Sunday, November 02 2008 @ 09:25 PM EST Contributed by: Squonk Views: 3064
This is a wonderful trail, and the gathering of those to run it the first Saturday each November is nice and easy-going.
Those of you who have run the Tanawha Trail along Grandfather Mountain, will recognize similar terrain, but the views along Shut-in are stunning as the trail rises to Mt. Pisgah.
Put this on your calendar for next year, November 7, 2009. I highly recommend camping at the Mt. Pisgah Campground, but it closes on November 1st 2009, so there's the Mt. Pisgah Lodge and other stays around Asheville.
It helps to have perfect fall colors and perfect weather. Some impressions:
- Casually setting up camp and reading when Taz shows up, sets his tent and joins me at the fire. Clear and cold. Later, serenaded by coyotes.
- Seeing Kristen, Zap, Nimbus, Anna, and Tim at packet pickup, and running into KernDog and Raven (Kristen+Dave = Raven; I'm going with it. I can't call her Dave and there's another Kristen in this note). Taz is sporting his Skeletor shirt, so I know he plans to hurt himself and others. Where was Monk? I didn't see him at the race start....whatever...I felt his presence. Was also delighted to see Sharon and Chip who were coming off of a marathon the previous week, and then the Munich marathon the week before that. I hadn't seen them since Big Horn and I guess they're just running jet-setters and friendly as ever...and Jim C. and a bunch of other Godivans...great folk!
- Enjoyed the company of Kristen, Anna, and Leighton going around the arboretum and then through our first climbs. Golden pine needles with the sun streaming through - it smelled great! We talked to a guy who has run 7 Shut-ins in a row. He said the first half is really about 35% of the race. We asked if he'd ever Uwharried himself and he admitted he hadn't, yet, but is giving it some thought.
- At the first aid station there was a lot of hollering - it was Anna's clan and Zap and Tim had shirts on with all sorts of supportive jargon. I was happy to be in their company because there was no container large enough for all the love and I benefitted from spill-over proximity.
- On an early downhill a woman runner asked to step by, which she did and then tore down the hill. I was pacing off another woman, from Durham I believe, and we chatted, then Nimbus, Anna and I passed, picked up some speed and streamed along the trail
- There were two "sides" of the trail - the south side of the Blue Ridge Parkway and the North side. The south side was sunny; the north, light, but with shadows. There were expansive views through the trees on both sides and every time we wove across the Parkway, Zap and Tim and Anna's family were whooping up a storm.
- MOST VIVID IMPRESSION OF THE TRAIL: there is the point where you can look ahead for about a half mile and the trail bends along the mountainside. And there was this gigantic overhang of rocks. I could see about three runners ahead and it was just so wild and "back there" and this, I think, is a section of trail that goes on for about three miles, etched along the mountain. It flows wonderfully and is gorgeous.
- MOST "WHOO-HOO" MOMENT: A gigantic pile of bear scat in the middle of the trail, somewhere around mile 12.
- PURPLE WOLFHOUND AWARD - I felt the presence of purple wolfhounds when, along another section of the north side of the parkway and pacing with another runner, who had also never done Shut-in, the light hit a turn in the trail and the entire mountainside was infused with color. It seemed that we had just run into a Monet painting, like we had stepped through a tapestry of color and light. I remarked to Nimbus that we needed to tuck that encounter away for when we felt miserable later in the race. He said, "Yeah, we need to hard-code that." It truly was amazing and all four of us at that point remarked that there was a sensation of immersion, not seeing the colors of the leaves, but being within and around the colors of the leaves, and all the light...it was all an impression, nothing really distinct or separate, just all there, like, there, ya know...?
- MOST GENERAL THOUGHT - everyone was so friendly - other runners, support (Zap, Tim and Anna's Crazies), the volunteers, Nimbus, Anna, Kristen...a very gentle processional up a mountain.
- Crossing over the Parkway to head up the last two miles, Nimbus politely says, "Squonk, I think I'd like to pick it up and try to break 4 hours." Anna: "Me too!" I pull over, they take off, looking very strong and relaxed after quickly refueling at Zap and Tim's mobile pit stop. I started walking with another woman, who was out of sight ahead of me in a couple of minutes, and then I was alone. The wind was whipping in from the North West, a bit chilly, but the sky was totally clear. I enjoyed this time to climb without rush. When I saw a nice view from the ridge, I stopped and surveyed it recalling:
"Stand on hills of long forgotten yesterdays,
Pass amongst your memories told, returning ways,
As certain as we walk today
press over moments leaving you..."
Then I crested the highest point of the trail and heard cheers below as others finished. A few feet before the finish there's Monk smiling encouragement and then, well, the end of another trail run, and Zap with a camera. A few minutes later Kristen finishes looking all fresh and relaxed like she does this sort of thing every day!
There was some great running yesterday - in terms of times, Raven nearly broke the award-winning ranks of the top 7. Wow! As for the trail, it's quintessential Appalachian terrain - laurel and rhododendron, some roots, some stones, hardwoods mostly and some great rock formations. Most generally, I'd say the trail runners love the trail and that they also generally love and respect other trail runners. I admire that and am glad to be some speck in that universe of activity.
I do have a criticism. I saw way too much trash on the trail at distances greater than 100 yards of the aid stations. I saw no fewer than 3 cells from Fuel Belts and picked up one and carried it for 7 miles. I believe that even if a race has sweeps, there should be some inherent code that you do not drop your crap for others to see or pick up. I know mistakes happen, but I think I was seeing intentional littering and I know the trees just don't like that sort of thing.
Do this race! I was comfortable with a long run of 13 miles leading up to it. My legs, body and soul feel great -- I guess I didn't "race it" but I'm not really sure what that means anymore...
Many thanks to Zap et al for the ride back to the campground. Taz and I shuttled down to get his car and then hit Black Dome outfitters and a pub. And then, back at camp, enjoyed the fire, came up with a very interesting business proposal for Trail Running Capes (seriously, you'll want to know more about this), and conked out beneath Orion and another chorus of coyotes.
"Ours, en-trance we surely carry on
and change the passing of the sun,
We don't even need to try,
we are one...
And I do think, very well,
as the truth unfolds
you, silently they move:
time, rainbows, sunlight...
(for quoted verse...Yes, you'll need to dive, deeply, into Topographic Oceans....)