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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Grandfather Mountain- Profile Trail

Monday afternoon and I found myself motoring over the trail head to get in some climbing on the Grandfather Mountain Profile Trail. The route settles you in crossing over a stream and running along side the water for a half mile before beginning the assault on the mountain. On the way you are treated to several creek crossings before the climb gets a bit more aggressive on large granite steps which make up the trail.

After a few miles the trail reaches a natural spring before giving the legs one final test through the boulder field of a trail which leads ultimately to the ridge around 3.5 miles. To give you an idea of the grade, my half mile splits were larger than my daily mile splits. From trail head to ridge was about 45 minutes. I then turned right toward the Mile High Swinging Bridge, an icon of Grandfather Mountain... unfortunately.

After a half mile or so of nice alpine running on dark, muddy trails the trail emerges on the top of the ridge line, in the exposed air of the high country. Honestly I was feeling a tad vulnerable here after the cover the climb to that point. My year old road shoes hold little in the way of traction and as I bounded from boulder to boulder I could feel a bit of slip from time to time. As I peaked to my right I noticed nothing but air... this is a mountain after all and so my plan quickly changed from covering ground to staying on solid ground.

I ran when I could run but much of this section requires climbing, using anchored lines and ladders to traverse... not exactly running but beautiful, fun and the alpine air just smells so good. Now I was thinking time on the feet. This mile stretch of terrain took me a solid 25 minutes to cover. Soon I realized the swinging bridge was out of the cards for this night. I had promised to be home by 8pm and now was pushing to get back to the car by that time.

The return trip was much quicker as the technical sections were uphill and so a little easier to move with pace. (I prefer going up when climbing is concerned.) Channelling my inner Bear Grylls I soon reached the spring just below the ridge line and saw that I had 30 minutes to reach the car by 8pm. The trail was much more runner friendly within half a mile and soon I was zooming down the mountainside just letting the legs fly and swiftly hitting on my foot placements without really thinking.
Gliding and Smiling
This type of trail running is so enjoyable after putting in the work to gain all that elevation. Just a microcosm of running and training. You diligently acquire fitness day by day and then every so often you are able to flourish in an hour or two or pure runner expression. Back to the last flat section and the creek crossings as the water reminded me to slow down and go with the grade of the land. The best running comes when we work with the Earth, not trying to conquer it. This activity requires the successful to compromise with the land. We give over our ego and in return are provided with joy and bliss.


  1. Hi Sean,
    Welcome back, I missed you! Wow, what a challenging but lovely run:) Great pictures!

    I love your last sentance...we give our ego and in return are provided with joy and bliss! So true and beautiful:)

  2. Sounds like one hell of a run. I recently did my first trail run... if I had pics my hills would would like like bunny hills compared to yours! It felt good to be out in nature though - that's for sure :-D

  3. Hey, Sean!

    Missed you. Happy to read this post.

    Wow! The last 2 pictures are downright scarey. Usually, you're focused on the climb. It's not too often you have to actually worry about falling off the mountain!

    Although, there's a race in Alaska called Mt. Marathon that is like this. People fly down that thing, and get VERY hurt. Crazy!

    Have a good one:)

  4. I love running at Grandfather!!!! Haven't been up there in years, but so beautiful. I'm jealous :)

  5. I have always wanted to run @ grandfather!! great post, sean! the pictures make me want to go run there even more! looks very epic and fun!!!

  6. I want to go to there, haha!

  7. Wow!! That boulder hopping would really prove to be a full body workout i'll bet. Looks like your home gym was money well spent!

    Glad to see that you are still running - and getting out on the trails!

  8. I love that trail (and mountain)! Tough! I remember there was one rock "crossing" up on the ridge we named "Death by Falling Rock!" Quite scary for someone afraid of heights! It's another world up there!

  9. Wow...that's just unbelievably beautiful. I like what you said about working with nature and not trying to conquer it. I feel like that holds true in almost any setting

  10. What a very cool run! It's amazing how we can get so inspired by our surroundings! Great job, cheers!


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