Gnarly roots. Rocks protruding like molars, waiting to chew up ankles. Hairpin turns and overgrown ferns lashing at bare shins.
I kind of love trail running.
But in the last few years, I’ve become more of an urban runner. The dirt walkway along the Charles River in Cambridge and the Bridle Path in Central Park are lovely soft surfaces and beautiful places to run, but they aren’t real trails.
Real trails slow you down. You aren’t thinking about your pace – you’re thinking about not landing on your face.
Real trails muddy your calves. And your shoes. And sometimes, oddly, your hair (how does that happen?)
Real trails ensconce you in nature. All you hear is your own breathing and whatever random fauna happen to be squawking or rustling about.
Lucky for me, Raleigh has some real trails. I’ve been hearing runners gush about Umstead State Park for a little while now, and today I went to check it out for myself.
Let me say: I am not an inexperienced trail runner. It has been a while, but I logged thousands of trail running miles in my teens in Washington state. I know how to deal with challenging terrain (actually, I credit the root-dodging of my youth for my fairly efficient, short-stride, midfoot-strike form) and clearly enjoy the trail experience (in case you couldn’t tell from my overly-poetic comments above).
But today? Those Umstead trails chewed me up and spit me out. Wow.
Perhaps it was ambitious to tackle a longish run (I was out there for 2+ hours) and my first real trail run in a while in one event. And my first real encounter with rolling NC hills. (It’s like Harlem Hill in CP…except its two miles long.)
But although I was absolutely exhausted and totally dehydrated when I finally shuffled back to my car, I had a huge smile on my face.
I don’t care if they are murder on my pace. I don’t care if they destroy my car’s floormats. I don’t care if they make me mutter “OMG, seriously?” when I round yet another bend and find that the path is still climbing. I love trails. And I think that is one thing that I am going to love about living in Raleigh.
Today’s EAT: After my Umstead adventure, I was HUNGRY. (Stupidly, I didn’t eat or drink anything before my run. I rolled out of bed and went. And there are no drinking fountains on the trails here. I know, duh. Lesson learned.)
A big-ass salad from Flying Saucer, which is quickly becoming one of my local favorites, hit the spot:
Loaded with goat cheese, drenched in balsamic…yep, they’ve got the BAS formula down pat. 🙂
Today’s DRINK: Would I like a $3 pint of Stone Porter with my lunch? Um, yes.
Yes, it was 1:00 PM. Judge away. 🙂
Porters are rarely something I select from the menu for some reason. But I liked it better than Guinness, actually, and I love me some Guinness! This porter had slight licorice undertones, which normally would sound nasty to me but somehow worked in this beer.
Today’s RUN: 15-16 miles of hilly, trail-y goodness. What a workout. (Special thanks to Joe for the email chats and recommendations on where to park/run! Looking forward to many more runs in Umstead.)
I’m really glad I got a solid effort in today, as I’m not sure what the rest of the weekend holds. I’m chillin’ at the Miami airport at the moment, eating a brownie (power dinner!) and drinking a glass of wine and awaiting my flight to Sao Paolo.
So far I’ve logged ~27 miles this week, if I can get two runs of 6-7 in this weekend, I’ll at least crack 40 for the week. About 15-20 miles lower than I should be at this point in the training cycle, but sometimes life gets in the way. And while I’ll make an effort to get a couple of runs in over the weekend, I’m certainly not going to sacrifice sightseeing in an awesome new country or shenanigans with dear friends for the sake of being obsessive about my mileage. It will be fine.
Talk to ya from the other side of the equator….
Today’s QUESTION: Do you trail run? What do you love (or hate) about it?