Okay. So, I love the Fiery Gizzard. I mean. The name alone is cool. I have been to the Fiery Gizzard two times before this weekend. I am familiar with the trail. It is a point to point 13-ish miles one way and 13-ish back. You can start at the Foster Falls trailhead or you can start at the trailhead near Tracy City Elementary. It is an easy drive, approximately 99 miles from Franklin. It took us 1 1/2 hours to get there. We decided to start at the Foster Falls trailhead.
Shoes laced up. Bathroom. Packs on. Water. Food. We were off. The weather was not too bad for a 7:15 am start. The trail is mostly shaded for the first 7 miles. At about mile 6, you head down into the new gorge section, 1/2 mile to 3/4 mile in length. You descend 400′ down into the gorge next to a waterfall and then, ascend 400′ back up to the ridge line. The waterfall had a trickle of water on Saturday. The trail goes very close to it. In the fall, it should be absolutely amazing. Check out the Hardwin Adventure’s Fiery Gizzard Run. (It is Saturday, November 26th. You can run either a full or a half marathon.) There are stone steps, a new wooden bridge and wooden stairs with railing leading you out of the gorge. SO COOL!! We sat down there a bit to eat and drink. It was cool and it felt good.
Back up on the Ridgeline, at mile 7, the trail comes to the intersection of Raven’s Point overlook/Dog Hole Trail/Fiery Gizzard Trail. Raven’s Point Overlook is a 1/2 mile out and 1/2 mile back, definitely worth the extra mile, check it out when you are there. GREAT place to take pictures.
The Dog Hole Trail continues on the ridgeline for approximately 3.5 miles then takes you down to the gorge to finish 1.5 miles to the bathroom and the turnaround point. You get a taste of the rocks and roots and run past a popular swimming hole. This is the busier end of the trail in the summer because of the easy access to the swimming hole.
If you choose the Fiery Gizzard Trail over the Dog Hole trail, which I did, without hesitation, you are in for a treat! (Being that gentleman that he is, Kevin gave me the choice.) It is pretty much a rock garden for 2.9 miles then a mix of rocks/roots/dirt for 1.5. The gorge never disappoints (me). I will choose it at least one direction every time. It is tough. You run next to the Big Fiery Gizzard Creek most of the time. There were sections of this creek that were running and sections that were dry. (Kevin and I dipped our hats and splashed our arms and faces a few times to cool off. We contemplated sitting in it to cool off our core, but we never did.)
In the Fiery Gizzard Run, put on by Hardwin Adventures, you will cross several creeks, you can keep your feet dry. All of those crossings were dried up when we ran.
The gorge was long and repetitive! It took longer than usual for us. We both came pretty close to running out of water when we reached the bathroom at mile 13, our turn around. It was then, that I realized I was completely out of food. Oh, I brought PLENTY to eat for 26-31, but I only stuffed in enough for 13!!! Really, not sure what I was thinking. Thank goodness, Kevin had some extra gel. I carried and drank 55 ounces of water, one way. When I got to the bathroom, I drank 20 more ounces and filled all of my bottles. We ate and rested a bit. I think the rest helped to cool us down and lower our heart rate.
I took the gel from Kevin, and we started back. (I believe 4 hours had passed for the first 13.) It was around 11:00 am and the temp was rising. We stayed on the dog hole trail (ridge line) for our trip back. It was mostly shaded but hot and hotter. We made good time back to Raven’s Point intersection. Kevin was running well. I would get stuck in long walking blocks, not necessarily because I could not move well, but just because. I was walking fast. Kevin was running fast. It was a long death walk/run back to the trail head and our car.
I had plenty of water for this section. I had one gel. Really, I did not feel like eating more. I actually think I had too much water, and I was hot. We did find one last water spot on our way back where we dipped our hats. I also dipped my tank and put it around my neck. I HAD to find a mantra and stick to it!! My mantra, “Smile on your face. You get to be out here.” I smiled. I smiled. I smiled. The heat did not go away. I did not cool down fast. But, it sure did change my disposition and it caused me to think of more. . .
. . . this could have been mile 26 of 100. How was I going to dig myself out of this place I found myself in? I was hot. I needed food. My heart rate was up. My first start would have been walking, maybe, even stopping for a bit. The second thing I think that I would have done was to eat and drink. The third thing that I think I needed to do in this heat was to cool myself down with ice in my hat and ice in my sport’s bra. I tried to wrap my ice cold tank around my neck and I felt like I was choking. I do not want to do that in my 100. Glad that I tried before the race.
The important lesson to learn in this instance is that I cannot will my way out of this. I cannot muscle my way out of this. I cannot force my way out of this. As slowly as I got myself into this situation, I have to be patient and slowly work myself out of this. The key, I believe is not to panic.
The Fiery Gizzard Trail is easy to follow. It is marked with white/silver rectangular plates that are on the trees. You need to take your time following the trail markers, around mile 2.5, from the Foster Falls trailhead, you climb down and up on some big rocks. You also need to take your time following the trail markers in the second gorge. It is easy in these places to head the wrong way.
The day ended at mile 26, in about 7h 15 minutes of running. We climbed a total of 4000′. I decided that I would stop at 26 and not go to 31. The time on my feet, the weather and my fueling issues were enough of a challenge today. No regrets. Did not feel like I needed to make up any miles. The training is not the race. The training is getting me to the race with a sound mind, a strong body and the ability to go for two days without stopping!