Day #2: The Percy Warner Ascent

Night falls early at base camp. The sun goes down, the human noise begins to subside, and the night sounds begin to creep.

After a long day of running, rain assembly, and general insanity I climbed into my tent at 9:10 p.m. in order to prepare for the Percy Warner Ascent on Monday. (If you’re wondering why I was a bit concerned, here’s a good description of the run.)

The park is located about 25 miles from the Nashville KOA, giving me just enough time to digest breakfast, drink a coffee and arrive at the starting point ready to go. I awoke at 5:30 a.m., chatted with my friend in London, and emerged from my tent around 7 a.m ready to go.

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I reached the Stone Gate, the entrance to the park, and took off. It’s a brutal run, with about 1,100 meters of ascent and descent during the 11-mile run. There are several 10-12 percent grades, including one in the first three miles.

What makes this run so special, though, is the view you’re afforded if you can push through.

Fortunately, I beat a good deal of the heat today. My training regiment only called for a 6-mile run but I couldn’t resist running the whole trail. I’d heard there was just spectacular moments along the route that mean so much more when you’re working for it.

The best moment: emerging somewhere in Mile Seven and seeing this amazing site:

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I still don’t know what it is. It appeared to be some type of equestrian training facility. (You can’t see the equally-sized portion of it off to the left.) The wooden structure in the foreground is about two stories high, which should give you some perspective considering the field behind it is probably 800 meters below.

I couldn’t help but stop for a few moments to take the whole majestic scene.

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The real fun begins at Mile Nine along a series of switchbacks that seemingly never stop. There are two photographic points along the route.

The first is a sneaking view of the surrounding area that you can take in while sitting on a gorgeous bench. (There are several benches like this along the way.)

The second I’ll take in tomorrow: if I can muster another 11 mile (plus .6 of a mile) run.

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Just past the first switchback, I stopped for a moment to document the run so far.

There was a great empty space –- about 20 meters between the trail and the start of the woods, which gave me a chance to show you exactly how I felt all day: surrounded by green.

The steep climb through Mile Nine turns into a massive downhill for the last mile, which if you know anything about running is far more brutal on the body. Of course, I’m not racing so…I wasn’t racing. I glided down the hill taking in the scene.

At the bottom of the hill – where I’d started two hours before – I decided to stage another picture at the flag pole, which is a runner’s rallying point at the park:

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It was a great start to the morning (made even better when I stopped by Ruby Tuesday to pick up my lost ATM card from the day before.) A quick stop at REI (cargo pants, camp sack), a shower at KOA, and then exploration across Nashville. (“It’s too hot to stay at the campground,” my father said. Truer words were never spoken.)

Tomorrow I run a second time at Percy Walker, and then it’s on to Asheville, North Carolina.

If you’re interested, though, here’s what today’s looked like:

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