Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The ups and downs of long runs

I was excited to get out on the trails again this past weekend and cover another 18-25 miles of The Ring. Some sections are new to me, some I haven't been on since MMT, and some I haven't done in the clockwise direction. The weather was foggy the closer we got to Luray, but cleared up once we drove up and over Edith's Gap on 675. It was going to be a beautiful day. I figured I'd be going about 23 miles and dropped some extra aid at Moreland Gap. We froze a few water bottles the night before, wrapped them in a plastic bag, and stashed them behind a tree near the trail. I would hit this around mile 15 or so. You can sort of get an idea from this link of where I'm running and on what trails. Think of a U shape starting at #6, down to where blue/green meet, then up to #22.

I didn't leave Camp Roosevelt until 9am. The Massanutten trail was nice and runable; very dry. I wanted to keep splits where the trail intersects other trails to get an idea of how long it will take me race day. I had my camera with me again, so I knew I'd be slower than I'd like to be to stop and take pictures along the way.

About 45 minutes out, I met up with the blue Gap Creek Trail, which I took during MMT, but was passing today. I would stay on orange until it met up with the yellow Scothorn trail. This section from Gap to Scothorn was new to me, and it looked like not many people have been on it. The trail was very overgrown in sections and there was about a 1.5 mile stretch where I was walking through thorn bushes that had grown out and over/across the trail. I even had my web clearing stick with me and that didn't help much with moving the branches to the side. This frustrated me and slowed me down considerably. I came upon a black snake, but he saw me as quickly as I saw him and slithered off the trail before I could ready my camera. Two hunting hound dogs wandered up to me and followed me for about half a mile before bolting from the trail in a furry of hound cries. I continued on to where the trail meets up with Strickler Knob, and then on down to Scothorn.

This section from Scothorn down to the Connector Trail wasn't new to me, but the clockwise direction was. In addition, I haven't been on this section since May and didn't recognize it all covered in green. A handful of times I stopped to turn around to make sure I was on the right trail. Soon enough I came upon clusters of rocks that did look familiar, as well as a stream crossings, and knew I was close to the Connector.

I was mentally down at this point and was contemplating dropping at Moreland. From the Connector, it was a tough 3/4 mile climb up Waterfall toward Crisman Hollow Road. I dreaded going up as much as I did going down it during the race, but I kept plugging away and got to the top. It's a beautiful view once you get there, but didn't do much to lift my spirits.

My GF went up to Edinburg with her dog to hike Powell's Mountain and back for a good 12 or so miles. We were texting updates back and forth when we had service to see how things were going. I had decided at that point to drop at Moreland, but to run the .9 section out/back to kill time if she wasn't there when I got to Moreland. When I got up to Kerns Mountain after crossing Crisman Hollow Road, I found out she had twisted her ankle pretty badly, and her proposed route down a side trail to the ATV road was blocked off. She was heading back the way she came, but going much slower. In addition, the dog was bonking. I wasn't sure if she'd be able to make it to Moreland to pick me up, so I changed game plans and was going to continue pass Moreland, up and over Short Mountain to Edinburg.

Mentally, I switched gears and quickened my pace. About halfway to Jawbone, I saw a yellow and black snack lounging across the trail. If there was a table out on that trail, then I jumped up on it to get the hell away from the snake. *shudder*. I found a few sticks to throw at it to 'shoo' it off the trail before climbing down off my table and continuing on. And wouldn't you know it.. every mother f'in stick I saw for the rest of the run was a snake. I think I ran on my tip toes with my hands close to my body all the way to Jawbone. It's a very intimidating running form.

Skipping to the conversation between my GF and myself on the drive back to DC:

GF: So why didn't you just jump over the snake?
ME: I didn't want it to jump up and bite me.
GF: Snakes can't jump!
ME: Who says!
GF: They don't!
ME: Well, if I did jump over it, that would be the time to find out that they do jump!

So I made my way across Kerns and to Jawbone and took my first bathroom break since starting the run (almost 6 hrs). Jawbone is all downhill and a bit rocky and should take me no more than 30 minutes (20 at best) to descend. Today was a bad day since Charlotte called in the troops to spin a gazillion (I counted) webs across the trail. Again, I felt like Indy Jones minus the cool hat and bullwhip (hat - not very cooling; whip - too much weight and would bounce around). Even my trusty stick wasn't enough to knock them down and I'd find myself with a mouth full of web and a spider on my hat. *shudder*

I get to Moreland and am relieved to find my 2 stashed bottles nice and cold. I only had a couple ounces left in my 3L bladder plus a little bit left in one of the 2 additional bottles I carry. I tried calling my GF but had no reception at Moreland. I started up toward Short Mountain and knew it was going to be a long climb/hike/time. I was keeping my phone off now since it had been flashing 'low battery', and would try calling her again when I got to the top. Like the section to the Connector, I haven't been on this section since the race. As much as I loath it, I have to admit that with some sun and rain and some TLC, it's a really beautiful area (minus the trail webbings). The climb is the same and I really don't mind it. Once at the top, I turned on my cell and had service. YES! So I made a quick call to say how long it would take me from that point (2+ hrs at least) when I saw 2 text messages had come in. After hanging up, I read the messages to find out that she texted me while my phone was off and said she'd be able to pick me up at Moreland. The last message, saying she was 2 miles from the car, was sent 40 minutes ago, so I sent a quick 'see you at Moor' text and headed back down. I was able to go faster since 1. it was downhill and 2. I had already cleared out all the webs strewn across the trail.

The timing was perfect as she pulled up about 2 minutes after I arrived. We headed back to Camp Roosevelt to change and tick check the dog, who was now guzzling my water, before making a quick stop in Luray. It is tradition now to stop at Luray Caverns for a pretzel and sometimes a lemonade. We were lucky enough (at 6pm) to get the last two under the lamps. They were still delicious.

There were a lot of take-aways from this run: good and bad. I was happy to get in about 19 miles, but I should've been moving faster. It's hard to move fast when the trail is covered in webs and overgrown thorny bushes. I seriously look like I've been slashed with a razor blade from the knees on down. I need to work on hydration as well as nutrition. And this might be TMI, but I'm going there anyway - these last 2 runs have left me constipated. I've had the same dinner the night before, I 'get rid of it' before hitting the trails, but I didn't go again until late Sunday night (it was forced) or Monday morning at work (the previous week). We're talking 36-48 hours, if not more, which is tough for someone who is used to droppin trou after 12 hours maximum. I didn't have much of an appetite, but drank a lot, and had the rest of the pre run dinner as my post run dinner. I just don't get it.

Even on the drive back, and at lunch Monday, my GF and I were talking routes for next week. I would like to tackle Short Mountain and end up at Signal Knob, the start/end of The Ring, but might opt to start at Edinburg or Woodstock instead. For the gal pal and the dog, they will most likely stay closer to Signal Knob, but might venture over towards Powell's Fort where there is a spring. We don't want the poor pooch to bonk again.

I'm bad a posting pictures, so I'll try to get some up at some point. Things will be getting busier, so be patient.


At 4:41 PM, Blogger Katie said...

I know it wasn't funny to you, but your snake talk made me laugh. I hate snakes too and am deathly afraid of them. I know they say that snakes are just as afraid of us as we are of them, but all the same, I try to steer clear. I just had to laugh though as I got a mental image of you up on a picnic table. And you should tell your GF that snakes can't "jump" per say but they can "lunge" with their bodies. Have you ever seen a snake attack? They can raise themselves up. *shudders* On the picnic table is safer... :P


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