This past weekend there was an “unorganized” and “unofficial” ultra on the Appalachian Trail in southern Virginia, the Catawba Run-Around. (Organized events are not allowed on the AT, so technically this event doesn’t happen. Shhhh.) My IT Band is still recovering from Holiday Lake so I went out to this un-event looking to get in some time-on-feet from hiking and check out the stunning views that I had been hearing so much about.
After dropping more than 9″ of snow on us just a few days before, mother nature decided to cooperate and bless us with temperatures in the 70′s, something that is extremely rare for early March. I had planned on hiking 13 miles, but with the amazing weather and an IT band that wasn’t feeling all too bad, I opted to do some additional mileage and logged a total of 18 miles of hiking with some light running thrown in for good measure. Rebecca Byerly (of the Libyan Challenge 1st American Team) was taking it easy since she too was having some ITB issues, so I had good company for the day.
After the runners headed out, a group of us headed out to the Aide Station #1 and set up shop. After sitting around for a bit, Rebecca and I got antsy to go explore the sights so we decided to hike up to Dragon’s Tooth. Talk about a good idea. Check out the view!
On the way up to Dragon’s Tooth we passed all of the runners as they made their way down to the aide station that we had just come from. (Check my Flickr page for all of my shots from the day.) We spent just enough time gazing off into the distance and taking pictures to make it back down as Keith and the rest of the crew were packing up and ready to move to Aide Station #2. This was great timing too, because as soon as we pulled into the next parking lot the front-runners were just arriving. Hands down the fastest aide station set-up I’ve ever done! Then again, it was only the second aide station I’ve ever set up…
After a few minutes of hanging around eating oreos and pringles, Rebecca and I realized that we had to get out onto the trail before our inner fat-kid ruined our intentions any further. We headed out, albeit slowly, and started to once more enjoy some gorgeous hiking on the AT.
Rebecca, in typical fashion, was only carrying a single water bottle for a 4 hour stretch out on the trail. Luckily there was some leftover snow on the ground that could be used for melting into a hydration source. Rebecca also realized another less practical use for the snow – snow angels!
For the most part we hiked it, but when the legs were feeling good (read: dying to move due to recent inactivity) we ran the downhills and select flats. Hiking proved to be a wise decision because I only felt minimal pain throughout the entire day and that was in the final mile or 2. In total we got in 18 miles with 3 good climbs in just over 6 hours. I found a murky but cold pond close to the finish and sat in there for a bit since I knew an ice-bath would be out of the picture for the evening. Let’s hope there wasn’t any giardia in there!
The post-run activities once again proved to be a great time with good VHTRC friends. We all hung around the finish line consuming recovery beverages of the adult variety as runners trickled in. Somehow an AT through-hiker found his way to our gathering and he partied with us for a bit. Interesting.
Once night fell and all runners were in (and our stomachs started rumbling), we headed over to the Homeplace, an all-you-can-eat restaurant that is heaven to a through-hiker looking for a warm meal, or in our case ultrarunners looking to replenish depleted calories.
We ate to our heart’s content and had a great time heckling the wait staff (all in good fun, of course). What a great way to wrap up the day. With fantastic views and freakishly warm weather, it was a pleasant reminder that Spring is right around the corner. Let’s hope my IT band heals up quickly and allows me to run the whole thing next year. Can’t wait!