Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Memorial Day Weekend: Moving with Diane on the MST!

Somewhere around mile 45 of a 65ish mile day! Let's eat!
As I have so recently posted, I have taken every opportunity “guide run” with Diane Van Deren as she makes her way from the western boundary of NC to the dunes of Kitty Hawk on the almost 1000 mile long Mountains to SeaTrail. (A true trail in the west and parts of the Greensboro area), yet most other sections are still in development and follow established Department of Transportation bike routes on mostly rural roads.

Diane started on May 10th and is on a quest to better the current 24 day trail record-perhaps by almost 48 hours? Time will tell as she at this writing (Wednesday at 8pm EST ) has around 80 miles in front of her and a storm to deal with.

Because of Diane’s brain surgery years ago, she had relief from awful seizures, yet the removal of part of brain left her directionally and sometimes detailed challenged. To assist with these challenges, she has had a companion runner(s) for most of the whole cross-state trek. I am happy to say that I have traveled with Diane for most of the last 3 weekends. See previous posts for details of the first two.

I joined Diane this past weekend on Saturday afternoon. After driving to Raleigh, awesome Amy picked me up  and drove me to somewhere north and east of Raleigh where I met up with Diane in a church parking lot. We ran /walked/trotted and scampered about 37 miles together (Diane did 50 that day) and crashed in a church parking lot (me in a tent) Diane in back of the traveling aid station (awesome box truck) and crew in car and hammock. We had full support and kindness from the local pastor. After 2.7 hours of sleep, we rose at 2:35 am to prepare for a 3 am start.

Diane is dealing with the heat and humidity of eastern NC, so an alpine start, seemed the most sensible…especially with still tender feet from her earlier blisters, several foot cooling/icing breaks would be needed as we traversed the hot pavement of the roads. I think we did around 65 miles on Sunday…What was sooo crazy-we hardly saw anyone outside-only lots of dogs barking and running around –a few after us-very scary. 

Next time I run in the eastern part of this state, I will carry pepper spray! The cats we saw were smarter: lounged over porch railing or plopped in tree branches. As far as wildlife? Lots of dead snakes on the road and some pretty crazy driving Sunday night from likely holiday partiers! In fact, this traffic and the encouragement of local law enforcement made up quite 3.7 miles short on Sunday (to stay alive) and add those miles to the generous ones mapped out on Monday! Good call!

All of us slept for almost 2.5 hours in a Hampton Inn. We got to shower and charge our electronics and drink coffee and eat oatmeal before being back out on the road from where we stepped off it less than 5 hours before. Diane and I were solo during the wee, dark hours. We stalked the roads, checking map and constantly being checked on every 4 miles by the awesome mobile aid station. In the earliest hours we wandered and weaved on the road-falling asleep to be sure. We moved forward, wobbling. 

I thought, “How lame am I after only a couple days of mileage and lack of sleep? And Diane has been living a similar lifestyle for how long?” Yet concentrating on perceived lameness does nothing to invoke success, so the funky singing started (both of us at fault) and we made our way through the welcomed first light of day to Chuck and Sarah and breakfast  and COFFEE at around 14 miles in.
A dark reflective start leading to a great day for Diane! (Me on the right am wearing my new cool MH skort...wish you could see it!)    
Well…talked about hitting a funk and waiting an hour to see what happens! Wow! This morning was the reminder of precious patience! I don’t know if it was the syrup from Diane’s pancakes or the 3 packets of sugar in my coffee or just awesome connection to attitude, yet we went nuts in a great way after breakfast!

 We mostly power hiked with some real running thrown in to be sure. We used my Garmin for pace guidance (accurate on flattish non-tree covered terrain) and she rocked! It is such a difficult balance to figure out what pace will lead to success and not breakdown. At this point pushing too hard could have awful consequences, we just had to trust her perceived effort. We got into a great groove and made some good miles. 

I had to leave Diane at mile 28 that day-I felt sad to be rightfully “left out” of her remaining miles, yet so proud and pleased to call her a “trail kindred spirit”.  Leaving Diane in great company of her crew and other fantastic peeps as pacers, I jumped into Amy’s car as she drove me back to Raleigh so I could reunite with my Echo and creep the 3.5+ hours back home to be ready for work the next day. Truth be told, I was exhausted both emotionally and physically and had to stop for 2 naps on my way home.

My own running goals have been on hold due to the privilege of these past weekends and to  some weird bio mechanical issues I’ve been dealing with. I have seen a local PT 2x in the last month, yet as wonderful a human the PT is, she is not a good fit for me.  I have an appointment with awesome Greg at Mountain Physical Therapy in "far away" Asheville on 6/13. I know he’ll give me good direction. I am grateful my issues didn’t get in the way of being a companion (except for having to switch packs) to Diane and her mission.

I will say there has been some fun bantering as a North Face Runner drinks out of Montrail water bottles and a Montrail runner sleeps in a North Face Tent. I love it! Despite the lack of photo documentation-this mission is about supporting the greater good and what Diane is doing is more than certainly that! Go! Diane, Go! Thank you to The North Face and Great Provisions for Supporting Diane’s expedition and also to Montrail/ Mountain Hardwear for encouraging my participation on her grand adventure!

To learn more about Diane’s race to the finish and her adventures check out these sites:
Don't wait too long to follow her: She'll be done in the next day or a little more! Go Diane! North Carolina is Cheering for you!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Sharing Miles With Diane During her MST Endurance Run across North Carolina

Grinnin' in the rain: early on day 4: on route to Mitchell...
Diane Van Deren is running 1000 miles in 21 days. As a “local”, I have been privileged with being one of her “guide runners” and companions during several segments of her Western North Carolina traverse of the Mountains to the Sea Trail.

Because I have this responsibility Monday – Friday called a JOB, I have only been able to assist these last two weekends. Diane has run/trekked over 400 miles since May 10, 2012. Happy me has shared a little over 100 miles with her over the course of 4 very different days.

Because work and gardening and my enthusiasm for Diane’s quest is all at a peak, there is little time for blog writing (yet believe me, if there was, I’d have plenty to share as usual)! 

Diane and I at Sleepy Gap on her day 3 of the ADVENTURE
Our first day together, 5/12 we traveled from the Pisgah Inn to the Folk Art Center (31ish miles).  A sunny day to start with, fog and drizzle moved in late afternoon, making the smells of generous amounts of lighter fluid and banjo music seeping up to the trail from a low lying cabin that much for poetic!

On 5/13, Diane and crew had hoped for 48 miles, going up and over Mt Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi. The day was slow going for she and I:  socked in fog, drizzle and pouring rain at 45 degrees, wind (yes, even with fog), sparsely marked trail and a multitude of slippery wet rocks and predictions of an overnight temperature of 36 degrees caused Diane’s support staff to make the decision to call her off the trail 9 miles from the summit of Mt. Mitchell, giving us 25 or 26 miles for that day. A great decision I thought as I knew Diane had slept for less than 11 hours in the past 3 nights with 170ish miles of rugged traveling to boot.

I wasn’t sure I’d see her again, as my “trail guide” commitment expired that Sunday night. Yet I did make it clear to Diane and her team, if they would have me, I’d assist with trail companioning, laundry, and logistics, whatever…

I was surprised (kind of) by my sudden enthusiasm for being a part of this expedition. Yes, I love that Diane is supporting our longest, most awesome trail in North Carolina and that she and The North Face and GreatOutdoor Provision Company are drawing lots of attention and likely $$ support for the trail. I love it that Diane is a 52-year-old tough, funny, genuine athlete who is high profile and will draw people to her. I expected to respect her athleticism (which I do), yet I didn’t expect to like her so much! It’s just that I didn’t think of her as a person, rather only as an ultra runner until our emails and phone conversations a week prior to the start of her expedition.

As I quickly discovered, Diane is a person of influence and she made me laugh, think, consider and this of this story I'd first heard years ago rewritten in the North Carolina Outward Bound School Readings Book. I couldn't remember the exact wording, yet after a little internet digging found this story whose message partially explains my experience of being with DVD:

Elizabeth Mauske told a story about an unusual and sweet friendship between her mother and an old native Indian woman from Central America. The Indian woman would visit their home often. With each visit, she would give her mother some partridge eggs and berries as a gift. The lovely colorful clothing and coin necklaces the woman wore fascinated Elizabeth. She noticed her copper bracelets as they softly jingled on her arm.

The Indian woman only spoke Araucanian and her mother only spoke Spanish. Their conversation was minimal, but they would sit at the table, drinking tea and eating cake together with a smile and a laugh. They seemed to enjoy one another's company.

Elizabeth noticed each time the Indian woman would rise to leave that she would say the exact same words. With great curiosity, Elizabeth and her sisters memorized the phrase and quickly found someone who could translate Araucanian for them. When she found out what the Indian woman had said, she was greatly touched and said it was "the nicest compliment ever uttered." The Indian woman would rise from the table with a smile and say: "I shall come again, for I like myself when I'm near you." 

Article Source:

I like myself when I am near her. Wow! Thank you Diane for your vigor, enthusiasm for life and genuine humanness!

I was thrilled when Amy Hamm, one of Diane’s superheroish support crew emailed me and invited me to join Friday after work (the 15 mile portion closest to my home) and Sunday’s miles (a guide runner lost to a last minute work trip to Europe, I happily agreed to jump back in).

On Friday evening, I joined Diane, Jill and Glenn, as they were 26 miles into their day. We went 15 together, finishing at 10:45pm. Those 3 were so giddy and tired and goofy, (very earned after an over 40 mile day on this trail) I was relieved Amy or Joel would drive them back to their hotel. I simply jumped into my Echo and was home eating soup in 30 minutes! This evening was a great reminder of how close to work and home the MST is! I really like to drive up there after work (10-15 minutes depending on which part), run 1 hour-ish along the trail, then jump on the Blue Ridge Parkway and be back to my car in 45 minutes more.

A BRIEF COMMENT ON SATURDAY'S EXPERIENCE  before hitting the MST again on Sunday:

Saturday was spent running to and back, running event/cheering/taking photos at a local 5k fitness celebration, gardening, cleaning house, working on “school stuff” for a few hours. The following few photos document this day:

Our local celebration of fitness!
Eventual allover winner, Dan McAuley warming up pre-5km
Enjoying post-race yummies...
Me and women's champion...( her name is on the tip of my tongue, yet I can't remember-yikes...oldness setting in for me?
I was off to bed by 11pm to rise again to be on the road at 4am in order to meet Diane’s Team at 5:30am just outside the gates of Stone Mountain State Park.

This was a planned 40-mile day, her first day of MST “route”, rather than trail. After some conversation and reflection, Diane decided to cut it back to 30 miles. We called it a DNH day (a “do no harm day”: her feet were beat up, not getting worse, yet need time off feet and to begin to heal from the rigors of the mountains. With “feet”, covering 50 miles a day on non-technical stuff, especially with the assistance of a great support staff would be reasonable. Yet, to get “there” healing will be necessary. With pleasure I companioned Diane, Todd and Abram 30 miles along rural roads in Yadkin and Surry County, NC. I can rightly say we had fun together tromping along telling stories, singing, counting church signs (there must have been 100 on this day’s route)!
D and A toasting the chill of some awesomeness from an on-route Dairy Queen. Yum!
After 45 degrees and rain for many days in the mountains, no wonder DQ was awesome!

Diane's 1st MST side walk...easier on blistered feet than muddy boulders!
Abram, me, Di, Kate and Todd on Sunday morning
I left Team Diane last night around 6pm to make my way back up to the mountains to get ready for my workweek.

I have tweaked my schedule a bit and will offer my assistance for the whole of next weekend if needed when Team Diane will be in the Raleigh/east of Raleigh area.

My dorsal fin is surprisingly very content to be hibernating as I pursue this quest of support for Diane’s run. It’s a great mental break for me and I hope a helpful to Diane and her Team. Go Diane! North Carolina is cheering for you!

Next up for me? Possibly some more "trail guiding" sometime during this coming Memorial Day Weekend? Otherwise I plan to register for Black Mountain Monster 24. I had really hoped to travel to MN for FANS 24 the same weekend, yet the pocketbook reality set in and I am "state bound" for the next bit.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Anticipating Diane

MST train terrain in Western North Carolina
Yesterday, morning, predawn, Diane Van Deren, 52 years old and North Face Athlete from Colorado started her 1000 mile journey on North Carolina's very own Mountains to the Sea Trail. She is attempting a record on the course.

Please visit
 to read parts of Diane's story and what prompted her to take on this quest.

Live updates will be posted here.

I am "anticipating Diane" as I will be joining her sometime today after work...not sure when or where-all depends on her progress. She and I will be running together likely up and over Mount Mitchell, east along Woods Mountain and through Linville Gorge: some 80-90 miles in 2 days. She is moving faster than anticipated, so I won't know my segments until later today.Yesterday my running buddy Dennis Norris did somewhere around 100 miles with her, and today, Doug Blackford is staged to be her trail companion.

Because Diane had a part of her brain removed several years ago to intervene against horrible seizures, her direction-finding and short term memory is affected. That is why Diane will be running with "guide runners" like myself for the mountain portion and other portions of her adventure.

I am really looking forward to meeting this kindred-spirit and joining her adventure for a couple of days!