I actually ended up running 21/20/21 this weekend.. not that it matters. Upon reflection of the events of the past couple days the journey proved to be much more fun and rewarding than the destination.
I knew I had some back to back long runs coming up over memorial day. I had done several back to backs over the past couple months solo. Felt rather confident that I could get those completed. However, one could imagine my surprise when I saw that I was supposed to run 3 days of back to back to back 20 milers. oooh, interesting. and a little daunting.
My friend Eric Grossman was embarking upon a (much bigger) quest of his own over memorial day: running 108 miles over 3 days in the high country of mt rogers and damascus area on the AT and IMT. Jenny had an epiphany. I could crew for Eric on his run( which I had already happily volunteered and perhaps( if I wished hard enough and clicked my heels together a couple times)-- Eric would let me jump in with him the last 20 miles or so for a couple of days. (That way I could actually RUN with him) and then on monday, beth and I could go run with Sophie Spiedel and her crew for 21 miles at Rip Rap/wild cat ridge.
With the wheels set in motion for my game plan, emails were exchanged, shuttles and meeting points arranged... Eric and I even did a drog bag exchange ( his idea-- always thinking ahead, Grossman is)
I went to the grocery store SO excited on Friday trying to pick some really great stuff to have at my "aid station" aka FJ. Lemonade, Limeade, Coke, Gallons of water, cookies, chips, bananas, watermelon and oranges, things to make sandwiches. etc( happy to report the Pepperjack cheese and Honey Ham actually was used-- the bread was not:oP) I knew that I could just use the food all weekend, and share with thru hikers.
So saturday, I met up with Joey and Beth at Sundogs. We were driving to meet Grossman and Annette Bednosky ( who was running the first 21 miles with Eric of his 42 and then driving my FJ back to damascus for me) We were then going to run the remaining 21 miles from Cross Mtn back to Damascus on the IMT.
We arrived and set everything up. waited and waited... the mood was light we were laughing and joking and Joey was entertaining us with his dinosaur noises. All of a sudden, a red car pulled in the parking lot and I saw this orange jersey I thought looked REALLY familiar. Beth said "who's that?" I replied, "Good Lord, I think that's David Horton. " The man gets out of the car, waves and smiles.. it IS David Horton. WOW. fancy meeting him here.
Annette and Grossman arrive!! Grossman refuels, fills his nathan pack, we snap some pictures.
and then Eric, Beth, Joey and myself embarked upon the next 21 miles. Eric had ran about 27 miles the previous day with Byron Backer. So he was about 48 miles in, and would reach the halfway point of his run with us, and have about 66 miles by the end of the run.
I seriously was so happy to see how Eric didn't seem tired or taxed at all. In good spirits and happy. ( I really don't know what I was expecting?) Pain, suffering and turmoil? haha.
It was NO time before we met up with David Horton at 421.. talked to him a bit, and then when on. It was the middle of the day when we began our run, and it was very hot and humid. My clothes were drenched. But it started to rain on us sometime after crossing 421 and I was SO happy and thankful for the rain. We saw countless ( okay about 21?) piles of fresh bear scat, I know what a weird thing to count along the way while running. but never saw a bear. I just really tried to stay on Eric's heels as much as I could. He wasn't going fast ( FOR HIM) but he was going at a constant and good clip along some really rocky and what I consider technical single track. So It was a challenge for me to stay up with him. I was feeling good, because I could feel I was working hard, but happy I was staying consistent and not bonking. I felt strong.
Good ol Eric DID eventually get to drop me the last 5k ( which is what I consider one of the funnest sections to descend on the IMT) I felt like I was flying, but no matter how hard I tried to look down the mtn...never could even catch so much of glimpse of him. UNTIL the end of the run. Pretty amazing that he can run that quickly, after going so far.
Eric had ran about 400m more and jumped on the creeper trail, I was going through a section aptly named "dog town" and all the dogs were freaking out and barking at me as I ran by.
I got to sundogs and there was Eric ( and he commented he knew I was coming because he could hear all the dogs barking) haha.
Beth and Joey came soon after me, and we rode in Joey's truck to the "staging area" aka Jim and Aliese Harrison's house ( where my car was parked) met up with Horton who was waiting there for us. We all drank protein shakes for recovery.. and then I guzzled some limeade. I had been thinking about limeade for several miles:o) We all chit chatted for about 30 min and recovered.
I left to go home to cook dinner and spend time with my family. I admitt, I was pretty tired.. I didn't feel like eating AT ALL.- uh, oh. I knew I needed to.. so I just tried to give myself some more time about 10 pm that night I ate a bowl of cereal, 2 bananas and 2 bagels with justins PB. AAH! much better. I tried to hydrate as much as possible and went to sleep knowing not only would I be running 20 miles again, but also have several MONSTER climbs on super rocky and muddy trails up on mt rogers. Eric's final section for his 108 mile journey.
Sunday morning I woke up feeling a little tired, but not sore. I ate a good breakfast, and attempted to hydrate more. I got my things together and drove the FJ up to lost mtn and parked off the side of 58. I sat there in the chairs ( okay, I LAID there in the chairs and rested while I was waiting on annette and eric) I was still feeling tired, so I was just trying to muster any energy I had. I wasn't even THINKING about going to charlottesville. ( I had packed my bags the night before and just had them waiting at the front door) I was just trying to take this 20 miler by 20 miler.. so I wouldn't get overwhelmed. Just focus on the task at hand.
Many thru hikers were coming by.. so each one I asked them if they needed water or food. most would tell me "no" then I'd ask if they wanted a chocolate chip cookie? OF COURSE THEY DO!! so one by one.. I gave them cookies and chatted them up. Told them I'd see them later in the day because I was running up mt rogers and onto fairwood on the AT.
Eric and Annette make it to the car! yay! only Grossman has a blister on the back of his heel! boo! so I go into hostess mode to get them food and drinks, while they break into my first aid kit to Dr. on Eric's foot.
So after Eric got his foot taped up and ready to go, we started our journey. Annette, drove my car back to damascus for me. My heart rate was going up really easy, I was trying to keep it at 150, but was having some trouble doing so. We ran to buzzard's rock ( not to be confused with buzzards den) The views was incredible to say the least I thought this pic of Eric ( who was looking for his house when this was taken) turned out very well:
Onward we climbed up to Elk garden. There is a parking lot there, and that was where horton parked his car, we refilled our packs and ate some of his food.. drank some of his low-cal gatorade:OP thanks david! locked up his car..
we decided we had 12 miles left of the run.
So we ventured on, and were deep in conversation while running up the trail when someone yelled : "HEY!!!" extremely loud right beside me on the trail. I jumped and screamed ( like a little girl). I looked and it was David Horton sitting there on the side of the trail laughing EXTREMELY hard that he had scared me to death. We talked to him for a bit, and thanked him for the food and water. He said he would be at the finish at fairwood.
We continued our ascent to the top of mt rogers and were both surprised by the fact the rhododendron were in full bloom at the top of the mtn. Very pretty.. :o) Eric indulged me in more picture taking.
I think at this point we had 10k left of the run. I began to feel very rough. I took more salt tabs, and ate a gel. We were exposed on the top of mt rogers, and it was hot-- and I felt terrible. It really was at this point I knew Eric would drop me because I couldn't hang with him! Which did make me feel bad because here he's at the END of running more than 100 miles during a three day period, and I'm just at 35. but guess what? Eric didn't leave. He stuck it out there with me for about 10-15 min and let me death march( THANK YOU, Eric for your patience btw) .. THEN we reached the woods to begin to descend down to fairwood.. and OF COURSE, I felt better... shade, downhill running.. how could you not feel tons better? so the last 4 or 5 miles we ran really well and strong.
Horton, as promised was there at the finish with Oreos and gatorade in hand. AWESOME:o) I was so happy for Eric to be finished. He really ran so well and so strong through the entire thing. So unwaivering. I really felt like i learned so much just getting to run with him those 2 days. I was ELATED to be finished with that 20 miler.. because that one was pretty tough!! ( more so than the day before)
So I get back home. very tired.. very weird and out of it. I go shower. I eat 2 hamburgers that brock so kindly had brought me back from his mom and dad's Memorial day cook out. Drank a bottle of Nuun.. and I feel MUCH better. I feel guilty as I'm loading the car, because I really have missed my kids the past 2 days, and here I am leaving immediately to go to charlottesville ( and it's late like 7ish) but I'm on a mission. I can't NOT run this last 20.. and even if I ran the last 20 here at home, I would feel like I was missing out because I had been looking forward to running this run with sophie and her crew for a couple weeks.
Beth meets me off exit 19 and is kind enough to drive the FJ, so I can rest. We hydrate the whole way there. We get to waynesboro at midnight and get a hotel. CRASH OUT. Up at 5am.. get dressed.. get gear together. everything is all running together. I am literally struggling to stay focused to not forget my salt tabs.. not forget my handheld! I did forget my handheld, but luckily had one of eric's in my car.. ( he was nice enough to give me permission to use it)
We eat breakfast downstairs, check out and leave for sugar hollow park. After eating, I am starting to feel better. Once we arrive at the park, see sophie, mike bailey and martha wright my fatigue and tiredness falls away.. and I'm feeling pretty normal. The festive mood of the group really makes me think this run is going to be so much fun. I make new friends with marlin yoder and bill potts.. and I'm enjoying the overlooks and swimming holes, and the miles just click away. Sophie really delivered on this run.. it had it ALL. overlooks, pristine swimming holes, fun downhill, big epic climbs, etc..
It was SO nice to have such a mellow and chill close to my weekend. ( I severely was in need of mellow and chill given my tired state) It was about 92F and very humid. I easily drank 120oz of water and took 4 salt stick tabs.. I actually FELT better running than I had the previous day with Eric, but we were running much slower and we stopped twice to swim, and we also stopped many times to take pictures etc.
ALL weekend I wanted to see a bear. saw tons of bear scat.. but no bear, well almost at the end of our run ( about 4 miles left) we get to see a bear on the side of the AT
you can see it much better on my FB, but the bear is in the middle of the picture beside the tree.
Once we finish-- and boy howdy, I am still just FREAKED OUT that I finished that run strong with no bonking. MISSON COMPLETE.
I go and sit in the river with my new buddy and pal Marlin and ice my legs and drink more limeade ( oh, how I love limeade) THEN an enormous copperhead slithers out of the rocks about 2 ft away from us... END of the "ice bath"
everyone else was coming in from the run, and we all had a pot luck lunch
Truly appreciate just getting invited to run with sophie and her friends and they were so nice and hospitable. We would LOVE if they were able to come run with us in Damascus sometime!!
Beth and I load up, and head back to southwest Va. We make it back through memorial day traffic in 4hrs. I call in a pizza at bellas for dinner ( so does beth) Veggies lovers with bacon:o) YUMMMM...
I arrive home. Happy to see my family. Content I did EXACTLY what I set out to do over the weekend. This weekends training has me feeling pretty good about cheat mtn 50 and leadville trail marathon. I feel like I'll be adequately prepared for both challenges.
However, just the friendship, camaraderie and sense of community I felt was so overwhelmingly AWESOME. That aspect of it really made it such a positive experience. Actually, THAT WAS THE EXPERIENCE. I know when I look back upon the memory of this weekend, it won't be how well or strong I ran, ( or if I bonked on a run or didn't bonk) but the bonds of friendships and wonderful time that I had will be forever etched in my memory.. :o)
cheers yall! :o)