Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Trail running, The Laurel Highlands

One of the red efts I find regularly on the LHHT - Route 31 shelters
My blogging has been slow since February of this year, actually nonexistent. Here's a little to fill in my gap... Ice season was pretty much a bust, but ski season was unbelievable. The Laurel Highlands got dumped on with an abundance of natural snow this past winter. Laura and I spent a great deal of time skiing at Seven Springs in their award winning, Terrain Parks. This type of skiing is well known for producing an abundance of injuries to its participants. Here's a couple of skiing pics...

Railslide - The Streets @ Seven Springs
Light pole bonk over the gap - The Streets @ Seven Springs
My injuries included (but weren't limited to) a broken thumb, Injured (most likely broken) ribs. A bruised hip (which prohibited any running until about 5 weeks ago) and a second injured shoulder that has severely restricted my climbing. Unlike last season, I'm slowly trying to rehab it back to health. For now, I can barely dead hang on it. On a positive note, my injured shoulder from last season can now support free hanging body weight. The path back to stronger climbing might be slow and long, but climbing less challenging routes will produce an abundance of fun in the meantime. Throughout the spring Laura and I spent a fair number of days at various local crags climbing, doing trail work, etc. Bouldering has seemed to be our most focused style this year.

With my hip feeling better, I've recently been working my legs back into running condition. For the first couple weeks, I'd been testing my hip and seeing if limitations existed. I started with short, slow, road runs not much longer than 4 miles. Usually a rest day or two between runs. I felt good, with a only a couple days where my hip showed any signs of discontent. After two weeks back, the hip pain seemed to disappear completely. I quickly started stacking on the miles and feeling positive that longer pain free miles in the woods lay ahead.
Trusty footwear, Altra Lone Peaks and Powersox get my thumbs up!
This past week I managed to log 83 miles of running. All of them on the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail. For those unfamiliar with this trail it's a 70 mile hiking trail that starts in Ohiopyle State Park and follows the crest of Laurel Ridge north to Seward. It's a unique trail due to the fact that it has numbered, concrete markers at each mile along its entirety (a great feature for pacing and location). Built as a backpacking trail in the 70's it was designed to be covered over a week long period. Adirondack style camp shelters with additional tent camping areas are located approximately 10 miles apart along the trail. This distance makes for easy hikes between shelters. Note: (reservations must be made in advance to stay in the shelter areas overnight). While designed as a backpacking trail, the LHHT is an amazing trail for runners. The whole trail is completely runnable single track that flows over the mountains through amazing scenery. Hardwood forests, rock outcrops, streams, lakes, and wildlife are the normal backdrop along this trail. I feel quite lucky to live and have grown up a short distance from the Rt. 31 trailhead (middle) of the trail. Starting from home allows easy access to either end of the trail. I must admit that I do spend the majority of my time on the southern half of the trail enjoying the larger elevation changes. Along with the LHHT, there's plenty of other great trails in our neck of the woods. Roaring Run Natural Area, Ohiopyle State Park and The North Woods are some of my other favorite trails to run.

Typical mile marker along the LHHT
Yesterday I completed my first half trail run since last year. Laura dropped me off at 31 parking lot and I went south passing a record (for me) 106 trail users along the way. Outside of the Laurel Ultra race day, I've never seen that many trail users on those sections. I stopped to chat with some of them. Here's just a few that I recall... I got a "nice beard" shout-out from a group of resting backpackers while crossing county line road. I met three trail runners from the Virginia Happy Trails Running Club enjoying an out and back run from the route 31 trailhead to Grindle Ridge Shelters. They were up for "Stills in the Hills" whiskey and music event at Seven Springs and decided to run a bit before the festivities. I met a nice younger couple that had their chocolate lab with them near route 653. They were heading in to Grindle Ridge shelters for the night. He was an experienced packer, but this was her first trip. She was smiling as she explained of her new pack and gear required to make the trip. Her excitement was quite infectious as I recalled how much I enjoy new "toys" as well.

Seven Springs Mountain Resort, the highest point on the LHHT
I was met by Laura sporting the mobile aid station at Maple summit parking lot. She provided some love and a water fill before the last stretch into Ohiopyle. Our plan was for her to park in Ohiopyle and start hiking north until we met. That way we'd get to enjoy a little trail time together. Ohiopyle was packed due to the beer and gear festival being held Saturday night. Please note this was the second booze and bluegrass festival along the trail... All kinds of partying going on in the Laurel Highlands! Laura decided to park up at King Mountain trail head and avoid the congestion. Laura was sore from previous runs this week and decided to carry a large backpack to remove the temptation of running. While she hiked north, I managed to float the flatter miles from Maple Summit down to milepost 8 to begin the "hilly" section of the LHHT. As I ran by the 8 mile marker, missing paint on the number 8 had me do a double take out of confusion. This quick glance over my shoulder was enough for me to snag a toe and go airborne, I tried to recover, but my efforts were futile. Head first into the woods Ughhh, I landed with a thud! Quickly I sprung back up and moving again checking for any blood or pains. Slightly dazed, but unscathed. Yep, got my attention and milepost 8 was still 8, not an imaginary 9?!?!? I proceeded to bomb down "heart attack hill" more alert to my footing as a stumble like minutes earlier would surely produce a less funny story.

The view after ascending from Bidwell
 I cruised along finally meeting my sweetie just before milepost 3 I was heading uphill and she was coming down. I slowed to a hike at this point and we enjoyed the last several miles hiking back to the car together. We stopped at the 2.5 mile overlook for a few minutes enjoying what we usually pass by at a brisk pace. The additional 1400' of elevation gain at the end hiking up to the trail head produced more heavy breathing and I officially stopped my watch at 6:26:55. Quite a bit slower than my personal best for this run, but still a respectable time given my "casual" approach. I'll wait a little while and do this run again and see how much I can improve on this time.

Upon reaching the car we unpacked the mobile aid station and set up our chairs. Laura had packed a primo after trail picnic for us. We proceeded to kick back, eat turkey sammies, and drink chocolate milk while listening to the sweet sound of live bluegrass music coming from the festival below. What a great end to another day on the LHHT.

Laura and the mobile aid station setup at the end of the day

1 comment:

  1. Your injured because your old! :)