Roaring Gap 25K - Roaring Gap, North Carolina

Elevation Gain: 3486' ....... Elevation Range: 1510'-2296'

February 26, 2022 - As I age and naturally decline in my physical acumen, I nonetheless continue to enjoy taking on new challenges in beautiful places. It was worth driving the four hours to the western mountains of North Carolina and sleeping in my car overnight to run but 15 miles and stand atop the bald plates of Stone Mountain to enjoy a remarkable vista of the Carolina foothills. The 8-mile loop at Roaring Gap was one of the more enjoyable courses I have made tracks on in the past year or so. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

Temps at the start were 37 degrees under cloudy, damp and cold skies. After I started, despite very light breezes, I was glad I wore my spandex leggings for additional comfort. Nonetheless, I was a bit chilled for the first two hours until the sun finally cracked through the clouds to bump the air temp a few degrees and drop the humidity.

I was tired from three training runs of increased effort in the preceding week. Since the race was only 25K I planned to train through it, knowing I would not be as sharp on race day. The first mile and a half or so was a gradual climb up to the top of Stone Mountain. My legs were sluggish and I couldn't get my wheelhouse to turn smoothly. Fatigued from the get-go I dropped back and settled in with resolve to run the entire way - at my pace - and enjoy the views.

The top of the mountain consisted of broad plates pock-marked with potholes and sparse outcrops of Virginia pines. The climbing sorted out my legs a bit as I got my breathing and movement in synch enough to pull back some of my lost ground from the field. From the top, the trail steeply descends nearly 800 feet on a network of quad-busting stairs to the lowest point - see relief immediately above in the graphic from my Garmin - before beginning a second gradual climb of about 500 feet before rollercoasting much of the rest of the way to the end of the loop at the start/finish... with one rude interruption of a lengthy climb up tourist steps alongside the gorgeous waterfall. Here I had to walk, but quick-stepped it as best I could.

The first loop took me 1H and 48M for 8 miles - quicker than I anticipated, but still slow. After a quick turn about, I headed out for a repeat on the second lap. The juices were flowing by this point as my wrapped knee was fully loosened and the running was comfortable. I continued to run each step up and over and back down Stone Mountain without any duress or lactic acid accumulation. It felt like I was moving quicker, as well as more smoothly, but the second go-round would take me about two hours, so my tired first loop was indeed quicker.

My camera failed me, so I have to rely on file photos for this one. It is a route I would like to return to just for the photography sometime, however. A very pleasant day, and despite a slow overall time of 3:50, it was still much faster than I expected, and has earned me a couple extra days of rest before a tougher 50K that awaits in one week.