but this definitely topped it. 

He wasn't too beat up despite the almost 40 hours on his feet. Other than being pretty fucking exhausted he was like he was any other day. Once we packed up and took things in a bit we headed to a pizza place to eat before heading back to his house to crash as Alan and I needed to wake up at 5AM in order to get me to the airport.

It's going to be hard to adjust to real life as the past few days were so intense and enjoyable. It was an incredible learning experience and all around amazing time.

I need to sleep.

Cold Spring Training

As the weather had been improving and my future trail races edged nearer I knew I had to get out of the city and run on some real terrain soon. A manager of mine at work runs ultras and said she did most of her training on the trails in Cold Spring, NY. That very day I picked up a map and began planning for my next day off that had some decent weather. Along with the map, I used the app Trail Run Project developed by REI which had two loops at the trailhead my manager indicated including information on how runnable they are, the usual stats, and pictures of the route. I decided I'd run the slightly longer left loop and see how I felt with the chance I'll run a second smaller loop to the right if I felt up to it.

Seeing as I didn't know if I'd be running 7+ miles or 15+ miles, packing was a bit challenging. The trail is accessible via train and the trail is never too far from civilization so I knew I could pack pretty light, however I needed to add enough food and warm clothes to get me through the train ride to and from. Below is what I carried, with the exception of the blue handheld which I ultimately decided to leave at home. I think I'll create a longer post on how I pack at some point.

I left the house at 8:30am with Lauren who was taking the same train to work. I normally hate riding in crowded trains in rush hour but I knew it would only make getting to Cold Spring that much sweeter. I took the B to Bryant Park and walked the short distance to Grand Central where I took a Poughkeepsie bound train at 9:43am. The round trip cost $29 as I planned to be off-peak both ways.

The train as near empty considering it was a work day and I was leaving the city bright and early, and boy was the ride beautiful. I was pretty content just watching the scenery pass by and dozing off for a short while.

After arriving to the Cold Spring train station, I ran almost exactly one mile to the trailhead. The roads were quiet and the shoulders were wide which made for a stress free commute.

The beginning of the trail uses a 70 year old road that has since closed for cars, meaning that it was a very easy start to the run. This was welcomed considering how rarely I run trails these days and I knew I would need some time to get my mountain legs back. The trail then transitions to a buttery single track which proved a bit more challenging but nothing too intense.

Pretty shortly into the run I experienced the first of a few river crossings which indicated the point of the loop that got insanely muddy and a bit more technical. 

The entire run at this point was a steady climb however after the muddy river sections it rocketed up making my pace dwindle and my heart rate get into "racing" territory. The climb got me out of the river however and the trail started to dry up.

The photo above was just before the crazy climb, the trail got a bit more technical but still only moderate (despite how hard my city legs were struggling). I didn't take any photos during the big climb as I just wanted to get to the top. Once I got to the top, theres about a mile or so traverse on top of the ridge, offering numerous photo opportunities and lunch spots. Despite the cloudy gray day and lack of greenery being February, it was still beautiful and a welcomed change to my usual Brooklyn views.

At this point, I knew for sure I wouldn't be adding a second loop into the mix. I even contemplated taking the white trail all the way back down to the trailhead shortening my run significantly but I ultimately decided to compromise by sticking with the original first loop. The descent on the other side got pretty rocky and wicked steep which didn't make my knees too happy but it was fun to finally fly down some trail again.

After what felt like forever, I finally reached the old road that I started on. Knowing that it was smooth sailing from there I picked up the pace significantly for the last mile and a half or so. At this point the sun finally came out and I was able to enjoy some warmth and pretty trail views before reaching the parking lot.

After reaching the trailhead I decided I'd run to the town center to grab some lunch from a restaurant I looked up the day before. The route was mostly the same as the run from the train to the trailhead with the exception of a very short trail on the side of the road that I had found.

I ate lunch at Hudson Hills Cafe. They had a number of vegan options and the service was extremely fast. The food was amazing despite the higher price tag. The only complaint I had was that it was a bit of a fancy place and I don't think the staff nor the fellow diners were too pleased to see a muddy and sweaty guy come into their quaint little cafe. After swallowing my black bean burger nearly whole I was left with the predicament of rushing to the train which came in a mere 15 minutes, or taking my time and checking out the town and wait for another train in a little over an hour and 15 minutes. Considering the size of the town and my lack of money to spend I thought it be best to just get home and get settled for the upcoming week. I will be back no doubt.

I hopped on the train and relished in how comfortable the seats were after my adventure and the commute was just as pretty as before.

I was pretty relieved to be home after a long day (that flew by) but knew that reality had to set in once again with a long list of things to do before the work week ahead.

Overall, the day was great. The trail was tougher than I had thought and it woke me up to a need for more focused training in the weeks ahead. While a bit demoralizing, I will take it as fuel to get to where I need to be and I will try to go to that area for my long runs whenever possible. Solely considering the fact that I was able to escape the city for a bit and see some pretty amazing views, I am pretty content.


Numbers + Gear

This was my first run in my new trail shoes, the La Sportiva Akasha. They are a moderately cushioned long haul type of shoe and I couldn't have found a better testing ground for them. The trail had numerous types of terrain from insanely sloppy trails to bare rock to loose and packed dirt. The shoe performed well in all however it excels in muddier conditions over dry. My heel did move quite a bit which I found aggravating but next time I will lace up a heel lock and see how that goes.

The run with the road running to and from the trail read at 8.6 miles however considering I forgot to re-start my watch after a photo opportunity I'm just gonna call it a solid 9. Over those 9 miles was 1,593 miles of climbing.

You can see the strava link here.

Thanksgiving Upstate

For the holidays I spent some time upstate and got some good running in as well as some time with the family.

When I arrived, Seth picked me up from the station and bought me lunch. We then headed from Syracuse to Auburn and I got to run at CCC. I first learned and fell in love with running on this one mile loop behind the community college and I still love the trail so much. I try to run it every time I am in the area. it was my first time running in a week or so due to catching Lauren's cold but it felt fine and somewhat uneventful. My head was elsewhere, as I had signed up for a Turkey Trot 5k in Baldswinville for the next day and had high hopes of a PR despite the illness and lack of real running. Any time running is a good time running though, and I just tried to focus on the clean air and familiar trails.

Afterward I got to meet and play with my Mother's new kitten which was not a bad way to end a pretty good and refreshing day. 

On Thanksgiving I woke early and drove the back roads to Baldswinville. While the race has a fun and not so serious energy to it, I had a PR on my mind and took it as serious as any other. I arrived early, was one of the first to pick up my packet and went back to the truck to warm up, eat something and prepare to warm up. After a mile or so of running Sam texted saying that he, Melissa, and Joel were there. I met up with Sam and we ran another mile or so. I bumped into my buddy Tom from Boy Scouts which was wonderful too. We lined up in the corral near the front but leaving ample room for the college runners home for break. 

As we waited, Johnny, Aaron, and Candice appeared and we all quietly awaited the gun. Once the gun went off I bolted which probably wasn't the smartest move, but I feared being trapped in the corral which was very possible considering the distance and lackadaisical approach to the event for many runner overall. The first mile ended up being 6ish and I sorely regretted bolting. There were more hills than any of us anticipated especially one that was right around the corner from the start which set the tone for the distance. The beauty of a 5k though was even though I ran the first mile pretty stupidly, I was already a third into the race. The second mile I tried to tone it down and leave gas for the last third by running a 6:30. Once my watch let me know there was only. smile to go I pressed on and flirted with the red line. The last mile felt like it took forever and the finish line felt farther and farther away but I managed to get the last mile down to 6:14 or so. 

Overall I am pretty happy with the results as it was a PR and then some. However, I couldn't help but feel like I could do better. I am trying to appreciate the effort and celebrate the small victory regardless but I will always be looking ahead knowing that my potential hasn't been tapped in the slightest. As it was the holiday, we met at the finish line, took a photo and all went our separate ways. 

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On Black Friday I did what every REI employee should and spent the day opting outside. I decided to explore the trials of Filmore Glen as it is a mere 25 minute drive away from my Mom's and I hadn't run trails in some time being in the city. I realized that my Altra Impulse's wouldn't really cut the true east coast terrain so I put on some old cross country spikes that I got at Marshalls some time back that were a half size too small. They were surprisingly comfortable, nimble and fun and they handled the trails just fine. I didn't have any goals for the day so my route was a bit sloppy with a bunch of out-and-backs and small loops. The NYS Park system waived all admission fees for every park honoring the #optoutside campaign urging folks to go outside and not shop. There was surprisingly a lot of people around, all were friendly with the exception of one person who felt the need to heckle me for my vegan shirt. Many were in awe of me lapping them or running fast down the hills. I try to be as positive and friendly as possible and show them how much fun it is while also respecting their time on the trails. 

Overall I managed 5 slowish miles, but then again its trail after all and it was the morning after my 5k PR. Being back in a natural setting was wonderful. The light was amazing and the trails were as technicals as I could hope for in the East Coast. Afterward, I hopped back in the truck and headed back to Mom's.

Once I was home I cleaned up, ate, and then helped Seth with some work. We concluded the evening by walking a couple laps at CCC as he hardly spends time there and I wanted him to see how beautiful it was. Also, I woke up to Hammy sleeping with me and he sleeps like a human which was probably the best part of the entire trip.

Hopefully I can get out on some more trails in the near future.