Wednesday, June 23, 2010

30 Mile Chattooga Night Run

30 miles, no wimps, no sun. Sign me up!

Before you start thinking this was just some random night running adventure, I should say this run served a purpose: it's one of several key training runs that leads up to running the entire Foothills Trail on July 24. (77 miles, no wimps, some sun, some moon. Ha! )

This was the first time running at night for me. That fact alone heightened the whole experience.

Here's how it all went down:

I met Dave Pryor (kneeling in picture) at Pisgah Forest and we drove down to Oconee State Park together. Shortly after we arrived, Dan Hartley returned from scouting the trail where it ends, so we'd know how to actually get back to our camp. Thanks for that Dan- left to all of us, we'd just be stumbling happily along the road like....zebras...

Jason Sullivan, Sam Weingand, and Charles Raffensperger arrived next and we all set up camp while we waited for Chad Henderson, who was stuck in a traffic jam.

After figuring out the logistics of our cars, we set off to Whitewater Falls, dropping aid at Burell's Ford Road and Cheeohee Road on the way. The logistics of doing a run like this really do need to be considered- it requires a little planning. (Again, thank you Dan).

Group picture, and we're off.

The run started across the highway from where the Laurel Valley Ultra course ends. Since I ran (if you can call it that) this course last month, as we crossed the road and began to climb, I could not help but realize what a difficult section this would be. We'd be climbing out of the steepest, gnarliest, soul crushing switch-backs-from-hell portion of Laurel Valley only to cross the road and climb some more. My brain (finally) made the connection that these training runs we're doing are all linked in what will be one very long, badass run. Damn, I thought. I left my BMF wallet* at home!

So, we're not half a mile in, when I catch a root the wrong way and go down. My lack of trying to save myself is comical. I'm like, What-ever. Let's just get it over with. Nothin' to see here, people. Not long after my staggering exhibition of grace, Charles pulled a branch aside from the trail...but failed to notice the second, jagged, branch behind it waiting to spear him. In the eye. However, his BMF wallet must have been securely tucked away, because he looked like one seriously bad mo' fo' wiping blood from his eyes! Here's a picture I took of the wound later (yeah- even I have better manners than to take a picture of guy who just got stabbed in the EYE ...right when it happened. Jeez!).

So, pretty much right at the beginning of this run I noticed I was not having a good day. It wasn't anything huge, mostly I just felt "off", like I was working too hard for the easy pace we were at, and I felt like I was out of gas. It also seemed like I was going through my water too fast.

It didn't help that the food I brought because it was perfect for me last time, was not perfect for me this time. That is such a mystery.

Right before the fish hatchery, dusk was full upon us. The trees we were passing through were all wiry and leaveless, and I kept feeling like I was in some version of Grimm's Fairy Tales. It was strange.

As it got dark, we all put on our night gear, which for me consisted of a headlamp and a chest-level light. It took some getting used to. Plus, everytime I needed to get into my pack for either food or the camera, it was a major ordeal to manage the light that was attached to the straps. I'm going to have to learn to maneuver this a whole lot better if that chest light isn't going to find a new home in the river.

I'm not sure when this started to happen, but I noticed the group stopping, and it was due to some giant freaky spiders that looked like the Predator. They were spinning their webs across the trail, and Dan's light would pick up on it and he'd stop and clear the web. Man, was I thankful I was bringing up the rear.

Even though I was feeling bad, this was still a very enjoyable run. We laughed a lot, and the comeraderie made things easier. I took as many pictures as I could manage, but eventually I was too worn out to bother getting into my pack for the camera.

Near the finish, my eyes really started playing tricks on me. A baby alligator materialized from the pattern of sand and rocks, so I went ahead and jumped over him, yelling, "Baby Alligator!" As soon as I realized it wasn't real I added, "Nevermind. It's not real." Too funny.

Also funny: Earlier, Charles had set up a sign on the trail that said, "WIMBERLY- THIS WAY!" That completely cracked me up. It was so unexpected.

We finally made it to the end at about 3:00 A.M. We were still laughing and joking as we walked the .6 of a mile to the camp. All in all, it can't be too bad of a run if you're still laughing at the end of 8 1/2 hours!

I chalk this run up as good experience for managing the night running we're going to be doing on 7/24. The fact I didn't feel good but completed it anyway is also really good experience. It's bound to happen in a race sometime (like the Hundo), and it will give me confidence that I can continue.

* Bad Mother Fucker wallet (a la Jules from Pulp Fiction).


  1. You are the trail running queen! I can't believe that you all ran in the dark...knowing me I would of tripped on something and hurt myself for sure:) I loved your race report and enjoyed the pictures! You look like you are having such a good time! Woo hoo for still smiling at the end! I am proud of you Psyche! I think that you have found your new love...crazy & long trail running:)

  2. Even with some of the pitfalls it sounds like a great run! At night, in the woods, everything looks like something else, like a baby alligator - too funny.

  3. I laughed so hard at BMF Wallet ;) You guys certainly are bad asses. Fact.

  4. Love the reference to your BMF wallet! Just had to post this link...

  5. You were awesome out there Psyche - for your first night run and not feeling 100%, to persevere is a testament to your tenacity and drive! The baby alligator comment cracked me up..not so much the comment itself (which was a little strange I admit) but the way you warned us all so matter-of-factly...and yep, my BMF wallet never got in the way :)

  6. You have a killa BMF drive about you Psyche. I had a blast running with you. I missed the whole gator ordeal, but I'm glad that everyone was able to get by it! You are one strong lady - keep rockin'!

  7. Holy Crap! I can't even be awake at 3am. Much less awake and running and dodging baby alligators!
    Awesome job!

  8. DO DO DO DO DO, I'm lovin' it! You are an inspiring athlete. Keep the magic, not mechanics, and we shall run FOREVA! I saw baby alligators too, right before Chad and I rode our Zebras into the campsite. :-) Can't wait to run with you again on the third! You make running a joy.

  9. Thanks to Dan's link I learned what a BMF is... :-)

  10. You are so BA!! Way to go on that night run. Incredible, congrats! And wow, those spiders probably woulda had me run the opposite way!!

  11. Love the BMF reference. Classic line.

    Night runs are my favorite. I always like what stares back at you from the depths of the woods.

  12. Baby alligator!!!!!!

    I love reading these reports. I can NOT believe that you went down a mile in! But, I suppose that when you do that, nothing else seems to matter. :)