The Dirtiest South (2018)

The rain kept coming down heavy and loud during the night before the race with a flash flood warning in effect for the area. There was no doubt the 6th running of the Dirty South was going to live up its name.

A few runners decided to hit the snooze button for the morning. The battering of the rain overnight had them tossing and turning with imaginings of being sucked into the muck or being washed away by heavy flowing streams. (Not too far from the truth) Luckily most folks toughened up, walked out their front doors and showed up bleary eyed to the race start. Some runners came as far as Florida and Utah, flying in the night before. 140-ish brave souls toed the line with probably more trepidation than usual. Knowing you’re going to be out on the wet trails for several hours is enough to give one pause.

Flooding on some parts of the course had us a little concerned so out of safety for the marathon runners, the full course was collapsed down to the old 2 loop standard. All runners would now run in the same direction, with the marathoners crossing the finish twice, giving them an easier option to drop in case conditions somehow got worse. This decision wasn’t ideal but was the right call in the end.

At some point right before the race start the rain let up just a little. The forecast had called for a break in the weather so all fingers were crossed. At one point the clouds parted just enough to show some blue sky. But the course and the race were still mayhem. Burnett Creek Rd had flooded over and the Lost Chromosome trail was essentially a flowing stream. All runners jumped with glee into a flooded creek up to their thighs. Luckily it was warmer than usual. Cold creek crossings tend to be less enjoyable.

Then there was the slick, slippery mud. All runners had the pleasure of trying to stay upright, trying to not slide backwards on the climbs, and trying not to peel out on the downhills. From the looks of everyone finishing there was plenty of failing to do any of that. Everyone ended up covered in mud. Depending on where they had wiped out the mud was a different color. Shorts, shirts and faces were covered in 50 shades of brownish reds.

Even under these conditions we had a respectable number of runners under 2 hours for the half marathon. First one in was Roger Schmidt (1:42:51) followed by Sullivan Pierce (1:49:57) and Nathan Helton (1:52:13). A young Sierra Moody came in strong as first female (1:58:47 and 4th overall) followed by Megan Kleeschulte (2:02:47), and Hannah Rosen (2:07:18).

For the marathon we had a few folks cry uncle after one loop confirming for us the course change was a good decision. The full marathon in those conditions is nothing to take lightly.

Alex Brown smashed through the two loops like nobody’s business in 3:52:28. I highly suspect he’s got a cross country upbringing as he was enjoying the mudfest more than most. Sub 4 on that course is impressive, adding in the conditions and it’s doubly impressive. Not too far behind Alex (but not that close either) were trail committee member and new dad Tim Hill (4:09:08) and Brian Williams (4:34:44). Local trail favorite Alondra Moody came in relaxed at 4:33:48, third overall and first female. She was followed by Michelle McLellan (5:00:51) and Jonnie Mae (5:36:31).

A big thanks to the trail committee and other Track Club members for all the support and for filling in the gaps where needed. Next year we’ll once again shoot for the full marathon course. There’s even a chance we might have a spanking new trail to test drive. And the weather next year? My bet is on either a blizzard or tornadoes. Flying cats would also not surprise me.

Photos from around the course by Misty Wong

Finish area photos

Dirty South 2018

Strava heat map of the Urban Wilderness area.


One week away from this year’s Dirty South races. I have my notebook of to-do’s handy and am answering the stray random and odd email question. Signups are about on par with last year. Full marathon might have a few more peeps. The weather is crap. It looks like the race name will live up to itself this year.

Ran the Strawberry Plains half marathon in 1:56 and change. It was a good training run with a moderate pace and a couple pickups into high 7s. No idea what time I could get if I really tried. It really helped having Kirby’s company. These road races can hand you some lonely agonizing stretches sometimes.

Finally got out to do a lap at Mr. Storey’s yearly 12 hour run at the North Boundary trails. It’s a good spot. Nothing too technical but enough hills to give you a workout. And the flat gravel is useful too.

January was a good training month of consistency. Fewer miles in each run, but more variety. My mantra is “something every day.” It’s also been fun getting on the bike again. I’m carefully ramping up from here. Dipping into speed work again.

I’m kinda done with the cold now, ready for some spring!

mid jan 2018 – looking up again

Garmin training status

After letting the body heal up for almost 2 months  it’s back to a steady increase in activities. I did a ton of hiking in the last half of December that made the legs strong. These were relatively easy jaunts, as I’ve grown weary and uneasy about re-injuries.

My Garmin annoyingly won’t track status or load when set to “walk” or “hike” mode. These workouts also don’t show up on the training log in Strava.  I’m setting all activities to road/trail running here on out.

The first week in January I unwittingly overdid it as seen in the orange bar in the chart. I was a little blind to how much I needed to recover when coming back to running. I’ve since adjusted.

The Garmin metrics in the Fenix-5 are pretty good it seems. What’s glaringly obvious in hindsight is that I’ve been bouncing between overtraining and under training too much. Going from Redline to Flatline just isn’t sustainable.

My current thinking:

  • Consistency – At least 5 workouts a week. No more redline-flatline-redline. This mainly means keeping my easy days really easy. I mean, for real.
  • Variety – More cross training and different activities. Walking, hiking, biking, swimming etc. If the ankles are too sore for a run, jump on the bike.
  • Specificity/focus – More structure in workouts. It’s too easy to jog along without a specific goal. Fine if you’re satisfied with general fitness. Not fine if you want to improve a little.
  • Strength and flexibility – Increase the amount of Yoga, stretching and strength exercises. Tremendous help in recovery and injury prevention.

None of this is new, I just have to keep pounding it into my thick skull.


2018 onward

2017 – good riddance

A couple injuries set me back this past year. Most annoyingly a tibial stress fracture. Pretty much all the plans I had for 2017 got dumped, no Barkley Fall Classic, no No Business, no road marathons. There were a few notable exceptions and bright spots, but overall it was a let down. The fewest miles run in a year since from way back in the 90’s I think.

But enough with the wining

The injury looks to be totally healed, miles are once again being put into the log. I’ve been hiking a lot more, up and down mountains. My legs are stronger, just not so fast.

Future things

(Subject to change as usual.)

  • Dirty South Trail marathon and half, helping out
  • Trail series, running a race or two would be nice
  • Knoxville Marathon, either race or pace, depends on if I’m able to PR
  • Yamacraw 50K, missed this race too many times, hope to be in proper shape, a sub 6 is doable
  • 2-3 months in Norway running in the mountains, maybe a side trip to Scotland
  • Chip away at the Smokies trails, still much to get done
  • Barkley Fall Classic, would be nice to do more than finish, if so it’ll be the last time
  • No Business 100? Not sure if I have another 100 in me, time will tell
  • Still hope to sub 3 in the marathon, time is running out…

monument valley 100

Early in the day and in the race. So far so good.

done and ouch

After 30 hours of sand dunes, pounding sunlight and a chilly desert night it’s over. It wasn’t easy but it was worth the “struggle.”

the why

There were reasons for picking this race. I wanted a vacation that covered most of the grand circle, and I wanted to combine it with a 100 mile experience that would etch itself into my memory. I failed at my first 100 mile attempt and didn’t want to fail again. The first staging of the Monument Valley races was happening and the chance of running through restricted Navajo lands and burial sites through the desert heat appealed to me.

navajo dreams

Left and Right Mittens


The night before was bad, I had nightmares. Something I hardly get. I kept waking up, tossing and turning, worried about what was ahead. There was a Navajo elder who was yelling at me incoherently and with solid black eyes. It felt like an omen of sorts. I’m not superstitious of nature but it still affected me before the start. I was looking around for that old Navajo man, waiting for him to show up during the harder parts of the race and shout at me for reasons unknown. He never showed up thankfully.

the sand

My plan of picking this course as an easy 100 to finish might have been misguided. First off, any 100 is tough no matter the terrain and elevation. Secondly; sand. Think 2 steps forward, one step back. Think shoes filling up to the brim and having to stop and empty them every 3 miles. Not all the course was sand, but there was enough to make it a factor. I forgot my gators, but the people who had gators said they didn’t work anyway. At one point in the course I screamed at a sand dune I had to climb. It looked like something out of the Sahara desert. Climbing sand uphill is more like 2 steps forward and 1 and 2/3 steps back. Highly frustrating.

the people

As is very common during these events you meet extraordinary people. It takes a certain kind of crazy to run these races and it takes even more crazy to want to organize events of this nature. The logistics and manpower required would shock most people. Surprisingly the Navajo who helped out with the event were totally open to the whole idea of running around their lands for hours on end. Turns out running is part of their tradition. There were a few local tribes members in the race.

the finish

Handmade buckle

I stumbled over the finish line after noon. The sun beating down a second day. My lips were burned and the skin was peeling. The winner who I’d foolishly run with the first 50k had long since finished a good 10 hours earlier. No matter. Finishing was the goal.

The buckle, my first, was hand made by a local Navajo artist. All the buckles were unique, making use of locally found leaves, sticks, and rocks. Items from the course. One could not have asked for a better buckle. All had different colors one could choose from. I picked the black one based on my dream from the previous night. It seemed apporopriate.

aftermath and recovery

I hid my body in a hotel room for a couple days, shuffling around, eating and watching television. The John Wayne museum was a hundred yards away, a little shack of a house with old movie posters plastered on the walls. I shuffled over to look around. It took a good 4 weeks to totally recover from the race. Luckily no injury manifested itself. I usually have something crop up after a 50+ mile race.

I finally got to writing this up after a couple years. It’s amazing how much I still remember from the race. I left out a ton of (boring) detail.

As so happens they haven’t staged the 100 miler since. This might be the first and last time anyone gets to run 100 miles through these mesas.

late summer 2017 update

road ahead is not for everyone

It’s been a tough 2017 as far as running goes. I’ve had to adjust expectations and goals as my body is having a hard time keeping up. As I’m pushing 50 my recovery times are longer and various pains have start to set in. I’m not as fast, not as nimble etc.

But I’m still on my feet and I have a ways to go before I give up on running altogether. There’s still some hope I might bounce back and have a couple good years ahead. In the mean time I’m hiking more, doing yoga, stretch and strength every day and enjoying that more than I thought I would. In some ways this rest period has made me stronger. I’m not as tired and ragged.

Iceland was great. I would like to go back sometime. More off trail back country hiking/running would be nice. I also might try to get to Greenland for some trekking at some point.

Race calendar has the Barkley Fall Classic next month, not sure about that one. Racing has increasingly become less important lately. I enjoy hanging with fellow running buddies here and there, but I’ll always at my core be a solo runner.


50-50-50 project, maybe

I’ve had this little project knocking around in my head for about a year and it’s one of those things that is fun (for me) to dream about and half plan for.  A lot has to fall into place life and job wise, but I’ve come to a point where I’m realizing this has a chance of happening.

The idea

It’s simple enough of a concept on paper; Travel all the 50 states and run all the things within one year, finishing up on my 50th birthday. April 21st 2019. Now I’m not one to derive much significance from sequences of round numbers and granted there’s a bit of fudging involved anyway with 52 weeks in the year and whether I count the continental 48 or all 50 with Alaska and Hawaii, but I like the simple title.

The plan so far

The how, where and what of it all is up in the air but I’ve started compiling some thoughts. I’ll have a rough route planned out and some main goals. For now it’s just nice to come up with things to do on a year long trip. One thing I’m leaning towards is flying to Alaska and then Hawaii at the end of it all. Seems only fair to stop the journey on a warm sandy beach with a drink in my hand.

-I’ll hopefully keep posting updates about this.
-I’m still a little injured at the moment, pretty bummed.
-Only a few days to the three sisters ultra festival, year two. Hopefully I can make it back in time to join the relay team I signed up for.

New Year with a Bang – Pistol 100

100 miles!

After running the 50K a few times I finally got the chance to get the Pistol 100 done.

Key points:
-First time under 24 hours
-Injury free going into and coming out of (I think)
-A great way to celebrate the new year
-Good learning experience for future races
-My first time with a pacer, odd for me but fun

Pistol Race
Such a great event. There are reasons why it draws people from all over. I think local runners are in the minority, which is a unique thing. It’s a fast course with a lot of support and easy access. The weather was mostly cooperative, the rain stayed a nice drizzle most of the time and it wasn’t too cold.

Training has been going ok of late. This is the first winter in years where I’ve been injury free and not sidelined. Consistency has been the mantra (Thanks Karl) and I’ve been ok trying to follow that, minus the Christmas holidays of course. I think the main prep for this race was incorporating some walking into my training. Walking with a purpose and with some speed (15min/miles) really helped.

Mile 0-50
Ran with Kathy and Tony the first half. I thought it wise to stay with the veterans of ultrarunning. They know what they’re doing! It was a nice 10 hours of chat, silence, making fun etc. There were a few stops here and there for some New Years Eve sips. The pace was slower than I personally planned but I wasn’t bothered.

Mile 50-75
Jacob came along for the ride and since I was feeling pretty good at this point we pulled ahead and “pushed the pace” for a couple of laps. It was nice having some strength in the body after 10 hours. I felt a little odd leaving K and TO behind but had to at least try to push towards my original goal.

At around 70 Jacob ran ahead and got me a coffee from a gas station nearby. That was a nice treat right when I needed it.

New years hit around mile 75 right after leaving the Woody aid station. It was raining and somewhat miserable at this point. We missed the ball drop at the start/finish, Jacob face-timed/skyped with his wife cheering us on. Another year in the books. I was running out of gas. My push after the halfway mark lasted about 20 miles. It was all a slog from here on out I knew. The possibility of sub 20 was long gone, so my secondary goals kicked in. Sub 22, 23? Possible. But only if I could trick my body into running more.

Mile 75-100
But no, my body would not let me run! Damned body. It just was not happening. I would try to stride for 5 or so minutes, hoping the body would loosen up. But nope. Walking was the only way I was finishing this. So sub 24 became the realistic end game. Still not bad. We were silent much of the last lap, it was getting things done time. I was still in good spirits though with the end in sight. I felt especially good because my body was holding up ok. I didn’t feel any long term damage being done, or any old injuries popping up. I was just stiff as a board and starting to swell in the legs and feet. The rain and cold were finally getting to me too.

We almost managed to beat the sunrise. The finish was pretty anti-climactic, walking over the line with Jacob, picking up my booty, then leaving the venue behind. I wanted nothing more than to warm up and lay down for some sleep.

It’s now 2 weeks since the race. The body is recovering OK. There’s some random soreness, and the knees are still rickety. I took a whole week off afterward. Now I’m upping the miles slowly. 20+ this week. Hopefully, the training wheels will be off in a couple more weeks and it’s back to normal. I’ll be hitting the trails big time shortly.

Future stuff
I still think a sub 20 is doable with the right training and circumstances. Gotta shoot for the stars! Maybe Tunnel Hill. Maybe even Pistol again.

Up next:
Music City Ultra – 50K
Georgia Death Race – 70Miles

Barkley Fall Classic #3 – the snooze

Crack of dawn before the cigarette is lit

I laid down on my back in the grass and looked up at the sky. Clouds floating by. I was tired. The pros and cons of continuing tossing around in my head. Then I let it go. I closed my eyes and snoozed for awhile. Laz could have his silly race. Today I made my own rules. Drifting in and out of sleep, runners trudging by me up Rat Jaw. Some asking if I was OK. Thumbs up. Just resting.

A few minutes earlier I witnessed someone blanking out, white faced and unresponsive, eyes rolling back into his skull. I slapped his face, asked him his name, tried to get his pulse. Another guy started blowing his whistle. Just as I was trying to remember CPR basics he snapped out. A minute later he continued on up the hill. You got to admire the pigheaded tenacity of some of us runners.

Mayhem grew around me as time drifted by. Runners wobbling. Emergency crew were walking up and down the hill helping people off the course. I overheard a couple a few yards away taking a break, talking about disappointment. So much training, so much hard work. And still not enough to finish the race. “I guess we’re just not good enough.” My heart sank a little. Bumping up against limits. Not easy.

I made sure to wait until the cutoff passed. I got up and brushed myself off. I still had to get off this hill in the middle of nowhere. I climbed, walked, then jogged the last 4 miles. I passed Laz sitting slumped in his chair. Ultra runner turned ultra race director. He had no energy left for his usual quips.

I made it in. The streak was dead. 2 full finishes and now 1 marathon. No regrets. Streaks like this are for bad-asses like Tony, Kathy and Leonard. I’m just a part time bad ass who likes to take naps.

cloudventure – shoe review

fancy bright colors

I bought these shoes on a whim online. Buying without trying usually results in a returned pair of shoes but I got lucky this go around. With 300 miles of running and back packing through mud and snow, both on and off trail I have to say I’m impressed.


Cloudventure trail shoe from “On”
Price: $149.99
Mileage so far: 300 miles

don’t step on the turtles!!!

The good

Comfortable fit

Probably the hardest to get right. Every foot is different and there are only so many shoe shapes/size combinations on the shelf. Through trial and error I’ve found New Balance to be the best fit brand for me. But this particular shoe is a very close second. I prefer wider toe boxes and this one falls in line with that. Not as wide as an Altra, but also not as narrow as an Inov-8 or HOKA.

Good Traction

I’ve used them on every surface imaginable, on trail and off, mud, rain, and snow. I’ve also done some hiking in light to heavy backpacks. Although the extra weight on my back did lead to an increase in vertical heel movement I didn’t get any blisters. Traction was good on mud, steep inclines as well as snow. The shoe increased my confidence. I have other shoes I tend to slow down in and hesitate in due to potential slipping etc.

Solid Construction

These are very solidly made and I expect them to last a long time. I’ve put about 300 miles on them so far and there’s little to no sign of wear. Some of the lugs on the front have rubbed down about 30%, nothing major. I’ve not noticed any breakdown in the sole. And the shoe still looks as good as new. Once you clean off all the mud that is.


synonymous with “quality”

Lacing system

This was a big surprise. I was expecting the thin and hard laces to be a pain to deal with but they are solid. No double knots necessary. I’ve lived with thick and stretchy laces my whole life, so had to unlearn that tiny bias. The lacing cinches up real tight along the whole forefoot, not just at the top where you pull.

skinny laces work surprisingly well


The ON website shows a ton of choices for both road and trail. There are plenty of color selections as well. I’ll be trying a pair of road shoes next. They also have a line of apparel clothing. Some interesting design choices here, the price is a bit steep though.

The so-so


“Cloud technology”

These pillow looking things on the bottom seem very gimmicky. There’s the possibility they are providing some added traction without me realizing it, because I can’t really tell if they do much of anything. It does give them a distinct look though so from a branding standpoint I think it makes sense. It’s hard to differentiate oneself in the running shoe market these days, so having an interesting hook with customers is important. Personally I don’t need these types of features, they are normally a turn off. Luckily everything else about the shoe is great, so I’ll give them a pass.


This is a more cushioned shoe than I’m used to. They fall somewhere in between a pillowy Hoka and a minimal NB110. I like them in my rotation of shoes and have to make sure I don’t exclusively use them. This is a very personal preference of course. Not many are as minimal focused as I am.


The not so great


Due to the sturdy and durable construction there’s a bit of a weight trade off to make. The website says 10.1oz, but they feel more like 11 or even 12oz. I can feel this extra weight after a few hours of running. Not a big deal. It’s just noticeable. The construction also contributes to locking in some heat on hot days and some moisture on wet days. They don’t dry out as quickly as some other shoes, but it’s not a huge problem.


At $150 the Cloudventure is on the more pricey end of the scale. I’ve never bought more expensive shoes. Luckily they have a wide range of models to choose from with varying prices. And I give them a pass as it’s looking like these shoes are going to be good for 1,000+ miles.


Overall I’m very happy with this shoe and will likely buy another pair soon.

I’ll give it a totally subjective and arbitrary score of 95/100.

good grip on snow


After thoughts:

– So happy fall is finally here, it’s been a scorcher of a summer.