Wow, what a trip! 4 days, 80 miles, countless vistas (obscured by clouds), trails, food, water, bears, everything a person could want.
Day 1- We left Bloomington, IN at 6:00 AM on leap forward day. This was awesome because it was one less hour to sleep before heading to trail heaven. Our plan was to run 7-10 miles and loosen up the legs for the next three days. We found an easily accessible trail (Little River) and got started. at our turnaround point we still hadnt hit singletrack... BOOOOO. So naturally, we kept going. 3 miles later we found the good stuff, crossed some streams and started going up, up, up... Then we hit snow. My friend Scott (training for the USATF 100 mile nationals) was well ahead of me at this point and he almost got to the AT, but when i saw him coming down towards me and he told me there was 3 feet of snow about 4,750 feet, I knew our plans for the trip had to change... no AT... Since we had already gone 9 miles out, we decided to go back the way we came. I didn't mind the cold rain at all, we were in the smokys!!!!! 3:20 - 18 miles.
Day 2- We woke up in a puddle, i mean, tent, and quickly put on the shoes to embark on a run we hoped would have some insane climbing. Our hopes came true!! Right off the bat we went up 1,500 feet, down 1,000, up 1,500 again and then some more climbing and descending. I hiked a lot of it, Scott didn't hike once all trip. This kid (he's 20!) is insane! This run was most notable for the bear tracks we found in the snow, which was awesome! We did not see the bear, but it was fresh snow and it was only 9:00 AM, so the bear must have been close! Fun! I wasn't sure how the legs would respond to hiking mountains and then running down mountains, but they seemed to enjoy it, and so did I! Run #1 - 15 miles, ~9,000 ft elevation change, 2:45.
Run #2 - We ran/hiked up to chimney tops, round trip is 4.5 miles. Most fun decent I've ever had, it was all covered in snow and there were some 2-3 foot drops that we just flew off... also, this run had a lot of people saying "good for you" and "wow, you guys are nuts". It's a really small thing, but I always appreciate the recognition. Run/hike #2 50 min, 4 miles, 3,000 feet change.
Day 3- Woke up and the legs were SORE. YAY! We picked a less hilly trail, but in this park there is no such thing as flat. We each ran 1:30 out and back, pretty uneventful run. I thought I saw a bear, but it was just upturned trees roots. This trail was very undulating, never more than 500-750 feet up or down at a time but relentless. I think I covered 16 miles in the 3 hours. It was a tough run. I was really starting to feel fatigued at the end, so i jumped in the freezing river as an ice bath.... when I got out the legs felt new again. Went for a 2 mile hike later that day to get the legs moving too.
Day 4: Marathon day... I had been looking forward to this run for a long time, I wanted to see if i could run 26.2 miles with very tired legs. My feet hurt when we started and my mind was tired. Perfect way to train for a 50 miler... The run started with 7 miles at 2-3% grade on horse trail. This was so mentally taxing, I was going full gas just to run and I wasn't going anywhere. Then we got to the nastiest singletrack I'd ever run. Rocky, rooty, snowy, muddy, uphill, AND THE MOST INSANE VIEW EVER AT THE TOP!!!! It's like when you play a video game and get extra life or energy or something! I bombed down the hill, tripped and flew 10 feet because I was looking out at the mountains... and completely forgot to eat... Oops. Well The bonk came at mile 18, with one climb to go and then some wicked undulating trail and a gravel road. I took my time on the climb to get as much food in me as possible and struggled the rest of the way home. Scott had run a 50k the day before and a 50k on this day, but he ran back to meet me, and got to me when I had 3 miles left. His pacing really lifted my spirits. It was the hardest run I had ever done, and the first time I think I really hit a wall. It felt very gratifying to break through it though. 26 miles, 4:58:30.
Anyways, if you made it this far, thanks. Also, A big thank you to the people who responded to my original call for advice on this trip.
sorry for the rambling, but this post only scratches the surface! Pictures to come later, I didn't get to take many since it was raining pretty much the whole time and I didn't want to ruin the camera. there are a few though!
Trip totals - 80 miles, 12hr 30min. 4 days.