Looking Glass Look Around

Courtesy of Brandon Thrower
An email from Peter, the spearhead of Abana Coffee Farm in Ethiopia, made my almost-eight-hour 50k effort all worthwhile. This is probably the toughest run I've done in terms of vertical climb (~8-9000') and it's not even a race. The Looking Glass Look-Around is a 43-mile route around Looking Glass Rock in Pisgah near Brevard, NC mapped out by Brandon Thrower from WNC Trail Runner.  I was  one of the nine who started the run but the wimpiest of all who only covered 30-31 miles while others completed the loop (plus some).

I drove to Matt and Lily's pad in Brevard Friday night.  They have a great place that's within walking distance to downtown Brevard - cozy, sufficient, and welcoming like they are. I even snatched the guest room from Adam for arriving earlier than he did. While still dark at 6 a.m. Saturday morning, Matt, Kevin, and I set out to run to the start at Dividson River camping area and met up with everybody else.

Matt, Adam, Kevin, Jeremy, Sultan, David, me

A little after 7a.m., we were off! The climb started almost immediately. I tried to hang on as long as I could but within the first couple miles, everyone's out of my sight. As anticipated, it’s an adventure run by myself and the map.  I was off track a couple times but I managed to find my way back pretty quickly. Trails are well signed; blazes are scarce at times but they were there.

Looking-Glass Course
Sultan was the last one I ran with before he flew down Black Mountain. He was kind enough to stop and lent me some tape for my developing blisters on the way up. With still-on-the-mend ankle, I was extra cautious going downhill. What it means is that I was going up slow, and I was also going down slow. For the most part, I tried running as much as I could. When the climb got too steep, I broke into a hike. When even a hike was difficult, well, I had to keep going. The long climb up to Green knob was one where I felt like I just wanted to stop moving. Slowly but surely, I got to the top.

After Black Mountain and Barnett Branch trail, I finally reached the Mountain-to-Sea trail. It didn’t get easier though. The MST was less maintained than I thought. I got quite a few “hello” from briars on my legs. The very narrow single-tracks covered in leaves and grass didn’t help with footing either. But this is not to say that the trail isn’t beautiful because it is. I was awarded with overlooks, waterfalls, and expansive views of the woods. Slow progress was frustrating at times, but remembering what a gift it was to spend a gorgeous day in the woods eased that.

Along MST, we crossed the Blue Ridge Parkway a couple times. A bike race was taking place the same morning and I saw cyclists zipping down the parkway at a speed I would never dare each time. My garmin died after around six hours, which was not a surprise. I knew I had about seven more miles and it was a tough stretch. I was running low in water and was just getting tired overall.  The ascend to Silvermine Bald reaching 6,000' was relentless.  But again, reaching the top and ending my run on high ground was both rewarding and fitting. I had no idea how long I took to finish till I got to Black Balsam, where Lily graciously set up an aid station and waited for me to finish. Before the run, Matt told me about going an extra mile to get to the top of Black Balsam Knob and get a 360-degree view of the area. Needless to say, I ditched the plan as soon as I saw Lily and threw myself into a chair.

After getting back to Matt and Lily's place and a shower, I checked my email to see Peter's update from Ethiopia waiting in the inbox. What a timely update. It's Winter in Ethiopia now but the construction is still making progress. The first building for temporary workers is going up and the area for the coffee processing plant is staked. He's encouraged by the progress of my fundraising effort, which has been a source of encouragement to me personally as well. Just over three more weeks till West Virginia Trilogy!

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