Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Iron Mountain Training Weekend

I was in Damascus Virginia this past weekend to do a training run for the Iron Mountain Trail Race on 8/31. I drove up from NC on Friday, about a 4 hour trip. The weather was great for the drive up, but that would not be the case for the remainder of the weekend.
  I was camping at Beartree campground in the Mount Rogers National Recreation area, a beautiful spot tucked right off Hwy 58.

The only sunny picture!
 I arrived at camp around 3pm and setup. I was going very minimalist, just my one man tent, Coleman stove and sleeping bag. I had a bit of food and some coffee and that was pretty much it. After I had everything together, I found the small "Lum Trail" right from the campground that lead up to the Iron Mountain Trail. Conditions were already pretty muddy along the trails, and I had a quick run/hike up and back, about 2 miles in total.

When I got back to camp I had some vegetarian baked beans and smart dogs for dinner, read a little and called it a night. The training run was set for 9am the next morning and I knew I would need to be well rested!
   Around 11pm or so I awoke to the distinct sound of rain pitter pattering on the tent. Then it increased, and by 11:30pm it was a full downpour with thunder and lightning . I kept waiting for the tent to start taking on water, but it held up great and I kept nice and dry. I drifted back off to sleep once the the thunder storm passed. The rain however, continued throughout the night.

   I woke up around 7am, fired up the stove and put on some coffee. A quick breakfast of hummus and tortillas, and I was good to go. I drove into town and met up with the Iron Mountain Trail Runner folks.

Ready to roll!
   We set out, running the first several miles on the Virginia Creeper Trail. Barely a mile into the run, the skies opened up on us. We ran the next several miles in the pouring rain, making our way alongside Laurel Creek, which was now raging due to all of the rainfall.

Angry Water!

 We crossed over hwy 58, where we got off the Creeper trail and onto a short single track trail that would connect to the Iron Mountain Trail. The Iron Mountain Trail was part of the original Appalachian Trail until they re routed the Appalachian Trail through the Highlands. We had our first nice climb here, up the rock strew trail which was now nice and muddy with tiny streams of water flowing down it!

I was originally toying with the idea of doing the 30 mile training run, but after struggling a bit on the climbs and taking a nice fall, I opted for the 16 miler instead. Coming down was no picnic either, having to maintain a Zen like level of concentration in order to navigate the difficult terrain.

Trail Love!
I finally got off the single track, crossed back over Hwy 58 and onto the friendly surface of the Creeper Trail. By now the rain had passed, the sun was out and I was hot! It was a slow run back into town, but once I finished, I felt good. A few of us hung out at the park and munched out and re hydrated. We then headed into Abingdon to volunteer at our friend Jen's 10K race at 6pm, which was run along the Creeper trail as well.
  I finally got back to camp around 8pm, hung out and read a little, then went off to bed. Thankfully there were only a few sprinkles of rain overnight and I dropped into a long, sound sleep.

   I woke up at 7am, made coffee and headed down to the RV section of the campground. I was going to do a short hike/run on some trail that my friend Beth had told me about. The Shaw Gap trail head was right at the host campsite of the RV section. While the tent campground was busy, this section was practically deserted. I hike about a mile up the Shaw Gap Trail, then it connected with the Iron Mountain Trail. Just off of that, I picked up the Chestnut Ridge Trail and hiked out a few miles on that. There were wild blueberry bushes dotted alongside the trail, but the fruit was about a week away from being ready to harvest. I turned back around, and by the time I had reached the intersection of the Iron Mountain Trail, it had begun to rain. Again. I came upon two mountain bikers and we joked about getting out early to beat the rain. Yeah right. I splashed my way back through the mud of the Shaw Gap Trail and into the campground and back to the car. I put my water logged shoes in the trunk with the other pair of trashed shoes from the day before. ( I had brought a total of 4 pairs, used them all!)
  After a brief stop in town to grab some coffee, I began the trip home. I am happy to report not a single drop of rain fell on the way back home!


  1. Was reassuring to see that I'm not the only one that camps out at races. After Grandfather mountain (where water did come through the tent!) EJ gave me a hard time-"you didn't hear about Gene camping out or Jen camping out. What were you thinking??" :-)

    Looks like a it was a great weekend in spite of the rain. So what's the verdict? 30 or 50?

  2. With my current level of "mountain" fitness, I am settling for the 30 miler.

  3. Looks like a beautiful course! And what a bonus to add a fun camping trip to it! Congrats!