First of all, if you live in the southeast (Georgia, Carolinas, or Virginia) you should sign up for a Run Bum race IMMEDIATELY. What I look for when I sign up for an ultra is adventure. That’s my number one priority. I want well designed courses, fun people, a kick-butt challenge, good food, but most importantly- BEAUTIFUL TRAILS. The race needs to take my jaw drop by showing me touring me through a stunningly gorgeous place I have never been before. I want some badass views, waterfalls, cliffs, weird animals, and so on. At some point during the race I want to feel like I’m Indiana Jones lost in the middle of some crazy wilderness.
I think “Run Bum” the race director gets this. He must value the same experience. Sure, the “racing” aspect is tons of fun, but its everything else that makes an event memorable.
I’ve participated in three of his events (Quest for the Crest 10k, Quest for the Crest 50k, and Grayson Highlands 50k). All three have been unique experiences that have taken me deep into the wilderness, shown me AMAZING views, and have treated the event more like an adventure than a standard race.
SIDE NOTE: Quest for the Crest in Asheville will legitimately destroy your body, mind and soul (if you are in to that sort of challenge)…seriously, it took an hour to complete the first three miles (3,000 ft elevation gain).
Run Bum events have become my favorite races of the year.
The Grayson Highlands 50k was no different.
My friend Travis (“Uncle” Travis to my two year old) flew out from California on the back of the promise that he will witness THE BEST VIEWS IN VIRGINIA in which Grayson Highlands happily supplies.
Unfortunately we consumed by a cloud during the section of our race that would have been nothing but amazing views for 3 hours… Fortunately, Travis and I went hiking the day before to check out the course.
Long story short: We ran into some Longhorn Steers that were grazing in the National Forest, we got scared after imagining them running around with their giant horns gored through our limp bodies like marshmallows over a campfire. We scurried back down the mountain looking over our shoulders every few seconds only to see the bulls slowly following us. Eventually we made it to the flimsiest gate thinking this chicken wire will surely stop a one ton beast and felt safe again.
To be fair (and to keep our man cards) I was wearing a red coat…. to be even fairer, we found out later that the whole bulls hating the color red was just mumbo jumbo. Man cards revoked.
We stayed in the loft of a barn in Healing Springs, North Carolina. In the early 1900s this was a popular destination due to the spring water’s mysterious healing powers. Needless to say we drank gallons of healing spring water, while high-fiving, and assuming that it would protect us from the punishment of a 50k (it did not…though it was delicious!)
We woke up freezing cold at 4:45am (barn loft=no heat), packed our bags, and drove to the starting line.
Travis had never run a 50k before. In truth he isn’t much of a runner nor did he train super hard. Neither of us were worried though. I’ve known Travis for years and he’s the kind of guy that says he’s going to do something and then goes out and gets it done. He’s also a stubborn SOB. His exact quote was that he would finish “even if I have to drag my cold dead corpse across the finish.”
Although I hoped that he wouldn’t die, I couldn’t wait to see him attempt to painfully shuffle around the next morning for no better reason than to please my own twisted sense of humor.
We ran together for the first half mile and then went our separate ways at our own pace.
I saw him at mile 24 for me and 18 for him. He was looking pretty good – still energetic, smiling, and moving foward (the three aspects of a good race). I’m always impressed with Travis when he goes “mindless mode.”
The race itself was awesome. Here’s a couple highlights:
- We ran by the famous Grayson Highlands ponies. They are pretty awesome and not as scary as the Longhorns.
- Speaking of which, everyone ran by the Longhorns. I wasn’t as scared this time because I only had to outrun one other person to be safe….
- As previously mentioned, we were stuck in a cloud in what would have been the most beautiful part of the race. I was cool with it because just two days earlier one of my students asked me “what would it be like to be in a cloud?” Well here’s the answer “wet…and you can’t see very well.”
- The aid station at the old cabin was AWESOME! This might be the only trail race in which you run through a cabin.
- The out and back was fun. You went straight down a mountain, then up a mountain (as I so terribly describe to Travis in the video), then back down said mountain, and then STRAIGHT back up the mountain. It reminded me of the good old times had during Quest for the Crest 50k.
- Towards the end, you rounded a corner and saw the finish line. “Yay I did it!” every single racer thought until they were quickly informed that they still had a mile and a half loop to go. It probably had the best view though…so totally worth it.
- BBQ at the finish line= spectacular!
- The other racers = amazingly nice people! (One of my favorite parts of Ultras are all the awesome people you get to hang out with)
I finished in 4:53 which I was pretty satisfied with since I was shooting for under 5 hours. My muscles and joints felt pretty good and I did not have to make any trips to the woods this time so my change in race nutrition seemed to work out! Yay!
Travis finished like a champion! We ate some BBQ, waded in a cold river, ate some burgers, drank some healing spring water, ate some spaghetti, played some SCRABBLE, then fell asleep. The next day he had to shuffle his beaten and broken body down the stairs….it took at least 5 minutes…am I bad friend if I say that I found it hilarious!
Overall, it was a great experience! These adventures keep me inspired, keep me healthy, and most importantly keep me happy. Can’t wait for the next one!