Distance: 30 mile loop
Net Elevation: 6,300 feet
Completion Time: 6:53
Photos: by Damion Wells
The fourth running of the Rattle my Heart 50k went down this past Saturday. Summiting Rattlesnake and traversing Heartbreak Ridge in the middle of February is where madA devised the name of this challenging 30 mile loop.
I started in Montreat, along with 11 other runners. I was feeling out of shape, and still not 100% on my game, but wanted to put forth the effort and challenge of this 6,300 foot climb while experiencing the adventure on what turned out to be another amazing spring like day.
The run starts in Montreat, and we run the trails towards Ridgcrest, soon after summiting Rattlesnake, and then dropping down to the Kitsuma trailhead and running up and down the rollercoaster ride of Kitsuma ridge to pop out at the Old Fort picnic area. Up until this point we have gone 10 or 11 miles and climbed 2,500 feet. Smiles were still on many faces. I passed Doug and caught up to Haley by the time I reached the Old Fort Picnic area and we both crossed Old Hwy 70 and found our way to the asphalt called Mill Creek Rd. The railroad tracks were to our right as we headed north. I let my legs rest as I speed walked and shuffled the next 3 miles of road and Haley took off in the distance. To my left I reached Andrews Gyser.
Andrews Geyser is a man-made fountain in Old Fort. The fountain is named for Colonel Alexander Boyd Andrews, a North Carolina native who was the Vice President of the Southern Railway Company and one of the men responsible for the construction of the railroad between Old Fort and Asheville in the late 19th century.
Last year when I ran this loop I mustered up the energy to get into the yoga crow position and took a pass on that this year. By this time Doug had caught up to me and we continued North on asphalt when we reached Graphite Rd. From there we pass the The School of Urban and Wilderness Survival, or SUWS high ropes coarse. A few hundred yards to our right is a trail that leads up to the train tracks, and after crossing them we reach the Heartbreak Ridge trailhead.
Unknown to me we had water dropped at Kitsuma and near the Heartbreak Ridge trailhead. I filled up my bottle when I saw excess water, but didn’t need to do so as I was carrying 2 liters in my pack. Better to be well hydrated on a warm sunny day like this. I began what seemed to be the forever climb up Heartbreak. Doug and I hiked together until my pace seemed unbearably slow for him, and he took off. I walked a lot, knowing I would need to save some juice for next week. I took my time on this 8 mile, 3,500 foot ascent thinking much about the unrest in North Africa, the Middle East and Mid-West (Wisconsin) where thousands of people have taken to the street in peaceful protest. What a blessing it is to live in a free land. I reached the top of the trail in 2:42 minutes. Several mountain bikers cashed in on the sweet weather and zipped downhill on Heartbreak.
I turned left on the toll road, which always brings back memories of the Mt. Mitchell Challenge. Here, the grade is not very steep, and the downhill running action can be strong and put in cruise control. Mitchell is a downhill running game strategy. Save some juice in the tank for a strong run down and you will surely pass runners that miscalculated. Watch out for the rocks, and don’t face plant as I have seen that happen on race day several times.
Traces of snow and ice were still evident higher up, but as warmer weather continues this may change next weekend. Expected rain may make the coarse sloppy muddy. I passed Haley and Damion on my run down as they were taking their time making the descent. Both smarter than I, knew that they wanted to save their legs for next weekend. I found my way to
Appalachian way with joy and speed downhill to the lake Susan parking lot surprised to see Scott and Liz sporting their new home on wheels. 6:53 is what my watch read, and I was happy to get this one done and ready to throw down some calories at Ole Guacamoles!