Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Grandfurther Mountain Run

At 25k the Grandfurther Mountain Run was a quarter of the distance I plan to cover at the Cloudsplitter and was nearly 20 miles shorter than how far my training plan said I was supposed to run last Saturday. But the race sells out in mere minutes and is on some of the most challenging and scenic trails WNC has to offer so I considered myself lucky to be able to run it.

The first mile or two of the course are rolling machine cut trail and provided an opportunity for the field to spread out and for the runners to find their place in the pecking order. A dense fog lingered at the start and gave way to a steady rain just after the start. That first mile was supposed to be easy but the rain made even that stretch slippery and slower than it should be.

After the introductory stretch the Profile Trail quickly gets steep and rocky and since this wad to be just a short training run for me I made the foolish rookie move and dug deep on the first climb and tried to see how much of it I could run which was more than most of of the smarter people around me but I was resigned to walking a lot of it. The trail was in essence either just one big boulder field or a tangle of gnarly roots and the rain made both options a slippery and treacherous mess. In other words, it was just about perfect.


The rain stopped but the fog remained and the trail offered brief respite from the rocks and roots in the form of a game of shoots and ladders. There would be no views this morning but the mountains still offered up plenty of beauty to justify the pain.


It would be all downhill from here with all the people who were smarter than me blowing by me as I carefully picked my way down the other side of the mountain.


I did a quick turn at the halfway aid station and once again decided to push hard on the climb and bury myself. I knew the descent down through the nightmare rock garden was going to be brutal and potentially dangerous so instead of letting loose on that I opted to see how much I had on the climb. I was thinking the ladders and top were at the ten mile mark and worked hard to get there but at ten miles there were no ladders and I was quickly running out of steam and was reduced to hiking once again just short of the top.


It was Downhill From Here and any effort I had been making to go fast or push hard was quickly abandoned with my focus instead being on saving whatever might have been left of my quads and not getting hurt. The big rock descent was predictably brutal with way more technical scrambling and downclimbing than anything resembling running and I was content to go as slow as necessary.

After the super technical section there was the rolling final mile or two and the running resumed but I just hit cruise control and tried to shake out my legs a little. After 14 hard miles that final mile seemed to go on forever but eventually the finish appeared and the race was over.

I was very impressed with just how hard the course is as well as how well it was run and reccommend that everyone give it a try. But be sure and be on it as it sells out in mere minutes.

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