Grandfather Mountain Hike with my Dad

Drive time from Charlottesville: 4hrs & 45 minutes

My dad had driven up to the swinging bridge and hiked over to MacRae Peak on Grandfather, but he had never climbed the mountain from its base. We had been talking about doing it for years, and earlier this week, we finally found the time for the hike.

The last time I had climbed Grandfather, the mountain had been privately owned and you were required to purchase a day pass at one of several local retailers.  It has since become a  state park, and hiking is now free. Permits are still required, but they are provided free of charge at each trail head.

We decided to hike the Profile Trail up to Grandfather Trail, which follows the ridge (hitting several peaks along the way) to the swinging bridge.

The first 2 miles of the trail follow a fairly gentle grade up the side of the mountain, through heavy vegetation.

I love this quote by John Muir, especially the second paragraph. This was posted next to a bench at the first view-point (Foscoe View) on the Profile Trail.

The second (and most spectacular) view is Profile View. The grandfatherly profile etched in the rock is the mountain’s namesake.

Dad said that this grandfather profile will have to take the place of the Old Man of the Mountain, since the Old Man of the Mountain is gone.

We also both agreed that my grandfather (dad’s dad) really would have enjoyed the profile view.

Just before the junction of the Profile Trail and Grandfather Trail, there is a piped spring.

The sign advises treating or filtering the water, but if there’s a place I might consider NOT treating my water, this would probably be it.

It was a muggy start, but as we climbed higher, the humidity dropped and the wind picked up. It was almost chilly when we stopped to enjoy our first mountain top vista.

From Attic Window peak, we were looking down on MacRae Peak.

After climbing over Attic Window peak, we hiked through the Attic Window, and then worked our way down a rock scramble into the valley before climbing back up to MacRae Peak.

The Attic Window is behind us in this picture.

It was 12:30 when we arrived at MacRae Peak.

From here, we were looking down on the swinging bridge.

We debated turning around at this point, but I had promised dad a snack bar at the visitor’s center, and he said he wanted to walk over the swinging bridge. So, we continued on.

From MacRae’s peak, there is a series of cables and ladders to help hikers navigate the steep, rocky trail down to the swinging bridge.

It’s like a giant playground for adults. I love it!

When we arrived at the visitor’s center, we found out that the snack bar no longer exists. I guess I should have checked that out before I told my dad we could get lunch there. Sorry about that, Dad!

We crossed the swinging bridge and climbed out onto the rocks with a huge throng of tourists.

I had brought one almond butter sandwich, so we split that, along with some granola and trail mix that we had picked up at Earth Fare in Boone.

We refilled our water bladders at the visitor’s center, and then headed back the way we’d come.

We were moving slowly on the way back, especially up the rock scramble leading to Attic Window.

My feet were pretty sore by the time we returned to our car at 6:30pm, nearly 10 hours (and 10 miles) after we’d left it that morning.

We went back to the hotel and showered before enjoying a nice (late) dinner on the patio at Coyote Kitchen.

Good times climbing one of my favorite mountains with my dad!

Charlottesville Sprint Triathlon race report (June 17, 2012)

Course: A-
I think the race course is fantastic. There’s some slime in the water, but it’s such a beautiful lake that I really can’t complain. The bike course is a little hilly, but there’s hardly any traffic and I love the country roads. The trail run is also very hilly, but I love it!
Organization: B+
Overall, pretty good. I loved the pre-race emails. There could have been a little more supervision on the course, though. Near the end of the run, there wasn’t anybody positioned to tell runners to stay to the left and I saw two runners head in the wrong direction and have to turn around and backtrack, which is never fun, especially so close to the finish.
T-shirt: D-
Possibly the worst shirt ever. I liked the design and could even live with the color, but there were no women’s shirts and the men’s cut is uncomfortable and unflattering.
Finishers Medal/Schwag/Prizes: B
No finishers medal, which is standard for triathlons. I liked that the race packets came in a reusable bag from Ragged Mountain Running Shop. Inside the packets, there were coupons for Ragged Mountain and a local Vineyard, a water bottle from Blue Ridge Cyclery and a few advertisements. Age group prizes were bottles of wine from Delfosse Winery and products from Ragged Mountain Running Shop and Blue Ridge Cyclery.
Food: B
Standard post-race food: bagels, oranges, and bananas (although, I’m giving a few bonus points because the bagels were from Bodo’s). There were also some yummy looking trail mixes provided by Relay Foods, and some pasta dishes from Fry’s Spring Station. After a race, unless it’s really cold out, hot food tends to turn my stomach. I’m sure the pasta was good stuff, but it was not at all what I felt like eating.

Race report:
The morning temperature was in the high 50’s, which made for a chilly start. The water was actually warmer than the air, but it was still hard to get in. I was in the fourth wave, (yellow swim caps) which was all women. We had to tread water for about 4 minutes, while we waited for the start. I got kicked several times, and accidentally kicked somebody once. Everybody was very polite about the kicking, which was pretty funny.

The swim was fairly congested until about the second buoy. I got stuck behind people a few times, and it was hard to get around. It eventually opened up, though, and I was able to sort-of settle into a pace. There were a LOT of yellow caps ahead of me. Even so, I was at the shore before I realized it, and everybody was out of breath and walking. Maybe I should have swum faster, because I felt fine. It took me a second to realize that just because everybody was walking didn’t mean I had to, so I jogged up the hill to transition.

T1 was pretty painless. I put on shoes and socks, tank top, sunglasses and helmet, un-racked my bike and was on my way. The climb out of the park was long and steep. I passed several people who seemed to be having trouble with the hill. The bike went by really fast. There were a lot of rolling hills, but overall it was a very manageable course. I felt like I passed more than I got passed.  Although, right before I turned back into the park, two ladies in their fifties (gotta love the ages branded on the back of our legs!), went flying past me. Way to go Ladies!

I went to the wrong rack in T2, and had to backtrack to find the right one. I’m pretty sure I heard some people laughing at me. Guess it probably was pretty funny! Afterwards, I realized that there weren’t assigned racks and nobody would have known the difference if I’d left my bike on the wrong rack. Oh well.

My legs were definitely heavy at the beginning of the run, but I still felt like I had pretty good energy. One 27-year-old girl went flying by me , but other than that, I did all the passing on the run. I felt like I was keeping a pretty good pace until mile 2, where I had to walk a few steps on one of the steepest hills and my stomach started feeling a little queasy. After a short downhill, I regained some energy and felt like I was able to pick up the pace to the finish.

Overall, I was happy with my effort and happy with the race. I think because there were a lot of newbie triathletes, this race had a much friendlier, down-to-earth feel to it than most of the triathlons I’ve done. I met some nice people, and even laughed a few times, which is not something that happens too often at a triathlon (triathletes seem to be fairly serious folk).

I won first in my age-group. I loved that they had a little olympic-type podium set up and took pictures of all of the top 3 finishers in each age group standing on the podium. I was the only one of the top 3 in my age group who stayed for the awards, though, and I felt too silly to stand on the podium by myself. Too bad, because I really thought it was cool.

I won a bottle of Merlot and a tech t-shirt from Ragged Mountain Running Shop. Wish I’d put my hat on for the picture!

Final Stats:
14th (out of 60 women)
1st in my age group (out of only 4!)

Out of 60 women, I finished:
21st in the swim
12th in T1 (transition from swim to bike)
18th in the bike
11th in T2 (transition from bike to run)
9th in the run

It breaks down pretty much the way I’d expect it to, except I feel like I’ve been doing a lot more biking, and therefore should be improving (which I’m not). Maybe I really do need to get the fancy shoes and pedals and an actual road bike.

Varmint 1/2 Marathon Race Report

This is another race my husband found online. The race gets its name from a coyote that wreaked havoc on the small community of Burke’s Garden, Virginia, back in 1952. The coyote killed more than 400 sheep and came to be known as “The Varmint” before it was finally caught.

Burke’s Garden is nicknamed “God’s Thumbprint”. From above, it looks like a volcanic crater. It is the highest valley in Virginia. The Varmint 1/2 Marathon course, known for its hills, traces the outline of part of the thumbprint.

Kurt had read somewhere that camping was allowed near the starting line. He emailed the race director to ask if this was true. She emailed back and said that there is a small camping area in a field not too far from the starting line. She said there’s no water or bathrooms, but we were welcome to camp if we wanted to.

We were under the impression that there would be more campers, but we were the only ones. There were very loud cows in the field behind us and the temperature dropped drastically overnight, but we managed to sleep quite well regardless.

In the morning, it was so cold that we had to sit in the car with the heat on to warm up enough to go back out and pack up the tent.

We drove the half mile to the starting line at the community center, and I made some coffee.

We were there well before the noncompetitive half marathon walk started at 6:30 am.

By the time we lined up for the start, the fog had mostly burned off, and it was starting to get warm. We couldn’t find any information about water stops, but we assumed there would be some. Neither one of us had brought a fuel belt or bottle to run with.

I was planning to treat this race as a long run, since 11.5 miles is the furthest I’ve run since November. Although… Kurt had told me that according to last year’s times, I would only have to run a 2:o5 in order to place in my age group. We had seen the prizes at the start/finish line:

I really wanted to win a sheep!

My plan was to just jog the first 5 or 6 miles nice and easy, and if I felt good after that, to pick up the pace a little. I wanted to win a sheep, but I also wanted to make sure that I didn’t run too hard and aggravate my IT band again.

The first few miles were very hilly. I took it nice and easy and just enjoyed the morning. I was amazed at how good I felt. I’d really been struggling for a few weeks, just feeling slow and out of breath during all my runs. But now I was feeling normal again, and as people started wearing out from the relentless hills, I started passing them.

On my last few long runs, I had been struggling to maintain a 10:30 pace, but each mile when I heard my Garmin beep, I’d look down: 8:41, 9:20, 8:47, 8:50. And this was on some seriously hilly terrain! True, these splits weren’t going to get me anywhere near my PR time. I had definitely lost some speed. But on hills, and with the very limited running I’d been able to do, I was feeling pretty good about my pace. I continued to feel really good until mile 10.

Right after the water stop (turns out there were plenty of water stops!) at mile 10, the running started to hurt. I had told myself that I would just treat this race like a long run, and that I’d just keep the pace easy. Up until now, I had done that. But now, I didn’t want any of the people I’d just passed to pass me back. I also wanted a sheep. I could see three women in front of me. I’d been gaining on them for a while. I was pretty sure at least one of them was in my age group.

I struggled up the hill. Just before the 11 mile mark, there is an out and back. I saw Kurt as soon as I started the out and back. He was more than a mile ahead of me! It was all down hill to the turn-around. This made it really hard for me mentally, because I kept thinking about how hard it was going to be on the way back.

Strangely, though, when I turned around, the up hill didn’t seem bad at all. I was exhausted, but I made myself keep up my pace. I realized that I wasn’t going to catch anybody in front of me, but I decided that I wouldn’t let anybody pass me, either. On the final stretch, I looked at my watch: 1:54. I couldn’t really tell how far I was from the finish line, but I definitely didn’t want to come in over 2 hours. I picked up the pace and crossed the finish line in 1:58:20.

It was my slowest half marathon in years, but considering the circumstances, I was quite happy with my time.

Kurt went and checked the results, which were posted by the finish line and came back and told me I’d placed 3rd in my age-group. Yay! I won a SHEEP!

There was a small local farmer’s market set up in the pavilion. I bought some homemade ice cream. Kurt got a hamburger.

Kurt went back to check the results again. I somehow got bumped to 4th in my age group. It was chip timing, so I have no idea how that happened. But, I didn’t get a sheep.

I guess we’ll have to go back next year for another shot at winning a sheep.

Mile splits: (1)9:23, (2)9:53, (3)8:41, (4)9:19, (5)8:46, (6)8:49, (7)8:45, (8)8:34, (9)8:53, (10)8:51, (11)9:07, (12)9:11, (13)8:36