Sunday, March 8, 2009
Catawba Run-Around 2009
Yesterday I celebrated the arrival of spring (and the first day of spring break) with the Catawba Run Around, an informal "non-event" gathering of ultrarunning friends. This was my fifth CRA; in 2004, I ventured down to this little mountain valley west of Roanoke as an ultra newbie, knowing virtually no one in the VHTRC and certainly clueless about "adventure training runs" in the mountains. 35 miles and 8,800 feet of climb later, I emerged a changed ultrarunner: I had gained more confidence and more appreciation for the incredible natural beauty that awaited me in the sport. Most importantly, I made some dear friends in the process and officially became an active member of the VHTRC.
The CRA uses some of the most scenic trails in Virginia: an older, now-retired section of the Appalachian Trail known simply to us as "North Mountain" as well as other trails that encircle the Catawba Valley. Because it's not an "event", it's not directed by "anyone", but runners somehow get excellent aid at three different locations and a Patagonia shirt at the finish! The CRA ranks right up there with many well-known ultras in terms of organization, schwag, trail beauty, toughness, and fellowship. It is the essence of the sport.
The best part of the CRA for me? Besides the gorgeous views, fantastic trail, and outstanding support, the best part of the day is always watching the others finish while eating and drinking and resting my sore legs! And did I mention the 8,800 feet of climb in 35 miles? It's a 35 miler that runs like a 50. My best time was in 2008, when I ran 9:13 in the easier, counter clockwise direction. This year, we ran it in the harder clockwise direction on the first hot day of the year (temps were in the mid-70s) and I ran 9:24. Not too shabby for an old lady in the heat.
Here are some of my favorite pics below:
The Green Team of Michele Harmon, me and Jill Quivey at the start
David Horton gets pumped for another CRA (he ran the loop the day before, so this is day 2 of his CRA double)
The group at the start
Sunrise hits North Mountain, a 12-mile stretch without aid that takes about 3 hours to complete
Front runners Aaron Schwartzbard, Mike Mason, and Clark Zealand (who set a CRA record of 6:50) pose for the camera while descending Dragon's Tooth
23 miles later, a view of where I had come from--North Mountain-- from Tinker Cliffs
Rebecca Byerly, Bobby Gill and me on top of McAfee's Knob, 10 miles from the finish
9+ hours later, I am treated to this view of the the final mile to the finish and of Dragon's Tooth, the first big climb of the day!
The icing on the CRA cake: Dinner and fellowship at the Homeplace. All you can eat fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, corn...mmmmmmm.
See the rest of my CRA photos here.
See Charlie Miracle's awesome CRA photos here.