Last weekend, Lee took off to the Smokies with fellow race team member Ryne Anderson for some solid Pinhoti training. Here's his tale of adventure.
Seems a bit odd, but it's not often that I take a running excursion outside of Nashville. Luckily, my friend and trail guru Ryne Anderson was nice enough to ask me again (wasn't able to go the initial go-around) to hit the Smokies for some running this past weekend.
When I say odd...it's more along the lines of 'hey, I already have been lucky (and somewhat selfish) enough to start a small business revolving around what I love to do and have knowledge of, feel guilty if I'm not either at home with the family or at work on a weekend, and/or feel bad if I'm out running for 3-4 hours for some race that further takes time away from what's actually more important in life.'
But, my mind, like many others, wouldn't click if I didn't at least take a bit of time to run where I have time to dream about how much I love social media, think about how there aren't any problems in the world, and dream up plays I can relay to Uncle Phil where he can then relay them to the coaches of our Ducks' upcoming championship season!
I've been to the Smokies before (one to get boiled peanuts and one to help assist Jeff Davis and Jim Fleming to conquer some crazy overnight run they had planned) but never to actually get in some running miles so I was stoked about what was to come.
Ryne and I left Nashville early Saturday morning and got to the Cosby Campground a bit after 10am EST. I feel, as an Oregonian, being one with nature comes hand in hand, but it's been almost 15 years since I've lived there so I felt like a toddler setting up camp (the hunting/camping I did with my Dad, running in the woods, or jetting around the forests on 4-wheelers has long been forgotten). We threw on our running gear (Salomon 5 Set for a vest and Salomon Sense Ride for shoes), filled up our packs, and headed toward the trail head.
Just looking around during the hike out of camp, I knew it was going to be fun. It's gorgeous over there! Thankfully, Ryne knew the area like the back of his hand. I try not to think much, in general, so it was nice to simply run and not worry too much about directions or which trail to turn. Every trail we were on was marked very well which was extremely nice. We hike/jogged uphill for five miles on our way to Mount Guyot. I knew it'd be a long day so hiking for the majority of five miles was good for two reasons...slowly get the legs moving after the car ride and great training for what I'll be doing a ton of at Pinhoti. I'm not a big fan of hiking; it's boring to me. I want to get moving, get to where I need to go, and focus on what I need to do next. That will be a struggle for me as I train and hopefully finish this 100 because, if I don't change my mindset, I'll be in big trouble.
One of my primary focuses for the day was going to be nutrition, and I think I did a pretty good job of managing that. I used a variety of the Spring gels and some beef jerky as well as GU Roctane mix for my drink. I was pleasantly surprised at actually liking Spring's new flavor titled Mcraecovery (chocolatey/cherry flavor) because usually, I like the fruitier gels. This bad boy has 150 calories, though, and I could definitely feel it kick in. Although I'm a fan of Sally McRae and her love of one of our local brands...the name Mcraecovery is a bit "eh". Maybe "Sallery" or "Mcraecrae"...something. Or..."Mcraecraving"....boom!! Spring...call me...I'm for hire!
Although the nutrition went well, it sure didn't mean I was without low points along our 30-mile trek. The lowest I felt was heading up to Mount Sterling. Just tired and ready to be done even though we had 10 more miles to go. Once we got to Sterling, though, all was good. We climbed up the fire tower and rested and took in the views...clear day and beautiful! Plus, we knew we had 5+ miles of downhill coming up so we could get some energy back. After that downhill, my legs were about shot. We climbed a bit more then back down for 2.5-3 miles to camp, and I'm glad Ryne wasn't in the mood to go sub 6's or something crazy because I probably would've lost some teeth. My legs and feet were toast. I know better than to use a brand new shoe for a weekend like this, but I did it anyway...the Sense Rides held up well. Although I'm used to more flexible and lighter trail shoes, I know I'll need more shoe for the 100, thus the Sense Ride. This shoe is fairly new to the market, and compared to Salomons I've worn in the past, it has a wider toe and not quite as rigid...which I enjoyed. My feet held up well, and I know I could get through a 100 in them so they're in contention!
Ryne had us dialed in and was gracious enough to take it easy on me...I didn't even have to yell out I needed a hike break because every time I wanted to pass out, he somehow stopped and started hiking. The man is a mind reader! He's fresh off finishing the Bighorn 100 so had some great insight for me and asked what I was most worried about going into Pinhoti. Number one is nutrition, and second is "running" again after stopping and/or hiking. I found it harder than usual to run after we stopped to hike. That'll be tough to do once I make it, hopefully, to the higher miles in the race. The body will want to walk or stop and the mind has to be strong enough to keep the body moving. We'll see!
Once back to camp we licked our wounds before heading over to what we'd been waiting for all afternoon....the frigid creek!! That creek was the saving grace! It's like, what I assume would be, drinking a Deschutes Mirror Pond (Oregon brew) and Smith and Lentz Mosaic...together...at the same time...just pure magic! It was cold, refreshing, and readied the legs for another run the next morning! Plus, it supplanted a shower! I'm actually going to Kentucky next month and am going to purchase some Mirror Pond (somehow it's sold in KY and not TN) so I can do my taste test!
Ryne fried up some bad boy quesadillas for dinner while we chatted about the day and set our alarms for an early morning run up Mount Cammerer to catch a glimpse of the sunrise! One of the best things I noticed that night...no damn mosquitoes...unreal how thankful one can be not to have those pests flying around. Guess it could be worse...could be an Alaskan caribou getting swarmed by mosquitoes every second of your life!
It was about five miles uphill on Sunday morn to get up Cammerer...another great long hike with a bit of running tossed in. Once at the top, we were able to catch the sun at it was coming up over the mountains. Chilled out at the rock lookout tower at Cammerer before making the 10 mile downhill back down to camp. That downhill had some awesome trails on it and was mainly a smooth ride down...other than the black bear we saw hightailing it down the trail in front of us. Ryne was a couple of seconds in front of me, and I hear him yell "hey bear". I think he's joking...then "hey bear" comes again...joke's on me as I speed up a second and see the tail end of that bear scooting around a corner of the trail before it headed up the mountain. We probably smelled so rank it decided not to get too close. That's another thing I noticed out there...lots of warning signs that bears are around. One might assume that Winter might be safer to head over there!
Got back to camp and hit the creek again to soak the legs and rinse off! The nostalgia of soaking the legs...reminded me of a cold ice bath back in the day, which was both haunting and funny. Then we hit the road back to Nashville! Home, safe and sound by 2pm.
Overall, it was a phenomenal and memorable weekend! Getting into the wilderness, especially when running, is a thing I love doing and don't do enough of it anymore. When it's with such a great dude like Ryne, it makes everything that much more awesome. It's nice running with someone where the conversation isn't forced, and the trails are second nature to him so it made for some non-stressed running. The 45 miles we ran in the Smokies were a big part of the 86+ miles for my week. That's the most miles I've ever run in one week, and I felt it for a couple of days afterward. Hopefully, these miles will translate into a successful finish at Pinhoti. If not, made for a damn good weekend to remember!
Stay tuned for Beth's recount of her training weekend tomorrow!