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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: https://www.summitpost.org/graybeard-mountain/755613

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

https://www.tanawhaadventures.com/7sisters25k

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:

https://www.trailrunproject.com/trail/7024275/7-sisters-25k?utm_medium=widget&utm_source=https://www-tanawhaadventures-com.filesusr.com/html/7462e4_91580ceb6f8859dcb4a45845bbd2c157.html

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.

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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.

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Maria took the finish pics.

 

 

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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 date..so 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: http://www.uwharriemountainrun.com

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http://www.uwharriemountainrun.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/UMR-event_map1.pdf

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 http://theexchangenc.com/?page_id=10, 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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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)..so we turned around and found the right way.

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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.

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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.

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

My Strava readout: https://www.strava.com/activities/487300285

 

I finished 42nd place out of 195 runners on the 20 mile run…Top 22%!  See link: http://www.uwharriemountainrun.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/UWHARRIE-2016-20-RESULTS.pdf

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…..it’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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Montvale 10 mile trail race March 14 2015

This is arguably my favorite race…..just something about it…the winding trails that you get to see other racers so much, the length, the atmosphere, the “regulars” are usually there, the park, the wide open finish, the creek and log bridge, and it’s usually a heated finish

PRE Race information:

This is my history on this race:  I have always done the 10 miler.

2014 1:27:58

2013 1:29:40

2012 1:40:18 Third place in Age Group (first ever race longer than a 10K)

http://www.mountainjunkies.net/Montvale.htm

I am registered for the 10 miler again, but am actually considering the 5 miler.  I am considering the 5 miler, as it will help me get more points for the RNUTS series.  It looks like I could place first overall age group, considering who is registered so far.  I am doing a tough ultra 7 days later, so that is a factor as well.

POST race information:

I stuck with the 10 miler..

Everyone kept saying it was going to be muddy, but I really did not think much of it.  We have had “muddy” races before and that usually means some water logged grassy areas near the beginning and end or one small part of the race.  Most of the MJ race trails hold up well in the water.  Well, I really missed on that thought process.  This race was very muddy.  This race was VERY slick.  This was by far the slickest race I have done, by far.  I was truly lucky to have stayed upright.  We do 2 loops of 5sh miles on this race.  We could tell on the first loop that the second loop was going to be a doozy.  I felt great the whole race.  I probably started too fast, but I never really got that tired.  I did slow down the last few miles, but that was mainly due to the mud.  The slick mud was just not very runnable at all.  Most of was on an incline…it was pretty dangerous.  I ran with Brian Walters for around 5 miles.  He is 55sh I guess, so he is 2 age groups above me.  Brian is a very strong runner.  He was right behind me for those first few miles.  I kept waiting for him to pass me.  He finally did around mile 6 and finished a couple a minutes ahead of me.

I had scouted out my competition in my age group before the race.  I knew that Tim Miller would beat me by a lot.  There was another guy named Tim Coleman that could beat me, based on his time 2 or 3 years ago.  I was hoping for third plus had to beat Mack McGee.  Mack is a runner that I know I am better than, but he did get me at the end of the last race, EYL.

I started off ahead of Mack and stayed a good distance ahead of him the whole way.  I never saw Tim Miller and I don’t know Tim Coleman.

I got within sight of the finish and started getting a cramp in my right calf…what??  I am very good for this distance and more.  I don’t know why I started cramping.  With everyone watching (more or less), I stopped and stretched the calf for a second, then ran on in.  Weird!

I finished a hair over 1 hour and 30 minutes.  I was 2 minutes slower than my best time from last year, but the mud was a huge factor.  I could have easily beat my best time this year, under good conditions.

I checked the finish list and was surprised to see a 1 beside my name!  I was FIRST in my age group!  Tim Miller had placed in masters and I had beat Tim Coleman by a good bit.

I am happy with this race and my performance in adverse conditions.

On to Terrapin Mountain 50K next week!

Garmin readout for the race: https://connect.garmin.com/activity/720666855

The RNUTS standings were updated soon after.  I am in second place in age group right now.  I beat the leader the first race, Frozen Toe.   He beat me the second race, Explore Your Limits, which I think I am a better runner and just had a relatively bad race.  He placed first in the 5 miler for this race, Montvale.  I could have beat him in the 5 miler.  The pressure is on to beat him in the Mill Mountain Mayhem race.

 

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Humble Creek trail race 10K January 24, 2015

This race wasn’t in my plan…..2 weeks ago I won a door prize at the Frozen Toe race. The door prize was a free registration to the inaugural Humble Creek 5k/10k trail race. I had heard about the race on Facebook. Blue Ridge Trail Runners (Lynchburg trail running group) put it on. The race is in Altavista, which is about 90 minutes away. That Saturday morning was free, so I thought I might as well do it, if someone would go with me. Eian Cork said he would go. The weather was sleet the day before the race and supposed to be cold, wet and frozen the day of.

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Wow..this was a tough 10k. Arguably the toughest 10K I have done. The first 3 miles seemed like a lot of short steep hills with no recovery periods. This was on farmland and was mainly open pasture with major major mud. I don’t know if me doing a 50K 7 days prior was a factor, but I was sucking wind big time…for the first 3 miles. I had to walk part of several of the hills and the mud slowed us all down. The last 3 miles were much easier. The finish times were indicative of the toughness of the course. My time was 1:02…wow. That is a slow 10k time for me. That is roughly 9 minutes off of my Frozen Toe 10K time from 2 weeks ago. Eian Cork did much better than me on this race, but was still roughly 6 minutes off of his Frozen Toe time. This was a small race. I finished 18th overall and placed third in a 10 year age group. I think I got passed by both guys in my AG, the last half of the race.
The race was very well organized and the food layout and awards were awesome.
While, I appreciate and respect the great job they did by putting the race together, I did not like the course at all. This was mostly pasture and a little gravel road, double track. I prefer woods and single track trails. I can’t see me doing this race again. I am sure some people would love it, but it’s not for me. I can see a beginner and an Altavista area person liking this race.
This is the first climb:

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My garmin readout:
http://connect.garmin.com/activity/682428252

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Tsali Frosty Foot 50k trail race January 17, 2015

http://www.active.com/robbinsville-nc/running/trail-run-races/frosty-foot-trail-races-2015

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PRE race information:
I will be doing this ultramarathon/50k race this Saturday. I had wanted to do it last year, but it was cancelled due to the government shutdown. This race is held on the Tsali Trail System, which is a National Forest and on Federal land, so they cancelled it last year. The race has 3 different loops that goes around Fontana Lake, which is in Western NC (Robbinsville area) and just south of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
I am setting a goal of 6.5 hours. I find it really had to set a goal without running it before. It is roughly 30 miles and does not appear to be much climbing and elevation change.

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Travel and accommodations information.
Travel info:
We left Roanoke, VA (home) around noon on Friday. We stopped in Asheville, NC, on the way, and got the packet.
Nice bib, beanie and Pear Izumi arm sleeves.

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Accommodations info: We stayed at the Microtel in Robbinsville. We didn’t realize that the race is in between Bryson City and Robbinsville. The race address is Robbinsville, so we booked a place there. We were disappointed in the Robbinsville Microtel. For anyone doing this race, or visiting the area, I recommend the Bryson City Microtel over the Robbinsville one! We switched to the Bryson City one the second night. I got a good nights rest and arrived for the race.
Race day, race and post race info:
The temperature was in the low 30s, but the forecast called for a high of mid to low 50s.
I didn’t want to overdress, but I put 3 layers in , knowing I would have to stash or carry a shirt or two for much of the race.
We were off and running around 8:32 or so.
As expected, the trails were beautiful. The views of the lake were wonderful.
The course was steady rolling hills of wooded trails near the lake. I ran well for 15 miles or so. I did 13 in 2:30. I started wearing down after that and had to hike a lot of the remaining miles. I ran when I could, but was more comfortable hiking, with the energy level I had. I finally got to the third and final aid station at mile 23.
At that last aid station, I noticed that the guy manning the aid station had a ‘Canary in the Cave 25k’ hat on. I told him that I ran that race. He said he was the director of it. He was happy to hear that. I, then, noticed they had a bottle of Brandy and Schapps sitting out with a shot glass. They offered me some gatorade, snacks and a shot of liquor. I thought that was pretty funny…I took a picture of the liquor. I usually don’t drink liquor, but I had to this time..just because. I took a half a shot of brandy.
I actually felt better after that aid station, for 3 miles or so. I had 7 plus to go, though. My wife and I had exchanged a few texts. She was going to meet me a couple of miles from the finish line. I ran into the race director with around 2.5 miles left. He was just checking in people. I ran into my wife soon after. She ran/walked with me the rest of the way and carried my extra shirt and water bottle. It was great to haver her support and company the whole trip. I crossed the finish line at 6:37. That was 7 minutes short of my goal. That time isn’t bad, considering my lack of long distance training, the last couple of months. With some decent training, I could easily do this race in under 6, if not 5:30. They gave out a nice keychain as a finisher award. It was a fantastic race and I would do it again.

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We went out that night. Most of the nicer restaurants were shut down for the off season, but we found a nice place to eat in Waynesville. The Bourbon Barrel Ale. Maria spent the day in Bryson City, while I was racing. She had a great time visiting the shops and talking to the people. I got a feel for the city through her and by visiting it some later that night and the next morning. It is a fantastic little town. It is very outdoors with a lot of personality. I got the feel that it is on the brink of growing a lot more in popularity. It is already a very bustling place in the spring through fall. The night after the race and after eating, we had a beer at Nantahala Brewing. This was a very cool place with great atmosphere. I highly recommend it.
A younger crowd (late 20s) of 7 or so guys and girls were at the brewery. They approached me and asked if I did the race. They had seen me stretching in the parking lot, from the stiffness in my quads. They had all done the races, as well. Only one of them had done the 50k. We were sharing stories. They had been at that last aid station, waiting on their friend, when I went through. They remembered me and that I took that shot. They made a big deal out of it. We all laughed about it.
My Garmin readout:
http://connect.garmin.com/activity/682428300


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2014 adventure recap

I am seeing a lot of my adventurous friends post their miles and workout numbers for the year of 2014. I am interested to see and compare them all. Everyone is different. Some do less running miles, but more bike miles, or core workouts, for example. I did not keep track of my miles this year. I have kept track of them for months at a time, but never stuck with it. There are apps that easily help you keep up with it. I’ll have to decide today, if I am going to keep up my miles this year or not.
I do keep track of my races and big adventures. I am proud of them.
Here is a list of the races and big adventures I did in 2014.
First, here is my 2014 races:

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Starting from the bottom, the Frozen Toe 10k trail race, the Explore Your Limits 10k trail race, the Montvale 10 mile trail race, the Mill Mountain Mayhem 10k trail race and the Conquer the Cove 25k trail race were all part of the Mountain Junkies RNuts race series. I competed in every race and got third place in my age group for the series.
I also did the Into the Darkness 4 mile trail race n October. Into the Darkness is Mountain Junkies race, but not a RNuts series race.
I did four other races, other than the Mountain Junkie races. I completed the Willis River 50k trail race, the Blue Ridge Marathon road race (toughest road marathon in the country), the Highlands Sky 40 mile trail race and the Canary in the Cave 25k/18mile trail race. ALL of these are fantastic races and experiences. I highly recommend them.
My big non race 2014 adventures, as I don’t count day hikes or short camping trips, are as follows:
Backpacked the entire 70 plus miles of the Appalachian Trail portion of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with 3 friends, in one 4 day trip.
I also kayaked 23 miles of the James River with friends, in one day.

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Next post is my 2015 adventure plan!