Sunday, November 7, 2010

shut in and shut down

When I first heard about the Shut In Trail Race it sounded perfect to me. 18 miles from Bent Creek to Mt. Pisgah mainly up hill and on single track. What could be better than that? After a lot of thinking about it and talking about it I actually sent in my registration and entered the thing. With my main focus being on the Double Dare I was limited by just how much I could train for it. But I did train some and figured how hard could it be?

The first story of the day was the weather. Instead of beautiful blue sky 60 degree weather we awoke to cold rain and snow. I called the Blue Ridge Parkway hotline first thing in the morning and heard that the parkway was closed from NC 151 all the way to Cherokee due to the weather. Uh,oh, what would they do? I got to the Arboretum and got my number and heard the news that they wouldn't know exactly where the race was going until right at the start time. The likely option was that they would have to move the finish 2 miles down to 151.


We were lined up and ready to go at 10 when they made the announcement that as of right then we were going all the way to the top but that was weather dependent! Woo - hoo! Let's go!

I'd been unsure exactly what the start was going to be so when it started with a nice long downhill warm up and then a pleasant climb up through Bent Creek I was happy. I'm sure the sub 9 minute miles I was doing at the start was a bad idea but at the time it seemed like the perfect thing to do. Once we hit the actually trail the climbing started in earnest and I was all too happy and fall into a long line of walkers on the first steep pitch.

The weather turned out to be perfect. There was a fine layer of snow on the trees and the ground and in the bright morning sunshine the white of the snow combined with the vibrant last autumn leaves made for a memorable visual. At times it would turn cloudy and then spit snow which was perfect as well. I'd been unsure of what to wear and at the last minute went with shorts, two shirts, gloves and hat which was just about right.

Everything was going great until I hit the 14 mile mark at the Mills River Valley Overlook. My hip flexors were killing me with pain with every step. I was forced to start walking a lot of the neutral ground due to the pain and got passed by a few dozen runners in the process. With only a 5k left to go I was going to finish but it wasn't going to be pretty. After an eternity the long flat stretch finally spit me out at 151 where spectators were able to gather and Terri was waiting. She opened a gel for me and I squirted it in my mouth and headed for the final thousand foot, two mile ascent to the top. Climbing was actually easier than running on flat ground and with the finish within my grasp I vowed to go all out to the end and gave it all I had to give. It was just like it was 11pm out on Yellow Gap Rd. again, trying to outrun a certain dnf with a brick wall blocking my way.

I dug in and ran the final stretch to the top. I was grunting and groaning and yelling with every step but I ran. I passed a half dozen or people at the bottom and could see a conga line of another 20 or so a few hundred yards ahead of me so I dug in and ran harder. Eventually I could only manage a half dozen steps or so before I had to stop to try and yell off the pain but I suffered through it and ran my way to the finish in less than 30 minutes after leaving 151 with a total finish time right around 3:45.

Terri was there waiting at the finish and I told her I needed to go find a place to collapse and did just that. My final push had pushed me over the edge. Nothing left. My hip flexors were absolutely killing me and just getting to the car was a real challenge.

I'm not sure I need to do that again!

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