Ever ascended 3000ft in less than an hour? I have and it sucks.
But it sucks in the “oh so awesome” way that extreme physical activity sucks. The burn in every muscle in your body as your lungs try to take in as much air as you possibly can is what pushes us towards amazing experiences. Without this feeling we would be lost in the complacency of our lives. These adventures can snap us out of a boredom funk and spring us back into discovering the amazingness of this earth.
But damn do you feel beastly when you are huffing and puffing halfway up the mountain!
This is what is known as a “Sufferfest.”
Sufferfest:An activity whereby all participants ache, agonize, ail, be at a disadvantage, be racked, deteriorate, endure, grieve, languish, and/or writhe.. but by co-misery, yet co-hesiveness, will have experienced a grand time.
The only hope during a Sufferfest is to enjoy it. Smile, laugh, joke around; just completely embrace the moment you are in. Throughout Sufferfests, I find myself saying aloud “There is no place in the entire world that I would rather be than right here, right now.”
The Quest for the Crest 10k is a race in the Black Mountains near Burnsville, North Carolina. The Black Mountains are the highest mountains east of the Rockies and are accentuated by Mt. Mitchell which is the highest elevation point on the east coast. The race was advertised as “challenging”, “epic”, “toughest 10k in the world”; all the buzzwords that make you arrogantly snort “yeah…sure it is.” After running it, I’m here to tell you that “yeah…it was tough.”
Normally I can run a 10k (about 6.5 miles) in under 50 minutes, trail running that distance in about 60 minutes. I finished this race in an hour and forty five minutes. Almost two hours of hard HARD work.
After hopping on a bus to the trailhead (not enough room for everyone to park there so we had to catch a ride), about 75 racers began by running up the trail. The first third was a pretty steep uphill that was still possible to run; my legs were feeling fine, but my throat was burning.
We took a sharp left at a sign that read “Now time to go up…Ha Ha” and instantly we were all hiking up a steep incline. We climbed for about a half hour…straight up. There were times when we were on all fours grabbing for tree roots or rocks. My trail running shoes slipped a few times but thankfully I was able to hang on to avoid a few serious tumbles.
“Oh so this is what 3000ft elevation in 2 miles feels like!” As we neared the top I realized that I was hiking with a few local guys who were not even in the race. “Yeah man we come out and hike this once a month to see if we can beat our time!” I drove three hours for the experience and these dudes get to do this whenever they want! That is one of my goals in life: live somewhere in the mountains where I can do amazing hikes and trail runs whenever I want.
Eventually we made it to the top to a ridge with amazing views unfortunately blocked by a layer of clouds (just an excuse to do this run again!) I took a couple of pictures and began the 4 miles of downhill.
This race really highlighted a weakness in my trail running ability: downhill running.
There’s an old saying “Slow and steady wins the race.” In trail running this should instead read “Fast and reckless wins the race.” Going downhill you have to be able to turn on the jets and be confident (or foolhardy) enough to know that you won’t trip over the rocks jetting out of the ground. For a while I was keeping up with another group of racers, trying to emulate their footsteps and movements. After awhile the pounding caught up to my quads and I had to slow down to avoid the inevitable face-plant.
We finished the race the only way you should finish a trial run: by cruising through a cold mountain stream. After hanging out and refueling in someone’s backyard, the van picked us up and took us back to our cars.
Overall the race was a great experience. As always my message is to “Seek out Sufferfests! Create your own Sufferfest!” Find an excuse to leave your house, get into nature, and have an adventure!