It was a pleasure, as always, to gather with a group of WNC trailrunners new and old for the 6th Annual Bent Creek Gobbler. The run is designed as a ~50k that runs in a figure-8, the first loop is about 16 miles and the second is about 14. The weather was impeccable and the forest beautiful.
Having run the Turkey Strut just a couple of days prior, I was uncertain as to how many miles my body would be interested in putting on and how hard I would be able to run due to the lingering soreness in the lower legs.
We took off at about 9:30. I ran with the speedsters in the lead pack, Luna wouldn't have had it any other way. The first couple of miles were great, rolling along South Ridge Road slowly gaining elevation. Shortly thereafter I was deterred for 6 or 8 minutes to wait for Luna while she pursued a deer for who knows how far down the north face of the mountain. By the time she returned we fell into place with the other group of runners who brought with them smiles and great conversation. Upon reaching the Mountains-to-Sea trail at its intersection with Hard Times Road, Luna and I worked hard up the climbs on our way to the aid station where we refilled the water bottle and met up with Jason and his dog, River.
Jason led the way for the next few miles with the two dogs at his heels and me trailing their tails close behind. We had a speedy march up a couple of climbs and enjoyed the fantastic descent heading down Truckwheel Mountain to one of my favorite stretches of trail- the ~4 miles from there up to Bent Creek Gap. Around here I took over the lead position and pushed the pace on and off with the dogs and Jason running as strong as can be, which provided great motivation to keep me working hard. About a mile or so out from Bent Creek Road we came up behind Brandon and Matt and hung with them until we reached the ~2 mile descent back to the start/finish area.
After a few minutes of trotting on the downhill my arch-enemy, the IT-band, began to make its presence known so I turned to its kryptonite, running fast. Luna and I turned up the speed to what was likely a sub-6:00 pace for the last mile/mile and a half to reach the start/finish after about 2 hours and 6-8 minutes of running.
After scarfing a bit of food, contemplating the state of my IT-band, and being beckoned by beverages being chilled in the babbling brook, I elected to call it a day and not pursue the full 50k.
As always, the post-run gathering was a delight Momma-Kirk got a nice fire burning and there were beverages and snacks to suit every taste. The only breaks in conversation and laughter were to cheer for runners who were finishing the first loop and eventually those who finished the full 30 miles.
It was the last big group fun-run of 2011 and a huge success. Definitely looking forward to getting faster and stronger as we move forwards to all the great runs plotted out for 2012!