I was cleaning out some old files that I had copied into Google Drive a long long time ago this weekend and came across the following blog post. I think this must have been from about 2001 or 2002. What strikes me is how little I’ve changed in what I do and what I like to write about.
Is it really so amazing though? Maybe our identities are fixed from an early age. And as we grow older they become more calcified, we become who we always were. And yet there is a sense of the bittersweet. I was writing about Tom, our friendship and our travels – and yet I was striking out on some new path that I’ve been on for a long time.
Here’s the post:
I have been talking about going for a big run at M. for the past three years I think. From the time that Tom and I rode there a few years ago, during which we endured a mind-expanding suffer fest, I witnessed firsthand the intensity and agro nature of the trail running beast. At a certain creek crossing [which we were forced to ford – See Massanutten trip report] we weren’t standing more than four feet from a runner who happened upon the same creek crossing – with total intensity in his eyes – without pausing a second, he quickly forded the stream and was gone again through the trees. He didn’t even see us his concentration was so great. It was amazing, from that moment on, I knew I had to get back out there and do a bubba run in the mountains. Well, this past weekend my goal was achieved.
I broke in my new trail running shoes, Salomon Flagstaff’s, which are closer to running shoes and not as beefy as maybe some of the east coast trails would require, but they did well, and my feet aren’t sore one day after. I also purchased a new ultimate directions ‘Gemini’ hip pack. This piece of gear really saved me.
I was able to fit all of the emergency gear that I felt I needed to carry:
- Two 20 oz. bottles of cytomax
- Knee warmers
- Shell jacket
- Emergency space blanket (in case I needed to sleep out)
- Gel flask
- 3 powerbars
- polypro gloves
As I started up the fire road from Elizabeth’s Furnace campground, the sun was shining, it was very warm and I was feeling great – actually, my hip was hurting from carrying this big-ass pack. But I was trucking – I started off slow and eased into a steady pace. I started thinking that maybe I should have carried a headlamp or something, I really didn’t know how long I was going to be out for. I was running a loop, so I needed to get back to the pavement (about a ¼ mile from the car) before dark. This worried me a little bit. I knew I would be moving significantly slower on foot than on bike – how slow I really didn’t know. I estimated that it would probably take me about 4-5 hours, I planned to cut out some of the side trails that Tom and I rode the previous weekend and stick to the most straightforward loop in the interest of time and safety.
I kept in mind ultra running articles that I had read about walking the steep hills and running down the other side, so when I felt like the grade was getting too steep and I was on the verge of blowing up, I backed off and kind of fast walked up the hills. It took me a lot longer to hit the singletrack than I thought it would. As I entered the woods from the fire road, the sky darkened and clouds began to roll in. I thought to myself that If necessary, lighting, thunder, hailstorms, I could hit the next fire road and then turn around and high tail it back to the car. I would still have 6-7 mile run in.
When I got through the first section of singletrack (it’s much easier to hop creeks without a mountain bike!) the sun came out again and I hit the main fire road that runs up to Signal Knob. This road has a nice gravel, dirt surface, is closed to cars, and has an even, steady grade. I was able to make great time on this road. I stayed on the fire road across from the reservoir and continued to within one mile of Signal Knob. Here I took the white-blazed trail to the right that leads over the mountain to Elizabeth’s Furnace. This was only about .6 of a mile, but was probably the steepest, gnarliest part of the run. Loose rocks, and really, really steep. I walked most of this trail, thinking how much it would suck to push a mountain bike up it.
Just as I got to the ridge, I looked across the valley, and sure enough, I could see the rain moving toward me like a wide gray curtain hanging over the next ridge. I just wanted the rain to hold off until I got over the ridge and started down the other side. The gods must have heard me and the rain held off until just as I crested the ridge and was about 200 yards down the other side. The rain was cold and I had a flashback to my Kenosha pass ride where I was benighted and found myself in dire straits. It started slowly and then halted, only to pick up with greater intensity. I wasn’t wearing a shirt until now and quickly decided against pushing on for a few more minutes. I stopped, unclipped my hip pack and quickly threw on my polypro shirt and shell. I was sweating and getting rain soaked, but I knew that I wouldn’t have any hypothermia issues, I was about 5-6 miles from the car at this point, and knew the trial back.
Most of the trial back down the mountain was runnable and I made great time. The rain picked up and then abated and I was able to remove my shell and keep running. I finished both bottles of cytomax at this time and finished off the last swig with a large shot of powergel from my flask.
I lost the trail right near the pavement – running about a quarter of a mile toward the Signal Knob parking area and away from where I was parked. I suddenly realized that the trail didn’t look or feel right and backtracked until I found the split. Once I hit the pavement I kicked it up again, feeling great and double-timed it back to the car. 2:37:02, much faster than I thought, and I felt much better than I thought I would. I’m going to try to push through to maybe a three hours plus run soon.
Chris Rivard, 2002