I finished 14th.
Out of 18:-)
Having endured numerous gout attacks in the Spring, a sprained right ankle in June (on the Franconia Ridge, no less) and an even worse sprained left ankle in September, I started the race badly undertrained and still nursing a swollen ankle.
Twenty-five kilometers, six hours, three minutes, and twenty-five seconds. Mission accomplished.
Cloudsplitter 100 is my favorite Fall race. The scenery is beautiful, the small town of Norton is welcoming, and the runners that show up are pure nutters. It's the stupid kind of challenging fun that I love!
I met up with my Crossroads running friends, Rob and Lyn Gentry, at the mandatory pre-race meeting. It was well organized and free pizza was provided by Doughmaker's Pizza. Speakers included the race director, Susan Howell, Kentucky and Virginia heads of USATF, and the USDA Forest Service.
After the meeting, we headed out to the quintessential local bar and grill, Wood Booger Grill. For the uninitiated, Wood Booger is the local name for Big Foot - complete with statues of the mythical creature at the front door.
The next morning, we met up at the starting line - Rob was running the 100K and I was happy with 25K. I wasn't sure how things would go, so I brought my day pack with emergency gear in case I needed to be out into the night to finish (I'd run exactly 2 miles in the month prior).
We also ran into Rob Apple, a legend in trail running with more ultramarathon finishes than I can count. I love that guy - always positive, smiling, and happy.
Then, with the sound of a musket blast, we were off.
The initial ascent was as expected - steep, long, and taxing. That opening climb was something like 1,200 vertical feet in a mile and a half. Fortunately, however, the footing was excellent with most of the 25K on old Forest Service roadbeds.
The course took us uphill toward High Knob Observation Tower, passing a pair of reservoirs en route. The forest was beautiful with the morning sun poking through the treetops.
The descent to the turnaround point was challenging on an unstable ankle with lots of loose rocks and plenty of pitch. I was very happy to have brought my hiking poles to add stability to avoid re-injury.
Halfway through, I felt really good - no cramps, no twisted ankle, and still plenty of legs left for the 9 miles to finish.
I made it back up to High Knob and took a good bit of time to take in the views at the observation tower. It was gorgeous seeing the Appalachian Mountains in all their glory.
The rest of the race was just a matter of staying focused on my foot strikes and taking as much time as needed on the very steep closing downhill section.
At just over six hours, I finished, felt great, and retired to my hotel for a celebratory beer.
I missed Rob later that night, as he made better time than expected and finished the 100K in just over 22 hours - a marked improvement over last year in tougher conditions on a tougher course. He crushed.