The original plan this weekend was to go run ALTAR (Art Loeb Trail Adventure Run) with the WNC trail runner group, but after being stuck in Boone with snow everywhere for the past two weeks, I placed my money on some super deep snow and icy conditions on that beautiful trail. So, I backed out and retreated to the rolling hills of the piedmont. Huge mistake considering those that did brave the suspected conditions were met with only patches of ice and snow. Since I wouldn't be running one of the most memorable runs of my life, I decided that I could still get out in Uwharrie for a solid 30 mile training run on Saturday. This would be great training for the Uwharrie Mountain Run coming up in February and would give me an extra training run on the course. So, the weekend wasn't a total loss. Hannah said that she wanted to join me a for the last 10 miles and I was all for it, knowing that by the time I would meet up with her, I would be ready for some aid and emotional support she could bring.
Saturday morning, I made the long drive down to the 109 trailhead to stash a jug of water and a couple of gels for the 8 mile and 22 mile points of my run and then headed over to the Jumping Off Rock trail head to begin 30 grueling miles in the back country of Uwharrie. Right from the start, you tackle the longest climb and high point on the course to the top of Dark Mountain. This climbs get really rocky in some sections and you start to wonder if you are still in the Piedmont while you skirt by Mountain Laurel. After running across the ridge for about a third of a mile, you descend down the back of the mountain to the 2 mile point at Tower Rd. The ascent up Horse Mt. isn't a stuff as the first, mainly because it just skirts the side before descending down to the first creek crossing at Panther Branch. The next 4 miles to the 109 trail head are a rolling mix of short ascents and descents and seems to last forever.
After 8.4 miles and 85 minutes of running I made it to 109 and promptly refilled my water bottle and chomped down on my favorite lemon-lime flavored Clif Blocks. I lingered around a bit to talk to some hikers and then called Hannah to tell here that I was running on time. I then busted it down the trail for the next rolling 6.6 miles to the turn around at the base of Dennis Mt. During this section, it had began to sleet, snow, and rain on me all the way back to the 109 trailhead. This added slipperiness to the trail was not boding well for my ankle that has been bothering me for the past 3 weeks when I go longer than 15 miles. Actually, by the time I meet up with Hannah with 1 mile to go to the 109 trail head, I was fighting the pain. Once we reached her car (~22 miles in), I sat down and begged for some food and meds. I've been weary of taking ibuprofen on a run since I read what happened to Eric Skaggs, but my ankle was literally throbbing in pain and something had to be done. I will admit, at this point I was ready to throw in the towel. Hannah encouraged me to go on and said that if the ankle started to feel even worse we could always turn around and come back to the car and cut the run short, but at least we could get a few extra miles in even if it was only two. I agreed to this plan and we took off.
About a mile in, my ankle pain disappeared (thanks to the meds) and I knew that I would make it back to the Jumping Off Rock trail head. Hannah and I ran and were trying to beat night fall, considering our pace had fallen off quite a bit due to my ankle and her unfamiliarity with the trail. Shivering, wet, and cold we finally made it back to my car and totally skipped stretching and jumped right in to crank up the heat. We had made it. I ended up with 30.1 miles of running and covered all but 5 miles of the course. Next week, I'll be heading out to run the whole course one time through for a solid 20 miles. Here is the Garmin data for the run: Uwharrie 50k - ish