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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Grandfather Mountain to Calloway Peak

What a run! I quickly settled into a comfortably-urgent effort as I made my way along the Tanawha Trail on the Blue Ridge Parkway side of Grandfather mountain in the evening. My goal was to reach Calloway Peak and return to my car prior to the setting of the sun- with severe weather in the forecast every afternoon this week, it was my day to enjoy a beautiful, perfect trail running day. Warm, not hot, cool but not cold- a nice breeze, a few clouds... basically the best reason to stay fit, is to be able to go do this run on this day!

The Tanawha- Daniel Boone Scout Trail
Make the Mountain your Friend.   Inov-8 Roclite 295
The route is rooty and technical. But thanks to my cool shoes, the Roclite 295 from Inov-8 I was able to handle the moist trail, big rocks, downed logs and rhodo-roots with no worry of slipping .

I just had to keep focused on not catching a toe which could lead to a nasty spill. On the way up I had no issues and kept myself under control, searching out the next step, with efficient and explosive movements.

This trail is a puzzle- it requires a calm selection of steps and thinking ahead to best flow of the route. With the massive amount of water that inundate the trail during storms, the best course is changed constantly with water erosion.

You literally have to be on your toes- if you don't want to end up on your nose.

24hr. Technical Assistance
Get Out Your Climbing Legs
I reached the base of the climb to Grandfather. To this point the trail had been a gradual roller, with a slight net uphill. The Park Ranger was out so I was required to register for trail use- in case I was eaten by an escaped Mountain Lion they would know which car was mine. We had a good little chat and I was on my way up Grandfather toward Calloway Peak. Settling into the effort gear.

The mileage on Grandfather is marked every 1/2 mile... but I know that linear distance means nothing up here, your work is measured by elevation change, time and effort. It is difficult to quantify this bolus, but once digested after the run you have a good idea what you ran (linear equivalence) for the day.

The Sean on The Ladder
Morphing Ecology
It is striking how the environment changes in a matter of a few switchbacks up here. At one moment you are running in big hardwoods, then smaller conifers and ferns, then lush grasses and as you reach the top you have down trees from severe wind damage, huge boulders to course over and around.

Reaching the Peak
As I reached the summit I was brought back to that desolate wind of mountain peaks where even on a calm day the bristles in the trees whistle the wind in a haunting fashion. This comforting entity of the mountain is a reminder that this is an organism in itself and only by running with it... can you hope for success.

Ambition and overreaching your ability to work with the terrain of the Mountain WILL be your downfall in this setting.

Atop Calloway Peak

After a couple ladder climbs and steep sections of crumbling trail I was soon in the tunnel of dwarf fir leading to Calloway Peak. Emerging onto the exposed mountain top I could see in all directions and allowed a few minutes to savor the journey, the moment and look forward to the cruise ahead of me on the return.

The wind cooled me and the view soothed me. I was in that calm state of mind you need to run a relaxed descent.   A clear mind = clear path.

Downhill Dividends
As I ran downhill I did so on auto pilot. A few times I found myself wandering and hearing a negative thought here or there... which usually preludes a toe catching a rock, stump or root.

Winner for Best Blood 
On one such case I was moving along pretty well (10k effort) when a trail-gnome grabbed me good. I went horizontal, suspended in air with the trail passing in slow motion beneath me. I knew this one was going to be a doozy and attempted to pull my knees to my chest in last ditch effort to save my skin, bones and blood with luck of a solid footfall...

But- this was not to be. My dreams were smashed into the Earth unceremoniously, pulverized. When I came to a skidding stop I was bent backwards, literally heels over head, up off the trail and face down in the bushes. There were some loud thuds and groaning sounds and I lay there and made sure nothing would fall off if I regained my vertical posture.

I was ok- a little shaken and the wind had left me for a moment. But just bruised, hematoma'd and bleeding. We have all been there. It keeps us alive!

Symbiotic Fatigue
I resumed my downhill pursuit, practicing choosing my line with darting steps on the switches and then opening up on the straights until I came to the bottom of the Mountain. Around this time I reach 1:40 in my run and began to feel the need for fuel... having brought nothing along I knew that I would just have to deal, and watch my step. With a mushy body coordination goes. I reminded myself constantly that being tired doesn't mean running tired. You can run strong- it is a style, in the face of anything.

I checked my form, backed off the effort and speed a tad and in no time was back at my car enjoying a     30-mile Milk Shake (for 19 miles of running... a smaller portion).

My favorite Old Tree 

As I sat in the parking lot, cleaning my bloody leg and scraped shoulder, bruised thigh I could feel nothing but pure elation in this setting. The general ache of a solid effort, of a great run, the calm of accomplishment soaked through me. A warm spring evening in a quiet place. The sky turning pale and my lips finding the relief of a cold amber ale.

Happy Running!


  1. liter, positive thinking must make for better, less injury prone running. glad nothing serious happened...and N.C. really seems to have some great areas for enjoyable your running/training! Lucky you :)

  2. Amazing trail you have...and like your reviews :) Now if I had those in my backyard- not sure I would be so brave- but you sure do inspire.
    Trail running is still my favorite. Especially for my head!
    Nice post.

  3. OH MY GOODNESS! I miss good trails! The only trails we have here are flat and last about 3 miles! Not exactly worth the effort...unless, I'm taking the kids! Loved all your pictures!

  4. Grandfather Mtn - Saw it a few years ago and wished it was in my backyard. Living on flatland means I get creative with my hill work.

  5. good stuff! i've had an EPIC (fun) run out there myself... profile to calloway down daniel boone/cragway to tanawha (sp?) to MST... go into Cone for some miles and run briefly on 321 to BRP to get in some 'bonus' miles out and back finishing @ the outlets for around 50k total. definitely looking forward to getting out there again sometime.

  6. I missed the boat on trail running. Summer is NOT the time to do that in Phoenix. No shade, lots of heat reflecting / radiating rocks. I'm jealous for sure.

    How is the kiddo??


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