Monday, July 8, 2013

Trail Running Challenges


On the way to the trailhead... Ehhhh
On the way home... Ahhhhh
Recently running has felt different.  It seems summer has finally hit the Laurel Highlands.  It's been really warm and humid, with storms plentiful especially this past week.  I managed to get rained or stormed on several times.  The weather was in the lower 90's with the humidity similar or higher.  My body has been holding up well to the quick increase of mileage.  I've been pushing a little harder, but trying not to overdo things.  Being able to run again feels so good and I don't want ruin it.  I've been rebuilding my ski injured body with the dreams of pulling off a LHHT double as early as fall (or spring '14).  During this rehab and training I've been reading more on Challenges and FKT's (fastest known time's).  I'll try to explain the way I understand them.  Competing for a FKT's is simply trying to achieve the fastest time over a predetermined course/trail, alone or in a group, but not an organized race on a designated day.  They can be short 5K runs or long trails like the Appalachian or Continental Divide.  They can be completed any time you choose. No set date, even worse yet, weekend.  Only success or failure awaits with only one person holding the FKT.  The honor system applies, although for major or serious FKT records tracking devices are utilized for proof.  Challenges are different because they're a personal goal to complete, not a race.  Did you accomplish the course set out and if you have already, could you do it quicker?  Challenges are more about personal accomplishment, although most have a FKT as well.

While browsing around, I stumbled upon this challenge here in my back yard.  Its called the Ohiopyle 50K (Gate-to-8 X 2)   posted on the North East Ohio Trail Club (NEO Trail Club) website.  I'm not a member of the club, but found the posted challenge.  Whether you have to be a club member to be listed after completion I don't know.  Either way, it gives me a goal to accomplish that I haven't done.  I know I'm not in super woodz ninja shape right now, so I figured it was time to incorporate the Gate to 8 section of the Laurel Highlands Hiking trail into my week of running as well as some other quicker tempo runs.  

Recent runs
The Barn at Bear Run Nature Reserve










Tuesday 7/2 Laura's Tiny Tulip Traverse, 5 miles - This is a run that Laura put together after my Bear Run Trail Run challenge.  What a great 5 mile (apprx.) loop in Bear Run Nature Reserve. It follows Tree, Rhododendron, Tulip Tree, Snowbunny, Rhododendron and Tree Trails in a counter clockwise lollipop.  The route climbs 718' and is on some pretty amazing trails (especially Tulip Tree)  It was my first time running this route and I wanted to apply a reasonable effort.  I ran the wonderful course enjoying the steepening climb from the car up to Tulip Tree... Tulip Tree is freakin' fun.  What else can I say.  This is the best .8 mile trail I've ever run.  It is so fast and dabalicious.  Quick footwork on slightly downhill single track, runners high for sure!  It had to be built by runners.  I wish it was way longer.  Snowbunny leads back across the hill and down to the early trails you started on, then finishes at the sign-in.  Warm and humid as described above.  Ran the course in 45:41, with one routing mishap.

Wednesday 7/3 LHHT Gate to 8, 15.75 miles - I was planning on running to MP 10 and back for 20 miles, but...  Everything was going well.  I ran an "easy" pace NOBO, hiking most of the hills.  I was hearing some distant thunder while climbing up "heart attack hill" towards MP7.  By the time I had MP 8 in sight, the sky was quite black and the thunder was persistent.  Retreat was my thought.  I barely took 20 strides SOBO and the skies opened up and the rains came... and came... and came.  I bombed heart attack hill in a muddy running creek with extremely limited visibility.  My visor helped, but I found its limitations.  It was similar to winter white-outs I've experienced.  My nonchalant pace quickened on the return trip with rains stopping and skies clearing briefly for about a mile.  Despite the heat, slippery trail and slug like pace I managed a 3:23:44 overall.  X2 laps would put me under 7hrs for the 50K Challenge.  Seems like a good start.  Elevation +4081, -4064.

Thursday 7/4 Bear Rocks Loop, 4 miles - It was the Fourth of July.  I squeezed in a short, slow, road run in the sun.  Ran the loop in 29:03.  Elevation +416, -406.  Not much to say.

Thursday 7/5 Yough River Trail, 2 miles - Ran with Laura and her sore knee.  Rest day, spent most of it lounging by the river at the Oasis...AHHHHH!  Then went running.  22:08.
River art = Rart at "The Oasis"
Friday 7/3 LHHT Gate to 8, 15.75 miles - It was 91° which seemed perfect for another training lap of Gate to 8 ;)   I figured that If I practice in conditions like that, surely a more comfortable day will feel slightly easier?  The cooler months have been when other (wiser) people have done it.  I'll try in August and then hopefully improve on that later in the year under favorable conditions.  I went out intentionally slow trying to adjust to the heat.  Humidity was really high and in no time I was sweating buckets.  The overall trip was very hot with a flash storm popping up and tagging along with me for about 45 min.  Compared to the dumping on Wednesday this was nothing.  I did pass another trail runner around mile 4.  We were both moving quickly and gave a wave without stopping.  I ran out of water coming up the last hill before MP 3.  I should've stopped at the stream to at least fill a handheld.  Finished the run in 3:31:03, incredibly hot and thirsty.

Weekly rundown
5 runs
8hrs31min.
42 miles
Elevation +9,405', -9,306'

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