Boone, NC Mountain Trip

A beautiful week in the mountains with some of the most awesome people on the planet. This one is more personal, for me, because I know I’ll want to reminisce on it again soon. But if you like the mountains and/or interesting headlines that suck you in… you might enjoy it, too.

My friend Janice, the videographer in Durham who organized the trip, put together a short video recap of the week. It’s also perfectly titled, “Mountain Love,” which both together & separately, are really powerful words.

Suzy Goes Bananas

Janice runs into the store real quick to pick up some notebooks. She’s a teacher, OK, so don’t judge. Well… unless they were wide-ruled. Then you can definitely judge.

While waiting, Dave decides to take a little stroll through the parking lot. You know, just to stretch his legs for the lonnnnng, 10-minute drive.

Little did he know, Suzy needed to “stretch her legs”, too. And evil Suzy had a little something up her sleeve.

After an old-fashioned, western-movie staredown—and some shaky camera work by sister Karen—Suzy took aim.

And I’ll let the video tell you the rest…

Driving the Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway Sign - Group Shot

Just for the record, we’re all incredible karaoke singers. And we’re even better when Janice has her volume set to “I can’t really hear much else around me.”

And Suzy graduated from bananas and moved on to mix tapes. Girl makes a mean compact disc for a road trip.

Surfing & Searching

We stopped at a scenic overlook on the Parkway. However, seeing as there was no scenery to look over (stupid clouds), Suzy & I decided to make it an action-shot overlook. Suzy did the surfing. I did the searching. And we both did it on top picnic tables.

Hey Karen, can we get those pictures off your phone, please?

Grandfather Mountain Hike

Boone NC Grandfather Mountain Hike

4 friends, 2 dogs & one common Grandfather. We love ya, pops.

OK, so he’s not really our “pops.” But he was the perfect going away present to culminate an awesome trip.

Grandfather Mountain profile trailWe hiked Grandfather Mountain on our last day in Boone. Toby (that innocent-looking, golden-brown chow pictured above) tackled his first true mountain hike… like a champ. Murph dog & I got some quality bonding time in. I even let him sprint his way down the trail for a minute or two. The little guy was itching to let loose the whole hike, so I had to run with him for at least a 1/4 mile or so.

Nothing too out-of-the-ordinary. Just peaceful flowing water, mud beneath our feet, fresh mountain air, beautiful views, lush greenery & light conversation. The simple things in life…

The Grandview Restaurant

The Grandview was the morning breakfast spot. A 5-minute walk from the house, and a “grand view” of Grandfather Mountain. And they accommodated our request for a “plate of hash browns topped with whatever vegetables you have.” Hey, it’s a diner & there were 2 vegans in the house. Sometimes you gotta get creative.

Mountain Grounds Coffee Shop

Mountain Grounds coffee shop in Banner Elk was homebase for getting work done. Peaceful little place with great service. A good energy for being productive. Ha… too bad I played way more Candy Crush than I did work.

The Vegan Threesome

One night we went out to dinner in Boone. Forget the name of the place, but it was a build-your-own-burrito kind of joint. And build one, I did. A mighty tasty one.

All your typical stuff to start with… rice, beans, lettuce, onion, etc. And then I added in the real flavor. Pineapple, corn & guacamole… seriously, it’s an orgy in your mouth.

They should name this thing after me. And I’d like to call it the: Vegan Threesome

I would show you pictures, but the things I did to this burrito are illegal in all 50 states… and Mexico.

Seven Devils

I’m not sure why they call them devils, or why there are seven of them, but this was the town I did my first run through. Did I say town? I’m sorry, I meant mountain. This is the mountain I did my run up, not through.

I was on the hunt for some mountain trails, but had trouble finding some near the house. I was running along the main road when I saw a giant yellow sign. It said “Warning” in huge letters at the top.

“OK, sign, you have my attention. What’s that all about?” I asked.

“Steep grade & sharp curves ahead.”

Done. Sold. Say no more. This wasn’t a sign, but an invitation. “Welcome to Seven Devils, Dave. Please come in, and come up. You won’t regret it.”

The next 2.5 miles consisted of the most elevation I’ve ever climbed in a 2 mile stretch. Up, up & up, as the road kept winding back-and-forth in each direction. And although I know I would be gassed if I ran the whole thing… I kept running. I was determined to meet the devils… all seven of ’em.

Seven Devils, NC Mountain Run

1,100 ft. of climbing & 2 miles later, I reached the [Rocky] Top. I had a brief spiritual moment when I looked down into the valley on the other side of the mountain. There’s something so powerful, yet so humble, about ascending mountains on your own two feet.

The run back down wasn’t quite as fun, but I was more than happy to pay that price for my experience at the top.

Price Lake

While driving the Blue Ridge Parkway, we stop at Price Lake. The girls walked the dogs & took pictures. We bumped into a family walking the other direction on the trail, and asked them how long the trail was. 2.3 miles. I asked the girls if they would mind if I ran around it real quick, and met them back at the car. They were fine with it, as long as I made it back in 20 minutes.

What a FUN twenty minutes!

Slippin’ & slidin’ on mud, ducking under tree branches, splashing in mud puddles, leaping over water barriers, flashing across wooden bridges… halfway point I stopped for a beautiful view and some O2… continued through a campground, past an amphitheater, back onto the Parkway for a brief stretch, and let the trail take me back home. 21 minutes of muddy, awesome, trail running. Ahhh 🙂

Dave at Price Lake Sign, Blue Ridge Parkway

Soooo… when are we going back?

I drank a beer & I liked it

Sung to the tune of my least favorite Katy Perry song.

I know next to nothing about Katy Perry, aside from a few song lyrics. And I have no idea whether she actually kissed a girl (and possibly liked it), nor do I really care.

But I have a confession to make.

Today, I drank a beer and I liked it (two, actually).

Those who know me well know that I don’t drink alcohol. I haven’t for 5+ years now (with one or two exceptions).

I have my reasons for making this choice years ago, and I’m not going to get into all of them. That’s a face-to-face discussion we can have at another time, if you truly care to know. But I will say this…

One reason is because I saw alcohol as a hindrance to achieving something I believe in. This is 100% a personal decision, and in no way implies that alcohol is a bad influence on anyone. Nor does it imply that alcohol hinders people from achieving their goals.

We all make decisions on how we move through life; what we choose to believe in; and we act accordingly. For me, alcohol didn’t fit into my way of life.

Another reason is because I don’t like the way it tastes. I’ve never had a beer that I enjoyed. Not one. Ever.

Today changed that.

With a little encouragement (and financial support) from a friend, to go along with a good bartender who gave me a free sample of what appeared to be apple juice… I decided to have a few beers.

It was a cider beer (or something like that). Apparently, there are different flavors of cider beers. And they contain just as much alcohol as most other beers (sometimes more). And this one tasted like apple juice.

Debunking previous reasoning

Now that reason #2 (taste) has been overruled, I still have the more deep-rooted reason #1 to consider. Even though I’ve found a beer that actually tastes good, why drink it if it still doesn’t fit into my way of life?

Because I’m taking my “way of life” a little too seriously. And alcohol isn’t as much of a hindrance as I used to believe (if any at all).

I can become addicted to things a little easier than some. And occasionally I take things to the extreme. But this certainly doesn’t have to be one of them. My all-or-nothing approach to alcohol was misguided.

Shortly after giving up alcohol altogether, I began to notice the respect I garnered. It feels good to have others’ respect. This reaction from others began to influence my decision-making. I didn’t want to start drinking again because I was afraid of losing the respect I had gained from my peers. I felt as if the second I took a sip of alcohol, I could no longer tell people that “I don’t drink,” and I’d lose some of that respect I carried around for years.

Childish? Yeah, a little. Self-serving? Definitely. But it’s the truth, and it’s humbling to admit it.

The real truth

I can still lead a life of inward-looking reflection. A life inspired by many of the Eastern religions. A grounded, well-balanced, compassionate & forgiving life. A life of great purpose, discovery & exploration. A life of respecting others for their choices, just as I know they’ll respect me for mine (alcohol or not).

“Stop being so damn serious all the time”

I put that in quotes because I’m sure someone has said those exact words to me at some point. Probably a few someones. Multiple times.

I also used the word “damn” which I don’t normally like to do. “Darn” is much more my style. But letting a harmless word like that slip through is just another part of this exercise.

And that’s a phrase I’m going to use on myself in the coming weeks & months. While there are many stone-cold-sober moments I have created that are the farthest thing from serious, there are moments like the one tonight at the bar where I need to let go.

The moral of the story

Great people (and adorable dogs) riding bikes in an awesome city on a fantastic weekend with incredible weather… celebrating birthdays, Saints named Patrick & the color green… with a little apple juice on the side…

If that doesn’t fit into my “way of life,” than I have much more serious problems than a few glasses of beer.

2009 Triple Lakes Marathon – Race Report

A small, trail marathon in Greensboro, NC, the Triple Lakes Trail Race has 40-mile, marathon, half-marathon & relay options. All distances come fully equipped with tree roots. Be prepared to bite it.

Be prepared to bite it

Get ready to do some root jumpin’. If you plan on running this race, you better watch your step. One quick glimpse at the lake and you’ll end up face first in the dirt. Trust me. I did… twice.

There are 186,394 roots. Precisely. I counted.

2 interesting guys at the start

For what it’s worth, I don’t like Greensboro’s road system. I can’t figure it out. So I consider myself lucky to have just made it to the start. I’m glad I did. I met 2 interesting guys before the race.

Abran saw my G.E.E.R. shirt from the 50k I ran last week. He was there too (he did the 100k). Today he was doing the 40-miler. This guy is a machine. He ran the first few miles of the Old Dominion 100 with a buddy of mine, Ryan Foster, who I paced during the very same race from mile 75-86. Abe is also quite fast. He finished in the top 5 or so of this race, and the race last weekend. I’m sure I’ll run into him again.

I also spoke with a man from Indiana. He’s trying to run a marathon in all 50 states. He’s currently at 22. I didn’t catch his name, but wished him luck.

The race began

I started slow, as usual. The first 2 miles were on road. As we approached the single track, I felt the need to speed up. I wanted to get in front of some of these folks so I didn’t feel held up by them once we were on the trail. I was probably running about an 8:45 pace. No way I would keep that up, but it felt good at the time, so I went with it.

I looked at my watch at mile 7… 1:00. OK. Wow. Not bad. Mile 10… 1:23. I’m really not this fast.

Some conversation

I ran with Susan from Charlotte and David the adventure racer for a mile or two. We talked running and adventure racing, mostly. Very nice people. I decided to continue my surprisingly quick pace, and ran ahead.

Miles 16 and 17 brought about a few more hills than the first half of the course. Not a good sign for my legs. At mile 18 I ate dirt for the 2nd time. This was my legs way of saying, “Dude, slow down. We’re tired.” Well, I didn’t listen, and hit mile 20 right at 3:00. I was on pace for a sub-4 marathon, and at that very moment, I made that my goal.

Hitting the wall

Seconds later, my legs got really upset, and turned into jello. 4 hours was going to be tough. The last 10k was a 50/50 mix of running & walking, but I pushed through as best I could. Just missed my goal: 4:01:31. Still 18 minutes better than my only other marathon (which was completely flat, and 100% on roads). This was a huge improvement.

Oh, and both Susan & David (whom I had passed earlier) went on to finish before me. Nice race, guys.

Description of the course

A moderate trail course, with many 20-30 ft. uphill/downhill spurts. No long ascents or descents. Much of the course is pretty flat. But there are roots everywhere. The roots are without a doubt the most challenging aspect of the course. Almost the entire course is covered by trees so the sun is not a factor. Aid stations are positioned well. People are friendly. And it’s a small race. 200-300 total people between the 40-mile, marathon, half-marathon and relay.

Looking forward

Next weekend I’m running the Baltimore Marathon (thanks to the generous hospitality of my friend Summer, who is putting me up for the weekend… for the 3rd year in a row). I wasn’t sure how my legs would handle the first 2 races of my 3 weekend stretch. But since they performed well, it’s only fitting to test them one last time.

My goal for Baltimore is 3:50. If I can run a trail marathon in 4:01, I should be able to do a road marathon in 3:50. Cut out the wrong turns, the falls, and the lengthy stops to refill at the aid stations, and I should be able to do it. That’s an 8:46/mi pace.

Hopefully I can treat myself to a marathon PR, and then 5 weeks off before the 50-miler at JFK.

The result

4:01:31
27/110 – overall
6/19 – M20-29