Sunday, January 8, 2012

ALTAR, New Years, & Tanawha!

Life has been some kind of hectic since Christmas ended.  I've searched for a new living place near my new job, found one and moved in the next day (Hickory area), one day later drive up to Canton to run the spectacular ALTAR put on by good friend and extremely talented runner Matt Kirk, come back to Hickory and work my first job for the whole week, and then head up to Blowing Rock to organize and run the Tanawha Marathon, 50k, & Half (which I only ran 20 miles of the 50k).  Needless to say I have been busy!  And later today I plan on joining the WNC crew for a VericALE mile!  So anyway I'll just concentrate on the two runs for this post.


I cannot write enough about this run/experience.  Matt and his family had set everyone up with some sweet lodging for the run at the terminus of our 30.1 mile adventure that lay before us the next day.  It is always fun to catch up with the WNC crew the night before a run, but it sometimes leads a lack of needed shut eye for the following days adventure.  After waking up on New Year's eve way to early to as to  make it out to the 7 am start at the Davidson Campground, I fought through the nausea of riding in the back seat on a super curvy Hwy 276.  Glad to not be moving anymore (in a car that is), we snapped the starters group photo and took off down the Art Loeb Trail for 30.1 miles and 9000 ft of vert that laid ahead.  I ran with the lead group to the base of our first big climb up Pilot Mtn before they promptly left me in the dust.  From that point on it was a slog fest up  the 1800 ft climb to the beautiful summit of that peak.  Then it was time to run down it for our second chance to fill up our water bottles.  But right after the descent, the worst climb of the day starts as you ascend the trail up and over the parkway.  Pilot Mtn had wounded me, but this climb destroyed me.  After finally reaching the top, running the flats were beginning to become a chore.  The beauty of this run really is highlighted in the last 12 miles though as you run over the bald summits of Black Balsam, Tennent Mtn, and Grassy Cove Top.  The Narrows are majestic as well and I couldn't be upset by my slow hike/shuffle pace as it allowed me to enjoy the views that surrounded me more.  Plus the company of Isaiah and el Guapo one the run was appreciated.  We ran the majority of the trail together.  By the time we reached Deep Gap and would then head down four miles to the finish, I still could barely muster up enough strength to run down hill and ended up hiking must of the descent.  It didn't really matter that much, I made it to the end in 9 hours flat and feel very satisfied with my performance considering the lack of 4+ hour runs in my schedule since mid October.  Huge thanks to the Kirks who made this all happen and I can't wait to tackle this run again next year!  Check out the slideshow of pics below!

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So this year marked to 2nd time I have put this run on with the WNC crew.  Last year's running was in a blizzard and this year's running was the exact opposite.  High's in the upper 50's and mostly cloudy with some good breaks of sun through the middle part of the run.  We had a huge turnout this year as well, with around 26 people showing up to the start.  After being away from the area for about 8 months I had forgotten how ungodly technical this trail was.  I guess that all of those miles I had logged on that trail during my App State year's made me immune to its difficult footing.  You literally step on a root every other step and the last 4.5 miles of the trail after you summit Rough Ridge is some of the gnarliest tread you could every step foot.  You practically boulder hop until the turnaround at Beacon Heights.  As far as my run went, it was awesome, minus the last 4.5 miles I just described.  The astonishing thing about Tanawha is that it is still completely runnable despite its extreme technicality.  Although I will admit I did not run every bit of it for various reasons, mainly health to run the next day.  I decided to run the first 20 miles of the 50k, which follows the Daniel Boone Scout Trail to the top of Calloway Peak that intersects about 6 miles into the out section of Tanawha.  This trail is amazing as it takes you through spruce forest, scrambling over huge boulders, and climbing ladders to finally reach the summit of Grandfather Mtn.  And guess what, this trail is completely runnable too, minus the ladders and the boulder scramble.  The last half mile of the trail was practically an ice covered stream which was pretty cool, but since it was relatively flat it didn't pose a great risk and the use of microspikes wasn't necessarily needed.  Even though we were fogged in at the summit, everyone had a great time summiting this iconic Appalachian peak.  I had a blast running back down the trail to Tanawha as well.  It was easily the funnest descent I had run on that trail ever.  Rough Ridge was spectacularly beautiful as well and gave everyone the much needed epic Blue Ridge Mountains view expected.  After everyone finished, must of us went to hang out and grub down on some delicious cuisine at Canyon's in Blowing Rock.   I think everyone left the run extremely satisfied no matter what distance they completed that day.  Can't wait to put it on again next year!  Here is a slide show with pics from the adventure yesterday.

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