Friday, August 24, 2012

Week 12: Six waterfalls and a birthday party

Mon 8/13  4 1/2 miles on Cottonwood

Tue 8/14  7 miles at Croft

from Dairy Ridge: Palmetto to Lake Johnson Connector to New Edition.

Fri 8/17  4 miles on Cottonwood

Sat 8/18  22 miles at Dupont State Forest, North Carolina.

What a way to start a birthday weekend—six waterfalls, 22 miles, lots of new trails and a great crowd of folks. I knew the distance would be a challenge after 2 ½ months of un-concentrated running.  In fact, I’ve had one week since June with more mileage than I ran on Saturday. But I ate well all week, I stayed on the nutrition and hydration while running, and stopping at all the waterfalls for a little frolicking (less frolicking toward the end, for sure) made for a fun day in the woods.

I was in the middle of the crowd to take the photo.
Seth and I arrived right about 8:30, and spent some time chatting and getting ready. I made sure to eat more than I usually do, and packed up my new Nathan HPL #020 vest. Of course in a group of 40 or so trail runners there were plenty of others wearing the same vest there; I found out that most of them leak from the drink tube as mine did from the very start. I’ll add that the twist on/off thing was stiff with dry fingers. With wet fingers (remember, it’s still August in the South—I was drenched in sweat with a few minutes) it’s nigh impossible. I quickly decided I would use the handheld which I just filled up from the bladder whenever it was empty. That way I didn’t have to have the constant dripping, and I didn’t have to wrestle more than a few times with the on/off. I loved the comfort of the vest itself, but I’m switching out the bladder to make it more useful.

Seth and I at the base of Bridal Veil Falls.
After some quick directions from Adam, who takes on the organization of these things, off we went, a full page of trail changes in hand. The run starts with a mile or so of road climb, nothing exceptional, and luckily only a little traffic. Throughout the day I ran with different folks as we caught up to and were passed by groups all day, but especially on the way to the first stop, Bridal Veil Falls, which according to the directions is about 7 ½ miles in. This was a spectacular spot, with the falls themselves at the top of a long sloping rock face, a little treacherous and slick in spots. From there the crowd seemed to thin out, in part because the shorter ten-mile route soon split.

Bridal Veil Falls.  There was a lot of water
blowing through to the right of the photo.
With all the trail changes, we paid close attention to the directions (which managed to stay intact though wet). All of this early part was new to me, but I love the rolling terrain at Dupont. Climbs were enough to give us good walking cues, drops made for fun quick-feet running, and an overcast day was nice and cool. After a little extra mileage around to see Lake Julia, we hooked up with a fun group for some good running through the woods. I ate and drank copiously, eventually hitting ten gels in the five hours we were out. Filling up my handheld took a little time, worth a stop along the way.

Wintergreen Falls was next, some nine miles from Bridal Veils Falls. The only mis-direction came on the route from Wintergreen Falls to Grassy Creek Falls, but a quick look at the map showed us we were on the right trail. The view from the top of Grassy Creek was enough for us by then, 4:15 and probably 17 miles into the run. Climbing back up the steep access trail from the base seemed inordinately difficult. We were both filling up in the creeks, using Seth's steripen to treat.

By that point, though, you are close to the trailhead; you cross a beefy covered bridge and start down. Folks were carrying large coolers, which I knew were filled with yummy eats. I almost jumped a family at High Falls for their tuna fish subs. After Triple Falls we were back at the trailhead. A little socializing, then a quick jaunt down to Hooker Falls and back completed a great day. I had been thinking about the Coke I put in my cooler that morning for at least the last two or three miles, and it tasted so good.

And that might be it. When I run like this, feeling strong all day, pushing myself about as as far as I can at the time, I’m free. Things become elemental, immediate, necessary. Time is reduced to points, and there’s an amplification of my senses. There’s a reciprocity, I imagine, between us all, at least for a moment. 

Total: 37 1/2 miles in five runs

A good group we ran with from Bridal
Veil to Wintergreen Falls. Trouble,
the Jack Russell, ran the long loop.

Wintergreen Falls.

Top of Grassy Creek Falls.

High Falls. By this point, the last few miles
of the run, there are crowds. 

Triple Falls.

Back at the parking lot...

...with Adam Hill, who organizes and crushes these runs.

Hooker Falls, just downstream from
the parking lot.

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