Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Preparing for my 100 mile adventure in the mountains

"The very basic core of man's living spirit is his passion for adventure." - Christopher McCandless

On Friday at 6 p.m., I will line up with a very large and competitive field at the Grindstone 100. We don't have any mountains (or hills really) in Charleston, so to help prepare me for the 23,000+ feet of climbing I have to do in the Grindstone 100, I spent three of the last four weekends in the mountains of North Carolina and South Carolina.

On my first weekend mountain trip (September 5), I arrived to Mt. Mitchell on a Friday and managed to complete a quick and easy 15 mile run. My main run for the weekend was on Saturday - where I hammered out 25 miles. I started my run from the Black Mountain campground up to the the summit of Mt. Mitchell and worked my way along the Black Mountain Crest trail, which is deemed the most rugged trail on the East Coast by Back Packer Magazine, over to Winter Star. I planned to run the entire trail down to Bolens Gap but unfortunately weather and a lack of water caused me to turn around at Winter Star. I woke up on Sunday feeling a little sore, but forced myself to run an easy 7 miles - bringing my total mileage for that weekend to 47 miles.

Mt. Mitchell Selfie

My wife decided to join me on my second trip to the mountains. We decided to travel up to Table Rock State Park to camp.  I ran 14 miles in Charleston before leaving at noon on Friday, knowing we wouldn't arrive to Table Rock until well in to the afternoon.  On Saturday, I made my way up the Pinnacle Trail and then along the Foothills Trail to Sassafras Mountain, which is the highest point in South Carolina. Once again I was forced to turn around due to weather and lack of water... one of these days I will carry enough water on my training run (promise!). All in all, it was a good 22 mile run with tough climbs and some fun downhill single track.  Running even just that short section of the Foothills Trail really makes me want to explore all 77 miles of it and possibly make an attempt at the fastest known time... maybe next year.

View from Sassafras Mountain

I decided to head back to Table Rock to close out my third weekend training trip in the mountains. I went by myself and decided to enjoy some backcountry camping.  On Friday I ran to the top of Table Rock, then over to Pinnacle before heading down the Pinnacle Trail.  As soon as I returned to my car, I grabbed my camping pack and headed 4.5 miles back up the Pinnacle Trail to the Foothills Trail where I camped for the night. I had to sleep in running shorts since my pants were soaking wet from all the rain that poured down on me as I made my way to camp, and I didn't bring nearly enough clothing to keep me warm in my hammock - it was a rough night. I planned to get up early the next morning to see the sun rise, but quickly decided against that due to the frigid temperatures (low 40's is now considered freezing to this Charleston boy). When I finally woke up, I quickly packed up camp and dropped my things off at my car before lacing up and heading back up the trail to the top of Table Rock. I only logged a total of 25 miles, not including the 9 mile hike with a 30 lbs pack, for the weekend.

Breakfast on Bald Knob as the sun comes up

Considering I had surgery in late June and have only been training for the last month and a half, I am not sure what kind of shape I truly am in.  Ideally, I'd like to have two more weeks to train for Grindstone but I doubt the race director will move the race back for little ole me.  So come Friday when I toe the line, I am going to do what I do best... compete.  This will undoubtedly be the hardest race I have ever done.  Forget the night running or the technical single track, the elevation change alone makes me want to cry when I think about it.  No matter what happens, as long as I make it out alive, I am happy to make my return to running ultras again.

Elevation Profile of Grindstone 100


  1. All I can say is "wow."

    As a resident of the very flat, very sea-level state of Florida, the thought of that kind of elevation makes me dizzy. Worth it for some of those views, though. How gorgeous.

    Best of luck. You're going to crush this.

  2. Hey dude! WOW! Looks like an awesome race and some good recent training. Just take it in stride and don't overdo the beginning. You can do this!