North Fork Mountain Trail Run Report Sponsored by the West Virginia Mountain Trail Runners Seneca Rocks, WV August 13, 2005 Michelle Price The Weather I suspected the weather might play a factor in my NFMT run when I arrived at Seneca Shadows campground on Friday. It wasn't that much cooler than DC and I was sweating profusely just putting up a tent. But the sun finally dropped below the mountains and as more and more folks arrived, we enjoyed pasta, salad, bread, and other fine fare before hitting the tent for a humid night of sleep. The Run The many runners began to stir by 6:30 am. We all glided up, loaded up various hydration systems, stowed our food stores and electrolyte pills for the day and gathered for the vehicle convoy to the start. The plan was for us all to start at the southern terminus of the NFMT and head north to the approximate half-way point (10.5 miles) for aid. At that point some would head home or back to the campground to relax, others would start at the mid-way point and do the second half, and still others would continue on to compete the 24 mile run. We arrived at the drop-off point and all gathered for the obligatory picture at the start. We had quite an impressive crew of runners, it was exhilarating to be a part of. Once the pictures were done, we all headed out in various groups. I ran with my Montgomery County Road Runners trail running friends, Mical and Angelo. We leap frogged with Anita, Vickie, Dru, and Caroline for much of the first half. We also saw quite of bit of Dan Lehmann who was running at a leisurely pace (for him) and taking lots of pictures at overlooks. The terrain was occasionally rocky but very runnable. The trail runs along a ridge top, sometimes strays from the top a bit, but allows you exceptional views pretty often. In fact the main hazard was that you could stop almost every mile to take in some other exceptional view!! The views were fine and Mical, Angelo, and I enjoyed taking a break to go check them out. I think we stopped twice in the first half to take in the scenery. Most times we were running in the shade, often with a nice breeze. There were some really beautiful areas where the trail was single track through tall, bright green ferns that made you feel like you were in some incredibly verdant garden. Half Way (really mile 10.5) We pulled into aid station after about 2 hours and 47 minutes of elapsed time. I felt good, had consumed most of my 70 ounce camelbak of Gatorade and was feeling pretty confident about the second half. We spent 10 minutes grazing on Pringles, cookies, pretzels, trail mix, etc. and chatted with our fellow runners. I refilled my camelbak and we headed down the gravel road for a little over a mile before we headed into the woods again on the trail. (Note: Thank you for those that warned about the rattlesnake on the road. We did not see it. By evening that rattlesnake seems to have grown considerably larger than first reported. Did anyone get a picture?) The Second Half (really 13.3 miles) In previous years of this event I had only done the first half and had really been looking forward to doing the whole trail. Mical, Angelo, and I headed out of the aid station together, I thought we were all doing pretty well. We pretty quickly caught up to Vickie, Dru and Dan enjoying the view at another overlook. We went up to check out the view while I fished some gravel out of my shoe from the road running. Turns out that Angelo was already not feeling real well and started to drop behind Mical and me fairly quickly after this. The terrain seemed a fair amount more rocky pretty quickly. And guess what, it would get a lot more rocky later! At some point I had slightly tweaked my right ankle and now it seemed on the second half that the trail was often slanted downhill to the right so that I was forced to proceed very carefully. I would recover and it wouldn't hurt for awhile, then I'd tweak it again, pick my way through the rocks slowly, then it would feel better and I would move faster again until the next rock struck. There were also these long stretches of trail that would be completely covered in several inches deep of dry leaves. At first this looked like a welcome break from the rocks, then I realized there were rocks under those leaves, I took to thinking of these as sleeper rocks and began to warily approach these sections. Somewhere around 1 pm when we had been on the trail for about 5 hours, Mical noted she was really starting to feel the heat. I think I began to feel it a bit earlier. Lots of this section of trail was still in shade but we were still exposed to the eastern sun every now and then and it felt like a blast furnace. There also wasn't as much of a breeze, or maybe I was just incapable of appreciating it anymore. This is when the adventure became a bit more challenging for us both. Since it had taken us 2:47 on the first half, we were both thinking that the second half would be maybe 3 or 3 1/2 hours. However, I wasn't fully appreciating at the time that we really had done only 10.5 miles in 2:47 and now had over 13 miles to go at the hottest part of the day. We continued to leap-frog with Vickie and Dru every now and then but hadn't seen Angelo in awhile. We were a little worried about how he was but knew he had gutted out enough races that he'd be fine. We passed the first trail off to the right that Dan had warned us not to take, we knew that was getting us closer to the finish but didn't know how far. Then we got to the second trail off to the right we weren't supposed to take and saw a tired runner heading our way up that trail. It was Bret and it turns out he had gone pretty far down the trail before he realized his mistake. He had now made it back to the right trial, was out of water and was looking pretty beat. Mical gave him what she had left in her hand-held water bottle. He asked us to have someone bring water up the trail if we finished before him. Mical was now out of water and we shared what I had left in my camelbak for the rest of the way. We didn?t know how long that would be so we were very conservative about drinking, my guess is we finished it with about an hour to go. So we probably drank very little for the last 1 and 1/2 hours of our journey. Next we passed the spur trail off to Chimney Rocks and declined to take in the view. I knew we were missing an exceptional view but just felt like we needed to keep moving. Not long after that we caught up with Caroline who was making her way through the rocky terrain and eating some food. She said she was also out of water. We joked about wishing her husband would show up with some water. Finally we reached the area I was familiar with from hiking up the trail in the opposite direction last year. We got some good running in down the mostly non-rocky switch backs. At long last we heard voices from the parking lot below and knew we had reached our destination. There was cold Gatorade, cold water, and food! It was awesome. In retrospect I probably should have had more fluids for the second half. Then I think I would have had the energy to enjoy more of the views. But no matter, I'm still looking forward to my next NFMT run next year. Thanks to Dan and Jody for hosting such a great event. I really enjoyed chatting with friends from WVMTR and VHTRC as well as meeting new friends. I'm also glad I got to introduce the area to more friends from Montgomery County Road Runners Club here in Maryland. Also thanks to everyone that helped shuttle runners as well as work the aid station at the half-way point and at the finish.