A few years ago, someone was peer pressuring me into signing up for Pilot Mountain to Hanging Rock Ultra.
So I did.
Sometimes my peer pressure response is a little delayed.
And since I am in no way physically or emotionally prepared for a mountain ultra right now, some training seemed like a good idea.
Luckily, Hanging Rock is one of Beautiful Beastie’s favorite places.
Maybe her actual favorite.
So she agreed to take us all down there for what she called “12 to 20 miles. I’m not really sure how far.”
When you’re as badass as BB is, your brain and body hear that, process it, and are just kinda like, “cool.”
Mine maybe hear up to the word 12 and stop paying attention. They’re all like, “Twelve. Yeah. Sure. Whatever. What have we got for dinner?”
Plus I really like to see other people happy.
And BB was like a kid on Christmas morning as we prepared to head up Hanging Rock.
It almost made me just as excited.
Except that I understood how much climbing we were about to do. In 9,000 degrees and 500% humidity.
Plus, I mean 12 miles…
I’d allowed her to push me pretty hard in Hydropower and RPM Death Click classes Saturday morning.
My legs weren’t feeling exactly fresh.
But mountains. Amiright?
My group rolled in a bit late. Because we allowed Rogue to kind of wing her way to the general area of Hanging Rock. Rather than the exact meeting spot.
I’m not sure why no one took control of navigating.
We just put all of our trust into Rogue paying attention to detail.
But in my defense, K-Rob-D and I were in the backseat, just trying to maintain while fighting car sickness. Finn’s Dad was in the navigator’s seat…watching YouTube videos.
And we may have gotten a little distracted when we came up on a Smurf bar. Which is a totally legitimate reason for distraction. I mean, it’s a bar. For Smurfs.
But it was closed, so our distraction was short lived.
We finally made our way to the correct location.
Beautiful Beastie gave us instructions. In case we got separated.
Obviously we were going to get separated.
Stay on the red squares. Got it.
And then she bounded on up the mountain with the other superhumans in tow. While the normallers of us and our handlers managed an easier pace. It was 8:30am and we were already sweating through our gear.
And I, the one that always has to pee after driving any distance over 30 miles, did not yet have to pee. After driving 60 miles.
We spent the first three miles listening to Tiny Brazilian describe the challenge voted most likely to replace the North Mountain Loop.
Elevator Shaft Climb.
12 miles. 3800 feet of elevation gain. Straight up. In the open sun. I think. I’m not sure. I was trying to block it out. What she described was horrific. And she kept describing it. She wouldn’t let the horror die.
Meanwhile I’m over here just trying to hydrate through this 2,000 foot climb.
By the time we hit the Visitors Center, I’d run through my water and Gatorade. Which was fine. Because I could refill. But I still didn’t have to pee.
Close to the summit, my normallers and handlers found what looked like a perfectly good overlook. But Tiny Brazilian was quick to point out that it was not “the nipple.”
Someone explained that it was, in fact, “the penis.”
As we were having this nipple/penis conversation, two young men, who had been innocently enjoying the peaceful views, began to quickly make their way back to the trail. And away from the crazy white chicks (and Finn’s Dad). Without making eye contact.
I wanted to call out to them “But we’re really good people!”
But I also didn’t want to be that needy white girl. And really, it’s not a normal day on the trails until you’ve made someone uncomfortable.
I still didn’t have to pee.
We wandered the rest of the way over to the actual Hanging Rock Top where the superhumans were waiting.
And the two young men.
Obviously we were still having our nipple/penis conversation….
No no. It’s cool. This is just who we are.
Beautiful Beastie explained that she wanted to take us “all the way over there” next.
That seems…pretty far.
And it’s, like, 5,000 degrees already.
And I haven’t had to pee all damn day.
And there is some…chafing happening…in places.
GJB and Endong insisted that I had to at least take a peek at the view over the side of the overlook. So I did.
In a low crawl.
Photo Credit: Endong. Who was very clear that he’d never push someone that close to a ledge. Although, I feel like that’s something you shouldn’t have to say…
I read the news. People fall off of these things all the time. And I’m not known for my grace or balance.
But I’m also not known for saying no.
It was breathtaking.
Both because of the beauty and because of the terror.
We backtracked down to the lake. Where Rogue helped me practice fighting my FOMO by respectfully declining the invitation for the additional mileage and elevation up to the fire tower.
Because at this point, I looked and felt exactly like this.
Photo Credit: Endong. Because he’s a friend.
That’s the face of a woman who just discovered that the “Refreshments Stand” does not have hot dogs.
And we were already about seven miles in. And still miles from the car. And my brain and body were preparing to shut down at 12. So throwing an additional 3 on there would mean that I would not make it all the way back to the car. And I would just have to live there. On the side of the mountain.
And I still didn’t have to pee.
Tiny Brazilian suggested we head on back down to the car. Just follow the trail. “There’s no way you can get lost.”
We’ll just wait here.
Refilled my water again. Dunked my feet in the lake. And watched a full on coup at the diving boards. Led by a WWI and II vet. Followed by every single child on the beach. Who all successfully took control of the diving board dock. In the face of a powerless life guard. On a paddle board. Calling out to him, “Sir! Please stop!”
One he’d led the children in commandeering the dock, he turned around and swam back to shore. Leaving them to manage their new territory on their own. As he quietly disappeared.
It was inspiring.
Still didn’t have to pee.
Bought some Cheetos at the “Refreshment Stand.” My other choices were road kill meat sticks and warm hunks of cheese…
Managed to fully dry ourselves during that rest period.
By the time the superhumans emerged from what, based on their descriptions, I imagine to have been 5,000,000 stairs from hell. But also to heaven. Because views. I was fantasizing about gas station hot dogs.
Coming back down the mountain, Finn’s Dad stopped to take a phone call from his realtor. Tiny Brazilian, Rogue, and I continued on.
I spent the next few miles continually checking behind me for him to appear. Because I kept hearing footsteps behind me. And also because he really should have caught up with us by now.
Is no one else worried? I mean, if he’s lost, we’re gonna have to run all the way back up there to find him…
But I was also casually distracted from my worry by the beautiful water crossings.
Took those pics while running.
Because I like to live dangerously.
I’m feeling pretty confident that I won’t appreciate them nearly as much when I come back for the actual race. Because this felt like the longest four miles in history. At the end of an 11 mile run.
Imagine how it will feel at the end of a 50k run.
(I know I shouldn’t compare miles to kilometers, but imma be real. I don’t know how far 50k is in miles. I wanna say somewhere around 30. But I’m not willing to commit to that…)
Finally, about a mile from the end, I hear footsteps yet again. And looked back expecting to see the nothing that I’d been seeing for miles.
Except there was a Finn’s Dad there.
I yelled out some highly offensive string of curse words in surprise.
But that was apparently not enough of a warning to Tiny Brazilian, who looked back and screamed for a solid two minutes.
It probably didn’t help that Finn’s Dad threw his arms in the air and boogey monstered at her.
But seriously? There are two whole humans between you and him. Why all the terror? All you have to do is run away and let him busy himself with Rogue and I.
She eventually stopped screaming and continued to lead us off of the mountain.
The best part of a long summer run is the feeling of dry clothes when you’re done.
Seems to be a running theme here…
One thing about running with this group is GJB is pretty easy to track.
Because he leaves a pretty heavy sweat trail wherever he goes.
How does someone lose that much body water and still survive?
I mean, we’re, like, 70% water or something like that? And that’s gotta be a good 60% right there.
I also still didn’t have to pee.
But I was pretty desperate for some gas station hot dogs.
So we crawled back into Rogue’s car and headed out in search of food.
And this, folks, was the most dangerous and terrifying part of the entire day. I’m not sure if I should credit Rogue’s laser sharp focus and quick reaction times or God. (I’m just playing. I know exactly who to credit.) But we managed to survive at least 15 different cars swerving into our lane or trying to pull out into us. And even one really poorly-timed red light.
Her brakes are on point.
“Stop trying to keep us from getting to food!”
K-Rob pointed out that there is no longer a hospital in whatever backwoods county we were in.
“No hospital? Do people here just die in the streets due to lack of maintenance?” (How is there not a Schitt’s Creek meme for this line?)
I was getting increasingly concerned that we might not make it all the way to the restaurant.
But Rogue refused to stop at any one of the 50 gas stations we were passing to let me get a hot dog.
She has far higher standards in times of desperation than I do.
In the end I generally appreciate it.
Because the Mexican food was way more satisfying than a hot dog would have been.
As were the water and beer I consumed.
And still didn’t have to pee…
Once I finally got home and showered and headed over to the Bff’s house for a birthday visit (there was cake there), I was realizing that I wasn’t my normal level of exhausted that I usually am after a challenging day on the mountains.
I’m not saying I regret not having climbed the hellish stairs to the fire tower.
I’m saying, so this is what it feels like to go out and adventure in moderation. To just enjoy a strenuous effort. Rather than totally deplete every ounce of anything I have inside of me.
I kinda like it.
It’s definitely a route I’d like to do again. And probably take in the fire tower next time. It’s tough. But not horrible. And the views are absolutely worth every ounce of hydration I sweated out.
(Oh, and I’ve been peeing pretty consistently since I got home. And it’s almost clear again. So I’m not dying. In case any of you were worried…)