Sunday, October 25, 2015

FAC 50k

For the first time in ten years I did not do the Double Dare this year. Instead I joined the Pisgah Nation for a fun little run to the top of Mt. Mitchell. While some chose to tackle the monster Pitchell 100k distance I am not nearly that ambitious yet and instead settled for the second half of the route. Starting from the Folk Art Center the 33 mile point to point would follow the Mountains to Sea trail to the top of Mt. Mitchell with an elevation gain of over 10,000'. One of the most appealing aspects of the run was that I had never been on most of that section of the MST so I was looking forward to seeing new trail.

This wasn't an  event of any sort, just a suggested route and nothing more, so I chose to start my adventure around 7:30 in the morning. Everything started off great. I was running strong, feeling good and looking forward to a great day in the woods. About five miles in a Pitchell runner, Eddie, caught up to me and we chatted for a little bit as we ran along. Then out of nowhere my left shoe caught a rock or something just right and the sole ripped halfway off the shoe. This was bad. It was flopping and catching on everything making running almost impossible and hiking not much easier. I had a little duct tape wrapped around a nail in my pack and thought I could just wrap it in tape and everything would be fine. I hobbled a short ways to the next Blue Ridge Parkway crossing where I stopped to make the repair. Clyde and Jane from Brevard were there providing support for a Pitchell runner and gave me more duct tape and helped me make the repair. We wrapped the shoe in enough duct tape that I had no doubt I would be able to make it to the top of Mitchell.

About 50 feet up the trail the duct tape peeled right off and I once again had a floppy shoe. I stopped for a long while and tried to fix it again. I added more tape, tried to make the tape into a rope and tied that around it. Of course none of that worked and no repair like that was going to work. The road was just right there. I could still see Clyde and Jane standing by their car. I could just turn around and go back down the road and get a ride to my car. I could be home by 9 and make my wife breakfast. I could easily avoid having to fight a floppy shoe for the next 27 or so miles. But I just kept going. I reminded myself I was in it for the adventure and that I had solved bigger problems before. I figured out how I run a little when there weren't obstacles in my way and for the next many miles I crawled steadily forward while I ran through the options in my mind. If I wanted to finish the run I would need to fix the shoe. I knew the terrain ahead would be too challenging for my broken shoe. So as I hobbled along I took a mental inventory of everything I was carrying and how I might use each item to fix my situation. I had to look carefully at my left shoe with each step and pondered how I could reattach the sole. Eventually I realized I could 'sew' the sole back on by making a few holes in both the sole and the upper part of the shoe and then I got to thinking about what I would need to make the repair. I would need something to make the holes and then something to tie the parts together. What I needed was a knife but I had purposely left my knife at home because I had never needed it before. I thought about using the nail to make the holes, which would work, but couldn't figure out the string. I could use the drawstring for my shorts but it would be way too long and I couldn't cut it with a nail. I thought about using the earphone wire for my mp3 player. I could probably use two rocks to cut it into a usable length. Any of those options would take awhile and likely lead to more frustration so I kept going forward.

Having never been on the trail before I had no real idea where I was. I assumed the parkway had to be coming up soon and there would be people there  and those people would have knives and I would be saved. A few more Pitchell runners, Ben and Byron, caught up to me and we chatted some as we passed Rattlesnake Lodge and that area. I had been really looking forward to seeing that stretch of trail but couldn't enjoy it as I was dwelling on the shoe. I passed a few hikers but none of them had a knife. After a seemingly endless unknown number of miles I eventually got spit out onto the BRP. There were some people there supporting runners who greeted me and asked what I needed and started listing everything a runner might need. I told them what I needed was a knife and as they thought about if they had one a runner said she did and pulled out a pocket knife. What a glorious feeling it was to hold that knife! As I sat there making my repair I asked if they said they had beer and they handed me an ice cold PBR. A knife and a beer! Life doesn't get any better than that!

I finished my repair and beer and bid my saviors farewell and continued on up the trail. Unlike the duct tape this repair actually held and I could actually run again. The weather couldn't have been any better and the trail was great. I passed through the Craggies on a very rocky stretch of trail and was very glad that my shoe wasn't tripping me with every step. I had thought Eddie was in front of me but he caught up to me again and I was thankful to have company and we ran together for a long while. After many miles the stitch ripped out of the sole and I told Eddie to go on while I fixed it again. It was much easier this time and I was able to use the nail to make another hole and I continued on. As I ran through Balsam Gap Eddie was there looking a little rattled. Clyde and Jane were there giving him food and encouragement and he looked relieved to see me. He had been assuring me that from Balsam Gap things would be easier we continued on up the trail together. He told me he'd been ready to quit and I told him that wasn't an option and that I would pace him to the finish. We talked as we steadily worked our way ever so closer to our goal.

There weren't many easy miles on the run and when we finally crossed highway 128 Eddie assured me the next three miles would be easy and when they really were I was relieved. 30 miles in and we were actually running at a respectable pace. Those three easy miles came with a toll and that was a very tough final mile. But only one mile. The end was in sight. As we summited the highest mountain in the east the sun was starting to set and it was getting cold fast. The sweat was freezing on my jacket and we each snapped a quick picture and then jogged back down to the waiting cars.

Another excellent adventure! One Nation Under Pisgah!








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