Friday night I met up with him and we set up the cars so that we could run point-to-point Saturday. After leading my Outdoor Adventure camp all day, and then driving the 4 hours or so to Asheville, it made for quite a long night. Still, I'm always willing to take more time to set up a shuttle; it affords twice the opportunity to see cool new stuff, since you get to see twice as much trail. Plus, as a bonus, we got to see a bonafide "Holy Ghost Tent Revival" in the backwoods, rode through a creepy Boy Scout camp, and almost made road kill out of a goat...
We got up early Saturday and met Derek's friend Derk (or maybe it's "Dirk"...either way, it's a confusing thing to run with both a Derek and a Derk). He left his car on the parkway about 18 miles into the run. This would be his longest run yet, at 18 miles and over 7,500' of gain, so he wasn't trying to run the whole 30 with us. As it would turn out, we were fortunate we had an option for calling it at mile 18...
The entire run it was raining, and at times, it was downright pouring. And we're not talking about that fine mist that is ubiquitous in the Pacific Northwest, I'm talking big ol' thunderstorm-ish rain with big ol' drops of water. Because we were up high, the temps hovered around high 40's, low 50's. Normally this wouldn't be an issue--say, for instance, if one were smart and brought a rain shell of some sort or ANY warm clothes at all for that matter--but I didn't even remember to bring socks or water bottles, much less anything warm or water resistant, so basically it was just a tech tee and some shorts. It's so hot here in the piedmont in summer, I forget that the mountains can be really different. Anyway, this meant several hours of frigid-ness, as we power-hiked the crazy vertical this trail offers.
The first 15-ish miles or so were still pretty fun. Despite the fog and rain obscuring any real views, the flora in close proximity was nice to look at. I found the trail to be runnable, and the power-hiking was steady when the grade demanded it. It was also fun to listen to Derek and Derk geek out about their grad school program and clinical experiences, and have no idea what they were talking about. I remember having the epiphany that this was what it must have been like for others to hear me talking about my own grad-program with members of my cohort. I practiced eating more frequently and really staying on top of my nutritional needs. I chalked up the nausea I experienced anyway (resulting more from their stories of gore witnessed in hospital emergency rooms, intensive care units, and operating rooms) as good ultra training.
It wasn't until we started to really get up high that it got a bit worrisome. That's when the cold set-in and our hands started to do that pre-hypothermic thing. The last straw, however, was that we found the oft-traveled, flatter trail near the parkway to be either a rushing creek of cold water, or large puddles of indeterminate depth (ranging from ankle to shin deep). Derek was familiar with the final 12-ish mile section and let us know it would be more of the same river/bog running, potentially with much deeper water. Suffice it to say, the running was sketchy, we were very cold, had sipped the last of our water miles ago, and Derk's car--plus the Cool Ranch Doritos and pizza inside--were just too tempting.
Before the run, I thought Derek had said the whole 30 miles had about 7,500' of gain. When my watch said well over 8,000' at mile 18, I figured I'd gotten what I came for. Also, the wetness and constant uphill kept us out there for a while (good time on feet). I may do one more long run (25-30 miles) around here, but I feel like I'm ready.
Here are some pics taken toward the end of our outing:
|Wondering if we'll ever stop going up|
|I like this pic, because it appears that Derek is admiring my calves...or my butt : )|
|Note the state of the trail ahead...I promise it's ever deeper than it looks. This area was especially eery.|