I was all hopped up on DayQuil and coffee when my buddy Terry and his wife Chapel picked me up in their minivan late Friday morning. We were on our way from North Carolina to Charleston, West Virginia to run the Frozen Sasquatch 50k, and sitting in the passenger-side captain’s chair I felt like a little kid going on a family vacation. I had been sick all week and was hoping to pass out for the entire 4.5 hour drive while Mom and Dad drove, but DayQuil and coffee are a powerful combo, and with the addition of the vivid history of WWI podcast Terry had put on, I spent most of the time hallucinating that I was in a bunker in Belgium trying to fend off the Germans. This was shaping up to be an interesting weekend.
Unconquered by the Germans, we arrived at the hotel in Charleston, and as we walked into the lobby we were greeted by our other buddy Josh who had just arrived a few minutes earlier with his wife Silvia. Josh and Silvia were at the tail end of a 15 day road trip, having spent New Year’s Eve and the last several days in Pittsburgh touring the local wineries and breweries. Josh always did have interesting views on how to taper properly.
It was late afternoon, and knowing I couldn’t go out in public in my current state, I lobbied hard for nap time so that I could sleep off the cold medicine before dinner. The nap did the trick, and a little while later the 5 of us walked over to Black Sheep Burrito and Brews to get our pre-race dinner on. Part of dinner was spent debating whether a photo you take of yourself while napping should be a called a #napie or a #nappie, but the matter was never resolved so I’ll let you be the judge.
On Saturday morning Josh, Terry, and I stumbled through the lobby and headed over to the race. As usual, Silvia and Chapel were going to hold down the fort, sleep in, enjoy a little wine, maybe do a little shopping, and of course make fun of us for walking funny when we got back. This was standard operating procedure, and without that concession I don’t think Terry and Josh would be allowed to attend nearly as many out-of-state races so I guess it’s a fair trade. While the wives slept, we ventured out into the rain and arrived at the race 15 minutes before start time. We quickly taped our nips, laced up our sneakers, dropped our drop bags, and took our places at the starting line.
Tucked into the misty hills of West Virginia just south of Charleston, the Frozen Sasquatch 50k started off like many of the smaller trail races do, with an invisible starting line drawn even with wherever the race director happened to be standing that morning. For this race, the RD was standing in the back of a pickup truck in the Kanawha State Forest parking lot, and after a quick race briefing, he blew on a wooden train whistle to send us on our way.
The 50k and 25k started together, the 50k course being two loops of the 25k route. We had about 1/4 of a mile to go on the road before dipping onto the single track, so while I was in the middle of the pack and not having to pay close attention to my footing my mind instantly began to wander —
I wonder if the DayQuil I mixed in my handheld is considered doping? Meh, probably not. What’s the course record again? 4 hours? That’s pretty fast. Think you can come anywhere close? No way. I’m delusional, but not that delusional. Think you can go under 5? It’d be pretty tough on a muddy day like today especially when you’re sick. Good point. Wait, why are you even considering this? You’re not fast. Also an excellent point. So are you going to go for it? Of course. Dude you make this mistake every time. You always go out too fast. You never learn. No way man, this time will be different. You’re an idiot. I don’t disagree.
We turned off of the road and onto the single track, and immediately began a fairly steep 1 mile climb (685′). It was the first of the loop’s three big climbs and was decently muddy, which made for some slow going, but once at the top I hopped onto the fire road and was able to cruise on the nice rollers for about 3 miles. There were still some mud pits to avoid on the fire road, but nothing too bad until I started slipping and sliding my way back down the single track and into AS1.
Coming out of AS1 we hit the second big climb. I put my head down to grind it out, but near the top I heard some sort of growling and what sounded like a tree shaking. Thinking it was a bear, I looked up to see a sasquatch standing outside of a cave off to my left. You probably think I was hallucinating again, but I swear I wasn’t. The sasquatch yelled at me to suck it up and quit walking, which gave me a good laugh as I continued on.
The rest of loop 1 went pretty smoothly with 1 more big climb, some more fire road, and a lot of fun runnable single track up on the ridge. I had been wanting to run up in WV for a long time, and it didn’t disappoint. There were beautiful views, even on a gloomy day, and the forest was serene. We weren’t that far from Charleston, but it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere. I was zoned out cruising down this super long, fun, switchback section when all of a sudden I could see the start/finish parking lot a couple hundred feet below me. My watch only read 14 miles, so it was a very pleasant surprise to already be back at the start and done with lap 1.
In the parking lot, I grabbed a few gels out of my drop bag and headed out for loop 2. I was feeling pretty good until I hopped off the road and onto the single track for the loop’s first climb. I started hiking up, but after a few steps realized I was having trouble lifting my legs. Here we go, I thought. As predicted you went out too fast and now your legs are trashed and you’re only halfway there. You’re screwed.
There’s not a whole lot to say about loop 2 except that it was painful. My right hip flexor and left quad were cramping on all of the uphills, and I only briefly saw 2 other runners the entire time. It was great mental practice pushing through the pain, but I couldn’t have been happier to see the parking lot from the top of that last switchback section. I picked up the pace down the hill, praying my quad wouldn’t seize up, and then crossed the parking lot to the finish line. I wound up finishing 6th with a time of 5:24, and was thrilled to be done.
Crossing the finish line, Mike Dolin (RD), handed me my finisher’s prize – a very cool cross section of a tree trunk with a sasquatch burned into it. After thanking Mike for putting on a great race, I beelined it (more like hobbled) to the nearest seat and was down for the count. I recognized the guy that I sat down next to (Garrett Burnett) since he blew past me around mile 18 and was one of the only 2 runners I saw on the second loop. We chatted for a while, neither of us being able to move. It turned out that Garrett came down from Cincinnati, which is where I grew up and where I frequently spend the holidays visiting my folks. I always struggle to find trails and people to run with when I visit, so I told Garrett I’d drop him a line the next time I was up in Cincinnati.
In an attempt to avoid stiffening up, I milled around the finishing area waiting for Josh and Terry to come in, which they did shortly after me. We were all beat, but agreed that we should try to wash at least some of the mud off in the creek before climbing back into the van. The creek was absolutely freezing and terrible, and every time I bent over to wipe another layer of mud off my calves I almost fell over, but eventually we were clean enough and headed back to the hotel.
Limping into the lobby, we came across Chapel and Silvia lounging on the couches, drinking wine, and eating cheese and crackers. As is required, they made fun of the sorry state we were in and joked about how strenuous their day had been. Not wanting to offend the other patrons with our less than appealing aroma, we once again retired to our separate rooms to shower, nap, and assess the damage.
A suitable amount of time later, we reconvened in the lobby and desperately tried to dull the pain that was setting in by drinking some much needed West Virginia brews. I can’t really figure out how we did it, but we even managed to walk a couple blocks to dinner at Pies and Pints Pizzeria, where we housed some pizza and recounted the day’s events for the ladies.
Sunday morning I leisurely woke up and went for a 2 mile run along the banks of the Ohio River, hoping for some sort of active recovery before driving back down to North Carolina. The 5 of us had a sluggish breakfast together before hopping in the cars and heading back home. It had been a wonderful weekend exploring West Virginia, but it was time to return south. We were all a little disappointed that we didn’t get to run in any snow, but I guess that just leaves us an excuse to come back next year.
I’d like to give a big thanks to Mike Dolin and all of the other West Virginia Mountain Trail Runners who put on a fantastic race. We sincerely appreciated all of the volunteers who spent their Saturday out there in the rain helping us out. Cheers!