I ran this route a year and a half ago and died from high heat and not enough water. I’ve been wanting to get back ever since but I just haven’t been able to make it work until today. It was a very different day starting around 32 degrees.
I used vest to store all my food and drinks. I had a 2L bladder of water and 2 0.5ish L bottles of SWORD on the front. It was way too much, it was pretty heavy and I drank about half. Very different from last time when I had the same amount of fluids drank all of it, drank from the creek and was very dehydrated. I also had a couple granola bars (only ate 1) a gel, some knockoff Girl Scout cookies and a little muffin thing. It was plenty of food but all very dry and hard to eat. I’ve done a decent amount of trail running before but nutrition was a big miss today.
I started the run and immediately noticed the weight of the pack, I haven’t used it in a while and I almost never used a bladder. I felt very heavy. I coasted down the first hill feeling ok and waiting for my legs to warm up. Then I crossed the bridge and kept following the road until there was a sign saying the trail ended. That seemed weird weird but I remembered there was a little weirdness at the start of this route. There was a trail heading off to the side so I followed that until it vanished. I pulled out my phone checked All Trails and realized I was half a mile off course. Not a great start.
I turned around and headed back until I reconnected with the trail. I realized I was only .5 from the start so I decided to just walk back up the hill and try again. I got back to the start with a total “warm-up” of 1.8 miles with over 200 feet of elevation. A bit excessive for a 25.5 mile run.
Feeling like an idiot, I reset my watch and started over. Back down the hill, across the bridge and this time a quick left onto the actual trail.
The early miles made me anxious, I haven’t done a lot of trail running lately and I could really tell on the uphills. The way I felt 3 miles in is not the way you want to feel 3 miles in. It felt like it was going to be a long day. I kept ticking off the miles though and building a decent cushion on the current FKT. Last time I had a decent cushion before horrifically blowing up though. I tried to forget about the FKT and just enjoy being out there. I miss trail running.
The miles went by uneventfully and my trail legs came back pretty quick. I wasn’t crushing the uphills but my legs weren’t complaining as much. Around 12 I crossed in front of Chimney Shelter and followed a trail down a pretty decent hill, I noticed I hadn’t seen a marker in a while but wasn’t too worried about it. Eventually I hit a firepit, looked around and there was no trail. I pulled out All Trails and once again I was pretty far off course and at a much lower elevation. I worked my way slowly back up the hill and eventually found the trail. I took back off, a bit frustrated that I had wasted 5ish minutes but oh well, that’s what the cushion was for.
I hit 13 (my new assumed halfway) in 1:59:2X. I had 10 minutes banked. I was feeling pretty good so I was confident. Quickly after I took a little tumble that could have been pretty bad. As I was going down I saw a nice big stick coming straight for my head. Somehow I was able to avoid that and there was no damage. I got back up and kept going.
Around 16, I swung the opposite way. I was hurting quite a bit and there was probably 10 miles to go and I was slowing down. So there was no way I was getting the FKT. I tried to go back to just enjoying being out there. And praying that the last 10 miles wasn’t too hilly.
The last 10 miles was very hilly. And my legs resumed complaining. I was solid on the level sections and the moderate downhills but the ups and the super steep and rocky downs killed me. I barely felt like I was moving.
Around 18ish (maybe?) I popped out by a cool old bridge to a flat section and took a quick right. I ran for a bit but again noticed no markers. I was smarter this time and stopped quick to check. I was off trail but just barely so I didn’t burn nearly as much time. If you’re running this route and you aren’t familiar with it, you need All Trails or something similar. It’s pretty well marked but there are quite a few intersections and some of them are a bit confusing. Or maybe I’m just dumb.
The next section was flat and it saved me. I was able to bank a bit of time again. The only hard part was that it was super muddy and the sliding steps were a bit exhausting. At this point I didn’t know how to feel. I knew I was pretty close to the time but I had no idea how long this was actually going to be on my watch. Was it going to show 25 miles at the end or 27? That’s a 20 minute difference. I knew once I got off the loop it was 1.6 miles back. Once I got there I would know. I finally finished the loop after almost turning off 100 m early (thank you All Trails). With about 20 minutes. As long as nothing crazy happened, I would make it.
Nothing crazy happened, and I made it. 4:03:53.
This was a great place to run and a great FKT. It’s such a great example of trail running in this area and a perfect distance. This deserves to be a highly contested route.