Trail Monster Running

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Horde of Locusts

I recently wrote out a schedule of long runs leading up to the Bull Run Run 50 Miler that I’ll be running on April 12th. This Saturday I planned to run for 4 hours or 24 miles, whichever would come later. Also in the plan was to try to reach the Androscoggin River from Bradbury Mt. State Park since I discovered that the 21 mile run we did two weeks ago brought us to within two miles of the river. As the weekend approached and the snow piled up I became a bit concerned that I may have to use snowshoes on this run which would slow the pace and compromise our ability to cover the distance in a reasonable time.

I arrived at Bradbury about 20 minutes before 8 to give myself enough time to recce the trails and refine my run plan before anyone else showed up. I could tell right away that the trails within the park hadn’t received any traffic since the snowfall so I strapped on my snowshoes and headed out on the Knight Woods Trail in hopes of finding snowmobile tracks. No luck in the first half of the Knight Woods loop but when I got to the Snowmobile Trail I found that it lived up to its name, there must have been a contingent of sledders out on Friday night after the snow stopped coming down and the trail looked great. I completed a 1.5 mile loop by coming back down the Link Trail (virgin snow) to the parking lot where Jamie, Erik and Blaine were waiting. I removed my snowshoes, strapped on my hydration pack and we headed out with hopes of reaching the Androscoggin.

Even with some snowmobile traffic the trails were noticeably softer than our last run here two weeks ago and we were moving about 1 minute per mile slower in the 10:00-10:30 range, but I was just glad that we didn’t have to break trail through the 10” of fresh powder. At 5 miles we popped out onto the power line trail and paused for a moment to catch our breath and use the bathroom facilities. Blaine announced that he was going out for 4 more miles before he would turn back, I guessed that we had about 7 miles to go before we reached the river. So off we went on the snowmobile superhighway under the power lines that were buzzing in the cold like a horde of locusts.

As we checked off the miles it seemed that the level of snowmobile traffic had diminished thus making the running progressively more difficult. When Blaine turned at about 9 miles into the run we pretty much saw the last of well packed trails. For the next mile and a half we were following the tracks of only one snowmobiler who really sucked at creating running trails, I vowed that if I found the person who created these tracks I would kick his ass. We post-holed along for a while but eventually decided that this energy depleting “running” wasn’t going to leave us with anything for the long run back if we did reach the river, so we turned around and headed back the way we came. Sadly, we weren’t going to reach the river this week. At this point we were clocking splits at over 13 minutes per mile and it wasn’t much fun any more.

When we eventually got back onto the well-packed trails I attempted to pick up the pace but wasn’t capable of doing better than a 12 minute mile. By the time we’d been running for 3 hours (16.5 miles) temps had warmed up enough that the snow was getting even softer underfoot and thus even more difficult to run in. A few times during the run back we were passed by snowmobiles but they seemed to have the effect of fluffing the snow rather than packing it down, which added even more of a challenge to the mostly uphill return route.

Once back on park property I knew I was nearly finished with this run so I really did manage to pick up the pace and came to close to running a few 11 minute miles! Now back on the Snowmobile Trail (that is actually the name of a particular trail in the park) I knew that I would be faced with a decision soon, take the 0.3 mile Link Trail back to the parking lot or the 1.1 mile Knight Woods Trail. Doesn’t seem like a really big difference, unless you’ve been running for more than 4 hours in the snow. I surprised myself by declaring out loud: “Fuck it! I’m going the long way.”

While I was a little disappointed not to have made it to the Androscoggin and not get in a full 24 miles, I did get in well over 4 hours of running in some pretty tough conditions. I was also happy that when faced with the option of a shorter way back to my car I had the mental strength to choose the (slightly) longer way which I wasn’t able to do on December 15th, the last time I was in this situation.

time: 4:22:30
distance: 23.3 miles
pace: 11:15
heart rate: 158/181


Blaine Moore said...

Thanks for scouting the trails for us on Saturday morning.

Honestly, I didn't know that the trails were going to get that much worse when I turned around. I had just reached the point I told you I'd be turning around at last week after we ran the 10 miler.

I did wind up taking the link trail. I was right around the distance that I wanted for the day so I didn't feel any need to add the extra mile or so onto the run.

I was utterly exhausted yesterday; I got nothing done after I got home. I ate, I slept, and then I ate and slept some more. Even on the shorter run, conditions were pretty tough.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like one nice adventure, but tough. These are the types of runs which will prepare you for the Bull Run and beyond.