Sunday, March 8, 2009

Catawba Run-Around 2009

Yesterday I celebrated the arrival of spring (and the first day of spring break) with the Catawba Run Around, an informal "non-event" gathering of ultrarunning friends. This was my fifth CRA; in 2004, I ventured down to this little mountain valley west of Roanoke as an ultra newbie, knowing virtually no one in the VHTRC and certainly clueless about "adventure training runs" in the mountains. 35 miles and 8,800 feet of climb later, I emerged a changed ultrarunner: I had gained more confidence and more appreciation for the incredible natural beauty that awaited me in the sport. Most importantly, I made some dear friends in the process and officially became an active member of the VHTRC.

The CRA uses some of the most scenic trails in Virginia: an older, now-retired section of the Appalachian Trail known simply to us as "North Mountain" as well as other trails that encircle the Catawba Valley. Because it's not an "event", it's not directed by "anyone", but runners somehow get excellent aid at three different locations and a Patagonia shirt at the finish! The CRA ranks right up there with many well-known ultras in terms of organization, schwag, trail beauty, toughness, and fellowship. It is the essence of the sport.

The best part of the CRA for me? Besides the gorgeous views, fantastic trail, and outstanding support, the best part of the day is always watching the others finish while eating and drinking and resting my sore legs! And did I mention the 8,800 feet of climb in 35 miles? It's a 35 miler that runs like a 50. My best time was in 2008, when I ran 9:13 in the easier, counter clockwise direction. This year, we ran it in the harder clockwise direction on the first hot day of the year (temps were in the mid-70s) and I ran 9:24. Not too shabby for an old lady in the heat.

Here are some of my favorite pics below:

The Green Team of Michele Harmon, me and Jill Quivey at the start

David Horton gets pumped for another CRA (he ran the loop the day before, so this is day 2 of his CRA double)

The group at the start

Sunrise hits North Mountain, a 12-mile stretch without aid that takes about 3 hours to complete

Front runners Aaron Schwartzbard, Mike Mason, and Clark Zealand (who set a CRA record of 6:50) pose for the camera while descending Dragon's Tooth

23 miles later, a view of where I had come from--North Mountain-- from Tinker Cliffs

Rebecca Byerly, Bobby Gill and me on top of McAfee's Knob, 10 miles from the finish

9+ hours later, I am treated to this view of the the final mile to the finish and of Dragon's Tooth, the first big climb of the day!

The icing on the CRA cake: Dinner and fellowship at the Homeplace. All you can eat fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, corn...mmmmmmm.

See the rest of my CRA photos here.

See Charlie Miracle's awesome CRA photos here.


farmgirl said...

what a gorgeous weekend you had to do your me!

Rick Gray said...

What a weekend! Wonderful trails, beautiful views and spectacular friends. Oh, how could I forget the "PUDS". A new term for me, but it certainly is appropriate. Sounds like a weekend that ranks as one of the best, with memories just flowing. Thanks for sharing with us Sophie! Rick

Drs. Cynthia and David said...

Hi Sophie,

Discovered your blog through Devon's. Very nice and informative. I'd like to know more about the injury prevention you mentioned in your Feb 14th entry. Any videos or instructional materials available?

I used to live in Charlottesville (grad school at UVA, ran O-Hill many times and Shamrock Marathon once)! It's a beautiful area and I miss it sometimes. The mountains and campus in the fall were breathtaking!

Thanks for sharing!

Sophie Speidel said...


The March 2009 issue of RW has photos and descriptions of all the exercises. No doubt they will have them all up on soon. They are the real deal for ITBS and I am sure other imbalance injuries. Ask your PT for some ideas.

In the meantime, good luck training for Miwok!!

ultrastevep said...

Hi Sophie....

Am I ever sorry I missed this fantastic run! I had the pleasure of joining you all for 3 of the years and they are some of my best memories, along with the Homeplace and the Billybob story (I was in the room when this happened).

Great run for you, btw....looks like you are about to have another great year!

(Thanks for the CM photo link)

Maybe see you at MMT? I'll be course marking with Kevin.

Running home said...

Hi Sophie,

Steve Pero sent me over here to find out about the Grindstone 100. He says you ran it last year and I see you plan to run it again this year.

Wonderful photos! Looks like a great day...

I am also a mother of three and ultrarunner. I live in CT. I love running trails. I tried to run the VT 100 last year, but I didn't like the course -- too much road. Too hot. So I am looking at Grindstone. I like the 6 pm start time and the tough trails.

Do you know when registration opens? Does it fill up quickly (ie, do I have to be online the minute registration opens?)

I greatly appreciate any info.

Pam Dolan

annette bednosky said...

How fabulous and fun your day was! Of course your spirited attitude would make 33 degrees, raining with wet feet and Massanutten rocks sound like a priveledge!
Fabulous photos too! Thanks for sharing!

farmgirl said...

OK, now that you read my latest post, call me!

Cliff, Chris said...

Found your blog trying to search for running with dogs. I have an Aussie (a 6 month old boy), I was wondering how much you were running with yours at this age? I've been doing 3-4 miles once a week (I run at about 8min/mi). All trails.

Any info would be great!

Sophie Speidel said...


I started my Aussie on trails at about 6 months going for an hour max about 1x week. When he was 1 year, and the weather was really cool, he was able to hang for 2.5 hours on trail no problem. Now he is 1.5 and was recently able to run for a 5 hour trail run (lots of climbs so we were walking those) and lots of water/creek stops/swims. That was the longest I see taking him and certainly not on a day warmer than 70 degrees (it was a breezy 70 on the 5 hour and he had plenty of water and easy running, but I think that's the limit). Of course, he looks at me every morning inquiring on the running plan so we go out at least 1x on the weekend for an easy hour just to keep him happy. Now that it's warming up here in VA, I see an hour on the trail being the limit given his coat (long) and size (he's large for an Aussie). The rest of the week he runs and runs and runs with his brother.

Aussies are the perfect trail dog. Have fun with yours!

Sunshine Girl said...

Damn, is that really what the weather is like in March in your corner of the world?? I may have to think about an adventure on the trails out East next spring!