I love Face Book. You meet people you might otherwise never encounter.
I joined the FB page for the Potomac Highlands Distance Club because they host a number of events out in my neck of the woods.
I saw they were going to be running part of the Fire on the Mountain 50K course in Green Ridge State Forest on Saturday so I emailed Abbi to see (1) if they were hard-core and would leave me in the woods as bear-bait, and (2) how technical the trail is.
I was happy to learn that the folks she knew (Hi, Shelly!) were all nice, normal folks and the trail was no worse than the AT.
So I contacted the organizer and invited myself...if it was all right with him, that is.
I should mention that every Labor Day weekend we camp at Rocky Gap State Park with about 30 other families from our church and neighboring churches. So I would be driving about 3 hours, working like a farm hand to help Bill set up camp, and "sleeping" in a tent the night before the run.
It's all good, right?
I should also mention that I opened the invite to our camping families....not expecting even 1 person to join in. Wake up before 6am to tromp through the mountains while on vacation???
But I had 2 takers- Keith and Dan.
So we met early Saturday morning and made it to the meeting spot just before the group was headed into the mountains. We drove about 3 miles on twisty mountain roads (maybe 100 miles? I don't know) and parked at the finish. Then we all piled into 2 SUVs - there were 11 of us so a couple of the guys sat in the cargo area of SUVs - and drove over more twisty mountain roads to the start.
Kevin, the organizer gave us a brief description of what was to come. We all look so happy. We're fools because we had no idea what was coming!
I wore bright pink sleeves so the Search and Rescue party could more easily find my body after I lay down to quietly die after one of the crazy downhills we encountered.
I told Keith and Dan to please pass me at any point because I am s.l.o.w.
Dan took me up on that. Below it looks like Keith is trying to see how to get around me so he can hurry up and be done with this craziness.
We ran the Red Trail, and it was really pretty. Not overly technical in that it wasn't a rocky trail like the AT or Gambrill, but there were some downed trees and dry stream beds. Though I should qualify 'dry'...dry as in no water actively running in them...not dry in that it rained just before our run so the rocks were all wet and very slippery.
There were just a few significant climbs, and with those came significant downhills. Like sit on your butt and just slide down to be done with it.
And a couple of ledges where the single-track trail angled toward the valley so your choices were either stay upright on the trail or tumble dooooown into the creek below.
Kevin, the organizer, had some water and gels for us at around mile 5 so we all stopped there to refill water bottles and throw down some calories before heading off again. At this point we were all dripping, literally wringing sweat from our clothes, from the high humidity. Heat and humidty...two of my favorite things - not!
During the second part of the run, my feet felt really sloppy. I was stumbling and tripping over shadows even though I felt fine. I decided to walk for a bit to get my feet back under me and gather myself. It was a great opportunity to reflect on how pretty everything was and what a blessing it is to be able to take a few hours on a Saturday and just run [and hang out with runners].
The group ahead of us left this arrow for us at the only tricky turn. Otherwise the trail was superbly marked. Even I couldn't get lost!
All of sudden we were all at the parking lot. It was very anticlimactic. But I was quite relieved!
My legs felt itchy and I realized we had run through all sorts of brush, raspberries, burrs, you name it. Parts of the trail were overgrown, and if a half dozen people hadn't just run through it, you wouldn't know a trail was there [minus the red blazes, of course].
While we traded war stories, I picked burrs out of my leg sleeves
What the heck is stuck to me??
We were all covered in burrs and mud and were dripping in sweat. Must have been a GREAT run!
Many thanks to Kevin from Potomac Highlands for letting us tag along, and to Keith and Dan for joining me! And Dan took most of the pictures above. The crappy ones are from my phone.
Oh, and our final distance was about 8.9 miles. I don't know if running this makes me want to run FOTM or not. The Red Trail is the most technical part of the race, but it was a butt kicker for sure. I'm not sure I'd have 23 more miles in me after surviving that. Maybe one day...