2007-09-15 - AT Point-to-Point

~17 miles @ ~15 min/mi

Venus glitters over Weverton Cliffs as I arrive ca. 5:50am on a breezy-chill morning. Nobody else is there and my cellphone doesn't get a signal, so I walk about the area with my flashlight checking out the local segment of the Appalachian Trail (AT). Mary Ewell plans to meet me so we can leave a car at Weverton, drive north, pick up Ken Swab, Emaad Burki, and Caren Jew at Gathland Gap, and then continue to the Old South Mountain Inn. From there we'll run back along the ridge to where we started! Pointless? No, it's all part of the prep that Mary, Ken, and Emaad are doing for the JFK 50 miler in a couple of months. Caren and I hope to be support crew for them, and we're always eager to enjoy some trail time so we jog along.

At 0600 when I don't see Mary I drive back toward the highway, hoping to get a cellphone connection. Before that happens, though, Mary appears — delayed slightly on the country roads that she has to follow to get there. We follow the plan and shortly after 6:30am set off. A few hundred feet down the trail we discover a truly splendid loo (lights! running water!) and pause a few minutes for ablutions. Then we really get going.

The JFK course follows some steeply climbing roads here, so Mary, Caren, and I walk and chat about life, running, and all that. Ken and Emaad trot ahead and discover a fenced-off FAA transmitter and some other radio towers, so after some joking about being on security cameras we proceed to rejoin the AT and continue along the ridge. There are some lovely views of the valleys to east and west, and I take a few photos with cellphone camera. Emaad rolls an ankle and we commiserate. Ken sprints ahead and is awaiting the rest of us at Gathland Gap when we arrive after 1:46 — precisely the same time it took me to cover the 6.2 miles during last year's race according to JFK 50 Miler 2006 Split Analysis. (Of course, that was in the dark and with 40+ miles still to go, so my cautious pace was perhaps excusable.)

At Gathland Ken and Caren pile into Emaad's car for the ride home, and after a pause to split a Cherry Coke and enjoy the fancy loo Mary and I proceed onward. The wind begins to roar and shake the treetops now, but where we are it's somewhat sheltered and quite pleasant. This segment of the AT is significantly rockier, so we tread cautiously and avoid injury, at the cost of a slower pace. After 1:54 we reach the base of Weverton Cliffs (~6.2 mi) and refill our water bottles at Mary's car. We both still feel strong so we continue down the AT, under highway US-340, across the C&O Railroad tracks, and upriver on the C&O Canal towpath for about 2 miles to the base of the US-340 bridge over the Potomac. Elapsed time is ~0:26, including ~5 minutes at Mary's car. Our return trip is of a similar duration. As we approach the railroad grade crossing I admit that I wouldn't mind seeing a freight train, since it would provide a good chance to catch my breath. Just then, a loud whistle sounds! I run ahead but it's clear that the train is too close for us to make it safely in front of it, so my wish is granted. Nevertheless, our net pace along the towpath is quite brisk, a bit faster than 12 min/mi — more than enough for Mary to have an excellent result if we can sustain it on JFK race day.

(correlates: 2004-11-10 - WOD Luncheon, 2007-09-02 - AT Out-and-Back, CountrySightsAndSounds, ...)