Week of 12/23/13 – 12/29/13; or, The Day I Accidentally Went Hiking Instead of Running

Hope everyone had a good week and a merry Christmas! I warn you that this is a long one…

week of 12/23/13 to 12/29/13

As I reported last week, I tried out an ice bath after my 10 mile run last Sunday. I still have no idea if it actually did anything. I was pretty sore, especially in my right hip on Monday and mostly hobbled around work.

Tuesday was better, and I got off early due to it being Christmas Eve, so I went out for an afternoon run. I did intervals of 1:30 running, 1:30 walking, 3:00 running, 1:30 walking for three miles. It wasn’t too bad, once I remembered that I have to actually pace myself on the three minute runs. I think pacing is still a big part of my problem. I just want to run as fast as I could before I got injured, even though I can’t. It took me 42 minutes to get through three miles, which is the worst three mile run I’ve done since February. Ah, backtracking.

I was a little stiff the next day, but not too bad. I wanted to take advantage of being able to run outdoors since I was off work, so I went out for another three mile run while I was at home visiting my family, but with no set intervals this time. It started out pretty rough. As I said, I was a little stiff, so I first tried to concentrate on not being sloppy on form. Once I got that mostly under control, the next thing I tried to work on was pacing. I would run for a minute to a minute and a half and just be totally winded. Going too fast! I was running these around a 10-11 min/mi pace, so I consciously tried to slow down to something more sustainable, which turned out to be around 12:30 min/mi. I can deal with that. I managed to finish the run in just under 40 minutes, so slightly faster than the day before.

After I cooled down a bit, I decided to do a bit of speed work. I found a relatively flat section of road in front of my parents’ house, which was around 60-70 meters long. I set out a tree branch on each end, so I would know where I was supposed to start and stop. Then I just did eight strides back and forth as fast as I could, giving myself about a minute or two rest in-between. My fastest of the eight was the seventh, which I averaged 8:20 min/mi pace. Not too bad considering how stiff I was and tired from the three miles beforehand. My hip was starting to kill me, so I called it quits after eight of them.

I was pretty stiff and sore for the next two days, but I remedied that with my foam roller and The Stick. On Saturday, I decided to try out some trails for my long run, instead of the usual pavement, hoping it would lessen the impact on my knees and not make them hurt come mile 7 or 8 (spoiler alert, it didn’t help). I didn’t really know where a good place to go trail running was besides Percy Warner, and I didn’t really want to drive 40 minutes across town to get there. I ended up going to Long Hunter State Park, which isn’t too far from me. They have a variety of trails to choose from, so I mapped out a 12 mile course along their Day Loop and Volunteer Trail.

(Mother, this is where you stop reading. I don’t need you worrying about me more than you already do.)

Entrance to Volunteer Trail at Long Hunter State Park

It all looks so innocent…

I started off down the trail, and it wasn’t so bad. Soon I came to what looked like an intersection, though it wasn’t marked. I knew I needed to take a left at an intersection to go down the Day Loop first. However, this was not the left I needed to take. The trail dead-ended on some rocks. Too bad too because it was the easiest section of the whole route that I could actually run. I turned around and headed back and went the other way. Soon after, I came to the real intersection, which was actually marked.

After starting on the Day Loop trail, it soon became apparent to me why trail running was slower. It was actually very hard to do any real running. First of all, I’m a klutzy person. I run into walls on a regular basis. Sticking some tree roots and random rocks in my path is not a good idea, but I could mostly handle that. What I couldn’t handle is because of all the leaves on the ground, I couldn’t see where said tree roots and rocks were. I tripped SO MANY TIMES. I lost count. I never fell, but I just kept tripping all over the place. While walking.

Second of all, there were places where you couldn’t always tell where the trail was. There were markers on the trees every so often, but if you couldn’t tell the difference between the leaves that had been stepped on versus the ones that hadn’t and there were no tree markers in sight, well… let’s just say that there were a few times I wandered around aimlessly trying to find the freaking trail. I don’t think it helped that I had seen the second Hunger Games movie the day before; I was convinced this was going to end with someone attacking me.

Third, so many fallen trees! Some of them you could just climb over, but some of them you had to go off the trail and go around. So then you had to find your way back to the trail, which, as I said, was not always easy to do.

Tree blocking trail at Long Hunter State Park

I swear this was half the trail. I had to do some gymnastics to get over that thing.

So I basically ran when I could see the path, there weren’t a bunch of things that could trip me up, and there weren’t a lot of things I had to scale over. According to Strava, I ran a grand total of 24 minutes! Out of nearly four hours. So there you go. This was a hike, not a run.

pace analysis

On top of everything, it started to rain when I was about four miles in. It wasn’t too bad at first, so I kept plugging along to the turnaround spot about 6.5 miles in. Once I got there, it started raining harder. Rain made the rocks super slippery. I was sliding all over the place, which meant slower times and less running. Oh, and did I mention that since I was going so slow that I miscalculated what time I would be done? About 8 miles in, it started to get dark. Yes. The sun was setting. I flipped out mentally. I was trying to do some quick math in my head. I had about 45 minutes before it would be actually dark, maybe less since I was in the middle of the woods. I had four miles to go, and I was averaging between 17-20 minute miles. That meant..crap, it would be dark before I got out. It was hard enough to see the trail in the daylight! It was raining harder and getting chillier. I wished I had brought my gloves. I thankfully had worn my neck buff, so I covered my head and ears with that. I pressed on. This wouldn’t end like the Blair Witch Project…

fallen bridge at Long Hunter State Park

Bridge is out!

My fingers were completely numb. I thought about bringing my arms into my shirt for warmth, but figured I needed them for balance on the rocks that felt like they were made of ice. I ran when I could, which wasn’t often. I swear I saw lightning at mile 10. Then again, I stopped for a breath at mile 11 and noticed my vision doing some weird pulsating thing. Fantastic. I was delirious. I was definitely hungry. That Nutrigrain bar at 10:00 in the morning hadn’t done much. Why hadn’t I packed food? Oh yeah, I thought I would be gone maybe 2.5 hours. It was coming up on four. I started making plans for what I would do when I couldn’t see anything and was completely lost. I would need to build a shelter and find a way to stay warm. I hoped a bear didn’t eat me. I told you I was delirious.

I finally got back to the intersection of the Day Loop and the Volunteer Trail. I just kept chanting, “Only half a mile more. Only half a mile more.” When I finally arrived at the trailhead, I was never happier to see my car. Remember that my fingers were completely numb, though, so it took a few tries to get the door unlocked and all my gear off. I sat in the car with the heat blasting for a few minutes, thankful that I hadn’t become some crazy news story. (Yes, maybe I was being overdramatic.)

It wasn’t all bad, though. The trail ran along the lake, and you could see it every so often.

View from Volunteer Trail at Long Hunter State Park

I took this picture when I was lost and couldn’t find the trail. Making the best out of it!

Anyway, I would like to try trail running some more. Just on a less technical trail. And on not as long of a run. And not when it’s raining. It was fairly enjoyable before I freaked out.

The next day was gorgeous outside, so I ended up doing an unplanned four miles of 2:00 running, 1:30 walking intervals. I never once heard the demons in my head wanting me to stop, so I must have worn them out on the trail. It was almost like I actually enjoyed running again! Ah, maybe soon…

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2 thoughts on “Week of 12/23/13 – 12/29/13; or, The Day I Accidentally Went Hiking Instead of Running

  1. ha what an adventure!!!! Glad you survived and enjoyed some great views, what a workout!

  2. Pingback: Progressive Runner | Week of 4/28/14 – 5/4/14: I suck at trail running

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