Looking out for each other on the Lookout Trail
In Western North Carolina few things go together like trail running and craft beer, which is precisely what makes the 10-mile Lookout to Lookout to Lookout race so appealing to the 150-plus runners expected to participate on Saturday, Oct. 14.
In Black Mountain, where the ultra-tight trail running community knows the local trails well, beer and running aren’t the only things that complement one another.
Ed McDaniel is perhaps one of the most recognized runners in the entire Swannanoa Valley. His red-tipped cane that he takes on every run makes him not only easily identifiable as a vision-impaired runner, but also hard to forget for those who see him.
McDaniel, who has lived in Black Mountain for more than two decades, has run almost every race in the area during that time, including last year’s inaugural Lookout to Lookout to Lookout. This year, the race will take participants from the floor of the Swannanoa Valley to the top of Lookout Mountain and back again.
Sam Moore, who will be running for the first time this year, has always known who McDaniel was.
“Ed's an icon,” Moore said. “The first time I saw him, I was riding my bike a few years ago and he was coming down and I thought ‘there goes a guy running this trail with a cane.’”
The two have become better acquainted in recent months after Moore, a long-time mountain biker, decided he had to run the upcoming Lookout to Lookout to Lookout.
"I've hiked that trail for 20 years," Moore said. "I'd heard about the race and I had to run. Plus, I love the new IPA by (Lookout Brewing Co.)."
Lookout Brewing's beer played a role in the inspiration for the race itself, according to Mike Guyer, another fixture in the local trail running scene and owner of Relentless Running Events, which is presenting the event.
"We were sitting at Lookout (Brewing) one night having a few pints," he said. "We started talking about how fast we could run to the top of Lookout Mountain and back."
Moore started spending his Wednesday evenings running with The Posse, a local group of runners who gather weekly for group runs. Moore's wife Julia has been running with the group for years.
McDaniel, himself one of the founding members (along with Peter Ripmaster) of The Posse, has Usher syndrome, which affects his hearing and vision.
"Where most people see around 180 degrees, my field of vision is around 5 degrees," he said. "Fortunately, my acuity is pretty good. I just don't have any peripheral vision."
In races with flat, gravel terrain, like the recent Rock the Quarry, which he has run several times, McDaniel is able to focus straight ahead and keep a steady pace. Lookout to Lookout to Lookout, which McDaniel calls "challenging but fun," is a bit trickier.
Moore and McDaniel decided to do some training together. They already participated in Guyer's Lookout Brewing Running Club, which meets Sunday mornings at the location the group borrows its name from.
"Sam has been great helping me train," McDaniel said, "particularly with this race, because the terrain is so technical, with rocks, roots and branches. He does a great job of running in front of me and calling out potential hazards."
Moore has the opportunity to run with an athlete that he said makes him feel like "taking the risk is worth it."
Lookout to Lookout to Lookout takes runners from the brewery, up the Flat Creek Greenway to Flat Creek Road and through the Montreat gate. From there, runners take trails winding through tree-lined Montreat before they make their way to the Lookout trailhead, which leads up to the top of the mountain.
From there runners take a "less technical" route down the mountain, according to Guyer, before following a similar route back to the brewery, where the race ends. The event, which Guyer expects will see more than the 120 runners who ran a year ago, should be fun for those not running as well.
"We encourage spectators to come out and watch as well," Guyer said. "There will be a food truck there, and registration is open through race day."
While nobody knows who will finish first between Moore and McDaniel - each claims the other will blow him away - the end of the race is an opportunity to enjoy the company of fellow runners. For McDaniel, that's really the best part of the sport he took up as a teenager to stay in shape.
"A big part of (running) for me is just being part of this running community," McDaniel said. "It's really why I run these races. I just enjoy running with my friends."
Moore, who is no doubt among McDaniel's group of trail running friends, just wants to soak in the entire experience on his way to get a beer.
"I'm nervous about finishing, but I'd like to finish it in under two and a half hours," Moore said with a smile. "But really I just want to finish, because of the Hopshine (IPA)."
Be on the Lookout
What: Lookout to Lookout to Lookout
Start: Lookout Brewing Co.
When: 10 a.m. Oct. 14
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