Thursday, January 14, 2016

A Good Run...and Ultrarunning

Along the lines of the bride reminding me  about the ostensible origins of this blog, let me tell you about an 8.5 mile Appalachian Trail run that I undertook last Sunday with my good trail friend, JS.  This play-by-play is geared towards a newer Ultrarunner who might have landed here on this blog.

We hatched the scheme on a Wednesday, for Sunday. The weather forecast looked a but unsettled, but we proceeded.  However, as the time grew closer the weather looked worse. In fact, I called JS on Saturday evening saying I was still good to go but offering him an out if he didn't feel like running in the rain. JS declined, saying in effect, "I kinda like dealing with whatever Mother Nature throws at us."

So we met at daybreak a Pine Grove Furnace State Park in south central PA, dropped a car, and proceeded in the other car to the start of the run at  Big Flat. We needed to wait about 10 minutes until it was light enough to see the trail, and started off. It was raining, light to moderate, a condition that persisted for the duration of the run.

The air temperature was about 45F, and both JS and I opted for tights, thinking of leg warmth later in the run when we would have slowed down.  On my torso I wore a long-sleeve polypro top and fleece vest; JS was dressed in a nylon jacket, but I'm not sure whether the shirt underneath was long- or short-sleeved.  Regardless, neither of us got chilly during the run, even with the becoming soaked later.  The key is not to wear cotton.

We each carried a single water bottle in a waist pack.  I also carried a small bag of my go-to trail snack, peanut M&Ms, but did not eat any during the run.

The trail was soggy, at places more than soggy, as we splashed through ankle deep water in the low spots.  After about half a mile, there was no longer any thought of keeping your feet dry; that dream was toast.

However, prior experience has taught us that running in wet feet is really no problem.  It's just a shock the first time your foot gets submerged.

This run was point to point rather than a loop, and was a net downhill, so it ran a bit faster than normal. I had a baseball cap low over my eyes to try to keep the rain from my glasses, but that failed as they were soon covered in droplets and fog.  Every half mile or so I needed to dip my glasses into a puddle or stream to "clean" them off...which helped me see for about half a mile.

The first half of the run was a fairly smooth trail, with some ups and downs, more or less along the ridge top.  At length we reached the point where the trail broke down from the ridge, a real nice slightly downhill trail, until a stream crossing of Tom's Run, a year-round stream that is usually about 3 feet wide.  Today it was double that, and a pretty good torrent. After the wet-footed crossing, our next mile or so was a rocky downhill plunge over which JS scampered much like I'd imagine a mountain goat might.  It was a joy to observe his sure-footedness.

By and by we passed the Tom's Run Shelter and continued on a soggy jeep trail until another rocky stretch.  In another mile we recrossed Tom's Run, now quite a cataract, via a bridge that we were grateful to use.

The final mile of easy trail went, well, easily, and soon we hove into view of the car. We wrung out our clothes as best we could, laid towels on the seats, and drove back to pick up the start vehicle.  Here JS and I shook hands, said "Good run!" sincerely and gratefully, and each headed home.

A good run.  That's what it was.

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