Run 16+ miles
Photos and SAG: Renee Jackson
I rose early enough to smile at the half moon high above. The sky was just beginning to illuminate and the clouds drew themselves ever so perfectly forcing me to gaze upwards while in the batmobile. I love the experience of waking up in darkness and seeing the day come together. I sipped my pre-adventure caffeine and played the day out in my head.
David, Katie, Mike and I all met up on Hendersonville Rd. in Ashevegas. Mike’s wife Renee volunteered to help with crewing and picking up the bikes when the run began, thanks Renee!
We clipped in at 9:30am and got on the parkway and began to spin. A few rolling hills, and then a nice descent which gave way to some 30+ mph riding early on. We quickly passed the new Blue Ridge Parkway headquarters building and then passed the Folk Arts Center, after which the real climbing began.
Mike and Katie were able to take a sizable lead which I would not be able to catch up for another 20 minutes. I just kept spinning and taking in the amazing clear sky, and breathing the fresh mountain air. The parkway is still shut down past Bulls Gap, which gave us the asphalt to ourselves. No cars, just cyclists and a few hikers that for some reason preferred the road versus the trail.
Mike pointed off in the distance to a small gap between two peaks and said that is where we are going, it seemed as if it was 50 miles away, but in reality it was only about 6 or 7 miles. I kept spinning. We passed thru 3 tunnels and made our way to the top of Craggy Gardens in about 2 hours.
We descended. The thrill of getting on a bike with a 1/4th of an inch of tread holding your body and bike upright between the asphalt flying at 40+ miles per hour is exhilarating. Sure you can crash here and get injured really bad, but focus and fly. I put on my Houdini as it got cold descending. Katie took the lead and never let up the whole way down to Bulls Gap. Mike was just going for a relaxed ride as he could have blown away any of us at a given moment, David and I were hanging on for the ride. I peddled hard in the big ring while going downhill. I could feel my thighs pulsating.
Half an hour alter we arrived at Bulls Gap, and met up with Renee. Here I pounded some calories and hydration, slipped on the running shoes, changed my shorts, and prepared myself for a 16 mile trail run down the Mountains to Sea Trail. Mike would join me and we left the bikes with Renee. Katie and David opted out of the run, and pushed on with the bikes.
My stomach was full of food and I could feel it sloshing around the first half a mile, but then it was all good. I was taking in salts by way of NUUN tablets. I just put them in my mouth instead of in a litter of water, surly to give you a new experience. I knew it would be hot, but it felt like hell out there.
Mike and I ran to the Folk Arts Center in just over one hour and refilled our bottles with cold water from the fountain inside. I was dripping in sweat, and was out of there quickly. I slowed my roll after the FOC and began to move a little slower. Mike could have blown by, but we ran together until we reached a blue trail which lead to the BRP Headquarters building. I wanted to turn left here and stay on the MTS trail, but Mike wanted to fill up his single bottle in the building. We moved onto this blue blaze. Mike explained it was the same distance, but just on the other side of the parkway. I opted out of filling my bottle as I had been carrying two, while Mike made the dash into the building to refill, I pushed on.
When I popped out of the blue blaze, I saw one sign that said left onto the MST, and took it. When I saw the same BRP headquarters building appear before my eyes I realized I just practically went in a circle, and backtracked to see where I made my mistake. I went just over half a mile off trail.
Mike was now ahead of me, but he thought I was ahead of him, and he ran harder to try and catch up. I was feeling a nagging pain in my left foot for the camping trip with the boys this weekend, but pushed thru the pain. I ran/shuffled into the Starbucks to see Mike sipping on ice water in the summer heat. We drove to Mikes place to meet his family, downed some calories and rehydrated.
Bike mileage: 36.6 (25 uphill to Craggy, and 11.6 downhill back to Bulls Gap). Trail run mileage: 16+. Very hot day well into the 80's. Another adventure in the hills on WNC, good times with all, and a special thanks to Mike and Renee for helping us make this possible!