Presidential Traverse



Ok, well, let us say “Presidential Traverse Attempt”… or “My first visit to the White Mountains, along with VT and NH”..or “Summit of Mount Washington, by way of Madison and Adams, with 7500 feet of climbing”..

3 weeks ago, I got this wild idea, that I would do the Presidential Traverse, in one day.  It just popped in my head one day…I cannot explain it any better.  I had heard of it, but had never given it much thought before.  I had started following a blog that is all about the 4000 foot plus peaks of NH, so I am sure that was a factor.  Maria and I had talked about visiting New England, at some point.   Part of our New England trip would be hiking a couple of 4000 plus peaks..maybe Washington at 6200+, but I never considered the Presidential Traverse.  I immediately started researching.  The problem was New Hampshire is a 13sh hour drive from where I live..ugh.  It excited me..and to do it, would be worth all the driving.

The whole trip would be complicated.  It was going to have to be a ‘quick drive up, adventure and drive back’…it would be a ‘leave Thursday or early Friday and come back Sunday or Monday’.  I just had one goal, which was the hike.  I did not plan anything else.  Maria could not go, because of work.  It would need to be on my timeline, due to the long driving and quick out and back.  I was on jury duty call, so I could not fully commit to it, until last minute.  The weather was a big factor (even in August).  IF someone went, it would have to be someone that is able to do it and wanted on and so forth.  I did not really bother asking anyone else, as the chances were slim that they could work with all of these factors.  Hopefully next time, someone can go do it with me

Let me explain the Presidential Traverse to those who are not fully aware of it.   It is several peaks, in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  The peaks are named after Presidents  This is a point to point traverse (hike/run) of 20 to 23 miles with around 8000 or 9000 feet of climb.  The trail is extremely rocky and technical.  The trails are not like the ones here, that have switchbacks.  These trails go straight up to 3, 4, 5 and 6000 foot mountain peaks.  The biggest and nastiest one is Mt Washington.  The weather on Washington is unpredictable and usually wild.  Read up on Mt Washington weather craziness: Why the White Mountains Kill-Outside Magazine  

The norm is to leave a car, on the South end (Crawfords Path trailhead/AMC Highlands Center lot) and get dropped off at the North end (Appalachia-Valley Way trailhead).  The start on the North end, is to get the big climb to Madison, done early.  You get all the big and higher stuff done in the first half, then less climbing and lower elevation, in the second half.

When first researching and planning, I struggled a bit, trying to figure out the best way to stage my car.  The AMC does shuttles, but in order to get an early start on Saturday, I would have to leave my car on the Friday, before 4pm, then find a way to get to a hotel and to the trailhead the next day.  That was too complicated.  They do not have Uber up there and Taxi would not work, either.  I eventually found a lady that does this kind of thing.  I would pay her to meet me on the South end, early Sat morning and she would drop me off on the North end for $90.  Problem solved.  I could have my car Friday night and did not have to worry about anything else.  Car Shuttle Service

Links with info on the Presidential Traverse.

Presidential Traverse-Trail Run Project

Presidential Traverse RedLine Guiding

So, once I knew that I did not have jury duty those days and that the weather did not look TOO bad, I knew I could go.  The weather was calling for 50% rain, wind and chance of thunderstorms..39 degrees on Mt Washington..not ideal, but…I have always enjoyed cold/harsh weather.


Maria was a bit concerned about me doing it alone, at first.  I was able to borrow a tracker from local friend, Dave Mueller.  Maria and friends, would be able to track me the whole way, plus be able to message some, if cell phone text was not working.  That helped immensely.

Going into it and before, I estimated that I could finish it in 10 to 11 hours.  I knew the terrain would be tough and slow, so I figured 30 minute pace..usually a 17 or so minute pace is what I do on a slow super tough trek with a lot of climb to it.

I took off Thursday morning around 9am or so.  The way up there, is all major highway miles.  It went extremely smooth.  I had no idea how far I would feel like driving, so I did not make hotel plans for Thursday night.  The driving went much better than I thought.  I  eventually figured out that Bennington, Vermont would be a good place and time to stop.  It was also near the Green Mountain National Forest, which was exciting.  I made it all the way to Bennington VT.  I called an old Motor Inn, I found on line and asked for a discounted rate, since it was end of the day.  I got a room for $85.  It was an old outdated place, but I liked had lots of character and personality.  Bennington is a super nice, quaint town.  I liked Vermont immediately.


old inn I stayed at in VT

I got up early the next morning.  I had some extra exploring time, since I was able to drive farther than I had thought I would.  The Appalachian Trail, also called the Long Trail in Vermont, goes right by Bennington.  The Long Trail is the 272 mile AT portion that goes through Vermont.  The Long Trail is a challenge and destination hike.  I visited the AT in 2 different spots, near Bennington, that morning.  I did 1 mile hikes on both part.  I was not able to do much, as I wanted to save my legs for Saturday.


Vermont near Bennington

After the 2 short hikes, I was ready to start driving toward the White Mountains and New Hampshire, which was another 3 hours or so.  I still had explore time, though.  I got to Manchester VT and had to stop again.  Wow, what a nice town!  The downtown area was immaculate and superb.  Super nice shopping and bike lanes everywhere.  I visited the Outdoors store downtown, called The Mountain Goat.


Manchester VT outdoor store

At some point between Bennington and Manchester, I figured out that Long Trail Brewery was on the way…more excitement.  I had known about Long Trail Brewery for many years.  I always liked their logo and culture a lot.  I had always hoped one day, that I could visit it.  I had to wait a little before they opened at 11, so had a flight and a burger.  Awesome place.


On the way to NH again, I go over a bridge that is looking down on a gorge, way far down below..I stop again to check this out.  This is called the Queechee Gorge.


Queechee Gorge

I also saw the Taftsville Covered Bridge.


I finally made it to New Hampshire.  I found the campsite “Living Waters” and set up camp.  Great pizza place close by to eat at.

The camp spot was around 8 miles from where I would leave my car and meet the shuttle driver, the next day.  I drove down to that area and checked out the AMC Highland Center. AMC Highland Center link

The AMC has hiker support.  I talked to a hiker support person, for a few minutes.  She discussed the impending weather and lightning a lot and how exposed the terrain is that I would be on.  She said to make sure I knew my “out” options and made sure I had certain gear.

Went to bed early and hoped the other campers would not be loud and keep me up.  I put ear plugs in and they worked extremely well.  I did not sleep great, but good enough.  I had arranged for Maura’s car shuttle service to meet me at the AMC Highland Center at 5 am.  It would be a 30 or so minute drive to the Appalachia trail head.  I highly reccomend her service!  We were both early and was gone by 5.  She dropped me off at the trail head before 5:45…She took a picture of me, for her Facebook site…and I was off.


Appalachia trailhead-start of Presidential Traverse


I knew beforehand, that the first 4 miles would be 4000 feet climb gain, which is a ton!  It was super rocky and technical, but was not as hard as I thought it would be.  The first 4 miles were under the tree line, so it was all  rocky trail and woods.  There were a group of 2 close to me, plus another group of 4 or so.  I made it up to the top of that first 4 mile climb and was above the tree line.  The Madison Hut was there and a half mile away would be the first summit of Mt Madison.  The below pics are what ALL of the trails look like.  They are all major rocky..the summits are even worse.


I had brought several layers with me..a waterproof light rain jacket (that I have never really needed to use before..usually a light non waterproof jacket-Houdini is plenty, as I stay warm, as long as I can run).  I brought some other layers also, so my hydration pack was as heavy and full as I have ever had it.  I had gotten hot on the way up and tied 2  layers and the jacket on my waist.  Near the top of that first climb, it started raining, so I got wet, without my rain jacket on.  That chilled me, because after the climb and near the Madison peak and Madison hut, I was now at over 5000 feet, no trees, exposed, cold temps and super windy.  I went into the Madison Hut and collected myself some..the weather was already a factor..I was chilled up top (I had shorts on and my legs never get cold) with wet clothes.

Only view all day..


only view all day and clouds were closing in fast

The huts there are very interesting and different.  We have  shelters in Virginia, they have very nice huts there.  The huts are like hostels, with food, gear, supplies, etc.


I left the Hut and went to the peak of Mount Madison.   This would be my first 4000 foot plus NH peak.  Madison is the 5th highest NH peak at 5367′.  It was only half a mile from the Hut, but it was a SLOW half mile.  Rocks on top of rocks and hard to navigate.  The higher you went the worse the weather got.  I finally got to the peak.  It was major foggy and no visibility.

I went back down toward the hut and got on the trail to take me to the next peak-Mount Monroe.  I did that peak, which again, was super slow and major technical.  Monroe was my second NH peak.  It is the 4th hight at 5384′.  NH 4000 foot plus peaks info link

It was around this time that I fully realized how technical rocky and slow the terrain was, how bad the weather was and how slow I was going.  There was no running ANY of this.  I was planning to run at least a little of the downhills, beforehand.  I was struggling to make 40 minute pace, as best as I could tell.  I also, did not want to take my phone out for pics, due to the weather.

I do not want to sound whiny about the terrain and weather, but it was truly nasty and brutal (as Frank Finch would say).  Every step had to be a careful one, with all the rocks.  The terrain and weather, really never let up at all.  The lightning was a continued threat.

I felt like I was watching someone else do this, in a movie.  Very odd feeling, after all of the stuff that I have done in past.

The next peak would be Jefferson, but by that time, I was concerned about how long this was taking me, along with the weather.  I bypassed going up to the top of Jefferson, as I did not want to do another super slow summit with major wind, feeling as I did.

I never saw the Mount Clay option, so that was bypassed also.  The conditions were so bad, that it was a pain to look at the map, or the app on my phone, or to even eat.

I trudged on toward Mount Washington, which was the next peak and roughly halfway of the Traverse.  I was completely by myself for most of this section.  Again, the weather was nasty and gettng worse.  I could hear thunder and saw lightning several was very close.  I saw a few people, but not many at all.  The higher I got toward Washington, the worse the weather was.  I finally summited Washington and had to immediately look for shelter.  It was like a major hurricane up there.  65 mph winds, rain, sleet, hail, 27 degree wind chill and sub 40 degrees.  I felt like the wind was going to knock me over at any point.  The first building I saw was some sort of major old restaurant, that no one was in..appeared to be open, but I never saw anyone.  Again, I sat in there a few minutes and collected myself.  I had to get a picture at the summit, no matter how bad the weather was.  I trudged back out there and got someone to take a few pics, of me and the RVTR flag.  It would have been funny to see me trying to maneuver the flag, in that weather.  Took me a couple of tries, to get it in the right direction.


summit of Mt Washington


summit of Mt Washington

There was another building at Mt Washington summit,that was a visitor center with food, drinks, gift shop and train depot.  (Cog Railway at Mt Washington -an old train goes straight up and down the mountain..only other way to get there, other than hiking)  I went into this place and gathered myself again.  I was chilled, even in there.  I needed some dry clothes.  I bought a sweatshirt, which helped some.

Now, I had to decide what to do.  I still had 8 miles to go, which I guess would be a minimum of 4 hours.  Exposed lightning was the biggest threat.  It is all exposed up there, and nowhere to hide from lightning.  The forecast did not look any better.  I hated to stop or quit, but did not feel safe with the lightning.  I could have toughed out the other weather, but did have the thought (for first time ever) about a possible hypothermia situation.  I also thought that it would get better, once I got off Mt Washington, to lower elevation and away from the exposed jet stream at peak.  That still did not fix the threat of getting struck by lightning and nowhere to hide from it.  I still felt good as far as my legs and endurance, etc…that was not a factor at all.  I decided to be safe and not expose myself to lightning etc for another 4 hours.  As they say here..”the mountains will be here”.  Meaning you can give it another go another time.  I got a ticket to ride the train down to the bottom, then called a taxi to take me back to the AMC.

I got a hot shower at the campsite and was immediately thrown into another big decision.  I felt good physically..I was not beat and exhausted, like I normally am, after a long run..  I assume because it was so slow?  even though I had climbed 7500 feet in 11.5 miles and out there 8 hours or so… I could not imagine laying around in the tent, when I knew I could be on the road to get back home.  I threw all the camping stuff in the car and left.  I figured I would play it by ear again and drive until I thought I needed to stop.

Again, the driving went amazingly well!  I never felt the need to get a hotel.  I drove through the night.  I took a catnap two or three times and got coffee two or three times.  I left at 7pm and got home at 1pm.   I felt good enough to take my dog to Roanoke Mountain and did not take a nap..I just went to bed early.

What an adventure….I will be back for sure.  Probably next summer.




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Seven Sisters 25K trail race-April 20, 2019

I have not done a race report in a long time, but people ask me about some of the races, or other adventures that I do, and want to hear details about them.  This is about the Seven Sisters 25K trail race in Montreat NC.  Many of you saw my Strava and Instagram posts, so the pictures are the same.

First, the Montreat and Black Mountain, NC area is a fantastic area and one of my favorite places to visit.  It is close to Asheville, in Western NC.  Just visiting Montreat and Black Mountain, without hiking the trails is amazing, but the trails and mountains are a huge part of the area.

The “Seven Sisters” are seven mountain peaks on the range in Montreat and Black Mountain.  The range is less than 4 miles, but there are 7 smaller peaks, then the “granddad of the sisters” Greybeard peak.  Greybeard tops out at 5408 feet. Greybeard information:

This is the video from Tanawha Adventures, who puts the race on.

Copy and past from above website: “The Seven Sisters 25k is a monstrous mountain of a run around the East and West ridges of the Montreat Wilderness! This route is a Western North Carolina classic, but it will be the first time it will be held as a race. Although short in distance, this route will leave you in awe at its beauty and its difficulty.

The route passes over multiple peaks and overlooks including; Lookout Rocks, Rocky Head, Graybeard, Rattlesnake Rocks, and of course the Seven Sisters themselves along the treacherous West Ridge Trail. Come prepared to run this beast!

Prior Trail Running Experience Required to Participate!

Refunds granted minus $20 up to 60 days prior to the event. No transfers/deferments at any time.”

The Numbers

Distance: 25 Kilometers….ish (15ish miles) (Garmin reads 14 miles)

Elevation Gain: ~4,000 ft (Garmin reads between 3900 and 4100)

Percentage Trail: ~95% (starts and ends on .5 paved road in Montreat)

Time Limit: 5 hours (for reference, it took me 3 hr 39 min/66th place overall out of 150 that finished/155 started/5 did not finish/40 did not show up….overall winner was 2:04)

Aid Stations: Miles ~4 (10:20am cutoff) & ~8 (11:40am cutoff)

This Trail Run Project link/app tells you all you need to about the course.  You can use GPS to follow the course, through the free app:

There was a scare before the race, that we were not going to be able to run the whole course.  The weather the day before the race was horrible, with major rain and tornado activity.  I saw one report say that Western NC had not received that much rain in over 100 years.  There was a threat of snow and freezing rain on race day.  The race director had 3 different options of what could happen.  The race was going to go on, but the worst option was a 6 mile race!  I was horrified of the chance of anything, but the full 25K loop.  Thank God the weather did not get too bad and we had the full course.  This is only the second year of this race.  The first year was shortened due to snow and ice.

I thoroughly enjoyed the race and am very happy with it.  It was not that I had a great finish time (I was middle of the pack)…it was that I had a great time, as in fun.  Between it being in the amazing Montreat/Black Mnt area, the atmosphere, the amount of technicality/climb/elevation/views and the weather, it was a perfect fit for me.  I felt great the whole way and was able to enjoy it all.   I stopped several times to take pictures, but pushed myself hard, otherwise.

It is a tough course and race.   A lot of technical trail with a lot of climbing.  I was able to do a lot of long climbing training runs/hikes recently, like Day Creek/Black Horse Gap, Priest/3 Ridges, Grandfather and Linville Gorge..I am sure that helped a lot.  While not an ultra, it runs like a mini ultra.  Does not compare to the Promise Land 50k and other ultras, that some of my friends are doing this weekend and I have done in past.  It is just hard enough and just long enough to be fun..if you know what I mean.

After .5 of pavement you enter the single track of Rainbow Road(trail) and Lookout trail.  This part has some portions that are steep wooden steps, that I did not get a picture of.  There is some of that on the video.  The rest of the course is climbing for the most part, with small descents in the mix, until you get to mile 9-top of Greybeard.  The mile 8 to 9 climb to Greybeard was the toughest part, I thought.  There were 2 small out and backs to views.  Most of the last downhill from mile 9 is very technical.  The last mile or so of trail is easy, then the last mile or so of road is super fast and easy.  I posted some pictures of the trail being very wet, but the trails were in great shape, considering the prior weather.  The wet did not slow me down much, maybe some.

The temp at the start was around 41.  I am a cold weather runner, so this was ideal for me.  On top of that, there was a light snow, in the high elevations, for around half the race… that was another ideal for me.  To start off with, I had a short sleeve shirt, a light long sleeve shirt and a Houdini shell on.  I had another Houdini in the hydration pack.  I had way too many clothes with me (4 top layers and shorts).  The theat of snow, freezing rain and cold temps caused me to over pack and wear.  I took off the Houdini and the long sleeve short after a couple miles.  I ran in short sleeve shirt and shorts the rest of the way and felt great, even though the temp may have been in the high 3Os at times.


Elevation profile of race..mile 9 was the highest peak-Greybeard 5404 feet.  Mile 9 to 12 were still very technical and not very runnable, even though down hill.  Mile 12 to 13.5 or so were smooth downhill trail.  The last .5 to 1 mile is fast downhill pavement.

You can see from the website and video, that there are several views and they can be incredible.  We had a few good views, but most of them were foggy and cloudy.  That did not make the race any less great.

While it is somewhat comparable to the GrandFurther 25K in Boone NC, it is not as technical as that course.  A lot of this is runnable, if you have the endurance to climb that much while running technical trail.  I averaged around a 15 minute pace.

I highly highly recommend the race and make sure you take the weekend to spend some time in Montreat and Black Mountain.  Trailhead Restaurant/bar, Dripolater coffeehouse, Take a Hike outdoor store, Epic Cycles bike shop and Vertical Runner running store (where packet pickup was) is a few of the local places that we have been to and like a lot.  There are a few breweries and Cider places…Pisgah, Black Mountain and Lookout, to name a few.  Maria did a nice 20 mile bike ride, while I was racing, called the North Fork.  Sunday, we did a short ride into Montreat and back.  We would have done the Town and Country bike ride, but the storm had caused an issue on that route.

The one negative is that the registration shirt was awful, for me.  Please do a graphic of the 7 Sisters plus Greybeard mountain range, next time, RD.  We did get a nice pair of 7 Sister logo (just the words) socks as a finisher award.


Maria took the finish pics.




Uwharrie Mountain Run Feb 2016

Pre race comments:  I have been interested in this race for at least a couple of years, after hearing a few people talk about how great of a race it is.  It has always been hard to get into, before this year, due to prior years being a lottery.  I had entered the lottery at least once, but didn’t get in. This year, the registration was first come first serve.  I had seen a Facebook post the morning that registration was going to open and knew it would sell out in minutes.  I got my phone and credit card ready for 9 am opening, and successfully got in!

They have a 40, 20 and 8 mile option.  I decided to do the 20.  I could finish the 40 and probably do ok, but I am not trained for that…plus it was too close to the ultra I did in January.

I have had a very successful training year since Fall, so I am more than ready for this race.  I did just do an Ultra marathon 3 weeks prior to this race date, a tough 10k the week before that, plus a tough deep snow hike two weeks prior to the race I hope my legs aren’t tired.

Goal: It’s hard to set a goal on a course that you have never done before.  I’ll set my aggressive goal for a 10:30 pace, which puts me at a time of 3:30.  I’ll be happy with an 11 min pace, as a less aggressive goal.  The race starts at 8am, so I should finish between 11:30 and 12 noon

This will be a great experience, since its a new race to me, I have heard a lot of great things about the race and my mom will be there to see me finish.  That’s a first and she is excited.  It is near Asheboro, NC and near where I grew up…around 3 hours from Roanoke, Va, where I live now. I was always fascinated by the Uwharrie National Forest area.


Here is the race website:



Post race comments:

This was the best race that I have ever done.  I don’t mean my performance…I am talking about the race itself.  Everything from the way it is was put on, the pre race dinner, the trails, where it is it, etc.  The local Mountain Junkie races in Roanoke, Va area are the best as well, but this race was a destination type race.

Where do I start?  The pre race dinner was held at The Exchange Friday evening, a nice banquet place in downtown Asheboro.  The early packet pick up was there, as well.  I got there at 5pm and was immediately impressed with everything.  I got my bib, which said Uwharrie Mountain Run and 20 mile on it.  The shirt was very nice as well.  It is a green long sleeve technical shirt.


Altra was one of the sponsors of the race.  They brought a ton of shoes, a flag, and small giveaways to the pre race dinner.  It was pretty impressive.


The big banquet room was done very nice.  They had several round tables with tablecloths and past pottery medals on the table for viewing.  The food was the best layout I have seen for a dinner.  The food/drinks available was spaghetti, lasagna, salad, bread, steamed vegetables, cheesecake, craft beer from kegs, and wine.

On to race day..The parking is separate from the start, due to limited space.  We all parked across the street from the El Dorado Outpost.  Here is the sunrise from that morning.


It was crazy cold!  I don’t know the temp, but I was surprised how cold it was..and I usually love the cold.  We were shuttled to the start of race/trailhead on a bus.  The 20 mile race started at 8am.  They gave us plastic drop bags that would be left at the end of the 20 mile (and turnaround for the 40 mile racers).  This race is an out and back for the 40 milers and a point to point for the 20 mile racers.  I did the 20 mile, as you know.  The race starts at a small trailhead area.  They had a campfire going on this cold day!  I had shorts, 3 layers of shirts, a beanie and gloves on.  I knew the 3 layers of shirts was too much, but the start was so cold, that I would not pass up the warmth for awhile.

The race started on a road at the trailhead, but we were only on the road for a few yards, before it went straight into single track.  This was THE SLOWEST race start I have ever experienced.  The single track went straight up  rutty technical trail, at the beginning.  All of the runners were jammed up big time…so, I was walking immediately.  We slowly started running a tenth of a mile in, so I started passing people after that.  I really should have started close to the front of the pack.  That first mile was well over a 13 minute pace, which I wasn’t counting on having any miles over 13 minutes..ugh!



The course was fantastic!  100% perfect single track through woods, with tons of big creek crossings, lots of downed trees, a little mucky mud, some rocky spots and some technical parts.  I assume that they were not allowed to put signs or tape up to make sure we went the right way.  There were a couple of tricky parts, in which it was easy to go the wrong way..but you quickly figured out that you missed a turn and had to go back.  At one point, it looked like you should cross a creek, which another guy and I did, but we didn’t see a trail or white blazes (which the trail is all white blazes) we turned around and found the right way.



I had heard someone say, before the race, that mile 16 was tough.  That turned out to be very true.  Mile 16 to 18 was pretty darn tough.  It had the biggest climbs and most technical, small, twisty trail.  You could not get any speed going at all.

I felt great the whole way.  I realized quickly that this course was much tougher than I had expected it to be.  I also realized that I would not even make my non aggressive goal of an 11 min overall pace.  I was totally fine with that, since the course was tougher than I thought.  Now I know!

My original aggressive goal finish time was 3:30.  I ended up finishing at 3:50, which I am happy with.  My pace was around an 11:17 or so min per mile.

When I got to the finish, my mom and her husband were waiting for me.  They had been waiting around 1.5 hours.  That was the first time she had seen me race.  She was pretty excited.


They give you a piece of pottery as a finishers award.  This is really nice.  On the bottom, it is engraved with the name of the race and 25th anniversary.



I love this race!  I hope to be able to do it every year.  Everything about it was just awesome.

My Strava readout:


I finished 42nd place out of 195 runners on the 20 mile run…Top 22%!  See link:

photos of me in the race

Thanks to the friends and family that cheered and supported me during this race.


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Trail Nut 10k

This race always comes at a bad time…’s always the week after Blue Ridge Marathon or Promise Land.  I rested all last week , in hopes that I would recover enough to run the 10k at a decent pace.

I had originally registered for the half, but decided to step down to the 10k…due to running Promise Land last week. I had never ran this 10k before, so I really didn’t have much to base a goal time on.  I have ran the half twice.   I decided a goal would be 55 minutes, based on other’s past performances.

I felt fine before the race, but you never know…especially after doing a tough 50K 7 days before.  I ran hard for around 2 miles, but quickly realized that I did not have it.  I had nothing.  I slowed down, then slowed down some more.   I walked a lot.  It was pretty pitiful…for me.  I was just trying to get it over with and finish it.  My early hopes were to place, then by mid race I just wanted the completion points. It was really frustrating, but I made the best of it.  I crossed the line at 1:08 or so and everyone could see the frustration on my face.

I went back down to the trail to cheer in the half marathoners.   When they started finishing, I congratulated them at the finish line. That and hanging out with everyone, was the fun part of the day.

I finished last in my age group and both of my main competitors beat me, but they were 5th and 6th.

The usuals still did great, like Tabitha (second oa female), Robert (first AG despite PL legs) and Doug Falls (second Ag).  Carla Cross made her first MJ race this year.  She placed third in the half!

I have a month to recover until the next race, which is Conquer the Cove 25k or marathon…I have not decided yet. It depends on how I am feeling, the weather and the competition.

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Promise Land 50K trail race April 25 2015

Promise Land 50K++ (34+ miles) of tough mountain trails..LOTS of climbing..technical..and beautiful.  This is arguably the toughest/best 50K on the East coast.

Look at the major climbing and elevation change!



This was my first 50K, back in 2012, when only barely trained up for a half marathon level.  After that 2012 race, my ankles and hip flexors were absolutely trashed and hurting bad.  I was happy just to finish the 2012 race under the 10 hour cutoff.  I think I ended up with a 9:20 or so time.

Moving forward to 2015.  I was still not trained up for this.  I trained off and on the last part of 2014 at the 13 to 16 mile level.  2015 has mostly consisted of racing, resting, tapering and resting again, so no real training at all.  But…that is basically how I roll.  I tough out these ultras on half marathon level training.

My goal for this race was 8 hours, but realistically I was predicting around an 8:30 time.  My prediction was based off of the other ultras I did this year.  My time at Terrapin was 7:28, so I figured to add roughly an hour for the 4 extra miles (as Terrapin had lots of climbing, as well).  I was also worried about my legs recovering and feeling strong for this race.  I have done too many back to back races, without much recovery time.  This will be my fourth ultra in 4 months, plus a 15 mile race, a 10 mile race, and a few 10ks.  The 10ks were even extremely tough ones!  I had a few decent training runs since November, but not many.


This race is/was exciting for several different reasons.  First, it is an exciting race by itself, due to the toughness, atmosphere, reputation and beauty.  This is pretty much a bucket list type race for the East coast, anyway.  We camped out at the race site, the night before.  Camping out there is an absolute must do.  There is a big grassy field that everyone parks and sets their tents up at.  Another reason it was exciting was that 2 of my best friends were doing their first ultra…Sara Martin and Robert Drinkwater.  I was very excited for them.  It was also Brian Lang’s first ultra.

Other friends that raced were Dru Sexton, Josh Gilbert, James Decker, Matt Prescott, David Landes and Caleb Johnson.  Gina Gilbert was there crewing and supporting us all day!

Race start at 5:30am!  I slept ok and got up at 4:30.  I didn’t habe coffee, which is an extrem rarity for me.  It was in the low 40s I think   I had shorts, a short sleeve shirt and a long sleeve shirt on.  I ended up tying the king sleeve shirt around my waist for most of the day.  The weather is extremely unpredictable here, especially at the different elevations.


The race starts at the camp and goes up a gravel road for less than 3 miles.  We hit single track after that.  There is some climbing, but then you hit an extremely nice part..smooth trail, grassy with views and very little climbing.  You climb some more.  Early in the race and depending on where we were on elevation, it was sleeting!  Yet, it was relatively warm while sleeting..odd.  A technical beating downhill is next..then a good stretch of road going downhill.  You are now at the lowest point at mile 20.  You know there is lots of climbing left.

From mile 12sh to mile 30 is called the “Dark Side”.  You can see why on the map.  I had totally forgot how hard mile 20 to 30 is, especially with 20-mile-tired-legs.  This part is going to Apple Orchard Falls and the climb after that.  It is very very technical and lots of climbing.  This is part of what makes this race what it is beautiful, but comes with a price.  I thought I had a chance at a sub 8 race until I got to this part.  I was painfully slow.  There was a group of 3 college age kids that was near me.  One girl (that looked very strong earlier) kept bending over like she was going to puke.  Her 2 friends kept waiting up for her, but finally left her after the falls.

At some point, later in the race, it got really cold.  It had been light raining off and on all day.  I had tied my long sleeve shirt around my waist.  I put it on for the rest of the race.

At times the race felt like a death march.  It was brutally slow (for me) and just flat out tough.  Words cannot really describe how hard that Apple Orchard Falls portion is.  People and myself were moaning and groaning in this section near Apple Orchard Falls.  There was more water coming over the falls than I have ever seen.

We went through Cornelius Gap aid station twice in the middle of the race.  It was great to see Helen MacDermott there volunteering and smiling.

These 2 videos give you a small taste of the Apple Orchard Falls section.

I FINALLY made it to mile 30..I had a couple small climbs left, then all down hill on a gravel road to the finish.  My sub 8 hour time was long out of reach, but I finished before the 8:30 time that I figured I would be around.

Gina was waiting for me at end of the road..see below picture.  I don’t look too tired and miserable :).

Sara, Robert and Dru were waiting for me at the finish line…always nice to have a reception.


My garmin report:

Patagonia finisher shorts! (anyone that finished under 10 hours)


Sara and Robert did outstanding.  Sara was right at the 7 hour mark and Robert was a little behind her.  I was extremely happy for Sara and Robert.

Josh was the fastest I think at well under 6 hours.  David Landes had a great race at a little over 6. Everyone did well.  I am by far the “caboose” of our Mountain Junkie group.  I think I was 45 minutes behind the second to last person in our group.  I hate that they have to wait on me…and do not expect it.  I do appreciate it though.  It is a little humbling to finish 2 plus hours behind a few of my friends (not all of them by any means), but that is how good they are and how average I am.

I always feel like it is a success just to finish this race.  There is so much that can happen.

Another great (pure) adventure and one for the books.

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Mill Mountain Mayhem 10K trail race April 11 2015

This was my fourth time doing this race.  This is a VERY tough trail 10K race.  The toughest that I know of. It takes place on Mill Mountain in Roanoke, which is next to the downtown area.  Mill Mountain is Roanoke’s version of Central Park in New York.  The race goes up up and up, corkscrewing to the top of the mountain, where the Star is, then it comes crashing down to the finish.  It is roughly 4 miles or more of up hill and 2 or less of downhill.  The downhill is extremely technical!

My time last year was 58:03, which was my best time ever.  I placed third in age group last year.
2013 I was 6th place in age group with a 58:36 time
2012 I was 8th place in age group with a 1:04:00 time

Leading up to the race last week, my legs felt dead. I guess all of the heavy racing has caught up with me. I tried to run last Monday, and just did not have it. I ran 2 miles, then walked 2 miles on that training run. Unheard of! I rested the rest of the week, hoping that I could be strong for this race.
We did a test run last Saturday. I felt ok, but my time was a little over a hour! Ugh. 2 minutes off of my race time last year.

I hoped to at least beat out the top competitors in my age group for RNUTS.  If I could do that and have a close time to last year, then that would be a relative success.

When the race started and going up the first hill, I could tell I wasn’t as strong as normal, but I kept going.  The race corkscrews up around 4 miles or more, then it comes crashing down for the finish.  I finally got to the top at the Star, and was so happy to be able to go down from there.  I finished strong with a 58:21 time.  Just a few seconds slower than last year.  I am relatively happy with that, considering all of the ultras I have done this year and the tired legs.

I was most happy about beating my 3 closes RNUTS competitors (at this point).  Other competitors may rise, as some have not done as many races.  So, I met my minimum goal.  I really wanted a 57:30 time, but just did not have it this year…maybe next year.

It is amazing that I placed 3rd in AG last year with a 58:03, but was 9th in AG this year with a 58:21.  What a difference in the AG!  My AG also had the most participants in it.  Four from my AG made the top 20 overall, but none place in top 3 overall or got Masters.  I thought I would have gotten at least 5th, in predicting before the race, but I was way off.

Friends that did well:  Matt Togo in his first MJ race in several years was 5th in my AG.   Karen Dillon got 3rd AG.  Tabitha Walker got Masters.  Doug Falls got 2nd AG.  HT Page got third overall.  James Decker got Masters in his first event eligible for a Master.  Congrats to them.

MMM1               MMM3






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Pilot Mountain Payback half marathon trail race March 28 2015

Some friends and myself raced this last week for the first time.
This race is run at Pilot Mountain, which is around 2 hours south of Roanoke. It is near Mount Airy, NC and just off I-77.
Pilot mountain has a very unique looking mountain top. The mountain itself makes the race very appealing.

PMP2                      PMP3

This is the website of the group that runs it:, but the registration this year was on this website:
The race has 2 options. The full is 24 miles. The “heavy half” is 15 miles.

PMP                                     pmp7

The organization of the race was pretty poor in general. The website and the registration site had 2 different starting times listed. One said an 8am start time, the other said a 9am start time. The race director is horrible about answering emails or phone calls. I had registered for this race last year, but it was moved to a different date, due to snow. They had said that I could transfer my registration to either the rescheduled race or the race this year. I chose to move it to this year. I kept emailing and calling the race director to verify that I was in and to put my name on the list, but he was not replying. I worded the title of the next email in a way that demanded an answer. He finally answered.
The exact address of where the race started was not posted until 1 or 2 days before the race. Before that the address very vaguely.
The mileage was not listed on the website. It just said marathon and heavy half.
We got to the race on race day and we were not on the participant list. The so called race director was not there, but the people were very nice and put us in the race.

Now that I have told you the bad parts, the rest of it was great. I liked the course. It was well marked. Most of the aid stations were not manned. Most were just a cooler with cups for self service. I was ok with this. There were a couple manned aid stations with food. The volunteers were doing a great job.

The race started at Horne Creek Farm, which is near Pilot Mountain State Park in Pinnacle, NC. With that being said, I think the beginning and ending may change some, based on the weather and what the state park has going on. The race is an out and back. The course goes around 8 miles on rolling small hilly trail, then up the mountain, to the top, then back on the same trail. The first and last mile or so was road. The bridle trail was the the next 6 miles, after the road. It was similar to Chestnut Ridge Trail or Four Gorge at Carvins Cove, except it was a “tamer” version of those. Not as much climbing, the trail was smoother, and it was a much wider trail. I thought it was a great trail. It was easier to pass people, if you need to.

There are a few creek crossings and at least one of them was fairly wide and deep.

The half marathon goes 7.5 miles on the bridle trail. You turn around at a gravel parking lot and go back the way you came. The marathoners head on toward Pilot Mountain.

I could see Pilot Mountain from the half marathon trail.  It was beautiful.  It made me wish I had done the full.

My legs were so tired from doing a 50K the Saturday before this.  I was zapped at mile 8 or so.  I trudged to the finish.

I would do this race again, but I would definitely do the full.

Friends that also raced this were as follows:  Rebecca and Jonathan Adcock, Karen Dillon, Sara Martin, Robert Drinkwater and HT Page.

This was Sara’s first marathon!  I was excited for her.  She ended up winning it!  She passed 2 men near the end.  Phenomenal.  Robert wasn’t far behind her and ended up fourth.  Great job to them.

HT was second overall in the half.  Karen did great in the half as well.  The Adcocks took their time on the full and enjoyed it.