Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Roan Redemption

Rarely do things go almost exactly to plan, it is inevitable.  But once in awhile it seems like the planets align and everything falls into place.  That is what happened this past Saturday at the Roan Adventure Marathon.  To begin with, the weather looked to be perfect.  I usually have a rougher time running in temperatures above 75 degrees for long distances and the weather Saturday maybe reached 60 degrees at the most.  Last year, temperatures soared over 80 and my body did not react well to it as explained earlier this week.  Secondly, last year's nutrition plan was a disaster, this year's much better.  Below is the story of how it all went down.

Night Before

After chilling in the foothills most of the day, I packed everything up and drove over to Roan Mountain State Park to set up camp for the night.  I wasn't sure of how many people were going to camp as the weather was looking iffy, but in the end the total amount of campers were five.  Carin, Sharron, Kevin, Sultan, and myself had a good time chatting and relaxing around the fire in the cool, damp night air.  I cooked myself up some bratwurst, had a few IPA's, and was latter treated to some raw milk chai tea from Kevin before I called it a night.

Early Morning

After a pretty good nights sleep, I woke around 5:40 and began to break down camp.  Kevin was cooking up some farm fresh eggs and coffee as the milky light of dawn began to creep over the Roan Mountain massif.  Down in the valley, the temps were in the lower 50's without much of a breeze, but that would not be the case up at Carver's Gap, the start of the day's adventure.  Upon steeping out of the car the wind began to howl and it was a blustery 39 degrees.  I reluctantly put on my gloves knowing that I would be taking them off in a few miles as my body warmed up, but my poor digits were freezing at that moment.  Everyone was up there shivering right along with me though and getting very anxious to get moving while we took a few pre-run photos.  I hadn't worn so much clothing since January!  Although, it was just arm warmers and gloves (along with the usual T and shorts I might add).

And We're Off

Sultan shouted "GO" and everyone took off to warm up their bodies on the next half mile climb up to the top of Round Bald.  Upon reaching the first exposed summit of the day, the fog was still lingering and would remain that way all the way to the turn-around ~15 miles away at 19E.  This doesn't mean that the terrain we were all crossing wasn't beautiful, but just a different beauty that I imagined it most be like to run through the British fells.  Mike Jackson and I more or less hung with each other all the way to the summit of Hump Mtn through the first 9.5 miles of the day.  Mike would pull ahead on the climbs  and I would then pull ahead on the descents as Mike was nursing a strained ankle.  The last 5.5 miles of the out portion of the run were all downhill and I put a decent gap on Mike at the turn-around.  That wouldn't be the last I would see of Mike though.  The guy is a machine when it comes to climbing!  With all the rain the mountain had received the past two days though, the extremely technical rock garden section of the descent was very slow going.  But upon reaching Doll Flats the trail gets buffed out and I was cruising.  I made it to the turn-around in 2:38.  Three minutes slower than last year at the same point, but I was feeling much better. 

The Real Work Begins

After refilling my two bottles with a mix of coconut water and regular H2O and resupplying my pockets with some gels and waffles I hit the trail again with a powerful stride.  I usually don'f feel this fresh this far into a run and I began to change my strategy for climbing back up to Hump.  I decided to run all the grades that were 5% or less and speed hike the rest.  Overall, I would say I ran maybe a little more than half of the 5.5 mile ascent.  Unlike a couple hours earlier, once a reached the grassy Houston Ridge approaching Hump the sky had finally opened up and the views were breathtaking.  The next mile to mile and a half were all exposed up and over the majestic Hump Mtn.  Reaching the summit I literally was screaming praise for the mountain and its Creator.  Looking down onto Bradley Gap and Little Hump was mesmerizing and I was twisting my ankle quite frequently coming down the trail.  Surprisingly, Mike had not caught me coming up Hump as I thought he would and I was soon thinking that I may not see him for the rest of the run.  After topping my bottles off at Bradley Gap, I climbed up to my much loved Little Hump and began to run into the day hiking crowd.  The descent down into Yellow Mtn Gap was a thrill as always, but the gap marks the beginning of my most dreaded climb of the day, the climb up to the side of Grassy Ridge.  There is just something about that climb I don't like, but that may be due to the fact that I am always approaching it at least 2 hours into a run.  It isn't horribly steep since the addition of a few generous switchbacks a couple of years back, but I still can't move up it well.  Although, today had to have been my best ascent of it yet!  That didn't stop Mike from finally passing me though about a mile left into the climb.  He just came out of nowhere and promptly left me in the dust.  Needless to say I felt quit demoralized, but upon looking at my watch I was still on pace to finish in under 6 hours.  I really started to dig deep and started setting time goals of reaching certain landmarks to make it happen.  I knew that if I made it to the top of this climb by the time the clock ticked 5:40 I could make it if I pushed it from there on.  The first time goal was achieved and once I reached the top, even the tourist could see my determination.  They said, "You look serious" and I responded "I'm on a mission."  I know, how cheesy is that! Haha, but it was the truth.  I began to sprint down the extremely rocky face of Jane Bald in hopes of catching Mike.  I was yelling "Excuse me!" to the throngs of sight-seers in my way.  I really felt like a douche during this moment, but I wasn't going to let anyone stand in my way of reaching the sub 6 hour finish!  The trail soon turned up to Round Bald and I knew that if I made it to the summit by 5:54 into the run that I could make it down to Carver's Gap in under 6 hours.  After having to step off the trail to let a big group of hikers by, I reached the sign that marks the apex of the final climb 30 seconds behind schedule and so I started sprinting the final graveled downhill half mile to the road.  Luckily there were not many hikers on this last stretch and once I reached the opening just a stones throw away from the road, my eyes began to water up a bit.  I looked down at the watch and it read 5:58:00!  After all I had gone through last year during this run, thinking that I was going to nearly die, I stepped down onto the pavement, hit stop, and finished the run that may mean more to me than any other I have ever run in 5:58:25.  After everything seemed to go wrong last year, everything seemed to go right this time around, and I accomplished my goal of sub 6.  I've never felt more satisfied with a run in my life.


After letting my accomplishment set in for a few minutes, I located my other sub 6 finishers: Scott (5:23), Kevin (5:33), and Mike (5:54) and started celebrating.  Kevin cooked up a humongous pot of spaghetti and made up my remaining bratwurst.  Everyone that came off the trail in the next couple of hours had a huge grin on their faces and wide eyes upon gazing at the huge pot of spaghetti.  What a great time this year's Roan Adventure Marathon was!

Pics below by Isaiah Mosteller and Charlie Roberts

the crew

Bradley Gap in the fog


View of Little Hump (the higher peak behind the grassy one) from Hump

View of Round Bald and Roan Mtn from Jane Bald

Houston Ridge

View of Hump from Bradley Gap

1 comment:

  1. Brandon,

    Congratulations on the sub-6. That's awesome work out there! Hopefully this helps you realize how far you've come as a runner over the couple years I've gotten to know you. I enjoyed reading the report and definitely felt like I was running along with you, partial consolation for missing out on such a great gathering of fellow mountain runners.