Saturday, November 7, 2009

Uwharrie National Recreational Trail

Ru, Dooright, and Skittles with a little "trail love" on her knee.

The Answer: Imagine a 20 mile street filled loosely with bowling balls. Cover it with blankets. Now try to run down the street on top of the blankets.

The Question: What's it like to run the "Uwharrie National Recreational Trail"? (well, in November anyway)

This was the question we were asking as we headed down to Uwharrie National Forest for a training run. Skittles, Bubbles and I are doing the Uwharrie Mountain Run 40 miler in February, and we wanted to find out what we had signed up for. So the six of us piled into the car for our first "Ultra" training run. The plan was to go out 2 hours, turn around and head back.

  • Bubbles, (aka Mickey (aka Jennifer)) who had run a PR in the City of Oaks Marathon just 6 days ago.
  • Skittles (aka Shannon), signed up for her first ultra last year, not long after declaring there was no need to run any further than 26.2. "Anything more and you're just being an asshole."
  • Myself (former trail runner)
  • Ru, K-9. Bubbles's search and rescue dog. Nine years old and wears a backpack while running.
  • Duddley Dooright, K-9. A four year old giant golden retriever mix. Won the CARA 5K.
  • Jeffery, Jeffery, Jeffery. K-9. A three legged black lab mix.

The Start:
We got to the trail and started out at 11 am. Bubbles made the wise decision to only hike the trail instead of trying to run on it. The first half mile of the trail was nothing more than a very steep pile of loose rocks. Walking on it is difficult, and running seems like it would be impossible, so we didn't even try.
Adding to the difficulty of the trail was that a blanket of fresh leaves covered it, so it was hard to see all of the loose rocks hiding underneath. After the first steep mile, I started a very slow run and left Shannon and Bubbles behind. Dudley Dooright excitedly ran far ahead and Jeffery the three legged dog stayed close behind me.

The Trail:
The going was very slow. I tried to follow the white blazes on the trees, but frequently lost the trail and had to backtrack. A few times one of the dogs would disappear and I would have to stop and call for them. We crossed about 4 small streams, and I had to wait at each one for Dooright to cool off and drink. He was overheating in the 60 degree sunshine. When I was moving, it wasn't really running but more like stumbling over the hidden rocks.
Along the way we ran past a group of hunters in orange vests which was very scary. We also passed a large group of boy scouts out on the trail.
Eventually I hit the 2 hour mark, and my Garmin said I had gone 10 miles. I turned around and headed back. At this point Dooright was getting very hot and tired and falling back. Jeffery, who only has 3 legs, wasn't even tired.
Suddenly I became very thirsty and realized that I had already used up all my water and Gatorade.

Rescued By Dog:
Just then, luckily, I ran into Skittles (Shannon) who was very upset because she had gotten lost on her way back. She also had fallen and scraped her knee. "I hate this! I'm not doing the race". I wasn't doing well either, with my legs starting to cramp from dehydration, and we still had another hour and a half back to the car.
Ru the mountain rescue dog waits patiently for us to keep up.
Bubble's dog, Ru, had followed Shannon. He was wearing a backpack, and we discovered that it contained 2 big bottles of water! I took one and drained the entire thing, so happy to have been rescued by Ru. I realized how stupid I was not to bring enough water.

Rescue Of Dog
So the 5 of us headed back to the car moving pretty slowly. Shannon gave me the key and sent me ahead to meet Bubbles at the car. Lucky Bubbles caught me as I missed the path to the parking lot and was going down the wrong trail. I was so happy to be done, my feet and legs were battered from the rocks, and I took my shoes off to find small rocks and dirt between my toes.

Finally Shannon showed up, but without Dooright. I changed my shoes and went looking for him with 2 dog biscuits and bottle of water. I found the big 85 pound retriever standing on the trail almost a mile back. He wagged his tail a little but didn't move. We had been more worried about Ru who is almost 10 years old, and Jeffery who is missing a leg, but it was big Dooright who was defeated by the trail. He drank all the water but couldn't even finish the biscuits because he was so tired. Thankful that got him moving and we slowly walked back the car.

We made it home around 6:30, scarfed done a ton of Thai food from Yum Yum, and were in bed by 8:30.

Uwharrie National Forest fun facts!
  • purchased by the federal government in 1931 during the Great Depression
  • Started as a government works project to collect all the loose rocks in the area into a big pile.
  • Was originally named the "Uwharrie National Pile of Loose rocks"
  • After trees grew out of the rocks, was renamed to "Uwharrie National Forest"
  • Beware of hunting season: November 7–January 1
  • Can you spot the trail in this picture? (Hint: its under the rocks)
  • More pictures here

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