Monday, February 8, 2010

The 16 Mile Loop Has Been Conquered (sort of)

After two weeks of not being able to run trails due to bad weather and illness making it's way through the house I got back on the trail Sunday. I had a 14 mile long run planned and decided to do it at my favorite place, Kings Mountain State Park. The main trail there is a 16 mile loop. So far all I've done is out and backs since I haven't been doing enough mileage to complete the loop. I figured with 14 miles to do it would be a great chance to finally do the whole loop. I figured I'd walk the first and the last miles and with 14 of running in between.

The temperature started out around 35 and slowly moved up to 40. A last minute wardrobe change after arriving at the park turned out to be perfect! (this is a rare feat to pick the perfect running attire for a long run) We have had several weeks of wet weather so I knew the trails would be wet but I wasn't really prepared for what was ahead of me.

I brought my Argus Bean camera, an xmas gift from my dad, along to take some pictures of my favorite spots on the trail. This camera is ultra light weight, only a few ounces and is water resistant. It is designed to be able to clip onto your gear easily as well. It's only 5 megapixels but for convenience during trail running it's perfect. This was my first run bringing it along. I attached it to the loop on the back of my fuel belt and hoped the camera bouncing on my tush wouldn't annoy me too much.

The first 5 miles were uneventful. I enjoyed the trail thoroughly. I stopped a few times for some snap shots of the trail. I reminded myself from time to time not to be over exuberant because I had a long way to go. I carried out my plan to stop my watch at mile 5 and walk so I could do any gear/clothing adjustments and refuel. After removing my gloves I decided to test my trail potty using skills. I gave myself an A+ on this test. I judged these skills on these points: not peeing on myself, not coming in contact with any poisonous plant life, no animals/insects attacking me, and not being seen by others that might be out on the trail. Once I was all put back together I refueled with a fig newman bar and some water. I then restarted my watch and took off at an easy pace.

Around mile 6 I started to come across more mud and boggy areas. My toes got a tiny bit wet every now and then but no big deal. I was having fun and that's all that counts. At this point I'm still reminding myself to keep it easy because there are many more miles to come. At exactly mile seven I encounter a stream that is too wide to jump over. I look both up and down the stream hoping there might be a narrower spot but there is none. So I go for it and just run through the cold stream. This point marks the down turn of trail conditions. From here on out it's mostly muddy, lots of boggy ground, and many more stream crossings. At one point the stream crossing was so wide I wasn't even sure I was in the right place. Looking back I now wish I had taken a picture but at the time all I could think of was the safest way across. My feet and ankles were starting to tire from all the slipping and my legs felt like they were loaded down by bricks but I was still having fun.

The fun started to end between miles 9 and 10. Being so unfamiliar with the trail made me wonder if I was still on the right trail, dog help me if I had wondered onto the longer equestrian trails! My legs weren't getting any fresher either. Around mile 10.5 the area started to become familiar! Sweet sandal wearing wiener dog, I've made it! (sort of) Being back on familiar trail put my mind at ease but did little for my mud heavy legs. Another good thing was the trail was significantly less muddy. I knew I'd be coming upon the road the leads back to the parking lot soon. I decided if I was at 12 miles by then I'd take a left, cutting the loop short by 3 miles, and head back and hope it was a mile so I could get as close to 13 miles in as possible. Sadly I was not as far along as I wanted.

I was feeling a bit better and thought I might just be able to make the full 14 miles. I knew that around mile 12 the trail would be mostly downhill or level, good news for heavy legs. Just as I thought, mile 12 started a renewed energy with being able to coast downhill a lot. Sadly at mile 13 the side of my left knee felt a twinge of pain. I was not happy! I had no problems with my left hip during this run, hadn't even thought about it. Why on earth was my IT Band doing this to me now? I was on a roll! I stopped and stretched it. I managed .25 miles before I felt it again. Stopped stretched and continued. Ugh, .25 later and I felt it again so I gave in and walked.

I hadn't planned on having to walk 1.5 miles back to the trail head, just 1 miles. Something about that extra half mile that made it seem more daunting. I pulled my headband over my ears and put my gloves back on. After 5 minutes I was getting very cold. I stretched my IT Band again and ran for a few minutes to get warm. Then I walked up the massive .45 mile hill as my legs screamed at me to sit and rest. Had it been warmer I would have stopped and done lots of stretching halfway up but it was too cold for that. I made it up the hill and started to run again to get warm and speed things up. I was so happy to finally see the visitor center through the trees!

I checked back in at the desk and beelined it to my car. Once at my car I sat down on the bumper and peeled off my wet shoes and socks. I had brought clean shoes to put on but no dry socks or towel. I made a mental note to be sure to bring them next time. My feet were covered in mud and look like prunes but the clean dry shoes were the bomb even without socks. My heated car seats were just the ticket and I blasted the heat. On my way home I thought over my run. I decided for next week to do the Ridgeline trail because I'm positive it won't be so wet. I've also decided not to do the full 16 mile loop again until we've had a good dry spell, only out and backs on there until then.

Today I'm sore in places I've not been sore in for a long time. Mentally I feel good about it. The run had it's highs and very lows and I survived. Now onto next Sunday's long run, the last one before the Xterra Thrill in the Hills Half Marathon! I'd like for this last long run to be less taxing. I'm going to try walking a minute at the end of each 2 mile segment and I'm going to refuel with food at mile 5 and 9. Here's to things looking up for next Sunday!


  1. Wow. That's pretty hardcore, Ash. The trail looks beautiful, though, and I bet it'll be great once it dries out a bit.

    I'd have to bring a tent and camp halfway through, though! LOL

  2. They do have trail side camping!

    I wish I had taken some pictures of the mud, stream crossings, and bogs. But at the time all I could think of was trudging on and getting back to a warm dry car.

    I did come across someone riding a horse and chatted with her for a second. I didn't see them until I was pretty close upon them. I hope I didn't spook her mare too much!

  3. i awarded you the sunshine blog award because your trail running really inspires me to run "outside the lines" hope we can meet up to run again soon!!!