Friday, I went out to the trail to shoot some footage for the final installment of my Tanawha trail updates to send to the WNC Trail Runner group. Conditions didn't seem like they would be that bad if we would have ran that day. Instead, after getting back to my place in Boone, the bottom fell out and we were covered in 3 inches of snow in less than an hour! And it was forecasted to continue dumping all the way through Saturday afternoon. Things were not looking good for the inaugural running of the Tanawha Trail Marathon, Half, & 50k. All Friday night I was getting emails informing me that those who planned to run were bailing. By Saturday morning, the number of committed runners dropped from 20 to 6. I cannot blame them either, the roads to the trail were super nasty and the conditions were burly. Only Adam Hill, Doug Blackford, Dennis Norris, Scott Williams, Allen Meyer, and myself were crazy enough to go out and face these conditions head on.
There was no way that I would be making it out to the trail in my car, so I walked over to the Sun Inn to meet Adam and wait for Scott to come pick us up in his girlfriends all-wheel drive Subaru. I definitely will be investing in one of those in the future. It was a beast in the snow. The roads made for slow going but we eventually made it out to the trail by 9:30. I had been debating on running in my jacket or not the whole drive to the trail and eventually I decided to wear it. A decision I would regret the first 8 miles and one I would love the last 5-6.
We actually started the run from Holloway Mt Rd. just under the parkway instead of the official start at Price Lake. This really didn't make for much of a mile difference (only about half a mile less) and it would keep us off the unplowed parkway. After the first initial mile on the road, Adam, Scott, and I all began to separate once on the trail. Obviously, I was the slow one in this group and quickly fell behind the others. I started to get into a funk during this lonesome running period. The snow was dumping like crazy, and I was getting no grip in the 6-8 inch powdery snow. I thought that putting on my micro-spikes would afford me better traction, which it did, but they continued to slide off my shoe when catching a root or rock. So I was constantly stopping to adjust my spikes, still slipping all over the trail, and when I went to get a sip of water from my camel pack, the bit valve was frozen over. All of this, including me trying to catch up with everyone else (Doug, Dennis, & Allen who started ahead of us, but a bit slower) I was hating the world and the trail. I knew that as soon as I would catch up with Doug, Dennis, & Allen I would be in a much better mood.
After about an hour of running, neglecting my needs for calories, I finally caught Doug & Dennis. And sure enough, my mood completely changed and I was finally ready to run for an extended period of time. They were having the same problems with traction as I was, so at least I wasn't the only one. It was nice running with them, and considering the conditions weren't letting up, I decided that I would run with them the rest of the day. Soon, we caught up with Adam who waiting for us ahead (Scott had fell behind looking for his lost water bootle). We all decided to stick to together and run the trail all the way to Raven Rocks (8.5 miles in) and then hit the parkway and run the 5-6 miles back to the cars. Everyone was pretty satisfied with this decision. The trail past Raven Rocks gets extremely technical and would have been very dangerous in these conditions.
Before we headed down the parkway, we all tried to rehydrate and fuel up for the return trip. It started getting really cold, especially since we were now exposed to the vicious wind on parkway. Something we had only heard while running on the trail, which sheltered us with the thick forest and rhododendron. There was a good 8 inches of snow on the parkway all the way back to the cars. But at least it was all down hill from Raven Rocks. Being exposed to the wind made me appreciate my jacket and I was glad I was wearing it. My legs began to feel very heavy on the way down the parkway, probably due to the extra weight of the spikes and snow accumulating around my ankles. It was just hard for me to push though and run the whole section, but I did.
Upon arrival to the cars, we noticed that Scott wasn't there and we hoped that he would follow our tracks back down the parkway. Adam and I decided to run down to the start with Doug, Dennis, and Allen and hoped that Scott would make it back to our car by the time we came back. Adam chose to run back, I decided to hitch a ride with Doug.
When we got back to the car, Scott was waiting for us. He never found his bottle, but did follow our tracks back down the parkway and was thankful for this as the rest of us were. We all ended up running for about 3.5 hours. We only covered about 13-14 miles during that time. That gives you an idea about how slow going it was out there.
We all meet at Canyon's afterward and enjoyed some tasty grub and brew before parting ways back to our warm homes. This was by far the craziest, most extreme, and most epic run of my life. Even though it was on a section of trail I have run numerous times. The conditions were by far the most extreme I had ever ran in. None of us ended up doing are respective distance for the inaugural running of the Tanawha Trail Runs but we had a great time still. Hopefully the conditions next year will be better and everyone will be able to make it out to this amazing run!
Here is a vid I put together of the run: