"Happy Anniversary babe... to celebrate I'm going to go run for over 5hrs in the mountains on trails I've never seen before. Hopefully I won't encounter any bears or break anything while you stay at the condo with our son."... is how I hope it didn't come off when I explained it to Ashley.
I had a marathon length run planned for the same weekend as our 5th anniversary (September 4th). We had also planned a trip to Blowing Rock so I saw the opportunity to get some good quality mountain running in. It would be my last long training run before I cut back for my first ultra marathon race. Since I would be out running for ~4hrs anyway, I thought I could use this run as a way honor our anniversary and round it up to a nice 5hrs (for 5yrs of marriage). Giving it a little further meaning I decided to do my best to push myself at least until 5 hours, 4 minutes and 9 seconds (reverse of our wedding date 9.4.05).
I hoped to use the Grandfather Mountain Marathon course until further research showed that the course 'only' had ~1,000' of climb and didn't actually go to the top of Grandfather Mountain. I managed to map out a route that would take me up and over Grandfather Mountain, then towards Blowing Rock along the Mountain To Sea Trail (MST) with some possible detours for more mileage & elevation. I had some maps printed so I could make decisions on the fly and made sure Ashley had copies as well so she could find me when I called after 5 hours or if I had to bail early.
A common question for people who run for long periods of time... 'What do you think about while you are running for so long?' In my everyday life I may have 1,000 different things running through my mind at any given time. When I run I somehow find clarity. Sometimes I don't think... I just exist. I exist on that portion of trail, in that point in time and amongst God's great creation. When I am consciously thinking of anything, those thoughts are dominated by my love for God and my family. I may come back tired, hungry, thirsty and sometimes in pain but my love and bonds grow stronger while I'm out on there.
Ashley dropped me off early at the Profile Trail head (elev. 3,802') and I started my run. I created a more detailed post about the run for anyone who might want to do all/part of it themselves and would need more information.
Detailed Grandfather Mt (ultra) Marathon Post
Along the MST I would pass along the Tanawha Trail, Boone Fork Trail, Julian Price Park then connect to (and climb) Rich Mt. Rich Mt is part of the Cone Park Trail system and I reached my goal along these trails. From Rich Mt I ran the long way past Trout Lake, the Manor House and along Watkins Rd towards 321. Along this trail I hit 5 hours, 4 minutes and 9 seconds. I stopped and unsuccessfully tried to take a picture of my watch, call Ashley to tell her I love her and try to coordinate where she could pick me up. I wasn't a spring chicken by that point but since Alekzander's nap was going long and Ashley couldn't be out soon I decided to keep going for a bit. I followed the trails and exited the park at 321
I said goodbye to Ashley and Alekzander and planned not to see them again for at least 5 hours, 4 minutes and 9 seconds. We were married on 9.4.05 and I thought I would reverse those numbers as my goal time for this run.