Afton to Humpback and Back Training Run
August 21: Running (and Shopping) with the VHTRC

Report by Sophie Speidel

(Be sure to see Michele's pictures also.)

The idea for an Afton to Humpback and Back training run came to me back in July, the day after having a great run at the Browntown Loop with the VHTRC. I was running from Afton to Humpback and back on the AT with a small group of running friends from Charlottesville, and when we got to the Humpback Rocks parking lot, I suggested we do the .8 mile climb up to the Rocks. This was met with mixed reactions, but the basic message was, "You can do it, Sophie, but we're heading back to the car." Now, I love running with my buddies but they can be serious whiners about hills and water crossings (most are road runners whom I have to beg to run trails with me), and this was a perfect example. So, on the way back to the car, I decided to organize my own Humpback Run, with NO WHINERS ALLOWED. And guess who I invited? The VHTRC, the most fun-loving, laid-back, easy-going trail runners I know.

I was psyched with the response. We had 29 runners, 4 friends from Charlottesville (my other road-loving friends opted for a 5-mile road race instead), and 5 from the Central Virginia Chapter of the VHTRC: Bill Gentry, Quatro Hubbard, Pete York, Jeff Wilbur, and me. (Bill was unaware of the Central VA Chapter's existence and told me he was worried that he "had missed a chapter meeting," but then I reassured him that we don't have meetings...in fact, we don't really exist). The rest of the runners were pure VHTRC: Marty and Tom; Dru and Graham; Jill and Dave; Bob Phillips, Caroline, Vicki and Farouk; Mike Broderick and Michele; Jim, Bob Coyne, David Snipes, Scott Crabb, Chris, Joyce, John, and Adam. The weather was cloudy, misty, and humid, and everyone (except Quatro) got there on time. (We left without him).

The run from Afton on the AT is mostly downhill on great single track for the first 5 miles until you reach a creek crossing, and then the first climb begins. It took us roughly 2 hours to get to the aid at the Humpback Rocks parking lot. At that point, the group divided into two: some climbed the shorter, steeper approach to the Rocks, and others ran/walked a more gradual approach on the AT. We all seemed to arrive at the Rocks at roughly the same time, and Michele took some great photos. We had a spectacular view of the Shenandoah Valley from the Rocks, despite the mist and approaching rain. A few Wasatch trainees even did another repeat of the steeper climb (a perfect example of tough running and no whining!).

The run back on the AT offered a 200-yard side trail to an overlook to the east (another example of no whining: I asked Graham if he wanted to check out the overlook, and he said with great enthusiasm, "Hey, let's!"), a dip in the creek, and hikers on the trail as well as Park Service employees who were more than curious about "what organization" we were with. (Don't worry, Anstr. Jim Cavanaugh just told them, "the Central Virginia Chapter of the VHTRC," so hopefully that was too much information for them to handle...).

We all finished the roughly 21-mile run between 5 and 6 hours, with the C'Ville locals finishing first (they like to run fast). Tom was getting psyched for the Little Debbie Nutter Butters that I had promised, so the pace started to quicken towards the end. We were able to have a 20-minute post-run party before the rain came...in buckets. So, the majority of the group retired to Bodo's for bagels, then to Ben and Jerry's (with a few caffeine junkies joining me at Greenberry's), then it was off to power shop at Blue Ridge Mountain Sports. I'm not sure what the salespeople thought when the Blue Invasion first entered the store, but they must have figured out that we were all business when Michele and Marty started to try on the Patagonia stuff and Caroline grilled the sales guy about all the trail running shoes, while the rest of us gravitated to the map section to discuss the finer points of running MMT and the Ring using their 3-D maps of the Massanuttens...

Many thanks to everyone who offered to help and/or who brought food: Dru made yummy chocolate chip cookies and Jill brought awesome pistachio and chocolate-chip banana bread. I can now appreciate why Anstr, Chris, David H., Keith, Peyton, Jeff, Dan, and others love to put on races and runs on the trails...there is something extremely gratifying about creating a fun experience in the woods, on a beautiful trail, for all to enjoy together. I was also glad to finally introduce some of my Charlottesville friends to the VHTRC gang...and you made a great impression: the C'Ville locals (Christine, David, David, and Maggie) summed it all up when they told me, "Sophie, your VHTRC friends are so cool!"

Absolutely.

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