10.23: Running along Frank Coggins, Coldspring, Tom Miller, Jones Gap and back to the cabin. It’s chilly in the morning. I’m eager to see the new footbridge across the gully on Coldspring that Sierra Club built on Saturday. Also, the 38 ft. bridge across the Middle Saluda is now finished. Sun lights the forest on fire with red maple leaves blanketing the path. The world is a beautiful painting. Perhaps I’m too eager to enjoy the lemon poppy seed muffin at the end. It’s delicious with peppermint tea.
10.24: In Dupont and up Mine Mountain and out to Poplar Hill for a couple loops. I love the flow on Poplar Hill. There’s frost on the ground. The trail weaves in and out of coves that grow larger and larger opening up into the heart of the forest. The voyager is dwarfed and humbled before climbing back out to the meadow; all this in a self-contained 1.5-mile loop, not too shabby. I felt on the brink of not running today. But once again we made it out, and I’m so thankful we did; this journey has grown to be an important part of life.
10.25: I found several acorns in my pair of shoes this morning. It got to below freezing once again last night. The thought of my shoe-house consumed today’s run over El Lieutenant on Bill Kimbal. Also, there’re thoughts on the fluid motion of the daily run today. Just flowing along and enjoying life, this may very well be the peak foliage in the Middle Saluda gorge. The body seems to be performing well despite tightness in the back and shoulders from work stress. Listening to a fantastic ambient compilation entitled “Conduction, Convection, Radiation” when I can; good stuff.
10.26: Drove my death cab out to the top of Sassafras Mountain this morning. The cloud cover provided a nice blanket over the mountains. Uwharrie and I ran 16 miles home to the cabin from Sassafras along the blue spur of the Foothills Trail. This route has many challenging climbs. Dolves Mountain provides the best view along the Foothills Trail. Here I snapped a photo of the brilliant colors exploding out of the French Broad valley. The 6000 ft. monsters in the Great Balsams, the Blue Ridge Parkway and Mt. Pisgah are visible in the distance. Also, smoke can be seen as it rises from the waking town of Brevard. The granite faces of Looking Glass and Cedar Rock peek shyly from behind the middle mountains. This is home! Dolves Mountain is currently my favorite vantage point of the Backyard.
Rejuvenated by the experience, we glided along the double-track all alone in a quiet muffled air filled with reflection. I was home enjoying a hot shower and feasting on local eggs and cheese on fresh baked bread before work. As evening approached, a search and rescue materialized. Simultaneously, DNR along with a band of hunters were following their dogs out to kill a bear in what could very well have been non-WMA-wilderness land. Distracted by the search, the circus successfully got their kill without any questions arising from the rangers. Later at night, I felt guilty for what transpired. After a delicious supper of asparagus, quinoa, beans with sautéed sweet potatoes, apples and onions, I would toss and turn in my sleep as if the wilderness had been shot while on duty...
10.27: It didn’t start to drizzle until we were a couple miles into the reverse Sassafras run to retrieve my car. A cold rain came down all morning. It seemed to grow colder as we neared the highest point in SC. I was a tad concerned about hypothermia, but we kept moving over the beautiful hills, getting slapped by many a wet rhododendron leaf. Also, I was thinking about hunters. Despite the fact she was wearing her safety-orange pack, I didn’t want Uwharrie to stray too far from me today. This seems rather bizarre to me. I’ve bumped into some oddballs with guns out here; basically a large enough sample that gives hunters a bad name in my book. Everything in slow motion as dexterity fades... I vividly remember the long drawn out process of putting on my windbreaker while frozen hands fumbled. How interesting! That moment of futility: a beautiful eternity with the music of raindrops in the forest, a brilliant soundtrack.
I tripped on my shoelace And I fell up— Up to the roof tops, Up over the town, Up past the tree tops, Up over the mountains, Up where the colors Blend into the sounds. But it got me so dizzy When I looked around, I got sick to my stomach And I threw down.
Q: Have you ever transcended space and time? A: Yes. No. Uh...time, not space. No, I have no idea what you're talking about.
-I Heart Huckabees
Behold: a wonderful week in imagery:
10.17 Warren Wilson into Twilight... ...Then send love to Ashevegas.
"Don't tell him, he's got fake silver jewelry!"
10.18 Climbing up to Mitchell...
Laughing all the way...
RUN to the SUN!
"The moment's already passed..."
10.19Beautiful Bent Creek! (thx Adam!)
10.20 Scott & Liz (westerners)
roots farm + dogwood alliance + homegrown goodies + bonfire + grogus + rendezvous with friends nate & liz + everything under the shooting stars!!! = best farmhouse party of my life…
Yoda one for me...
10.21 A 20-mile trail run to the highest pt. in GA...
...Followed by serendipitous hitchhiking
10.22 Nacoochee Indian Mound was the center of the ancient Cherokee town of Gauxule, visited by DeSoto in 1540 in his search for gold, according to legend. On this ceremonial mound, 190 feet long, 150 feet wide and 20 feet high, stood the town House where a sacred fire burned unceasingly. Ceremonial dances were performed in and around the Town House. Residents of the town lived on the flat land surrounding the mound. The findings of Heye Foundation archaeologists who explored the mound in 1915 indicate the advanced cultural development of the builders.
(Yonah in the background)
Yonah is a mtn. we must climb...
It represents to us the edge of our world from Caesars Head!
Besides, there's some excellent rock work along the way!
Picture a blade of grass in the middle of a barren field blowing in the breeze. That’s me in full ranger regalia clinging on to meager roots while getting tossed in the carbon monoxide gusts. The weekend rush of humanity in Detroit death-traps; it’s a circus! I gesture feigning control of the chaos. A little girl asks for my autograph, that’s a first. She’s of course almost squashed by an SUV. Honking horns, the color wheel spins on the brink of madness. Most likely, this blade of grass blew out his back with the visit of a teacup poodle. What’s that you say? Well, this 3 pound princess had never stepped foot on the ground so says the owner. But can she carry her up to the overlook? I think that’s precisely when the lights went out. I was knocked down. And the cars kept coming, tread marks over my coat, over my face. White lights backing up squash my face deeper into the microcosmic tar canyon until I disappear. I hide down there in the recesses cowering from the maelstrom above. It’s dark down here in the shadows, I hear whispers. I’m not alone… Perhaps with a little sun and rain, the seeds will grow.
Oct. 9- We run the event horizon… a place I haven’t been to in 3 years: Panthertown Valley. Memories surge within me. We start at Cold Mtn. Gap and run a gravel road, what used to be a trail according to my not-so-old map. This is really confusing. Where there’re trails, now there’re roads. Where there’s forest, now mansions, naked earth, and bulldozers. I’m starting to freak out, but steadfastly I orienteer my way towards the goal: Toxaway Mountain.
I meet a woman walking a road and show her my map and ask her a few questions. This is the fall of Babel, we speak different tongues... No answers here. Hardheaded I grunt through unmarked game trails, old logging roads; we’re actually flowing pretty well... Then we hit Tower Rd., again a trail turned to road. What the hell? We climb to the tippy-top. There would be a really fine view up here, but it’s private property and this poor mountain has a bad case of parasites!
But enough about that, let’s talk about the sushi. Before retiring in Pisgah, I had dinner at Sora in Brevard. It was delicious; this restaurant is the offspring of one notoriously fine establishment in Ashe-Vegas known as Wasabi. Good stuff. Sushi seems to be a fine pre-run meal. Uwharrie and I camp out just off Yellow Gap and are joined by Chris. We’ve all come to visit the fall foliage on foot along the beautiful Laurel Mountain Trail. After a fine fire and a few brews, it’s off to bed.
Oct. 10- Laurel Mountain Trail did not disappoint. This run was fantastic. I ran up Slate Creek trail and slipped unknowingly through a worm-hole. Suddenly I popped out at Good Enough Gap. I was expecting a descent to a forest road followed by a tough grunt up Pilot Rock. Eventually I realized we had skipped all that with a well-used unmarked trail. Poor Chris thought he was really out of shape for falling so far behind, it was a devious trick.
There was an intense beauty in the light shining through this forest. The translucent fall fireworks exploded silently around us. I thought I was going to have a seizure running downhill through this kaleidoscopic tunnel! Maybe I did. I’m certainly not the same since...
Oct. 11- I don’t remember all that much about today’s run except that it parallels on several levels a run along the same route last week. We ran the Frank Coggins to Coldspring to Tom Miller, Jones Gap across the bridge site... The bridge is coming along nicely. Now we climbed up Bill Kimbal over El Lieutenant. What seemed so eerily similar to last week was my mindset before, during and after this run. I realize that maybe we run in loops and not just physically here...
Oct. 12- It’s beautiful when one can tie running into work. I undertook some campsite clean-up starting on Naturaland and down Oil Camp valley along Pinnacle Pass. We climbed steeply up to the overlook and traversed the wonderful flow zone of the trail. Soon we were carefully picking our way down Ishi and back up Jones Gap cleaning campsites all the way to our pull out at 276. I felt a great sense of euphoria after this run. The week’s weather has been fantastic: cool and sunny.
Oct. 13- Friday the 13th, and it’s been an unlucky day. My heart is full of lead, but mechanically my body wants to run, run, run. I didn’t expect it to happen so quickly: after a certain period of training, running becomes as crucial to life as breathing, eating and sleeping. The body wretches when a day passes without a run. I feel my body sucking up every ounce of the movement, of the dance, and wanting more. At night I massage and elevate my legs; muscles are hardening, something is happening. The inertia is building and I’m OK with this.
The inertia carried me through this afternoon when mind and spirit were impotent. My body mechanically drew me out to the trails. My mind initially rejected any impulse from the life erupting around me. But with the building rhythm and the solar wind blowing through me, the peace of a simple existence calmed my mind. Here we only run. How beautiful! One catch-phrase ringing in my mind today seemed pertinent: “like a bat out of hell.” Not sure how a bat would fly out of hell, maybe kind of like how I ran today.
Oct. 14- We enjoyed an encore of a run this morning out to Gum Gap and thru the Watson-Cooper Heritage Preserve. We timed it perfectly; the brilliant leaves lining the trail absorbed much of my attention today. I just felt so thankful to move healthy through the forest and see the sights we saw. That’s it. I am pretty good at screwing up a beautiful moment. I close my mouth and open myself to disintegrate into the air. Like the smoke from the wood stove, my being floats and disperses; its toxicity diluted into the atmosphere. I’m sorry I’m soot. I’m thankful for this day and this place to absorb my pollution. I know when I come back together I can be a better person... Everyday.
Maffetone has some very good thoughts on aerobic training. The MAF (maximum aerobic function) training method has worked well for me in the past, there’s definitely some merit to monitoring one’s heart rate while running. I’ve found this somewhat irksome with all the annoying and distracting beeps from standard athletic monitors. Implementing an electronic stethoscope to add rhythm to a custom meditative mix playing simultaneously from an mp3 may be a more pleasant monitoring technique.
It would certainly be an interesting experiment in not just listening to, but performing music while running... Information exists online for how to build an electronic stethoscope. As for the prefabricated back-ups, I’ve been pursuing information on various computer programs to synthesize custom natural sounds. I’m intrigued to read more about Shaman trance music. Interestingly enough, trance music is generally characterized as having a tempo range of 130-160 BPM (beats per minute), which happens to include many folks’ MAF thresholds including my own. I welcome any recommendations on good trance music.
d = Sem – c
Oct. 2- Outer Journey: 30 li across Reasonover Creek and over Turkey Knob to three laps of the Poplar Hill Loop and back in Dupont. This was a good run. I’d never been on the Poplar Hill Loop, so there was the thrill of discovery mixed in with the peaceful morning sunshine and quiet wooded coves. The laps got shorter and shorter as I entered the right state of mind. I packed a little OPL (other people’s litter) to pay homage to a place that will be revisited again and again for its beautiful rhythm.
I want my mind to be the field I remember from when I first fell in love with running. I want to run freely, and for this I wish to avoid concerning myself with constrictive time and distance measurement. I’ve been both a stopwatch-slave and a mile-slave in the past. My previous training log program involved a futile attempt at quantifying natural fluctuations in energy levels. Training is a dance of mind, body and spirit, it’s not a war.
My legs had been trained on miles, yet the maps I carried had a scale of kilometers. Most Chinese, however, used their own peculiar unit of distance- the li, a flexible measure which considers the nature of the terrain (as any sensible measurement for travel on foot should). The li is approximately one-third of a mile, though an uphill li is much less, and a downhill one much more. –William Lindesay
Oct. 3- Another beautiful sunny morning kicked off with tea and a couple scones at the Bracken Mountain Bakery. Outer Journey: 35 li in good company with Chris linking South Mills with the Davidson River. We started from Turkey Pen and entered the infamous flow zone along the river before ascending to Wagon Rd. Gap. There we followed the ridge along Turkey Pen Gap trail to the summit of Black Mtn. and down the trail through Thrift Cove. Wow. A variety of terrain here provided for fast and slow tempos.
Oct. 3- Inner Journey: I need to stop running linearly. I once thought that the spirit powered the weakened mind that powered the weakened body. Running to the beat of my own drum, trying to listen to my heart, I believe the spirit can be recharged by the rhythm of the body, looping the line: the perpetual motion of a running meditation!
You perceive, now, that these things are all impossible except in a dream. You perceive that they are pure and puerile insanities, the silly creations of an imagination that is not conscious of its freaks - in a word, that they are a dream, and you the maker of it. The dream-marks are all present; you should have recognized them earlier. –The Mysterious Stranger
Oct. 4- Morning, it’s warming and the sun is shining. I’m a sloth. Uwharrie is a sloth. Not quite ready to run, I cook up a hearty pre-run breakfast of quesadillas, yogurt, honey covered puffs and other fuels that my body needs to relearn to digest on the go. Then we’re out the door on the Frank Coggins, and looping Tom Miller, Jones Gap back with Coldspring, a 35 li run. The snakes are out and about on these warm early fall days. I’m happy to get the run in; though after hauling some bridge materials at work this afternoon, my body tells me to take a couple days off of running. And with the knowledge of this weekend’s madness to come, my mind concurs...
Oct. 7-PITCHELL! So it’s come to pass, it’s October and time for Adam Hill’s annual Mt. Pisgah to Mt. Mitchell foot odyssey. It’s a fool moon and it’s time to get loony. Midnight marks the start from the summit of Pisgah where I arrive after getting off work at 9PM. I have to be back to work at 1PM and plan to turn the epic 100K journey into a relay of approximately half the distance. It’s an amazing night: the solar echo of the moon’s burn, the wild autumn wind’s bite, and leaves falling like auburn, ochre and crimson confetti. It’s all quite intense: evaporating whirlpool clouds, and the crazies I meet at this hour (Adam, Brian and Kevin) ready to leave the world as we know it behind.
I sense some madness percolating in us while waiting for the witching hour as we stare at the red beacons of the Pisgah tower. It’s got me a tad nervous. But then we’re off storming down Shut-In: the fervor of life, movement and the crazy camaraderie invigorates me. Soon however, I find myself alone with Uwharrie gliding across the ridge of Goldenrod and White Snake Root. The fog of sleep envelops me. A few staggered steps and the chill of the wind’s bite fills me with despair. It’s too cold to sleep, or walk; I’m too tired to concentrate on running over roots and rocks. What a silly thing to be caught in this catastrophic Catch-22. I covet the twinkling superfluous lights of Asheville below: each to me represents a soft, warm bed.
After holding Uwharrie in a huddle for thirty minutes, I devise a solution: run the parkway! At the next crossing, we’re on the moonlit road and flying high. The silent fresh breath of salvation enters my conscience with a fantastic view from an overlook. We laugh and dance for a while, then run/walk to a rendezvous with Matthew near the Folk Art Center. As dawn arrives, I’m a stone in a sleeping bag on the pavement of the parking lot. My dad joins Adam and the others for the remaining journey and I return to work. Sunday is a day for rest, a good week’s progress in running...
The way I see it, journeys don’t really begin or end at all. So it’s rather arbitrary to say on this October 1st, my journey in ultra training really started. This is merely the official beginning of a weekly write-up chronicling a six-month section of my journey, which I’ll entitle "log-a-rhythm." I intend to post on each Sabbath a report of my progress mentally, spiritually and physically with random art, poetry, passages etc. thrown into the mix. Good stuff. So let the madness begin (or continue)…
I cannot cause light: the most I can do is try to put myself in the path of its beam. It is possible, in deep space, to sail on solar wind. Light be it particle or wave, has force: you rig a giant sail and go. The secret of seeing is to sail on solar wind. Hone and spread your spirit till you yourself are a sail, whetted, translucent, broadside to the merest puff.
Oct. 1- The Outer Journey: 35 li along the South Mills River and up to Squirrel Gap and down Mullinax in Turkey Pen on a beautiful sunny day. Early Fall, riding the solar wind. Turkey Pen is a Bermuda Triangle filled to the brim with downhill circuits! Intrepid kindred spirits have been investigating this anomaly on foot for quite some time.
Oct. 1-The Inner Journey: Wow, there’s much to write about. My mind is a dam exploded. It need not be written down all at once. Patience. Running is a selfish affair, though I maintain hope that it need not be. I crashed and burned hard in 2004 and have had a bad taste in my mouth ever since. I’ve seen competition bring out the very worst in people, including myself, and I was terrified of who I was becoming…
I’ve been reading some great articles on sports psychology in the June issue of UltraRunning, lots of good stuff in there. A common catch-phrase that bears repeating is “running an ultra marathon is 10% physical and 90% mental.” Given my limited experience, that seems true. My mind and spirit seem to be in a good place for me to rebuild physically to be within firing range of what I believe is possible. Given my unbridled dreams and the fact that anything is possible, this is seriously a dangerous affair.
What’s my motivation? This is a good question. In the past, I would’ve romantically replied: “to be a light.” But after reading Annie Dilliard, I believe it’s more accurate to say: “to ride the light.” Humility. The world can be a dark place. In my previous posts, my ongoing digestion or indigestion of this brutal fact is quite apparent. We should celebrate the light. And we like moths do, we are drawn to it. What’s my motivation? I truly hope my answer isn’t fame, for fame is a vapor. The image of Mark Twain uttering these words in a twisted claymation scene is fresh in my mind (Will Vinton is one of my heroes). OK, that’s enough relayed rambling from 35 li methinks. More next week...