A few of us went to Virginia to get in some hill work. The plan was to do 4 loops of the trail, for 104 miles.
Friday morning, it was sunny and around..30? Great weather to run in.
Bradley Mongold and Jill Cantafio came out on Friday. Bradley was running the loop with me, and Jill was going to get some hiking on her own in.
We had a great time chatting, and the time went by, very quickly, as it is apt to do, when spent with friends.
We got back in under 8 hours, and Brad and Jill helped crew me with a quick wardrobe change, soup, and I was out on Loop Two, by myself. Now the objective was, to get through as much trail as I could in the daylight.
Kimba and Mongold
First time through Camp Todd
Loop Two wasn’t as fun as Loop One.
I was also going in the Clockwise direction, and we had done Loop One in the Counterclockwise direction. It seemed that the CW direction was..harder than CCW.
I changed a sock (just one) a few miles up the trail, as it seemed my foot pad felt a bit funny.
I got turned around just up Hankey’s Mountain, and had to back track about 1/4 of a mile. Hard to explain what happened, but I was glad I had a map and a compass with me to know what direction to go in!
I did have to turn on the light to run down the technical Hankey’s Mountain.
Now I was climbing Big Bald Knob, and looking for the spring. And I knew I would be running into Slim here, somewhere. To my surprise, I hear him hooting from the spring, so we can both fill water bottles, and chat! We agree to run Loop Three together, and Slim will just wait for me back at the van.
I leave and continue to climb. I hear the coyotes yipping in the woods. They don’t concern me.
I finally get to the top of Big Bald Knob Mountain. The snow is falling, and the trail is close, with snow covering the laurel or rhododendrons through here. My gloves (cheap knit gloves) are getting soaked through and my hands are freezing. This rarely happens to me, I am usually running with the gloves off.
I did come somewhat prepared. I have two hand warmer packages-the type that you just open and expose to air, and they heat up-I take the gloves off, stash them, and put my spare socks on my hands. Of course, one of these is a “used” sock so you can imagine how this smells once they warm up!
But at least my hands are warm. Now I trip and fall. Big Bald Knob does not seem to want runners on its summit tonight, and I resolve to leave as quickly as I can.
I run into Eva, running solo, up the mountain. She offers to pace me on my fourth lap, and I am touched and honored by this!!
Now I have the climb to Little Bald Knob, about 3 miles uphill. It is very slow going. But I don’t notice any panting or breathing issues on this climb. Maybe I was moving slow enough that I did not notice my breath?
It’s night. It’s snowing. Still, I am okay. One of my mantras this day has been “There is no where else I would rather be” and it was still true.
I finally ascend Little Bald Knob, and then the downhill. Now I have Grindstone Mountain, but it’s “only” a 1000 feet or so of climb and descent. I’m looking forward to being done with Loop Two, and seeing Slim, and starting Loop Three.
Loop Three is the hardest to start. If you can start Loop Three, you can finish. Because if you do Loop Three, now you’re at 75 miles, and you would be silly *not* to get that finish. Slim stopped last year after two loops, and had been kicking himself ever since.
Slim and Kimba Big Bald Knob Mtn
I get back to the van, get changed, Slim gets soup for me, and we start back up the CCW direction, which starts with a big climb. Almost immediately I am panting, and we stop for a minute. I think we’ve just started out too quickly, since we’re both excited to have company again. I catch my breath and we start to climb again.
But I am shortly out of breath again. I am wearing my mask around my mouth and nose-I have been wearing that at all times since starting the second loop.
I can’t breathe. I can’t get any good lungfuls of air into my lungs. I am now doing the ten steps climb, and stop. We are barely moving. I’m getting pretty despondent.
About half-way up to Little Bald Knob I ask the question “where can I bail on this loop?”
Slim tells me I can take the forest road after the Little Bald Knob descent back to the trail head, probably about ten miles of road. We don’t discuss this.
This really was my first thought of quitting. Now I can feel the tears starting, and the feelings, but this only exacerbates the breathing so I cut all of that out. We climb. It is so slow. I think of the climbs after the road-Big Bald, and then Hankey. I’m getting medically concerned about my condition. What if I get stuck out there? There is nowhere to go once you start up these climbs. There is no way to stop. The temperature is in the 20’s. Not moving is not an option.
I tell Slim I am going to drop and take the road back. Now all I want to do is get over the mountain so Slim can get going on his own. My breathing is fine on the level surface and downhill.
We get to daybreak and Camp Todd about the same time. I turn down the road and now Slim gets to get on with his loop and get some running done!
I open more hand warmers and drink a bunch of water. I’m dehydrated because it’s hard to try to suck water and air at the same time. I resolve to walk a bit, and then jog back down the road.
About two or three minutes later, three cars come down the road. It is more runners, who are going to start at Camp Todd. My friend Quatro, is one of them, and now I am sitting in a warm car, being transported back to the trail head!
I get changed, and lay down to nap. It’s hard to get warm, even in my sleeping bag. I think I sleep for a little while, then my stomach growls at me and I decide maybe hot soup will help warm me up. I make soup for Slim and put it into the thermos. The soup helps me and I decide it’s time for a beer.
Then Slim appears, running ahead of his time that he estimated getting back!! He gets his soup, and we change the game plan. I’m going to drive over to Camp Todd and wait there. Then I have another road crossing where I can meet him. That way he can travel lighter, but have access to his clothes/gear and have hot food. He is stoked and now I have something better to focus on, his finish, not my drop.
The rest of this is now about Slim
Slim has already run 75 miles. He’s done 8000 feet of climb on each loop. Yet he is kicking ass going harder on this loop than Loop One. I’m napping in the van at Camp Todd as he arrives-ahead of his estimated schedule.
Quatro is now with him. Slim says “no need to save the legs now” and I am highly amused. Quatro is going with him up Big Bald Knob. Slim says they are going to have to run, and I know Slim is going to drop Q out there.
I am glad Slim is feeling strong, because the weather conditions are just complete crap. After a pretty nice Friday of temps in the low 30’s and no wind; Saturday is cold and the wind has been strong all day. It’s 24 degrees at Camp Todd but they are climbing to 4000 feet. I want him to get as much as this done in the daylight as he can.
The temperature at the road crossing is 19 degrees, at 4 pm. The trees are rocking with the steady steady wind. The wind does not die down, at all. I keep checking the watch, and get out before Slim’s estimated time. Sure enough, he comes in ahead of his schedule.
Slim puts on more clothing. He is still strong and moving well. I don’t tell him how cold it is; we can’t change it, he’s got enough to do. We make sure he’s got all the clothes he needs and his lights and then he goes. He needs to get through as much as he can in the light, before the temps drop even more. He tells me if he’s not back at the trail head at 830 pm to start looking for him, but he thinks he’ll be done at 7 or 730 pm.
Quatro appears about ten minutes later and I return the favor by taking him with me back to the trail head. Q also decides to wait for Slim to finish his 100 mile event. We take up the watch positions in the warm car and sip beverages. We start to pay attention about 630 pm.
Eva Pastalkova has gone out to run in with Slim. That makes me feel much better about Slim being out there in this weather, we know he should not be alone.
Sure enough, before 7 pm, we see lights!! They are here!! I get out and start hollering. Slim makes it back before 7pm. 104 miles, 35 hours 55 minutes. ( 2 hours of this was downtime waiting for me to start Loop 3 but he insists on counting that.)
I am incredibly proud of my friend. I know exactly the weather, the climbs, and the hardships out there. Limited aid, virtually no one else on the trail with you; this is something you have to really want. Slim quit after two loops last year and really wanted this finish. I was so happy to be there and share this.
There was no where else I would have rather been, this past weekend.