Georgia Sky to Summit 50K

So….I know I have neglected this blog a little bit over the last month or so. For that I apologize.  It has been hectic and I was in the longest part of training for an event that will never be forgotten.  Last Saturday Nov 7th 2015 I ran my 3rd Trail race and my first 50K!! Yes that is not a typo I said 50K!  As in 50 Kilometers (31 miles for those who don’t want to convert the measurement)

Yikes! Seeing as I have never raced more than a Half Marathon or really followed a strict running plan I decided over the summer to register for the Georgia Sky to Summit 50K.  This race came complete with hype video which inspired me to register for this amazingly beautiful and scenic 50K,  Now keep in mind I have only been running trails since March of 2015 as I became frustrated with and bored of road racing! As the event began to fill up I signed up one night and was able to get one the last remaining and coveted spots for this race.  The race is put on by Run Bum Tours and takes place in Sky Valley, Georgia.  The course traverses the trails over and around Rabun Bald mountain.  This is the second highest peak in Georgia at a whopping 4,695ft.  For all my Western runners I know it pales in comparison but I live in Georgia and I will take the elevation I can get.  Even though the height of the mountain is not the most impressive, this is one tough race.  The course is runnable, if you are used to lots of up and down, or Superman!  It boast 15,000 feet of elevation change roughly 7500 feet up and 7500 down. You get the privilege of summiting Rabun Bald mountain twice! Yes we went up the mountain twice in the course of 31 miles.  The views are breathtaking and you get to see some of the most beautiful waterfalls Georgia has to offer!

Now without further ado…a brief race report!

The race morning began with rain and temperatures in the mid 50’s almost perfect weather had it not been raining.  After brief safety meeting and introduction to the race by the race director we were off at 7:00 am.  The race climbs from Sky Valley to the summit of Rabun Bald immediately.  Over this 3.5 miles you climb almost 2200 feet to the top and quickly make your descent down the Bartram Trial toward Wilson Gap.  This is roughly 5 miles down.  This was still a tricky part of the race because it happens so early you have to restrain yourself from going all out.  Remember there is 31 miles total the descent will blow up your quads.  At 8 miles into the race your reach Wilson Gap.  There was a full aid station there with everything you need to fuel your body.  From Wilson Gap we made our way 3 miles toward Darnell Creek.  This part of the course was beautiful, muddy and had many water crossing to keep your feet wet! At about 10.5 miles you reach Darnell Creek which is roughly a knee to thigh water crossing.  This was the art I had seen on video and was dreading…mostly because I knew it would be cold.  Yes I was not wrong the water was cold but it felt so good to my already cramping calves and was like a brief ice bath.  We made our way out to the next aid stop and turned back to cross Darnell Creek one more time.  From there we cut up some steep and muddy paths that traversed along several flowing stream and raging waterfalls on our way back to Wilson Gap roughly 14 miles into the race.  Here I changed socks, removed my rain jacket and put on a dry shirt.  After fueling up we started our ascent back to the top of Rabun Bald.  5 miles of constant unrelenting climbing along beautiful single track trails and switch backs.  Mile 19 returned us to the top of Rabun Bald and we were able to climb to the top of the overlook.  The view from up here was amazing and despite the cloud cover and rain you had a pretty good view all around.  From here we had 3 more miles to the next aid stop at Three Forks.  This was another steep down hill ascent for 3 miles. Coming right of the top the trail was steep and covered in leaves so we took our time coming down this area.  This descent really put a pounding on the quads.  I had not felt sore until I hit this downhill stint.

Once we reached Three Forks we had another 7 miles back to the next aid stop.  This section was tough as my legs were pretty beat up overall.  We climbed up a constant grade of Forest Service Road and back onto the trails to run by Holcomb Falls and ascend the trail by the falls.  This seemed to be the hardest and steepest part yet.  Also the most treacherous as the bridges were very slick.  We were warned and believe me when Run Bum says the bridges are slick, they are SLICK!, I completely busted on the first bridge heading toward Holcomb Falls.  Yes this was caught on camera and you see the aftermath in the video! By the way Holcomb Falls…BEAUTIFUL!!! The rain really had the fall roaring! Once we exited Holcomb Falls we turned back onto Forest Service Road and continued to climb for what seemed like an eternity.  As we climbed higher we were directed back onto the Bartram Trail for another 3 miles back to the aid stop we passed at mile 2.  This section was beautiful single track with small falls within arms reach.  Even though I was fatigued and tired this was one of my favorite sections.  It was very runnable even with beat up legs.  Once returning to the aid stop at mile 28 we quickly refueled and prepared for a 3 mile down hill run back to Sky Valley and the finish line.  This sounds great but with your legs trashed this downhill descent on roads was going to be painful.  So down we went retracing our path from the start.  We were close, the finish is only a 5K away at this point.  With all I I had left in the tank I proceeded to bomb down the road at whatever pace I could go.  The first mile was uncomfortable and then my legs began to feel okay enough to push the pace back to the finish line.  I was amazed as I had never run that far that I could still move and pushed even harder down the hill.  Suddenly the finish line came into view with a small group cheering as we made the final left turn toward the finish moving in what I felt was an all out sprint I heard the race director call out “All right 230” I knew I was there! Crossing the finish line in I received a congratulatory high five and knew I had succeeded at the most difficult race I have ever attempted.  My training while not perfect had paid off I FINISHED my first 50K and qualified for a my next endeavor the 68 mile Georgia Death Race in March.

This race has it all, hills, views, waterfalls, creek crossings, amazing volunteers, a passionate RD and awesome people who encourage you all the way.  I plan to sign up next year and see if I can conquer those trails with a faster time! If you want a challenge with stunning views then this is the  50K for you! Go and check it out  at http://www.runbumtours.com and watch this awesome video from the go pro I carried on the race.  This was my first time using a go pro so I apologize in advance for the camera being on me most of the time, but I think the video is awesome!

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Hoka One One Speedgoat

 

I am going  to start this review by giving Hoka some credit for their customer service! I sent another pair of Hoka’s back for warranty issues.  If you are not aware Hoka offers a 1 year warranty against material defects on all their shoes.  Since my other Hokas tore up in the same place on both feet and the tongue started to fall out after about 75 miles, Hoka sent me a credit for them to use on their website which covered the the cost and shipping of the Speedgoats.  HOka really does stand by their product and has really impressed me in that regard.

The Hoka One One Speedgoat is one of the most anticipated running shoes for Fall.  Designed in collaboration with legendary Ultra Racer Karl Meltzer, AKA The Speedgoat, this shoe boasts some of the best trail specific features to date from Hoka.  The Speedgoat is built on the Rapi Nui platform so those familiar with the Rapi Nui will be more or less familiar with the basic features of the shoe.  Of course this being a Hoak shoe there is plenty of cushion to absorb all the impact that the trails can dish out.  The Heel has a stack height of 33mm with a 28mm stack height in the forefoot.  This gives it a little more cushion than the Challenger ATR.  There is a 5mm heel to toe drop overall. The mesh upper is entirely seamless to insure a secure fit and no hotspots.  the welded overlays on the upper really make this shoe look fast.  The tongue has just enough padding to keep it from rubbing and has bee stitched into the upper to keep it place and help keep debris out.  The heel has a nicely padded collar which adds to the overall comfort.  Hoka really added some nice features to the outsole with 5mm Vibram lugs and flex grooves.  The Vibram lugs are super sticky and grip to almost any terrain you can find.  The new flex grooves really help to add to the responsiveness of the ride and allow the shoe to flex over the changing terrain.  Overall weight is 9.7 ounces in a US size 9 according to Hoka’s site.

With some many great features one might think could be the perfect trail shoe, right? While this shoe is pretty good it is not perfect.  The biggest complaint with this shoe on most if the reviews I have read is that it is too narrow and tight in the forefoot.  I sized mine up by a half size and have not experienced that particular problem.  I will say that even with that I have the perfect amount of room any smaller and my toes would be slammed up against the toe of the shoe.  It does run small in my opinion and I highly recommend that you size up by at least a half size.  The other issue I have with the shoe is the size of the mesh on the upper.  The openings are much larger than many other shoes and allow loose dirt and debris to get in.  It is not a lot that gets in but definitely more than I am used to with other trail shoes I have used.  That being said none of the issues are what I  consider deal breakers when it comes to using this shoe.  Overall this is a great shoe by Hoka and can easily be a standout shoe for them.  With a few minor tweaks Hoka could almost have the perfect combination of cushioning, durability and weight.  I highly recommend that you get out, try on a pair of Speedgoats and explore your local trails!

Checkout the Video review below!

Remember to Train Harder, Train Smarter and Train Wise!

Thanks and God Speed

-Ross

Gear Review: Salomon S-Lab Adv skin 3 5 Set

So here it is, my first gear review! I have had the privilege of using the Salomon S-Lab Adv Skin 3 5 Set, which pretty translates to the 3rd incarnation of this 5 liter Hydration vest.  This is a great lightweight vest.  It 225 gram which is 7.93 ounces.  It is made of very high qulity and breathable mesh materials.  The Sensifit fabric really helps the vest to move with you as you breathe and run.  There is no bounce with vest even when it is fully loaded out.  I enjoy the soft flask bottles as they mold to your body and are not hard and pressing into you.  They are 500mL/ 17 ounce bottles.   You do give up about 3 ounces with them when compared to hard bottles at 20 ounces.  The biggest qualm I have with them is the fact that the opening is very narrow which makes it hard to put in powders when you are at an aid station.  I would like the openings to be a little bit larger but overall they are great.  The bite valve works well and easily allows for the fluid flow into your mouth.

My favorite aspect of the vest is the amount of storage.  This thing has more pockets than a pair of cargo pants.  You hvae two side zippered pockets, two side stretch pockets, two bottle holder pockets, two storage pockets above the flasks.  One of these is intended to be a cell phone pocket but does not hold my Galaxy S5 in the Otter Box case.(It will hold it without the case).  The vest also features a large Kangaroo pocket across the back which is accessible with either hand and can easily store a jacket or additional nutrition if you like. (this pocket is where my cell phone rides) There is also room for a 1.5 liter bladder if you like using a bladder.  It comes with an insulated bladder pouch but does not include a bladder.  This is a negative point for me but not a deal breaker.  The vest also has a storage pouch behind the bladder compartment where you can toss extra socks, clothing, or a headlamp.  It also has the ability to attach you poles to it as well.

This vest was designed with the runner in mind since I can reach everything while on the move.  I do not need to stop to access any pockets.  I have run with it for over 50 miles and had no chaffing, rubbing or discomfort.  I have also run in it without a shirt with the same results.  While it is a great product it does have one big draw back, PRICE! This vest new is $160.00 and does not include a bladder which is an additional $40.00 putting you at a $200.00 price point for a hydration vest.  Though if you are Savvy enough you can find coupon codes and discounts out there and get 15-20% off which puts in it at a much more competitive price point when compared with similar products from Nathan or Ultimate Direction.  Overall this is a great product and one I definitely recommend.  It is my go to race vest and will continue to be for a long time.

Below is my video review!

Remember to Train Harder, Train Smarter, Train WISE!

Good luck and God Speed

Ross L. Wise

Are you too focused on what others think?

Endurance athletes are a different breed.  Constantly we are focused on how to improve our times, how to improve our speed, how to be the best. Most of us are weekend warriors, we sit behind a desk from 8-5 squeeze in our training where we can. Most of us are not competing at the elite level and never will be, most of us will never win an age group podium or a podium in general.  We start out thinking we are going to challenge ourselves, get in shape drop a few pounds so that we look and feel good. At some point we start achieving faster times, faster paces, longer distances and coming closer and closer to semi pro times.  At that point we start to  post every training session to a social app or community.  We become obsessed with running a sub whatever minute mile for X number of miles.  We want everyone to see our accomplishments, so much so that we won’t even post a bad run or ride to Social Media.  Even if we do the post is always with followed an excuse for our poor performance.  We even get jealous or spiteful of our friends who are closing in on our times or who seem to be able to compete at a seemingly super human level.  Is this starting to sound familiar? Does some of this behavior describe you? (It definitely describes me!)  If so you are probably more focused on what others think about your results than you are on your training.  Endurance racing is a very individual sport.

We all have different strengths, we all have different bodies with varying levels of fitness, we all have different mentalities.  The bottom line is we are not athletically created equal, our training is not equal, our routines are not equal.  I am personally guilty of all of the things I have previously mentioned.  I constantly chased the emptiness of competition only to be disappointed by my times, envious of my friends abilities, and constantly letting a bad performance or session define me.  Then the worst happened, my watch and heart rate monitor broke.  No longer could I track my distance, pace and heart rate.  Sure I could track pace and distance with my phone (which I did), but it was cumbersome.  So I started to run and ride “naked”. Meaning no watch, no GPS on my phone, no heart rate.  I even changed where I run so I could not figure out distance or time as easily.  I began leaving the familiar roads and trained in new places, I quit posting my results to social media like Facebook, Garmin Connect and Strava.  I quit caring about arbitrary results! What I discovered was I began this journey in the first place.  I have never trained with music so I began to really listen to  my body again, focused on my breathing, the sound of my feet striking the ground, noticing  how I felt versus what pace was I moving at.  I began to enjoy the experience, the sights and sounds around me.

There was beauty in  each season and every type of weather.  Being able to just soak it all in, it no longer became about a training session but a time of enjoyment and renewal for me.  A time to relieve stress, to think, solve problems and even how I decided to start this blog! I no longer cared what others thought of my results, I no longer felt a need for someone to say “Wow” or give me “Kudos”.  Since then I have greatly upgraded my broken watch and do spend  time training with it.  I do like to improve my times and I am a data junkie so I will never completely give it up.  Now I use my watch to just track changes in my fitness level, the data is for me and me alone.  Occasionally I still post some of my sessions to Social Media, yes even a few bad or tough ones! (I don’t want people to think I am dead or something!)  On my long training sessions I go “naked” and just enjoy being in the environment where I am.  I also discovered that I indeed became faster, better able to pace myself and a stronger athlete! I began to achieve many of my own goals! My challenge to all of you is try going without the GPS or the phone.  Leave the watch at home, forget the heart rate and all the stats! Go and enjoy remember why you started all this in the first place! Listen to your body, you will be so happy you did! There is nothing wrong with wanting to be better but make sure that you are doing it for the right reasons!

Get out there, have fun and succeed!

God Speed!

Ross