Without a doubt the past 5 days have been the most memorable and jubilant Appalachia experience of my life so far. To say that I took advantage of my two week summer break before my job starts is a understatement. I'll have to break this post down into daily sections just to keep everything from becoming a blur.
Friday - Day 1 - Warren Wilson
On Friday I headed down to Asheville to get a head start on the amazing few days I had planned ahead to meet up with Adam "Mad A" Hill around noon. Upon arrival in Asheville the temps were approaching 85 and a run around Warren Wilson College along the Swannanoa River was a must. Mad A and I tackled an absolutely beautiful 9 mile loop and ended the run with a a quarter mile drift down the river. This was the first time this year that I had gotten completely in one of the cold mountain rivers of NC and it was perfect. As we floated down the river we were greeted with the improvisation of a hippie's guitar and he even threw out some lyrics about us drifting by. Quintesential Warren Wilson! A trip to Highlands Brewing followed that evening and wrapped up a great Spring day in the mountains.
Saturday - Day 2 - May Mountain Mama's Half
Hannah made it in late Friday night to join us on Saturday for Mad A's May Mountain Mama's Half marathon out of the Turkey Pen Trailhead. Eight others from WNC Trail Runner made it out for this super sweet loop in the Turkey Pen Area. Hannah and I stayed together the entire run and I had decided to just chill and run super easy, especailly after making a wrong turn a quarter mile into the run. When I say easy, I mean a trot. The easy 13 mile loop ended up taking us 2 hours and 40 minutes. I never run that slow, but I knew it would be wise considering the next couple of days that were planned. I still really enjoyed myself and the trails were fantastic. I love exploring unknown trails and this was just awesome. Hannah and I had a blast crossing multiple creeks and strolling down beautiful singletrack. Later that day, Hannah and I went over to Jeremy's home and had a good time hanging out playing some corn hole, corquet, and conversing with new aquintances.
Sunday - Day 3 - Art Loeb Trail Run
This was the main trail run I wanted to get in while I was in town. Hannah and I had lost the trail the last time I was out here and I wanted to make sure I summited Cold Mtn this time around. Mad A and his kids joined me on the hike up to Black Balsam Knob and then we parted and it was time to run to Cold Mtn and back. The trail through Black Balsam and Tennent Mtn is phenomenal with 360 degree views the whole way. Running through this section of trail, you do not even feel like you are in North Carolina anymore. Its a different world on this section of the Art Loeb. Running through Flower Gap, Stairs Mountain, the Narrows was awesome. I was completely in love with the path in front of me no matter how challenging it was. The climb up the trail to Cold Mtn might have been some of the sweetest mountain path I have ever set foot on. Although the view from the top wasn't superb because of some typical smokey mountain fog it, was quite rewarding finally reaching the summit. The return trip back to the car was quite slow, but I had the opportunity to do some trail discovering on some proposed section of a 100 mile route I would like to put together. Although it was longer, the amount of climb was minimal and the trail was awesome and will be a must in the route.
Monday - Day 4 - High Windy
It was now time to check out the Splashdown 15k route up to the top of High Windy with Mad A. The climb up such an eclectic mix of trail was amazing. The plan was to run the whole route, but the 42 miles of running the past three days were starting to catch up with me and I tweaked my calf crossing a flimsy bridge which sent me into walk mode for a bit. After running for about 5 miles of 2500 ft of gain, it was time to return back to the car. But both Mad A's and my energy levels had plummeted because of a lack of nutrition and fatique, and I was practically stumbling down the mountain feeling like I was about to pass out. It was slow going, but we made it back and I got another amazing mountain run in. Later that day we hung out at William's mountain house below High Windy and had a blast drinking some brews, splitting wood, eating a delicious vegetarian meal, and singing songs around the fire with many new and old friends. This was definitely the highlight of the whole trip and I had tickets to see Amos Lee the next night.
Tuesday - Day 5 - Amos Lee Show
The weather today was horrible after 4 days of phenomenal weather, so i decided not run and I was extremely fatiqued from 52 miles in 4 straight days. Rest was in order while I waited for Hannah to arrive for the show later that night. The show was amazing and Amos ending up playing for about 2.5 hours, which is unheard of. It was an exellent treat and was a great way to wrap up the trip.
Huge thanks to the Hill family for housing me during my stay. I always felt welcomed and had a great time hanging out with them. I ended up running the biggest week of my running life last week with 73 miles. Granted, I ran almost every single bit of this remarkably slow as to avoid injury and it worked. I've built a huge base for training and after this coming weekends 43 mile excursion in the Iron Mountains it will be time to start getting some speed in the legs so I can tear up races later this summer. I'll be putting up a video of the Art Loeb run once I get a chance so stay tuned for that.