Beast of the East 25M - Kings Mountain, North Carolina
Elevation Gain: ~5,000'
December 11, 2021 - Tough day in the trenches. Up early to drive two hours to Kings Mountain at the border of NC and SC. Foggy morning with high humidity made for sweaty times. The plan was to run two out and backs at Crowder's Mountain State Park from the park headquarters at the Sparrow Springs Access, each round-trip amounting to 25 miles. But my left knee never quite got with the program, so I stopped at 25 miles after seeing the entire course and limped off to lick my wounds.
The start was pleasant at 53 degrees. It began easy enough with a quick climb up Crowder's Mountain to the summit through boulders that forced everyone to slow in queue to a walk. Down the other side on a service road, we turned around at an aid station at 3.5 miles to return back to the start after going over Crowder's again. The first couple hours were conversational as we were grouped up and moving deliberately through the technical sections. There was no pain in my knee at the start, even though I knew it was not healed. Descending off Crowder's Mountain, my knee began to feel tender. Usually by seven miles the endorphins are flowing enough to mask the pain and allow me to run with more abandon. Not this day.
The second out and back opened up with some running room. I had no problem maintaining a 15-minute pace with the next climb up and over the Pinnacle. Aside from having to walk through the boulders and descend with caution, I was able to sustain an even tempo out to the Boulders aid station and thereafter crossing the NC/SC border before retracing our steps back. My knee was sore enough that I was running with a limp by this time, which in turn tinghtened my lower back. Keeping my tempo at 15 minute miles may have been too much for my knee, however.
Reaching twenty miles in exactly 5 hours, I was struggling and cramping, so backed it off for the final 5 miles back to the start, up and over Pinnacle once again. The running would have been easy under healthy circumstances, but I slowed to limit the irritation to my knee, taking an hour and a half to cover the last five miles, finishing in six and a half hours even. Nice course, Nice people. And I stopped before a nasty line of thunderstorms moved in.
It is discouraging to have a lingering injury at my age. The prospect of returning to quicker and healthier running is becoming less realistic with time. I need to come to terms with the necessity of accepting a slower pace if I want to complete longer distances. It boils down to juggling patience and perserverence; I'm not excited about hobbling into the future. I may have to sacrifice racing to continue running trails just for the pure joy of it. That I can probably tolerate!!!!