But yesterday I just needed to get out there. My back wasn’t too bad. The numbness in my leg was minimal. I did feel some in my feet while I was running. It’s unnerving. (Pun intended.) But the run did me good, especially psychologically.
This was my first time using a new much brighter headlamp. My old one was only 200 lumens. That’s not enough for rocky leaf-covered trails at night. 200 lumens is only enough to get you safely downstairs to raid the cookie jar in the middle of the night.
Is getting up at 4 AM on a Saturday (making your wife and two-year-old do so also) to drive 200 miles in order to hop out of the car and run 16 miles worth of rocky muddy trails up and down big central Pennsylvania mountains crazy?
Most people would say, “YES!”
But as you can see in the pictures below, I was accompanied by 249 equally crazy friends! I don’t know how far anyone else had to drive that morning, but it’s a safe bet that a large percentage would have done just what I did for the opportunity to run in those hills. If you are crazy enough to enjoy running on the mountains for multiple hours, riding in a car for three hours is no big deal.
This is what I did on June 1 in order to run in the Slate Run 25K trail race in Slate Run, PA.
A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words, But Not Many Feet of Elevation
Photos never do justice to elevation. The mountains never appear as tall as they are in person. And photos can’t convey the burning in your thighs when you are climbing up, up, up and then finally the ground levels out at a scenic view… only to round a bend and continue up, up, up. Your thighs burn and the pictures are silent about it.
The pictures also don’t show how good it feels once you get to the top of the mountain and you can run on wonderful single track trail for a few miles. Then your thighs come alive!
So Much Water!
There was so much water after the second aid station! The trail insisted on weaving it’s way back and forth across the streams, sometimes knee-deep. That mountain water was rather chilly! By the time I crossed a road around mile 10, my feet were numb. I mentioned this to a volunteer at the road crossing. Her response? “Welcome to Pennsylvania!” She also asked if I needed water, which struck me as ironic after I just complained about. She said the next aid station was only 2 miles away. So I kept plugging along.
After the road, the trail continued uphill through more water. That’s where I hit the wall. The 200 miles of driving caught up with me. My feet hurt from the cold water. There was no end of it in sight. I was no longer running. I was stopping more often. I started counting my steps, forcing myself to do 3 sets of 10 steps before I stopped to catch my breath. I got angry at myself each time and stopped at step 8 just to be a jerk to myself. The water was roaring down the mountain. I so wanted to lie down in dry silence. Someone passed me at that point. He said, “I think we’re getting closer to the top.” I sarcastically thought, “Aren’t we constantly getting closer to the top with each step? But that doesn’t mean we are close to the top!” I don’t think I said it out loud.
Near the top, the water slowed and quieted. I stuck my hat in and splashed water all over my head. That snapped me back to reality a bit and I continued on in better spirits.
Enjoy Your Ride Home! Come See Us Again!
At 5 hours and 8 minutes, I hobbled over the finish line. Spasms in my hamstrings. Spasms in my thighs. Spasms in one of my calves. I moved like an ape in running shoes. But I finished.
Then I remembered: We still had to drive 200 miles home. We were a good ways from civilization. When we got to Danville we stopped at Wendy’s and I pigged out. (I pigged out for a bunch of days actually.) The spasms hit me off and on while my wife drove. Later she said, “Maybe you should give this up. You’re in pain and you don’t look like you’re having fun now.”
This race is scheduled for June 6, 2020. As soon as I shake these spasms I think I’ll walk on over to my computer. “Hello, ultrasignup.com.”
For most of my life I had been an on-again/off-again runner. I liked running but never seemed to be able to stick with it. For many years I was a wannabe long distance runner. But as the years increased and my running did not, I found myself overweight, on high blood pressure medicine, and depressed. My favorite pastime by then was lying in bed watching movies and stuffing my face with chips and salsa. Once I fell asleep while eating Ring Dings in bed and woke up to find that I had rolled on one. I had officially become a slob. Oh, and I was smoking half a pack of cigarettes a day. That was 5 1/2 years ago. I was pretty much at the end of my rope with myself at that point.
Coinciding with this dissatisfaction with my physical condition was the happy circumstance of meeting a wonderful lady who would become my wife a few years later. She was/is a very active girl and that motivated me.
I started walking every day. I cut out the Ring Dings (most of them). I cut down my portions. After 4 months, I had lost 20 pounds. That’s when I started running. After another 4 months I had lost another 20 pounds. My doctor took me off the blood pressure medicine. Four years later, my blood pressure is better than it had ever been.
My wife go me to run my first race, a 5K, in the spring of 2011. I was hooked! I did a few more that year. And more in 2012. Even more in 2013. In 2014, I got the crazy idea that I could run a half marathon. I ran my first half in October 2014 and was ELATED. I have now run 7. And this year my wife did her first (and then second and third) half marathon. She said that seeing me do my first two inspired her to go for it. Imagine that, the Ring Ding peddler inspired someone to run 13.1!
I’m not one for snot rockets. For one thing, it grosses me the heck out. But I think I worry about snot rocket malfunctions more than anything. I fear blowing snot out of my nose with insufficient force and having it land in my beard or my thigh or the top of my shoe. I fear inhaling the snot into my mouth as I’m huffing and puffing.
So, I run with a pocket full of paper towels. Tissues don’t cut it. They just get sweaty and turn to mush. I use paper towels, basically one for each mile. I have persistent sinus problems in spite of taking allergy medicine every day. For a guy with such a condition, mastering the technique of the snot rocket would save a lot of hassle. But I opt for the paper towels instead. Snot rockets just aren’t my style.
Sometimes my iPod is chillingly clairvoyant. Four songs that played within 20 minutes of each other on my iPod this afternoon (after last night’s snowfall): "Pictures of Home" by Deep Purple, which has the lines: "I'm alone here, with emptiness, eagles and snow. Unfriendliness chilling my body and taunting with pictures of home." Then an instrumental by Phil Keaggy Continue Reading →
(Originally posted on the website Heron Flight) We got several inches of snow last night. So much that I worked from home. That’s the only drawback about having your company issue you a laptop… no snow days! But working at home has its benefits, including the freedom to work in your underwear. Mid-afternoon I went outside to shovel the sidewalk Continue Reading →
(Originally posted on the website Continuum...) Welcome to the show! Are you old enough to remember when Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom was on television on Sunday nights? I believe it was on right before the Wonderful World of Disney. And now... your hosts for this evening's show... Marlin Perkins and... some strange guy... And now ladies and gentlemen, boys Continue Reading →