Warning: the following words and images will allow you to vicariously see the world with the eyes of Sultan. Read at your own risk. The name Sultan has many meanings, but derives from the peak Sultan Mountain in Silverton, CO!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Nantahala Adventure Run v2.0

In 2007 a few friends set out for an adventure to run the entire Bartram trail in 4 days.  It was cold, painful, wet, hilly, and long.  The challenge shaped my trail running for years to come.  Along the way I noticed that the Bartram trail met up and partially overlapped with the Appalachian Trail twice.  It formed a ring, or a circular path, the Nantahala Ring. A few seasoned trail runners attempted to complete this run earlier this year dubbed the Nantahala Adventure Run, most finished the 58 mile grueling journey, yet I did not.  I was determined to go back and conquer this trail.

The NAR v2.0 was a success despite iffy weather forecasts, conditions were ideal. Early in the run the humidity was challenging and for a moment, in my sleep deprived daze during the middle of the night, I thought was in Borneo (tropical jungle) and not in the Nantahalas of Western North Carolina. My shoes soaked in my own sweat, and moister was everywhere. Lots of downed trees, and the trail was definitely more overgrown than NAR v1.0 earlier this year.

I started my morning at 2am to get an official 6:15 am start at Appletree. I was moving well early on and caught up to Denise & Wayne going up Cheoah and hiked with them to the summit where I was introduced to the yodeling pickle. From there I descended to the NOC and said hello to Sarah a few miles from the summit on her way up to meet the rest. I paid more attention to my foot placement here as I picked up some speed and didn't want to tumble—tuck and role was all I could think of. The summit was cloudy and cool, however the NOC was sunny and hot. It was packed and children were swimming in the river. The line for food was unjustifiably long, so I filled up my bottles with water and ice, dumped my trash, and didn't look back.  The last time I was here, my mind sucked me into the NOC, and I dropped. I remember it was very hot.

I made my ascent up towards Tellico feeling good about my journey thus far. I wasn't happy about my shoe situation, and felt my feet swell a little more than usual and blisters prematurely arrived into the equation. It took me a while to get to Tellico Gap, but was greeted with a cool ginger ale and some pickles, I am a believer. Thank you Denise!

I kept trotting to Burningtown and made my way up to Wayah, now slightly hobbling on my swollen blistered feet. In my mind I debated whether I would see the sunset over the summit of Cheoah bald, or see a sunset over the waters of Lake Nantahala. I reached the summit at 7pm and took a few moments to soak up the views.  It's really an awesome view from up there, and never gets old. I still had an hour or so of ambient light and made my way down the mountain, slowly.

My mind was solid, my conditioning was better than expected, yet my feet were a mess. Swollen and blistered, now from the top of my toes in addition to the bottom of my feet, I was forced to slow down to a hike when normally I would be happily blasting these trails at insane speeds going down the steep sections. I remember running the Bartram years ago, and this section was day 3 (of a 4 day stage run), and literally remember running so fast down Wayah on a very steep section that when a hiker emerged from no where on a bend in the trail. At that given moment I had a split second decision to make, collide into the hiker and both of us tumble down the mountain, or hurtle them completely Hussain Bolt style. I made the latter choice and during my gizmo days remember reading and average of 178 vertical feet of descent per minute on this section, that my friends I can assure you is descending at a pace that is out of control. I was young and dumb. What a massive contrast that was to my descent on the NAR v2.0. I walked and hobbled down to the road in an unbearably slow and painful 3 hours.

I was broken by the time I reached the road. Had I had a way to drop and get picked up I would have. Absent that option however I kept moving along and told myself to get my shizzle together and get er done! The cabins that dottet the lake were alive and I could hear music, and smell the grills of jovial people enjoying their Saturday night. I was rocking my fenix handheld light and knew that people would notice some stranger walking down the road with a flashlight. One person chose to shine their flashlight on to me, and yelled out some obscenities. I was motivated to move faster.

The  first shop on the left a mile down the asphalt I remember had a water source that I used in 2007, but this time I noticed a lock. It was past 10pm, and no one was around, so I moved along with no water at this point.  I saw the sign that said 4.9 miles to Appletree and I knew I could get this loop completed before midnight.  I was almost wrong by a few minutes. Total time on the trail was 17:53.  My splits below based off of memory.

Appletree start @6:15am
Winding Staircase 2 hrs
Cheoha 5 hrs
NOC 7 hrs
Tellico 10 hrs
Burningtown 11.5 hrs
Wayah 12.75 hrs
Nantahala Lake 15.75 hrs
Appletree Finish 17:53

Needless to say, I might not be joining my weekly Muddy Monday run in charlotte today.

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