Thursday, May 13, 2010

How To Turn a 3.25 Mile Run Into Five

The short solution to the title:  make a wrong turn on a mountain top trail that takes you in a big circle.

The long version:

I went out the other morning to tackle a solo trail run.  I was a little nervous, having never been on the mountain trails alone.  Hey, what can I say?  I watch Criminal Minds and CSI along with all those true crime shows.  The solo running girl ALWAYS gets hacked up by a chain saw, or snatched up for a cult's satanic ritualistic sacrifice.  I'm pretty sure there's not even cell phone coverage up there--the expression "there's no one out here to hear you scream" comes to mind. 

Okay, so being accosted, raped, murdered or mutilated is the worst of my worries (and the most far-fetched because I'm just not that paranoid)....but the biggest (and most realistic) fear I have about running on the trails (especially solo) is falling and breaking (or spraining) my ankle.  I read about one of the Run Like a Mother authors (can't remember which right now) falling on a trail run and having to limp/crawl out of the woods.  ((Yeah, that wasn't the real story, but that's the image I ended up with in my mind anyway!!))  And, again...the expression "there's no one out here to hear you scream" comes to mind. 

Added to that, I don't think I've ever mentioned how directionally challenged I am.   I need my Tom Tom to get from my bed to the bathroom!!  I can barely find my way out of my own cul de sac.  I read a great quote from Marc Parent today in Runner's World...something like "I would put a GPS on my soup spoon if I could." Yup, that about sums me up.

When I pulled into the parking lot, I had visions of my husband coming home to an empty house and my daughter calling him to say I never showed up to get her from school (attributed to any one of the aforementioned reasons, or a combination thereof).  So, I gave hubby a call at work to let him know where I was, just to be safe.  Looking at the very clearly marked sign...I told him which trail I was running--a 3.25er--and therefore I was also able to tell him when I should be done (given both a best case--running a good pace the whole time--, and worst case--being "forced" to walk most/all of it scenario).  He added to my fear by telling me to be very careful and to not get lost.  (It feels be so intimately known by the love of my life, but not very comforting at that moment.)

Throwing caution to the wind, I set out for my adventure.  As I mentioned the other day, I have discovered I really love trail running.  I kept hearing about how great it is, and now I know why.  Both times I've gone out there I've noticed I start out much faster than I usually do.  I have this feeling like I could run forever when I first get going.  "Forever" lasted until the auto lap on my Garmin chirped to let me know I'd gone a mile.  After my first walk break, I thought that chirp might have marked the beginning of the end for me because I couldn't seem to get back into the "I could run forever" groove.  My legs just weren't submitting to my desire to have a nice trail run....or my will wasn't submitting to my run (I read that on a running forum today and wanted to use it).

As usual on my runs I became completely engaged in an internal to-run-or-to-walk/run dialogue that would rival a political debate, when I came upon the sign that I recognized as the mid-way point which directs back to the parking lot (or you also have the option to go down a ridiculously steep path off the side of the mountain--naturally, I opted for the parking lot).  I continued running and walking and beating myself up because I wasn't just running, when I heard the familiar (mile two) chirp from my wrist.

I began contemplating if I felt up to going 6.5 miles, thinking I would do the loop twice, and quickly ousted the thought from my head realizing I haven't really limped in a week.  Knowing I want to keep it that way, I decided it was smarter to stick with a less is better plan and decided to be happy with 3.25.  About that time I got to a spot on the trail that has several options for direction.  Unfortunately for me, none of the options were marked with the one I needed.  I couldn't remember seeing that spot in the road when I was out with hubby, but that was not alarming (see paragraph three of this post).  I made the most logical choice and continued on with my debate...I mean, run, er, uh...rulk.

The mile three chirp sounded and internally I breathed a little sigh because the run was almost over.  I didn't know if that sigh (which, come to think of it could have been external as well) was because I did or didn't want it to end.  Part of me wanted it over if only to end the litany of names I was calling myself for not being able to suck it up and just RUN.  Part of me wanted the run to continue because I was loving being out there so much, no matter what speed I was going.  I threw the hag in my head off the side of the mountain and decided it didn't matter how fast or slow I was going, I was there to enjoy the journey...when I realized I'd been rulking much longer than it should have taken to get from the last chirp to the parking lot that should have been only .25 miles away.  I resisted the urge to check with my wrist to see what Garmin had to say about the distance, but instead decided to just keep running (which I was doing more of now that my energy wasn't directed toward debate).  When........

I found myself staring at the back of that familiar sign again.  The one that was pointing back in the very direction I had just come from (the single path that leads to the parking lot).  You know, the one where the only other option couldn't be called running, or even would have to be called repelling given the steep nose-dive it takes.  I had to laugh....I had just backtracked about a full mile because the only place I could think of where there was even an option for me to have gotten turned around was that spot in the road I didn't remember from my run with hubby.

I decided at that point God had given me a gift.  With the hag (almost) fully out of my head, I had another chance to enjoy more of my run.  Emptied of the debate, ready to enjoy the journey,  I turned around and headed back, hopefully toward the parking lot.  The second time around I paid closer attention to the path and realized it made a left right turn I had not noticed before (just slightly BEFORE that understandably unfamiliar spot).  Did I take walk breaks?  Yes (although after the mile four chirp, not nearly as many).  Did I get upset with myself?  Well, honestly...maybe I did, but by then it was okay.

Whereas before the three mile mark I was questioning my goal of running a 10K in a couple of weeks right along with wishing I had cell phone service on that mountain so I could reschedule the doctor's appointment I had canceled....when the five mile chirp sounded I was seriously considering running another loop and thanking God I had missed the turn!!

By the way, it didn't take me as long to rulk the five miles as the worst-case-scenario-time I guessed it would take me to walk 3.25...but when I called hubby to let him know I hadn't been wife-napped, he had been having such a hectic day he had completely forgotten I was even out there! 

Thanks for stopping in, come again soon!


  1. my boy is a marathon runner and also a mountain biker, so i have to live with that>>>the puatz

  2. I'm glad you weren't lost in the woods. I think of detours as a change in scenery.

  3. However trail running is amazing!


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