Monday, June 13, 2011


- Time to knock this blog entry out. It's the one about the RAM. The Roan Adventure Marathon, 2011. Something like 28 or 29 miles on the Appalachian Trail. Thirteen hearty adventurers on a quest for I-don't-know-what. I feel kind of obnoxious about having a blog right now. But that's your problem if you read any further than this.

- The Sultan tries to plan the RAM around the blooming of the rhododendron. This year it was really awesome. Last year, not so much with the blooming. Last year Jinnie and I ran it together. Unfortunately she is injured and didn't make the trip this time.

- So I drove up to the Roan Highlands on Friday after work. It's amazing to me how many people from North Carolina don't know anything about the Roan. I think it's because it's not a national park, or an NC state park. Also, you have to drive past places like Boone, Blowing Rock, Grandfather Mountain, etc. to get there. It's much easier to visit those familiar places. Also the Blue Ridge Parkway does not go near the Roan. But it's awesome. Beautiful open grassy bald mountains and meadows. And also the mystical spruce - fir forests adjacent to that. And the Appalachian Trail passes right through all of it. So you can see some crazy thru-hikers too.

- The plan was to camp on top of Round Bald. Now, I'm not a camper. Maybe 3 or 4 times in my back yard when I was a kid. And then I'd usually come in and sleep in my bed anyway. So I borrowed a single-person tent from my brother. He told me I wouldn't sleep. But the grassy meadow on top of the mountain was a pretty comfortable bed, actually. No bears ate me. I got some decent sleep. The views were awesome. It was chilly all night. Amazing, considering the oppressive heat I left in Charlotte, and the oppressive heat to come during the RAM.

- So the sun woke me up way early, like 5:15 or something. Got up and hauled the tent down to my vehicle. I crammed a bunch of food in my pie hole. I tried to drink a lot too. Soon it was time to start the run. Oh boy. I'm not good with cramming food and then immediately running in the morning. My blood supply somehow can't handle digestion and also the strenuous exercise. I get dizzy. I would be interested to know if anyone else has this problem. So the first 45 minutes of the RAM were kind of slow for me.

- Beautiful day. Full sun. Warmed up quickly. Great views. Lots of climbing, over Round Bald, Jane Bald, up Grassy Ridge, up Little Hump, over Hump Mountain. I was feeling better and happy. Caught up to the Ageless Doug as we descended down to the aid station / turnaround. The Ageless Doug is amazing, and I want to be like him when I grow up.

- My time for the trip to the halfway point was 3:20. I then spent 20 minutes scarfing down everything I could. And drinking Coke, Gatorade, water, whatever was there. Finally I started back up the trail. Having eaten so much was not a problem now, as the climb up from the aid station to Hump Mountain is like, ridiculously steep. So, a lot of hiking. Time for digestion and preparing to push to the finish.

- Got up to the open balds. Hot as all get out. I quickly drain my water bottle. Uh oh. I still have about 3 hours to go.....
Oh, and the Ageless Doug had left me in the dust. Go Doug!

- I don't want to be overly dramatic. But I did think about dying, a little bit. I was overheated. I was dizzy. I was dehydrating. I thought I saw a couple of weird things. I had a hard time figuring out which side of the Appalachian Trail that Tennessee would be on, and which North Carolina would be on, even though I knew I was headed South. I really wanted to stop moving and lay down. I suddenly realized how easy death would be for climbers on Everest if they gave in to such a thought. Anyway, I was reduced to walking every uphill section for the last couple hours. It was not fun. It was the worst I have ever felt during any run. I probably would have quit, if there had been a place for it. The only way out is to keep moving.

- Finally I found The Sultan as we headed up Grassy Ridge. The never ending climb. I think I heard him tell a hiker to keep an eye on me; that he didn't want to leave me up here. I think I looked pretty pitiful. We trudged on. Finally we came into view of the last two knobs: Jane Bald and Round Bald. I knew I could make it. We even ran hard down Round Bald just to break 8 hours. 7:59.

- So here's how I break this one down: Out: 3:20. Aid station break: 20 minutes. Return trip: 4:20. Time it took me to feel like myself again after the race: 20 minutes. I can't wait to do it again. Feelin' good now. No injuries. Time to gear up for the Grandfather Mountain Marathon, baby!