|Blue Train at Uwharrie: Pam, Alan, Sophie, Keith, Tracy, Rob, Beth and Sean|
Some of my fondest ultra memories are road trips with the VHTRC Blue Train. Two that stand out are the Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim crossing in 2005 (with Vicki Kendall, Barb Isom, Laura Dewald, Linda Wack, Anita and Jay Finkle) and the 2006 Western States 100 road trip with Gary Knipling, Keith Knipling, Quatro Hubbard, Tom Corris, Scott Crabb, Bryon Powell, Prasad Gerard, and Bunny Runyon.
The Grand Canyon R2R2R fell into my lap; Linda Wack emailed a group of friends a year ahead of our trip date of October 1 and basically told us she had made all the reservations and logistical plans, and that all we had to do was show up! And what an amazing trip that was. This photo was taken the night before our run, looking southwest from the North Rim Lodge balcony at sunset:
The following summer, a large Blue Train group was fortunate to get into the Western States 100 via the lottery. Nowadays it is virtually impossible to get into WS solo, forget about a group! 2006 was called the "hot year" which means it was 75 at the start at Squaw Valley, 110 degrees in the canyons halfway through the race, and 95 degrees at sunrise in Auburn on the second day. Despite these conditions, the VHTRC gang had a very high finishing rate (all but one of us made the cut-offs), Keith and Bryon won their age groups, and we had a total blast representing the East Coast on that sweet (some would even say, "candy ass") trail. WS remains as one of my favorite races, despite the heat, the blisters (oh, the blisters!!!), and the distance! Another bucket list item, for sure. Here are some fun pics:
Sadly, the family schedule in the summer months has not been conducive to any more summer Blue Train road trips for the past few years, and I really miss them. So this fall I decided to gather a group for a trek down to the Uwharrie Mountain Run 40. We had previously made the trip in 2005, and I had raced in 2007 and 2008 as well, and was eager to get back with a VHTRC team. Uwharrie is "MMT Lite"--technical, rocky trail with lots of ridge running until you run down to an AS, and then back up to the ridge-- so it is a tough challenge for a winter ultra. Since my racing schedule focuses on November-March, I knew I would be in good shape, but I also knew I would be cutting it close in terms of recovery from Hellgate.
I rode down with Rob Colenso and we met up with Keith Knipling, Tracy Dahl Knipling, Alan and Pam Gowen, Sean Andrish, and Beth Weisenborn at the pre-race dinner. The RDs, a young couple who own Bull City Running Company, did a great job and even made sure that our table got three grab bag prizes--two beer glasses and a free pair of trail shoes!
It was a great day out on the Uwharrie Trail, and we got some hardware to prove it! Sean finished as 2nd male after taking some time off from racing--it was great to see him running so well. Keith looked solid as usual and he finished 4th. I was hoping to once again make it into the "Brain Dead Club" for women who finished in under 8:00--my previous bests were 7:47 in 2005 and 7:53 in 2007--but I had an energy lull mid-race that set me back a bit. I finished in 8:07, good enough for second female. Tracy finished her first 40 miler looking awesome in 9:36, and Rob PR'd by 15 minutes in 9:02. Alan, Pam and Beth all finished strong and we were able to take third in the team results, despite having the most runners scoring in the 40 miler. Woop!
After hanging around the fire ring at the finish eating and drinking soup and other frosty beverages, we gathered at the local BBQ joint for some real Carolina BBQ and sweet tea (no beer at this place...dry county?) It was a great way to celebrate another Blue Train adventure. Next year, we hope more friends will join us at Uwharrie--the entry process is still a work in progress, but hopefully the kinks will be worked out for 2013. Until then...Happy Trails!
|Rob, Sophie, Keith, Tracy and Sean at the Uwharrie finish line|