Date: November 1, 2008
Distance: 17.8 miles
Place: 15th overall, 14th male
Location: Asheville, NC, along (but not on) the Blue Ridge Parkway
Elevation drop: 2,ooo’
Elevation gain: 5,000′ (not a typo)
Temperature: 30 at start, 50 at finish
Yes, it’s been two weeks since I ran the race. No particular reason why I haven’t posted. I recall as much about the race today as I did on race day. A truly challenging race! A truly challenging hike! Well, at least the last two miles.
The start (4th runner shown in picture)
The lead pack took off immediately, and I certainly never caught them. Given what my good friend Jim C., whose run the race for the last 18 years, had told me, I did not want to go out too strong. In Jim’s words, “Don’t shoot your wad before Ferrin Knob.” I also thought I had started my watch, but had not; thus, I was never quite sure of the mileage. Just as well!
Monk, a local Trailhead runner, and Amber, the first female finisher, were in the group I ran with initially. At the first steep climb, Ronnie and his friend, Josh, ran quickly by me. This was at about the 3-mile mark. It was also the first (of many times) that I walked. Believe me, the climbs were so steep that I could not have possibly gotten up them any faster by running.
I ran near and/or with a young man named Mark, who eventually was the 16th or 17th place finisher. I enjoyed our conversations, and enjoyed sharing observations, such as “If we take one wrong step, we’re done!” He also commented on my ability to run quickly downhill, or as he said “skip” downhill. Jim says “run recklessly,” so I’ll settle for “skip.”
At about the 5 or so mile mark, Jim C. caught up with me. He, rightly so, suggested that I remove my skull cap, as I was beginning to overheat. I dropped him at mile 7 or so, and numerous times throughout the race thought he might catch me.
Jeff was waiting for me, as we had planned, at the the 10-mile aide station, and I was delighted to see him! I acted in typical fashion. What’s this, you ask? I took off my gloves and threw him at his feet, threw my skull cap at his feet, threw my empty Gu wrappers at his feet, took 3 Gus from his outstretched hands, and was on my way. No hello, no thank you. I’m too damned focused!
On my way to Ferrin Knob
At about mile 12, I was following Amber. We were running downhill, and I was looking for an opportunity to go by her. Unbeknownst to me, there was a fallen log beside the trail, with a rather thick limb stretching over the trail. I saw Amber veer quickly to the left, but it was too late for me. I hit the limb with my right hand as my arm was on the upswing. In fact, I hit the limb so hard that it quite literally spun me around, and I found myself facing the opposite direction. The wind was knocked out of me, and I had to momentarily stop running. I suffered two deeps cuts, one on my pinky and the other on my ring finger. Two weeks later, and I still have healing scabs!
I was bleeding quite profusely, and used my white Umstead Marathon shirt to try to stop the flow. At each of the remaining aide stations, I got quite a few concerned looks! Carolyn (Jim’s spouse) was at all of the aide station, and she encouraged me at each and every one. She could also tell that I was in a little bit of pain. Jeff was waiting for me at the finish, and I’m glad that he didn’t see me, as he had heard that there were bow and arrow hunters in the woods. I looked like I had been shot.
Mile 13 (notice the blood)
There were times when I knew my heart rate was at the maximum, and, for the most part, I listened to my body. As I mentioned, I did indeed walk numerous times throughout the race. When Mark was ahead of me, I would walk whenever he walked. At about mile 15 or so, I caught up with Monk, and he (self-admittedly) looked very bad. He was indeed walking, and looked defeated. I offered him food and water, which he refused. I recently saw him at R.E.I., where he works, and he thanked me for offering my assistance, and congratulated me on my finish.
It was very hard to keep track of my place, as I was being passed and then often passing many who had passed me. This was particularly true during the last 4 or so miles.
The finish was a steep downhill of about 200 meters and with many sharp turns. Before you get to the finish, though, you had to climb, yes, climb, for 2 miles. The trail was rocky, with many twists and turns. It was so steep that I had to press my forearms on my thighs to keep myself upright!
Before I even realized it, I was at the finish. The woods ended, and the finish corral was immediate. I wasn’t ready to stop, and had to be told to do so!
My first thought, “I don’t want to run this ever again, as I enjoy running but don’t particularly like hiking.” I said as much so to anyone who would listen, including Jeff.
I would like to run the race again next year. I would train for it differently, though! I have already begun to briskly walk up the stairs at work at least two times a day, for a total of over 200 steps. With proper training, I could take at least 7 minutes off of my time. Wishful thinking, perhaps, but time will tell!
Someone took a picture of my license plate
Jeff and Paul after race