Thursday, January 29, 2015

QC: Not a trail convert (yet?)

I went trail running today. But there were a few things that happened in between last week's rainsuckfest and this week's leg murder.

I did a little ninja running after work one night.

I went out for sushi.
I blame old friends that now live in Dallas for getting me addicted to eating ice cream after sushi. We used to go to the same sushi place every few weeks and followed it up with ice cream. Now I have a conditioned response.
I did make some stuff at home too. Like homemade fettuccine alfredo with arugula (repeat recipe, but dang, so good!).

 Black and white cookies (inspired by the impending snowstorm in NYC):
 Pear/banana/pineapple smoothie (because I don't eat all garbage):
And breakfast tacos for dinner (because Adam was in D.C. and he hates breakfast for dinner-his loss!):
Which brings us to today.... Last week, I wanted to hit the trails. But since it was supposed to rain for 36 hours straight, I decided that I would just go for that rainsuckfest at the Greenway. So, I took a rain check (oh, that pun is so intended) and headed north today.

I took a snapshot on my phone of the trail map before I left as reception can be kind of spotty that far outside of the city.
Decided to test out my Skratch Labs hydration mix and got a little giggle when I was reading the instructions.
Then I was ready to hit the road (half of this junk was already lying in here...runner probs...):
I found the trail head/parking lot and debated long and hard about putting my $7.00 in the fee box. Because I was a little confused if only horse riders and bikers had to pay. Eventually, the paranoia won out over frugality/logic and I paid my stupid $7.00.
So I take a pre-run selfie... In case I wash up in a river somewhere, Google autobackup can retrace my final steps. And because, well, selfies.
I trounce over some horse poop:
And head off into the woods!

By mile 0.3, I'm huffing like I've never run before. My lungs are on fire, my legs are clunky, and I'm rethinking my brilliant plan. I get to 0.9 miles before I stop, look at the trail map, take a sip of water, catch my breath, and carry on.

The first 3 miles involve lots of huffing and stopping. There is zero groove to my pace. I can't run fast on the uphills because, well, it's uphill and I can't run fast on the downhills because I know my slightly quivering quads will be yelling something fierce at mile 17.5.

So I take some pictures.

I run along the orange trail for a bit until I come to the green trail. The green trail takes me down, down, down and I cry a little inside because that means at some point I'm going to have to go up, up, up. The view at the bottom is kind of pretty though.

I cross over the creek and realize I'm going the wrong way when it dead ends on the other side. Oops. I turn back around and see the trail markers and head up, up, up. Walking, walking, walking. I stop to eat my Salted Watermelon Gu and open a packet of Runts. Ugh. Like 15 limes and 1 cherry. Stupid.

I get back to the orange trail and am at the top of the hill. There is no cresting beyond trees at this elevation, but I can see the mountaintops on the horizon. It doesn't photograph well, but it was kind of beautiful in person.

I start to descend and am feeling a bit better about things. I get back around to where I am retracing my steps on the orange trail and it start to mother effing rain. Really? It's already pretty muddy and/or full of horse poop on the trail so I'm already a little overwhelmed. My double knotted shoelace comes untied and when I reach down to untie it, I realize my leg is bleeding. Great...

The rest of the orange trail is not as bad on the way back and the rain was only a short-lived thing. Once I get to the split of the blue trail, I stop for my Vanilla Gu and see a couple of horseback riders in the distance. I decide to go clockwise on the blue trail and everything is all hunky dory until I get to the Etowah River. The trail was very clearly marked with blue trail markers and I come up to this:

It's about 40 feet across here (give or take my crappy estimate) and probably about 2-3 feet deep. Hmmmm... I look around and spy a bridge! Wahoo!

I figure out how to get over there and then....
Uh....not a really useful bridge. Technically, it does cross over the river. But the only continuous pieces across are about the size of a baseball bat. No thanks. Maybe there is another crossing that I'm missing?? I waste about 20 minutes turning on the GPS on my phone to look at the satellite map and wandering back and forth from the turnoff to the water to figure out where the crossing is. The only thing I can determine is that perhaps the river is high and people just cross in the summertime when it's lower/warmer. I actually contemplate taking my shoes and socks off and walking across....but eventually I woman up and figure out another way to get the other 7 miles in.

I take the blue trail back to where it meets the pink trail and figure I will just take another way back to the car and decide what to do from there. When I'm on a wide section, a horseback rider is coming in the opposite direction and calls out "hey" when he spots me. I yell out "hey" back and as I pass, he tells me that's all I needed to do to not spook the horse.

The pink trail is pretty rough as I head away from the riverbank and up, up, up. I walk a good bit until it finally levels off. As I make my way back to the blue trail, I start hearing voices ahead. Not like I'm-going-crazy voices, but other humans on the trail. It's full of switchbacks, but I'm guessing they are on horses. I spot the last one in the distance and start to try to make noise. I cough and hack and when I get about 30 feet away, I call out "hey!". The horse jumps, not wildly, but enough to turn to look. The older-than-me woman riding the horse gives me a nice, but stern schooling on spooking horses and I'm instructed to walk by the group when they find a place to pull over. I play nicely.

When I get back to my car, I'm at mile 15.2 and ravenous. I tear open a Kind bar from my purse and barely stop to chew. I gather my bearings and set out for the red/blue trail. After a (more) confusing moments, I eventually am on my way. I decide I will run 1.4 miles out and turn around to get my 18 in for the day. I am finally running on flatter trails/the Kind bar/I'm almost done and manage to dip into the 8's for the first time all day. I get to 16.6 and truck on back to the car.

18 miles, done:
With all my stopping for selfies, snacks, water breaks, rest breaks, map reading breaks, etc., I honestly was going at a snail's pace.
But, it was done! And only a little bit came home with me.

It was a humbling little run. One that will make me appreciate the easy breezy Greenway. I'm far from a trail convert, but it was a pretty rad way to spend my Thursday.

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