Sunday, May 12, 2019

2019 Pisgah Running Adventure Race Report

As I laid in bed late Saturday night listening to the sound of the thunder with the rain pouring down, I recalled the bike race from the day before and wondered what the morning would bring. I'm not sure how much I slept as memory mixed with desire and my body yearned for comfort as I tossed and turned through the night. Eventually, I had no choice but to surrender to the day and I got up and got dressed and prepared for another round of Pisgah in the rain.

Evidently, I am a bad counter as this was to be my 6th Pisgah Running Adventure Race, not my 5th as I had previously stated.  When I arrived at the start it was still raining and I felt surprisingly good and ready for the race. You never know what to expect from a race like this and Pisgah Productions once again completely changed the course. As we stood at the start listening to Eric's pre-race speech the minutes ticked by and everyone was wondering when we get the passports. With just seconds until the 8am start, Eric broke the news that we would receive our passports at Pressley Gap on the Black Mtn. trail. And just like that, the game was on!

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In years past we had usually been the first team out but this year as everyone headed up Black Mtn. trail at the same time we quickly fell into our spot which was to be somewhere near the middle of the field. After our fourth time on Black for the weekend, we made it to Pressley Gap, got our passports and continued on to our first checkpoint at the overlook near Clawhammer Mtn.

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Much like my Big Nasty run from a few weeks back the storm had cleared as we reached the top but unlike that run it appeared the rain was done for the day and from there on out it would be clear as we began the long out and back to the mandatory checkpoint at Copperas Rock on South Mills River trail. For a race full of surprises this was a big surprise. Copperas Rock is not easy to get to and is the last place you would expect a mandatory checkpoint unless you are smart enough to expect the unexpected.

Buckhorn Gap trail was a river of mud and silt but was nothing compared to what South Mills River trail had in store once we reached Wolf Ford. Two miles of mud through a tangle of dog hobble with three serious river fords.

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Before we got to that stretch of trail Yuri said he didn't think it was going to be bad but by the time we were halfway through the nightmare he had changed his mind. It was a slow slog but extremely beautiful and the river felt good on my aching calves. A quick stop for a picture at the rock and then it was right back out the same way we had come through the mud and muck.

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As we started the climb back up to Buckhorn Gap I realized I was tired and the bike race and our heroics on Maxwell Cove the day before were catching up to me so I put music on and just focused on keeping moving forward. The mud made it hard to run and I finally resolved to just hike through those sections. From Buckhorn Gap, it was all downhill from there but as soon as we started the descent I realized my quads were trashed and there would be no fast downhill running, just a slow painful forward movement towards the finish.

We easily hit the next two checkpoints and started the final climb up what is perhaps my favorite trail in the district - Pressley  Cove. I took the lead and tried to run it but by the time we got to the stream I was pretty much done running and the grind to the finish continued. I'd been hoping that Pressley would revigorate me and I'd be able to run fast down Black but that was not the case and my quads were having none of that. There was still one checkpoint remaining at Sycamore Cove and hwy 276 and at the bottom of Black we were faced with a tough decision: go for it and clear all the checkpoints for the weekend or settle for 4 and head back to the finish. The checkpoint was just a half mile on the road from the finish but 6-7 miles on the trail. I was barely moving and there was no way we were walking those six miles in under two hours so we, or perhaps I, made the decision to do the smart thing and skip it and finish as strong as we could.

Minutes later we were at the finish after running right at a marathon. Smiles and stories from the day abounded as teams finished over the next several hours. A burrito and a few beers and the insanity of the storms the day before and the memory of waking that morning in the rain to do it all over again were quickly diminished as the good vibes kept flowing. Once again, Pisgah Productions had provided more fun than should be possible!

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