Monday, February 18, 2008

Grown Men Also Cry...

I suppose the weekend technically started a little earlier for me. At work we are going through some remodeling of the remainder second floor space. That afternoon they began demolition on the two offices in the back of our current space, also back there they are reconnecting the two spaces with a doorway that existed a time long before the Conservancy's arrival. I had to stay a little later as I am in charge of the data/network cabling, so I had to make everyone was on the same page.

That evening was very unique. Julie and I went to the Blumenthal Theater to see the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. We had some great seats Orchestra center, a little further back from when I went to see The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards and the Band of the Coldstream Guards about a month ago. Once again this was a bit of a genre departure for me, but once again I was not once uninterested or bored. The performance was in three sets. Perhaps the most special portion was the first, which was danced to Igor Stravinsky's The Firebird Suite. I think it is important for me to never forget many classic pieces of Appalachian Spring and Firebird were dance pieces to begin with! It was a bit rough hearing music coming out of loudspeakers there, but I dealt with it fairly well. During the intermission I spotted this woman I met at a party back in August. (No, it wasn't at an Islington flat, but my friend's 40th). I couldn't remember her name, and the worst part was I met her once after and asked her name. I couldn't do it again! The section portion of the performance, The Golden Section, was very fast-paced and dazzling to say the least. And conversely the third, Revelations, more more orientated towards style and graceful power. I still can't decide between the second and third as which was my favorite, but that's okay!

I was really looking forward to Saturday morning - the plan was to start running with a new group out of the Dowd Y. This was the group that was led by Kathy Abernathy, my buddy Franco did a lot of running with them. So it turned out that Bruce and Chris Page also hitched up, it was a large group!! The only awkward part was that we ran in front and weren't exactly sure where we had to turn. The weather was absolutely gorgeous, and as we began I started to inquire with Franco about his big investigative story that had been published in the Charlotte Observer this past week. The route took us along Sterling and then past the country club. There were also new sections for me along Beverly and Hampton. I had been hoping for at least 10 miles, but this was good for me. Even so I slowly fell back as the long slog up Providence and Morehead took its toll. I averaged about an 8.2 minute mile, which is more than I would do on my own, so it was a success! Franco's fiancée Liza was there, and I confirmed that I had seen her at the theater last night, except they had screwed up their tickets and they were scheduled to go tonight. She also talked about their yoga class, taking Spanish, and Franco's upcoming two month work detail in Mexico City. I also chatted with Jin Woo's old roommate, who seemed to be eying the hot catch of the day, before sojourning back down South Boulevard.

For my rest time late that morning I finally got around to watching The Simpsons Movie. No, I didn't see it in the theater, I've been tapering off The Simpsons the last year or so - I can't quite put my finger on it, as I can't say it's jumped the shark or lost its writing edge. To Seth McFarlane's glee, conversely my interest in Family Guy has gone up during that time. The "Blue Harvest" episode was unbelievably awesome! And not to say I've completely given up on Springfield. I can say that I did enjoy the movie, it was really good - just not great. I think I got more excited though during the recent "Husbands and Knives" episode that had a w-o-n-d-e-r-f-u-l Tintin homage.

Later that afternoon NBC was rebroadcasting the 2007 edition of the Kona Ironman World Championship. Folks, I'll admit it - when someone really bad happens to me I'll cry just like everyone else. BUT - there is only one event every year that makes me cry (and the good kind too) - and it's this race. It was especially poignant experience now that I have completed my first Iron distance event. I remember watching the event when I was small - and like a lot of people I'll never forget the images of Julie Moss in 1982 crawling across the line. As for 2007, I had long known about the winners, etc - but it's the amazing stories, mostly in the age groupers, that gets me every year. Just mentioning Jon Blais is enough for me to pull out the tissues! And last year at my Georgia Half double amputee Scott Risgbee was participating with the eventual goal of Kona - this was it for him and to see him clipping along on the run was just something else! One of my favorites though is fellow Washingtonian Sister Madonna Buder, so it was heart-wrenching to see her miss the run cut-off.

So apparently I've turned Julie into a Trader Joe's junkie. I certainly don't have any qualms about that, needless to say we exited onto Mallard Creek the right way this time! Before arriving at her place I had picked up another Javier Bardem movie, but we ended up watching another movie, Origin of the Species, that she had picked up. It was about these twenty-somethings who gather at a lake house every year. Overall it was a pretty horrible movie - but I should give a little credit, as there were some themes I could identify with, especially the friend who had battled cancer and was attempting to help the others identify with the experience.

I was glad at the opportunity to sleep in some, but that meant missing the boat on organized bike rides this morning. Instead I went on another solo adventure, leaving the house around 11AM. It was still a bit too cold for shorts and arm warmers, but thankfully my hedge paid off. I shot over to Colony and worked my way down towards Rea, thinking of my usual Waxhaw out and back that is approximately 25 miles each way. I decided to improvise and at New Town shot out east across Providence. My gut was indeed correct that turning at Cuthbertson was too early. And I knew this road was haunted for biking, shoddy quality that perhaps led to a recent incident where a car crossed the median and killed a biker heading NE. He was a family man that lived further down the road, I wonder what happened with that? Nothing. No one cares anymore? Or perhaps the leadership of this F-U-C-K-E-D up county is more concerned with the ongoing FBI investigation. I did spot the flowers at the spot he must have died. This of course meant I had to further endanger myself with a section of Providence down to Waxhaw. Even this distance was perhaps too much for me, I just have not been in shape lately. The break on the picnic bench was nice, and I did feel much better as I shot down Waxhaw-Marvin. Shortly I was on Hwy 521 heading north towards Charlotte. While this is a really busy thoroughfare, at least northbound this section features a very wide shoulder. Unfortunately some of the crap that gets swept over there did me in, right before crossing over I-485. My rear tire was flat. It was slow to pull it off and slowly put in the new tube. It was like a dream world where I just did not care. Too tired maybe? When it finally came time to inflate I must had pinched the tube somewhere - it exploded. Interestingly enough, someone instantly stopped for me and asked I needed a ride. And then another! But instead I phoned a friend - thankfully Sean, who lives nearby just a little further up Park, was back in town. We loaded the bike in and I heard about his vacation skiing out in Colorado. I did manage to get in 43 miles, averaging 17.1 mph which wasn't bad for me! My average heartrate during the ride was 147.

Okay, that was a little discouraging, as I think I've never had to "phone a friend" to be rescued from a ride around here. Ironically, it was on Valentine's Day four years ago I first attempted the Duke Half Ironman bike course and made a bad wrong turn in the miserable cold rain. My friend Seth, who was living in Cary at the time, came to rescue me.

So to relax I watched for my first time the movie Taxi Driver. I was mostly curious to watch the movie that made Hinckley think he could impress Jodie Foster by killing Ronald Reagan. Okay, so that made a lot more sense after finishing the movie! I could see why it's one of the great movies of all time, but it wasn't that way for me. I probably enjoyed just as much listening to the "making of" documentary while I prepared spaghetti for dinner. That evening I was very excited to watch The Tour of California start off with the prologue. I must have been very tired as I dozed off during the latter half and actually missed Fabian Cancellara once again blow away the field. Damn.

I must say, I'm quite miffed Astana is being shut out of the Tour de France. I am, though, looking forward to see what Rock Racing will do this year with its band of "miscreants."

Friday, February 15, 2008

Publius Loves Booty!

In a recent post I described the bike loop in Charlotte known as "The Booty Loop." Every late July there is a 24 hour biking event around the loop to raise money for cancer research. It is known as 24 Hours of Booty. I have participated the past two years as a Bank of America team member. As much as I applaud Ken Lewis for recently stating BOA would consider carbon production in financing decisions, I am branching off this year to run my own team, the Publius Peddlers.

Please consider donating to this cause - it benefits the national Lance Armstrong Foundation, along with local efforts in the Charlotte area such as the Brain Tumor Fund for the Carolinas, the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults, and the Keep Pounding Fund.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Join the Stray Shopping Cart Identification Revolution!

Back in the beginning of December, Julie and I met downtown to see an exhibit at the Light Factory, which is in Spirit Square. The title of the exhibition was "River Docs," featuring photography of the Catawba River from many perspectives. This exhibit opened in November and is still open, running through February 22nd. My employer is one of the sponsors, but the main reason I went was because one of the three main photographers is Nancy Pierce, a friend of mine who has generously donated many outstanding photography work to the Conservancy. It was a fantastic exhibit!

I thought we were about to leave when Julie mentioned there was another exhibit next door that she read about online. So we sauntered over to the space next door. This exhibit was entitled The Stray Shopping Cart Project. At first I saw a couple of smashed shopping carts in the center and some more pictures on the wall (virtual tour). Of course my first thought was - WTF?

And then my life changed forever.

Folks - this is unbelievably clever. An intricate scheme to categorize stray shopping carts. If fellow Swede Carl von Linné (a.k.a. Linneaus) had been alive today shopping at Target for his wig curlers, he would definitely take note! The beauty for me lies in the object is taken for granted by so many people, and it would seem like no one would care that this ubiquitous and seemingly now useless object could now be seen in a bold new way.

Word on the street is that creator Julian Montague takes his collection seriously. I heard that at the opening event (which was the same night as River Docs) a co-worker's boyfriend made a comment about his book (The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification) being located in the humor section of bookstores, and Montague did not take too kindly to the rue.

Now I am always on the lookout for stray shopping carts. I bought several books as Christmas gifts, and always jump at the opportunity to argue whether that's a B-4 or B-5. I am particularly keen in my outdoor work responsibilities to document some fantastic B-21s (naturalization). Perhaps the best part is that you can photograph your own stray carts in the wild and upload them to The Light Factory's Shopping Cart Flickr collection.

May the Stray Shopping Cart Be With You!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

New Feature: Wexford Flag Watch

Okay, so it's not a live web cam, but now you can instantly know which flag is flying outside my house.

I fly these flags in honor of my roots and location of my family members. Let's quickly go through the list.

United States of America
This is the country in which I live.

Washington State
I was born and raised in this state; my parents still reside there

When my family originally moved to the west coast, they lived in Oregon. My brother was born there and resides in Portland.

My sister has lived in Spain for over ten years. She is married to a Spaniard and they have two children. They reside in Torrejon de Ardoz, a suburb of Madrid near Barajas Airport.

North Carolina
This is the state I currently reside. I came originally in 2000 to attend graduate school at Duke University. Since August 2003 I have resided in Charlotte.

South Carolina
This state is minutes away from my home. I spent the summer of 2001 in Charleston and this flag is for my dog Winston, whom I adopted at that time.

My father's side of the family is predominantly Swedish. This flag not only honors my roots but my father's devotion to genealogy. I took some Swedish in college and understand basic sentences.

Czech Republic
My mother's side of the family is predominantly Czech. This flag not only honors my roots but my mother's devotion to genealogy and my recently departed granddad Ladislav Loss.

The Gadsden Flag (Don't Tread On Me)
My favorite flag. Delves into my interest in history and self-determination.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

A Horse is a Horse (of course?)

So I recently decided I would not let it bother me that Julie has neither eaten oatmeal or seen a James Bond movie. It certainly is not my place to intercede, but when word came around that she had never seen Amelie, I had to do something! So after a nice dinner cooked in Friday we watched the movie. The title was a surprise, but she was very excited to see it as she had heard many good things. What is it about the infectious good nature of the movie that moves you?

Now that she has gotten over that hump, I need enough people out there to tell her about the MOST INCREDIBLE porridge in the world, Red River. For you unfortunate folks that aren't even close to the Canadian border or live their full time, you can now even order it from Amazon!

One might say "but I digress" at this point but that's really what this blog is about!! Before I get blown away (literally, not by the taste of this fabulous cereal) I should relate the contents of the remainder of the weekend!

I was a little unsure about how far I would run on Saturday. I ended up sleeping in because my body is still recovering from the Uwharrie Run and the flu which I no doubt got because I pushed the limits on Saturday. I was also excited about starting to run with a new group from the Dowd - yes Cummins its true, I am most likely leaving you and your superfast freaks. I really need a group of real people who I can run with and not be left behind. Why would I bother showing up instead of running from my house if I wanted to run alone?

However, given the late hour which I could finally devote to doing something, I browsed through my previous runs from 8 to 11 miles and decided to a nine mile route, this time in a clockwise motion. The weather was absolutely sunny and gorgeous, perhaps the warmest temps I've run in sometime. Departure time was around 10:15. The route began with a slight variation of my standard northern escape heading north on Murrayhill snaking my way to Marsh. From there I descended towards Freedom Park. Around 4 miles at that point, normally I would stop at the southern fountain, but I decided to at least push to the parking lot fountain. I was duly punished with a non-functioning unit, but thankfully the fountain near the tennis courts awaited me. I nearly spaced on turning to Maryland. After stretching through a bit of Queens West, I turned off on Croydon. It was here I lost the spatial vision in my head I needed to exactly duplicate the route. It is quite rare for me to do this, but I obviously knew how to compensate. My heart pained ever so slightly as I turned up the Montford stretch. Once back in my hood of Madison Park, on the last Montford hill I was effortlessly passed by another runner. Thankfully I had the will push the last stretch of hills, which included the dreaded "White Oak" double step. I covered about 9.1 miles in 79 minutes, averaging about a 8.7 minute mile pace.

Before I left, I did have a chance to catch the first half of the Boston College vs. Duke men's basketball game - it was a little alarming how they were unable to shake the Eagles. As much as I "enjoy" seeing things on TV, I happily left knowing living in my present was a much better option. That afternoon Julie took me up to Latta Plantation for a trail ride at their Equestrian Center. While driving up Beatties Ford we caught the tail end of funeral procession. We certainly tried to be respectful of the individual dearly departed, but didn't want to be late either! Also of note, I spotted what I thought was a B-5, but Julie argued was a B-4. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, please wait for an upcoming post.)

Once there, it was certainly an eye-opening experience for a multitude of reasons. The place was packed with kids participating in a horseshow. So this is how other people spend their Saturdays? Also, I have not ridden a horse in many years. This experience brought back memories of riding horses at Bryce Canyon National Park. Naturally I was a little nervous about the whole, maybe a little bit because Julie has so much riding experience and I do not, but it mainly had to do with my graft and whether riding a horse would work or not. So they sized me up physically (I'm tall, I'm "big," okay, I get it) and talent-wise. I naturally got the biggest horse they, aptly named Big Charlie.

Big Scott and Big Charlie at the Big Latta Plantation Nature Reserve

As I learned, this was "western style" riding. At one point when I took this picture, they had given Julie this horse. But then they switched out to a horse that was more styled for English style riding named Mike, which was more of Julie's proficiency.

If she could, she'd take them all!

Second time's a charm; Julie and Mike

It was a magnificent experience for me, but it certainly was tame in that the horses were trained to walk and follow, very little input was needed. This was, however, what I needed before attempting to try anything that will require some skill. The only lame-o part of the ride was being subjected to the preppie guy in front of me that had his UNC hat turned backwards. Oh well, I just relished in this past Wednesday some more!!

Home, Home on the ... WE KICKED YOUR ASSES AT HOME!

I did see a couple of guys running/training on the trails. See, most of my experiences with Latta have to do with the popular Tri Latta Triathlon, which I will be returning to after a two year hiatus. I wondered a bit why I have stayed away - mainly because of a slightly traumatic experience in 2005 when I witnessed a car slam back into a triathlete. Focus - focus - just being a tourist and not talking about the importance of Mountain Island Lake as our drinking water source, etc, etc. JUST BE A TOURIST and enjoy. Thank you.

After the ride we watched a few of the competition - the kids showcased were about 9-10 years old. I was slightly irritated by all the harsh parent types out there haranguing their kids into perfection on the horse. We then drove down to the end of the road so I could show Julie the transition area. I then showed her the McCoy home, which is adjacent to our Gar Creek Conservation Area. Julie then insisted on stopping at Starbucks, both to get a frappuccino and harass me about losing my "Seattle-card." HEAR YE, HEAR YE, I'm from Seattle and I don't like coffee (or Starbucks for that matter). So please, continue to harass me.

Once back at her place, it was a relief to see that Duke did win out by 10 points. Julie was then subjected to a string of the worst-ever Jack Black movies. Poor thing. That evening we spent with my friends Lisa and Jin Woo, who also live in the Plaza Midwood neighborhood. We first went over there and then had dinner at Creation. Of note I choose a bottle of House Wine, a blended Washington state chardonnay. Here I go, turning my Washington apple fixation over to wine!! The food was very good, the conversation and company much better! We then went back to their place and chatted until 1AM. Unfortunately I was having a very hard time staying awake, as that run (and perhaps drinking a lot of wine?) had taken more out of me than I had. After taking Julie home I headed for my own, just dead tired.

Once again I was conflicted about my morning activity. I needed the sleep so I slept in too late for any organized ride (that I know about). The main concern today were high winds - the thought of being blown into a ditch with Holman was a little too much for me! It was just too nice and sunny to stay in though, so I ended up leaving from my house to peddle seven times around the Booty Loop.

Okay, so some might not even know what the "Booty Loop" is. It is a well-established loop in the upper-end Myers Park neighborhood quite near downtown (or "uptown," if you believe the propaganda). It is about 3 miles in length (the 24HOB website calls it 2.97, which is also preposterous, my research indicates 2.85 miles maximum). It technically starts at the intersection of Queens Road West and Wellesley. From there it heads down the hill. You then curve onto Queens Road (WELCOME TO CHARLOTTE!) The toughest section is the climb up the sidestreet Hopedale to the intersection of Queens/Queens and Providence/Providence. At that point you hug right and take a long decline past Queens University (legend has it that the name derives from the guys who originated the ride and commented on all the co-ed joggers from the University). Queens "turns into" Selwyn, but then you finally take a hard right to get back onto Queens again (confused yet?). This takes you down the hill, where after passing the ultimate expression of greed on Princeton you climb back up to the starting point. The video on the website talks a lot about the actual event, but shows also a good deal of the course.

The route to connect with the Booty Loop from my house usually takes 10-11 minutes; today's "performance" was 10:11. Overall the winds were moderate with only a few severe gusts during the duration of 90 minute ride. Before the completion of the second lap I stopped to take off my arm warmers - it was way too nice out. There were astonishingly few bikers out, perhaps because most went on actual rides and others were concerned about the wind speeds forecasted for later today. I did lose count, but eventually figured out what I needed for seven laps. The only incident occurred right before finishing the loops at Selwyn and Croydon. A female jogger, about my age, stepped out right in front of me to jaywalk across Selwyn. She had her iPod blaring (did you know I'm a hypocrite too as I had my iPod Shuffle doling out tunes?) and did not even see me. Thankfully an accident was avoided. The only humorous part was her male companion, about ten feet back. He gave me a "sorry dude, she's just stupid like that" look! For my seven laps I averaged about 9.75 minutes, which was slower than my last go around. The toughest part was ascending Woodlawn to Park, the crappy road coupled with the increasing winds made it torture!

That afternoon the winds really started to pick up. I chose to relax by watching the movie Donnie Darko, which some unknown friend recommended to me several years ago. If that was you, let me know! I really enjoyed the movie, perhaps it had to do with the "darkness attacking suburbia" theme made famous by David Lynch. As for the actors and actresses involved, I couldn't care less for the whole lot, with the BIG exception of Mary McDonnell. Yes, the rumors are true, I am a big Battlestar Galactica fan. It is without a doubt the most superb drama I've seen in years - gritty real Sci-Fi that goes beyond the flashing clean doors and transporters. Anyway, her acting style in the movie was similar to her role as President Roslin. I wonder if that's what got her the role? Perhaps it was that defining moment, like when Hugh Laurie stopped being the bumbling idiot in Blackadder and had a small part in Sense and Sensibility that launched him into his wonderful role in House.

How about this - my alma mater Washington just beat #4 UCLA!!! GO HUSKIES!!!

During that time the winds continued to mount. My current flag (Spain) came unraveled shortly before dark. It is these few days when all the big trees on my property make me very nervous. I had some pizza for dinner, started culling/filing emails, and then finally watched Munich. It was not the tour de force I was expecting, but still gritty and real. For me it was a story about our actions and their often unintended consequences. I also savored the historical aspect, especially Golda Meir. I thought a lot about an excellent book I poured over recently by Michael Oren, called Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East: 1776 to the Present. A really great investment to understand the Middle East from the America "perspective." Anyway, the movie ran a little long, so I finished up with my usual video conference with my parents in Washington and then was in bed by midnight.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

In Memory of Phoenix

On Tuesday morning Winston and I lost a good friend. My co-worker Sharon had to put her 13 year old dog Phoenix to sleep. "The Old Man" was one of several dogs to grace the Conservancy offices, and miraculously survived a massive heart episode a number of months ago. He could have easily expired in that field, but that was not his moment.

Winston stayed with Sharon and family (including Phoenix) when I was in Seattle for Christmas. Apparently for the most part Winston was well behaved around Phoenix. I remember when Winston was a little obnoxious puppy jumping all over the older dogs, specifically Fred and Tristan.

For the last few months Phoenix came to the office he would slowly labor his way up the steps, but would always find the energy to roll over so I could rub his belly.

Goodbye my friend...

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Uwharrie 20 Mile Mountain Race Report

As a general rule, it would seem apparent that I prefer to always try new racing events, especially when it comes to marathons and triathlons. One large exception is the Uwharrie Mountain Race, which is without a doubt my favorite annual race. This was my fourth year at the race and as usual I left excited to come back next year. Three cheers for Sally and crew!

The Uwharrie National Forest is located in the center of North Carolina, a somewhat odd location given the dominance of state and federal forests located in western North Carolina. Here is a quick interesting history - that part is not odd considering during the Great Depression much large land was aggregated by wide-scale abandonment/non payment of taxes. The history of the Duke Forest is very similar.

My history with the forest and the run go back to 2005. The race is always in early February and runs north to south. There are three length options; 8, 20, and 40 miles. For my first year I was torn as there was no moderate distance length, so I went with 20 miles. This was back when the Sharksbite Running Club was quite organized and large. We stayed in Asheboro the night before, ate a terrible restaurant, discovered Randolph County was dry, then sold the beer we bought elsewhere in the halls of the hotel. I was also forced to share a room with Brett, which did leave me permanently scarred.

He was such a great roommate. What was his name again?

I have been fortunate that in the four years every single Saturday has turned out almost always sunny and pleasant. Every single morning though that has meant the weather was COLD! I was extremely nervous about running the event, as I had never run more than 13.1 miles on pavement. Two weeks previous a group of us did come up to run the eight mile portion. The weather then was socked in and cold, drizzling just above freezing. During the practice run, I came out at the end (8 miles) with a time of 1:35:30. The beginning though was different as they routed everyone up the road a bit before swinging around a horribly eroded service road to the trail.

Mary, Genevieve, Will, and Scott at the start of the 20 Mile Race - 2005

Anelia, Erica, Audra, and Jody at the start of the 8 Mile Race - 2005

Wow, I look like I'm actually running! (2005)

While the records/splits I kept for the first 20 miler were scant, I do recall several other things - first that I ran with the tough-as-nails Genevieve Briere until the killer Mile 15-16 hill. From there she left me to place among the women. Then at that point my knees started to kill me. I came in at 4:00:36. I was forever tormented due to my zombie-like state following the race and I had to go to physical therapy for over three months.

When it came for registration for 2006 I choose 20 miles once again. Perhaps my favorite experience at Uwharrie was the practice run in 2006, once again two weeks before and just the eight mile portion. Running weather was about the same as the previous trial run, perhaps a few degrees warmer. We brought lots of dogs! Lat brought his dog Dakota (this is before Lat was banned by his family from running with the dog), Ben and Monica brought Otto, Marie brought Tanner ("The Hound" - Winston's mortal running enemy, according to Chris), and of course I brought Winston. Other humans participating were Keith, Brett, and Chris. Since I wasn't in the front pack, Winston ran off with the front-runners but it made me so happy for him to have an experience like that! I clocked in at 1:26:42

I did switch to the 8 mile race. This was before they clamped down on people like me. The previous fall after running the NYC marathon I wanted to do another marathon at Kiawah but instead could only finish the half (it was still a PR that continues to stand) and with much knee pain. Instead of lodging the night before, I drove up the morning of the race with Bevin. It was odd to start the run an hour later, and to change the strategy to give it my all for just eight miles. I can't remember if something was hurting but I came in at 1:27:21. Hmm. At least the scenery was nice on the return to the minivan.

This made me eager to return to the 20 mile and break four hours. In 2007 there was no practice run. Race day conditions were super cold to start, I was one of few people who started in shorts and a simple shortsleeve shirt. One of the keys to my success that day was hanging with Bruce until Mile 13. I knew things were going well when I passed through at Mile 8 with a time of 1:26. From there I struggled along on my own but came through 3:48:14! I placed 48th out of 115 for males and 54th out of 149 overall finishers.

That May I was able to come out and run the 8 mile portion. My parents were in town and they went into the Asheboro Zoo while I attended a meeting for work. Afterwards they dropped me off and drove to the finish. The conditions were 68 degrees and nice - perhaps the most bizarre aspect was the "leaf-on" time of year that made the whole experience different. Truly running alone was also strange. No matter - it was my best 8 Mile performance ever, clocking in at 1:25:07.

There was no doubt I would be back for 20 in 2008. The race had become so popular that all three distances sold out in a matter of days. Back in 2004 when registering for the 20 mile I sent in my check at the end of December. There was definitely serious angst building up to 2008, as at the Kiawah Half Marathon I bashed my right knee early on and ran 11+ miles in utter pain. I essentially did not run for a full month and even during January took it easy. We did schedule a practice run, but it was canceled in anticipating of of a bad snowstorm, which turned out to be non-existent.

As we all watched the Asheboro weather report (Ophir, NC has yet to get the billing it deserves) all indications were that it was going to be another sunny day, perhaps warmer than previous years. The real potential trouble were the rains that covered the Piedmont on Friday. The truth was we needed it badly, so no matter. Like previous years, we drove up the morning of the race. The adventure started at 5:01AM for (I never set my alarm clock at a "round" time) me. I was out of the house with a bowl of oatmeal and bagels bound for Eastover. At Keith's house (which was impossible to find in the dark) Julie joined us and left her car there. As we headed north towards Harrisburg a most startling revelation was uncovered - Julie had never eaten oatmeal!! For Keith and myself, avid backpackers, this was a little hard to take. But it was important to focus on the race and not let this piece of news distract us. At Harrisburg we picked up Bruce then hurtled northeast on Highway 49. Bruce brought a Tom-Tom with him that suggested the "quickest" route, although I knew from experience not to take any of these gravel road entrapments that littered the area. As we headed south on 109 the sun began to rise providing some stunning scenery. The temperature was in the mid-20s as we arrived around 7:25.

New for this year was a central parking area off the road. However, after picking up our packets we were able to park on the side closer like previous years. While we were prepping several people we knew came by. My co-worker Rich approached with the news he was actually going in full throttle for the full 20 miles instead of stopping at eight miles. Then my wonderful friend from Duke, Michele, approached with her lab Lucy. Michele is a "co-worker" of mine, working for the neighboring land trust that since 2007 has been a beneficiary of this event - yet another reason to support it in full. Fellow Madison Park resident and outstanding triathlete Melinda swung by, along with our running colleague Stan.

I hope to convey to you why I love this race so much. It starts with registration, specifically the warm campfire and the consistently AWESOME shirt. Of course, we wait until the last second at the fire before stripping down.

Keith and Scott by the fire

We then hand the bags that will be at the finish line. This wasn't absolutely necessary with our wonderful crew support this year, but we did it anyway.

Stan, Scott, Keith, and Bruce after strippng - it is COLD!

It seemed like the wait was longer than usual. You will have obviously noticed at this point I was the only one in the crowd wearing a singlet with my shorts. I naturally had my gloves, but this was a calculated risk knowing I generally prefer to run with as few clothes as possible. Just looking at someone like Melinda decked with gear makes me uncomfortable.

The 20 Mile Runners Patiently Waiting

At the start of the race everyone runs up the paved road about 300-400 feet to a service road. Unless you are at the front, you essentially are stopped to a walking pace. As Keith likes to say in PG-13 terms, it's a "goat farm." You are able to kick it up on the first "flat," but then generally have to walk through the especially rocky parts of the Dark Mountain ascent. Unless you are racing to win, it is a generally held strategy never to run up Dark Mountain and waste your energy. For me, as it was just as true this year, the race really begins on that ridge as I started to establish my kick. For me my strategy is a winning one, within 20 minutes I was no longer cold. The gloves come off another fifteen minutes later. From the descent the running was good to the "2 mile" access road. I found myself tiring more than usual. Thankfully though the right knee is a non-issue, although at the beginning I felt a little irritation in my left ankle, even though I had yet to really twist anything.

The first indication of relative performance is at the 5 mile aid station. Last year I came in at 0:48, this year a minute later for a 10.0 minute mile pace. My main worry, besides feeling tired, was that I did not attach myself to Bruce - he was to be seen. After descending to the campground the footbridge across is as icy as ever, so that was a no-brainer to walk. And this being my seventh time, after the creek crossing at Mile 7 I knew better than to go to the right. I helped to guide the guy in orange who kept asking me if I was from Canada. The finish before Mile 8 is a tough slide-slope. I came across Mile 8 1:29:30, ironically enough my exact average for my six previous attempts. I don't know this because I add and divide in my head while racing, I know it because I calculated it beforehand.

Coming into the Mile 8 Aid Station

Taking into some salty goodness at Mile 8

This is of course about three miles off my pace from the previous year. I stopped to talk with Julie, inquire about Bruce (she hadn't seen him, later I learned he had already gone), and hand off my gloves. I remember telling her to expect me at 4:15, quite a pessimistic estimation but I wasn't feeling too high about myself. I am starting to really worry about my general energy level. But I press on. As I plod along I do start to feel better. Around Mile 9-10 I know from our experience last year to once again hang a hard left and not cross a medium-sized creek. Despite this a few hundred feet later I do make a momentary wrong turn, costing only about 15 seconds. From there the run up the creek feels fine. I come in at the Mile 11 aid station at 2:04:07, over six minutes slower than last year. I was very happy to see Julie there to cheer me on!! I also have begun to notice fellow Charlotte runner/Ironman Ilan is constantly coming in just as I am ready to leave.

Coming into the Mile 11 Aid Station

I was not looking forward to two hills I consider tough before the Mile 14 aid station. Despite my slowdown, I was very surprised to encounter Sean Andrish before the station. I don't know him personally, but last year he crushed the 40 mile competition and I vividly recall seeing him after Mile 14. He looked good. This started the (eventual) wave of 40 mile runners (who started an hour earlier at 7AM) coming back. With regards to the female competition, I could tell in the field (and results confirmed) the competition was not as strong. Another ingredient that makes this such a fun race is exchanging words of encouragement with these runners. The process technically started earlier as I did pass a handful of the slowest 40 mile walkers still heading south. At Mile 14 I clock in at 2:45:07, approximately nine minutes slower than 2007. My pace is now a 11:48 minute mile. I stopped there for about two minutes, beginning to wonder if the fully-carbonated Coke they are serving was going to be my downfall, as I am used to the flat Coke (which as Cheryl Osborn says, is like "rocket fuel"). While contemplating how fried I am, another 40-miler goes by.

Upon leaving, I was most excited to see my friend Chris Cummins walking up towards the aid station. This is good news - he doesn't look half as wasted as the faces I will start to see, and considering Andrish's decimation of the field last year Cummins is amazingly close. I certainly am not trying to downplay his abilities, but he had yet at that point actually run 40 miles. But back to me! I know the monster mountain awaits, but my running is relatively strong as I pick my way through the flats. I have no energy to run up the thing, but come on, neither did I the previous two times. Right near the apex I take my last of three gels. I definitely feel great about summiting the raw climb. Along the ridge I spot a Boy Scout troop, I think just about every weekend I've run here there is at least one group - it is an excellent place to bring them.

I seem to recall being asked if I am able to take in the scenery while I run. While Uwharrie has many beautiful spots and views, it's tough sometimes because you really need to focus on foot placement, the terrain is exceptionally rocky and the frozen/wet leaves, along with frigid stream crossings, really force you concentrate. It's not always like that though, I do see many things that most people don't consider, mostly because I am a forester and I can easily tell stand histories, clearcut practices, tree species, understory indications of site productivity, etc. And if you think I write too much, just be thankful I don't go off with my thoughts about the US government being in the tree growing business, especially when you consider the implicit interest rate assumed under the legislated (MUSYA 1960) Maximum Sustained Yield. As as someone who currently works in the field a fair amount, it can detract from the "newness" of being outside, although I did notice some nice dwarf heartleaf.

As I descend I continue to feel another surge. I later pass Tim Long, the second person I know running the 40-miler. I was a little surprised at his position, but I heard he came back strong to finish at 6:40. You only need read his race report to understand how much it means to 40 milers to get encouragement. Perhaps my ultimate downfall during this race was failing to anticipate the nasty slide-slope before the Mile 17 aid station. This part destroyed me. I began to feel like I was drunk, wandering aimlessly but somehow forward. I was downright delirious. The strangest part was that I had yet to fall. Early on I was poked in the head by a branch I did not see, but otherwise was unscathed, especially with ankle twists. I could think of nothing else but surviving to Mile 17. I came in at 3:29:30, over nine minutes slower than last year. While not privy to the numbers at the time (I can hardly add 2 + 2 when I run, especially when I was fried beyond comparison), this meant I had not really loss much time.

The climb out of Mile 17 was particularly brutal, but I knew there were some great stretches to bring back some time on the last 3 miles. Oh yeah, and the prospect of finishing and stopping this madness was also nice. Shortly after leaving I encountered the third and final person I knew doing 40 miles, Steve Watkins. He seemed to be in a good mood. Like Chris he had also never run the distance, so I obviously did not know what to expect. Except that I did get that surge in me for the good running sections. I was lucid enough to realize with my Mile 17 split breaking four hours was probably not going to happen. Unfortunately right before the end there was the uphill that got me. Then I realized I at least had a shot to not "go over" 4 hours, and sure enough I surged in at 4:00:46, a mere ten seconds slower than my 2005 attempt. How weird is that? That is an even 12:00 minute mile pace.

Scott at the finish line - pretending to be aware of surroundings

It certainly was great to hear lots of general people cheering for me, along with Michele who was timing (I swear, I didn't buy her off beforehand), Julie, and my running comrades. How great it was to finish, mostly to rid myself of the right knee angst! It wasn't long before I learned the stupendous news that Lat had won the 20 mile race outright, and that Keith was close behind in second. Stan was grumbling a little bit about his time but otherwise happy like myself to be done. Ilan came in about fifteen minutes later. By the time I came back, which was less than thirty minutes later, I was perhaps most excited to see Rich finish with a great time that he was extremely happy about.

Overall winner Lat with Stan, Bruce, Keith, Scott, and Rich

I would rate the trail conditions the best ever, despite the rain on Friday. The second half of the course had its usual muddy points and the creeks were obviously lower than usual. I had next to no blood on my legs, which were hardly dirty and my Asics Evolutions were not caked in dirt, though hardly clean.

Oh yes, I must not forget to mention another part of Uwharrie I love, the great finishing items. While if you run the 8 Mile race you get a clay medal, finishers of the 20 get a great piece of pottery, a nice cup. Those that place or run the 40 miles get an amazing plate. For those that don't understand the significance of this, this area of central North Carolina (especially Seagrove) is quite famous for its pottery.

I think there was an important life lesson for me, and has become especially true looking at the amount of effort I really put into training and what I get out. If may quote Martin Luther King, Jr. or perhaps most recently Rage Against The Machine

"How long, not long because what you reap is what you sow"

Races like these really "wake me up" to this reality. Sure there will always be people who are naturally talented, win the lottery, or accidentally get hit by a bus, but for the bulk of us hard work will in the long run equal great results. While I don't really believe in luck, I understand Thomas Jefferson completely when he said:

"I'm a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it."

Here is my proof. In 2005, the three months before Uwharrie I ran 140 miles and ran a 4:00. In 2007 I made a more concerted effort, logging in 238 miles and finishing at 3:48. And this year, I put in 175 miles and finished at 4:00.

Keith, Bruce, and myself were also extremely fortunate to have Julie as our wonderfully talented Support Crew. Although I felt much better than after the 2005 race, I was really in no condition to drive. She picked up the slack for us tired guys as we sojourned back to Charlotte and our hot showers. This saved us the shuttle ride back to the cars, which historically has been my least favorite part of the Uwharrie Race. And of course, she provided the photographs for this year.

That night we had a great celebration in Charlotte at the Maggiano's in South Park! I might have normally made a mistake in sitting next to the hungriest Chris Cummins I have ever seen, but there was plenty of great food and lots of other Charlotte running friends to hear the stories.

**2005 Photos courtesy of Staci Tooke, with the exception of the professional shot


Final result - 4:00:46 (12:00 minute mile pace)
61/131 male
68/168 overall

Average 20 Mile Time after 3 completions- 3:56:32

Walmart Associates Running Uwharrie

Chris Cummins - 6:30:15 - 3rd overall
Tim Long -- 6:40:37
Steve Watkins - 8:30:57

Lat Purser - 2:48:13 - 1ST OVERALL!
Keith Mrochek - 2:50:36 - 2nd overall
Stan Austin - 3:26:18
Bruce Wagoner - 3:43:43
Melinda Yelton - 3:53:17
Ilan Paltrow - 4:13:43
Rich Holmes - 4:25:09
Mary Franceschi - 4:41:29

Marie Winget - 1:17:55
Sharon Wilson - 1:56:41
Julie Gayheart - 2:11:02