This after Christmas run has been on my radar since the VHTRC started it back up a few years ago and since Adam had to work on Friday limiting our plans for Christmas, I figured it would be a perfect opportunity to get out on the trails for a long run and a perfect finish for the year. Saturday approached and the weather forecast was looking better and better, with unseasonably warm temps and afternoon highs around 60degrees!
We woke up early, picked up Keith for a WUS carpool and headed out to the Massanuttens for a long day. I love these mountains, they are rugged, technical and unrelenting, occupying your mind with the dance of quick feet. This was going to be the longest run Adam has done since he injured his back in Alaska of March 2013 and I was hopefully that this would signal his triumphant return to ultrarunning.
We arrived on schedule at 6:45am for the 7:00am start time, but did not realize that after parking the car and getting ourselves ready, we had a solid 0.5mi walk to the starting line, aka The End of Carter’s Driveway. We arrived, checked in and as we were dropping off our aid and post race bags, Carter yelled out, “1 minute to start” WHAT?! There were people still streaming down the road and I still had my jacket on. We frantically shed of layers and dashed to the start in just in time for the “GO.”
We started our journey running up the road pretty quietly. I was not quite awake yet, hadn’t taken my pre-race bathroom break and the almost 4 mile climb that lay ahead before we hit the trails was feeling more like a chore than a good decision. However, as the skies lightened and the sunrise was coming, I started to brighten as well.
We hit Woodstock Tower and turned onto the trails, my heart could finally sing! We were done with the road (for a while). As we headed towards Edinburgh Gap, that section is the kind of technical that the Massanuttens are known for and with some nice winter leaf cover I took a spill. Now we are not talking about a good epic fall, crash and burn, we are talking about walking while trying to read the turnsheet and fall onto my hand, damn. The numbness in my thumb has finally faded today, hooray!
We got to Edinburg Gap aid station and were greeted by familiar faces. Sean Andrish was planning on running the next section with his new girlfriend, Angela, and we chatted briefly as he congratulated Adam on his return to ultrarunning, I grabbed a few kettle chips for the next section and we were on our way. The next 9miles were my least favorite of the whole run, although I am not complaining about avoiding Short Mountain. This section begins with 3miles of gentle climbing on dirt roads and finishes with almost 6miles of downhill, on roads, sounds like a piece of cake, but those roads beat you up! All I will say is that the miles flew by, along with the bear hunters, and we were en route to the halfway point!
The best part about this section for me was the 82 y/o gentleman out walking who chatting with us about his glory days of running in these mountains and “going long,” he was in such great spirits and moving so well, I really think he could be in for Boyer’s next year However, if I am moving as well as he is at 82, I am going to feel pretty good about my life!
David Snipes had quite the spread at Camp Roosevelt– Christmas cookies, Pocket Shots (individual gel packets filled with whiskey!), eggnog, standard aid station fare and ramen. I opted for broth, some almond brittle and conversation, not sure I have the stomach for booze on a run. Ready to be on our way and climbing up to the Eastern ridge, we headed out quickly from Roosevelt and I forgot a key element- I did not refill my water. I didn’t realize until we we had climbed up to Edith Gap and after taking stock of my remaining volume, I decided I had enough to make the 12mile stretch to Milford Gap aid station rather than heading back down. That was mistake number 1.
Mistake number 2 is more interesting and makes for a good story but it certainly added some time. We were running along with Evan Fisher and chatting, enjoying the beautiful day as we headed up to Kennedy Peak and suddenly the trail was a little less level than I remember and then nothing, no blazes, damn, I had managed to lead us off the orange trail (this is a reputation I don’t want!). Evan made the wise decision to head back the way we came, but Adam and I, convinced that the trail was just above us, decided to get our bonus miles in by bushwacking up and over Kennedy Peak. It certainly made the day more interesting, but I am not sure I would recommend anyone else try it. Review Mile 25…
We made it to the Party at Milford Gap and just in time as I had been rationing my water (one sip per mile for the last 5) and used my last 2 sips to take down some cashew butter. It was a one of those aid stations that I won’t soon forget- warm fire, volunteers having more fun than runners, but the finish line was calling and we were on our way. We hit the last unmanned aid and I was very glad to be carrying my ultraspire cup. Yes, it is annoying to drink out of and I really think there are so many improvements that could easily be made while still focusing on reducing waste, but it beats drinking out of the bottle and leaving it for all those who were coming behind me.
We made it back to Carter’s house in 8hr
25min26min and were greeted by hot, delicious soup, spiked egg nog (I could have drank a whole gallon of that!) and smiling faces. OFFICIAL RESULTS. We hung out for a short while but since Adam had exhausted his legs going from 0 to 40miles in his first ultra since the Iditarod, I was driving home and determined to get on the road before the sun set. All in all, the trails were in good use by ultrarunners, with lots of hikers and families out enjoying the sunny December day as well. It was a great and triumphant return to ultrarunning for Adam, a perfect way to end a wonderful year on the trails and a successful training weekend for me. My legs were sore but Western States is coming, so a 9mi run and chat with Mario and Martha on Sunday with the VHTRC Sunday’s in the Park felt like the right way to shake out my legs. All in all, that is what makes a successful winter weekend! A big THANK YOU to Carter, Tony, Snipes and all the volunteers who made this run possible!