Saturday, June 8, 2013

Twists and Turns On the Trail

"There are 3 types of people in this world, those who can count, and those that can't"- unknown

10 miles at about a 14 min. pace on a VERY tough trail course in the heat of Birmingham. Then add another 6 on the hilly roads around Oak Mountain. Swiggin' water. Eatin' gel. Ankles generally behaving. I'm gettin' there. 

While I was doing my long run this morning, about half on trails I'd never traversed before, I realized that as bad as my legs were screaming at me for going up this 20%, rocky grade, I was feeling pretty good about myself. Slowly, I seem to be coming back. If I don't stupidly trip over a dang root or cream my toe against an immovable rock, my ankles seem to be doing ok. It's funny, because yesterday was a hard day just to walk around work. I didn't run in the morning, but the way my puppies were barking, you'd think I had snuck in a clandestine don't-tell-anybody-about-it-run. This has been pretty much the pattern for past several months - non-predictable! 

So, as I continue to to run the Southeastern Trail Run Series, I keep figuring out that if my ankles are operating at 50% and if I'm 50% in shape, then that adds up to 100% and I'm way good to go. Hey, I've been doing this for a long time, so I know how this rationalization thing goes. In about 7 weeks, I've got the 4th of 7 scheduled races (I missed one due to being out of town playing with my grandkids) in the series (plus a couple of outlier trail races also planned). This next race will be the Hotter 'n' Hell Trail Run, a tough, rocky, hilly 18 miler at Oak Mountain. Most races of the Series consist of two loops of the same course, so you either do the short series (one loop) or the long series (I'll let you guess). Although I've been running OM for well over 20 years, new trails are continually being built and David Tosch, the RD, has discovered some new ones. Actually, I don't think he finds new trails as much as just rolls a beer keg from the top of a steep hill down to the bottom and it's course "will make a cool trail for the race". 

I wanted to run at least one loop this morning, so I read the course description yesterday and in between laughing, I decided to write the twists and turns down (looking at most maps is useless to me on the trail because I wear glasses, but not while running, so a trail map just looks like a picture of a wormbed with MAYBE some words that other eyes can read). With my trusty sidekick, Moha, we made it through the familiar first 4 miles, but things then got steep, interesting, and most of all, confusing. It's funny that we would be completely lost as to where EXACTLY we were at times on these new trails, and yet I would have momentary flashes of something familiar. It was like trying to decipher a dream, or figure out a mystery novel. Some pieces fit together. Some not so much. 

I won't go into a step-by-step account of this run, but most of it was stop-and-go trying to complete our run that was more of a clue finding scavenger hunt. At one point on top of the ridge, we didn't know whether to turn right or left on the Red Trail, so while looking at my written directions, I hear a voice through the fog saying "That won't help you". It was David, the RD for the SE Trail Series. He was practically the only other trail runner we saw this morning! Anyway, after asking him which way to go, he kinda rubbed his chin and said, "Now which race is this?". Geez, David, it's YOUR race! He assured us that despite what the directions said, he didn't really count what we were on as the Red Trail (despite the red markings on the trees!), but a short extension of the Green Trail...hope he has markers during the race. He gave us some convoluted verbal guidance and was on his way. We made our way down the mountain to the Treetop Trail and once again we had to make an intelligent right/left decision and once again, we guessed wrong and added about a mile to our journey. It's just a given that Moha and I will get lost at least once on a trail. That's why I usually wear a bright shirt out there - so the rescue helicopter can spot us more easily. I'm sure in the future, some GPS watches will emit an LED orange stripe to follow on the trail from the course that you plotted into the watch, but we're not there yet. As a matter of fact, as an aside, my current joke GPS  watch, the Nike+, had ANOTHER mishap. This time, the USB plugin just snapped off the watch strap, rendering the data transfer unusable. So, now I'm waiting for ANOTHER replacement. This will be my 4th Nike+. Why do I keep going back to the same frustration? Because it's replaced free if it's under warranty and at this rate, I'll have a new watch every 6 months! Consequently, I'm running with watch that only gives time, which to me is like running half-naked!

Ok, we made it back to the parking lot and Moha decided he had to run a few more miles as he's getting ready for the Tupelo Marathon, so rather than leave him to bake on the roads alone, I was forced decided to run another 6 miles with him. Other than running out of water, tripping over an imaginary rock, and having to go through a locked gate, this part of the run was pretty uneventful. 

So, I'm 16 miles closer to where my running will eventually take me. Sometimes, I just don't know what the heck to write in this blog, so I just put it on autopilot, and life comes out. Non-running folks may think running is boring, so I say to them, "Take a run with me in the woods". Guaranteed, it'll be entertaining. 

I'll see you all on the roads or trails - AL    

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world" 


Running said...

Keep writing Al, sometimes I read your blog and get an idea I want to try, sometimes I find inspiration and other times I just have to laugh. I am still laughing about your last blog where you convinced Moha that "Most difficult trail" actually means "Shortcut". That line is a keeper. Bill Woody

AL said...

Thanks Bill. Your comments are always appreciated and help to keep me inspired to keep writing. Sometime, if you slow down,we can go on a trail adventure.