Running in the Smokies

For the past few months I’ve been training my ass off for the Fuego y Agua 50K on February 16. Last year I handled the distance fine, I handled the heat fine, but I completely fell apart on the long, steep ascent of Volcan Maderas.

I have a score to settle with Maderas

Just as last year I’ve done lots of distance training and as much heat training as I can (in a sauna). But this year I’ve focused much more on hill training. I run as many hills as I can find. I spend a few hours a week on a stair master. I run hill repeats. But I had a feeling that might not be quite enough. The Saint Louis area is quite hilly (particularly in comparison to central Illinois), but the biggest hills we have here are around 400 ft, whereas Maderas is 4,000 ft.

Gatlinburg and Mount Le Conte
Gatlinburg with Mount Le Conte in the background

So I took a little vacation. Last weekend I drove to the Smoky Mountains, the nearest place with 4,000 ft climbs. I drove all day Friday, and got a good night’s sleep in Gatlinburg, TN. The next morning I went for an epic (by my standards) mountain run. Starting around 1,300 ft elevation I ran uphill for 3 hours to the peak of Mount Le Conte at 6,593 ft, just over 1 mile vertical ascent. The trail was around 11 miles. So I ran 5300 ft ascent in 11 miles in the same time (actually, slightly less) as it took me to race 4000 ft in 4 miles up Maderas during the race last year.

Steamy stream

Bull Head
Bull Head trail

View from the top

It was very cold at the top, with deep snow in places, so I didn’t stick around too long. The 11 mile return trip downhill was easier physically, but it was much harder on my body. My knees were aching pretty bad by the end. There was a lot of ice-covered rock at the top which made for slow going at times. The rest was muddy.

Muddy trail

Rob ready for Maderas?

I planned to go hiking on Sunday morning before returning home, but my knees were still too sore, so I did a bit of automobile tourism. On the way home I drove one stretch of 7.5 hours, which is by far the longest I’ve ever driven non-stop. So that was something.

The least prepared I’ve ever been for a race

Better late than never.

Each fall there is a cyclocross race a half mile from my house. I missed out on racing it last season (2011) due to absent-mindedness. I almost missed out on racing it this season (2012) for the same reason. I remembered which weekend the race was, and I thought I knew which day it was on (Sunday). I just finished eating a big lunch on Saturday when I sat down on the couch to check on the start time of the race tomorrow. The race starts at 1 pm. Today. It’s 12:25 pm. I have a full stomach. I haven’t ridden my cyclocross bike in weeks. This is the least prepared I’ve ever been for a race.

I spent about three minutes deciding whether or not to go. I quickly changed clothes, grabbed my bike (which thankfully was in working order), and rode over to register for the race. By this time it was 12:50-ish.

I started mid-pack and spent the first few laps moving up. By half way through the race I could only see one guy ahead of me and I was catching up to him. With two laps to go I dropped my chain and lost some time. With one and a half laps to go I dropped my chain and lost some time. With one lap to go I dropped my chain and lost some time. I had no chance of catching up after that triple whammy.

Concordia Cross

I ended up finishing, wait for it, 3rd. Apparently there was a guy off the front who I never saw. Anyway, considering my complete and utter lack of preparedness I was quite pleased with the result.

This ended up being my last race of 2012, and it capped off what I consider to be a breakthrough year for me. I raced 26 times (not including the weekly practice crits). I had 3 wins (in 3 different sports), 9 podium finishes, and 18 top ten finishes. Furthermore I made it through such a tough year with no major injuries. Hopefully I can maintain this momentum into 2013.

October, November, December 2012

Well, it’s been a while. November and December were a little bit crazy for me on account of a project I was working on in my spare time.


I haven’t raced since October, but I’ve been doing a lot of high quality training in my build up for the Fuego y Agua 50K in February. As you can see from the chart below, I ran farther in 2012 than any of the past 11 years. This is also the longest I’ve gone without a sidelining injury during that time. June of 2012 was the only month with low mileage, and that was when I intentionally took a break to recover from my spring races.

Month Distance # Workouts Avg per Workout
January 78.06 Mile 9 8.67333 Mile
February 75.2586 Mile 9 8.36206 Mile
March 126.15 Mile 14 9.01071 Mile
April 146.28 Mile 16 9.1425 Mile
May 166.75 Mile 18 9.26389 Mile
June 54.83 Mile 7 7.83286 Mile
July 115.76 Mile 9 12.8622 Mile
August 91.81 Mile 9 10.2011 Mile
September 123.61 Mile 15 8.24067 Mile
October 115.4 Mile 12 9.61667 Mile
November 118.23 Mile 13 9.09462 Mile
December 129.98 Mile 14 9.28429 Mile
Total 1342.12 Mile 145 9.25599 Mile

Running 2012 12


Concordia Cross

Some other guy (not me)

Cycling was virtually non-existent for me the past few months. I did one cyclocross race in November on no training and somehow still wound up with a good result. The lack of bike miles towards the end of the year almost allowed my modest running mileage to catch up.

Month Distance # Workouts Avg per Workout
January 25.33 Mile 2 12.665 Mile
February 40.08 Mile 3 13.36 Mile
March 213.43 Mile 20 10.6715 Mile
April 253.27 Mile 23 11.0117 Mile
May 322.147 Mile 24 13.4228 Mile
June 282.57 Mile 13 21.7362 Mile
July 260.12 Mile 16 16.2575 Mile
August 81.87 Mile 8 10.2338 Mile
September 45.46 Mile 8 5.6825 Mile
October 35.37 Mile 8 4.42125 Mile
November 10.58 Mile 1 10.58 Mile
December 22.7 Mile 6 3.78333 Mile
Total 1592.93 Mile 132 12.0676 Mile

Cycling 2012 12

Walking & Hiking

Babler hike

There was a big drop off here as well, mostly because I needed the extra hours to work on my project.

Month Distance # Workouts Avg per Workout
January 51.53 Mile 16 3.22063 Mile
February 42.92 Mile 18 2.38444 Mile
March 41.15 Mile 14 2.93929 Mile
April 31.89 Mile 12 2.6575 Mile
May 37.5107 Mile 13 2.88544 Mile
June 39.4 Mile 18 2.18889 Mile
July 2 Mile 2 Mile
August 64.99 Mile 25 2.5996 Mile
September 85.88 Mile 25 3.4352 Mile
October 32.34 Mile 10 3.234 Mile
November 16. Mile 5 3.2 Mile
December 15.22 Mile 4 3.805 Mile
Total 460.831 Mile 162 2.84463 Mile

Walking 2012 12


Month Distance # Workouts Avg per Workout
January 0 0 0
February 0 0 0
March 0 0 0
April 0 0 0
May 0 0 0
June 0 0 0
July 0 0 0
August 0 0 0
September 13.85 Mile 4 3.4625 Mile
October 12.87 Mile 3 4.29 Mile
November 0 0 0
December 9.34 Mile 2 4.67 Mile
Total 36.06 Mile 9 4.00667 Mile

Stairmaster 2012 12


Month Distance # Workouts Avg per Workout
January 0 0 0
February 0 0 0
March 0 0 0
April 1750. Yard 2 875. Yard
May 8050. Yard 7 1150. Yard
June 4100. Yard 3 1366.67 Yard
July 2993.61 Yard 3 997.871 Yard
August 2150. Yard 3 716.667 Yard
September 0 0 0
October 0 0 0
November 0 0 0
December 0 0 0
Total 19043.6 Yard 18 1057.98 Yard

Swimming 2012 12