Monday, May 28, 2012

Week ending May 27: Assault on Mt. Pisgah

Mon 5/21 3 miles
Tue 5/22  3 miles. Still pretty tired after the long weekend.
Wed 5/23 Off. Took heed from last week’s one-mile day when I shouldn’t have run.
Thu 5/24  8 1/2 miles at Croft. I haven’t been on the Chapters for a while.
from Dairy Ridge: Palmetto to Chapters to Palmetto
Fri 5/25 4 1/2 miles on Cottonwood. Felt very good: made myself go easy.
Sat 5/26  26 miles North Mills River Recreation Area to Mount Pisgah and back: Big Creek Trail, Laurel Mountain Trail
Definitely a highlight run of the year. I met up with a group of western North Carolina trail runners who put on a pile of self-supported group runs through the year. Seth and I have internet-stalked them for a while, and I finally got up the nerve to go run with them. I'll thank Adam fopr organizing this one, and the rest of the crowd here for putting on these great runs, and for promoting trail running in beautiful places.
This run (“an almost perfect loop of about 26 miles”) started at the North Mills River Recreation Area, which was the start of the overnight relay that I blame for this long-distance habit. I flitted about through the crowd, finding my place as we climbed slightly along a fire road. To tell you the truth, I don’t remember much from that first ten minutes or so, other than meeting people. At some point I found myself pulling away from the guy I was running with, but fairly far behind the folks right in front of me. I decided I’d speed up to catch them--did I mention I had no map and no idea where we were going?
I ran with Stan, Lindsey and Hayley for quite a while. The trail ran along a creek (Big Creek, I’m guessing, since that was the name of the trail), crossing it several times, just stunning deep valley running. All that flat running--probably 5 miles or more--meant the climbing would come pretty sharply. But we were rolling right along there, chatting and easy in the deep woods. We talked about jobs (Hayley’s a lawyer, Lindsey teaches middle school; why didn’t I find out what Stan does?) and running and I don’t know what all.
And then it happened. Right at a little cleared spot by the creek, the trail turned steeply uphill. We stopped and ate. “Fuel now,” Lindsey said. I did. Hayley turned back here, and for the most part, Lindsey took off up the climb. She stayed in sight most of the way, but she was on a mission and tearing it up. Stan and I separated some, and the climbing just kept me in that in-my-head place, feeling good and running (imitating the running motion) when I could. 
I knew what the loop was in theory, but I was still eased by having Stan, who had run the course before (and was planning to run another long run in the mountains with these guys the following week--strong runner, in other words) right behind me. We got to Blue Ridge Parkway, the top of the longest climb, in a little over two hours. We ran along the Parkway to the Mount Pisgah rest area where Terry had a fully stocked aid station. I had brought peanut butter and nutella sandwiches, but didn’t want to eat any at all. Lindsey had an orange, and shared another with me. I ate half, and left half with Terry for someone else. But that orange was spectacular, cold and wet. I should have eaten the whole thing. 
At the top of the long climb to the Blue Ridge Parkway
From there the course climbs to the peak of Mt. Pisgah, and you turn around and come back down. The trail was pretty crowded--a good thing as folks renew themselves by coming in contact with nature. Made for a little less free running. And the trail was nice and flat for a good piece, letting me unwind my legs a little. The steep pitch to the peak ended the climbing for the day. Stan and his girlfriend/wife, who met us at the parking area (she’s running 29 miles next weekend, and rested this day), were at the observation deck when I got there. All the way up I saw other runners coming down; we all exchanged enthusiastic greetings. I passed Lindsey on her way back down from the peak; “Great orange, huh?” she said.
The drop back down to North Mills River was more gradual than the climb, basically one trail from the parking area traversing steep hillsides, at times in cool, narrow slots. When I say cool, I mean chilly. The day turned very hot, and although I didn’t overheat, I didn’t drink enough water. I started to crave some flavor in my water, actually, and tried a gel in one. Chocolate, at least, did not taste good. 
But these little naturally air-conditioned sections were relieving, and the running easy and downhill. About 2 miles from the end of the trail, and about 5 miles from the end of the run, my stomach really got upset. I felt crampy, and tried to soothe it with food. I think I was depleted. I’d taken two SCaps, which always leave my jaw a little tight, and starting eating a Shot Block every ten minutes or so. 
Yeah, I was clobbered. Sean had caught and passed us earlier, and Stan had disappeared around the switchbacks and ridge lines. I just put it on cruise, walking and running--mostly my decision when--to the finish. It took me a half hour or so to feel like being social, including a brief hurl session about 15 minutes after I finished. Thanks to Dave for hanging with me then. He was leaving, but stayed until I was conversational again. 
I feel certain the hurl-fest resulted from dehydration. I was drenched early in the run, and still only finished one bottle on the way up. I finished three total, I think--about 60 ounces, probably. My waist pack ended up rubbing me a little raw at the belt-line, too. I’ll have to figure out a better system for such long runs. Highlands Sky will be well supported, so I think I’ll be okay with my one bottle. I may invest in a vest, too, which seems to be least restrictive of the pack-type hydration systems.
I felt great about the run, though. As far as I can figure, the trail climbs 3500’ from the camping area to the peak of Mount Pisgah. I’m sure that steep climb was well over 2000’ in about two or three miles. I don’t get that opportunity very often, and my quads know it. Stan said he ran 5 hours 26 minutes last year; I ran 5:14, and Stan was well under that.
I met a bunch of cool and interesting people, some real studs of the ultra-world, and was reminded again of the great camaraderie of trail runners.
Sun 5/27  Didn’t see why I should run, and spent a great day with my Gorgeous.
Total: 45 miles in 5 runs

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