Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Runner's Guide to the Grindstone 100

Full of rocks, lots of hills,
Run at night, lots of spills,
There's no one else to blame for this tableau,
But you should see the wreckage of my toe...

It's nice enough to start out from the camp,
With warmer clothes and wearing your best lamp
Around the lake in sunshine toward the glade,
Then leave the grass where Karl and Neal both strayed

They're back in front before you see the crowd,
You pass to cheers and move on fast and proud
Without a doubt this is the runner's high
(hold on for it may be in short supply!)

Down dirt road, through the trees,
Pass the tents, what a tease...
Don't forget what this implies
(out and back, no surprise)

These first two miles will also be the last,
And so far they're nice paths that you have passed
At two miles in you think "a piece of cake!"
Just after that you'll do the double take:

The coming trails are nice but full of rocks
(no wonder mountain bikes all come with shocks)
So watch your footing in the fading light,
And have some fun before the coming night

Then down the gravel road -- but catch the right,
An easy one to miss while you're in flight
But even if you make it you're confused,
The next left needs more streamers than they used

Hey that's alright -- a few delays won't hurt,
It's early, not yet dark, and you're alert,
Just cross the stream and run on through the shade
Falls Hollow past the tracks brings welcome aid

Take a drink, hit the roads,
Dirt, but up, pace implodes,
Then a trail, as night falls,
Through the trees, wooden halls,

It's when you hit the road the long walk starts,
The gravel is too steep to run most parts,
But still it's peaceful, not yet a travail,
No lights -- just let the moonlight bathe the trail

You pass the turn-off, climb on through the night,
It feels a triumph just to stay upright,
But then the lights are coming back at you,
The top is near, the punch is close, push through

Find the fence, stamp and turn,
Passed the path, now return,
Back on down, "just ahead",
Call to those that you have led

And now you get your payback for that climb --
A long descent; can't help but make great time
Or so you think until you see the path
It goes from pleasant trail to stony wrath

At first there's just enough to make you dance
Don't let the night lull you in to a trace
But then the rocks begin to get more serious
Think down is fast?  Then clearly you're delirious.

In time it levels out; this hill's a wrap
Relax; you've hit the aid at Dry Branch Gap
From here it's up again and down still more,
then see your crew for some esprit de corps

The climb is not so bad compared to some,
You'll make the ridge before you might succumb
To dread of plodding to the bitter end
Instead just coast a while and then descend

The rocks here aren't as bad as just before,
Until you bottom out, then what's in store?
Weave back and forth across the slippery stream,
Then nice flat trail goes by just like a dream

Hear cars ahead -- the station must be nigh!
Now cross 250; it was all a lie
You've got another climb before you're there
Back down and get your feet wet then prepare

Dowells Draft, in a flash,
Grab your crew, dump your trash,
Water bottle filled up quick,
Snacks to go, that's the trick,

Go hit the trails again while feeling strong,
That aid's a boost; for now you can't go wrong
But if I made you guess what's next ahead
You'd know -- a great big climb -- it goes unsaid

Just power up the hill and to the peak,
These climbs are where you test your great physique
You've honed your mind your will is also strong,
That's great 'cause at the top you'll find you're wrong

It dips again for maybe fifty feet,
Then up, your break complete, oh what a treat!
I'd say "a great ridge run" to tell you more,
But last guy heard that line, well he just swore

Eventually you'll hit the dirt road down,
Perhaps as speedy as the Triple Crown
So Lookout Mountain station, here we come!
(superb aid stations are the rule of thumb)

Grab some grub, from the grill,
Five to go, all downhill,
So they say, and the map,
But if it's true I'll eat my cap

Now here you are -- you're climbing once again
(I'll hold the map, you stab it with the pen)
At first a gentle rise that you may run,
But rocky trail and tight brush steal the fun

At least in time it turns down from the ridge
Through several stages: rocks and woods and bridge
The first steep dives are prone to swaths of stone
It's treacherous; stability unknown

Next up you wander through the darkened wood,
They could have used more streamers (strike that, should)
But what's another minute here or there?
This long downhill should leave you time to spare!

Then hit the giant bridge and wonder why?
I guess to skip the stream they would reply
But really on this trail it's ludicrous
A crutch to make it easy seems amiss

Anyway, some good news is forthcoming,
Car sounds and a generator humming
You hit the road North River Gap in sight,
The crackling blaze steals chill out of the night

Now refresh, find your crew,
Hit the scale, try the stew,
Take a second just to graze,
Ultrarunning: great buffets!

It's good to pack it down for what's up next
It's harder still than anyone expects
Titanic climb ahead, forget your pace,
Four thousand feet -- the longest of the race

At least the glow-lit trail is sorta nice
You cross a little bridge not once not twice
But often and a cameraman is there
You'll be forever 'membered in mid-air

Much better thus than lying by the trail
(for shortly that's the state that may prevail)
You think I jest but I can't overstate
The climb's so great you can't keep walking straight

In any case it's level then it's steep
Then steeper still until you want to weep
Then easier to tempt you to a jog,
then steep again until it's just a slog

Six miles of this with barely a reprieve,
It's really tougher than you can conceive
In fairness though the trail is very nice
Enjoy it for you've surely paid the price

At last you'll peek out from the darkened trees
To see a sight that just can't help but please
You're at the top!  The moment here is glorious!
All done with that you've made it up victorious!

Now don't you let a thing beneath your skin
Cruise down to distant aid and show your grin
They'll tell you you're the first to not complain
So tell them to break out the French champagne

Well maybe they'll just toast with Gatorade,
With Grindstone lemons you've made lemonade!

Little Bald, at long last,
Please enjoy the fine repast,
We'll be here, when you're back,
With a drink, and a snack

The worst climb done, now cruise around the peak,
Though if they say "all down" don't let them speak
Right out is down and fast if you've got guts
Just watch out for the water in the ruts

But then a bit uphill to Reddish Knob
Along the same dirt road, the climb's the job
And at the tents the climb is not yet done
Make for the summit, one more stretch of fun

Back to the aid and through, down road to crew
With gravity assist you speed on through
And one last bit to halfway turnaround
Not quite as fast though, climbing broken ground

Now the question passed down through the ages:
One-oh-two (to add up all the stages)
So why not move the aid in just a mile?
I guess a hundred would be out of style.

"Gratuitous!" might run right through your mind,
From crew to Gnashing Knob as they designed
Arrive in dark?  You're fast they'll give a cheer!
If not don't worry cut-offs still aren't near

Turnaround, halfway through,
Right back down, see your crew,
Pacer waits, raring now
Those behind -- see ya, ciao!

So now to climb the road to Reddish Knob,
And jog what parts you can to beat the mob
It levels on the bridge -- you're almost there,
The tent is just ahead; pull in with flair

From here its downhill and your legs are fast,
The question of the day is: will it last?
Not far to station's thrill but now uphill,
Still on that muddy road -- don't take a spill!

The climb to Little Bald will be the test --
So will you crash or run like man possessed?
For some go down in flames or stagger home,
While others make good time 'cross rocks and loam

In any case you'll raid the table's aid,
so grab some eggs or burgers, they're all made!
Next up -- the biggest downhill on the course
(too bad you can't descend it on a horse!)

If quads can take the slope it augurs well,
If not just take it slow and don't rebel
For at the nadir waits North River Gap,
The biggest party on this race's map

Cross a bridge, two and three,
Downhill done, soon you'll see,
Crew attends, check your weight,
Table calls, take a plate

Some calories to see you through the hill
Now move on out, get going, that's the drill
The start's a gentle stroll cross wooded slope,
By daylight streamers clear -- keep up your lope

But soon it angles up -- you know it's due
And rocks confound the trail, knock you askew
It's just the charm of Grindstone, climb on through
How much of this is left?  Well, let's review...

Now three big climbs remain, including this
And three more big descents to the abyss
The climbs will steal your speed and make you plead
The downs will crush your quads but don't concede

You needn't make great time to finish well
Be steady and consistent -- you'll excel
Now back to present trail, turn up your hike,
Beware false summits, each chunk looks alike

At last the rocky brush denotes the peak,
If you're not dazed and spinning, good technique!
Next Lookout Mountain waits, cruise down and see
You'll find refreshment there I guarantee

Take a break, rest your legs,
Have some Nuun but wish for kegs
Still more climb, grab some fruit,
Up the road, munch en route

This nice dirt road goes on for quite a while
However it's uphill and you won't smile
But still, Lookout was halfway up or more
Stay steady, on the move, you know the score

From top to see your crew at Dowells Draft
Just run on down the ridge -- this is your craft!
If energy is low this won't feel great,
In fact it's true -- you might hallucinate

Or if your quads are trashed and downhills ache,
Relentless Forward Progress takes the cake
So hydrate well and chew a Gu or two,
Some calories might change your point of view

If all goes well you'll keep your race on track,
If not, find crew and aid for this setback
The miles will pass unnoticed by your feet,
Keep heading to your friends and stop and eat

Dowells Draft, next buffet,
Want to sit, want to stay,
Twenty left to run today,
Far to drive, old cliche

At least the next leg starts with potpourri,
A gravel road, steep dip, and then the sea
Okay, perhaps a minor creek to cross,
But one step wrong and it will be your loss

In any case then up a bit and back,
And cross the road before the cars attack
Next up the trail's a dream; then back to stream
Though up and down the banks can make you scream

Just one more trench or two and then you're clear,
But if your brain still works you know what's near
A giant climb is coming -- what's to say?
before its done you'll wish you're far away

But grit your teeth and hike it with some pace,
And with some luck you'll pick up one more place
So now then at long last you reach the crest,
The climb is done, you've passed the acid test

It levels out, now why as flat as this?
A little downhill wouldn't go amiss...
Be careful what you ask -- you might receive
The downhill might not be a great reprieve

The steep and rocky parts can pound and jar
With little bumps to climb, though not too far
It's Dry Branch Gap that calls you to progress
Just as you curse the course for its excess

See your crew, every stop
In between each high hill top
Eat and drink, push ahead
Fourteen more, then a bed

Now this time there's no messing just the climb
A couple thousand feet up one last time
Don't let it beat you down from head to toe,
You crush that hill, now that would be a show!

The rocks that lurk midway will be the test,
If you can coast through those we'll be impressed
Don't stub or fall, you'd find a world of hurt
Though difficult you've got to stay alert

When rocks spread out and inclines ease that's good
The road is at the exit from the wood
The long tough hike has passed but that's the last
If you can't make it now I'd be aghast

Of course the gravel road is plenty steep,
You can't run down -- it's more a jarring creep
A mile or two then back to single track
Though past top ten it's typically pitch black

This trail's one of the highlights of the race,
The end in reach, few rocks, a downhill pace
It brings you to dirt road down to the aid --
The station at Falls Hollow promenade

Crew awaits, one last stop,
Gatorade and soda pop,
Fill 'er up, quick stop mode,
Don't lose time, hit the road

Then straightaway you'll need to cross the tracks,
(this course just never helps you to relax)
Whatever, next a couple messy miles,
Of rocky trails and gravel roads and trials

You might recall it all from Friday's start,
Or maybe long forgotten since that part
In any case the Boy Scouts cheer you in,
(until their bedtime when the snores begin)

But once you hit their camp the end is near,
A mile or two, no further, have no fear
There's still some up and down on these dirt tracks,
Until One Mile To Go hits like an axe

You see that sign and start to lose control,
Just hold it 'til you reach the totem pole
Through camp and wood, round lake and cross the grass,
Down road, past cars, cross field, come in with class

Your victory at hand you cross the line
High-fives from Clark and photos to enshrine
Your moment as you conquered Grindstone's best,
So hug the pole to chest and then you rest

Some food, a chair, a shower, take your time
Just getting off your feet will feel sublime
And when you count your toenails once again,
I guarantee you won't get up to ten

Now we don't know what ultras you've in store
(though hiking up those hills you swore no more)
But I would be the first to smell a rat,
If many races were as hard as that


  1. well its one thing to have a good memory,
    of a hundred and 2 miles
    it's another to coin competent terms,
    creating plenty of smiles,

    to use potpourri and champagne in the same runner's log,
    than it augurs well even if the jog turns to a slog,

    some of us know the real end is to make contact with Clark,
    and no DNF if we get there by dark.


  2. Hi Aaron,

    A fine effort, the best rhyming race report ever! I am heading out to Grindstone in a few days and I found your report while reading everything I could about the course. I saw your name on this year's list, and hope to meet you while I'm there.

    This will be my 18th different 100 mile trail race, and I'm a bit worried that I waited too many years to finish this beast! I did Massanutten in 2012 and Superior in 2011, as well as Hardrock in 2007, so I've seen some tough footing, but at age 53, with a new (but minor?) knee problem, it could be tough for me to finish within the time limit. Plus, I may be coming down with a cold. Let the sandbagging begin!

    My response, regarding this post:

    It takes brains of a certain diameter
    To write jokes in iambic pentameter
    To add to the score
    You ran sub-24!
    An impressively different parameter

    See you soon!

    Ray Gruenewald, #73
    Seattle, WA