This weekend was the best! With masochist right around the corner and my decision to attempt Hellgate again it was the perfect weekend to get some good miles in. The weather was perfect and the cooler temps make me a happy camper! I was off monday for Columbus day and was able to get a long run in, did the loop on wednesday, shorter run on thursday, but with two back to back long runs I could push my mileage up for the week. I'm usually a 30 mile a week kinda gal if that, so I was excited to get up around 80 miles for the week without a race. Jenny and I met at 5:30 in Damascus Saturday morning to run the Government Road Loop. Southbound on the AT - McQueens Gap, around 11 miles then head down the mountain and back to town mostly on gravel forest service road and a bit of pavement for a total of 24.6 miles.
It was great starting under the dark, dark, starry sky, looking down into the valley as we climb up, seeing the lights twinkle above and below. I wondered how many people were still dreaming asleep in their cozy beds, not to awake for several more hours. I felt great, so alive, happy to be out and moving. The sun slowly began to rise and colors highlighting the iron mountain ridge line in the distance kept catching my eye through the remaining leaves on the trees. I had to stop often to watch in amazement as the pinks, reds, oranges painted the dark mountains as we stood under a blanket of fall colors, I kicked myself for not bringing the camera even though it never does justice.
We hit McQueens Gap in no time it seemed and the single track was just over to soon for me, but I embraced the face that government road would be great masochist training and it is still beautiful for the most part. It's a steep grade going down for several miles winding around before you come to the first paved section. This area is a bit rough and known to have loose dogs who are weary of strangers so I always grab a stout stick and carry it in case of attack. JJJ is smart and at times has carried bologna to make friendly with his attackers. I like to pretend I'm tough and could take down anything that comes my way with one whack, haha. It's entertaining on the pavement and takes my mind off the pounding as I laugh at scenarios in my head. (oh yeah tough guy, you try and bite my ankle and I'll show you whose boss you little bleep, bleep, bleep) I know, crazy, but highly entertaining... The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful. 24.6 miles under our belts and still an entire day to play. I love getting an early start. We spread our towels out on the grass, I had a tall glass of chocolate milk and jenny her ultragen. We talked and laughed for about an hour as we watched the cops curiously pass by. We decided we better split before we got charged with loitering and I headed to a friends in damascus for a shower.
me, jason,cliff, flex
Good buddies of mine, Clifton and Jason, have joined me the past two years @ Grayson Highlands for an October leaf peaking, running campout. JJ, joined us for the campout last year and we were looking forward to doing it for a 3rd year and keeping the tradition. Due to some miscommunication on my part, JJ didn't make it up this year and was missed terribly. We were disappointed at the large amount of people as we arrived at scales this year considering we pretty much had it to ourselves last year, but we still had a blast. One large group of "campers" had a huge tent city of sorts going with one extra super large pavilion type tent set up with, you'll never guess..... freaking satellite TV! why with scales and all of it's beauty would you want to watch tv is beyond me?? I slept well, woke about 7am. We packed up and cooked a lovely breakfast of eggs, bacon and pancakes before heading to Elk Garden.
Cliff and Jason were kind enough to give me a ride down to Elk Garden to meet up with Rick, Tammy and luckily JJ. They weren't running but everyone was glad to get to see them and chat for a bit. Rick, Jenny, JJ and I headed up the AT towards whitetop where we would be treated with some incredible views. It is complete eye candy up there until you begin the descent and head back into the woods. We stopped at Buzzard Rock for a little photo shoot. i thought it would be fun to see everyone do their best flight pose on top of the highest rock and it was!
I had been down the trail a ways below buzzard rock in the past, but from that point until we hit the creeper trail was new territory for me which was nice. I love new (to me) trail and this section of trail was sweet! We stopped for a minute to check out the lost mtn shelter and then Rick and I picked up the pace, I wanted to enjoy all of this cushy mostly downhill running before we hit the creeper when I knew we would have some climbing to do. I was really surprised at how well I was feeling and running with the miles on Saturday, so I was extremely happy. We crossed two roads that I had not put in my mental map that were throwing me off. The first was 601 Beech Mountain Rd. and the other was Grassy Ridge Rd (859). They both looked like great roads to take leisurely Sunday drive and picnic on or maybe even run. JJ and Jenny decided they would take the creeper back to Damascus to save some time so we bid farewell and pressed on, this is where I started to get a bit tired. I think the climbing had a lot to do with it and the fact that the rest of the run was trail I am all too familiar with and could visualize what we had left to cover and knew it wasn't easy running on tired legs.
Rick and I got pretty quiet and just focused on moving as quickly as possible. We passed a family picnicking on the trail and another couple hiking, both were headed to Damascus and we questioned how they could possibly make it back by dark as we still had at least 8.5 miles to go. When we crossed 58, I was thinking I would flag down everyone around straight branch and ask them if they had some type of ice cold soda. I was really craving something carbonated and sugary to drink. I had only had 1 gel and a bottle of perpetuem so I thought maybe I should take that as a signal to choke down one more gel, ugh. We passed beech grove and I knew we had half of our Wednesday night run still ahead of us which seemed daunting. We were getting ready to climb up a section that I usually love to fly down which meant more work. Luckily it passed quickly in my mind at least and i just kept breaking it down in to little landmarks. Oh we're at the IMTR connector, past the view spot, thru the rhodo tunnel, past the eye of sauron, down the rock garden, past where I fell and hit my knee, up the last little hill, past the campsite, where we saw the bum last week, and the stairs! I was so happy to come down the stairs and hit the creeper. As much fun as I had, I was ready to be done.
I got home and unloaded all of my crap, took a nice long bubble bath, ate dinner, did some internet surfing and was surprisingly not tired or sore. I slept well and feel good today. I hope this is a good sign that my body is becoming prepared for what I am about to ask of it these next two months. Here is a link to more photos, by the way I get super annoyed with trying to get photos on here the way I want them, anyone else have this problem with blogger? http://picasaweb.google.com/Iron.Mtn.Trail.Runners/Grayson2010?authkey=Gv1sRgCOHLqavYvaWWjgE&feat=directlink