Monday, January 9, 2012

The VerticAle Mile

Three years ago at pmbar as we climbed up Squirrel Gap Toby told me about a local group of trail runners who do lots of really fun and somewhat crazy runs. When we got to Cantrell Creek there they were in the midst of a half marathon. They led us on the climb up to Laurel Gap and we chatted for a few minutes. Since then I have been monitoring their site and have been wanting to join them for a run but my long string of running injuries has stopped me from being able to until yesterday. I saw that they were doing a one mile beer run - the VerticAle Mile - and knew that even with a hurt foot I could run a mile and drink some beers. I might not be the best of runners but a mile isn't far and I've got the beer drinking down pat. So I signed up and took the dog out to see how we could do.

The idea was that we would drink four beers over the course of a mile run with a 650' vertical gain. First beer at the start and then another one every quarter mile. Easy enough, right? I figured I would be DFL but that was okay with me.

The route was up the gravel and then across the bald on Bearwallow Mountain - a place that Duma and I know well. We started by hiking up to the top to drop our beers along the way. On the way up it seemed like a really long way and the road seemed very steep and I was a little bit worried. Fortunately I knew that the four beers would help drown out any anxiety soon enough!

On the way up:

We walked back down dropping our beers along the way and then lined up at the start. Someone said "Go" and it was time to chug the first beer and then start running. I went to open my beer but my fingers were too cold to get under the tab to pop it open! Great, the 'race' had started and I couldn't even get my first beer open! I grabbed a stick off the ground and used it to pry the can open. Four long chugs and it was gone and I was finally out of the shoot. There were only four runners ahead of me so I figured even though my beer opening skills were sub-par at least my drinking skills were still sharp. I forced out a few burps along the way, squeezed through the gate and then was at beer #2 way too fast.

I got number two open without a problem, four more quick chugs and it was gone and I was off again, this time with only three other runners in front of me. A few more burps and I started to feel the heavy carbonation swishing around in my stomach but before I had a chance to think too much about it we hit the half way point and beer number three. Once again I got it right open, four gulps and was gone again, burping my way up the road.

Beer number four was at the point where we left the road and worked our way up the bald on a 16.67% grade to the top. By this point I was feeling pretty good about my beer drinking skills. I did my four gulps and was off again but this time had actually managed to beat Adam H. who had been in front of me out of the beer zone! I took off across the bald at a snails pace with a belly full of carbonation and realized that Terri had been right when she told me pounding beer and running was a lot harder than pounding beer and riding a bike! I was relived to see a runner in front of me walking so I did the same. Adam was right on our heels and Duma and I did our best to hold him back but there was only so much we could do and he passed us without a problem.

Adam on the final quarter mile:

The final stretch hurt but we staggered our way to the finish in 4th place with a time of 14:26:38! I was fully expecting to be ten minutes behind everyone else so we were happy with our performance. Of course everyone else there had run at least a mountain marathon the day before (like I said they are crazy)!

This was the most fun I have had in awhile and it was a great bunch of people. Even when Duma decided to show his butt they were all still very hospital to a drunken mountain biker and his crazy dog. Now I'm just hoping that I can get healthy enough to join them on more runs this year. Thanks for having me guys!

The group at the finish:

I took Terri's watch with me and managed to track my splits:

Beer one: 24.17
First 1/4 mile: 2.17.01
Beer two: 34.89
Second 1/4 mile: 2.47.38
Beer three: 34.49
Third 1/4 mile: 3.21.65
Beer four: 38.32
Final 1/4 mile: 3.48.41

After we ran back down picking up our cans along the way some of us chose to run up the trail to the top again to enjoy our buzz so Duma and I managed to go to the top three times total. Two times more than I anticipated but too much fun. Anyone who hasn't hiked or run the new trail to the top of Bearwallow should get out there and check it out as it is a really nice piece of single track!

While all the other runners had been out on Saturday running on the Tanahwa Trail on Grandfather Mountain I was out on my bike in Pisgah with Broussard. It was just another great day in the woods with the only notable things being that we rode over to Bent Creek and back and I finished by taking the entire length of North Mills River to finish. Nine river crossings in January is always fun!





  1. Great to meet you Clay! And you drank those beer in 2:12?!!!?!?!!?! I went 9:15 on the drinking portion! Good to have you out there and hope that foot gets better so we can see more of you.

  2. I second just about everything Rick said! Hope to see you out again soon!