Coach Spencer Runs in the Woods

Coach Spencer Runs in the Woods

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Summer Odyssey of Mountain Running

Let's face it- I am slow and heavy right now. I thought once I got over my year & a half of injuries, I'd be able to get back into shape more quickly. Hasn't worked out that way, but I am pleased to be able to complete long runs. I've had several 15-65 mile runs in the past 2 months. I have zero speed but can manage to get these runs done. At this point, that's good enough & we'll see if we can combine the distance and speed down the road. I'm patient.

Being slower, I've enjoyed getting back to plodding through the woods and seeing majestic sights. This summer, I'm planning on going to see as much natural beauty as possible and using running as an excuse to do it. In the past three weeks, I've gone on a terrific family backpacking trip, gone on a backpacking trip with friends & ran 40 miles in the mountains. I planned a 10 day journey of running on mountainn trails- every day beautiful and challenging. Most of the places I'll be running, I've never been before. Something came up and I'll have to break it up into 2 different trips, but maybe that's better. The grind of doing it for 10 days might prove to be too much. These are all tough, tough trails, visiting some of the highest peaks in the Southern Appalachians- many days over 6'000' in elevation.

This is sort of an internal quest, but I'm certainly open to some company. Not being around people for long stretches does funny things to a person. Here's my schedule:

Friday, June 21- Art Loeb to John Rock- 19.5 miles
Art Loeb is a tough 30 mile trail. I've only run the few easternmost miles. I have run to the top of John Rock on another trail. It's a large rock face overlooking another.

Saturday, June 22- Art Loeb to Shining Rock- 15.9 miles
Black Balsam, Tennett Mountain and Shining Rock is the most well known section of the Art Loeb Trail with some balds. Then running over to Devil's Courthouse.

Sunday, June 23- Bartram Trail & AT to Cheoah Bald- 10.5 miles
Getting a shuttle ride from Wesser, NC a few miles to Winding Stair Gap, running up the Bartram Trail to Cheoah Bald, hitting the Appalachian Trail & then back to Wesser. Should be great views and old growth forest.

Monday, June 24- AT to Mt. Leconte & Charlie's Bunion, Day 1- 15.5 miles
Tuesday, June 25-Mt. Leconte, Day 2- 14.1 miles
Trails in GSMNP over Mt. Leconte (over 6,500') to the AT to Charlie's Bunion & then sleeping at Freezing Water Shelter and running back out on a slightly different route the next day. I'll have a tent, food, sleeping bag, etc. with me. Fully loaded pack weighs less than 14 pounds with water. Lightweight stuff.

Wednesday, June 26- AT to Big Bald- 12 miles
Out & back on the AT to another bald. I'll be running on a lot of open mountains this summer.

Monday, July 1- AT- Roan Balds- 26.2 miles
My favorite place.

Tuesday, July 2- AT to Mt. Rogers- 10.3 miles
Hopefully running with someone I coached 8-10 years ago to the top of Virginia's highest peak.

Wednesday, July 3- Snake Mt/Rich Mt Bald/Elk Knob- 15.5 miles
This will be an adventure. I've run Elk Knob many times. Short & steep. It's got the best long range view I know of. Snake Mountain is supposed to be better and has a long narrow rocky spine you go over. The bigger challenge may be finding my way to the top. Snake Mt is on private land and there's supposed to be a lightly used path- not a well established trail. Rich Mt Bald is even less than a trail. Both of these two will be a hike/scramble rather than a run most likely. I'm looking forward to it!

July 5-7- Backpacking trip with Wren at Linville Gorge

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

40 Miles at Beech Mountain


Last week, I ran 40 miles at Beech Mountain. I'd say 40% trail, 40% dirt road & 20% road. Even ran up a ski slope. I've been coming to Beech Mountain for 30 years & ran places I've never been, includ
ing the most beautiful spot on the mountain (I think). Unfortunately, my phone/camera had died by then so I couldn't get pictures of the Lower Pond Creek Trail, but the waterfalls & old growth Hemlocks were beautiful, even if that mile section of trail was way too steep, rooty & rocky to run much.

The run, though... so very difficult. There is no flat spot at Beech Mountain at all. An hour into the run, I was tired. Two hours into it I was really tired. Three hours into it, I wanted to stop. A mile from the end, I went up one of the impossibly steep roads, wondering how it could possibly be so steep. I came very close to sitting down in the middle of the road & crying. For the past few miles, I had been moaning and verbalizing my exhaustion. It was a struggle, but I kept pushing it & went super slow (as if there was a choice) and finished up the 40 miles in 8:18. Actually, I'm guessing on both the mileage & time. My phone & GPS watch both died. Time is correct within 2 minutes. Mileage was no less than 38.5. I seriously doubt I underestimated the distance. :)

40 miles was my absolute limit given the terrain. Broke me down but I'm
pleased to have completed it.