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Carvins Cove to McAfee

I was supposed to be helping out judging Forensics yesterday. The dramatic readings and poetry kind. Not the dead bodies and blood spatter kind.

But then Janky Left Pinky Toe said it was cancelled.

Cancelled? But if my volunteer commitments are cancelled…my people are gonna make me run 50 miles in the ice and snow.

How can you just rip my excuses away from me like that?

But the beauty of plans is that they change.

And the snow and ice meant a change to Saturday’s plan from a 50 mile Miserious attempt to some made up 15-20 mile run on a route that does not exist.

In my brain.

The route does not exist in my brain.

Told GBFF…WHTBS that we were running McAfee. From Hinchee.

“You can’t. You can’t get there from there.”

And I’m not the one to argue routes. But I put a LOT of trust in my friendships. And if Beautiful Beastie and Nor’Lord say it exists. It exists.

“How far is that gonna be?”

I don’t know. Like 12 miles?

That was inaccurate.

“Like 12 miles?” was inaccurate.

Lemme run you through this route.

So, we started at Orange Market. In Salem. Or wherever it is. Maybe Roanoke. Which. Are those two places really not the same place?

Anyway. We started at the little statue guy. Down the steps from Orange Market.

And immediately I was confused.

Because I swear. I swear. When OT and I ran Hinchee a few years ago. Or however long ago it was made. We went straight. Through some grass. Before turning up a road to get us to the trail.

But on Saturday. We went right. Down whatever road that is. Before turning up the road to get us to the trail.

I can only assume that someone has re-routed it in the last year or two.

Because my memory is impeccable…

So we climbed up snowy ice-covered Hinchee. For, like, 12 miles.

Or maybe it was only 2. I can’t be sure.

And GJB allowed me to walk some of it. So we could chat.

But he also made me run some of it. And look. My left ankle has never entirely healed from the fall I took off my front porch a few years back when I was trying to message with Rogue and GJB and OT in the dark.

And my hip keeps popping back out of place.

And this snow ice bullshit all over the place Saturday. There was zero stability. For my already unstable lower half.

And No Show had turned around at the five mile point. And I wanted to turn around with him. And go back.

But I’m compliant. So I didn’t.

And we had to keep crawling through downed trees.

See how he’s just kind of stepping over that one?

Yeah, I’m not that tall.

I had to belly climb over it.

And there are those small sticky out branch knife thingies. And my leggings kept getting caught. And it was too early in the run for me to tear open the entire inseam of my running tights. A half marathon is way too long to be running with your yoni hanging out. In wintertime.

And because my friends are the way they are. Instead of offering help. GJ says, “Hang on. Just stay there.” As he gets his phone out. To take pictures.

Cool. Thanks for the help.

So by the time we got to the top of Hinchee. My ankles were on fire.

At some point, Hinchee magically turns into Brushy. Which used to be the place I most hated on earth. Because Conquer the Cove.

It’s not. It’s not anymore.

We found the new place I hate most on earth later on in this run.

But at some point along Brushy. Or maybe it was still Hinchee. I don’t fucking know. GJB points to a mountain. And says that’s where we’re going to.

Well, that seems…far…

Because my brain was only prepared for a 12 mile run.

I don’t know why. Or how. It became prepared for that number. But it was.

I’d only brought enough snacks. And hydration. For a 12 mile run.

And I almost turned around and went back to my car.

But I’m compliant. So I didn’t.

Around four miles in, we turned off of Brushy onto…

Gimme a minute.

Hang on. Lemme go look at a Carvins Cove map.

Buck! We turned onto Buck.

And Buck should have been pure joy.

Buck is Rogue’s favorite section of Conquer the Cove.

Because the trail is super runnable. And you don’t have to pay a lot of attention to roots and rocks. So you can just go all in on it.

But because both of my ankles were on actual fire. And had given up all stabilizing responsibilities. It was…painful. Buck was painful.

But it was Buck. So it was still fun.

Got to the bottom of Buck and turned right. Or left. I don’t actually know. But we turned onto Hotel.

And they were mentioning Bennet Springs parking lot. And in my brain I kept seeing the boat dock place. And that just seemed so far away. From us. And McAfee.

But then we got there. And I realized it was a completely different place.

And we started up the next trail. That I don’t know the name of. But it’s on the other side of the parking lot.

And GJB asked if I’d ever been here.

And I said yes.

And he looked at me skeptically.

And I said I’d definitely parked in that parking lot before.

And he said that didn’t mean I’d been on this trail.

And I said I had. Because it’s a loop, right? I’ve run this loop before.

Which was correct. It was a loop. And I don’t just know shit like that. So obviously I had to have been on it before.

So, ha, GJB!

But then they made us turn off of the loop. Onto Rattlin Run.

And BB kept comparing it to Christmas Mountain.

But as we were going up the switchbacks. GJB questioned its Double Diamond status. Because it wasn’t that hard.

Which is the point at which I realized why they use diamonds to describe trail and ski slope difficulty…

All these years…I thought it was just random…

Anyway. We got to some bench. And I casually mentioned that my stomach was growling.

And panic shot through BB’s eyes.

And she quickly pulled off her pack. And started shoving the emergency Sunshine snacks she’d brought at me.

And I ate some.

And I was better.

Which was important.

Because the next part was the actual climb.

The actual Christmas Mountain climb.

And I kept having visions. Of BB climbing this bullshit in the dark. Alone. When she attempted the 50 mile Miserious a few months ago.

And that seemed like it was probably the most awfullest thing in the world.

And my calves were on actual fire.

And sweet Abby kept stopping. And waiting for us. Making sure we all made it up.

And eventually I did. About ten hours later.

No, I don’t actually know how long it took me. Because time stopped existing at some point. I assume because there was no oxygen going to my actual brain.

And I made the mistake of asking if McAfee would be at the top of this climb.

“The fuck is wrong with you?”

Well, I’m not getting any oxygen into my brain, for one…

But we got to the top.

Which is where BB said the bullshit climb was about to start…

…about to start…?

But…what the fuck was that? That we just did? Was that just for funsies?

And apparently it was.

Because we took the fire road. Or whatever. Over to the cabin. Of GJB’s 2020 birthday party. Which was cool.

But then. Everyone started heading off to the right of the cabin. Instead of left. On the fire road. Which seems like it would have been the more sensible option. Because my brain knew enough to know that it would take us to the trail up the front side of McAfee.

But no. We wanted to go up the backside.

And it was covered in ice snow.

And no one was creating suitable tracks for my tiny legs to manage.

And my right hip was on actual fire.

And at one point. The Giant Toddler (aka Bropunzel). Just threw himself down in the snow.

And the entire lower half of my body was like, “Same.”

But apparently he was just trying to make snow angels. And hadn’t just given up on life.

And. Ok. So, I don’t know why I ask things. But I may have asked if this non-trail bullshit would take us up to McAfee.

Because I was desperate for the knowledge that it would be over soon.

But the look, y’all. The look of exasperation. That crossed BB’s face.

“Sunshine. You’ve been on this trail many times.”

Ok. First of all. There is no trail here. There is just this ice snow bullshit.

Second of all. Y’all have known me for years. How can you possibly be surprised that I have no idea where I am.

Third. I’ve never run this trail in this direction. We always run it towards 220. Whatever the fuck that means. And right now y’all saying we’re going towards 311. Those are two different directions.

Trails become two entirely different places when run in opposite directions.

Therefore. I have never been on this trail before.

And so BB decided to quiz me.

And I got nervous. Because the prize was dark chocolate.

And normally I’m an excellent test taker. But this was gonna be a mountain quiz. Which…

But the one she pointed at. Was the one I see from the top of my neighborhood every day.

That’s Smith Mountain! That’s Smith Mountain!! That’s the dam! I know that one!

And so I happily ate my dark chocolate. As we continued up the bullshit climb. On the backside of McAfee.

And my knees were on actual fire.

And we made it to the top.

And it was beautiful.

And then we started down the front side of McAfee.

And this is the point at which the entire lower half of my body just shut the fuck down.

My right knee and both ankles were no longer bendy. And pain was just shooting up through every part of me every time we went down steps.

At one point we passed a large group of untrained post-adolescent males. That I assume were the ones who had been throwing beer cans off the side of McAfee. That someone told us about.

Which makes them shittily raised humans.

But also. As we ran past them. One reached out. And gently embraced GJB. Either as a gesture of affection. Or to keep him from falling.

Either way. It was a beautiful moment.

As I passed. There were no attempted embraces.

But one said, “Godspeed.”

I assume because he saw the dead look in my eyes. And my incredibly awkward gate. As I tried to traverse the ice covered descent. Without bending any part of my lower body.

The pain. Just so much damn pain.

The entire way down the mountain.

But then finally. The parking lot. And GJB’s car. That would take me back to my car. That would take me home. To my couch.

And we all decided we were done. Because 16 miles. And 3,700 feet of climbing. Was enough for us. For all of us.

Except The Giant Toddler.

He kept going. Another 7 miles and 2,000 more feet of climbing. Over to Dragon’s Tooth.

Godspeed, Giant Toddler.

And GJB and Nor’Lord had a little tiff. In the parking lot. When Nor’Lord tried to suggest that Abby ride in the cargo area. Instead of in the backseat. Like a normal human.

And then Nor’Lord and I had a little tiff. In the parking lot. When he tried to suggest that he ride in the backseat. With Abby. Instead of me. And BB.

But we forced Nor’Lord up front. Because the back was ladies only seating.

And BB and I got to cuddle with Abby.

Which helped my lowers stop complaining. For a bit.

Until they had to transfer the rest of me from GJ’s car. To my car.

But they did it. And I made it home.

And now I’m sitting here negotiating. With my lowers. About the Holiday Lake 50k. Next weekend.

And I’ve promised plenty of rest.

Except they’re looking at today’s forecast. And they know this shit is not gonna get us another day off tomorrow.

And they’re pretty whiny.

And I’m like, “Same, lowers. Same.”

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Just reading and writing and running and looking for my happy place.

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