I downed a large bowl of oatmeal and took off for the Linwood access of Crowder’s Mountain State Park. I got to the parking lot just before 8am and was ready to rock and roll. We hung around for a while and got a good review from RD Aaron Ligon of what to expect. Aaron and DC dropped aid at both the main ranger station and the Boulder access ranger station with water, Gatorade, chips, and M&M’s. Guys, thanks for doing that, we owe you!
We took off at 8:45 am and immediately started running uphill all the way to the Rocky Top trail. From there we hung a left, a few of the front runners kept going to the summit of Crowder’s, but the rest of us made a left here. Me and Greg cruised on down all the way to the Main Ranger Station and waited to make sure the front runners made it down the correct way, they did! Then we were off to the summit of Pinnacle. Most of this section is a steep uphill. I climbed to the top of the summit, alone, and yelt out a coyote howl. When I climbed down the summit I suggested to Brian and Richard to yell out a howl. I drew energy from this.
I retraced my steps down to the Ridgeline Trail and hung a right. I would be on this trail the rest of this out and back run. The Ridgeline Trail is blazed in red, and although it makes a few turns, and has a few road crossings, it’s fairly easy to follow as it is well marked. A few miles into this section I saw a CHOA hiking group and high-fived Mr. T. I ran solo all the way to the Boulder Ranger Station and immediately refilled my bottles and downed a bag of chips. I looked at my watch when I left the aid station and it read 2:00 hours exactly. I couldn’t help but notice that no one had touched the water or food prior to me. I wondered if the two runners ahead of me had stopped here for aid? They may have gotten water out of the water fountain, or just skipped the aid all together.
I retraced my steps back to the Ridgeline Trail (a ¼ of a mile) and hung a left. I then ran another 3 miles or so to the large sign which directed you to Kings Mountain State Park. A mile before reaching this sign I saw the two front runners who looked fresh and were moving just as fast as they were at the start. I tagged the sign and turned around, my watch read 2:34. Brian and Richard were not far behind me and I knew if I slowed my roll they would catch up quickly.
My body began to feel it when I passed the Boulder Ranger Station for the second time, I kept trucking along. Earlier I remember it being much warmer than the last few days, and I was sweating bullets. I downed a GU, and didn’t think anything of it. After another few miles I started run-walking and knew that it would be a bad day at the office. I made a novice mistake, maybe I was too cocky at the start, but I didn’t carry very much food with me, and my body hit a wall. The warmer weather definitely had something to do with it as well. I was making forward progress, but slowed down significantly. Brian passed and was looking strong. 20 minutes later Richard caught up to me and offered two gummy bears. Richard thanks for the calories. They gave me that little boost which was needed. I finally climbed back up to Pinnacle and pushed my pace hard downhill. At this point the trail was congested with many Saturday hikers. I was bobbing and weaving, calling out “on your left” as I ran fast downhill negotiating rocks and roots all the way to the Main Ranger Station. I knew I would feast here and try to feed my system with whatever calories I could get my hands on. Richard had been at this aid station for two minutes and we hung out for at least 10 minutes. I ate two small bags of chips, ate a handful of peanut M&M’s and drank a liter of water/Gatorade, filled up my bottles and took off with Richard. We quickly caught up to Stan, who was running his second 50k. He was being crewed by his wife, and we all ran to the top of Crowder’s and back to Linwood. We finished up this adventure in 5:59:20. My watch read 7,000 feet of elevation gain which is barometrically measured, which means this can be off due to weather.
A few of us gathered at the finish and waited for a bit, and then it started raining. I retreated to my car and decided to head for a post-run burrito which was much needed. Aaron and DC, thanks for the aid and thanks to anyone else that helped out!
My body had been rocked and depleted. The next day I woke up feeling like new again after a large breakfast and some serious hydration I went for a ride with Jack and company from the UCRR crew for a casual 42 miles. Post ride I went out to Reedy Creek for a 5.5 mile trail run to test out the legs. They were heavy for a half a mile or so, and then I set them into cruise control. I felt great and put down 78 miles this week, the highest mileage per week this year.
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