Adventures in Pisgah

Saturday, February 20, 2021

february rains

Thirty-three degrees and raining - just another February Saturday in Pisgah. The forest is nearly empty, just a few fishermen and hikers scattered about, and once again I have the trails to myself. I do a favorite loop I've been doing quite a bit recently. I was here a week ago in snow and ice but today that is all about gone, washed away by the rain. At the top of the climb I briefly break above the ceiling and get a little respite from the rain before plunging back down the mountain. Driving home all the vehicles are gone except a solitary couple wrapped in a blanket looking out at Looking Glass Falls. March is coming and Spring is in the air, the forest will be coming alive again, get it while you can.


The week before:


Fressies on Black with Jess (photos by Jess):




Sunday, February 7, 2021

a fork in the trail

Yuri and I made a feeble attempt at getting the band back together a few weeks ago. We headed deep into the heart of Shining Rock Wilderness and although the trail head was packed with hikers headed to Cold Mountain we had the forest all to ourselves. Our destination was a high top where we hoped there was a trail not on the map that would take us back to the trailhead. If that trail wasn't there we would be facing a 3000' bushwack or 13 mile return trip. After a long climb up a little fork and then miles of snow we reached it and the trail was there and took us right back down, closing the loop on yet another successful adventure in Pisgah.





Friday, January 15, 2021

crystals of snow

You never know what winter in Pisgah may bring. Last weekend I took advantage of the snow and road closures and got in some excellent runs. On Saturday I had the parkway all to myself and then on Sunday Akira and I encountered a surprisingly dry Pilot Rock trail and then had to put on micro-spikes for the steep descent down Thompson Creek in heavy snow before trudging back to the truck on Yellow Gap Road.











Thursday, January 14, 2021

Pinhoti 100 Race Report

"How much time do I have?" I asked the volunteer as he filled my bottle at aid station 6.

"Twenty minutes," he said.

"That isn't enough," I responded and quickly turned and headed back on the trail.

"You have a four mile climb and then a two mile descent," I heard him yell as I disappeared into the woods. 

Perfect, I thought. A four mile climb would be the perfect opportunity to make up some time and get further ahead of the time cut-off. Other than my usual low point around mile 18 things had been going fine. Slow and steady was my plan and I was sticking to it. I knew I would be racing the clock all day and night but twenty minutes didn't sound like enough of a buffer so I was determined to use the climb to my advantage. I had led a group of eight through the last section and as I continued on the trail there was only one other light to be seen.  They aren't going to make it, I thought and then wondered if I was going to make it. The unexpected rain that had been lingering all day had finally stopped so I paused on the side of the trail to secure my jacket to my pack so it could dry some for the long night I had ahead of me, wasting a minute. Then I paused again to reward myself with music but discovered my phone had not been in airplane mode and was down to 40%. Music was going to help me get through the night so as I continued on I changed my headspace and got used to the idea of running all night by myself in silence. It will be fun, I convinced myself.

 

As I approached the top of Bald Rock a heavy fog set in and I couldn't see much past my poles and kept losing the faint trail. I never got lost but wasn't able to go nearly as fast as I wanted or needed as I looked for the little blue ground flags that led the way. I made it over the top and on to the boardwalk and then down the final descent into aid station 7.

 

"You have to hurry!", I heard someone yell as I popped out of the woods and into the aid station.

 "How much time do I have?", I yelled back. 

"Under a minute," was the response.


Fuck. Less than a minute to pass through the aid station. No time for water or food. So, I kept running. A volunteer jogged next to me as I asked how far to the next aid station and how long I had to get there. I don't remember his response but it wasn't enough and I wasn't going to make it and if I did make it by some miracle it was only a matter of time before time caught up to me and I timed out. My wife was jogging next to me and I turned to her and said it was over. She told me I could make it but the look on her face confirmed what I already knew, my race was over. Although I'm sure they would have let me keep going my minute was up and I wasn't technically out of the aid station so there at 8pm and at mile 40, I handed over my chip and that was it. Eight months of training and I didn't even make it further than my longest training run. An hour later I was back at the hotel eating Mexican take out and watching cable news confirm the Biden win.


It was a beautiful day, even with the rain, on a great trail but still quite the disappointment. Physically and mentally I was fine



Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Fish Hatchery 50 Miler

Week 18 of my Pinhoti 100 training plan called for a 50 mile training run. Without many race options in the area I opted to do it as a training run but trying to mimic race conditions the best I could. Just like my 50k training run I started and finished at the Fish Hatchery allowing for multiple loops passing my truck to allow for resupply. Unlike my 50k run, I decided to use Yuri and Jess as pacers for the run. A hundred miles is no short distance to run and pacers could help me make it to the finish line and Yuri and Jess have volunteered to take that role so this run provided provided the perfect opportunity to practice for race day. 

My route for the day had me playing games on 487B. First I ran up the gravel to Pink Beds where I met Terri and Akira who joined me on a loop of the trail before I headed back down the road to the Fish Hatchery where I picked up Jess for a loop of 475B to Caney Bottoms. From there it was back to the Fish Hatchery where I exchanged Jess for Yuri who was taking the night shift. Once again it was right back up 475B to Cove Creek to Daniel Ridge. The moon was almost full and we were able to run without lights when we made it back out onto the road where we had to do a mile out and back to get the full 50 miles in.

Overall, the run went great. My biggest take-a-ways were that I did not need the poles I picked up at mile 34 and should have pushed harder the second half of the run. Physically I had some achilles pain and two blisters but otherwise there wasn't much of note. Yuri's highlight was seeing his 83rd bear of the year. Yes, he counts them.








Friday, September 25, 2020

something new is waiting

Week 18 and things are starting to wearing thin. Running has become a chore - something that just has to get done - and I find myself going to the same places I have always gone, running the same routes over and over again. I still don't feel like driving far and there is nothing lose by I haven't already explored before. I find myself parking at different spots and adding more and more out and backs on gravel forest roads just to get whatever mileage I'm supposed to get that day. On Tuesday, I parked at a new spot on the same road I always go to and started running to my usual turn around spot. For whatever reason, I made a turn onto another road. I'd been on that road before and know it goes nowhere but took it to add some additional miles to the usual boring run. So, out and back we went but on the way back I saw something and made a detour onto a faint bit of forgotten single track. Overgrown and long neglected but still better than the same old roads and trails so we kept going and surprisingly the trail did too. I expected it to dead end or dump me back on the road after a short while but it just kept going on and on. Then, at one point, there was a turn. Right or left - I picked right and still expected it to end soon but it just kept going on and on and on. I kept trying to figure out where it was headed and plotted the course on the map in my mind and knew where I was going to end up but when a gravel road appeared in front of me I recognized it and had been completely wrong about where I was and was quite happily surprised.

So, on Wednesday, the dog and I headed right back out there, this time to meet Yuri and explore the left turn where I had gone right the night before. The left was just as surprising as the right, although not nearly as long and where it led was just as surprising as the trail I had taken the night before and left me with even more questions. That night as I we were getting ready to drive home I saw something else that was interesting and knew I would be right back out there on Thursday.

All day at work I was thinking about what I had seen and what it might be. It looked like just another faint bit of long lost trail but based on the previous two nights I wasn't ruling anything out so the dog and I took it. The other two nights had me pleasantly surprised but Thursday's outing blew my mind. This old single track should have led nowhere fast but it just kept going and going. I had decided to wear my vest and threw my headlamp in it at the last moment and was glad I did because when the trail finally ended I was nowhere near where I should have been and was a long way from the truck. It was totally dark and raining and Akira and I slogged out the last few miles on familiar trails and roads and finished tired but quite satisfied with the unexpected turns our usually boring mid-week runs had taken with their adventures in Pisgah.


Friday, September 4, 2020

Fish Hatchery 50k

Week 14 of my Pinhoti 100 training plan was a 50k. I know what you are thinking - Art Loeb is a perfect 50k - but the Art Loeb trail is not like the Pinhoti so I opted for a different route instead. Starting from the Fish Hatchery my route was:

Cat Gap > Butter Gap > Art Loeb > North Slope Connector > North Slope > Exercise Trail > 276 > 477 > Bennet Gap > Coontree Gap > 276 > 475 > 475B > 229 > Cove Creek > Caney Bottom > 475 > Davidson River > 475

My feet got soaked on Butter and the Art Loeb was slower that it should be. I started to have some toe nail pain by the time I hit the halfway point and was glad to be going back by the truck where I spent twelve minutes resupplying and changing socks and shoes. After that the run was pretty easy with me  running much faster on the second half than I did the first. This training plan thing might be working.
 
Pro-tip: there is a courtesy phone at the Fish Hatchery. I used it to call my wife to tell her I made it out and would be late for dinner.