The A.D.D. Version:
105+ miles on the Appalachian Trail
19,000+/- of elevation gain
1 wonderful husband
3 great friends
1 former student
3 wild hogs
1 set of BIG bear prints
1 creepy old guy with a gun
Who knows how many GUs and Chomps
4 monster blisters
2 days of good air quality
3 face plants
1 injured ankle
1 brief cry on Tony’s shoulder because I was just so darn tired
0 Hallucinations : (
6 episodes of What You Missed in History Class
1 prayer answered
1 monkey off back
The Nantahala Mountains Adventure Run is a Denise Davis creation, filling a void in my running calendar. The course description is in the previous post, but, briefly, it is an out and back on the Appalachain Trail, from the Nantahala River to Deep Gap in Standing Indian and back. The run was semi-supported with some aid along the way, but I was mainly responsible for finding water and carrying enough supplies to last me up to twelve hours. Just a fun weekend adventure!
The Long Version
“I can’t do the 100 in two weeks,” I told Tony after a training run. I had gone to run the AT from the Nantahala Outdoor Center 11.5 miles mainly straight up to Cold Springs shelter and back. The temperatures had been in the nineties that week and along with the heat came bad air quality warnings. After eight miles, the rest of the run became a struggle. If I could barely make it 23 miles, half of it downhill, I knew that a full 100 was out of the question. But lo and behold, a front came through the day before the run, delivering some rain and clearing out the bad air. The run would go on.
I started solo at the Nantahla OC at 6:20 Saturday morning, carrying six hours of supplies, and began the long climb. With the better air quality, I was able to make faster time than expected, despite intentionally going slow. I wasn’t concerned about how fast I finished, I just wanted to finish. After enjoying the view at the Jump Up, I continued on, refilling water at Wesser spring and Burningtown Gap. Shortly after Burningtown Gap, Sarah Lowell called to find out where I was. She and Katharine Brown had just returned from the trip out to Western States and wanted to join in on the adventure. They decided that they would take turns running some sections with me, so they met me at Wayah Bald and Sarah kept me company down to Wayah Gap. We talked about her WS adventures and our future running plans. I told her that the last 100 I finished was Grindstone in October 2008 and mentally, I really needed to have a good run. At Wayah Gap, Tony was waiting for me and I refilled supplies and headed up to Siler’s Bald. I was able to start carrying a little less until nightfall as access points to the AT would become more frequent.
A couple miles from Winding Stair Gap, both Sarah and Katherine met me on the trail, and Tony met me once more before heading over to Nantahala to fish and get some food. Katharine, a strong uphiller, joined me for the trek up to Albert Mountain, and we enjoyed all the colorful fungi on that section and noted how much wild hogs had torn up the ground in one area. Sarah met us a couple miles from Albert and after tagging the survey marker up top and enjoying the clear view, we continued down to Mooney Gap. Tony was there, along with Alan Buckner and his son, and Katharine. I took some time here, changing clothes, eating, and getting ready for the upcoming dark. Alan was joining me here to start the NMAR 100K and off we went to the turnaround point at Deep Gap. My feet started bothering me some on this section and I stopped a couple of times to relace my shoes. Dark set in on the long climb up Standing Indian, and shortly after, we were serenaded by a pack of coyotes barking and howling down in the valley.
Shortly after 10 pm, we arrived at Deep Gap, where Tony was waiting. We had decided that he would drop a cooler with supplies at Rock Gap and go home and sleep. So we loaded up with around 12 hours of supplies, in case something happened to the cooler, and headed back up Standing Indian. I stopped to doctor my feet and discovered I had developed blisters on the balls of my feet and the sides of my heels. I usually don’t blister, so I am not sure what I did differently. The trail was certainly rocky and rooty, and I think I may have left my laces too loose early on. The blisters slowed my pace, as I negotiated the rough trail. Once we got back to Mooney Gap, we opted to add about 1.5 miles by taking the gravel road to Albert Mountain, rather than the trail, to give my feet a break and avoid some dangerous sections in the dark. Back on the trail, my energy was good, but my feet slowed my progress. We made it to Rock Gap shortly before six, as the sky was starting to lighten up. We located the cooler intact, but also an armed strange person from Georgia who thought we were looking inside his minivan, several feet away from where we were sitting, repacking our packs. After getting tired of dealing with “John,” who had been sleeping in his vehicle, who was from “lots of places” and who “didn’t fall off the turnip truck yesterday,” we opted to take the paved road up to Wallace Gap, avoiding a short but rocky section of trail. (On a serious note, at the first Nantahala Fria, Sarah got behind a slow moving minivan, which most likely contained the killer of two hikers in Brevard and one in Georgia. Shortly after NF, the body of one of the Brevard hikers was found a half mile from the entrance of Standing Indian. ) I texted Sarah, to see if she was awake and would want to bring us some food (and to warn her to watch out for the weirdo) and she agreed to meet us at Winding Stair Gap. After a steep climb, we came back through the area where the wild hogs were still active, and there they were, plowing up the ground. We all startled each other, but Alan and I stuck to the trail, whereas the hogs bolted down the side of the mountain.
The next section was the climb up Siler’s Bald, which I can usually run in under an hour. I’m not sure how long it took, but it was very slow. My feet hurt badly, so we decided that we would add some distance once we got to Wayah Gap by taking the road rather than the rocky trail. It would also make it easier for Tony to find us, which he did shortly after we started up the road. I changed shoes and socks, ate an ice cream bar and part of a sandwich and then Alan and I headed down Wayah Bald and over to Tellico Gap. This was the worst time. I pulled something in my left ankle area, which really hurt on the downhills and in conjunction with the blisters (which were huge by this point), my pace was slowed to a crawl. I don’t remember the steep climb to Cold Springs being so long or bad, but it was. Tony ran out the trail to meet us on the other side and seeing him always lifts my spirits. It was getting hotter, I was fatigued and barely shuffling, but I only had one more section to go.
The climb to Wesser Tower was horrible and it took me twice as long as usual to make it. (Listening to podcasts of What I Missed in History Class distracted me some, but now I will always associate Wesser Tower with the Janissaries). From here it was pretty much downhill for six miles, but it was a lot steeper, rockier and rootier than I remembered on the way up. It took me longer to go downhill than it had on the uphill. About three miles out, I had a nice pick-me-up, when Daniel Hamilton, a former student who did a couple adventure races with me, ran out to meet me. I hadn’t seen him in awhile so it was a nice distraction to catch up with him and think less about the pain. Sarah met us a couple miles out, and as we neared the end, I could hear Katharine whooping and hollering. At the finish, they had strung out a finish line tape, had balloons on a walking stick (to help me get to the car), a card and a little goody bag they had put together.
36:08, 105+ miles. A personal best as far as distance goes. Alan finished the 100K in…I'm not sure! Sarah is interested in doing a ½ NMAR sometime soon, although I will try to talk her into the full thing. It will be fun to crew rather than run! (Tony laughed sarcastically at that, since I have never crewed, and apparently it sucks). Anyway, I actually wouldn't mind to do it again (although not this weekend...or this month...). If anyone else is interested and wants some help, let me know and I would be glad to assist you. You're on your own with weird guys and wild hogs, though.