North Fork Mountain Trail Run Reports 2004

From Mark Flood and Bill Potts

 

For those who missed the NFMTR, let me be the first to say - what a
beautiful day for a trail run!!! The weather on Friday evening was very
cool, and the temperature for sleeping was perfect. The temperature on a
bank clock on the way to the start line on Sat. morning read 48 degrees.

I ran the NFMT 2 years ago, and my longest run of the year to that point was
only about 12-14 miles, this year we had steadily increased mileage to 16
the previous weekend. I felt like I was in good shape at the time and
ultimately later that year I qualified for Boston. I struggled mightly
through the last half of the run 2 years ago and told Dan L that there is no
way that the run was really 24 miles (more like 26 in my book). He admitted
this year that there were conflicting stories on exactly how long the trail
is!! Dan - it probably is about 24 miles, but all the rocks make it seem
longer. Also my lack of training is probably to blame, not the distance of
the course.

As you can tell from the pictures Bill Young jumped the gun and took off and
left most of us behind!! Anyway the first few miles were nice and easy. I,
unlike Bill Potts, wore bandaids to prevent chafing for the first 2 miles or
so I had my shirt on for. Then when we stopped and I saw Jennifer's knee I
offered my used bandaids - but she refused! (I guess she was not that
desperate to use my bandaids as someone else had some fresh ones).

The first part went by pretty quickly as it had 2 years ago. One cool part
was seeing the platform for potential hangliders - that would have been the
easy way down. We had started at 8:10 and I think I hit the van around
10:30. Tony and I left around 10:40 for the 2nd "half" of the run. Two
years ago I ran with one water bottle and ran out of fluids about 4 miles
from the downhill end. This year I thought I was smarter and ran with 2
handheld bottles. I barely drank both bottles before we hit the aid
station, I drank a full cup of gatoraid and I took my 2 fully filled bottles
on the trail. I thought I was ready as the weather was not too hot yet.
One of the best memories of the run was going through the section with lots
of cool ferns carpeting the forest floor as Kimberly and I talked and got to
know each other.

My friend, and Fairmont State colleague, Tony was there at the van to run
the last "half" with me. As Tony and I took off I felt like we were running
at a pace I could keep up for the rest of our time on the trail, but as we
hit those couple of big climbs I was wrong!! I started bonking even though
I was hydrating and eating lots of gels ( I had 3 gels the first part, ate
lots of cookies and a energy bar at the aid station, and then 4 gels the
second part). Not again I thought!! This time I had Tony around with me
and he helped keep my spirits higher than when I ran two years ago by myself
for the last 5 miles or so. We stopped and saw some nice views along the
way (not as many in the last half as the first half though). There was no
way to run and look up from the trail with so many rocks to dodge.

As Joe passed us on this part of the trail he mentioned that they were
playing hopscotch by jumping over, around and on top of so many rocks. I
agreed with him 100%. I think that the new acronym for this trail run
should be the NFMHT!!

As we neared the summit Tony and I were completely out of fluids. I still
had a gel pack but there was no way I was going to take it without water.
As we were starting down in the section with lots of pine needles my legs
finally gave way to a full body slam on the trail. I don't know what I
tripped on, but at least I fell on the pine needles between the rocks. I
jumped back up and started to walk quickly as I developed intense cramps.

The last couple of miles were intensely painful, and I SINCERELY (not being
my normal sarcastic self) hope that Dan L will take my suggestion to run the
course in the reverse direction in the near future. Yes everyone might have
to walk the first couple of miles, but the knee pain for us heavy runners
(or others with knee problems) on this downhill section is undescrideably
intense!!! Tony was verbally wincing and groaning and letting me know how
his knees were not enjoying this section, but I was keeping quiet just
concentrating on the next step and trying not to slide on the shale rocks on
the last part of the trail.

Mercifully the trail ended and we were done - it was 2:00pm - almost 6 hours
after we had begun. I was glad to have made another NFMT journey safely.
And this time I had Tony to thank for staying with me for the toughest
section of the run.

My recovery has been shorter this time than last. Maybe next year will be
the breakthrough year that I am able to keep the pace steady throughout the
entire day. I cannot imagine having a cooler weather day than this one
however. I guess a camelback is what I need to try next since my two hand
held bottles were not enough - maybe I just need to learn to sweat less??

I look forward to this next year (possibly) unless the Highlands Sky totally
kicks my butt (which is highly likely!). Special thanks goes to Jody and
Dan for their sacrifice of time and money for the benefit of WV trail
running. Without people like them around the rest of us likely would be
isolated in our own worlds and not get to know each other as well. The best
part of the weekend was probably the trail running fellowship we enjoyed the
afternoon (the great spread of food included) and evening after the run.

Take care and God bless,
Mark Flood
(AKA Lucky's Dad)

_________________________________________________________________________

Memories of North Fork

Five hundred and eighty four million miles is the distance traveled
since the last running of the North Fork Mountain. This small blue
sphere that we all call home rotates around our life giving sun in
365 days, 6 hours, 9 minutes and 9.54 seconds. During the last year
we welcomed new beings into the world, established new friendships
and said goodbye to old acquaintances, all while being hurled through
space at 18.5 miles per second. Despite the distance traveled, I
vividly recall my first meeting of the North Fork Mountain and
anxiously looked forward to this year's gathering.

This year would be different. Darkened skies gave way to a crystal
clear blue void. Why the cooler temperatures in the middle of the dog
days of summer? Something seemed strange, out of place. The
atmosphere was crisp, clean and for a moment I forgot the time of the
year. I hurriedly packed my things and raced like a greyhound,
heading west toward the Allegheny Front. Lehmann, Young, Todd,
Jennifer, Anita, Jay. Who would be waiting? With a running start, I
made quick time up the eastern fašade. At last I was at the southern
summit. Last year, fog encompassed the starting point and I drove
past the overlook. In awe, I gazed over German Valley only to see
each of the 24 miles of the North Fork Mountain. In less than 12
hours we would be out there, somewhere.

Few things satisfy the pallet like pasta over an open camp fire. The
temperatures were diving south and I was ill prepared for the
evening. We huddled by the warmth of an open fire and watched the
star's skip across the sky like flat rocks across a pond. Morning
came quickly and we loaded the bus for the summit. Our tour guide
dropped the big diesel down into low gear as we made the assent. With
skill and cunning she maneuvered the big bus to a self made exit ramp
and we ground to a sudden halt. We were perched to make our escape.
The Big Grizzly was spooked by the anticipation of the moment and
quickly darted off into the woods. The hounds followed.

The shade of the canopy gave way to the early morning sun and no one
wanted to continue without taking a moment to appreciate what the day
had to offer. Robert tuned to me and said, "this is exactly what I
needed." We were back on pace. Blood had been drawn and for a moment
I felt uneasy about the difficulty of the day. My anxieties were
quickly squelched by the pleasant exchange of conversation and the
peacefulness of the trail. A garden of ferns reminded me of Dorothy's
march through the poppies on her way to see the Wizard. We paused for
a picture, but not for long as we needed to make haste.

There she was, as expected, always on time and ready to provide
sustenance and support. Chocolate cookies dipped in peanut butter
brought immediate relief. Our visit was cut short by a cool wind
pushing us northward. We said goodbye and began our decent. The
difficulty of the next few miles kept Robert and I close
together. "So what other stories do you have to tell?" I searched the
dark recesses of my mind. We couldn't have exhausted a summer full
of memories in a few short miles. Just as conversation ended we found
ourselves snapping photos like Japanese tourists at the Lincoln
Memorial. "That has to be Virginia . . . visibility seems unlimited."

"We are almost there . . . what's that a backpack? Hello!" "Hello to
you!" We edged out on the eagles perch. They were out for a day hike
and didn't mind sharing their narrow piece of real-estate as they
prepared their mid-day meal. "Wow!" A military helicopter scraped the
trees above us. "I wonder if they can see us?"

For a short stretch the trail became rocky and technical. A pleasant
break from the boulders included a short hike to Chimney Rocks.
Robert sat on a colony of fire ants. I stifled a giggle and he looked
at me we an off camber smile. "Hey, were almost done. I appreciate
you doing this with me." His smile straightened. If memory recalls,
the last few miles promises a nice downhill finish, besides, the
Wizard said it would be an easy finish. Our wishes were granted. I
could here the others. "Whoo Hoooo!" We were almost there.

The day came to an end as promised. With burgeoning bellies, we sat
by the fire, watched the climbers end their day and joined in the
fellowship of the moment. Another five hundred million more miles or
so and we'll do it all over again. I can hardly wait.

                                                          Bill Potts