AM- Epic run on the Art Loeb trail. This was, without a doubt, one of the most brutal, slow, painful, epic, and (at least once it was over) enjoyable training runs ever. I mean, 6 hrs for 19 miles with half the water I needed for a hot summer run- and that doesn't start to describe it. Anyways, started in camp and ran/hiked 3.7 miles up the start of AL. I had been warned about some hornets/yellow jackets at one spot and thought I avoided it, but they still found me. 2 quick, very painful stings later, I moved on. Met some campers at the saddle and we conferred on which path went where (again, I'm really not a fan of "keep the wilderness pure with no trail signs"). I ran/hiked the 1.3 miles up to the top of the famous Cold Mountain (namesake for a book and movie). The first half was too steep to run, the second half was extremely overgrown, worse than yesterday's run. 2/3 mile pushing through bushes is just slow. The reward was 2 overlooks that made the climb worth it. Returned back to the saddle. To give you an idea on how technical and slow it had been so far, I reached the saddle at 2:35 into the run. And it was only 7 miles. I've run marathons faster than that, y'all.
I had hoped the next section of the Art Loeb would be fast running as the trail appears to follow a ridge, but a backpacker told me it was the most technical section of all. He was right. Just a brutal trail following a ridge, sometimes dropping off the sides almost vertically. I got lost and had to do some backtracking. The section is called the Narrows and it's some of the slowest trail I've ever been on. After about 3 miles of slow trail and over an hour later, I finally hit the only smooth, runnable trail of the day. I cruised along, passing the confusing intersection from Thursday where I got lost (very easy to do on the unmarked trails) and pushed on till an open meadow, about 11 miles and just over 4 hrs into the run. Time to go back.
One thing I should mention. For summer runs, I usually plan on 25-30 oz of water an hour. For this trip, I only took 110 total ounces. I had really been rationing and started to notice on the way back. At first, my hands and wrists got really puffy, then my feet swelled up. Finally, I stopped sweating. Yeah, that's really not a good sign. I begged 10 oz water from some backpackers and pushed on. The narrows was again confusing, with a couple wrong turns and even some significant backtracking when I thought I was off-course but wasn't. I was very relieved to finally reach the saddle, 3.7 miles from the end, as I figured I could make the downhill even feeling poorly. The downhill was again very rocky and slow and I walked some of it, partially due to technicality and partially due to how I felt. It took me 70 minutes to get down! I ran into a scout troop hiking up that had about 20 wasp stings between them. When I reached the nest, I took a few extra minutes to circle way around the mean buggers. I finally pulled into the trailhead 6.5 hrs after starting. My watch ran for 5:56, and my "running time" was 5:25. 19 miles and 5000 ft climbing or so (garmin connect said 7000+ ft). What a run. I was pooped and jumped into a river, laying in the cold water and earning some stares from boy scouts. I had missed breakfast and lunch, so had to drive 30 minutes into town for a wonderful Waffle House meal. Great Southern run all around.
Past 2 days, 10 hours running. Wow- pretty wiped out. This run was perhaps my longest training run ever time-wise. I wasn't exhausted from running fast, but it was very rough terrain and I got way too dehydrated. Hope this will help and not hurt for my race next week. It's interesting my race will be almost twice the distance but hopefully the same time.
A nice stream near the start. You can tell cause my shoes are clean and dry, my legs aren't bloody, and my shorts aren't torn and wet
View towards the Smokies from Cold Mountain
Looking towards Asheville. Pretty country.
This is the trail, climbing over the rock. See the almost sheer wall above and below the trail? Terrain like this = 3 mph pace.
Typical trail. Yeah, not much of a trail.
The only fast running of the day.
View from the Bald at the turnaround. Glad I made it all the way to this point. You can see why they call these the Blue Ridge Mtns.