West Virginia Trilogy -2012
A West Virginia mountain trail runner’s event
In conjunction with The Mountain Institute
We arrived Thursday late afternoon. After the incredibly beautiful drive it was hard to imagine it could get any more spectacular but upon arriving at TMI It was obvious it could and did. We placed the tent up on the hill overlooking the main yurt and with a phenomenal view of the mountains. We set up camp just as the winds were picking up and the temperatures were dropping. We ventured down to the main yurt and picked up our race packets. The atmosphere at the main yurt was electric! Volunteers, race directors, and runners were all a buzz in anticipation of what would unfold over the next few days. We ate a delicious meal prepared by the TMI crew, cleaned our dishes and awaited the pre race briefing. Adam Casseday and Dan Lehmann along with many wonderful volunteers and TMI staff were introduced and the briefing began. The usual stuff was mentioned: course markings, cut-off times, aid stations, etc…There was also a great deal said about the closeness that would develop over the next several days as we ate and ran together. Upon leaving the meeting there was already a sense of camaraderie and support amongst everyone!
We headed back to our tents and tucked in for a very cold sleep ( the kind where you wear a hat, gloves hoodie and have layers of blankets piled on top hoping body heat kicks in..).
Day 1: 50k
I slept as late as I could and headed down to the main yurt with ten minutes to drink some hot tea, pee and venture to the start line…I was literally running to the start line hollering “I’m here” as Dan was calling my name for the 2nd..3rd…Time…I peed quick and jumped in line and off we went. The first day is almost a blur now as I try and recall the details…I remember early on thinking “man, it can’t all be cross county…can it?” as we ran through cow fields , the cows looking at us like we were crazy and clearly out of bounds! I went out very slow…start slow, walk early, and eat often…these words repeating through my brain reminding me to take it slow this first day. In my head I was thinking maybe an 8hour 50k…i didn’t want to be any faster than that and I didn’t want to stay out too long…no idea what to expect the next few days so that was my plan. I warmed up nice and slow, back of the pack. I remember passing right through AS#1 loving the sight of Dan and Adam and feeling happy to be out there; eager to see what the day would bring. I remember the first big climb, it seemed to go straight up for miles (which I’m pretty sure it did) lol and I could not help but think A. this is so freaking beautiful and B: Big Ass Hill doesn’t have a thing on this! Lol
I am a slow walker (I know this) I’m much faster on straights and descending; I lose a lot of time walking…so the long climbs were like minutes ticking off in my mind…but I wanted to take it all in so chatted with nice folks, looked around at the natural beauty I was so blessed to be surrounded by and kept on keeping on. Seasoned trilogy runners would offer tidbits of advice or course information as the passed by and I loved every minute of it!
I remember running along the “river” …and through it, every time thinking “WOW, that’s cold!”…and loving it! And I think someone called me “Magellan” and one point because I just splashed on through instead of wasting precious minutes looking for a better place to cross…haha. At one point I remember looking up and seeing this huge waterfall right in front me…as voices above yelled “ hey the trail is up here”..And just thanking God for such an awesome opportunity. I took a minute to take it all in then backtracked and jumped on the trail.
The trail that day, in my mind, was technical and fun and hilly and I wondered all day how in the world I would make the cut off on day #2 if the trails were similar.
The thing I remember most from that day was the volunteers. They knew everyone’s name as they came thru the AS; Ready to help, encourage, support, and cheer. It was overwhelming to me how personal this event was.
Late in the day I hooked up with Matt Smythe, whose family id met the day before through a NC MTC friend Mark long, and he and I shared the remainder of the day talking and enjoying the trail…the long climb that when you turned around literally stole your breath because the view was so glorious it didn’t seem real; the mountains painted with every fall color imaginable… I remember almost falling over trying to run and see it and Matt noted I might want to just stop and turn around…haha… between THAT view and the view of runners trailing up the hill I was just filled with gratitude to be able to be out there doing what I was doing …simply amazing!
Well, into the finish we ran and when I saw the clock 7:20 I thought two things A. wow that was great run and B. I didn’t mean to run that fast today…uh oh lol
Next up hot showers (YES!! J ) and food ( even better) and race meeting. The meeting was great. Runners were becoming familiar with one another, there was buzz about the day and support and congratulations and encouragement being spread by everyone. So far, I loved everything about this weekend! The biggest surprise of the day was when I was announced as the 2nd female over all for the trilogy for day one. (Shocked!!) I rarely, and I mean only one other time, have every been recognized in an event…I was overwhelmed and filled with such gratitude for everyone there and the beautiful day and all the friends and family sending thoughts and prayers to me, thrilled to be sharing all of it with such a fun, amazing group of runners…just shocked and thankful! And then I thought “oh no, maybe I did run too fast today…”…the thought of not making the cut off on day #2 haunted me …
Waking up it was clear that it was even colder than the previous night as the tent was frozen and the water bottle I attempted to drink out of…I woke earlier and dressed faster than the previous day with only one thing in mind…the quicker I get to the yurt the faster I can get warm! So I drank some tea and ate some food and worried about making the 14 hour cutoff. We were told the night before that we would need to be to the Horton AS (mile33) by 330 and the last AS by 7:10.
At 6am we were off. I started out very back of the pack running with my good friend and fellow MTCer Mark Long. Out through the cow fields and onward to the enchanted forest (as I call Spruce Knob). It was cold and it was windy as we all made the climb up. Waiting at the top was Dan ready to retrieve our headlamps and send us forth on a magical journey. And what magic it was! The frost covered the rocks and trees and glistened like nothing I have ever seen …pretty sure I spotted a fairy as a darted from rock to rock…I would have stopped to chat a while but I had a cut off to make …running through the forest I no more thought “man this would be an awesome place to pitch a tent” and just like that a tent off to the right…spectacular! I ran alone for quite some time taking all the magic in…Giving thanks once again for such a glorious opportunity…
Down, down , down we all went to the half way point…it was so much fun seeing everyone as they climbed back up and passed on their way out again. With every step understanding when the bottom was reached and the fluids topped, the food stocked the climb would begin. About 3/4 of the way down to AS 3 I see my good friend Chris Petruccio. He had come out to volunteer for the weekend at the AS’s and as a course sweep. We chatted about the day so far and finished the descent. I topped off and started climbing.
The run was rocky, rooty, muddy, and leaf covered…i actually laughed out loud and thought “this is AWESOME, where else can I get all these things in one spot?!” I was literally running and lifting my feet high and just praying when they landed in a good spot…I imagine I looked like I was prancing along the trails…lol
Horton, AS 4, cut off check point #1 (be there by 3:30) …looming…“keep moving, run when you can, keep eating, don’t stop to pee yet…wait till it’s a ‘have to walk section’..”
Along the “river” I meet up with Mark Thorne. He had run the trilogy last year and tried to assure my neurotic brain I was in good shape to make the 3:30 cut-off…I didn’t believe him haha so I kept moving…I came in to Horton AS right about 3 , I believe, and was thrilled to know I had made the cut-off..The girls at the AS were very reassuring. I topped of fluids and grabbed some food and like some angel on high…i hear: I just made broth if you would like some?” ummm YES! Lol I grabbed the broth and took off walking and sipping…then I thought, out loud, all alone…OMG that was soooo good! haha and off I went!. New thought ’need to get to last aid station by 7:10…followed by : I did not camp two days in the freezing cold to miss this cutoff and not finish what I came here to do !” and I ran as much as possibly could. I grabbed heavenly grilled cheese at Judy springs (awesome AS!) I hit the last AS before 7pm, hollered thanks to the awesome volunteers! And ran right on through. My thought was, “it’s only 3 more miles if I need something I’ll get it at the finish”…i knew I still had cardiac to climb and I wanted to allow as much time as possible to come in under 14 hours. It was still daylight and for that I was grateful. I ran, ran, ran…i climbed over fences and hopped over creeks, catching myself on the barb wire…and I ran…i hit the last bit of forest just as night was falling…i ran and picked up my feet just hoping I would miss the roots and rocks ..’Because I couldn’t see a thing…and I ran and ran all the way to cardiac hill. At some point between the last AS and cardiac hill I was struck by the thought “I’m gonna make it in…I’m going to get to run another day!”…and I cried a little…and then I power climbed cardiac! I came out into the meadow and I couldn’t find the streamers…i was shining my light everywhere trying to see which way to go…i could hear everyone at the finish yelling but I didn’t know which way to go…I almost hollered as loud as I could :” hey how do I get to the finish??” haha but just as I was out of hope , like a beacon in the night…a blue reflective strip caught my light and off I ran…past the observatory, past the campers on the hill and down into the finish…I could here em “ is that Amie?, yeah, that’s Amie!, screams, cheers, “ it was AWESOME!!! 13:24, last girl in and I couldn’t have been happier! I’d run well enough to run on Sunday and have it all count! WOW!
I waited to shower, food and meeting first…id held everyone up enough already lol Mark long was right there with a heaping pile of pasta and bread ( let me say again TMI staff ROCKS!!! ) and somehow I had hot tea ( Mark long) I’m a truly blessed person to have such wonderful friends and be in such warm company! It was a fun meeting! Lots of excitement over the last two days, lots of bonding, lots and lots of camaraderie! My new friend and fellow MTCer Rich Riopel had taken first for the men; my other buddy Rob was first in the 50 and over. Our first place girl Chelsea Ward Waller (who had never done a trail run) was killing the trilogy and I could not have been happier for her! She rocked it out there!! Lots of runners missed the cut off and with that the standings shifted…our new third place girl was Rhonda Stricklett! Wow did she comeback and have an amazing 2nd day!! And somehow, I remained in 2nd place…
Day 3: 1/2 marathon
WOOHOO! It was warmer AND we were able to sleep in! body felt great but my left knee had decided it was not going to bend without yelling very loudly at me; (A combination of wearing older shoes on day 2 and descending rapidly in them ) Hmmm..Well there was no cutoff for the half so if I had to walk I would. I dressed and headed down to breakfast. Ate some toast and drank some tea and visited and chatted with all the runners. I love them! J
9am, we were off…I hobbled my way along for over 3 miles and thought ‘it’s gonna be a long day”. We hit some soft woods and I tried running…the knee was sore and I was grateful for soft, non technical terrain. And then, just like the past two days…everyone’s thoughts and prayers touched me and my leg was fine…i could run! And run I did…well, I sort of ran and winced coming down the back section of the gravel 1 mile road…ha-ha it was good to see everyone this last day…trilogy folks high fiving one another as we passed, shouts of encouragement and congratulations on an amazing weekend, stories from those that didn’t make the cut off sat but came out Sunday to finish what they started! Amazing! …girl #3 ( Rhonda) passed me on the first out and back section and I congratulated her on great come from behind this weekend ( as I was certain she would officially take over 2nd place this day)…she shouted something to the effect of “ you’re not that far behind me”..Huh? Wait…what? Really? Well, body don’t fail me now…and I ran , and ran , and ran, and I power climbed cardiac for the final time that weekend and I hopped fences and jumped streams ( clearing the barb wire this time) and tore up the field ) easier to see in the light of day) ..Past the observatory, up the hill, around the campers on the hill, past the gate and in to the finish! Everyone screaming! Lots of hugs at the finish…Dan of course was first! LOVE THAT GUY! Adam reaching a hand out, like I wasn’t gonna hug him…hugged him! Lol and all my friends! New and old…everyone hugging, shaking hands, congratulating one another , sharing stories of the last 3 days…my friend, Rob, comes up and whispers “you held on to second”…” what? Are u sure?”No way! Big smile!
Rhonda and Chelsea and I all found each other…lots of hugs and good cheer….a true bonding! Rhonda and I sat and talked through the delicious lunch FEAST! Chatted about the weekend like everyone else was doing…and then you could hear the conversation change to what races are coming next? I LOVE ultra runners!!
As a group we celebrated! We celebrated winners, we celebrated all who finished the trilogy and all who came and attempted to finish..That day we were ALL winners!! …and it felt really good to be in the winner’s circle!
Dan Lehmann and Adam Casseday, TMI staff, and the countless volunteers and supporters thank you so much for putting on a an event worthy of the highest praise! The course was beautiful, challenging, and fun. The food was outstanding! And yet the thing I will remember most of all is the camaraderie we all shared…I was sad today ( Monday) when I woke up and didn’t have you all here to go out and run again with …till next year my friends…happy trails!