The path less traveled

The path less traveled

A strong thunderstorm blew through last night leaving the air clear and the sky bright today, just begging me to get outside and run. And run (okay run-walked), I did!  Mid-afternoon, I drove out to Harbins Park. I planned to run along the two paved multi-use paths since it was my first visit there (how that had happened, I’m not sure). Despite the brisk winds, the sun was warm and there was very little shade along the paved path, so when I saw the pedestrian only trail head, I diverted off the paved path. 

Harbins Park is nearly 2,000 acres and has something for everyone – sports fields, playground, pavilions with grills, hiking, mountain biking,  and bathrooms. Compared to Tribble Mill, which is only three miles away (wouldn’t it be cool if a greenway connected these two great parks?) this park seems under-used, except for by mountain bikers. At least three people pulled up and hopped on their bikes as I was leaving. It may ne busier on weekends and at the sports fields. 

A few other trail reviewers have complained that the scenery is a bit boring and the noise from the nearby local airport is distracting. I found a few picture-worthy spots. The pedestrian trail comes close to the Alcovy River,  where I stopped on the boardwalk to take a picture (bottom center) and dump the pine straw and dirt out of my shoes.  I think I may appreciate trail gaiters because I find the trail debris in my shoes bothersome. The river was a bit too far away and down a long sloping granite hill to get a good look, which is unfortunate because it would add interest to the trail. Maybe the pedestrian trail will be extended to run alng side the river at some point. The trail itself is unblazed, but is clear-cut with emergency aid markers about every half mile. Around mile 3, or 1.5 depending which way you go from the trail loop head, are two emergency exit paths to the parkng lot, which was comforting simce I failed to note the trail lemgth before getting off the path. Around mile 4, I passed a guy walking in the opposite direction, so I knew I s close to the end. Sure enough, around 4.5 miles, I had made a complete loop. 

The trail itself is single-track with some nice inclines and declines, is mostly pine straw covered with a few areas of protruding  roots, very few rocks, and enough twists and turns to keep you sharp. It was mid-afternoon, so more wildlife saw me than I saw of them (though I was ever watchful for snakes).  I’ll be back out there for more miles soon, especially since I have a 13.1 race at Harbins next month. Maybe you’ll join me! 

Harbins-GCPR-Map

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Into the Woods

Into the Woods

Today, for my usual Tuesday run, I headed out to Tribble Mill Park.

Generally, I run the paved path around the large lake, going around it twice to get roughly 6 miles. Instead, I headed to the smaller lake and ran the trail around it.

I was surprised when I hit the trail head after just about two miles. I felt happy and comfortable, despite not rectifying my trail shoe situation, so I turned around and went back the way I came.   Aside from a few people fishing (I think I scared a little girl who wasn’t prepared for anyone to be running along the trail – though she did refer to me as “a girl” 😀 ), one couple, and a dog-walker, I encountered only trees, birds, pollen (sniffle sniffle), and turtles on a log. I admit, they startled me the first time I passed them as they splashed into the lake. There was a cooling breeze off the lake and plenty of sunshine through the trees. A great run overall. I really need to get into a good pair of trail shoes before I tear up my feet.

 

Someone hold my hand

Someone hold my hand

I’m about to pull the trigger on signing up for my first ultra – a 50K in late September to commemorate advancing an age group. And not just any 50K; I have my sights set on the Tortoise and Hare 50K which boasts an overall elevation gain of 5500 feet, including the Stanley Gap that gains roughly 2500 feet over three miles (gulp!).

This wouldn’t be such a crazy idea if I had a marathon or two, or even several trail races, under my belt. As it happens, I have a Baker’s Dozen of race experience and I can recount, in order, each race. Only one of my Baker’s Dozen of races was a trail race – the Cubihatcha Challenge 7.5M/15M/50K this past March.

I originally signed up for the 7.5 Mile race, thinking it would be a good way to determine if I liked trail running and the ultra atmosphere, plus that weekend was meant to be a taper week for a half-marathon. When I arrived at the race site, the Cubihatcha Outdoor Education Center, I immediately changed my race distance from the planned 7.5 miles to 15 miles.  The distance wasn’t the issue; I had run 15 miles on pavement around Stone Mountain (once). It was the terrain that was the challenge. The course description promised a mostly flat, non-technical, wide jeep-track with gravel.

The course was, indeed, as described, except the gravel. I thought the gravel would be small river pebbles, not 3″-4″ granite rocks covering quarter mile or longer swaths to support heavy construction tractors. The7.5 mile trail through woods and around the lake was peaceful and beautiful. There were people fishing the lake and every so often to pop of shotgun. I have no idea what’s in season for hunters. I should probably find out for next time. The two aid stations were fully stocked, especially the start/finish line station (chicken nuggets and pretzels never tasted so good). The volunteers and RD were fantastic, too. We always think of the runners as amazing, but the organizers and volunteers are a special breed of people – hanging around courses for 10+ hours through heat/cold/damp/wind. They have my deepest gratitude.

I survived my trial (trail) by fire with a respectable newbie time on a day that day was unusually hot and humid.   I learned a few things.

First, I have a lot to learn about trail running. Second, I need some different gear (yay, new shoes!). Third, I need to run trails. Lastly, this is going to be fun. And hard. But mostly fun.

31 miles of intermediate mountain trail…

 

If I don’t chicken out.

scared chicken

Don’t let me chicken out.