The Five Days of Jarmans

This week on IronWomen we are interviewing Lael Wilcox, an endurance sport athlete I have loved following since I came across her documentary I Just Want to Ride. Back in the winter, I noted one of her adventures and loved the concept: She was doing the 15 Lemmons of Christmas by riding Mt. Lemmon for 5 days, with 1x up and down on the first day, 2x up and down on the second day, and so on. To fully understand the scope of this, you might have to head out to Tucson to ride up Mt. Lemmon, but essentially its a 21-25 mile climb (depends on what you call the “top”) which climbs from under 3,000 ft to 8,000 ft. Whether you do it fast or slow, there is no easy way to climb Mt Lemmon.

I don’t know how it popped into my head exactly, but I felt like a great way for me to use this inspiration was to take it to a local running route here outside of Charlottesville: Jarmans Gap. I’ve been doing a lot more running than riding these days, and climbing mountains has been keeping me happy and fit. So, why not climb Jarmans a few times? And thus, the Five Days of Jarmans was born.

One of the things I love about living in Charlottesville is the history. Recent years have made some aspects of history here controversial….the history is not alway a happy history. But it has been so interesting to discover more about the land that I run and ride through every single day. Historical markers here can be as frequent as road signs in some places it seems, and it’s nice to stop and read them every once in awhile. 

Jarmans Gap most definitely has a history. You can read some of it here or here, but the short version is that it was a major early crossing through the Blue Ridge Mountains. Before even the earliest European settlers, Native Americans were using it as a path to travel. It’s pretty cool when you spend time in a place like that to think about all the footprints that have come before. 

But even the coolest amount of history doesn’t take away from the fact that these days, running Jarmans Gap is hard! It has become a right of passage for the local runners, and the “go-to” spot to send folks who are visiting and looking for a run. “Oh! You should run Jarmans!” we’ll say, with a smile of encouragement, knowing what they are in for. 

Until COVID19 changed the world, running Jarmans usually didn’t fit in well to my training plan. A ~3 mile incline with 1,500 feet of elevation gain doesn’t usually fit in too well as a brick run, or prep for the IM marathon. So now with the renewed focus on staying motivated and maintaining fitness, I’ve been able to spend more time on Jarmans. So I figured – why not spend *a lot* of time on Jarmans one week? And, here we are.

One part of Lael’s blog about her Mt. Lemmon Challenge really resonated with me, and I wanted to copy it here:

I love the scenes in movies and the chapters in books when the hero is training and developing and working to become great; when you see that drive and ambition to face sacrifices and to improve. You see cold early mornings and sweat and pain become results. I want to live that story. I want to climb that mountain.

The beauty of climbing is that you won’t just have one experience. There will be fierce moments of riding into a driving wind, of your lungs flaming and your quads disintegrating to cinders, and then there will be absolute calm. The longer you stay out there, the more you’ll experience.

I’m excited for the simplicity of the days and miles ahead. I’m excited for the dewy humid mornings, honing in on my drive and ambition, experiencing life this week on Jarmans. I’m excited to climb that mountain. 

Published by Alyssa Godesky

Alyssa is a professional triathlete who has logged over 8,000 miles in competition of swimming, biking and running across five continents. She came to triathlon from an ultrarunning background and over the last few years has found success back on the trails: in 2018 she set the female supported Fastest Known Time (FKT) on Vermont's 273 mile Long Trail in 5 days, 2 hours and 37 minutes. In 2020 she set the women's supported FKT for climbing the 46 High Peaks in the Adirondacks in 3 days, 16 hours and 16 minutes. She is a triathlon and running coach, and also enjoys spending time guiding hikers out on the trails. Alyssa is based in Charlottesville, VA with her dog Ramona.

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