Shortly after finishing the Umstead 100 and feeling pretty good about myself I came across these quotes from legendary Boston Marathon character Billy Squires who was talking about marathon runners running too many miles in training:
"He must love seeing the birds and squirrels and all that crap."
"Your wasting shoe leather. It's a game of speed. Now if you want to do 50-milers or 100-milers, which nobody does, and get your little medal you bought, fine. But when the gun goes off in the marathon, it's the fastest they give the awards to, not who can run all day."
I stand guilty on both counts! The recovery from my first 100 miler has been slow... aches, pains, lethargy, work pressures, family schedules, a weekend at the Shakori Hills Music Festival, bringing my younger son to his first Phish show... I just couldn't seem to get back on track until the past few weeks.
That brings me to last weekends 4th of July holiday. I felt something pulling me to head to the mountains, so I took Friday afternoon off and my wife, Sara, and I drove up to Pilot Mtn and did a 2 1/2 hour hike around and over Pilot(after a 10 mi run that morning.) I was still feeling like I needed more mtn trails so I shot Beth Minnick of Abingdon, VA a message to see if she was doing a weekend trail run. She invited me to join her Iron Mountain Trail Runners (IMTR) group on a run 4th of July morning beginning at the Elk Garden trail. I quickly did an internet search and found a room at a reasonably priced Inn in Damascus. I'd not really been to Damascus since 1978 when a friend and I hiked 722 miles of the AT as 19 yr old college students. I was all smiles as I got into town mid day Sunday remembering those hiking days so long ago. Damascus has changed a bit over the years thanks to the Creeper Trail. More eateries, bike shops and such. In 1978 there was one diner with one heck of a juke box. Before leaving home I found an old scrap book my mother kept with photos and letters I wrote home from the trail... letters? no blogging in 1978? I found a photo of me taken outside the back porch of the AT Hostel. Sara took another pic of me at the same spot this weekend. Below are photos from 1978 of me outside the hostel, a group of us below Fontana Dam, and the envelope postmarked June 14, 1978, Damascus VA (postage was .15!)
Okay, now getting to the running part. Beth suggested she and JJ would pick me up in Damascus on the way to the Elk Garden meeting spot. So good to meet JJJ who I had only seen in photos and mentions in other blogs. JJ is a true mountain man with beard, ponytail and kilt to prove it!
There were 8 of us in all... great to see Tammy and Rick G, and meet new trail running friends Sean D, Donna B, Mike D and of course JJ and Beth. This is starting to sound like the numerous AA meetings I've attended. "Hi, my name is Rob, I'm a trail runner" "Hi Rob!"
We were off on our run around 7:30 a.m. with nice temps and gentle breezes as we headed up the AT northbound (I think) with Rick leading the way.
We headed up single file as the grassy area quickly changed to wooded and here and there we all seemed to comment on the sweet smells of the changing environment. We stopped now and then to re-group, and keep us all on the planned route. If I wasn't talking and remembering races run and races missed, getting to know my new friends... I was concentrating on the trail and feeling really good inside because I was with friends once again moving my way along the appalachian trail. We turned off the AT onto the Mt Rogers trail and several others as we made our way up towards the summit of Mt. Rogers (the highest peak in Virginia.) It was great to have JJ with us to give wisdom, feed us, confirm what trail we were on, which trail we should take, and where to find water to refill drying water bottles. JJ truly knows the land and mountains so well and is at home. We were hoping Tammy and Donna would find their way when all of a sudden there they were looking strong making their way up an alternate trail to our location in a grassy bald. They headed on down while the rest of took a side trail to a water source, then decided we had to head to the summit. Very cool to be on top of Virginia in a thick wooded stand of trees, cool and damp.
We got to see plenty of ponies feeding and roaming and after a break on the summit we headed down. Beth led the way followed by Sean and then Rick and I. Beth lived up to her reputation of being a speedy downhill technical runner but I thought I did a pretty good job keeping up with Beth's 30 yr old legs using my almost 53 yr old legs... and Rick behind me with 50 yr old legs. I backed off just a bit in the last mile as I didn't quite have my trail legs back and was feeling a little fatigue and didn't want that to cause a crash. When we hit the "Sound of Music" type meadow at the bottom Rick picked it up and caught up with Beth and Sean as they hit the parking lot with me a few strides behind. The strong duo of Tammy and Donna beat us back to Elk Garden after our diversions and then Mike and JJ made it in and we were done! We all began to clean up, re-fueled and enjoyed that after run buzz and the company of old and new friends.
Beth says Sean and I are now members of the IMTR crew but Rick says we still have to do the 42 mile night run to gain membership. Thank you so much Beth for inviting me to join you and your friends.