The Never Summer Mountains are a big Moose area. However, I don't think anyone saw any. That remains one of the highlights of the Bighorn 50 in Wyoming from a few years back.
BackgroundOriginally I had plans to run the Zion 100. It was in the 8 week window after a marathon when I like to stretch out and attempt crazy ultras. I love the park and the area. The severe case of plantar fasciitis that struck a couple of hours into LA meant that any race in March and April was going to be questionable. I went over the list of Western States qualifying races a few times and isolated the few 100Ks that remain. Bandera was January so it had already passed. The Never Summer 100K was domestic and had a generous cutoff time. Basically if you could finish, you'd get a ticket. So in mid-March I took the plunge and signed up for the race. I appreciated the average elevation and the total climb involved, but i'm not sure one can ever be truly prepared.
(Skyline Drive from Stony Man)
TrainingI needed to get on the trails immediately. I needed as much climb as I could get and as much elevation as one realistically could get living on the east coast with a high point at only 6,684 feet. I queried the sections of Virginia that had long sections of trail, that also went above 4,000 feet, and were less than 3 hours drive from Baltimore. A few places worked out including Reddish Knob (on the Grindstone 100k course) and sections of the Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National Park. I was only covering 15 or 16 miles on my runs, but I was spending 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 hours on the trail, so it was something close to appropriate ultra training. I also wasn't completely destroying my legs so I could do regular miles during the week, with a few days to rest.
April was a pretty bad month. By the second half, I had to get away and my first thought was North Carolina to get up into those 6,000 foot mountains. I headed to Boone and hiked 17 or 18 total miles of Appalachian trail through the Roan Highlands, standing on peaks that were 5,800 to 6,286 feet. Not quite the 9,000+ that I would face on the course, but it was better than 75 feet above sea level where 90% of my training occurs. I also singed up for the Dirty German 50 miler in Philadelphia in May as a 'training' run. And I had a mishap with my hand-held water bottle and an area in Virginia called Big Schloss which involved some light rock climbing in order to fetch my car key.
May and June
(looks harder than it was)
The Dirty German didn't quite go as planned. I picked up some sort of bug during the week and didn't arrange for proper dog sitting. I made it through one loop of the three loop course on pace, but the second became a death march. I was back at the start finish after 35 miles and was walking most of the way. I decided to quit at that point and drive back home. Total time was just short of 7 hours. I am thinking something closer to 10 or 11 hours would have been helpful in hindsight. But another loop was 4 hours at best, and probably 5 hours to get back around.
Things got better as I managed to find the time to get on a plane to Colorado to briefly train at course elevation. It was late May and there was still snow down to 12,000 feet in the mountains so I chose to head south into New Mexico and see if things were better there. Santa Fe Baldy was the target and despite signs of snow at the top I went for a hike/run towards the summit. Turning back without reaching the top due to the aforementioned snow, the run was still 5 hours staying above 10,000 feet with several thousand feet of total climb. I had survived a longer run at altitude and was still moving at 20 minute pace at the end, which was the pace needed to stay on course at Never Summer. It was worth a little extra credit because the trail had periodic snow piled up which was really bad for progress.
After the New Mexico trip my sister and I headed almost up to Canada to climb Mt Marcy, the highest point in New York State. It was still cold and possibly sleeting at the top but we stood on the highest point. It was cloudy and there were no real views. But it was another brick in the wall and as June turned into July I had to think about tapering.
...continued in part II