Sunday, April 19, 2009

Dick's Creek Gap To Springer Mountain

I'll start with saying that this was by far the hardest thing I've ever done.  Also, this could not have been done without Brack who paced me the last 32, and Morgan and Dustin who crewed me from point to point after the 36 mile mark at Neels Gap.  

I will not lie, I did not really tell anyone except these 3 guys and my wife that I was doing this, mostly because I did not want to set any kind of expectation, knowing that there was a chance I would fall short of my goal.  I have watched my great friend Jon Obst, as well as others, time after time amaze me by accomplishing amazing feats, and honestly I just wanted to see if I had what it takes. 

The breakdown went like this Start at Dick's Creek Gap, 8 miles south on the NC border, at 10 am.  Thanks Chris and Erin for dropping me off!  From there I would run 36 miles to Neels Gap, where I would have a supporting crew of Morgan and Dustin, as well as my pacer for the next 32 miles, Brack.  By the way, Brack had never run over 26.2 miles before this run.  
The second half was from Neels Gap to Springer Mountain, 30.5 miles, then obviously the mile back down to the parking lot.  This stretch would make the run 67.5 miles of AT running. 

I felt great at the start, knowing that the goal of this run was to uncharacteristically start out extremely slow,  to make sure I finish.  After all there was no time limit, just myself and 67.5 miles of trail in front of me.   Okay I should go ahead and mention, this previously unexplored by me, northern section of GA AT, was ridiculous.  Tray Mountain(mountain without switchbacks) as well as two other peaks were relentless.  This did make me begin to think of what the rest of the day would look like, as well as raising the question in my mind, can I really do this?  After these mountains, going into Unicoi Gap around mile 15 or 16 I was actually already starting to feel it.  As I ascended out of Unicoi with a mere 800-1000 ft climb I was really beginning to hurt.  As I reached the summit I was around 18, I will call this the first section.

Second section was from 18-36.  Now all I had to do was get to my friends, they would take care of me. So I was hurting at 18, but thank God for the next 4-5 miles of basically flat trail.  This really got me in a good groove that carried me until it happened!   Around mile 27 I had a very unfortunate thing happen, I got gas!  Okay so some may laugh at this, but it was extremely painful.  I got to a point to where I couldn't even walk downhill because it hurt so bad.  Picture this: You are walking on a trail and see someone rolling around from side to side.  Well just ask the person who walked up on me and saw this sight, and I actually told them what was wrong and asked them if by any chance they had anything for gas, haha.  It was a long shot, but can't hurt to ask.  So I called my crew and let them know about the delays, which probably totaled over an hour of trying to get this gas out so I could run again.  As I was still rolling around and poking and prodding at my stomach in every area, at least I knew they would have gas X for me in a couple of hours.  I finally laid on my stomach and let a boulder jab in my upper abdomen... and there it came, it was like a magic button.  I would then run a few feet, jump down on the trail and let another boulder jab in my upper abdomen.  This pattern continued for the next half mile or so, until finally the gas was gone.  So yes this actually happened and was a major setback for a while, but now time to push on.  So the next 9 miles or so to the car, there were a couple of climbs, but nothing too crazy.  Finally around 7:30 I arrived at the car(mile 36) and there they were, waiting with fresh fruit, pizza, accelerade, my patagonia jacket, a change of clothes, and bright smiles to pick me up for the next 31.5 miles.  

Third section would have the worst climb of the day having to go up and over Blood Mountain, and would take us 11 miles from Neels Gap to Woody Gap.  Brack was now running with me and full of energy, he was keeping my spirits up as we ascended Blood, and then making great time on the long descend down the other side, as it was now getting dark and downhills were a little more risky.   There were some more climbs, and at some point I remember getting really quiet and sluggish thinking in my mind I would stop at 50 miles, but Brack continued to keep me alert.  We arrived at Woody Gap to see our crew, and I had surpassed my previous longest distance run of 40, now at 47 miles.  

The remainder of the night would be no more than 4 miles to each time we would see our crew.  I remember some time after 50 miles, as serious as I could be saying to Brack "My legs are starting to hurt."  To which we both laughed hysterically and called it the understatement of the year.  I do remember when we got to Horse Gap and had only 10 miles left, I was on a mission. I just had to get to Springer and I was going to let nothing stop me.  On the last road crossing before Springer we had our last obstacle, our crew was no where to be found.  We stayed there and thought about what to do.  Almost out of water and with one more gel we just decided they probably made their way up to Springer, so we would head that way.  Being low on fuel, and having no way to get more, we decided to hike in from there.  About halfway up to Springer parking lot at 4:30 in the morning, here comes a light toward us.  Freaked me out for a second, but then figured it was Dustin.  Morgan was right behind him with a bag full of much needed aid.  We continued the trek all the way to Springer Mountain, took a few pictures, then made our way back down to the car, finishing the 67.5 mile journey in exactly 20 hours.

A quick stop at Waffle house and a couple of horrible dirt roads later, here I am, alive and well. Hope you enjoyed the long recap of my journey, and maybe you can hit the trails with me next time.

Thank you Brack, Morgan, and Dustin for allowing me to succeed in this venture!


  1. Classic! You got from gas to pizza to Waffle House. Now that's a journey.
    (The run sounds pretty good too.)

  2. Great run! I was backpacking up there this weekend close to Blood Mtn. Those are some tough hills. That AT stretch from Dick's Creek to Unicoi is brutal. But there aren't any easy sections. Congrats on completing an epic run!!

  3. Thanks so much guys, it was quite an experience!

  4. Dude, congrats on the AT run! Job well done. Some friends of mine and I tried running from NC to Springer twice in the last four months unsuccesfully. Jon Obst joined us on the second attempt. Read all about it at

    See ya around...happy trails!