Folks, don't ever play high school football. My senior year, the fall of '84, late in the season at practice, I was tackled from behind in such a way that it drove my left knee hard into the sod. I immediately felt a burning sting around the inside of of the knee, just under the kneecap. I hobbled back to the huddle and coach Tolley asked if I was ok. Told him my knee was burning like I'd never felt it do. That night my knee swelled up like a balloon. I went to a sports clinic in Asheville where they drew fluid off and through a series of painful manipulations, diagnosed me with a torn medial meniscus. I had no idea what that meant. I recall spending maybe a week in a knee brace, maybe some time on crutches. I'm pretty sure I played again before the season ended.
Fast forward 20 odd years and I started running the year I turned 40, progressing through 5k, 10K, half-marathon, marathon, and then into ultra distances. The knee almost never bothers me other than two instances that share some common characteristics.
In June, 2014, my friend Ken asked if I wanted to run the Rhododendron 10K in Bakersville. I put him off as I was focusing on my first 50K in the fall. A few days before the race, Ken pinged me again offering to pick me up and do the driving. I agreed and I ended up winning our age group in what was the NC Track Club road 10K championship. The race ended down a short steep drive, with a hard left turn and a 50 yard sprint to the finish. Rain had fallen during the race, the asphalt was just a little slick and I felt my knee open up pivoting in that left turn. That race was on June 21. In my running log on 7/9/2014, there is a note, "I think I hurt my knee at the Rhodo 10K." By early August, my notes say the knee is feeling much better.
Fast forward to late April, 2022. I haven't done an event in 2 years due to COVID, but the numbers are looking better so I morning-of register for our local spring 5K. I've been doing 25-40 mpw for 2 years but no specific 5k training. Likewise I've transitioned all my running off of hard surfaces. I made myself lay back until the last 3/4 of a mile which finished on a long gradual uphill then a sharp left hand turn to the finish. I noticed my knee throbbing after the race and it's been bothering me ever since.
Now, at age 55, its definitely slower to heal and for the first time I've had moments where my knee felt like it was locking up. I don't know if I have some floating debris or what but it's annoying. Some of my hip & core exercises seem to aggravate it, too. So I should probably stay off of it for a couple of weeks and see if it will heal up. Irritating as my recent stint of PT really helped my hip and I've been having some good runs. I'm asking myself, "would you rather run 100 miles or 100 years?"
Submitted by Rush 6/14/2022
Sleep has been rough lately. I slept right through an early alarm yesterday so I put off my "long" run until this morning. Still didn't get on the trail until 9:20 am, so I missed what cool temps there were for the morning. I ran the Mountains to Sea trail from Buck Creek Gap to the Black Mountain Campground and back. I knew the temps were going to get up into the low 80's so I took the out leg easy. I immediately could tell I had no pop at all. My legs felt heavy and my joints stiff. I hoped that as I warmed up I would start to feel better. I crossed Neals Creek in 1:45 and trotted in the Campground trailhead parking area in 2:17 feeling so-so ok. I spoke with a man who was taking his young daughter on a short hike to the water fall trail and two older ladies from Florida.
Feeling the day warming up I headed back up the climb and fatigue and soreness fell on me like an Acme safe from an old Road Runner cartoon. I had to hike almost all the uphills. My legs hurt like hell. I don't know if it's my diet lately or poor sleep or the temps getting above 80 degrees or what. I just know I felt like dog meat and it was going to be a long back leg. The trail is very remote and I often do the whole thing without seeing another soul. Today was different as I encountered a couple of other younger trail runners who must have left BMC shortly after I did. They had a more elaborate route planned. Nice to see some other runners out. I ran what I could and actually took 2 sit down rest breaks on the way back. Unusual for me, but there is no bailing out on this out and back. As I was nearing the overlook where my car was parked a motorcycle pulled in blaring AudioSlave, "..go on and save yourself, take it out on me!!" Indeed. I did the back leg in 2:28. This run is predominantly downhill on the out and uphill on the back. Not the day I wanted, but I still managed to move my body 15.2 miles and climbed 2000+ feet of vert.
Submitted by Rush 6/12/2022
Got up at 5:00 am this morning and was on the trail at Spivey Gap at 6:30. The birds a chorus in the trees. Temps in the low 50's, no wind, a sunny morning that became overcast. My plan was to run about 8-9 minutes past Temple Hill Gap, and back, for a 15 mile day. I've done this stretch many times. The streams were running full as we had heavy rain several times this week. This meant all the rocks and roots were particularly slick. This is very technical trail so I was very conscious of my footing. A steep climb from the trailhead gives way to nearly 4 miles of gradual downhill with a bump right before No Business shelter at mile 5. The shelter was full of through hikers having breakfast and I was greeted by a chorus of, "Hey hey trail runner!". Very cool. I made the shelter in 1:23 then THG at 1:58 and turned around at 2:05. I'm guessing this out is 70% downhill. I moved well through the mostly uphill back leg. My hip stayed solid (thank you S.E.P.T!!) as I've continued my hip and core work 3x/wk. I even split this run; 2:05 and change in both directions. Not the fastest I've run it but to hit the 7.5 mostly uphill miles in the 2nd half as fast as I ran out felt pretty encouraging. One step at a time.
Submitted by Rush 5/29/2022
Friday night my partner and I hiked up Bowlens creek about a mile and camped out just off the trail. Around 7:30 the next morning we started to hear the first of the Quest for the Crest 50K runners coming down the trail. We greeted and spoke with several runners catching a few on their way down and then again as they were climbing back up toward the Black Mountain Crest Trail Full results of this year's run here.
Sunday I got up early and ran the A.T. from Sam's Gap north to Big Bald and back. I could just about do this run with my eyes closed but there is nothing boring about this 13 mile, 3200' of climbing, round trip. Steep grinds, runnable stretches, and fantastic 360 degree views from the bald. Spoke with one older through hiker, making his way from Georgia to Maine. He said it was the first time in his life he'd gone eight days without a bath or shower. Gotta love it! My run felt good. Six weeks of PT have done wonders for my hip, though my left knee is still a little tight from the road 5K I jumped into a few weeks back. Note to self: stay off the hard stuff and forget about trying to run fast.
This video about Sage Canaday's recovery from Pulmonary emboli is worth a watch.
Run with humility, gratitude, and joy.
Submitted by Rush 5/24/2022
It's been 3 years now since I've run an event, but I'm still running. I've been averaging between 20-40 miles a week depending on the week. Caution around COVID kept me from signing up for events until 2 weeks ago when I ran a local 5k, with zero training other than my ongoing "maintenance mileage". One issue I've had to deal with is that during COVID, I stopped doing my supplemental core, hip, and glute strength work and ended up with a BAD case of tendonitis in my right hip; re-aggravating an old injury from 2011.
My employer offers free PT so I'm ending a six week series of visits that has definitely helped. I'm back in a routine of doing strength work and completely convinced that I cannot run more than 20 miles a week without the additional strength training. I'm very busy with a couple of home remodel projects in addition to my regular 9-5 job so I haven't put any events on my calendar. I did a steep 8 miles on the Buncombe Horse Trail yesterday and it felt good to be in the woods and to have everything in working order when I got done. About to go out and do an easy 3 at lunchtime. My running is still important but it has transitioned into a more laid back part of my routine vs the hyper focused, 110% total dedication when training for an event. I'm happy to be still running.
Submitted by Rush 5/16/2022
Writing this up almost a year after the event. I finally made it back to the Fontandango 50. This race was my first attempt at 50 miles back in 2015, but that year I went out too fast and stopped at 30. As a consolation, I did come in 3rd at the 50K distance, but I'd never DNF'd before and that nagged at me so it was great to come back and knock this 50 miler out.
The race is 5 loops around a 10 mile loop of single track and some road grade. The terrain is mostly rolling with a few short steeper sections and one brutal mother of a hill at mile 8 that feels damn near vertical on the 5th lap. RD Aaron Saft was at the start/finish line every lap cheering runners on, offering encouragement, smiling and telling jokes.
My plan was to start out easy, stay comfortable until 30 and then see if I could push some in the final two laps. The last lap was my fastest of the day. I finished just after darkness fell super elated to have come back and managed the race much better the 2nd time.
In 2015 I got up super early the morning of the race and drove 2.5 hours from my home. This year, I booked a room at the Fontanna Village for Friday and Saturday nights and that made the experience much easier.
I finished in 12:14, 15th out of 51 finishers and 2nd in my age group.
Submitted by Rush 2/11/2020 1581428943
Or - how I felt bad from the minute I stepped off the bus.
This year's QftC was preceded by days and days of rain, to the point that a portion of the race had to be rerouted on race day to avoid what had become a potentially dangerous creek crossing. The course was reduced to miles and miles of inundated trails running like creeks, shin deep puddles, and shoe sucking mud. If the conditions weren't bad enough, this was the first race I've ever done where I felt like crap from the very first step. Not the way you want to start a 32 mile, 12,000+ feet of climbing kind of day.
The weekend before the "hardest 50K in the east" as RD Sean Blanton calls this race, I'd done the Cradle to Grave 30K. I took that race very easy except for hammering the last 4, very flat miles. I think that effort took more out of me than I realized. In addition, there was no warm up time before the Crest started. We got off the shuttle bus, lined up and boom, we were running. The morning was warm with 100% humidity and I could tell immediately I had very little in my legs.
We log jammed up Woody Ridge, people slipping and falling in the mud. Topping out on the Crest Trail was spectacular as always. The descent down Bowlen's Creek was uneventful and the climb back up was tough as I had no energy or pop. The sawtooth Crest trail with it's endless short steep climbs and drops was challenging to move with any sense of speed. Dropping down Colbert's Ridge trail I heard someone talking about the 12:15 cutoff time. 12:15 ???? What??? Then I remembered Sean coming onto the shuttle bus at 4:30 in the morning and making announcements and somewhere in my sleep deprived brain I then recalled him saying something about adjusting the Colbert's Creek Rd cutoff to account for the course change. Holy crap, this was going to be close! I'd never, ever, run anywhere near to an aid station cutoff, but as I emerged off the Colbert's Ridge trail, a guy with a clipboard said, "Number 361, you have SIX MINUTES to get out!" In what felt like only a few seconds he bellowed, "You've got FIVE MINUTES to get out!" And so on. I scrambled with my drop bag. Stuffed as much food in my face as I could and got out with three minutes to spare; heart hammering, feet slapping down the pavement.
We ran up Rock Creek Rd about a mile and half, and cut back into the woods. At the next aid station I did some math and realized that I'd have a much more generous window to make the next cutoff. So began the long slog up Buncombe Horse trail; still nothing in my legs, though I do recall starting to pass a few people. The climb up Big Tom Spur was brutal, but only a harbinger of scaling Big Tom and Mount Craig with their near vertical rock faces. On top of Craig, you can see the Mt Mitchell parking lot and a very cheery photographer told me that I only had one more mile to the aid station. I started to pick up steam a little.
The Mt. Mitchell aid station was where I finally found my mojo. I had some good food and cold Coke, but I think it was knowing that the bulk of what was left was downhill that flipped my mental switch. Likewise, I had done this section a couple of times recently so I knew exactly what the terrain was like. My legs felt strong and my head cleared as I powered up to the observation tower and began to pound the 5 mile descent. True to form, the skies opened up just as I was entering the Black Mountain campground. I sprinted as hard as I could go to the finish, where Sean greeted me with a high five, a pint glass, and a wooden finisher's medal. I said, "man, I've never felt so bad for so long, and I've done THIS race before." The post-race food was plentiful and delicious. My friend Aaron Saft won the thing. My young friend Tim, who I saw many times running up and down Bowlen's Creek trail in the weeks leading up to the race, finished 9th.
This race is amazing. I've done it twice and now, with the full route approved by the State Park, it has reached its full, glorious, leg-crushing, potential.
Submitted by Rush 9/4/2018 1536096846
I hadn't climbed the unrelenting steepness of the Woody Ridge trail since May of 2015 during the Quest for the Crest 50K. In preparation for that race, I climbed the 2.5 mi, 3100' elevation gain four times, then again on race day. I can't really describe how steep this trail is other than saying it gets to nearly 70% grade in a few places.
I started up the trail at 7:30 this morning, mostly hiking but running where I could. At 30 minutes, I hit what I call the boulders where the trail just gets insanely steep. This morning that's also where the snow line began and I trekked up through 3,4,5 inches of snow. Without trekking poles or YakTrax, the going was slow. The temperature was around 40' and the air was dead still, until I reached the Crest Trail then POW!! the wind was unbelievable. Deep drifts of snow and a dark sky in the west as I traversed over to the Bolens Creek trail. I ran the four miles down to the bottom, touched the gate, turned around and headed back up. When I reached the Crest trail an hour and thirty eight minutes later, the clouds were sitting right on top of the mountain and everything was socked in.
Descending Woody Ridge with several inches of snow was downright treacherous and I had two hard falls. I'm convinced I'm ready for trekking poles.
15 miles round trip, 12,000' of elevation change.
Submitted by Rush 3/11/2018 1520776695
I spent this Father's Day with my son in Chapel Hill, NC. We got up early and did a sweaty 4+ miles together in the Carolina North Forest. He's only just started running on trails and to share this experience with him was a real treat.
Submitted by Rush 6/18/2017 1497796437
I had set a goal for myself: finish a 50 mile trail race in my 50th year. At 12:40 am on Sunday, May 21st, 16 hours and 40 minutes after I started, I accomplished my goal.
I've seen the Cruel Jewel described as "the hardest 50 in the east". At 56 miles, with 17,969' of elevation gain (and the same amount of drop), that point is hard to argue. 130 people started and only 76 finished. Despite midday temps near 90 and a massive thunderstorm that broke just as night fell, I managed to finish 23rd overall and 2nd in the Men 50-59 age group.
I arrived at Vogel State Park at 5:30 am on Saturday and boarded the bus that would shuttle us west to the start at Camp Morganton in Blue Ridge, GA. As we were approaching the camp we passed several of the 100 mile runners. Their race had started Friday at noon and these folks were just hitting their halfway turnaround. A very humbling site and we all whooped and cheered for them. We had about an hour before the start so I had plenty of time for a long walk, short jog and some limbering before we were gathered to the start, given the minimalist safety instructions and then we were on our way through the warm, humid morning.
I had attempted on previous 50 miler, the Fontandango 50 in March, 2016. I went out too fast and decided to drop at 30, something I've long since regretted. In preparation for the Cruel Jewel, I ran a trail marathon in March and a trail 50K in April, running both at a very conservative, near 50 mile pace. These were both exercises in mental and emotional discipline. I wanted to pin on a number, line up in a group, and be ok with letting everyone go and just moving as comfortably as I could. I did finish the marathon strong, running the 4th fastest split of the day over the last five miles. I figured this race would take at least 12 hours to run which meant finishing at night. I did several late evening training runs that meant starting tired, and running through the transition of day into night. I felt very prepared going into this race.
My plan was to start very conservatively, meet my crew at mile 30 (my crew was FANTASTIC) and see how I was feeling. If I felt well, I'd push more and see if I could improve my position. I think the strategy worked. At the first aid station I was in 81st place. At mile 30, I'd moved up to 47th, and finished 23rd. My head, gut, and attitude stayed strong all day and into the night. I encountered many other runners really struggling on the long climbs; hollow eyed, soul searching and some just sitting on the trail. At mile 30, Wilscot Gap, I met my crew who had a chair ready and all my gear laid out. I changed into my Altra Torins, which gave a really nice lifting feel to my legs, and left feeling full of running. (The Torins however are a road shoe which was totally fine on the dry trail. However, a couple of hours later, the trail was a muddy torrent complete with scurrying salamanders.)
This was the first event I ran without using gels. Over the last several weeks of training, I'd transitioned toward more of a fat adapted regimen, drinking plain water and using RX bars every 2 hours rather than gels every 30 minutes. My energy stayed great all day with no spikes/falls and no GI issues. This fueling switch worked extremely well for me.
The day was not without its share of challenges. Around 1:00pm I came to the four mile stretch that runs along gravel fire road and paved state road. The midday temps rose and the thick trail canopy was gone. As night began to fall, I was in the longest gap between aid stations, the 7.6 miles between Fish Gap and White Oak Stomp. The sky got very dark, the wind picked up strongly and soon torrential rains were blowing sideways as the skies would occasionally light up with lightening. Luckily the temps didn't plunge as I did not bring any kind of jacket with me. Soaked to the bone, headlamp illuminating the new creek that had recently been the trail, I pushed on. I saw two headlamps in front of me and over the next few minutes I noticed they were not getting any closer but they didn't seem to be farther away either. I decided those folks were moving as well as I was (I don't think anyone passed me after mile 10 or so) so I decided to push hard for a short time and catch up. I'm glad I did. We formed a three man train that ground over one of the hardest sections of the course through dark, rainy, foggy, muddy trail. The aid station crew at Stomp were ready (ALL OF THE AID STATION CREWS WERE AMAZING) with hot broth and grilled cheese sandwiches. We got out of the rain for a few minutes, tanked up, topped off, made sure the station crews had our numbers (looked longingly at the warm camp fire for about a second) then plunged back into the darkness, making for Wolf Creek, the 10th aid station (which is just an unmanned water drop). The 2000' descent into Wolf Creek, the trail turned into a mud slick, was challenging.
One of the runners and I stayed together to the finish. Steven P. from Asheville. Super nice guy. We crossed the finish line together, having had more rain fall on us as we approached Vogel. My crew was at the finish line waiting for me and the finish was everything I imagined it would be. I let out a loud, "FIFTY AT FIFTY, YEAAAAAH" celebration scream.
This event is super well organized by dumassevents (Dahlonega Ultra Marathon ASSociation). The course is well marked, the aid stations well stocked and plentiful. Beginning at Camp Morganton and ending at Vogel State Park allows for ample parking and access to facilities. I will definitely run more of this group's races. I'm looking at the Bull Mtn 100K in October!
I committed to this race like I had no race before. In January, I totally gave up alcohol. Over the next several months I stopped eating wheat, corn, and most grains as well as caffeine. Likewise, I almost totally cut out processed sugar and most nightshades. What did all this do? I feel absolutely certain that it improved my sleep, reduced inflammation, improved my gut, improved my recovery, and just helped me feel better overall. Another factor that helped me have a great race was my local terrain. The 3000' climbs up to the Black Mountain Crest trail and the super gnarly sections of the AT near where I live were the perfect preparation for the Cruel Jewel's Dragon Spine. During my hard training runs I would say out lout to myself, "Rush, this is what it is. Steep hills and tired legs. This is what it is and you are finding a way through it." During the race itself, I talked to myself about being grateful, running full of love, how happy I am to be alive. Keeping a positive attitude, focused primarily on gratitude, definitely contributed to having a fantastic experience. And my crew. My crew were just super supportive, flexible, and kept me wrapped in love. Also, Aaron Saft of FootRx Asheville, gave me the day-glo yellow "Foot Rx Trail & Ultra Team" shirt. I love that shop and I wanted to represent them well.
Submitted by Rush 5/23/2017 1495574328