WEEK 17 – An Ending with Newness

How fitting is this?

During this last weekend of my training, I spent the time introducing others to the trails of North Georgia. Saturday, I spent the morning trail running with a friend at Kennesaw Mountain. Because mountain trails tend to be more difficult than road running, It took us a lot longer than I think he expected, but he covered about 10 miles with me – both walking and running – and I was happy to have shown him something new and participate in a new experience with my friend.

Sunday, my wife and I headed out the Appalachian Approach Trail at Amicalola Falls. We hiked the famous AT approach trail for about 1.5 miles to the top of the Amicalola Falls. This hike is rated difficult-to-strenuous and my wife was a little worried.

She did great! We marched up to the Falls, then descended the 425 steps to the platform below the falls, took some pictures, had people take pictures of us, and then it was back up the 425 steps to the top of the falls. I offered to buy her a new purse if she made it all the way up the 425 steps without any negativity.

She now owns a new fancy purse.

But, more than a new purse, or nice waterfalls, the trip brought us a little closer together. It’s such a “forehead slapper” when you realize just how important and special this one-on-one time can be for any relationship. It’s all in the experience. Going to dinner. Going to a movie. Going to the store. These are not experiences. My wife my disagree and say that going anywhere with me is an experience, but that’s more of a negative, “he’s just a goofy guy”-kind of experience.

Kissing and hugging your wife atop a wooden bridge, in the middle of a mountain, on a dusty ol’ trail, is an experience.

The kind of experience that sticks…

So what does this have to do with my 50-mile+ training? Not a thing.

Week 17 became less about me, and more about those around me.

There’s a sort lesson in all this somewhere, but I’m now too nervous to contemplate it much right now. Instead, I am shaking in my New Balances, knowing that in three days, I’m off to Virginia with the belief that I can run 50 miles, actually 54-ish miles, on my own, through the mountains, in less than 12 hours.

Please think good thoughts for me. I need all the support I can find.

Also, more donations have arrived this week and I appreciate each and everyone of them. I like to make sure everyone knows that all of this money goes to the kids. …none of the money supports my race. Instead, the race was the vehicle I used to get the attention.

Now I gotta run it.

WEEK 16 – Tapering is hard

Sheeesh, not only is tapering hard, it’s got to be the least interesting part of endurance training. If you are new to my training experience blog, might I suggest some more interesting entries such as the Laurel Valley 40-mile experience or my recent post about some of the lessons I am learning from this training grind and quest for a 50-mile race finish.

Twenty miles at Kennnesaw Mountain

The highlight of this week’s training was a 20-miler at Kennesaw Mountain. On the second loop, I ran across 3-4 separate incidents of deer. Each time, the deer were very close – usually right on the trail in front me – and only moved a short distance as we approached. I guess with the runners and hikers at this particular mountain trail system, the deer have become conditioned to human beings and less fearful. This is good or bad, depending on who you talk to, but I love being able to see such creatures and share some nature with them.

I get a very significant ‘lift’ in my spirits when I see wild animals in nature. A little stir of excitement, fear, wonder, amazement, interest – a sensory and emotional explosion.

I know the whole population control argument, but I just can’t see how someone could shoot a deer …or anything for that matter. There presence is almost magic to me and find myself very interested in them.

…Next week will be my last entry before the race…

WEEK 15 – $3005 Raised!!!

So, I just couldn’t stand it.

As I was penning the check for Project Kids Eat, I realized it was time for ME to donate. I added $130 bucks to the donation pool so that I could proudly offer a donation check of $3,000 to Project Kids Eat.

Wow, what a feeling!

With the help of everyone who donated, we are now able to provide hot, healthy holiday meals for children of need in the metro Atlanta area. Just like that. A little running, a little web site building, a little emailing, a little groveling, and BAM – worthy kids get some much needed assistance. For a dude who doesn’t necessarily have a history of mountains of philanthropy, this feels pretty good. Perhaps it’s a sign of things to come from me. One can only hope.

BUT… I still have a race to run.

I ran a trail 10K (6.2 miles) through some interesting trails on private property in Redding, GA in support of Camp Grace, an at-risk youth summer camp. Yet another Christian faith association that probably has just about everyone who knows me scratching their heads and wondering if I have become religious.

Christian crossing the finish at the Redding Race for Camp Grace 10K

Crossing the finish at the hilly, Redding Race for Camp Grace 10K

Nope. It’s still me. It just seems that a lot of the giving and character-building activities in which I participate are faith-based. I envy people who can seem to believe in something wholeheartedly and not let logic and science get in the way – it appears to be a very relaxing and peaceful existence. I’m just not there. …but I do enjoy helping people and working on personal improvement …and shoots, even sitting in church with my wife from time to time listening to the messages. I don’t do any singing (and the church should be pleased about this), but I do like to think and more so, to be intellectually challenged. The preachers messages create this thinking challenge for me that many times lasts throughout the week.

But I digress… back to the training:

I have peaked in my training and now it becomes an exercise at staying in shape and not losing the strength and endurance gains I obtained over the last 5 months.

When I think about running 50 miles, it all just sort of seems surreal. They say you run the first have of ultramarathons with your legs, and the second half with your heart, and this may be true; but for me to be successful I have run both “halves” of the race within very tight time constraints. My heart will need to be far stronger than my legs.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for your donations, well wishes, comments, emails, letters …etc. It all means a lot to me. I just hope that you’ll mark your calendars for November 3, 2007, and send some positive vibes my way throughout the day. I will need them.

p.s.

It’s still not too late to donate. I am keeping the donation site live for last minute donations to Project Kids Eat. Every penny goes to kids. I do not use donations for any race training, preparation or participation. It’s all for kids.

Two week to go…

WEEK 14 – Winding down is tough

As I come into the final weeks of 50-mile training, the long runs become less long; and I enter the taper phase, allowing my body ample rest before the big race.

Problem is, I’m not a big fan of rest. I get antsy wanting to continually push myself.

——

On another note, I ran the GAC Frog Hollow 5K in support of my step-son’s school. This year I won my division, 35-39 year olds, which was is kind of exciting, even for such a small race. Having my family there and getting the family props felt pretty good and It felt extra special when Austin, my step-son, desired to wear my medal around the festival.

On the way to the race, my wife remembered that she has to stay at the festival to participate in the bake sale and that I have no ride home after the race. Doh! — so, what’s an endurance runner to do?

That’s right, run home.

I skarfed a quick plate of eggs and fruit at the “country breakfast” area, signed up for a few silent auction items, and then hit the street for another hot, humid, 7.5 miles home.

We did it!

I am pleased to announce that we not only met, but exceeded, our goal to raise $2500.00 for Project Kids Eat. Sunday, I will present a check to an organization representative for $2,825.00.

  • 10/9 correction: another $5.00 slid in making the total for Sunday, $2,830.00 – thanks, Ben.
  • 10/13 correction: another $40.00 peaked in. New total, $2870.00 – thanks, Anna

Thanks to everyone who shared some bucks so that homeless children could have a wonderful holiday of hot meals and proper nutrition. For many of us, it’s a given — for some, a daily struggle.

For all those that would still like to donate, I am keeping the donation relationship going with PayPal, allowing people to continue to donate up until, and even after, my 50-mile attempt.

WEEK 13 – Mo’ Mountains, Mo’ hills

Have you ever heard of a city in Georgia called Berkeley Lake?

Me neither. But it’s only a hilly 5 mile trot from my house. I spent Sunday evening climbing hill after hill after hill, while I explored this little nook of a city tucked neatly between Norcross, GA and Duluth, GA. It seems the entire community is built around the actual lake …obviously, Berkeley Lake.

As I ran, I noticed a large contrast between the ‘old school’ residents, with their humble, ranch homes and established neighborhoods, and the new Atlanta, with ridiculously large, multi-million dollar homes with security gates, limited trees and masonry excess. Can you tell who I root for? I just dislike seeing a bunch of trees removed so that someone can have four garages instead of two, but that’s a completely different discussion… The area was beautiful and had an old south feel that made me very comfortable.

Saturday, it was back to Appalachian approach trail running from Amicalola Falls to Springer Mountain, the official beginning of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia. This is always a heavy run for me because you can just feel the spirits. So many dreams, so many personal challenges, so many souls have made this journey and I think everyone leaves a little bit of themselves each time they visit such intense nature. At least I feel comfort in believing this is the case.

I arrived at the Falls at 6:00 a.m. and thus, ran the first hour and a half in the dark. I had a headlamp, which does a pretty good job of lighting the trail, but I still fell pretty bad twice. Nothing beats you up more than falling on dirt and rocks. A little blood and a bruised ego ran along with me until sunrise.

I was happy to finally switch off that headlamp and with the morning sunrise, so did my spirits. I was a new man.

I got to the halfway point of my run, Springer Mountain, with a little extra time, so I proceeded on down the actual AT trail itself for a little ways before turning around to head back. I ran for almost 5 hours on Saturday, covering almost 20 miles. The weather was perfect. Unlike the last time I made it to Springer Mountain, the skies were clear and you could see for forever.

I took a moment to sign the guest book hidden in a little metal box in the rock, sat for a little while to soak in the mountaintop, and then gathered myself for another 2.5 hours running on the trail back the way I came.

Another sensory explosive experience on the Appalachian. I highly recommend it to anyone – whether running, or just hiking the trails, you will be glad you experienced it.

Lastly, I’d be remiss not to mention that during the training week, I once again made my 4.15 mile speed training route in 32 minutes. I wasn’t faster than last week, but I was just as fast, and that adds validity for me.

My training is going well, the donations are flowing, and I am thoroughly enjoying this entire project. The big day looms and but only 4 weeks away.

Seeing that as I just wrote it scared me to death. 30 days left to prepare for the surreal.

*** Please take a moment to whip out the ol’ credit card, click donate, and help a couple of kids get some healthy meals. For the price of a nonfat latte, you could make a huge difference for someone less fortunate than yourself.

Cheers! …’til next week.