Just when I thought I was all that and a bag of chips for getting a PR at Myrtle Beach Marathon a few weeks ago, I was violently and humbly brought back from orbit. (I like my crow medium rare, thank you.) What was the lesson I learned? For starters, I do quite a bit of running on the rail-trail in Morgantown. It's easy to delude yourself into thinking that when you trot along the rail-trail for a couple of hours that you are logging "big miles". However, make no mistake, it wasn't long into Saturday's run before I recognized the distinct character, shall we say, of TWOT. This might be one of the tougher trails I've run since the Zane Grey 50 and I was definitely caught off guard.
Allow me to introduce the cast of characters in this blog post. The host of the parade was one Mike Frazier who just last month had managed to run three loops at an unofficial race called Cold TWOT. With Leadville as his primary objective, Mike has stepped up his game the past year and accordingly, has blossomed into quite the ultrarunner. Marc Griffin is another damn fine ultrarunner from the area. A few months ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Marc at a New Year's Day run over in Shenandoah National Park. He's the first guy I've met who has completed the so-called Beast Series; a series of 6 challenging ultras that have to be completed in a year. Tom Syre is a bright, aspiring Marine officer who I met at the Mason-Dixon Madness 50K several months ago (he won the men's division for the North). He's in the Beast Series for this year. Last, but not least, we have Missy Cummings, Tom's partner in crime. Missy has her gunsights on a 3 hour marathon in Charlottesville coming up soon and this was her first long distance trail run. Suffice it to say I was the weak link in the chain on this fine day. When we convened at a local gas station to convoy over to the trailhead at the butt crack of dawn, the very first line I ever said to Missy was "Today is a good day to die." This was an attempt at my dry Montana humor since it appeared Missy was a bit nervous about her introduction to trail running, much less her introduction to TWOT. But I would live to regret having fun at her expense in about 8 hours or so ...
|We're smiling at dawn ... but will we be smiling once we do a loop?|
(L to R): moi, Marc Griffin, Missy Cummings, and Tom Syre
|Beautiful Wild Oak Trail view from Little Bald Knob. Wish I could have seen it!|
|Pack string of elk heading up the trail.|
|Marc doubles as a comedian in his spare evenings.|
Finally, we were within a couple of miles of finishing the loop. Once again, I bonked, but this one was much worse. My legs were dead, my thinking and judgment clouded, and my heart was fluttering. Again, I stopped and shot a gel, sipped some water, and waited a few minutes. All I wanted to do was lay down in the leaf litter and fall to sleep. Yikes. I chuckled to myself recalling how the lithe pixie Missy had raced by me many miles ago never to be seen again. "Who's doing the dying today, Phil?!"
|Marc, Missy, and Tom are smiling at the finish. I'm bonking a mile back in the woods somewhere.|
|This ain't yo' mamma's rail-trail. 7,500' up, 7,500' down. Read 'em and weep.|
|My appetizer last Saturday night (smile). I adore the presentation!|