The days leading up to the weekend of 9/24 were full of rain and storms. I had a work event to attend on Saturday the 24th but signed up for a noon shift instead of first thing in the morning so I could run the Salem Lake 30k. Because of flooding on the course they changed the route to one loop, then out to the aid station at the 6 mi mark and back. I tried to run a bit before the 8 a.m. start but settled on a couple of miles or so as the rain and wind was starting up. The city of Winston-Salem had done a good bit of work on the first 3.5 miles of the loop and the only thing we had to deal with was the heavy rain. I ran the first mile or so with my running friend and neighbor Chuck. First mile was 7:18 and I was feeling nice and smooth so I began to speed up after the first few miles. When we hit the back side of the loop it was a real mud fest... slipping, sliding, puddles and sinking into the slop. I was rolling along feeling pretty good as I completed the first 7 mi loop under 7 min/mi pace. A good bit faster then I planned and surpised to be catching up with some runners I figured would be well ahead of me. I hung on and finished the 18.9 mi course in 2:14, 7:06 per mile. A little further then a 30k w/ the course change due to flooding. I was surprised when I saw the results and had finished in 26th place. I didn't remember that many runners in front of me at the out and back section. Well apparently 10-12 runners didn't turn around and do the out and back part, they continued on for 2 loops. When the RD realized this he just sent them out to the 2 mile mark and back. So, they only ran 18 miles and the rest of us that ran the correct course ran 18.9. The overall winner was one of the people that ran the short course. Didn't make a lot of sense to me but that's what happened. Doesn't really matter I suppose but I do wonder how many of the runners in front of me actually ran as far as I did.
The next weekend, Oct. 1 I headed up to Grindstone Campground to camp and run with Beth Minnick and JJ Jessee and one of Beth's friends Jason. I noticed the weather in High Point was going to be much cooler but I was in for a bit of a shock when I checked in at the ranger station and was informed that there would be snow at the higher elevations. The temp dipped down to the mid 30's on Friday night with a steady rain. Thankfully Jason brought plenty of dry wood. Had some killer veggie soup Beth had prepared that we heated on the open fire. A group of runners from Boone joined us on Saturday morning and we had a nice 5+ hour adventure up in the Mount Rogers, Scales, Rhododendron Gap area. Light snow dusted most of the higher elevations and extreme temp and condition shifts made it all interesting. We even took a "short cut" that added plenty of time even though it was the "shorter" way to go. We actually had a one mile section that took us 28 minutes... and we were moving the whole time, but doing more rock climbing then running. We made our way back down to the campground and thankfully Jason had a nice fire going for us. Warm shower and back to the pot of veggie soup and chatting around the fire. Great to see Sean from Boone and meet Dennis, and a new/different Beth and Jenny (not Iron Mtn Beth and Jenny... this was Watauga Beth and Jenny). I struggled on the run, tired legs and little fueling but I made it back. As I was heading out of the campground a fairly big bear was making his way across the road. He stopped and looked at the car then ambled into the woods before I could get my phone out of my pocket to take a photo.
October 8th weekend it was off to Fries, VA for the New River Trail 50k. We had almost identical weather as last year. 40ish at the start, fog lifting off the New River and 60's at the finish. I ran some with Dennis Norris who I ran with the week before in the mountains and then moved ahead and started running with David Kirby who is a UNC law student. I caught up to David at about the 6 mile mark and we ran together until the marathon mark. The miles seemed to just go by and I knew I was running under 8 min pace but with no marked miles I wasn't sure what the pace was. David and I talked non-stop and it made the run seem effortless. At one point around 22 miles I said I hoped I wasn't slowing too much and he should move on if needed. He had a Garmin watch and said we aren't slowing much our last mile was 7:33. Definitely faster then I realized. We went through the marathon around 3:12-3:14 I believe. I stopped to water the bushes at around mi 26 and David gapped me by a bit. I coasted on in and finished in 3:51, 7:27 per mile. 5th place overall and 27 minutes faster then 2010 and beat my 50k PR from 1978 when I was 19 yrs old. After I did the facebook friends thing with David after the run I found out in addition to being a law school student, he is also a stand up comedian. Tip to the ultra runners... if you want the miles to fly by just run 3/4 of the race with a stand up funny guy and you'll forget about the pain.
I had a great 3 week block of running and feel good about my preparation for MMTR. I haven't done as much overall volume as last year but a bit more quality and more mountain training runs. I'll do one more 4 hour run this weekend and then rest for the 11/5 Masochist.