Friday, July 6, 2018

Trestle Run // Playing Catch Up...Again...

The stretch of the year from mid-April until mid-June is always kind of crazy for me. I go from being in the middle of the offseason for work with seemingly all the time in the world to 'oh crap, we're running out of weekends' in a three or four-week span. Of course, that means I've fallen behind on blogging once again. Between Ragnar - my last blog - I've actually been up to quite a bit as I try to get the most out of the few remaining weekends that we have before work ramps up at the end of July. With all that said, here's a rundown of what I've been up to and into over the last month and a half or so.

What I've Been Up To
The week after Ragnar, Amanda and I went up to Charlotte for Tuck Fest - a four-day music, outdoor sports, and lifestyle festival at the US National Whitewater Center (USNWC). This will be the subject of my next vlog, hopefully. This was the fourth year that we've attended Tuck Fest and it's grown a lot since our first trip. This year, the festival was expanded from three days to four and they moved the half-marathon up to Friday. That ended up being an awesome change because we drove up Thursday night and turned the trip into a long weekend.

I ran the half on Friday and was able to pull off the win, my third straight. I ran really well on the first lap of the course, building a nice cushion, so despite my utter collapse in the second half, I was able to hang on. After the race, we hung out and enjoyed some food, beer, and music.

The next day we returned to the festival and spent the day doing a bunch of different activities. First, Amanda rented a bike and got 7 or 8 miles in riding alongside as I ran. We moved on to the whitewater where we had quite the adventure, losing everyone in the boat except our guide when we went down the competition channel. I got some great footage of that on my GoPro. The fall, the swim, and the rescue. Hands down the best thing I've gotten on the GoPro.

We decided to chill out after that and did some flatwater kayaking and more eating and drinking. On the final day of the festival, I went over early to jump in the trail 5k, which seemed like a good idea at the time. I ended up grabbing second

The next weekend was the Draft, which meant three straight days at the office. It's a brutal weekend that doesn't lend itself well to any kind of running or training. It's also the start of the busy part of the offseason. Draft, rookie minicamp, OTAs, and then a minicamp all over a 6-8 week period from the end of April until the middle of June.

Over this month and a half span I've thrown in a bunch of Dirty Spokes races, including a 7 miler at Harbins Park, 5 miler at the University of North Georgia, and the Peach Jam 1/2 Marathon. I picked up the win in each of those races with my running steadily improving with each outing. The 1/2 wasn't the most amazing time I've ever run, but after a start that I worried was too fast, I ended up running really strong over the last 11 miles and taking a nice win with a really solid effort.

Here's the Strava info from the race...

Other than a bunch of local racing, we've also tried to make the most of our weekends with some cool day trips. We spent some time up in the North Georgia mountains scoping out waterfalls and some really cool rapids. We used some loyalty points to get a free one-night stay up in Chattanooga where we hit up all of our favorite spots.

Through Strava and Dirty Spokes races I was able to connect with a group of guys that live in my area and all train together. They graduated from Augusta State a few years ago and are all currently training for a 50k in the fall. I might not be an ultra runner, but it's been awesome getting a chance to run and train with people for a change. I've been jumping at any chance to catch up with these guys and get some good miles in.

Rad Run // Chattahoochee Hills
With the Dirty Kanza wrapping up awhile ago - and my close personal friend Ted King taking the win - I got curious about what gravel roads Georgia had to offer. I found a 20-mile gravel bike route called the Dirty Sheets down in the Serenbe/Chattahoochee Hills area and decided to see if I could find a way to adjust it to a 10-15 mile route that I could run and that Amanda could handle on her bike. I settled on a 10/12 mile route depending on one early right or left.

I started working on the route on a Sunday night and spent the rest of the week being irrationally excited about doing a run that would be 75 percent dirt/gravel. We woke up early on the next Saturday morning and made our way south of Atlanta to Cochran Mill Park in Palmetto, Georgia. The parking lot was steadily filling up with road and mountain bikers as we got ready. Due to the low traffic in the area, there is also a very popular 35ish mile road ride called the Silk Sheets in addition to the gravel route that I found. Cochran Mill Park also has a trail system great for mountain biking and trail running. I didn't check out any of those trails on this trip, but it's definitely a good excuse to go back.

Amanda and I set off on our route with an easy first mile on the road before turning onto the gravel. Things were going smoothly early on, so smoothly that Amanda decided we should go for the 12-mile option. She wasn't having a ton of fun on the rolling hills we encountered and we ended up retracing our steps and taking the 10-mile cut through. We still ended up running 12 because we waited too long to turn around, but that didn't really matter. After a short spell of difficulty, Amanda rallied and ended up having a blast the rest of the way.

Six-or-so miles into the run, we hit the pavement for a two-mile stretch that cut the route from 20 miles to 10/12. We saw five cars and a 25-person peloton of cyclists. It was pretty easy to see why this place is so popular among riders. After the two-miles of pavement, we hung a right and got back on the dirt for the final 3.5 miles of the run. The first mile of this section was the same as most of this run, a regular dirt road. With 2.,7 to go we came up to a yellow gate that marked the end of the road for motor vehicles. From here on out it was doubletrack with a few rutted out sections and some singletrack. The people from SORBA Atlanta warned us that this trail was in the worst condition of any in the park and they were planning on working on it in the future. It really wasn't that bad. Amanda actually enjoyed the last couple miles more than anything else.

We'll definitely be returning to Cochran Mill Park and the dirt roads in this area. I'd love to knock out the entire 20-mile route at some point. I don't know when that would be, but I think it would be a really cool long run to do. I'm also eyeing this loop for when I get my Cannondale Slate. If it comes in during the summer, this will be one of the first places I take it to ride.

After we wrapped up our 12-mile jaunt, we made our way to Serenbe which is a cool but kind of weird town made up of four hamlets - their words, not mine - with the goal of creating a sustainable community that is connected to nature. We visited two of the hamlets, grabbing lunch at a neat little cafe in one and King of Pops in the other. Serenbe also has an inn, horse stables, and an organic farm. It was a pretty interesting place to visit, but part of me felt like there was some bizzaro, the Village, Divergent, World's End, stuff going on. I realize this is ridiculous but there's a 30 percent chance everyone there was an alien robot or something.

What I've been into...
Dylan Bowman's Lost Coast FTK

I really like what Red Bull does in supporting their athlete's passion projects. A few years ago Red Bull did a video with Tim Johnson where rode up Mount Washington in the winter on a fat bike, which is insane. These adventure projects are really cool to see and it's always good to see what some of these top-tier athletes are like outside of a race day. The Lost Coast is particularly well done as it was produced, shot, and edited by the Ginger Runner Ethan Newberry. If you have never seen his YouTube channel, I highly recommend it. His long-form videos on the Barkley and Western States are really good, and his reviews are excellent as well.

Speaking of passion projects, Salomon TV has teamed up with one of its athletes to produce a series called the Wanderer. The first episode takes place in Maine in and around Acadia National Park. It's a pretty interesting series that follows Kalen Thorien as she ventures from the USA to Europe and then Japan while taking part in various outdoor sports. Just like Red Bull with Dylan Bowman, I think it's really cool that Salomon is willing to work with its athletes to showcase things that both the brand and the athlete are passionate about. Of course, if you want to be cynical, this is essentially a three-part commercial for Salomon gear but this is the kind of commercial I can get into.

What's Poppin' on IG

Josh Ferenc - now running for Under Armour - set a course record at the Great Adirondack run in early June.

A post shared by Austin Hittel (@ahittel) on

My buddy Austin Hittel was in Texas and went to one of those giant ski jump slip and slide parks. It looks awesome and I need to go to one.

A post shared by Joe Reynolds (@reynoldsjosephp) on

Joe Reynolds took home the win at the Pineland Farms Trail Challenge up in Maine. I've got more on Reynolds, Maine, and Pineland Farms coming in the next blog.

Up Next
This is how long it took me to finish this, but we had our annual two-week tour of New England so that'll be the next thing I cover on here - plus the Peachtree Road Race and the Dirty Spokes Trail Series finale.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Race Recap // Ragnar Trail Atlanta

I really wanted to try and do some different things this year. I feel like I end up doing a lot of the same stuff year in and year out. I run a lot of the same races and we take a lot of the same trips. With that mind, I decided to take up an offer to join team Night Train for Ragnar Trail Atlanta. Having never done one and not really knowing anyone on the team, I thought it would be the perfect something new to try. I picked up a tent and a sleeping bag, charged up my headlamps, and gave it a go.

The Atlanta venue for this race was the Georgia International Horse Park, which was the venue for mountain biking at the 1996 Olympic games. There are miles of trails - mountain bike and equestrian - here and it was actually where I ran my first Dirty Spokes race after I moved to Atlanta.

// The Course //
Before I get into the recap, here's a quick rundown of how Ragnar Trail works. There are three loops - green, yellow, and red - and a team of eight (or four for you ultra folks) run relay style, alternating loops until each member of the team has run each loop. The fastest team to complete the 24 laps (3 loops x 8 people) or roughly 120 miles wins. The loops break down as you would imagine, green being the easiest, yellow the intermediate and red the most difficult. As the safety video I watched before the race started, the loops are graded on relative difficulty so that's not always the case. For example, I thought the yellow loop was harder than the red, but I can see why they choose to label them that way.

Each loop started and ended in the transition zone. A tented area in the middle of Ragnar Village - the epicenter of the weekend's event. From transition, you ran into a large open field and followed the signs to whichever loop you were assigned to run. All three loops finished with the same final "quarter mile" - it was much longer than a quarter. You ran through a timing mat that registered the team's chip and bib which would then come up on a monitor in the transition area (that's how you knew it was time to get in their to switch each lap). After crossing that you made a long sweeping left turn, more of a dogleg really, before one final dip into the woods. When you popped out of the woods it was about 100-150 meters to the finish/transition.

Green Loop | 4.5 miles | The green loop was definitely the most beginner friendly of the routes. It began with a few hundred meters in the big open field where you ran alongside campsites, before breaking right onto a long section of double track. The first mile and half or so of this loop was flat and fast. No matter whether you ran this one late at night or on tired legs, the opening was a perfect spot to settle into a nice rhythm and cruise.

Once the trail thinned down to single track things got a little bit trickier but the course was still fairly mellow. There were a handful of switchbacks and some up and down but nothing too crazy. I thought it was fairly similar to the UNG trail by my office. Tricky in a couple spots but overall you were able to move through it fairly quickly. It shared the same last two or so miles with the yellow course but I think the thing that made those sections more difficult was the fact that I ran them both at night. I don't think they would have been as challenging in the daytime. The worst parts were the wooden bridges that had two or three-inch gaps between the boards. That got sketchy on tired legs. I wouldn't be surprised if a few people caught their toes and took falls.

Yellow Loop | 5.4 miles | The yellow loop was the quickest to dispatch with the pleasantries of the open grass field and double track. After a short stretch of both, you quickly dipped into the single track for a roller coaster course of ups and downs, switchbacks, rocks, roots, and more of those nasty little wooden bridges. No matter when you ran this loop it was tricky. It was a mountain bike trail through and through so that made it difficult to really settle in. The fact that it shared a couple of miles with the green loop helped with one or the other. I ran yellow first so, it was super helpful to have already seen that section.

Red Loop | 5.5 miles | While it was labeled the most difficult, this was my favorite loop. It might be because it was my only daylight loop, but I felt like it would have suited me best either way. The loop started with a long stretch in the grass field. You ran past a bunch of campsites, which was fun, then you dropped down a short hill and into a tunnel that took you underneath the access road. It was pitch black in there even in the daylight. It must have been really cool looking at night with headlamps zipping in and out.

Coming out of the tunnel you realized why they marked it most difficult as a long climb greeted you. About halfway up this climb, the surface switched from grass to exposed granite. Once things leveled off at the top of the climb things switched between short sections of trail and exposed granite slabs. The trail was pretty well worn into granite, so it was actually fairly easy to pick a line. I don't know if that's normal or if it was just because it was run so many times over the two days of the race, but it was very helpful to me on my final leg.

The trail dropped down off the backside of the granite hill and turned into a soft, wood-chip surface that worked its way along the shore of a pond/bog/swamp thing. You gradually began climbing back up with mostly longer gentler grades before being hit hard by two steep, rutted double track ascents. The elevation gain wasn't insane, but it was noticeably more than the other two loops. On top of the hill once again, you worked your way through similar sections of granite outcroppings and short trails again before dropping back down to the tunnel.

Coming out of the tunnel, you hit the short ramp of an uphill and then had a long stretch of field/dirt road - with one more little grinder of a hill left - before looping around to the quarter mile to go timing mat.

// The Race //
The race started on Friday with teams setting off as early as 9 am and as late as 6 pm. We started at 3 but since I was the anchor leg, I wasn't scheduled to run my first leg until 7 or 8. I ended up getting to the race around 4 and spent about an hour and a half getting checked in and set up. I brought way too much stuff by the way. Way too much. I don't think I used a quarter of what I brought, but at least I was prepared.

By the time I got squared away we were a few legs into the race but I took some time to meet all of my teammates and get a quick scouting report from a few people around that had already run the yellow loop. We ended up being a little bit behind the schedule that Allen had predicted for us, so I didn't start until after 8. I was hoping to get started before sunset but ended up starting just after dusk but before it was full on dark. That made things a little tricky because the headlamp wasn't quite as effective as it would be later. I got a short warm-up in before heading to the transition area where I milled around until I saw Night Train come up on the monitors. I took the belt/number from Allen Bray - the guy that invited me to join the team, our captain, and seventh runner - and set out on my first leg.

I got out a little quicker than I probably should have, but all of the waiting around made me a little anxious and it was hard to keep my adrenaline in check early on. I spent a lot of the loop passing people, which made Allen's explanation of our team name make a lot of sense. With the light from my headlamp, I really did look like a train barreling down the tracks. I had a really difficult time settling into the first leg. I never felt like I was comfortable or in a groove. It felt like I was fighting it the whole way. I'm not sure if it was the waiting around or racing at an odd time, or the heat but something just felt off.

Despite feeling uneven the whole time, I actually ended up running solid. I think it was a touch longer than the advertised 5.4 miles - I'm calling it six - so that messed with me a little bit as It ended up being a few minutes more effort than I was thinking. Once I finally hit the timing mat, I felt like I brought it home fairly strong but man was I glad to get that first leg over with. I handed off to Errol - our first runner - just inside of 40 minutes.

After finishing the yellow loop, I jogged a short cooldown, just to try and settle down a little and bring my heart rate down. I was worried about everything locking up on the third leg if I kept running hard and then just stopping, so I tried to at least jog a mile after each leg. Once I cooled down a little and changed, I made my way to the mess tent to grab something to eat. I wasn't going to do that initially, but I figured I had at least six hours between runs, so I should try and get something solid in my stomach instead of relying on Clif Bars and Pop Tarts from the jump. Fueling was definitely something I was worried about going into this whole adventure. I haven't done anything that's lasted this long or had this much downtime in between efforts, so I was really nervous about my stomach rebelling against me. I wouldn't say I nailed it, as there were plenty of trips to the Port-Os, my stomach never really bothered me on any of the loops.

Once I had eaten a little, I decided to settle into my tent and try to get some sleep before my next leg. I set an alarm for 12:30 am, thinking I'd run around 1:30. Finding sleep was a little tough since our camp was right near the finish line and people were really festive pretty late into the night. I finally felt like I was drifting around the time my alarm went off, because of course. When I finally rustled myself out to of the tent and started moving around a little bit I found out that we were running about an hour behind Allen's predicted times. That wasn't a huge issue because we were recording everyone's in and out time, so we had a pretty good idea of how long everyone would be out on the trail.

I ended up starting the Green Loop around 2:45 am, which was a trip. My body was all sorts of confused, but like I said above, this loop had a great start. I really felt like I was rolling on the gravel double track. I felt about a million times better and that went a long way for my confidence. Even when we got off of the double track and on to the proper trails I was feeling strong and smooth. There were a couple times where I thought maybe I should have sprung for a more powerful headlamp but that seemed to coincide with the times I passed people that had like 800 lumens, 200 dollar lamps on so probably not a good comparison.

The wooden bridges were definitely a little sketchy on tired legs. I decided to take them a little easier and make sure that I didn't catch a toe and take a tumble. Because I felt better on this loop, I felt like I was able to enjoy it a little bit more than the yellow loop. I really had fun on the section of this loop that featured a soft pine needle surface and twisting trails. It was super peaceful as I was in a little bit of a no-man's land situation for a few minutes. I could only hear my feet, my breathing and whatever was scurrying around in the woods.

I was snapped out of that little trance when we popped out on a section of trail along the entrance road and ran right under the street lights. Shortly after that, I crossed the timing mat and drove home for the finish.

I finished the green loop around 29:30, which I was much, much happier about than how I ran the first leg. I handed off to Errol, we started our final rotation through the lineup, and then I made my way back to our camp to get something to eat and figure out a plan for the final leg. I did another quick cool down to try to keep my legs from locking up and then made the decision to try and lay down in my tent for a little bit. I finished around 3:15 a.m. and figured I wouldn't run again until 8 at the earliest so I laid down and actually ended up catching a little bit of sleep.

After a few hours, I got out of the tent and started to mill around camp a little bit. It was probably around 6 or 6:30 a.m., so I was very excited to see that we had multiple pots of coffee going since coffee and maple syrup where pretty much what my body was running on at that point. I took my sweet time getting loose for the final lap and spent some more time talking with other people who had already run the red loop to get some intel on what was coming up. There were a few people on my team that said they thought I was going to crush the red loop since I was running it in the daylight. I wasn't sure since I already had 10+ miles on my legs, but I was looking forward to bringing it home.

Similar to the green loop, the red loop started out firmly planted in my wheelhouse. The long lead-in in the big open grass field allowed me to get into a rhythm early. I was excited to be running in the daylight finally and set my sights on passing as many people as possible over the course of the 5.5 miles of the trail ahead. This loop definitely had the most sustained climbs but save one rutted double track section that was steep AF. The loop was kind of a lolly-pop shape which climbed then descended then climbed back up before coming full circle. Once I pulled my way back up to the top of the exposed granite hilltop, I set out to bring the race home for Night Train.

I let gravity do some of the work on the way back down to the tunnel and then once I got into the big open field for the final kilometer I really tried to pour it on. I could see a bunch of runners ahead of me and just tried to reel in as many as I could. After the long stretch othe f grass field at the end of this loop, I was not excited to see the final little section of trail. My legs really didn't like that change up so close to the finish. Fortunately, it wasn't a very long section and before I realized it I was onto the final stretch.

This was the coolest part of the whole experience. When I got into the finishing corral, the entire team was there waiting for me and we all ran across the finish line together. That was what I did this race for. It was really fun to be part of a team like that. Everyone put in so much effort and it was really cool to all cross the line together.

I was 37:12 on my watch, which was pretty much right on what Allen had predicted. He took the 10k pace that we submitted and added 5% for the trails and then an additional 5% for each loop to account for fatigue. It's not super scientific but I think his overall prediction was pretty close to our team finish time. After finishing our final leg we checked in to see where we ranked. We were the first team in the open division to finish, so at around 9:45 we had the lead but we had to wait to see if any of the teams that started after us finished in the next couple of hours.

We ended up finishing in 18:39:32 and went on to win by about 14 minutes (18:53:44). The top three teams were all under 19 hours and four of the top five teams were in the open category (3rd place was a masters team).

My official times were - Yellow - 39:55 | Green - 29:58 | Red - 37:17

Talking to Allen a few weeks later he told me that he had dumped all of the results data into excel and did some sorting and calculating. It turns out I had the fastest total time and ran the fastest on each loop. I'll admit, I thought that I was capable of that, if I ran well, but i didn't really know what to expect because there are so many people running. I was pretty excited when I heard that though. It was a nice little boost. Also, apparently we get belt buckles for winning, which is pretty sweet. We are trying to get a little team party together to celebrate and hand them out.

// Recovery Beer of the Week //

Curious Traveler - Pineapple Shandy
I am an unapologetic shandy guy. Say whatever you want. I don't care. I thoroughly enjoy them. Usual,ly I stick with the lemonade variety but since it's starting to warm up here in Georgia, Amanda and I decided to give this pineapple version a shot. It was pretty good. A little sweet and very easy to drink. They didn't last long in the refrigerator. We'll have to remember to pick up some more when the mercury really starts to rise as the spring goes on.

// Closing Thoughts //
As cool as the camp spork medals are, I'm pretty stoked for the belt buckle. It was really cool to win this event. Allen told me he thought we would have a shot based on what he figured everyone was capable of doing but, to be honest, I wasn't really super worried about the results. I wanted to run well personally and to help the team but I wasn't going to obsess over times or stress out if we fell off the pace. This race/event was about the adventure. I wanted to do something a little different and yeah sure when I was out there on course I was just racing like any other race, but the atmosphere was different and it was definitely different trying to figure out how to eat and sleep and then try to race again and again. I really enjoyed getting a chance to meet some new people and bond over super early morning coffee and the different routes. It was also really cool to see so many people at this event. There were 182 teams that finished in the regular category and another 19 in the ultra category. That's more than 1,500 runners in total. Awesome.

This is definitely something that I would like to do again. Hopefully, we can keep the team together for next year. Maybe someday I'll think about entering the Ultra division if I can get Ferenc and some others to come down. For now, though, I'm stoked to be a member of team Night Train - the defending champs. I have a million race t-shirts, but this one gets added to the wear with pride category for sure.

Admittedly, this is super late but I'm glad to finally get it posted. I'm cutting myself a little slack because the next weekend we went to Tuck Fest and I made a vlog about Ragnar, so that took up some time. You can check out the vlog on my youtube channel or in the blog below. Hopefully, I'll have a Tuck Fest vlog and a catch up blog coming up soon.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Vlog #1 // Ragnar Trail Atlanta

I'm working on a full blog but I brought my iPhone and GoPro to Ragnar, so I figured I'd take a crack at a vlog. Here goes nothing...

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Race Recap // Rock/Creek River Gorge 10.2 Mile Trail Race

Every now and then I go into a race completely unaware of how things will shake out. There's always a little bit of uncertainty about how things are going to go, but I normally have a decent grasp on my fitness and how that will match up with the course and competition. Traditionally, River Gorge has not been one of those races. I've probably run what I thought I would go in once, maybe twice in five attempts. Admittedly, the first year that was due to some hubris but other than that it's been a mixed bag. It's still relatively early in the year, it's a tough course, and there is always very good competition.

This year was certainly no exception. I felt like I had good training going into the race but I was unsure of how that would translate to the difficulty of this course. You need to be able to stay up front in the early part of the race and then you need to stay strong in the later stages when things get tough and fatigue sets in. That's probably why guys like Nate Holland have been so successful here. Ultra runners that are training for/running long events but also have the ability to throw down on the more mild terrain.

I knew that I had better training going into this year's race than I did going into last year - my worst showing in five trips - but I wasn't sure how it stacked up to a couple of my better performances where I had more strength based work under my belt. With that in mind - and the struggle of last year lingering - I went into this year's race with no expectations. Not low expectations. I wasn't sandbagging and going into it thinking 'Oh I'm going do so bad...' or something like that. I had no expectations. I had my mind set on going out and running my race and letting the chips fall where they fell. Just run. Don't worry about what anyone else did. Maybe I would get back on the podium, maybe not. Maybe I'd bomb or maybe I would win. I was nervous but ready to just go run.

Oh yeah, a few days before the race Rock/Creek announced that Rob Krar - the two-time Western States 100 winner - would be at the race. I didn't know if he'd be really racing it but it was pretty cool that they brought him in for the race. Last year, Ricky Gates stopped by and ran the race as part of his trans-America trip, so it was cool that they've continued to build on their sponsor relationships (Salomon & North Face). I think it gives a good idea of the prestige of this race.

// The Course //
The River Gorge course starts on a gravel road at the Mullins Cove Loop trailhead in Prentice Cooper State Forest. After a short climb up the gravel road, the course takes a sharp left onto a Jeep road then drops down to hit the single track. The first half of the race is pretty runnable. There's a good balance of up and down and most of the trail is pretty straightforward. There are a couple of creek crossings and rocky sections but for the most part, it's the kind of stuff that you can get into a groove on.

The first few miles of the course run along the bluffs of the Tennessee River Gorge and spectacular views of the river below. There are a few spots that are a little precarious, as in a wrong step and you are tumbling off of a cliff. It's more technical than what I am used to but it's a good warm-up for what comes later.

Photo courtesy of Jacob Wuertz
You reach the first aid station at Snooper's Rock at 3.5 miles then begin the first sustained climb of the day. It's not steep, more of a grinder, but you definitely feel it after all the downhill in the early going. Once you reach the halfway point things start to get more difficult. The terrain features more rocks and less straightforward trail. There are a couple of spots that you have to be attentive for the markings to keep from wandering off into the woods. This is when the race really begins.

When you hit seven miles you climb up onto a washed out Jeep road (Haley Road), which is steep and usually a mess of ruts, mud, and loose rocks. After you reach the second aid station you make a left back onto the trails. This is the toughest climb on the course. It switchbacks up for what seems like an eternity before finally leveling out again. Things are fairly mellow after that before you plunge into the rock garden - a boulder field in a small ravine along a creek.

After fighting your way through the rock garden you face gradual, climbing single track all the way to the finish line.

// The Race //
One of the best things about this race is the pre-race packet pickup. Local outdoor outfitter and race sponsor, Rock/Creek hosts packet pickup on Friday night at one of their stores. Not only does it make things a little less stressful on race morning, it also gives me the perfect excuse to leave work early on Friday and get settled into the hotel to have a restful night. When I arrived at the trailhead on Saturday morning, I spent a couple minutes catching up with my cousin Greg before setting out for my warm up.

After a quick warm-up, I switched into my race kit and made my way to the start line. The night before Amanda commented on how a lot of the people at check-in looked legit and that there was a guy signing autographs - a.k.a. Rob Krar. That's definitely true at this race, there are plenty of legit runners on the starting line. Rock/Creek fields an All-Mountain Team of local athletes, plus it always pulls in strong runners from around the Southeast and beyond.

Photo courtesy of Jacob Wuertz
I ended up settling in right next to Rob Krar. It wasn't by design, he just happened to walk over next to me where there was some space. I got a chance to meet him and chat for a couple minutes before the start, which was pretty awesome. Like I said in the course layout, the race starts with a long climb up a gravel road for the first 400 or so. This makes things a little tricky. You want to get out and get in the front group but the climb can burn out a lot of the overzealous starters, so you don't want to find yourself in that boat.

As I have in the past I settled into the group for the early climb as everyone kind of looked around and tried to figure out if the guys off the front were worth chasing. As we came over the top of the hill and made the left hand turn onto the Jeep road to guys from Rock/Creek made a move to separate themselves from the pack. I figured they were worth following and settled in behind them. We rolled along the long descent, shuffling back and forth for the next couple of minutes. As we approached the singletrack a four-man lead group established with the rest of the field stringing out behind.

At this point, I was thinking that I was in perfect position. I was second onto the singletrack with the two Rock/Creek guys (Johnny Clemons & John Wiygul) behind me and an unknown guy up front. I followed the leader through the split rock, which he kind of struggled to move through. I didn't think much of it at first. I'm not a great technical runner, so I figured that I probably looked the same trying to navigate that feature.

Despite my attempts at being more patient in races, I found myself running right on the heels of the leader pretty quickly after getting through the split rock. I tried to ease off and give him some room, but it seemed like I was yoyoing back and forth. Drop back a few yards, then close right back up on him. That made it really difficult to see the trail in front of me and I felt like I was going to burn myself out from all the back and forth.

"Don't do it. Don't do it. Forget it. Just go."

That was my thought process. I had zero desire to lead but I had to get some clear trail in front of me, so I took a few quick strides through the side brush and took over the front of the race. Johnny Clemons and John Wiygul got held up for a few seconds as they moved past the early leader, which stuck me in a little bit of a weird off the front no man's land. I fought the urge to surge, seeing as we were only about a mile into the race at this point and tried to focus on settling into some kind of rhythm.

To my surprise, they just kind of left me out there. I'd gain a few seconds on a downhill and then give a few back on an uphill but they were always just a little bit behind me. That odd distance where you can let the person dangle a little because you have plenty of time to reel them in or with one short surge you could close the gap. Things stayed that way for a long time.

While I had an initial moment of concern about going too early and not being able to run away, I spent the next few minutes trying to relax and settle down. I told myself that I was still following the plan. I might be out front but I was just running my race. I didn't need to try and run away from them. All I needed to do was run my race. If they caught me, I would try and go with them and if they let me go, well that would be quite alright with me.

Photo courtesy of Jacob Wuertz
By the time we hit the first aid station at Snooper's Rock, I had successfully gotten myself to chill out. I was focused on the trail ahead and not what was going on behind me. I actually felt pretty comfortable for the next couple of miles. I was running a good tempo but I wasn't burning myself up with an ill-fated attempt to run away from those guys. I was following the plan.

I made it through the first half of the race pretty smoothly. I remember thinking that it was much more runnable than I remembered. I felt like I was running well but smart. Things felt controlled. It continued that way until just before the second aid station. Johnny Clemons had started to eat into my advantage as the course started to toughen in the second half. After one of the creek crossings, I made a slight misstep and when I got back on track Johnny had pulled even. I'll be honest. I had a moment of weakness at that point. He initially was going to let me retake the lead but I slinked back and ceded it to him.

Rob Krar (Photo courtesy of Jacob Wuertz)
I dropped back a few meters at first, starting to feel a little sorry for myself. At that moment we popped out onto Haley Road. I fought the urge to ease off and set out on grinding my way up the first part of the climb. Despite losing some ground on the hill, Johnny dipped back into the woods just as I passed the aid station. He was still right there. All I had to do was get through the second part of the climb and I would have a chance to sort things out.

For once in my life, I actually gained on someone while running uphill. Johnny was power hiking some sections of the trail, which allowed me to close the gap and make contact with him. However, what I learned about power hiking at that moment was that when he switched from running to hiking, he instantly gained four or five strides on me.

"Just keep grinding!" is what I told myself as I tried to claw my way to the top within striking distance.

When we finally made it to the top of the climb, Johnny had opened a small gap, somewhere in the 5-10 second range and I had maybe 30 seconds on John Wiygul. This was the make or break moment for me. I could either take a short spell to recover and then go after Johnny or I could sink like a stone. Chase back to give myself a shot at the win or drop back into third and try to fight my own personal battle to stay on the podium.

With about a mile until the rock garden, I felt like I could get back to Johnny. It took a while for me to get there but as we started to descend, I began to eat into his advantage. Once we hit the rock garden I was right on his heels. Unfortunately, this was also the exact moment that the cumulative fatigue of the race started to set in.

Photo courtesy of Jacob Wuertz
I would find myself back in contact one minute but then as soon as the trail tilted up, I'd lose ground. Back and forth, back and forth, this went on for what seemed like forever. Every time I would lift my legs gravity felt a little more difficult to defy. As we exited the rock garden with one final uphill push I lost contact with Johnny. My legs were toast. It's a long run into the finish from the end of the rock garden though.

I did my best to recover and hoped that he went too early and would fade. My mind was in it for one more effort but my legs didn't want to respond. After a few minutes on the struggle bus, they started to come back to me. I gave it one final surge but it was too little too late. We made a big sweeping hairpin left hand turn then wound through the trees to the finish - Johnny Clemons taking the win in 1:16:36 with me grabbing second in 1:16:53 before John Wiygul in 1:17:20.

Less than a minute separated the top three after 10.2 miles in one of the closest trail races I've been a part of. While I definitely faded over the last couple miles, especially in the final mile, I was really happy with my performance. Coming in with zero expectations and getting back on the podium was a great feeling. It really felt like redemption after having a tough go of it last year. Even though I've run faster in this race before, this felt like it was everything I had on that day. Sure I wish I didn't fade at the end and I would have loved to have won, but I went out and I raced. I could have packed it in on the Haley road climb and spent the next couple of miles feeling sorry for myself but I didn't. And that's something to be proud of no matter the final place or outcome.

Photo courtesy of Fred Doss
You may notice that Rob Krar isn't in the top 10. He finished 21st. Clearly he was just chilling, but still, it's pretty cool to be able to say that I beat him. In all seriousness, though he was a cool guy and it was awesome to see him hanging out just chatting with everyone after the race. He's definitely down to earth, which I appreciate.

Post-race, I talked to Johnny and John for a bit. Turns out Johnny is training for the Western States 100, so he's obviously super strong. He was worried that I was going to claw back but felt like he still had good legs for a sprint. That would have been pretty crazy. A two-up sprint after 10 miles. If only! I tried to cool down a little and then curled up in a ball in the back of the Renegade (everytime I see the wording on the side of the Jeep I sing the opening of Styx Renegade in my head - don't judge me) for a few minutes before heading back to the finish to cheer on my cousin Greg - who's finish I somehow missed. After that, I went back to the hotel to grab Amanda so we could go to Mean Mug and I could drink all the coffee and eat all of the biscuits.

// Recovery Beer of the Week //
This was a tough one. I won an awesome River Gorge Growler from Chattanooga Brewing Company but because of an awards snafu I didn't get it after the race and we ended up going to Hutton & Smith.

Hutton & Smith - Belay On!
A slightly hopped up version of their blonde ale, Belay On! is light and refreshing with just enough bitterness. It's a solid post-run session ale that reminded me a little bit of Terrapin's Recreation Ale. I put it to the pizza and beer test at Community Pie in downtown Chattanooga that night and I'm happy to report that it passed with flying colors.

// Closing Thoughts //
I was thrilled with the way the race went this year. Plain and simple. I went out and I raced on the day and I had a little bit of redemption from last year. There is no way I could have expected anything more. While I still feel like I have a ways to go to get where I want to be as the year goes on, but I certainly feel like I'm progressing. I need to work in more sustained effort work, tempo runs, fartlek runs, those kinds of things, but all in all I feel like I'm in a good place.

After the race, Amanda and I went to Mean Mug for coffee and a bacon and egg biscuit then we spent the rest of the day walking around Chattanooga. We ended up at Hutton & Smith where we had a flight and a pint before heading to Community Pie for pizza and more beer. My brother has been raving about Hutton & Smith for a year and this was the first time we went. It definitely did not disappoint. It's a small spot but had a cool vibe.

Sunday morning I woke up and did one of my favorite Chattanooga runs. From the hotel I ran out to Stringer's Ridge - where Amanda and I got engaged - and then I ran across the Walnut Street Bridge and back to the hotel for a nice and easy eight miles. My legs were a little cooked from the race, so I kept it short.

Next up I'm back on the Dirty Spokes train with the Road Atlanta trail race. That should be cool. It's the first time the trails will be open to the public. After that it's Ragnar Trail Atlanta, which should be an adventure, and then Tuck Fest. April is going to be a very busy month, but it should be fun.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Race Recap // Dirty Spokes Charleston Park 10k Trail Race

Charleston Park was the third race on the Dirty Spokes calendar this year. It's held on a fairly new mountain bike trail system on Lake Lanier. It features a little bit of everything. It's got a couple of grinder hills, some short punchy whoops, some technical/rooty sections, and a few longer sections that you can stretch your legs and get rolling.

I didn't really know what to expect going into this one having not raced since the beginning of February. I figured my best bet would be to approach it the same way I raced at Heritage Park last month. Ease into things and try to focus on racing the sections that fit my style. It worked well the last time out, so why not.

// The Course //
The 10k course utilizes the entire trail system on the map above. It starts out on the left side of the orange trail until it meets with the purple trail. The course runs counter-clockwise on the purple trail as it winds through the woods before meeting back up with the orange trail for the final mile or so. You finish by following the access trail back to the main parking lot.

This is a difficult race to figure out. It gets right into the trails with little room to stretch things out, similar to Mayhem on the Mountain. It's very punchy early on. The first mile is full of short steep ramps and quick downhills then ends with a long grinding climb. After you pass through the first mile you drop back down towards the water. The section that follows is more level but features a root covered low-lying trail that forces you to be nimble and quick-footed.

Photo courtesy of Dirty Spokes
Once you get through two miles things mellow out a bit though. The middle miles are firmly in my wheelhouse. They feature rolling terrain and longer, more straightforward sections that really allow you to get into a rhythm. Before the course reconnects with the orange trail you have one last climb to contend with. It's a long but gradual climb that works its way up from the shore to one of the higher points on the course.

After topping out on this climb you drop down to the orange trail where you finish things out with more short and steep up and downs. After you make your way through the ups, downs, twists, and turns you cross a concrete bridge and climb one final short hill before racing the final 400 or so meters to the finish.

// The Race //
Given that this race gets onto the trails so quickly with little room to spread things out, the shorter four-mile race started 10 minutes before the 10k. While this lead to some congestion in a couple spots later in the race, it made the start much easier to navigate. First, I knew everyone on the line was in the 10k. A lot of times it can be difficult to figure out who to follow and who to let go when both the short and long races start at the same time. Although now that I'm getting older and more mono-paced I should probably just be patient all the time.

I took the lead pretty much right away and was only followed by Jay Kolodzinski. He is a strong runner and I knew that if I let off the gas he wouldn't be far behind, so I needed to stay focused throughout the race. I wasn't quite prepared for how hilly the early part of the race was. I tried to settle into a rhythm once we got into the woods, but the early hills really took a toll. I tried to focus on trying to stay relaxed and find a comfortable effort level. The first two miles were pretty uneven and uneasy for me. I knew I needed to relax and stay patient until we going into the middle miles where I could start to pull away.

Fortunately, the root covered, twisty section around 1.5 miles allowed me to gain a little ground. It seemed like everyone let off the gas a little bit and, even though I'm not a great technical runner, I felt like I moved through that part of the course pretty smoothly. As I approached the two-mile mark, I finally felt like I was starting to settle into the race. I made one bonehead move at one of the course splits and nearly went the wrong way - fortunately, the volunteers set me straight. Once I got back on the right trail I started to really get into a groove.

Like I said, this section of the race really suited my running style. I was able to press the pace but remain comfortable for next 2.5 miles and that's where I really stretched out my lead. I knew that the last mile was going to be difficult, but I completely forgot about the final climb before you cross back over onto the orange trail. It's one of those climbs that levels out and then kicks back up a couple times before to reach the top. Two or three times you think you've topped out only to realize, nope it keeps going.

Grinding up it was definitely a challenge, especially since it threw me out of the groove I had been enjoying so much. Note to self: No Roots by Alice Merton is a good song to have stuck in your head while racing. I wasn't super happy with my effort level in the final mile. I relaxed a little too much. It was a case of building the last mile up to be more than it was in my head. I had these visions of struggling through it and my legs screaming, so I backed off going into it. At one point, I actually said out loud "What are you doing? You aren't as tired as you are thinking you are?" and at that moment, I saw the concrete bridge that signaled about a quarter mile to go.

After crossing the bridge and quickly tackling the short steep hill after it, I tried to open my stride up a little bit and finish the race out strong. I ended up stopping the clock at 38:14 to get the win, which is the second-fastest time I've run on this course. It turned out that I was only 15 seconds off my PR - and official/unofficial depending on your opinion on Strava course record. I don't remember what I had done going into this race that time, but I was pretty happy to take the win and run a solid time. Especially considering I wasn't really expecting much going in.

After hanging out at the finish for a bit, I cooled down and chatted with a few of the Dirty Spokes regulars. Mitch Novy won the short race in a PR and Jay ended up finishing second in the 10k. I was pumped for both of those guys to have good days. I ended up winning some awesome stuff, a six-pack of beer from Reformation in Woodstock, a box of blueberry nut butter Clif Bars - which are the best Clif Bars - and Tifosi sunglasses.

I also managed to pull off the age-graded win. I'm normally in that perfect spot where I'm not quite fast enough old enough to win the age-graded category but this time it ended up working out. For that, I got a really cool, handmade wooden medal specific to this race. Don Burkett handcrafts these for each of the eight Dirty Spokes series races. It's definitely one of the coolest medals I've ever won.

Here's what the race looked like on Strava:

// Recovery Beer of the Week //

Reformation Brewing - Sabine The Seeker
I know it kind of sounds like a character from Guardians of the Galaxy but since I won a six pack of it at the race it seemed like a fitting choice. I am always a big fan of breweries that sponsor races, especially those that give away beer. Reformation lists Sabine as a dry hopped French saison with notes of cantaloupe, orange blossom, and mild white pepper. It's definitely a solid spring beer. It's not too bitter and not too sweet, but most importantly does it pass the 'can I drink it and shovel this pizza in my mouth after the race?' test. Yes, yes it most certainly does.

// Closing Thoughts //
Considering the fact that I really didn't know what to expect going into this one, I was more than happy with the result. Early on, I wasn't feeling super confident and it seemed like I might have overcooked it on the early hills but I think I did a good job of staying calm and letting the race come to me after that. I really attacked the middle miles well and my overall pace was solid. I'm still not exactly sure where I stand when it comes to race fitness but I always seem to figure that out by racing a bunch in the spring.

In my efforts to continue to build my fitness, I did end up overcooking it the following day on my Sunday long run. I opted for 15-16 (it turned out to be 16) but that was a big mistake. I would have been good with 12 or 13 but 16 was too much. I was fried for the next couple of days. It pretty ended up taking me almost a week to get back to normal and I had to take a day off. I think I underestimated how much the race took out of me. Lesson learned there.

Next up is Rock/Creek River Gorge. I wasn't going to sign up for this race since it's all but certain I'm going to get throttled. Amanda and I have enjoyed using it as an excuse to take a long weekend trip up to Chattanooga though so I booked the hotel and signed up for the race. We'll see how it goes but I'm going into it with less than zero expectations this year.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Trestle Run // Unplugged

Realizing that you need to unplug every so often is not exactly a ground-breaking notion. Actually doing it though, that's a different story. Except for my runs, I am almost always on my computer or have my phone within reach. Most of the time it's necessary, but like everyone, I'm guilty of being glued to it for long stretches. It's something that I've been working on, leave my phone across the room at dinner, don't check work emails over the weekend, stop scrolling all the horrible takes on Facebook. You know stuff like that.

Amanda and I recently took a week off from work to go home and spend some time with family and while I didn't intentionally plan to unplug it turned out that was just what I needed. Now, I didn't lock my phones and computer away for the week but I did find that I spent a lot more time engaging with people and experiencing things then I did scrolling Twitter or Instagram.

I still spent some time on social media but I didn't find myself reaching for my phone every few minutes like I normally do. Maybe that's because we were in a different surrounding, or maybe it's because we were spending time with family we don't often see. Heck, maybe it's because I spent chunks of time driving the car to New Hampshire, Maine or Massachusetts. I'm not sure of the reason, but by week's end, I really believe it helped me feel refreshed.

A few things that made this possible, I left my computer (read: work computer) in my backpack. Save for one or two things - i.e. ordering lift tickets - I didn't turn my computer on after the first three days. I had planned on doing some blogging but since it didn't feel like we put ourselves in many time-wasting situations, I was okay with not writing.

Number 2, Do Not Disturb. Perhaps the greatest invention of our time. I put my work phone in Do Not Disturb for days at a time. I have an unhealthy habit of checking my phone all the time, to the point I feel phantom rings. It was massively reliving to forget about it for a few days.

Third, reduce the aimless scrolling. Often times I'll finish a run and grab my phone to upload the run to Strava while sitting on the steps. It's not uncommon for me to sit on the steps for 10 minutes scrolling Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. While on vacation I tried to limit that. I still checked in on Instagram every now and then but I kept those sessions short.

The one overriding thing that really helped me with this though, was trying to be more present and actually spend time with people. Whether that was my Dad, my brother or Amanda. Focusing on being engaged with the people I was around made unplugging easier and unplugging left me feeling refreshed when we got back to Georgia.

Here were some of my favorite things from our trip home...
Skiing at Loon 
I finally got my day on the slopes. Danny, Amanda, and I drove up 93 to Lincoln, NH to spend a day at Loon and it was awesome. Despite gray skies in the morning, it was bluebird day by lunch. Amanda and I ended up renting skis, which while slightly expensive was definitely worth it. I love my old K2's but having freshly tuned equipment for a change was nice.

We hit the road promptly at 6 am and were on the first chair at 9. Danny and I ended up squeezing one last run in just before they shut the lifts off, so my goal of first chair, last chair was a success. I stuck my GoPro session on my helmet and then spent the flight back to Georgia playing with the Quik app to make this fun video of the day.

Running with Friends
I don't get a lot of chances to run with people while doing regular training so I was excited to get a chance to catch up with my former roommate Joe Reynolds for an awesome 11 miles in Portland, Maine during the trip. We ran at Bradbury Mountain State Park over the summer but with the snow on the ground in Vacationland, we opted for a road route from Rising Tide Brewing in Portland's Back Cove out to Portland Head Light on Cape Elizabeth.

The lighthouse is pretty awesome. It's a very postcard-friendly spot. The best part about this run thought was having Reynolds tell me random historical facts about Portland the whole way. Did you know that it was commissioned by George Washington himself in 1787? True story.

The Olympics are over...sad face emoji
I am apologetically an Olympics guy. I'm a big fan of both the summer and winter games, but I think I enjoy the winter Olympics more. That sounds like it's probably recency bias, but I like getting a chance to see some of these different events that you really only get a chance to see once every four years and it seems like the winter games have more of that. I could do without a figure skating event every night though.

While the time difference made viewing this year's games a little tricky, I still found myself watching a lot of the prime time coverage and I really enjoyed being able to use the NBC Sports app to watch event replays on things I missed. I know that overall viewership was down and there are a ton of factors that go into that, but I think having access to live streams and full replays have really improved the overall experience of viewing the games at home. It's nice to not be beholden to what the prime-time broadcast has deemed as interesting.

Favorite Moment
Jessie Diggins & Kikkan Randall win gold - This was an incredible moment. Not only was it the first medal (and first gold) for US women in Nordic skiing, but it came at a moment when everyone had kind of written off the US team. There was a lot of talk about how the US was underperforming. Some of that was probably warranted, but in my opinion, much of that was due to NBC's expectation building and the fact that we were relying on a lot of older athletes like Shaun White Lindsey Vonn and a lot of very young athletes like the Shib Sibs and Chloe Kim.

When American's are billed as gold or bust and they don't win gold we have a tendency to look at it as a letdown. It's kind of how we are wired, but it stinks for some of these athletes that only have a chance to make a mark on the general public once every four years. I was so happy for Diggins and Randall to win gold and put a real stamp on what had been a strong performance for them. I'm enjoying their tour of all the morning shows and hope they're success cross-country skiing a little boost.

I think I've seen the video clip of the end of that race seven or eight times and it's given me goosebumps every time. Chad Salmela's call was incredible. He really captured the emotion and excitement of that moment. Even if you weren't aware of the history being made, it was impossible to not feel the emotion and weight of the moment while he's screaming "Here comes Diggins!"


Worst Moment
Olympic Athletes from Russia - Why did they even bother with this? Russia was banned except for 160+ athletes - and still had one of those athletes test positive - they only real punishment was that they didn't get to display the Russian flag. For some reason, they were allowed to compete in team competitions. That I really didn't understand. I can make peace with allowing athletes with clean bio passports to compete.

I can accept that, begrudgingly, but how can a group of those athletes compete in team events? At that point, they are no longer Olympic Athletes from Russia. They are a Russian team. If that's going to be allowed, then just call them Russia. Which is exactly what happened. NBC billed the USA vs. OAR hockey game as the USA vs. Russia with clips of 1960, 1980, and 2014 games playing during the run up to the broadcast. That defeats the purpose of the ban, doesn't it? This isn't a USSR/Russia thing. Those are essentially the same countries. They were OAR because Russia wasn't being recognized, except they were.

On a less frustrating note, the alpine skiing team event was awesome and I hope we put our best skiers into it next time.

What I've Been Into Lately
Norway is dominating these Winter Olympics with a unique approach to sports // USA TODAY
This article from USA Today was pretty intriguing. It came out in the middle of the Olympics as Norway was on its way to winning both the overall and gold medal counts in Pyeongchang. It's an interesting story about Norway's approach to youth sports and developing young athletes.
Unlike the U.S., where we keep score of everything all the time, Norway puts kids in sports but doesn’t let them keep score until age 13. The idea is to make sports part of their social development so that the motivation to stay involved is to have fun with their friends, not winning. Eventually, of course, the Norwegians introduce competition and the most advanced sports science techniques they can develop to pump out their medal-hoarding biathletes, skiers and ski jumpers. But the idea, Ovrebo said, isn’t to have the highest-ranked 10-year-old athletes in the world but rather the most mature adults.
Weekend Getaway // Territory Run Co.
I talked about Territory and their Runners of the Wild club/team a little bit in one of my last blogs. This is one of the reasons why I was drawn to join ROTW. They do an excellent job of telling stories that align with their products and share their mission. This short story serves as an ad for a new hoodie they've released but instead of just sending an email with a few photos of the shirt, they tell a story around some local runners and their weekly weekend run. It highlights the inclusiveness of this community and encourages others to develop something similar. I've talked a little about my enjoyment of this style of marketing in the past, but I really do like when companies create something that stands on its own, with or without a call to action to buy something at the end. I am much more likely to spend my money with a company that story tells around its gear like this.

Photo courtesy of Territory Run Co.
We Love Winter: Backcountry Skiing & Ice Climbing // NHPR // The Exchange
I caught some of this New Hampshire Public Radio show on our way home from skiing at Loon but ended up downloading the podcast to listen to it in its entirety a few days later. Hosted by Laura Knoy, this hour-long discussion show featured Andrew Drummond of Ski the Whites (and my last blog) and Tyler Ray, president of the Granite Backcountry Alliance, talking about the growth of backcountry skiing in the White Mountains. It was really interesting stuff. I especially enjoyed Tyler's revelation that skiing in New Hampshire got started when the CCC went town to town building ski trails and that one of GBA's goals is to try and resurrect some of those trails to turn them into glade skiing. I'm a big CCC nerd, so I thought that was pretty neat.

Photo courtesy of NHPR
Under An Arctic Sky // Netflix
This is an epic 40-minute film about cold weather surfing north of the Arctic Circle in Iceland. I'm not a surfer - there is no way that I'm cool enough to be a surfer - but I've seen this while scrolling through Netflix a few times and have been wanting to watch it. As luck would have it. I had a 90 minute flight from Indianapolis to Atlanta the other night and Delta had it in their in-flight lineup so I decided to finally watch it. It's quick but impressive. The scenery, shooting, and surfing were awe-inspiring throughout the movie. It made me want to try this out until I saw how quickly everything froze when they got out of the water. Nevermind. I'll pass.

Under An Arctic Sky - Official Trailer #1 from Chris Burkard on Vimeo.

What's Poppin' On IG

The Ginger Runner is releasing his Gary Robbins Barkley movie for download in five days. I'm really looking forward to checking it out.

We always had colorful birds in our front yard growing up. Mostly cardinals and blue jays, but whenever I see a colorful bird it reminds me of my mom and being at home.

It was great to see the outpouring of support these two got on social media