Adventures with Duma

Monday, April 2, 2018

Seven Sisters 25k

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For not being much of a racer I found myself doing races to weekend's back-to-back and March. The weekend after BlackRock was the Seven Sisters 25k put on by Tanawha Adventures and Brandon Thrower. I'd run the course several times before and when I saw that it was becoming an official race I was excited to participate and support the inagural event.
There had been a buckle dangling in front of me like a carrot at BlackRock and but there was no such temptation with Seven Sisters so I was treating it as a training run. During the week leading up to the event the big question was the weather. March in the mountains can mean anything and the forecast was looking like a cold rain for the run - far from ideal conditions.
I woke to the sound of rain on Saturday morning and headed out to the start vowing to make the best of it regardless of the weather. Rain Is a good thing  and nothing is wrong with smiling on a cloudy day . When I got to Montreat the cold rain gave way to a light snow and I was excited for what was to come. Now the question was on if they would stick to the full route or due to the weather alter the course.
Just before the start Brandon announced that  there was only a half an inch of snow at the top of Greyeard and with little more percipitation expected as of then we would be sticking to the full route. How about the crowd erupted with excitement. It was a large group of runners I was happy to see so many people coming out to run in questionable conditions.
The race started with the first notes from Brandon's banjo and we all took off in the falling snow. I say I'd run the course several times before but never really looked at the route too closely and we started up some streets that I'd never really run before. I didn't want to get stuck in traffic on the steep single-back climbs so I pushed a little bit to stay near the front quarter of the pack.
Although we weren't expecting much more precipitation the snow just kept falling and I was having a great time. There is something about snow that opens up a childlike wonder and unabashed joy that couples perfectly with the pureness of trail running. There was no place I would have rather been at that moment than running trails in the mountains in the snow. Springtime in Pisgah and nothing could be finer.
I played leap frog with several little groups of runners as we rolled up and down the various hills.and gaps until we got to the Greybeard Trail. As much as I love its namesake mountain it is probably my least favorite trail in Montreat as it is the epitome of a false flat.
Nothing was going to keep me down this day though and I just trudged on letting runners go by as I figured I would real m in on the West Ridge Trail. The snow had still been steadily falling the half inch we were told was at the top was now several inches and we weren't to the top yet.
Just as I started to wonder if they would alter the course and send us back down Greybeard the answer came with the lead runner passing me on his way down. As much as not doing West Ridge  seems like it would have been, it really wasn't. Things were slippery enough on Greybeard and hundreds of people didn't need to be going down West Ridge in those conditions. So, I fully supported the race directors decision and went on up to Walker's Knob where we would turn around.
They had a bottle of whiskey at the top and were a little surprised when I took a shot. I really wasn't racing and at that point it was all over anyway so why not? The descent down Greybeard was indeed slippery and I wasn't taking any chances like I had done the week before at BlackRock. Brandon was hanging out at the turn from Trestle on to Greybeard and I was very surprised to see the race director on course. But like he said someone had to be there to make sure racers knew the new way down. I thought about volunteering to hang out for him but realized I would be getting cold very fast so I continued my descent.
The snow had stopped and was melting quickly and it looked like it was going to be a gorgeous afternoon in Western North Carolina. I slipped and slide my way down to the road and then trotted in to the Finish or a warm bowl of chili, a cold Pisgah Greybeard and plenty of smiling faces were waiting to greet me.
Even though we did not go on West Ridge Trail which is the crux of the route it was still a excellent event and I would encourage everyone to run it next year. Many thanks to Tanawha Adventures for my best run of the year thus far! If it wasn't for them I would have never gotten out of bed early would have missed the joy of running in that snow.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Assault on BlackRock

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Terri signed up to hike the Assault on BlackRock and although I'm not much of a racer when I saw that the course went straight up a high mountain and then straight back down it sparked my interest. The fact that it was a mountain I've never been on and the entry fee was low combined with the promise of a  belt buckle if you could finish a hundred in one minute sealed the deal and I signed up.
In preparation I did the unthinkable and actually did a few training runs for it. Without knowing the course I figured my best bet was just running my old favorite, Black Mountain Trail. 101 minutes to go 7 miles with a 3000 foot ascent and descent is no easy task. Black Mountain to Turkey Pen Gap trail is similar turn my attempts to run that out and back within a hundred and one minutes fell short each attempt. So, leading up to the race I was not hopeful of hitting a buckle and was well-prepared to miss a hundred and one minutes by a good chunk. After all this was going to be just a fun run with my eye on the Main Event in May.
The weather was doing it's uncertain thing leading up to the race and it wasn't clear if it was going to rain the whole time or not. I packed almost all my running gear in the car in preparation for anything. In the end I decided to travel as light as possible but with still enough to be comfortable if things got bad up high. Shorts, t-shirt and arm warmers, hat and gloves, emergency jacket and 4 oz of water tucked in a pocket.
The start finish area was laid back and low-key, just my style. I poked around a bit and it looked like the trail was going to be steep and rocky but plenty wide. We all lined up at the gate and waited for the 9 a.m. start time. The horn went off and we all took off with me enjoying the first few seconds in third place. That wouldn't last as a dozen or so people streamed by me over the next half mile. I was red dining just from the start but with only 7 miles to go I didn't feel the need to save anything. If I wanted that buckle there would be no time to spare.
The first two miles were steep as promised but I found myself right at the required 14:41 pace that it would take to get my buckle.  After that there was a bit of flat which side to the final third mile of trail that would climb 600 feet to the summit of BlackRock itself. I found myself running with the lead woman and we were both wondering when the leaders would pass us on the out and back but they didn't until we were nearing the top. That had to be a good sign.
Quick turn of the top to get our numbers marked that we made it and then down we went. Third of a mile slowed me down and in order to make it back down in the time required I had 32 minutes to descend 3 miles. That would be very fast for me. Luckily the trail was wide open and very runnable. I turned my music up loud and gave it everything I had. As much as I wanted to not look at my watch I keep finding myself looking at my watch doing the math. Would I make it? I had a chance, that was for sure.
When you're at the bottom I realize that if it was really only seven and a quarter miles I would make it. If it was closer to 8 I would not. Within a mile of the Finish there was an unmarked turn off to the left and I wondered if that was the way. There were no runners around me and no signs. I stayed on the road more traveled and hoped it was right. As I near the finish I fully expected to be told I was finishing off course. I was resigned to be with happy with whatever happened. My watch had me at 97 minutes or so and it appeared a buckle was mine.
The descent had been pounding and I finished in a daze. I wandered around a bit and talk to a few runners as I waited for my coveted buckle. I still had a while longer to wait for Terri to finish and talked to more runners including Sean who I had exchanged emails with about running from his reading this blog (hi Sean! Good to meet you.). I made a couple more friends until Terri finished and we headed off to downtown Sylva for much deserved beer and food.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Half a Tank of Gasoline

Last weekend I got away to the Linville Gorge area for a fun little overnight excursion.

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I walked a short distance into the Wilderness on Saturday afternoon and set up camp at the base of Hawk's Bill Mountain.

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From there I did a quick little run up to the top of Hawk's Bill where a fantastic view awaited me. Table Rock was the dominant feature in a landscape full of dominant features. Its presence was so great that I could not help but run over to it to take in the sunset.

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As close as it looked the run overtook a little longer than expected and I had the frozen trails all to myself. My solitude ended at the top of the iconic mountain where a group of revelers was awaiting the sunset. I snapped a quick picture and then retreated back to the solace of the trail and enjoyed the sunset over my shoulder as I made my way back to camp.

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It was a cold night but morning broke with clear skies and a bright warm sun and once again I felt the pull of Hawk's Bill and ran to the top to enjoy the morning. I had the peak all to myself and spent some time enjoying the view.

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After breaking down camp and taking the long way back to the truck I stopped and checked out a waterfall for a future canyoneering route.

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From there it was back out to the highway and off to check out Lower Steels Creek Trail #238.  I had been eyeing this trail for awhile and had asked Brandon T. about it at the Wilson Creek Sweatfest but couldn't remember exactly what he said about it. I knew he said it wasn't worth doing but couldn't remember the reason why. I thought he said it had been logged. Whatever the reason I needed to see it for myself.

It took a few trips up and down the highway for me to confirm the start of the 'trail'  due to some marked private property right where the trail was supposed to be. Once I was certain of the location I began the adventure. I never like poaching private property so I decided I would follow the property boundary which was also exactly where the trail was supposed to be according to my maps. It was easy enough to follow the boundary as it was marked like always by red paint. I was admiring how well of a job they did marking it as I made my way through the brush.

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At one point I noticed what sure looked like fresh red paint dripping off a couple of leaves and thought "That has to be blood," so I reluctantly touched it and confirmed that is was indeed wet paint.

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That meant that someone was in front of me marking the boundary. I found it to be an interesting coincidence that the day I picked to check out this seldom traveled trail would be the same day someone was out marking the property boundary. Undeterred, I continued on wondering if I would see whoever was in front of me. Eventually, the private property ended and I found the actual Lower Steels Creek trail but it was so overgrown that it was pretty much just a bushwack. I was determined to do the trail but after many creek crossings and impossibly slow going, I realized I needed to find a way to move faster. I consulted my map and decided to leave the creek and bushwack up to FR210A. I was gambling that the map was accurate and was quite relieved when the road was exactly where it was supposed to be. I could actually run again and followed the road back to the creek where it joined the trail I had been on. It was still very lightly traveled but there were signs of previous use from a forgotten time.

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The excursion was taking a lot longer than anticipated and I was pushing day light so I was tempted to do another bushwack to speed things up but decided not to press my luck and stayed on the road instead. I eventually made it out to highway 181 and ran the final few miles as the sunset behind Table Rock bringing the weekend to a close. 



Saturday, January 20, 2018

Mt. Mitchell

It occurs to me I didn't tell you about my trip to Mackey Mountain a few months ago when I had to bail due to hypothermia and for that I apologize. Laurel Fork trail was my goal on that trip and it is still at the top of my to do list and I was headed there last Saturday but when I got out to the highway I saw Craggy Dome covered in rhime ice and  knew I had to go higher. An hour later I was at the Black Mtn. campground and headed up the Mitchell trail to the top of the highest mountain in the Eastern US. 

The run started out quite warm with me shedding layers like it was summertime and I thought for sure by the time I got to the summit all the rhime ice would be long melted. By the time I got to Higgin's Bald halfway up all my layers were back on and by the time I got to the horse trail I was quite cold. When I went up Cold Mtn. two weeks earlier I had been expecting the trail to be covered in ice and was prepared with traction spikes but for whatever reason I did not have the same expectation for Mitchell. I would soon regret that lack of forsight as the last two miles of the trail were nothing but ice. Any pretense of running was squashed as I slowly made my way up the frozen trail.

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When I finally summited I had the often crowded peak to myself but it was way too cold to much more than snap a quick picture before heading back down the ice. Just like on the way up by the time I was halfway down it was warm again, the ice was gone and I was actually running.

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Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Winter is On

We just had a cold stretch where it didn't get above freezing for almost two weeks. That meant things really started to freeze and my trip to Cold Mountain had me eager to get out one more day before things heated up to see some of the frozen wonders of the forest. With limited time I decided to run a little loop in the Cove Creek/Daniel Ridge area and check out some of the frozen waterfalls. As luck would have it I bumped into a friend or two along the way.

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Cold Mountain

The first time I ever went up to Cold Mountain was with Duma. It was the coldest day of the year and seemed like the perfect day for the hike. This last Saturday it was really cold once again and I couldn't help but make the same trip again but his time alone. Just like that first time up the mountain Saturday's trip went as smooth as could be. The trail conditions were great and itt didn't get too cold until Cold Mountain trail itself but a little suffering is sometimes a good thing. Little East Fork was almost completly frozen and as I drove away had me dreaming up possible adventures for Sunday.

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maybe this year will be better than the last

 Well, we made it through December. The month ended with a
Christmas Eve run with Yuri that was dedicated to Duma and was just a little nasty.


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And a solo run in cold conditions in Panthertown on New Year's Eve.

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