Sunday, June 1, 2014

QC climbs a small mountain just because (pics galore)

I was nudged awake by the elderbeast. Her 4ish a.m. wake-up call is part of my life as she's gotten older.
It's raining hard and I can hear it before we even go downstairs. Maybe this idea is not going be able to come to fruition.

I fall back asleep, wake to feed the restless dogs at 6am, and lay in bed until around 7:45a.m.

The rain has subsided, cool (re: 70s) temperatures are in the forecast, and it is beautifully overcast outside.

I now have no argument against it for myself. I start to get dressed. I have a momentary thought of asking myself if I should alter any of my normal running clothes. Decide I shouldn't think about it too much.

I tell Adam my plan. He gives a look. The I know you are going to do it anyway because you're crazy, but I worry. He tells me to make sure I have my road ID so that when they find my body between 2 boulders, they'll know who I am.

I eat an untoasted bagel without peanut butter. Somehow I'm too lazy to toast it or even dip it in peanut butter. Runner logic. I decide to bring the last one in the bag in case I'm hungry after my adventure.

Soon, I am jamming out to classic rock in my 4x4 headed to the mountains like I do this every weekend. I stop at Starbucks to get a giant iced coffee. Black please, no sugar (in case you are ever making me coffee, this is important).
I drive where the highway turns to a stoplight road and beyond the city of Dawsonville. I wind through the Georgia wine country, soaking in the morning. I finally feel awake once I start to hit the curves of the mountains.

Wait, mountains?

I see cyclists pumping hard in a single line on the far right hand shoulder. They look tired. I start to have a twinge of what the heck am I doing up here?

But I climb up and over the mountains with my car and find the entrance to Vogel State Park like I knew exactly where I was going.  I cautiously drive into the civilized portion of the park and am relieved to see A) a restroom and B) a welcome center. They are hit up in priority order. As I am inside the welcome center, I overhear a hiker talking to one of the rangers about a recent bear sighting. He's all like don't worry, I have bear spray. I'm all like I'm just going to pretend I am not hearing this conversation and I am soon headed back to my car with a trail map to tuck my fuel belt pocket.

My stomach is feeling kind of empty. I decide to eat my post-run bagel pre-run.

Key, 3 gels, map, phone, 2 10 ounce bottles of water. I am going to need more water. I tuck a 16-ounce bottle of water in the crook of my arm and head for the trail head.

Run, run, run.....wheee!!!!! This is so fun and it's so pretty and I can see why everyone loves trails! Half a mile in, I'm panting like I just did mile repeats. I pull out my trail map and actually look at the elevation chart. Oh, we're going up!

Why did I do this yesterday?:
Legs are not feeling fresh and I'm climbing. But I tell myself to just forgo everything I know about pace and run by feel. I trudge up the first mile and cross a road. I realize that I haven't seen anyone the whole time, but the trail seems pretty obvious at this point.

The next 2 miles are almost all downhill. The terrain is rocky, full of roots, and slightly muddy. I love it.

I took out the trail map a couple of times to make sure I was headed in the right direction. Seemed to be. As I got further along, the trail narrowed a good bit and the spring foliage was brushing my legs with each step.

For a short while, I felt like I was running flat and then I was met with 3.5 miles of climb. 2030' at 3.1 and 4157' at 6.45. I have no idea if that is super difficult or not, but it was hard. I stopped a good bit to take selfies pictures and drink water. I realized I had off and on cell service, so I texted Adam to let him know I was alive.

There were lots of beautiful water crossings:

I reach 5 miles into the trek and I am tired. I have been walking uphill for a good bit and have found very little space that I can even attempt to run. Oh well. I keep trudging.

I get to a point where I am know I am in the homestretch for this particular peak. Mostly because the trees get all funky and then it turns into real-life Fern Gully.

I pass a couple of hikers near the peak. There is no lookout anywhere (WTF??) and I start to descend this particular stretch--about 800' in 1.5 miles.

I know there is one more beast to climb and I'm down to my last 10 ounces of water. Rawr! Where are all those fast moving water sources now!?

I see this sign as I'm crossing over a road, headed into the last climb:
I feel pretty good knowing that while most people are obviously hiking this and not running, that I'm about 2/3 into the loop and around 2 hours finished. Ahead of the curve, wahoo!!  Signs with elevation are kind of cool too:

I climb 800' in the next half mile and it takes every ounce of my mental strength to push forward. My body is still doing okay enough, but I am literally pulling myself because the grade is so steep.

And then those beautiful ferns come into sight and I know the top is close.

No lookout again, but I'm satisfied because it is all downhill from this point!

I'm less than a half mile into the downhill section when I pass 4 hikers coming up. I say something like good afternoon, beautiful day to be out here, right? They nod and smile. Then one of the women in the group says wow, you are really badass!

I smile and carry on. Thank you random stranger!

The last few miles I tried to fly when I could. There were sections that were a bit flatter that I actually felt like I was running, but I mostly was just trying to keep my body from falling down the hill.

Somewhere around the 11 mile mark, I came up a rather large creek with fast moving water. I had only a few ounces of water left so I decided to fill up one of my empties.

When I realized I was pretty close to the camp after the trails opened up in the following mile, I decided to just take a quick sip from the trail water because it was cold. I claim to know zero about drinking "wild" water other than it should come from a source that is moving. But this tasted pretty amazing. Cold and clear. If I turn up dead from a weird parasite...well, you know what happened.

 Just before I got back to the park area, I took a turn too soon and ended up finishing my route along the roads of campsites. I was happy to be back in civilization and relieved that for the last half mile I didn't have to worry about trip over rocks or tree branches.

When I reached my car, I texted Adam that I was alive and unhurt. I grabbed my wallet and walked back into the welcome center on a mission.

Mission accomplished:

A Snickers never tasted so delicious.

After going the long way home (amazing that I made it through 12 miles in the woods without GPS, but I ended up taking a longer route home...), I uploaded Penelope to see just what the heck happened out there:

That's going to hurt tomorrow.

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