Thursday, October 6, 2011

Stupid Moves in Ultrarunning

In the late 90s and early 00s (did we ever settle on calling that decade "the aughts"?), my job took me on multiple trips to Anniston, AL.  I was working with the IT (telephone and LAN) people at Fort McClellan to transfer their capabilities from Fort McClellan, which was closing under the Base Realignment and Closure program, to Fort Leonard Wood, MO and Fort Jackson, SC.

I always tried to craft my travel logistics so that I'd have time for a long trail run.  Many times I just ran on Fort McClellan proper--they had much backcountry full of jeep trails etc--but I also was able to run in the Mount Cheaha State Park area.

On this particular Stupid Move occasion my flight arrived around noon at Birmingham (as an aside, I recall from my elementary social studies from 45-50 years ago that Birmingham had the nickname "The Pittsburgh of the South" due to its steel industry, but the AL locals instead preferred to call Pittsburgh "The Birmingham of the North").

I drove straight down to the Cheaha area.  This website describes some of the trails. I recall parking at Lake Chinnabee, I think, then running uphill on the Chinnabee Silent Trail past some nice stream cascades, thru the Turnipseed Camp, and up the ridge to the Pinhoti Trail (approx 6 miles to this point).  Then somehow I joined the Cave Creek Trail (there may have been an Odum Trail in there somewhere as well) and headed north on it to Cheaha State Park, then returned south along the Pinhoti Trail.  Enroute along the Pinhoti was the wreckage of a small airplane crash.  I think the Cave Creek Trail--Pinhoti Trail loop was about 10 miles, which put me back at the top of the Chinnabee Silent trail.

Anyway, although this was a spectacularly beautiful trail run, what made this run spectacularly stupid was that I did not bother to tell anyone where I was going.  And up on the exposed ridge that afternoon, a major thunderstorm brewed up, with lightning and thunder crashing CLOSE by, but I felt compelled to run thru it anyway.  I realized that if I didn't keep pressing on I was going to get up against sunset.  The trails ran slower than I thought, plus I had not brought a flashlight.  I was extremely relieved to reach the Chinnabee Silent trailhead, knowing I only had 6 miles, all downhill, to run in under an hour.  I fairly flew down the Chinnabee to my rental car, arriving there just when it was about too dark to run without artificial light.

Had lightning nailed me, or I turned an ankle, or got lost, whatever...that was a spooky experience that I took to heart for years, until this more recent stupid solo trail run.


1 comment:

  1. Great blog Gary. Dig your writing style...
    I found your site while Googling for other Blues Cruise 2011 Race Reports. Going to add you to the Blogs I Read list.