Chasing 42

Life, the Universe, & Running

Archive for the tag “#chasing42”

Daily Chase: Vol. 66

The end of the semester is always a tad bittersweet as classes wrap up, and the new year looms on the horizon. Although January 1st doesn’t signify much in the higher education world, the last few weeks of December certainly mark a time of transition. These are the weeks when I have the chance to catch up on all the tasks that have eluded me for the past 4 months, and I look forward to the change of pace every year. This year, that was especially true as I wrapped up my first semester working full-time on top of teaching. It was a test for me to see how my new job, teaching responsibilities, running and training, and maintaining a home life would all balance out. I’ve always thrived on being busy and the past 4 months have certainly given me that. I may have had to make a few adjustments and compromises to my schedule and life along the way, but I’m ultimately quite happy with how I spent my time and balanced everything along the way. The idea of “chasing42” has taken on various meanings over the years, and it continues to be an evolving quest to understand life, the universe, and running!

Chasing42 Log: 20161212- 20161219

Run: With classes done for the semester, and projects at work winding down, I have been able to maintain a bit more structured training schedule as I look forward to our yearly trip to Arizona and ease into the new year. I’ve been out for some more consistent runs, despite the cooler weather and the darkness that seems to come earlier and earlier. I’ve done some quality bonding with my headlamp and discovered some new running routes near campus along the way. Perhaps the highlight of this past week was a freezing-rain filled past Saturday morning. You’ve heard me mention before my extreme hatred for the treadmill. I haven’t done a significant run on the treadmill in will over 5 years, and I’ve never been able to run more than 14 miles without boring myself to death. However, this Saturday forced my hand, as freezing rain and slippery roads constitute the one weather condition I won’t run in. I obtained a free guest pass to the local YMCA and made my way there in the wee morning hours on Saturday. I was determined to overcome this mental challenge, and to get in a much-needed long run along the way. I fell into a rhythm after a while, discovered the joys of adjusting the grade for a greater challenge, and occupied my time with ESPN, people-watching, and some chatting with a friend. When it was all said and done, I had knocked out 22 miles and 5100 feet of climbing. I may not have enjoyed the experience, but I valued the mental challenge and know it’s just one more piece of the ultra-puzzle!

Embracing the darkness!

Embracing the darkness!

Thought: Well, like most folks, I didn’t get into the Western States 100 or the Hardrock 100. Mind you, this was the first time I’d ever had the opportunity to enter either lottery, but I couldn’t help but get my hopes up at least a little bit. I had put some other plans on hold as I knew getting into either race would be a significant financial and training commitment. Now that my schedule is a bit more open, I can begin thinking about other races I’d like to add to my calendar for 2017. I already have the Umstead 100 on my list (April 1st), and I hopefully applied to the Laurel Highlands 70.5 mile race, but I’m waiting to receive notice either way. Beyond that, the sky is the limit (well, and funding, and time, and the good graces of the beautiful epicurean), but I’m determined to have my schedule cemented early on in January so I can get on to the business of training. I’ll be adding a second class to my teaching load in the spring as well, so making excellent use of my time will be that much more important. Do you have races locked in on your 2017 calendar yet? I’d love to hear where you’ll be chasing42!

Daily Chase: Vol. 65

The end of the semester is always a whirlwind of activity, and this year was no exception. Add to that the preparations for the holidays, and the added workload courtesy of some frightening political decisions, and you have quite the busy schedule. Throughout it all, however, my running and the daily routine of it have kept me grounded and given me the opportunity to reflect on the day and process the multitude of sometimes very challenging conversations I’ve had over the course of the last few weeks.

We've been getting out for some more hikes lately. More time in nature is never a bad thing!

We’ve been getting out for some more hikes lately. More time in nature is never a bad thing!

Chasing42 Log: 20161127-20161211

Run: My streak has remained strong, albeit challenged at very points over the past two weeks due to my schedule. There have been numerous days as of late that have limited me to a few laps around the neighborhood, but they have been balanced with some energizing explorations of Newark, as well as some excellent trail miles. Last Saturday, I had the privilege of joining a friend (and several others) as he celebrated the 40th anniversary of his first marathon by running 33 miles along the Mason Dixon Trail. I’m in awe of his endurance and longevity, and can only hope that I’m still capable of knocking out a 50K in another 35 years!

Enjoying some trail time at Brandywine Creek State Park!

Enjoying some trail time at Brandywine Creek State Park!

Thought: As the events of this nation over the course of the last month have proven, community is very important. The work I do, educating others, challenging beliefs, providing new perspectives, and most importantly, listening, is made possible because of the community of colleagues, allies, and activists that I surround myself with, both virtually and in person. Thus, it’s no surprise to me why I value the running community for many of the same reasons. They provide an outlet for sharing thoughts, ideas, challenges, triumphs, and give me a voice. These two communities don’t overlap all that often, but they are equally important to my overall happiness, and essential to motivating me on a daily basis. I may not have found other communities in Delaware just yet, but having these folks in my life give me the strength and motivation to keep pushing myself, both as an educator and as an endurance athlete. That is the true essence of #chasing42 and I am forever grateful!

Daily Chase: Vol. 64

The last week has certainly been a bit more relaxing than the one before it, and it’s been nice to get back to focusing on each individual run as an opportunity to reflect on the day, as well as various other aspects of my life. I suppose it’s somewhat timely that I would think more intentionally about the different aspects of my life that I’m thankful for, even if the Thanksgiving holiday itself leaves me with mixed emotions due to the historical events it represents.

Our feast was one for the ages!

Our feast was one for the ages!

I’ve now been in my job for almost 6 months, and I feel more at home than ever. It’s a wonderful feeling to be doing work you are passionate about, with people who are equally passionate and push me to be better on a daily basis. The balance of variety and normalcy that I have on a regular basis has given my life some much-needed consistency and comfort, and I am happy to start each day at work as much as I am to end each day by lacing up my running shoes.

The epicurean continues to be a better partner than I could ask for, and I have been taking a lot of comfort in the fact that although our move out east left us both a bit anxious and uncertain, it was our teamwork that helped us come through it better and both in positions in our lives we are happy about and excited to look to the future.

Calm waters during a morning run- gorgeous!

Calm waters during a morning run- gorgeous!

Chasing 42 Log: 20161118- 20161126

Run: It was a week filled with excitement and accomplishments on the running front as I kept my streak alive. Most significantly, I hit the 1 year mark with my streak on the 21st. It’s hard to believe that I’ve run every day for the last year, and I have no intention of stopping now. The day prior, I also had the opportunity to visit with a wonderful friend from Ames, as she traveled to Philly to run the Philadelphia Marathon. It was a chilly, windy morning, but still a great race, and very well-organized. I’ll have more to come in a full report as well! Over the Thanksgiving holiday, we traveled to southern Maryland to spend a few days with family, which also meant several enjoyable and relaxing runs in unique and interesting places. It’s great having family so close, and I’m starting to learn my way around on foot, which is a sure sign that we are spending some significant time there.

Calm, silent, and bright...waiting for opportunities to emerge!

Calm, silent, and bright…waiting for opportunities to emerge!

Thought: Milestones have been on my mind as of late. Hitting the 1 year mark with my running streak was a new accomplishment for me, and I’ve really enjoyed the consistency that comes with streaking. In the lead up to the Philadelphia Marathon, I’ve been having a lot of training and preparation conversations with a co-worker who ran her first marathon. It was great being able to provide her with some guidance, as well as encourage and support her, and cheer her on during the race itself! It gave me pause to think back to my own first marathon and remember the energy and excitement, as well as the nervousness I felt, and how incredible it felt to put that medal around my neck. I may be running every day, and be able to rattle off longer runs as a part of my training, but I never want to forget the rush I felt after finishing my first marathon. That nervous energy is fuel for the soul, and you can never have enough of it, whether you’re running a 5K or a 100-miler. It’s all a part of #chasing42@!

Daily Chase: Vol. 63

Well, my friends, a lot has changed since my last Daily Chase. The world has been flipped upside down in a lot of ways, and making sense of it all over the past week and a half has been a challenge. I was, perhaps, naively confident that despite the fact that he shall not be named had made it this far in the race, there was no chance that the American people would elect him to the highest office in the land. After all, he had proven on countless occasions how woefully unprepared and unqualified for the position he was, and his racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, and ableism-laced comments continued to seep from the blowhole he calls a mouth. Yet, millions upon millions of people were ready and able to overlook all of these shortcomings. Any single one of them should have been enough to tank his campaign, but they weren’t. He continued to survive comments everyone were sure would lead to scandal because for so many in this country, hate and bigotry just aren’t deal-breakers when electing a world leader. We are now 10 days into a new era and already beginning to see the makings of a train wreck of monumental proportions, and I’m still in shock. The fallout and legitimate fear on the part of many, has meant I’ve been working some long hours and having some difficult conversations. I’ve had some time to run and try to ignore the anxiety, but not nearly enough time to run the 100’s of miles that I need right now. Running away, of course, isn’t the answer, but I would happily keep running toward something better. My social justice efforts are now more important than ever, and I’ll continue to fight the hatred and bigotry, and educate others as best I can. Along the way, I’ll keep running, and probably engage you in a more meaningful conversation if I come across you out on the trails or pass you on the road!

The flowing Brandywine offered a welcome sanctuary this past weekend.

The flowing Brandywine offered a welcome sanctuary this past weekend.

Chasing42 Log: 20161109-20161117

Run: The streak is still alive, and I squeezed in some great weekend trail miles, but the weekday runs have not been nearly as long or as hard as I would have liked these past two weeks. I’ve worked some late nights, which has meant short runs, and the fact that it’s dark now by the time I leave work hasn’t helped. However, I’ll be running the Philadelphia Marathon this weekend with several friends, and I’m looking forward to the positive energy and great memories!

Thought: How. Did. We. Get. Here. Intellectually, I can look at history and mostly understand. Emotionally and spiritually, I’m at a loss.

Daily Chase: Vol. 62

It’s election day, and I’m doing my best to put off permanently attaching my eyes and heart to the news coverage as the citizens of this country decide on the fate of democracy. It’s been a long, chaotic, vitriolic, and drama-filled election cycle, unlike any before it, and it almost seems surreal to have gotten to this point. It’s been close to 600 days since the first candidate declared (his) intent to run for president, and things have gone from unbelievable to downright preposterous as the campaign dragged on. I think it’s safe to assume that many folks are feeling some fatigue, so I hope you are exercising your right to vote, and then taking every opportunity to #optoutside and put a few miles between yourself and the frustration that may have been simmering just below the surface!

Chasing42 Log: 20161015-20161108

Run: First and foremost, the streak is still in play as I near the one year mark! After taking some time to ease back into longer distances, I’ve been slowly building up my training again, and decided to start adding a bit of speed work back into my weekly routine. Needless to say, after about two months of LSD running in preparation for the Grindstone 100, my legs were a bit confused when I asked them to go fast again! I had registered many moons ago for the Operation Warm 10K at Winterthur on the 23rd because I obviously couldn’t pass up a chance to run a race in such a beautiful place. The epicurean volunteered at the race, so we made a morning of it. I had done 20+ on the trails the day before, so I figured I’d make it a heavier weekend and see where my legs were at two weeks out. I ran the 6 miles from home to the start of the race, and then rested a bit before the start. Although this was the first year of the race, it was amazingly well-organized, and drew a crowd of over 1400 runners. They released us in waves and I had every intention of making it an easy training run, but the adrenaline got the best of me as it typically does, and I decided about 100m into the race to push it and see what I had. I’ve run at Winterthur enough to know just how hilly it is, so I knew what to expect, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to test my legs. After a 6:47 first mile, my legs were screaming a bit, but holding up fine, and I kept pushing for the next 5 miles, up and down the undulating course. I thoroughly enjoyed the run, and felt surprisingly in control for how fast I was going. I pushed it up the final climb towards the finish and crossed the line in 45:08 (7:19/mile), which was good enough for 37/1400, but still only 14th in my age group! 🙂 Afterwards, I ran back down to hang out with the epicurean for a bit and cheer on other runners, and then took off to run the 7 or so miles home. I was definitely feeling the effort by the time I got home, but I proved to myself that my legs were fully recovered. The following week was incredibly busy at work, so my runs were a bit more rushed, but I made up for on the weekend with two more fantastic runs, as well as a wonderful hike at French Creek State Park with the epicurean and the dogs. In all, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how well my legs have adapted to daily running, and I am looking forward to keeping it going!

Thought: Everyone has had a bad race, right? Our friends are quick to remind us that there will be other races, that it doesn’t define us as a runner, and that we have plenty to look forward to and many other races to experience. I wonder what would happen if we took this attitude in other areas of our life? Instead of dwelling on past failures, arguing ad nauseam about previous mistakes, and resurrecting the past, what if we looked ahead to the future, and asked each other what we learned from those mistakes? The campaign rhetoric during this election cycle has focused so much on previous incidents, and so little on the ideas and actions that either candidate possesses for leading our country moving forward. I know at least one candidate has legitimate, well thought-out ideas for how to move our country forward, and it’s unfortunate that those ideas will not determine the fate of this election. Now, I’m certainly not saying we should ignore the past. Obviously, there are glaring differences in the past actions of our two major party candidates, and those past indiscretions in large part make them who they are, but history isn’t changing. We can read it, hear it, and then move on to the history that is yet to be written. I’m relatively happy with how my most recent training block turned out, and it left me with some amazing memories, but I’ll be looking forward now. It’s time to focus on the next run and the next race, and use the past to help us all keep #chasing42!

An Open Response to Female Runners…from me

“An Open Letter to Men from Female Runners” has been making the rounds on my own and many other folks’ social media feeds. Runner’s World re-published it, which drew even further attention to the article. Make no mistake…this is an important message, and one that more men need to hear, and more women need to feel empowered to make on a regular basis. Women should feel empowered to share this message without fear of reprisal, without fear of being told they are over-reacting, or being told to calm down. This fear is real, and we created this fear. This feeling begins when we wrap girls in pink blankets and boys in blue blankets, continues when we reinforce stereotypical gender roles and communicate to girls and women that their worth rests in their bodies. Not their bodies as active instruments of achievement, but passive instruments of visual and physical pleasure for men. This fear is reinforced when we teach girls to carry their keys between their fingers, use the buddy system, cover their drinks, and cross to the other side of the street when a man they don’t know approaches. I am certainly in favor of safety, but putting this responsibility in the hands of women alone ignores the problem. We shy away from teaching boys and men to respect men and women equally, and to be quite blunt, not to rape!

photo credit: Jen Benna

photo credit: Jen Benna

This is such an important message. Sadly, this is the reason that I intentionally avoid solitary women when I am out running. I take as large of an arc around them, cross to the other side of the street, and at the very least yell “on your left” as far back as my voice will carry me, and speed up when I’m passing a woman to make it clear that I’m not stopping or slowing down. I always smile and say hi, but avert my own eyes. I hate that I have to do that. I hate that I need to assume any woman is going to be fearful of me, without even knowing who I am. It doesn’t matter that I just launched a campus-wide sexual assault and misconduct awareness campaign, that I proudly identify as a feminist, or that I teach Women’s Studies courses, give workshops on diversity and inclusion, and research sexuality and gender. It doesn’t matter that I firmly believe I have a responsibility to act proactively to end sexual misconduct, or that I reach out to get more men involved as active bystanders. It doesn’t matter that I grew up in the Midwest and everything about me is “Minnesota nice”. On that dark street or trail, I’m a nameless man and my identity gives a woman running the other way reason to fear for her safety.

I’ve been attached on the street before, been harassed by passers-by in cars and had homophobic slurs hurled at me, but I still don’t know what it’s like to constantly be on guard. However naive I may be, I still feel comfortable heading onto the trails before the sun rises, by myself, with only my headlamp to light my way. My mind might conjure up images of animals jumping out to attack me, but ultimately I still feel confident enough to not wait for the sun to come up or to join the rest of the group. Many women wouldn’t make that choice, and I hate that. It infuriates me that I live in a society where common sense human decency has not yet been normalized. It infuriates me that the female runners I know and those that I don’t can’t have the same meditative running experience that I have so often. There is no feeling quite like it, and I’d give anything to be able to extend that opportunity to every woman who has ever feared for her safety while out running. However, I know I can’t, so my work continues. In the meantime, I’ll always be “on your left” from a quarter mile away, chasing42.

Race Report: Grindstone 100- Part II

Did you think I forgot about you? Decided to just leave you hanging? It’s more likely that last week was simply a perfect storm of projects at work. However, it’s fitting that you are now curling up to read this the day after Halloween, to keep the fear factor going. Ok, so it’s not THAT bad, but it was certainly an adventure!

Our story left off at N. River Gap aid station, and that’s truly where things got interesting 🙂

N. River Gap (AS #5) to Little Bald Knob (AS #6): I knew this climb would be daunting to some degree, but I had apparently missed the “Grindstone Grind” nickname when I was reading old race reports. It was well after midnight by the time I set out on this climb, which meant it had been raining for almost 24 hours already. I gathered pretty quickly that this was a challenging climb under the best conditions and a downright slog under the conditions I was now facing. I took some solace in the fact that everyone was in the same boat, but this didn’t do much for my morale once I was out of earshot of the aid station and plunged into the darkness.

It’s relatively common to hit a low spot or two during races of this distance, and I’ve certainly had my fair share of “screw this” moments. Typically, though, they come a bit later in the race. This time, my legs were still feeling fresh, and the rest of my body was coping with the distance and the time on my feet just fine, but the mind was challenging me. At one point during this climb, as I was slowly pushing my way up the mountain, I exclaimed out loud “it’s 3AM, pitch black, the only thing I can see is illuminated by my headlamp, I’m soaking wet, stomping through more mud than I’ve ever seen, climbing up a mountain, and I’m all alone…why am I doing this?” I kept moving forward, my trekking poles slowly becoming my saving grace, and eventually could only laugh at the ridiculousness of my situation.

I eventually made my way to the top of the climb, but that simply meant that the flat land became a marsh. I plodded along through ankle-deep water and mud, getting colder and colder as my speed decreased. I had avoided pulling out my rain shell thus far since the rain had been light enough that I was wet but not cold. However, once my pace slowed down on the climb, I started to get quite chilled. I eventually stopped and struggled to pull out my shell and put it on over my pack because I didn’t have the dexterity in my fingers to take everything off and re-situate it. Luckily, someone stopped and helped me get my shell on, for which I was eternally grateful. This last section of the segment seemed to take forever, but I could not have been more happy to see the next aid station. I rolled in, having warmed up a bit, and filled myself with mashed potatoes, cookies, and some broth, all of which tasted delicious. I spent a few precious minutes warming myself by the fire, but knew I needed to be on my way. I had come close to entertaining the thought of dropping during that climb, but arriving at the aid station, and knowing that I would be reaching the half-way point soon was enough to restore my confidence. I thanked the volunteers for their time, and headed out again into the darkness.

Just a little climbing :)

Just a little climbing 🙂

Little Bald Knob (AS #6) to (halfway point): The first section of this stretch can best be described as a series of muddy, rut-filled paths that had been dug up by trucks and other vehicles traveling up and down them over plenty of time. Deep ruts and rain make for some mighty impressive puddles and small bodies of water. I’m not entirely sure why I continued to try avoiding the large puddles since my feet were completely soaked (along with the rest of me) at this point, but I think it may have at least helped to keep me alert and moving forward. There were no significant climbs, but rather a series of rolling hills that seemed to go on forever. This was the only small window of time where sleep deprivation caught up to me a bit, and I did some sleep-walking, but it only lasted for about 45 minutes, which I considered a victory!

The rut-filled path gave way to a paved section of road that wound up to the top. I had been especially looking forward to reaching this summit, as the views at the top looked spectacular. However, it was still raining and overcast, so my wishes were not going to be granted on this particular day. I fell in step with another runner, and the two of us made the push up to the top, recognized that the hole punch we were supposed to find had long since been stolen, and we headed back down the mountain on the two-mile or so journey into the half-way point and the next aid station. This short paved section reminded me of just how long I had been on my feet already, and I was eager to return to the soft, marshy, muddy trails. Such hilarious irony! I rolled into the aid station and was greeted by the epicurean and others. To say that seeing her lifted my spirits after a night by myself would be a huge understatement! I eagerly traded my wet short-sleeve shirt for a dry long-sleeve shirt, replaced my rain shell, and even gingerly slipped on a dry pair of socks, even if they only stayed dry for a short time. The epicurean’s bag of delights also included a dry pair of waterproof mittens and the opportunity to hand off my headlamp for charging.

She had already been standing out in the rain at the aid station for quite a while, mostly to make sure she didn’t miss me, and seeing her was the boost of energy that I needed to set out on the journey back the way I came with the confidence that I could finish this race. That faith would be tested at one other point, but I left the halfway point in good spirits and back-tracked my way down the mountain.

Halfway to Little Bald Knob (AS #8): This section was relatively uneventful. I welcomed the daylight, even if the sun didn’t make much of an appearance, and the light, combined with warm clothes and plenty of fuel, gave me a nice boost of energy moving forward. I knew what to expect at this point as well, which filled me with that much more confidence. However, this wouldn’t be a true trail race without a few wildlife adventures. On the way back down the rut-filled trail, I came across two pickup trucks with hounds riding in the back in large boxes of a sort. As it turned out, this was the opening weekend of bear-hunting season in the area! Luckily, I didn’t meet any new friends, but I did manage to narrowly avoid stepping on a rattlesnake on the side of the trail. This close encounter certainly refocused my attention on the trail, and I spent a fair bit more time near the center of the trail. 🙂 I arrived back at the Little Bald Knob aid station for the second time, and in much better spirits. My nutrition plan had been working really well at this point, and I didn’t want to mess with what was working, so it was coke/ginger ale/ pretzels/ cookies/ potatoes once again. I left in good spirits, despite knowing that I now had to make my way back down the 7-mile Grindstone Grind!

Is that me, or bigfoot? You be the judge!

Is that me, or bigfoot? You be the judge!

Little Bald Knob to N. River Gap (AS #9): Everything looks different in the daylight. In this case, that meant being able to clearly see the swamp I had already waded through, and now had to slog back across, just to get to the muddy mountain. Any small portion of dryness on my feet was squashed out as I made my way across. Once I hit the trail heading down back to N. River Gap, I can best describe the experience as mud surfing! The trail was even more of a mess than on the way up, and my trekking poles came in mighty handy as I slowly picked my way down the mountain. I managed to fall only once, which I considered a fair accomplishment. After a mile or two, I fell into step with two other runners, and we made our way down the mountain together, which definitely helped with my energy and momentum. I no doubt moved much faster than I would have on my own, and pushed myself to hit the slope aggressively. By the time I rolled into N. River Gap, I felt like I was covered in mud, but it also meant hitting the 100K mark (or close to it), which gave me another mental boost! I met the epicurean, indulged in a delicious Going the Distance Muffin, and discovered a stockpile of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups to supplement my potatoes. I “may” have gone a bit overboard with the Reese’s, and that came back to bite me in the stomach a few miles later.

N. River Gap (#9) t0 Dowells Draft (AS #11): I had to do a bit of walking to get my stomach back in order but it was nothing I couldn’t handle. This section, from miles 65 to 80, involved some more decent climbing and descending, and it was a bit of a blur amidst the mid-afternoon light. I wasn’t sleep-walking by any means, but I was approaching 36 waking hours in total, so I focused my energy on putting one foot in front of the other, utilizing my trekking poles, and continuing to make relentless forward progress. I met up with a few different runners along the way, and that definitely helped to pass the time and miles. I knew that once I reached Dowells Draft, I’d see the epicurean, and then again at all of the remaining aid stations. This helped push me forward because I knew once I got to mile 80, I could happily mark my progress in smaller segments.

Dowells Draft to Dry Branch Gap (AS #12): Aside from the Grindstone Grind, this was hands-down the most challenging section for me. After fueling up, and leaving the epicurean in good spirits, I wandered off into the woods amidst the dusk light breaking through the tree canopy. It had finally stopped raining for a bit, and the light streaming down to the forest floor was simply beautiful. After 36 hours of fog, rain, and poor visibility, the beauty of this area was overwhelming to the senses. After about a mile of meandering along the relatively flat portion of the section, I began climbing. The sun made its departure, and I flipped on my headlamp for another night of darkness. I had been running for a bit over 25 hours at this point, and the darkness brought the first real signs of fatigue. I had been excited about the fact that the race began in the evening initially, because it meant I’d be running through the night on fresh legs. I wasn’t counting on running into a second night and my body began to revolt. Unfortunately, this drowsiness set in just as the incline increased, and I felt like I was climbing hand-over-foot. Under foot were slippery, wet, shifting rocks, and to the right of me was a sheer cliff face that would have caused vertigo if I had been able to see more than 5 feet in front of me. I slowly worked my way up the mountain, bracing myself with my trekking poles because my footing was far from sure, and I tried to concentrate on staying on the trail and not worrying about falling off the mountain! The climb seemed to last forever, and my foggy brain could not, for the life of me, remember running down this steep mountain face on the way out. I obviously had, but it had not given me nearly as much cause for concern. After quite some time, and many false summits, I found myself at the top, and was greeted by a flatter but just as rocky section of trail. I had, in part, motivated myself to keep climbing because I thought the aid station was at the top, so I was rather dismayed to find nothing but more rocks and darkness at the top. After another good chunk of time, I finally arrived at the Dry Branch Gap aid station, and I could not have been more happy to see people, and see the epicurean especially! At this point, I briefly sat down in a chair for the first time, and getting up was one of the hardest things I had done. I rehydrated, and ate as much as I could handle before departing, and took solace in knowing there was only one more aid station before the finish!

Dry Branch Gap to Falls Hollow (AS #12): This section started out like most, with a significant climb that just kept going. At this point, the racers were quite spread out, so I was very much alone on the trail, and left to keep myself company as I moved higher and higher up the steep incline. After a mile or two, I reached the summit of sorts, and visibility was almost non-existent. My headlamp simply highlighted the fog, and it was all I could do to make sure I was stepping onto solid ground as I moved forward. At this point, I began to have what I can only describe as the most intense feeling of deja vu I had ever experienced. I was absolutely sure I had been on that mountain before, and taken that exact path. To my knowledge, I hadn’t, so I know my mind was playing tricks on me, but it was an uncanny feeling. I was also quite exhausted but kept moving forward, even though I felt like I was going in circles and not actually on the course any more. In my sleep-deprived state, I was fully prepared to huddle up in a ball on top of the mountain and wait for morning because I felt like I was hopelessly lost. Just as I had begun to have these thoughts, I spotted another headlamp up ahead and I picked up what little pace I had left to try and catch it, assuming it was real. Luckily, it was real, and it belonged to a fellow runner. He and I commiserated about the climb, visibility, and the race as a whole, and worked together to get back down the mountain to the final aid station. There was no shortage of stream crossings, mud pits, and rocks intentionally placed to kill us, but we worked together and the time went by much easier. Together, we made our way to the Falls Hollow aid station, and I got my 4th or 5th wind just as we rolled in. I briefly greeted the epicurean, downed some ginger ale, and then the two of us were off into the night once more.

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Falls Hollow to the finish: The last 5 miles or so were some of the best miles of the entire race. The trail was relatively runable, the company was wonderful, and the great conversation helped the miles melt away. At this point, I knew I was going to finish, and it was a fantastic feeling. I may have been beyond exhausted, but I’m pretty sure I had a smile on my face the entire time. As we neared the last turn back into the Boy Scout Camp, we met a few other runners, and we all decided to trek in together to cross the finish line. After more than 32 hours, I crossed the finish line a bit after 2AM, and I was almost too tired to really be emotional. Clark, the RD, handed me my buckle and finisher’s shirt and congratulated me, and the group of us all shook hands and congratulated each other. As is the Grindstone custom, we hugged the pole near the finish, and that was that.

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The epicurean and I made our way back to the car and campsite, and promptly decided we had no interest in sleeping outside at this point, and agreed to find a hotel room. Sadly, after packing everything up, we discovered that every hotel in the area was completely sold out because it was the opening weekend for bear-hunting season. Yes, you read that correctly. Bear-hunting season. Good grief! So, we stopped at a gas station, the epicurean poured herself a big cup of coffee, and we hit the road for home. I definitely passed out for a portion of it, and spent the rest of the time failing to get comfortable and admiring the enormous blood blisters on both of my big toes. We got home around 9AM, I hopped in the best shower I’d ever taken, and then we collapsed into the bed until that afternoon.

So happy to be done!

So happy to be done!

I know this was quite the epic tale, so I appreciate you hanging in! When you’re out on the trail for 32 hours, a lot happens, and if I don’t get it out now, it will certainly fade from my brain. However, I can look down at the buckle on my desk and be reminded of my amazing adventure in Virginia, #chasing42!

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