Bradley's View

Bradley's View

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Mini-Mitchell Challenge/First Marathon

    Having run quite well over the past few weeks I felt compelled to test my body and see just how hard I can push it and still elicit the desired outcome.  The desired outcome being having traveled a couple of dozen miles and remaining uninjured.  For this test I knew that I wanted to get my first 26-miler under my belt and also get to somewhere with a stunning view.  Given the recent Blue Ridge Parkway Closures my options were slightly limited making it very easy to decide on Mount Mitchell as my destination.
    After coaxing(or hoaxing) Adam Hill into joining me for an hour or so of the run, I finally got underway.  We began by Lake Susan in Montreat and made our way up Appalachian Way.  I chose beginning with Appalachian Way because on a map it looks short and sweet; upon beginning the run I realized that this decision would result in about 15 or 20 minutes of running up an 11+% grade.  That woke up the legs...
    For whatever reason, my legs were under the impression they were carrying an extra 30 pounds around.  It may have had something to do with the Camelpak on my back, but, sheesh...  I did not find myself running with the typical fleet-footedness and ease that I have come to expect during the first hour and a half of the run.  Heavy legs combined with stomach cramps led to a flood of frustration that, without the company of Adam early on, may well have washed away my ambition of summiting Mitchell that day.
    After Adam turned back an hour and fifteen minutes in, I continued on carefully controlling consumption of fluids in hopes of keeping my stomach from lashing out at me once again.
    Once I reached the Buncombe Horse Trail at the foot of Mt. Mitchell State Park I felt a  sense of relief knowing that most of the uphill was over.  Camp Alice Trail was a rude re-awakening for my quads featuring little short steps for a steep mile with the shady areas covered in ice and snow.  Alas, I reached the summit!  I was one of few people there.  I stood out like a sore thumb in that I was wearing shorts and a T-shirt while everyone else wore scarves and jackets reminiscent of marshmallows.  Here I rested and soaked up the view for about 20 minutes before beginning the return trip.
A stunning photo taken and sent to me by a nice man from Lancaster, PA
    On the way back down my insides had settled; unfortunately, by this point, my legs had been worn down.  I was unable to find my "happy place" on the way back down either, but persisted nonetheless.  During the final two miles, my legs were pretty tired of running(especially pounding downhill).  Had anyone else been on Old Mitchell Toll Road I may well have been mistaken for a zombie.
    Upon arriving at the top of Appalachian Way again, I began running down in hopes of pushing through the pain in my feet.  I felt as if I was left with no choice but to succumb to the cries of my feet.  I elected to remove my shoes and continue down the mountain wishing all the while I would stumble upon a bicycle or vacant golf cart to expedite my descent.
    All in all, I had a fantastic adventure.  The pain was part of the process.  In running for nearly 6 hours, nearly twice as long as I had previously, I realized the pent up potential that my body holds with regards to running.  In covering somewhere between 28 and 30 miles, between 8 and 10 more than I had previously run, I was elated in anticipation of the magnificent stretches of trails I could watch pass beneath my feet in years to come.

   Being in nature one is left with no choice but to marvel at creation.  Be it vast flatlands, rugged mountain tops, or a simple stream snaking its way down a mountain, it is sure to inspire awe in even the hardest of hearts.  Despite this, I truly believe that the finest of all God's creations lies in the mind of man.  One can shatter a rock with the proper hammer, dam any river with enough concrete, burn any forest in conducive conditions, but the will of man is something far harder to shake.

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