[008] Hitting the trail

Swim: 0 m/2,025 m

Bike: 0/6.35 miles

Run: 13.9/18.7 miles

Today, as the snow swirled violently and obscured the trail at my feet, I was reminded why I exercise. It’s hard to put into words what kind of feeling I get from an intense workout, and today fit the bill. It’s not that the 13.9-mile run was completed at a blistering pace, or that it crossed particularly challenging terrain, but a combination of factors that came together to produce a memorable two hours.

I had planned to do this particular run at Pocahontas State Park today, but I had not planned for the snow. When my brother and I arrived at the trailhead the snow was light on the ground, and it wasn’t until about four or five miles in that it really started blowing. (the picture above was taken before the snow.) We adopted a quick but easy pace that seemed suitable for miles of rolling hills, and enjoyed easy conversation and occasional stops along the way.

I was excited when the snow began, realizing that this run would become a little more of a challenge as the pellet-like flakes bombarded my face and eyes, making it difficult to see very far ahead. What I could see – the quiet forest blanketed in fresh snow – was beautiful.

We enjoyed the scenery and the run for several more miles, through intermittent flurries, until we arrived at an unexpected creek crossing. The water was only about a foot deep, but was more than 20 feet across with no obvious footholds. Knowing that there were another five miles of running after this crossing, I didn’t want to just splash across and run with soggy shoes for the next hour, given the ambient temperature of about 30 degrees. So I doffed my shoes and socks, rolled up my pants and walked across as fast as I could traverse the slippery submerged rocks. The frigid water felt like fire on my feet, and by the time I crossed I could hardly contain a yell of pain. But my strategy paid off – I used my outer shirt to dry my feet and put on my dry, warm socks and shoes to complete the rest of the run in relative comfort.

The final miles were defined by much heavier snow and that feeling you get at the end of a long outing in an unfamiliar place – the thought that, “Surely we must be close to the end.” But every turn produced nothing more than a continuation of the snowy trail. By this time we were both ravenously hungry and running low on water. But, sure enough, we eventually found the parking lot, where we collapsed into the car and set off in search of food.

Any 14-mile run is something to be proud of, but we combined the distance with a challenging trail in somewhat adverse conditions that would keep most people inside their warm homes. And we loved it. The more discomfort we face, the greater the overall satisfaction (and you can always tell the best adventures by the length of time afterward they continue to pop up in conversation – this one is bound to last a while).

This is a feeling I want to keep with me throughout my triathlon training – the more of myself I put into it, the more I’m going to get out.

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One Response to [008] Hitting the trail

  1. David H. says:

    A couple of years ago you instilled the words “character building” into my brain after I had a bad race. Ever since then, I’ve realized that certain runs and races build character, and it seems that running in crazy weather and on terrain you’re not used to builds character, like the run you just had.

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