April 08, 2012

Oh Deer

I don't know if I've ever seen more deer in one weekend ever in my life. EVER. This week was the (re)beginning of my back to back long run weekends. One of nine. It was supposed to be 13 on Saturday, and 8 on Sunday. It ended up being 8 (or 9?...not sure) on Saturday and 13 on Sunday. Whoopie I actually completed the weekend! Friday night was lame for me, as usual. I went to bed at a respectable time, and dragged myself out of bed around 10am. I got dressed, ate, grabbed coffee, and drove over to Algonkian Regional Park to get situated with the 50M course route. The park is in the Sterling, VA area...associated with a very nice looking golf course and area for boats to go into the Potomac. It also has the Potomac Heritage Trail...which I pretty much failed to find (in the right direction). There aren't really any great maps showing where the trail heads are for the area, so I winged it and head out on what I hoped to be the correct direction. It was the Potomac Heritage Trail, but I was heading away from Great Falls like I had wanted. I clued myself in eventually and turned around to go back to the start and head out down river. I was already about 4 miles into the run when I got back to the car and refilled my bottle.

A lot of down trees to hop over on Saturday. After I refilled my bottle I went out in the opposite direction, thinking that logically this would be the way to Great Falls. Wrong again. I went out that way for a little bit then came to a bit of a dead end. I looped around a few times like a caged animal trying to find my way over a creek (big enough to not just hop over), seeing a few other runners on the other side and perplexed at how they got there. I never figured it out, and frustrated I turned around and ran back to the car. It wouldn't have mattered if I found my way over to the other side. It was the wrong route. I looked up where the course actually goes and I don't think I would have ever figured it out on my own. Oh well, Algonkian Regional Park, I will conquer you some other weekend.

Saturday night I went to bed pretty early again. I had two beers and around 8pm went in my room to watch some tv...ended up passing out. I woke up again around 930pm only to make myself more comfortable and sleep for the rest of the night. The exhilarating life I lead. All of this activity after so much time off has left me exhausted, and I slept until 1030am.

I had an interested breakfast. Garden Veg. tortilla filled with peanut butter, a little nutella, and strawberry jam, and sliced banana. And coffee. Luckily I couldn't really taste the garden veggie tortilla. Or I blocked it out...

Since I did my research on Saturday night about where the actual course will go, I was prepared with a revised location for my Sunday run: Riverbend Park. It's about 2.5 miles upriver from Great Falls Park, but has extra trails and free parking (unlike Great Falls where they charge $5 I believe). From the parking lot at Riverbend Park, you have easy access to the Potomac Heritage Trail. I set out for my thirteen hoping to cover a good bit of the actual course route.

The trail before you get to Great Falls is fairly nice and easy. It runs right along the river and affords the opportunity to just relax and get into a nice grove. The trail dumps you at the Visitor Center for Great Falls Park, and you wind a bit til you find the River Trail. The River Trail was nice in the beginning, a moderate trail.

Not long into the River Trail things start to get rocky. Very, very rocky. I knew parts of this were on the course route, and so I sucked it up and was very mindful of where my feet were landing. I thought the trail would ease up eventually but it seemed to only get harder and I wasn't even halfway through my 13 miles yet. I only had my handheld Nathan water bottle and three gels with me, hoping there would be water fountains or that I would double back for the Visitor Center before I emptied the bottle. No such luck. Eventually I hit an extremely technical part of the trail, and contemplated stopping and sitting for a rest more than once. I trudged on, convincing myself that there was no way the course route came through here (The Great Falls chunk of the course is to be run three times in a loop of sorts). I just kept going up up up, and somehow found myself at an intersection for the Difficult Run Trail. I STILL was not halfway, so I decided to turn down Difficult Run. It has some long, steep up and downs if you come from my direction. The other direction seemed to have more flat land. If you go a little ways down DRT, you will find a bit of a troublesome area where you have a very 'difficult' (har har) time getting to the other half of the trail. I decided it wasn't worth hurting myself and just turned around to go back the way I came. I was almost out of water and already getting dehydrated from trying to ration my sips.

The great thing about Great Falls is that there is an Old Carriage Road Trail, meaning very wide dirt packed road to get you back to the Visitors Center instead of having to go back through all that CRAP I already did. Say what you will..I suppose I did take the easy way back, but I think it was necessary for me to get back to water as quickly as possible. Anyone who knows me knows without activity I drink water like a fish...so just imagine how much I like to drink while I'm actually exerting myself! I was able to run more on the carriage road and found myself back at the VC to refill my bottle and eat some gels.

From the visitor center I ran back towards Riverbend Park, turning off onto other trails along the way for added mileage. I ran on Mine Run Trail, Riverbend Road Trail, Hollows Trail, and maybe a few others that I can't remember right now because I'm ready to go to bed :)

When I finally made it back to the car with a grueling 13 miles under my belt, I treated myself to these:

Deeeelicious and well earned.

When I got home and looked up the route that I will actually be running on June 2, I sank down in my chair. Lo and behold, what I ran that seemed sooo exhausting and grueling is in fact part of the actual course. I have major work to do over the next eight weeks to be able to successfully do three loops of that monster plus the other miles. I'm just grateful that the other miles are fairly easy to cruise through (at least they are in comparison). New plan, at least one of my long runs each weekend will be at Great Falls doing that loop to get myself used to the rocks and get quicker and stronger.

Good thing I actually take pleasure from grueling trail runs. As tough as today was, I feel very gratified :) Very happy to have Monday off from running though. My little leggies need a break after all of that. Nice short four day work week up ahead and then volunteering for Bull Run Run this weekend!

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