**First rule of CRA there is no CRA**
Start-to-Dragon's Tooth parking
This was the third year I’ve had the pleasure of sharing these gorgeous trails with great friends in early March. Saturday morning we all gathered in the secret place to begin what would be a great day of running. As we headed out in the early morning I found myself running with a group of mostly familiar faces. The group included some stud runners Neal Gorman (Grand Slam record holder), Brian Schmidt (2010 Grindstone winner), Jake Reed (2010 Promise land winner), Harland Peelle (2008 Grindstone winner), and David Frazier (recent TWOT finisher)…quite an accomplished group of runners. As we made our way up to Dragon tooth there was friendly chatter and the normal I’m out of shape talk…sandbaggers. Pretty soon the group had trimmed down to Neal, Jake, David, and myself, apparently Harland and Brian didn’t think we were all that entertaining. The pace was a little hot early for a “training run” but I figured what the heck. We summited Dragon’s Tooth, climbing to the point for what would turn out to be the only view we’d have all day. Leaving the summit we return to the Dragon Tooth parking lot over some gnarly trail that I absolutely love…..rocks and sharp drop offs…flying over this stuff makes me feel so alive. Neal, David, and I were moving pretty quickly down the technical trail gapping Jake. Jake loves technical downhill’s (cough, cough) but I knew as soon as the trail smoothed out he’d be right back with us. The three of us strolled into the parking lot at about 1:21 into the run, followed closely by Jake.
Dragon’s Tooth Parking-to-SR 779
Those of you that have done this run know all about the dreaded North Mountain. Well I’ve got some news and some bad news. First the good news they have done a nice job cleaning the trail up and remarking all the intersecting trails. The bad news is they didn’t shorten the trail or remove any of the little hills on the ridge. I will say I do think doing North Mountain early in the run seem a lot more manageable.
As the four of us began the climb up North Mountain I found myself the leader of the group. The two young bucks (David and Jake) sandwiched in between the two old guys (Neal and I). I was doing my best to keep the pace relaxed but I had a feeling the young guys wanted to battle a bit….not me. Several times I offered to step aside to let the battle begin but each time all declined my offer. After about an hour of running on the ridge Neal had dropped back a bit and with the guys pushing me from behind I decided to take a pit stop and wait for Neal. Perfect timing as I finished Neal appeared. We ran together for next 30 minutes or so before reaching the trail that descends down to SR779. There Jake and David were waiting to confirm that was indeed the trail. As we descended I decided it was time for the real pit stop so I jumped off trail and took care of business. I ran solo the next mile into the aid awaiting us at SR779. I arrived just in time to see David and Jake bounding up the trail, thinking to myself let battle begin. I hung around awhile chatting with Keith and kidding that I had no desire to be part of that. I covered the North Mountain section in about 2 hours.
Leaving SR779 I was enjoying the solitude of running solo. Soon enough I spotted Neal up ahead so I pushed a little harder to catch up. I’d met Neal on a couple occasions but never really had the opportunity to really get to know him. We chatted about a variety of topics. Neal is a thoughtful and intelligent guy, I figured I should hang around with him and hopefully some of that might rub off on me. The climb up to Tinker Cliffs passed fairly quickly. Tinker Cliffs is usually one of the highlights of the run but the rain and clouds robbed us of any view much less the spectacular ones seen from this point most days. We continued on towards MacAfee’s knob at decent pace chatting the entire time. Did I mention how much I enjoyed running with Neal….if I didn’t….I enjoyed running and chatting with Neal.
MacAfee’s Knob came and went in pretty much the same fashion as Tinker Cliffs…no views to speak of which was a little disappointing considering this is usually the only time all year I venture to this spot. One thing I’d like to add about this section is that the 3.4 miles from MacAfee’s to 311 has to be marked using Horton miles. That is all on that subject. Crossing 311 to my surprise Jake and David were fueling up for the last 5 miles. We cover this section in 2:33.
RT 311-to-the finish
Jake and David had left a few minutes ahead leaving Neal and me alone once more. I starting to think maybe we just weren’t that interesting. This section was much of the same. The one highlight was crossing the pastor with a 2 ton Bull standing right in the trail. At first I thought all the livestock were cows so I decided to act like an idiot and shout to get the herd moving…oops let’s just say I went around, he didn’t move…next time I going to ride him. We ended up covering this section in about 46 minutes for a total run time of 6:47:46. I was surprised we covered the 35ish miles and 9,000' of gain in this time but never felt like we were pushing too hard. I take this a sign that my training is heading in the right direction.
Jake and I hung around for a while waiting for Micah to finish up. At points we’d sit in the car to avoid the rain that had steady begun to fall. The best part of these gathering is the socializing that occurs while everyone is finishing up. I wish we could have stayed longer and enjoyed watching everyone finish but with a long drive home and the weather we decided against. Thanks to all of you….you knows who you are…that make this possible. All you newbies to this run come back to these trails when you can enjoy the wonderful views. Next for me Crowder Mountain 50K FA style this Saturday….then hopefully watching the Tar Heels take care of business in the ACC tournament.
Couple notes that may interest only me (Sorry Peter King):
* This capped off 4 straight weeks of at least 82.0 miles and 12,000’gain….I think I getting into shape.
* I’ve averaged 10.14 miles and 1744’ gain per day for 2011.
* Congrats to team member Jenny Anderson for setting the FKT completing the El Camino trail…500+ miles in 9d 5h 29m
* TheAidStation.com officially announces theaidstation.com ultrarunning team members
* TheAidStation.com is proud to announce their sponsorship of Adam Casseday’s AT adventure, Highland Sky, CMMM, and Trilogy
* For those of you who didn’t know I’m a huge University of North Carolina Fan…..watching this year basketball team develop has been one of the gratifying as a fan that I can remember. Go Heels!
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