Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Foot Hills Trail Run - Nov 13th

I usually wait a week or so before I put a race report together. Since this wasn't a race I figured I could get a recap together as I have already begun thinking of what went wrong, what went right and how can I improve for next time....


My plan was to run a Double Foothills Trail run beginning and ending at Oconee State Park, covering 154 miles. My goal time was 55 hours with a sub 24 hour first leg. I would start thursday morning at 4:00am and be done by Saturday afternoon. Karen would be crewing me for the entire run and Bo, Tiana and Kelley would be coming out as the weekend rolled around to help me wrap things up.


The development of the Foot Hills Trail began in the 1960 and was complete by 1981. Please take a few minutes and check out the Foothills Trail Conference website by clicking here

The Start

The morning kicked off at 3:00am with the French Press brewing and the wind blowing. The temperatures were near perfect in the mid 50's and not a cloud in the sky. We packed up quickly to make the short drive up to the trail head. Pictures were taken and my BO-2000 watch (A gift Bo gave me at Frozen Head this past March) rolled over to 04:00:00. A few strides up the trail I decided that I wasn't going to look back that I wanted to see what was behind me on my return trip. My plan laid out 7 points before I'd reach Table Rock State Park where my crew would be able to meet me, snap a quick required pic, and then send me on my way. I put these check points to memory not knowing what they'd actually look like or if I'd be able to easily recognize them or not. They included:

1. SC HWY 107 @Cheohee Rd - 6.1 miles
2. Burrell's Ford Access - 16.8 Miles
3. Fish Hatchery Rd - 20.6 Miles
4. SC107 Sloan Bridge - 23.9 Miles
5. Whitewater Falls Overlook - 29.4 Miles
6. Horse Pasture Rd - 61.8 Miles
7. Sassafras Mtn - 66.4 Miles

The plan I put together was pretty spot on, but I have a few adjustments to make before my next trip. By the time I reached stop #5, I was exactly where I wanted to be, it was high noon and I'd be heading out into Laurel Valley.

The Valley

I've joked since Ive been back that LV threw everything it could have possibly come up with... but it was true. I was in a rush to head out that the mistakes started happening before I left the parking lot. I ate lunch packed an outer layer and then heading back out onto the trail. I took some amazing pictures of the streams that I crossed and loved that the sun was overhead warming me up. It was a perfect afternoon!Another few minutes passed away and I took a sip from my hydration pack... it was dry. I never filled it up, opted not to take my filter and, oh crap... let my iodine tablets on the tailgate of my truck.

My first thought was panic and that I'd only have the 20oz bottle of Gatoraid that Karen mixed for me before I headed out. My second thought was... I'll find plenty. And I did. I was able to refill my pack within the hour and had plenty of opportunity to do so through out LV. I was back on track and having fun again. The scenery was amazing and I took some great photos. I convinced myself that I'd take more on the way back and missed several places that the sun and the trees and the sky was just amazing.


This time was important to me because I looked at my watch as I crossed this bridge because rain began to fall. When I looked down at my watch, I found myself falling off the edge of the bridge, four steps off the ground and approaching quickly. I was holding my dinner, Pizza, in my right hand and as I threw my arm back trying to regain balance, I chucked my dinner into the stream that ran below me. My dinner was gone and I just hit the ground... hard.

It was time for a break and time to put on my extra layer as the rain began to fall harder and harder. I took a quick systems check and I was okay, but where the hell was this rain coming from? I checked weather.com 137 times the night before and there was 0% chance of rain. Z-E-R-O. But I was not wet and of course did not have a rain coat with me. I ended up banging up my left knee, but I didn't feel that until I finally stopped and put all the pieces back together. 3:00pm was also the last time that I'd be on track with my plan

Someone else's plan

The next several miles found me wet and cold and failing to make a single checkpoint according to my plan. I started getting mad with myself because I was getting addicted to staring at my second watch, my Suunto GPS watch because I felt like I was not making any progress and falling further and further behind schedule. I decided to stop and attach my GPS watch to the back of my pack so I couldn't see it anymore. I had it hooked up to a backup battery pack and was planning on using the data to document my whole run. The plan that I was now running was not mine. It was nothing like my plan and I had no idea what was going on. The only thing I knew now was that the sun was setting, I was wet, there was 6 inches of wet leaves not he trail soaking my feet and the temperature was dropping minute by minute. I decided to pull my socks off as they were drenched and were collecting more debris than anything else.

By the time I reached "the bench" I was 2:30 behind schedule and freezing. I started playing they "oh shit how pissed is Karen going to be" game. I was supposed to be to Horse Pasture Rd at 9:00pm and I figured that she wouldn't "worry" until at least 10:00pm. At 11:00 I thought she'd panic and by 12:00am I was just hoping that she'd still be there.

I rolled in frozen, wearing shorts and sandals and starving. Karen busted out the stove and quickly had a cup of HOT soup and hopped in the car to warm up and take a quick 15 minute nap. I found out from Karen that Lester and Eddie had been out there too and that they had gone to look for me. I have never felt so bad in my entire life! These guys are awesome.

One more try

 I was still cold, but everything else felt fine. Nothing "hurt" and I was only 14 miles from Table Rock. A quick  run up to Sassafras and then down to Table Rock and I'd be heading home to Oconee. At least that was my mind set when I left Horse Pasture.

It was cold. I've been cold before, but this was cold-cold. I made it to Sassafras, long overdue and had to get help getting in the truck. I don't remember the conversation with Karen, but remember waking up and saying the words "I'm done, can you text Holly and my mom." Then I cried, a lot.

The trail was simply amazing, the picture that I did take along the way could never do it justice. I choose the short straw when I schedule my vacation days from work and we got hit with this polar vortex or whatever we call it these days. My plan is doable and I think another try in March or April will let me pick up and continue where I left off. I learned so much while out there for as long as I was, those are lessons that make us better people, better runners and most importantly better friends.

I need you help!!!

So, when my run ended... I never turned off my GPS watch that was attached to the back of my pack and was also hooked up to a back up battery. I drove all the way home with the watch running. Opps, my bad. A quick google search "taught" me how to delete end points from the GPX file that were unwanted, as this is something at happens quite frequently. I did it with ease and was trilled to be able to reload the data back up to Strava but come to find out I delete bunch of  required data to actually map the course at the end of each GPX file. If you have any experience with GPX files and are able to correct this for me I'll be forever in your favor!! Please let me know: tim@lowcountryultras.com

A big thanks to my wife Holly for letting chase these white rabbits and be an amazing mom to our two wonderful children Jake and Izzy. My crazy mom who worries more about me today than she probably did when I was a kid (but probably not) and still supports my craziness. To Karen for being an amazing friend and for never giving up on me. To Bo, Tiana, and Kelley for being on standby... I'll get there next time!

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