Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Busting Up a Starbucks

Starbucks over the past few days seems to be a central theme in my life. After stopping at a Starbucks somewhere in Kentucky, I decided I wanted to do my presentation on them. Then, I had my iPod on shuffle and this song called "Busting Up a Starbucks" by Mike Doughty came on. It made me laugh and was a clever song. And now, as I sit in the library, I am getting paid to finish my report on Starbucks. Its supposed to be a very simple presentation over a major corporation, something that I prolonged way to close to the dude date, which is in about 3 hours from now. I might want stop writing this blog and start doing some more research. But, I was getting quite bored with it.

Since my last blog, my life has returned to normal. I somewhat slept in on Monday morning, I needed the sleep. After I woke up a finished unpacking and put a load of laundry in. Then, I ran a nice 12 miler by myself on the flood wall behind Spartan Stadium, to the Flood Wall behind BDubs, and down over the flood wall on the dirt trails. It was one of my best runs all summer. I rarely run fast by myself, but this time I ran about 6:40 pace. My form felt smooth and my legs felt strong. I am to the point of feeling extremely fit, but I want something more. I want more mileage. I am almost to the most mileage I have ever been at in a week, but I am still eager to keep doing more. I have to be patient though and let myself just glide into it.

On Saturday, I am racing for the first time this summer. I don't really want to but coach wants me to run it so I am. I expect to run strong since I feel strong, but I would rather get the some mileage in. That night I'll most likely go for another run.

Well, I am going to get back to this report I am working on. I have to present it at 6 tonight then I am going to go Run Free with Blake Jones, one of the greatest guys I know.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Living in the Smokys!

I don't even know how to start this blog. I'll start by saying that the past four days have been the most memorable and exciting days of my life. My brother Jon and I have been planning this trip for about two months now. He graduated from Ohio State two weeks ago and starts work tomorrow, so he wanted to go on a nice vacation before his life got started. So, we decided on a 4 day, 3 night backcountry camping trip in the Great Smoky Mountains. And boy, were they ever great! Here is how it all broke down:

6/25 Thursday: Thursday morning I woke up at 6 am, which proved to be a continuous routine throughout the week, to get my run in. I wanted to run in Portsmouth so I would've get stuck running at midnight, and it was a good thing. After my run me and Jon got our stuff gathered up and loaded up my car. We left Portsmouth shortly after 9 am and headed towards the Great Smokey Mountains! My first real adventure ever. I was excited and couldn't wait to get there. Our drive was an adventurous one, my brakes were making horrible sounds and I am convinced my rotors are completely shredded. I don't see how we made it there and back without something drastic happening such as my brakes stop working. So, we roll into Pigeon Forge 6 hours later and grabbed lunch, our last meal in civilization. After lunch we drove into the National Forest and I got my first glance at the beautiful mountains. We stopped at the Ranger Headquarters to get a map, register for our campsites, and get some help planning our route. The lady at the backcountry registration was super nice and helped get us set up nicely for our 3 night loop. After that, we drove up Newfoundland Gap Road for 12 miles and turned onto Clingmans Dome road. After 7 miles of intense driving, we made it to the highest point in the Smoky's, Clingmans Dome, our starting point.

From here, over 6,600 ft, we hiked down to Forney Ridge Trail to campsite #69. The trail was beautiful and I got my first real taste of backcountry camping. We hiked down with our near 50 pound packs for a long while before we decided to cook supper. Jons new stove was great for this trip. It was light, compact, and easy to use. Out meal was canned chicken, corn, and instant mashed potatoes. It was actually really good. We had problems getting the cans open. We packed the wrong type of can opener and it proved to be a disaster the entire trip, but we managed. So, after a prolonged supper, we got started again. Out campsite was only 6 miles away or so, but we underestimated the time. It ended up getting pretty dark and we had to cross a couple of shin high creeks to get there. Luckily we made it there safely and got camp set up fast. After getting out bear packs set up, off too bed we were.


6/26 Friday: After a nice nights rest in Jons new two man tent, I woke at 6 am to start my run. I was really looking forward to training in the Smokys the entire week leading up to the trip. I was ready to get some challenging trails. I did 9 miles down a trail that was fairly flat and creek side. I had to cross 4 creeks that were pretty deep, but it was fun. The run went by really fast and I had to turn around before I wanted too. No big hills on this day but we had over 9 miles of hiking ahead of us. After I got back from running, Jon had the camp packed up mostly and I discovered the trails mix that was 12 feet in the air, in a bag, in another bag, had been chewed into and completely eaten. The mystery of what animal and how it happened still is a question. We hiked the rest of that trail and turned up Springhouse Branch Trail. We stopped for breakfast, which was oatmeal, by a little creek that had a pool. We swam, in ice cold mountain water, for a little while and got on our way. We really climbed for a while on this trail. After a while, we came around a corner and heard some rustling. We looked up in the tree and there was a Bear Cub climbing a tree. The mama and another cub were on the ground below. This proved to be one of the more memorable parts of the trip, even though they scattered quickly up the hill. I was now truly a Bear among Bears. After hiking more, we arrived at out campsite, #64, and set up camp. It was beside a nice creek that I was able to soak in and we just chilled for the rest of the night. We had the same supper, replacing the corn with green beans, and got to bed early.



6/27 Saturday: Again, I woke up and headed out on my run. I ran the opposite direction that we would be hiking that day and ended running a 4.2 mile downhill. After I got to the bottom I ran another mile o Fontana Lake. It was a nice view on the lakeside. I turned around and turned onto a little paved road that was a steep incline to another paved road that was even more steep and long. Some of the hardest hills I have ran. Turned around and ran the 4.2 mile hill up this time. It was very challenging and exhausting, but I loved it and I finished 15 miles strong. We packed up and made our breakfast, and actually got invited to eat another breakfast with two guys we names the "Burrito Men". There breakfast was amazingly good, better than our oatmeal; they called it breakfast burrito, but it was a mix with sausage, eggs, chili powder, beans, and all kinds of other stuff. Great guys. These two ended up being the last people we saw in 24 hours. Our hike today was a short one so we took our time. Even though we climbed a bunch, we made great progress and got to out next camp at 2:00 pm, site #61. With all the time to spare, we ventured up the creek and played around. We took a little nap and awoke to a 2 minute rain shower. After scurrying to get our rainfly on and bags covered, the rain stopped and that was the only rain we saw for the trip, luckily. Our dinner was good once again, and with all the extra time we gathered a bunch of fire wood to try and get a fire started. We did it! The fire was awesome, even though we didn't use it for anything. Fires are nice to sit around though. So, we beaded down for our last night.



6/28 Sunday: Our last day in the Smoky's, how sad. This hike was out shortest, but toughest. We had to hike from our camp at 3,500 feet to Clingmans Dome at 6,600 feet. Amazingly enough, we hiked the fastest of all the days and it only took less than 3 hours to make it to the road. During the hike we saw another Bear. It wasn't close and was running down the hill. Pretty awesome none the less. After arriving to the road, I ran up to where the car was parked, which was about 2 miles. It was a huge elevation increase too and I was already tired. That was all I ran on this day. This is when we saw humans for the first time in over 24 hours. So, after hardly getting my car to start, I drove down, luckily being able to stop with my screeching brakes, and picked up Jon at the trailhead. We loaded up and went to the visitor's center to clean up and Jon bought Joni a shirt. We were starving and went to a buffet and I ate as much as I could hold. Needed to stalk up on calories because we were defiantly way behind on food. It's hard to pack enough. So, our drive was ling but Starbucks kept us awake and we arrived back in Portsmouth at around 8 pm. The trip is sadly over.


Here are some things I took from this trip:
  • Backcountry camping is a blast and I will continue to do it for the rest of my life, I believe.
  • The Smoky Mountains are where I want to live someday, even thought I will probably want to live in Boulder, or Yosemite after I visit those places.
  • I learned that bug spray is needed. I sadly acquired 181 counted bug bites. There are more I am sure; I look like I have chicken pox, no kidding.
  • NEVER hike barefoot and cross creeks in shoes. I have several blisters, but I can live with them
  • Bring a can opener that takes the lid off not just one that punctures a pouring hole. We could have saved a lot more time.
  • Even though the packs are heavy and my shoulders are sore, hiking is a blast and I got to see amazing views and wildlife such as black bears.
  • Last but not least, I found an entire new appreciation for running trails. The trails there, which are 800 miles worth, are totally different than the Shawnee State Forest trails. They make me want to live there and run them every day. Running 3,000 ft climbs is challenging but rewarding and I love the feeling of it. Running Trails is Amazing.
So, this was my first extended adventure of my life. Many more will come. I would like to try an entire week stay in the forest! Many memories were made and it was a nice vacation. Now I am back to real life and I should start thinking of a company I will do my presentation on. My mind is cleared now, and I am refocused on Running Free once more.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

RUN FREE #1

I've always seen these blogs but never really got into to it. But, after reading Keegans blog it looked like some fun, so it got me thinking I should start one. I am in the process of getting a minor in journalism so this could also be a good way to stay sharp on my writing skills. This blog will mainly consist of stories about running as well as other adventures I might take in the future. I have always logged my runs and I write a paragraph or two about the run everyday, and will continue to do that (http://www.running2win.com/community/public-log.asp?m=Michaelxc2007&k=michaelxc) but this will give me the opportunity to write about a wider spectrum of my life. Because, I do more than just run. Lets get started. . .

Life for me right now is pretty chill. It is so chill at times that I get bored, which is not hard to do in Portsmouth. But, I like it. Summer for me is a time for quality training and taking it easy. Besides the 6 hours of online classes I am taking and my 22 hour work week, there is nothing I "have" to do. Except Run. Summer running for me is my favorite time to run; nothing is better than it. Since my schedule is somewhat odd, I rarely get to run with other people. Mondays and Thursdays I work 7-11 at night and it seems like everyone runs at night on those days. Then, on Tuesday and Wednesdays I work 8-10 and 12-5. Those days the guys run in the morning. I never have a problem running by myself though. I get to go out to the forest and run some trails! I wish some other people would like going out to the trails but that's ok. When I do run with people, it is usually with Blake Jones, Blake Wysocki, Paul Webb, and occasionally Erock. It's weird that I live with Justin Hornick and have not run with him this entire summer. And we both run everyday.

Today, I woke up at 7 and got ready for work. I was never a morning person, but this summer I have been working harder to be. It would be nice to run in the morning before work because it is so much more peaceful. It's a work in progress. After I got off at 10, me and Blake Wysocki ran 8 miles. Later today I am going run 8 more with Eric. This will be my first "two a day" since two summers ago! Last year I decided to make all my long runs into singles but I think I might go back to doing one "two a day" and one single long run per week. It's a good way to get some nice mileage without wearing out so much.

The rest of this week I will be going to the Smokey Mountains with my brother on a backcountry camping trip. He is coming down here tonight and we will be heading out early tomorrow morning. I need to pack up still, try to make it as light as possible since we will be hiking a lot all week. This will give me a good chance to run some hills and trails. I can't wait. This is something I have been looking forward to for months! 3 nights in the woods, can't beat that!

I'll be back Sunday with the story and great ones I'm sure. Now it's time to be a Bear in the Smokey's.