So you’ve decided to become Asheville’s next outdoor legend. Congratulations! You are about to embark on a tremendous journey of mental endurance, physical challenge, and the occasional sweet agony that accompanies this epic and inspired transformation. With many living legends, wilderness warriors, and outdoor badasses of all types currently residing in Asheville, the bar has been set high. Are you up to the challenge? Then cancel your plans—it’s going to be a busy couple of years.
Get to Know the Competition
Do you have what it takes? Do you want what it takes? Current Asheville outdoor badass Andrew Holcombe (whitewater kayaking legend and two-time winner of the Green Race) warns: “Make sure you’re becoming a badass for the right reasons.” Before embarking on the pathway to becoming a legend, become an avid spectator. Stand at the finish line of the many extreme races and ultra-marathons near Asheville, including the Mt. Mitchell Challenge, a 40-mile trail run that tops out on the summit of Mitchell in the dead of winter, the Assault on Mt. Mitchell, which features more than 100 miles of road biking, and the Green Race, the toughest creek race in the world.
These races and others like them will display both the anguish and the triumph that goes into the making of an outdoor legend. Study the competitors: the ones who finish, and the ones who burn out before the finish line. Ask yourself once again: Do you have what it takes? Do you want what it takes?
Make Every Hour Count
If you’re going to become Asheville’s next outdoor powerhouse, you’re going to have to get into epic shape, and that means using every hour of every day. No more internet, no more television, no more reading for pleasure—you’ve got stamina to build and skills to acquire. Obviously, you’re going to have to wake up every day before dawn. Thankfully, Dawn Patrol in Western Carolina is actually a very achievable and enjoyable practice, and local businesses like Asheville Running Company offer early morning boot-camp style fitness classes.
Your workouts will continue into the evening, be it laps up the lead wall at the rock gym or a twilight bouldering session just outside of town. When that sun slips below the horizon, the real endurance work begins. Break out the headlamp and hit the hiking trails (you’ll have them all to yourself!) or take a moonlit ride down Green’s Lick. When you find yourself exhausted, physically depleted and longing for sleep, draw strength from the words of current Asheville outdoor badass Jennifer Pharr Davis (long-distance hiker, author, speaker, National Geographic Adventurer of the year, one time holder of the record fastest through-hike on the Appalachian Trail and owner of Blue Ridge Hiking Company): “After this is over you, can nap any time you want for the rest of your life.”
You’re Going to Have to Run
Sorry. Not everyone loves to run, but you’re going to have to run. Running is an incredibly efficient means of exercise, and your route to becoming an outdoor supercharger is all about efficiency. With every step, you’re boosting your metabolism and building your mitochondria , the “powerhouse” of the cells. Keep it up—you’re going to need all the power your body can possibly generate.
Begin with a couple of morning laps around Carrier Park. By afternoon, lengthen your stride by dashing down the trails of Richmond Hill. Evening, take your turbo-charging self to Bent Creek and run the forest road up to the Five Points. As a final test of strength, sprint the 5.5 miles straight up from Black Mountain Campground to the summit of Mt. Mitchell, tallest point on the East Coast.
Learn to Protect Yourself and Others
The most important elements in becoming an outdoor badass are safety, first-aid skills, and technical know-how. Begin your superhero schooling with a local Wilderness First Responder class through the NOC, and immediately follow that with a Swiftwater Rescue Training class. Be a good student. Be diligent. Practice your Z-drags, your Airway-Breathing-Circulation, do whatever you have to do. From here out, dedicate your life to continuing this type of heroic education: technical ropes training, wilderness EMT, advanced whitewater rescue. There will always be something new to learn.