Saturday, September 29, 2012

Sep 23-Sep 29: Tender Legs, then TRAIL RUN!

Sep 23, Sunday:
The day after the TROAD, I had to make up some miles, since I had subbed a bike in for a run earlier in the week.  I didn't make up for them all... about 3 short, but that's ok.  The bike session's good.  Did 9.6 in the park in 1:28:02, 9:07 ave.  Finished my 3/4 scoop of Sustained Energy+ water blend within the first 4 miles b/c needed the fuel.  The 1 bottle of water was plenty on the hydration front, though, since it was 57 degrees.  I don't normally see runners at the park... it's a softball park that ocassionally has football or soccer players.  There were 2 young XC runners doing laps in the opposite direction as me... 1 in middle school and 1 in high school, I think.  The MS boy was faster than me, judging from the fact that we'd always meet up a little bit earlier in the lap every time, and the girl was a bit slower.  It's inspirational to see other runners out there, getting it done.

Sep 24, Monday:
Felt kinda banged up after 2 days of fairly hard running, so I really needed the 60 min strength session to re-set my muscle balances... it always does a good job of working out tightness and imbalances.

The next day, though, my lower leg ligaments were tender, so even the strength session didn't fix whatever either the 5 mile race or the park run had done.  I didn't do anything that differently during those two runs, so I don't know what it was.

Sep 26, Wednesday:
Treadmill time.  Tired at work today, so it was tough to force myself to go out to the gym.  Run went by very slowly for the first 2 miles, then it got better.  Modern Family!  Had to use the bathroom really bad during the last mile... another kind of endurance.  7 in 57:33, 8:13 ave.

Sep 27, Thursday:
Treamill again.  Super tired again - 12 hr day.  Tough to get out again.  First mile went by slowly again, but then The Office started, and just the theme song caused a release of endorphins... that show makes me happy.

Heard about plans to go hiking with friends from church on Saturday.  Had to get in 16 miles by the end of the week.  Too tired on Friday to get in the 4 miler.  Considered waking up at 4am on Saturday to do the run before the hiking trip, but too tired, so I figured I'd do it on Sunday or something.

Sep 29: Saturday:
Woke up at 5:30.  I was soo looking forward to the hike.  A couple of weeks ago, I was feeling a bit weary - work has been non-stop.  I suddenly realized, as I was driving and happened to focus for a moment on the trees on the side of the highway, that I missed seeing trees and being in nature.  I packed my usual workweek lunch (mixed greens, tortilla chips and 75% light cheddar, raspberries, banana, protein powder+decaf+coca+cinnamon, peanuts) and packed gear.  There was like a 30% chance of rain forecasted, so I packed a rainjacket.  I was surprised that the hiking trip was still planned despite the weather.  After I took a shower, I watched this:


That is SO AMAZING.  Hearing him breathe, seeing the incredible vistas... how could someone watch that and not want to go trail running, right then?

Then, 7 minutes before I would head out to our meeting point, I got a text - cancelled.  I had kind of already made up my mind that I was going to go no matter what though.  I had considered driving on my own so that after the group hike, I could get in a run. 

Drove to Pisgah National Forest.  I was sooooo happy on the drive over.  It was cloudy (= good running weather), and I had an adventure ahead of me.  There's also just something about mountains that just tugs at my heart.


Went to the Ranger Station to look at a map and plot out a course.  Found a ___ loop that strung together a number of trail sections.  It was complex, so I copied the map... took a while. 



Drove out to the trailhead, then fueled up.  I tend to eat every few hours, and with the drive and the prep time, I needed fuel.  Had the protein shake and the salad, with a few Goldfish and peanuts.  I packed a GU and I brought my Nathan Quickdraw hand-held, which I'd be trying for the first time.  Didn't really want a big backpack with a heavy Nalgene bouncing around for miles and miles on uneven trail.  I drank before leaving, and since the trail was just 11.3 mi, I figured I should be ok with just the hand-held.

Started off... trails tend to start off with little elevation gain, then it picks up quickly.  There were some fun stream-crossings, although the logs were narrow and wobbly.  There was always a hand-rail, though.  I stuck the map in my hand-held's pocket.  I also had a compass+whistle around my neck, in case of emergency.  No cell signal, anyway, so I didnt' bring that.  Brought my camera for pics.

I could kind of tell how tough the trail would be based on whether it was designated as "hiker only" or "hiker and biker allowed".  I personally don't see how bikers could go on some of those trails in any case.  They were all marked as medium.  I tended to have to power-hike the steep parts, and stretch it out (such a free feeling after trudging uphill slowly) on the flats.  There weren't very many flats. 

After the first mile, settling in, I started to turn on my iPod shuffle, but immediately, I shut it off because it ruined a beautiful thing.  I almost always listen to podcasts, but I had no desire to here.

Here's the first vista I hit, at about 30% of the way into the run.



(Colors are only starting to pop up with select trees.)

Continued along.  Started encountering some light downhills, too.  On the way up, I actually saw one couple, and one guy... alll three of them also seemed to be trail running, and all just had a single hand-held.  I wasn't the only oddball!  There was a dog, too.  The dogs always impress me.  They climb and descend some steep stuff, and they're little and low-to-the ground!


Here's the half-way point, where I turned around on a somewhat parallel trail back.  Someone had very gingerly constructed carins!

(I picked up a hiking stick about 40% of the way through.  I got a hiking stick medallion from Valley Forge, and I bought Pisgah and AT ones today.  It may be a nice display piece/collection holder.)


On the way back, much more downhill.  Sometimes very steep.  Trails tend to be like that, since the cars will go part of the way up the mountain, and you continue to hike up.  You still tend to go faster on the downhills, though, even if it is rough on the legs.  I got to practice hill running techniques today... I found power-walking uphills (sometimes, small steps helps) most efficient, and small steps low-to-the-ground tended to work well for me on the downhills, to prevent excessive uncontorllable momentum from building up.  I was careful about steep parts, though, and I'd essentially be stepping down step-by-step slowly.

About 65% of the way through, a wasp or a bee flew onto my hair, a little behind my left temple.  I hoped it would fly away, and I tried speeding up to get the wind to blow him off.   Leave... leave... leave... then, I started feeling it.... no, no, no, don't do it, don't do it.... but it had made up its mind.  It stung.  and kept stinging.  and yet it stayed in my hair.  I think it had gotten caught.  I kept running, but it stayed. 

I got stung by a bee on a run once before... on my tongue, 1 mile into a 6-7 mile run.  After stopping by a gas station that happened to be right there and getting help from gas station attendants in tweezing out the stinger, I continued.  My tongue was numb, and a bump developed, but it was bearable.  No pain, only numbness.

This time, it kept stinging.  It kind of felt like the bee or wasp was still in my hair... it had stopped buzzing, with the buzzy dying down in three long buzzes.  I figured (and was hoping) that it was dying... I think sometimes when a bee stings someone it dies.  I still felt something, and it kept stinging, as if I was getting stung constantly... maybe the stinger or the entire bee/wasp was still stuck in my head.  I finally decided to stop and to try to get it out.  Didn't want to continue on with a bee/wasp stuck into my scalp.  I finally figured out that it would be wise to let loose my hair, which had been in a pony-tail.  Waved my hair around.  Didn't see any bee/wasp fall out.  Used my front-facing-dual-screen camera to try to see if I could see a bee/wasp still in there.  I tried taking some pics, too, since the display screen on the back is larger than the front-facing screen.  And now you get to see what it looked like...





It wasn't easy... trying to take pictures of the right spot with one hand, pulling back portions of my hair with another, and grimacing because of the sting, 4 miles from my car.  I tried using the hiking stick to push out any bee/wasp that might be in there... didn't see anything fall off.  Oh well... tied my hair back up and continued along.  Just bear it.  It would throb a bit, and the stinger might still be in there... at least it felt like it as the sting would re-sting along with the throbs every so often.

I found myself getting into a rhythm... stick in one hand, bottle in the other.  Balanced... going on in auto-pilot... I would have to remind myself to try to put in surges every now and then to challenge myself more than I naturally would on the uphills sometimes.  And it does require a lot more concentration going down the steep downhills.  Your feet have to react very quickly to the slightest uneven-ness, to counter-balance whatever you need to to not roll ankles. 

I did come across people and cars at sections of the trail that met roads during the run back, but the sting was fine, so I just kept on.  Got hungry towards the end, but the trailhead was close.  Could've eaten the gel if I wanted to, but I preferred to wait for tortilla chips and cheese and raspberries.  MMMM.  My water situation was still fine, in any case.

Had to do a good bit more uphill, then downhill.  Finally, happy to see the trail's end.

If you want to try it, too:

After eating (so good) and changing shirts, I drove a mile up to a waterfall (Looking Glass Falls) and just took in the beauty for a while.


What a pleasant day, huh?  And not a drop of rain.
But the adventure wasn't over yet.

It was National Park Day or something, so a couple of attractions that typically cost money were free.  I decided to take advantage of the rare opportunity and drove an extra 6 mi to go to the Cradle of Forestry.  It's like a museum + trails that teach you about forestry.   It had some pleasant surprises, like a tunnel that you can crawl into to see what animals underground look like, a forest fire-fighting helicopter simulator, and trails with some activities/attractions along the way.  It's geared towards kids, but I'm very much kid on the inside.




They close at 5, and I got there at 4, so I nearly ran my way in flip-flops through the Adventure Trail.  Got back with minutes to spare.  On my way home, I was hungry, so I stopped by Zaxby's.  I had never been before.  I had been craving Subway (specifically, pickles... my post-run treat), but I came across Zaxby's and had a gift card that would start expiring soon. 


Fried Chicken Fingers and Fried Mushrooms... gotta say, I think I'm more of a Subway person than a Zaxby's person, but the chicken hit the spot and was a rare treat after a day of adventure.  11.3 in 2:32:28, 13:30 ave (excluding stops for pics, bees, map checks)

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