Appalachian Trail Hike – Max Patch to Hot Springs – Day 1

29 Oct

After planning my AT hike for almost a year, I finally took my first step with my friend, Jenni, the morning of Saturday, September 12, 2015. Over the past three years, I had heard various people mention the AT occasionally. Initially, my reaction was “Why in the world would someone want to do that?” which slowly turned to “How could someone NOT want to try that!”. Once I had “drank the kool aid”, I quickly read several books about hiking and watched a few movies too!

I had mentioned my hike to several people attempting to find a hiking partner. Most people gave me that same crazed look I initially had. Eventually one dreary day in September of 2014, I met Jenni and a friend for lunch at Mellow Mushroom. I casually mentioned the hike and Jenni immediately signed on board. From there I started researching and gathering my hiking gear. I’d never actually hiked before so I didn’t have anything. I posted online about the upcoming hike and my friend, Amanda, commented that I could borrow several hiking items from her. She ended up loading me up with a pack, pocket rocket, pack cover, sleep sack, sleeping pad, pots, and a bowl. My friend, Elena, also loaned me her green rain coat last minute. (Holy life savers!)

Jenni and I met up two times before our actual hike for a short “test hike”. The first time we met up at the Julington Durbin Creek Preserve. I put my GORUCK bricks in Amanda’s pack to weigh it down. Two miles in I was miserable! The pack just did not fit me.

For our second “test hike”, we headed to the Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens. Before this hike, I’d snagged a new pack during an online REI Outlet sale. This hike went MUCH smoother.

Fast forward a few months and I found myself up at the crack of dawn riding in the car from Asheville, NC to Hot Springs, NC where we planned to leave her car. We had arranged for a ride to Max Patch, NC with Dan from Bluff Mountain Outfitters. We ran into him when we were grabbing breakfast at a local shop that has these amazing sausage and egg breakfast sandwiches.

When we were almost to our drop off point, Dan slowed down and pointed out a cute little gate in the fence. He explained casually that if we see this gate while hiking, we had hiked the wrong direction. (We were hiking northbound, NOBO, and this would mean we’d gone southbound, SOBO, on accident!) Next thing I knew, we pulled up into a parking lot at Mile Marker 253.8 along the trail, hopped out, tossed him our cash and were staring at each other. Welp, I guess this was it!

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Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t quite cooperating with us. We had chosen Max Patch as our starting point because it was supposed to have these 360 degree panoramic views.

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Here’s a shot of my new pack I nicknamed Beeker. Do you see the resemblance?

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Jenni with her pack she nicknamed, Bessie.

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The plaque at the very tippy tip top of Max Patch.

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“Hike Max Patch!”, they said.

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“It’s gorgeous!”, they said.

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“The views are amazing!”, they said.

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Despite the disappointing weather, Jenni and I made the best of it and had a blast.

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We were cruising right along until Jenni tapped me on the shoulder, pointed ahead and said…

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“STACEY! Oh my gosh. Isn’t that that gate we’re not supposed to see??”

crap.

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At this point we’d walked about a mile or so. We routed around the patch back to the parking lot and trekked back out again.

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This time we took a left instead of a right over the mountain, and headed into the woods.

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It wasn’t too long before we saw this sign confirming we were finally in the right direction. (Why don’t they have these more often???)

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Some cool greens along the trail. Jenni and I were sad that Brea and Elena couldn’t join us on the hike. They were originally supposed to join us but due to some rescheduling, they were unable to. They both have strong biology backgrounds. I’m positive they not only would identify this plant immediately, but also tell us no less than three facts about it.

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A few hours into our hike, we came across our first shelter, Roaring Fork Shelter at mile marker 256.4.

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Since it was the first one we had seen, we had to check it out! Plus it was right along the trail, so it was easy to get to. Each of the shelters seem to be very unique, so I imagine we would check out almost every one we hike past as long as they weren’t too far out of the way.

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This is an extra gear drop inside the shelter. There was one of the mylar blankets they hand out at marathons. I REALLY wish I had grabbed this when I saw it. It would have come in handy later on and they’re really light and don’t take up much space. I need to get my hands on one before my next hike.

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Another good thing about shelters on the trail… privies! There are a few different types, but the ones we came across were all self molting, meaning after we used them we were supposed to throw some leaves in. (that’s what the basket is for to the left)

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There were several neat stairways and bridges throughout our first day.

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Some were a bit higher and longer, and had hand rails for us.

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Some were short and sweet.

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I loved this stretch of the trail where the trees covered in a spooky hallway.

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At this point, we’d made it to Lemon Gap, Mile marker 260.0 officially making it 6.2 miles in on our hike (plus the extra 1.8 miles our earlier detour added on).

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We stopped to rest here for a bit. This is what I refer to as the calm before the storm. We had NO clue what was in store for us. If we had, we may have stayed here for the night.

The next 1.3 miles was the most treacherous of the day. I was fairly unfamiliar with elevation changes given the fact this was my first time planning a hike. Lemon Gap was located at an elevation of 3531’.

The next 1.3 miles brought us 710’ higher in elevation ending at 4241. 700’ in 1.3 miles is significant.

Jenni was a great hiking partner though. We could each go at our own pace. We would take 10 steps or so, then take a break, then 10 steps more, then take a break. I was glad I had hiking poles because I would just lean forward on them to break giving my back and legs a break.

Jenni at one point exclaimed “All I keep telling myself is… ‘5 more, Jenni, 5 more’ just like I would tell myself during CrossFit!”. That really resonated with me. At this point, it didn’t really matter how fast we went as long as we were moving forward.

About halfway through this section of our hike, we were passed by two guys hiking a bit swifter than we were. Then we were passed by two more… and one shortly after. They were friendly all saying “Hi!” and chatting along their way. They asked if we’d seen a guy hiking in a pink tutu. We learned there was a group of 8 guys hiking for a bachelor party… I’m guessing the tutu was the groom. :)

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This is my struggle bus face.

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We were trudging along until I realized it was starting to get dark… and we still weren’t at the shelter. I started to get a little nervous. We came across this odd lone apple tree.

My legs were beat. My back was aching. I wanted to be done with walking for the night.

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Finally, we walked through some trees and saw Walnut Mountain Shelter. Halleluiah.

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This really doesn’t do enough to describe my excitement at finding the shelter. One might think at this point we finally got to relax, but you would be wrong. In reality, that meant it was time to work.

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We setup our tents. The grey one is “Smiles” and “Ghost Chili”, Jenni’s is the orange one and mine is the yellow one.

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It looks tiny, but there’s a decent amount of room in there for one person. When we were setting up camp, we saw the pink tutu hike past us. There was an additional flat space about 25 yards past us for additional campsites which is where the bachelor party setup their camp.

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Next we had to find and filter water so we could cook. According to Guthook’s iPhone app, the water was a piped spring located about 0.1 miles down a side trail. Honestly, if I hadn’t followed some of the bachelor party, I might not have found this. I had to slide through some sticker bushes to get to it. It was a slow trickle. My Sawyer Water Filter worked best for this situation. All I needed to do was fill the blue bag with water from the pipe, screw on a filtering cap and squeeze it into my water bottle. Didn’t take that long. Would have been faster but the spring was really slow.

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Me and “smiles” getting dinner ready. At the top of the mountain, there was a decent breeze and it was pretty cold up there!

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The shelter had some bear bag hangers for us. I missed the class at REI where they explained how to hang a bear bag, so I had no clue what to do. Thankfully when we were setting up our tents, I saw another hiker walk up and hang his bag. I secretly watched him and figured it out. Everything went into these bags from food to cooking items to toothpaste.

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Once we were settled, we headed back out to the apple tree to take a glimpse at the sunset.

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I’d heard the boys had made a fire, so we managed to snag an invite up. They were seriously a hoot. So much fun and they were generous with their Fireball too!

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They were only hiking one night, Max Patch to this shelter and back. They weren’t all that experienced. In fact, one guy brought his regular camping tent they affectionately referred to as the Taj Mahal. Can you guess which one it is?

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We hung out with them for about an hour as they told stories about one another along the campfire. Then Jenni and I retired for the night. Shortly after I was snug in my tent, it started to rain and the temperature continued to drop. Brr.

Day 1 of our hike was a success. Can’t wait for Day 2.

Goodnight!

Tijuana Flats Summer Beach Run

23 Aug

First time running the Tijuana Flats Summer Beach Run. I’ve avoided this race because it’s a 5-mile beach run (beach runs suck) in the middle of summer, but I got a free race entry through work earlier in the week. Plus they give you an award at the finish! Who can turn that down?

Surprise to me, I ended up PR’ing my 5 mile time… on a beach run! Makes me want to run a 5-mile road race now!

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Valentine’s Day Massacre Competition at CrossFit 904

27 May

We have a fun couples competition at our box around every Valentine’s Day. Mainly it’s a boy/girl competition where you partner up with someone of the opposite sex. You don’t necessarily need to be in a relationship with them. In fact, I think most people that do it are just friends. It’s also Sadie Hawkins, so the girl traditionally asks the guy. Ugh

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The calm before the storm.

I partnered up with Brett for the competition because his wife who does CrossFit with us couldn’t do the competition. He was such a fun partner. A few weeks prior to the competition, Brett came by the box on a Saturday morning while the advanced class was working out and started cooking bacon. No real reason other than he had a ton of extra bacon to cook. Ever since then, he’s been known as the bacon guy!

They do a costume contest before the competition begins to build some excitement in the morning. It’s fun to see everyone and the variety of costumes.

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Of course Brett and I had to get bacon costumes! We found these beauties on Amazon.  [affiliate link] These were actually pretty awesome and perfect to wear for this. Plus no one works out in their costumes, so we didn’t have to worry about that.

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Of course Brett rocked it!

I REALLY wasn’t prepared for this competition. I never practiced the workouts or even really think of how we should execute them. Ultimately, I believe we ended up doing it in the wrong order.

For the first WOD, we had Brett go first and then I went. If I remember correctly, I got through the wallballs but that was it. This meant I really only did part of a workout when Brett did the whole thing.

  • WOD #1
    Both team members must complete the following for time:
    50 Double Unders
    40 Wallballs (20,16) thrown to (10′,9′)
    30 Clean and Jerks (135,95)
    *Teammate 1 must complete the entire workout before teammate 2 can start. There will be an 11 min timecap for your team.
    Standards:
    Competition- Exactly as listed
    Performance- (115,75) for the clean and jerks, all else the same
    Fitness- May do 100 Single Unders, (16,12) wallballs, (95,65)
    *Remember this competition is designed to see who has the best engine!

Then for the second WOD, I had to find my 1 rep max of a snatch to overhead squat. Then Brett had to do as many overhead squats as possible in two minutes with this weight. Brett has been suffering from a shoulder injury, so I spared him and only did a 55# snatch to OHS. As a result, this meant I walked up, did a 55# snatch to OHS and was done. (essentially not a workout) Then Brett had to do a ton of squats with that weight. So by this point, Brett had done two workouts and I hadn’t done a full one. Ooops.

Then we had to do max burpee box jumps in 4 minutes. This was so much fun. We were really trying to cram in as many as possible for this to raise our score up. We had watched the teams before us compete, and picked up on a new technique from one of the teams. Unfortunately I’m really bad at counting or remembering quick patterns when working out. Plus we didn’t practice it beforehand. (there really wasn’t time) As a result, I screwed up a few rounds. I really loved doing this though. We set it up so we each did two burpee box jumps and then switched. This kept us moving really fast and not burning out. This was so much fun.

  • WOD #2- Three scored parts
    A. In 4 Mins- Ladies will find a max complex of Snatch + OHS (One snatch from the ground either power or squat, stand fully up then complete one OHS)
    B. In 2 Mins- Guys will perform max reps of OHS with the Ladies max complex found in A. Score will be total LBS lifted, not reps.
    C. In 4 Mins- Both team members will complete max Burpee Box Jump Overs (24,20) only one box and team members can alternate as many times as they like.
    *Fitness will be allowed to do step ups, Performance and Competition must jump each rep.

The last WOD was a blast. Since we were scales, we did situps instead of TTB which meant it was a fast workout. I was basically trying to keep moving as fast as I possibly could.

  • WOD #3
    8 Min AMRAP
    8 Thrusters (135,85)/(95,65)/(75,55)
    8 TTBPartners must alternate complete rounds. Teams will receive two bars.
    *Weights are listed by division for guys and girls.
    *Competition and Performance must do TTB. Fitness will sub out 12 situps.

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Then there was a bonus WOD we had to complete at anytime throughout the day. If I remember correctly, we had two minutes to row for as many calories as possible. Brett and I decided to do this in our bacon costumes for fun.

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Such a fun day. I just wish I’d gone first in the first WOD so the effort between Brett and I was more equal. I can’t wait to do another competition like this one!

Superhero Competition at CrossFit 904

24 May

This was my very first CrossFit competition. It was hosted at our box, CrossFit 904, which was great for my first plunge into CrossFit competitions.

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This was a team competition, and each team was encouraged to dress as a superhero. My team, Aimee, Ed, Danny & I picked the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

The competition consisted of three WODS (or workouts) that we would do spread out between approximately 9 am – 3 pm (I don’t recall the actual times. That’s approximate.) knowing this, I also knew I needed to prepare ahead of time and bring food to eat throughout the day. I stopped into Publix that morning and brought an avocado, 1/4 pound boars head turkey breast, apples, grape tomatoes and some cheese. (Mmm cheese)

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Overall it was a great fun day. I PR’d on the second wod with the squat clean. I was super sore before the last wod and was dreading it, but finished strong. I’m looking forward to the next competition I can participate in, and eager to work on some of my weaker movements (pull-ups!) so I have more opportunities to participate in even more!

WOD #1
“Fantastic Four”
Teams of 4
400M Run
80 Wallballs (16, 12)
60 KBS (53, 35)
40 Burpees
20 Pullups
40 Burpees
60 KBS
80 Wallballs (16, 12)
400M Run
*Teams may split the work any way they want.

WOD # 2
“Poison Ivy”
5 Mins at each movement to find a 1RM
Jerk- From the rack
Thruster- From the rack
Squat Snatch- From the ground
Squat Clean- From the ground
*Each team member will only complete ONE movement. The other members can help their team member put on weights and rack the bar if it falls. The clean and snatch must be a squat but the bar can be caught high and ridden below parallel.

WOD #3
“Flash Gordon”
15-12-9
Deadlifts- RX (185,125) and Scaled (135,95)
Box Jumps- Both (24,20) but step ups will be allowed for Scaled or Injuries
15-12-9
Double Unders- Both have the option of 3:1 single unders
Front Squats- RX (115,75) and Scaled (75,55)

Gate River Run 2015

23 May

Every Gate River Run is a unique experience. Even after now having run eight of them, they’re all so different in my mind. Different weather, different people, different fitness levels and sometimes even a slightly different course.

We started a new tradition this year. Last year several of us from CrossFit 904 that were running the Gate met up at the Jaguar statue for a pre-race picture. Elena was the noob to the race, so she was held up.

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This year, Ed was the noob, so the crew held him. All I remember is lots of laughing and saying “feet first! feet first!” several times as we all did a horrible job communicating how to set Ed down instead of dropping him on his head.

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After the pic, things kicked into fast forward. We lined up in our corral. Race started. We took off.

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Quite possibly the best timing of any photo I’ve ever taken. (Thanks to Elena for pointing this out as we were running by) Keep looking until you see the joke..

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Saw Courtney again at the water stop she volunteers at every year!

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River Road was gorgeous again this year. My favorite part of the course.

This is when the race took a wicked turn. I struggled this race. I hadn’t been running consistently (I hadn’t been running). The year before I at least had been going to CrossFit consistently so I did fairly well. This year I was barely making CrossFit more than two times a week. Then I made a horrible rookie mistake.

Around mile 5 or so, I tripped on a reflector in the road. Started to roll my ankle. Felt and heard a loud crunch. I sat in the middle of the road for a second as everyone ran by and did a mental assessment. Was something broken? What was that crunching noise? My foot hurt. I knew that. It felt like it did when I had fractured it years back. Great.

This was the eighth year in a row that I had run this race. The first year I ran the Gate, I walked the entire race. It took over three hours, but I knew it was possible. So I trudged on. I finished the race with a horrible walk/run pace.

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Can’t forget the “Mile 7 Banana”!

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I worked hard for this one. Next year I vow to work hard before the race (in my training) so the race itself isn’t such a horrific struggle!

Go Here: Big Talbot Island State Park Blackrock Beach

21 May

For years, I’ve occasional come across pictures of this gorgeous oceanfront area with huge tree sized driftwood along the shore. Absolutely breathtaking.

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I was shocked when I finally realized this beautiful escape was located just a short car ride away.

 

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Black Rock Trail is located in Big Talbot Island State Park in Amelia Island, Florida. The parking for Blackrock Beach is on the east side (beach side) along A1A north of Kayak Amelia and just south of the George Crady Bridge Fishing Pier State Park.

Here’s a Google Maps Link in case that’s just too confusing of an explanation.

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You do need to pay $3 cash to park, so be prepared. It’s the honor system, but there was someone there ticketing cars when we left so I recommend being fairly honest.

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From where you park, walk to your right and a pathway will appear.

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The path is maybe half a mile long and takes you to the beach area where the beautiful driftwood awaits!

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There was a bit of a cliff when I was there, so you do need to be a bit limber if you wish to get out onto the beach. You can still enjoy the view from above without climbing down.

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I don’t want to spoil the surprise by posting too many photos. I highly recommend blocking out an afternoon and visiting Blackrock Beach. It was truly an unforgettable afternoon.

2014 Gate River Run 15k

20 May

Another Gate River Run is in the books! Seven years ago I never thought I would be completing my 7th Gate River Run!

Elena and I planned to run the race together (her first GRR 15k!)

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On the way over to the race, we swung by the Personal Running Solutions tent to say hi to a few people. If you’re looking for a running group in Jacksonville, this club is the real deal. They have group runs before and after work Monday – Thursday. Track on Wednesdays and long runs on Saturday mornings.

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This is my first year completing the Gate River Run after joining CrossFit. I have to admit, my training was minimal. I did long runs almost each week, but used CrossFit for my mid-week training runs.

Before the race, the ladies of CrossFit 904 that were doing the Gate met up at the Jaguar for some pre-race photo fun. Mission accomplished!

 

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After the picture, Elena and I lined up at the starting line.

 

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and the race started! Can you find me in my blue visor?

 

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Main Street bridge, check!

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I could see the Green Monster patiently waiting for us off in the distance.

 

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On the route, we ran into several friends including Yee from CrossFit!

 

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and Courtney who volunteers like every year at the same water stop. Gotta love the volunteers!

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San Marco, check!

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River Road, check! (My fav!)

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Mile Seven Banana, check!

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Atlantic Blvd, check! (Talk Dirrty, baby!)

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and the green monster.

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All I remember yelling is “Where the ____ is the finish line???”

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They’d moved it this year to improve the finish line corral area (which it did, significantly) but it also made the race drag on sooo muuuuch loooonger.

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Elena surprised me with a mini bottle of Fireball at the finish. Party on, Garth!

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Post run beers at the car before we headed over to Intuition for their post Gate party.

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7th Gate River Run (in a row) in the books!

CrossFit Woburn Boston

30 Mar

I headed to Boston for Halloween to visit my friend, Cassie, who moved from Jacksonville about a year and a half ago. One of the first items on the agenda was to find a CrossFit gym for at least one workout. I’m not sure what’s happened to me, but going without CrossFit for more than two days drives me crazy now. (You can say I’ve definitely drank the Kool Aid, eh?)

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I looked online with Google Maps and Yelp. It was fairly easy to narrow things down since there weren’t many places with a reasonable drop in rate AND a midday class around 9 am. (One place wanted to charge $50!)

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It was a fun workout (fun is a relative term…) which was pretty challenging. It was a great way to kick off my trip.

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For the drop in, you could either pay the cash or give them a shirt from your box! Then they hang the shirt up around the box. They were everywhere!

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Had a great workout. Glad they were so open and welcoming to drop-ins!

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New Crossfit App Being Launched by Perspyre

13 Jan

If you’ve read my blog for a while, you’ve picked up on my obsession of all things CrossFit. I’ve definitely drank the Kool-Aid, all the flavors! I’m also excited about all things related to CrossFit from equipment (Seriously. Lacrosse balls. They’re amazing for mobility). When I was approached to learn about a new CrossFit app launching, I had to also share it with you! Here’s their latest press release with additional details. Sounds like a great app for when I can’t make it to the box for a workout or on a Sunday, when my box is closed, and I still want to get a great workout in! 

New Crossfit App Being Launched by Perspyre

Prospering business Perspyre last week announced that it was a launching a brand new crossfit app for its social network platform for fitness fanatics. The app will look to bring together the crossfit community with athletes who compete in disciplines such as triathlons, running, swimming and cycling under one single community app.

Perspyre is a Boston-based startup that now boasts more than 4,000 members on its network, and believes that by launching this new crossfit app, it can further extend its reach in the mobile market.

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After recently changing its company name from AMRAP4Life to Perspyre the company is looking to take advantage of the big demand for fitness-related mobile apps on the market at present. They are looking to follow in the footsteps of seasoned apps such as PumpUp who have a community of over 1.7 million users. PumpUp is an app that has successfully tapped into the reported 17% that utilize mobile Internet via smartphones globally according Gaming Realms, the industry experts that are behind online title Spin Genie.

With the mobile Internet market stronger than ever, Perspyre will have to provide users with something more than just standard crossfit methods and tips, though. The companies co-founder Jason Chisholm told Med City News that the app will aim to encourage its community to share photos, nutritional information, injury recovery techniques, compete against other members, and invite other members to their gyms. The community aspect is something that Chisholm is steadfast on promoting as he; himself is a keen crossfit enthusiast.

Chisholm also hopes to attract a host of vendors and brands to help him and his team to continue to upgrade the app in the coming months. With the app also hosting information regarding facilities, he hopes that trainers and “intensive fitness communities” utilize the app thus attracting potential sponsorship deals.

Whether Perspyre can achieve the lofty expectations of Chisholm, is still uncertain. But as the crossfit market continues to evolve, many will welcome this new community app especially if they feel it offers something different to the major players already at the top of the pile.

** This is a guest post by Paul Thomas .  Thoughts and opinions here are 100% my own. **

Paul is a graduate from the University of Oregon. Upon completing his degree, Paul went into a career in organizing triathlons for his local community while also holding down many freelance writing positions. In his spare time, Paul enjoys spending time with his friends and competing in triathlons across the United States with his fiance, Sam. 

 

Ragnar Trail Atlanta Recap #Ragnartrailatl

2 Nov

I think it was about two years ago, I was sitting at my desk at an old job when I got the email announcing Ragnar Relay’s newest adventure, Ragnar Trails! I had already completed a my first regular Ragnar Relay and at the time was signed up for my second (which I’ve since completed)

I immediately said “I want to do this!” and then realized the closest one was about 8 hours away in the Appalachian mountains. womp womp! Not sure that would work, at least not anytime soon.

Fast forward two years and I found myself with a sudden freedom… an open calendar… AND a much closer Ragnar Trail event. They now had one in Atlanta. Only problem was, I couldn’t convince any of my running buddies to sign up. It wasn’t that anyone was afraid it’s just that their schedules were just already full. So I waited.. and eventually wrote on the Facebook event wall that I was looking for a team. Doing that, I managed to find a team fairly quickly. I also surprisingly convinced a friend of a friend of a friend, Genn, who was also from the North Florida area, to sign up!

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Basically I signed up with a team full of strangers for a race I’ve never done in another state. There’s nothing that could go wrong here… (actually nothing DID go wrong. phew!)

I sent in my registration fee to the team captain, Desiree, which was $135. Our group was actually made up of 3 or 4 ultra teams and one ‘slacker’ team. The slacker team was made up of lower distance runners (me!) as well as some of those that were unfortunately injured and couldn’t commit to a full ultra distance race.

After all the expenses that go into a regular road Ragnar, I found it hard to believe that registration was really my ONLY predicted hard cost. There were no requirements of vans to rent, no hotels, etc. It was so incredibly simple, it seemed TOO easy.

As for extra gear (aside from shoes and other typical running stuff), I just needed a good headlamp. No vest, no red blinking lights. I already had a good headlamp from the regular Ragnar events, so I was set. In addition, I had my two Knuckle Lights. If sasquatch was out there, I was going to find ‘em.

The only other cost to anticipate was the cost of gas from Jacksonville to Atlanta and back. Genn and I decided to just split this. Every time I had to fill up, she gave me some cash. It was pretty simple.

Overall, the drive from Jacksonville to the race took 4 hours. Our team was issued a starting time of Friday at 2 pm, so Genn and I decided to drive up on Thursday after work. We left Jacksonville around 6ish, and checked into the hotel around 11 or so. Yes, I know I said there were no hotels, BUT we decided to fork over the extra cash for a hotel the night before the race to get in a good nights rest before the race began. This was a really good idea.

For those of you that might be considering this race, there is a hotel RIGHT across the street from the race. When I say right across the street, I mean, one of the courses runs right past it and another one runs around it. I HIGHLY recommend if your team is planning on staying more than one night to all chip in $10 per teammate to get a room together. You don’t need to actually stay there, but having a place to relax, shower, change and shit in peace would be fantastic at times. Plus if there was in climate weather, you would have a break from that as well. It is close enough that you COULD stay in the hotel instead of camping and compete in the race without much of an issue.

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The next morning we woke up early to get setup at camp.  A few of our teammates had arrived Thursday afternoon to stake out our camp site area. Ragnar did not assign our campsite but rather let everyone setup where ever they wanted. We were encouraged to be minimalist with our space requirements to ensure all teams had adequate space, but from what I could tell, this wasn’t an issue at all.

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When we first pulled up, there was a parking lot for us to pull our car over to the side and unload all our stuff. We then left our stuff sitting there, drove our car to the parking lot about a mile away and took the shuttle back. Genn and her son hung out by our stuff while I dealt with the car which worked well. I honestly don’t think anyone would have touched our things if Genn hadn’t been there anyways.

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Our site was fairly easy to locate. Our team had previously setup a Facebook page for everyone to easily communicate through prior to the event. When they setup camp on Thursday, they posted a picture of some of the tents to help us try and locate them which really helped.

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First thing I noticed was were were pretty close to the portalet area. Thank god. There’s nothing worse than waking up in your tent in the middle of the night and having to painfully pee with no clue of where the bathrooms area (hello Ginnie springs!). I had no plans on drinking during my stay, so I didn’t anticipate this really being an issue, but you never know! I have heard from other teams though, that it’s possible to setup camp TOO close to the portalet’s and all you hear all night long is the doors slamming shut over and over. Eeesh. That WOULD be pretty bad.

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When you arrive, they have an area for you to drop your gear. So you drop it off in the grass on the right, then go park your car in a lot about a mile away. Then there’s a shuttle to bring you back or you can just walk. It works fairly well to get you in and unpacked quickly.

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Once we dragged all our stuff to our campsite, we began setting up our tents. It was a this point everything got crazy windy and putting up a tent became a bit of a challenge. To keep my tent from flying away, I threw all my stuff (cot, bags, cooler, drybox) inside my tent and finished setting it up.

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We were predicting some pretty nasty weather overnight, so I had stopped at Home Depot on our way out of Jacksonville to pick up this sexy blue tarp. I went for the size bigger than I thought I needed which turned out to be a fantastic idea. This tarp ended up being the exact size of my tent so I could actually stake it down with the tent to prevent it from blowing away.

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I really liked how this tent used orange tape to mark their strings. Helped keep everyone from tripping over it the entire time.

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Ragnar Trail strongly preaches sustainability so they discourage plastic disposable water bottles. As a result, they provide a water station (aka hose sticking out of the ground). I was a little hesitant that this water was going to be nasty, but surprisingly it tasted fine. Plus, Nuun was onsite with free unlimited samples. I just filled my bottle up halfway with water and halfway with Nuun and was set! Bottoms up!

The Runner Village

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After getting everything setup, it was time to check out the runner village. First stop, the starting/finish line. The course was setup in a big loop, so the start and finish line were the same thing.

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To make things more exciting, they were also filming to make a highlight video for the race. Ooooh!

Here’s the video they ended up using. You can see me right in the beginning in the blue shirt. (I was the first runner so I got to start the race! Yes, I filled the start. It was pretty cool!)

Here’s the video I shot through the starting corral.

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Lots of people liked to crowd around this area to meet up with their teammates and check in on the action. It was also where they were giving a safety briefing every hour or so. I think I ended up hearing the safety briefing in full about 7 times throughout the day. (It was over a loudspeaker which we could easily hear from our camp as well)

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Our team started at 2pm (I was the first runner), so we all gathered around at 1pm to hear our personal safety briefing. I snapped this quick pic with two of my teammates, Seren and Elizabeth.

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Here’s how Ragnar Trail works. A regular team has 8 runners. Each runner is assigned a running position. You always run in that order. Each person runs three legs. Each leg is a different loop of the course, either green, yellow or red so each runner gets to run each loop of the course. (In regular Ragnar, no one runs the same legs). I was runner #1, so the order I was running in was green leg first, then red leg and then yellow leg.

Ultra teams would just combine legs, so the first runner runs runner #1 and runner #2’s legs back to back. They just run into the exchange tent and keep on running right through.

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Next to the starting line, is the runner exchange area which looks like this on the inside. Here you get your bib number from the previous runner and a slap bracelet identifying which leg you are running.

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Yeah, haven’t we ALL said this during a race at some point? Loved this shirt.

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They also had a fire pit which becomes town hall for all announcements throughout the day. At night they lit the bonfire and passed out s’mores to everyone.

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They even had bikes setup you could hop on after a run to help flush the lactic acid out of your legs. I LOOOOVED that they had these and definitely took advantage of them.

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There were several merchandise tents setup including Salomon who let anyone that wanted to borrow a pair of shoes to run in. They had a variety of shoes and sizes available. You just signed up and could take a pair out for a test run for your next leg.

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I don’t like running in any shoes other than mine. I didn’t want to end up with crazy blisters or hurt feet, so I passed on this one.

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Another VERY popular tent was the Oberto Beef Jerky tent. Every time I walked by they handed me more bags of beef jerky. Even better they were holding an Instagram contest which I ended up winning giving me a free 3 months supply of beef jerky!

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Being a “green” race, they also ran everything off of solar power.

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Including a cell phone charging station! This was a huge lifesaver. The race was in some sort of cell phone battery suck zone. I burned through my entire mophie block and a second smaller charger in a day. True, I’m on my phone a lot, but that was ridiculous. The line ended up being 3-4 hours long towards the end of the first day. They eventually had to close up shop because the sun went down and they were running out of solar power for the booth.

One tip if you find yourself in a similar situation, set your phone on airplane mode when you’re not using it. This definitely helps to conserve the phones battery.

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Steve the event announcer kept everyone informed and entertained throughout the day! I loved the music he played so I much he shared his Spotify playlists with me.

As the first runner, my order of legs was Green, Red and Yellow. I ran the Green around 2pm Friday. Then the red around 10pm Friday evening and the Yellow the following morning around 7 am. Our team kept fairly consistent time with each of the legs of my run exactly 8 hours a part. Just long enough for me to fully tighten back up before I had to head back out again!

Here are some pictures along the way that I took. Green was first so I have tons. Red was at night so there weren’t many opportunities for photos. My phone was dead by the next morning for Yellow, so I grabbed some pictures from Ragnar and my teammates for that.

 

Green Loop

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The finish line!

In between the green and red leg, I went to the tent to get the free vegetarian pasta dinner. (I HIGHLY recommend passing on this if you ever do the race. It was kinda gross and cold by the time I got it)

When I was walking back to our camping area… this happened.

Then this happened:

Yup. Double rainbow all the way across the sky!

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firepit - ragnar trail

Red Loop

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Here’s a pic from someone that ran the red leg during the day. We ran several portions on this slate rock. Tough leg!

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Once I finally finished the red leg (which took me forever), I took advantage of the bikes to flush my legs out and the free sd’’mores! They were also showing a movie, which I missed because my leg was right in the middle of it. I’ve tried to find the movie online somewhere since, but haven’t been able to.

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Yellow Loop

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One of the ultra teams in our group. Eduardo, Robert, Robbie & someone I don’t know. Robert and Robbie are actually from Jacksonville and in PRS with me. This was cool because I’ve seen both of them several times since the race now.

Eduardo and I became friends since this race and even ended up joining a team for Ragnar Trails WVG a few months later!

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