Sue, Jim & Cody on the 14,433' summit of MT Elbert, CO - The highest peak in the Rocky Mountains


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Runtrails' 2005 AT Journal
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PREP #22:  SPRING TRAINING            April 17


ďFirst say to yourself what you would be; then do what you have to do.Ē Epictetus


Redbud trees at Explore Park near Roanoke, VA

Ah, spring! Definitely my favorite season.

 Itís such a joy to be outside running (gardening, etc.) this time of year. Every day in the woods is like a gift, with new little leaves and flowers sprouting overnight. The trails look different every day as the forest magically transforms itself.

Jim and I didnít discover the great trails at Explore Park near Roanoke until last November, and I wasnít able to walk or run there until December because of my foot surgery. So until April weíve only seen the park in bare winter mode. Now each day we can see changes as the forest  morphs into spring.

What a show! A myriad of new green plants and perky violets carpet the forest floor and line the paths. A variety of blue, white, and yellow wildflowers poke up through the dead leaves and nod in the gentle breezes. The blooms of white dogwoods and purple redbuds contrast with all the tiny green tree leaves and the brilliant blue sky above them. And the weather has been great, with dry, sunny days and above-normal temps for some heat training.

It just feels so good to be alive when the woods offer so much promise and intrigue!


I hope every day on the trek will be like this, full of surprise, beauty, and the anticipation of more to come tomorrow. Optimist that I am, I know there will be days when itís rainy or I feel too tired to move. I just hope that I can find the beauty in each day, even if the weather is dreary or uncomfortable or Iím in a less-than-scenic area.

In fact, some of the best views Iíve had in the mountains along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina and Virginia have been after a thunderstorm. Looking down from a high peak overlooking clouds in the valleys is simply awesome. Rushing creeks and waterfalls are more grandiose. The contrast of glistening green leaves against dark, wet bark is striking. I know Iíll experience the same phenomena on the nearby Appalachian Trail.

Yes, I think Iíll love being on the Trail even on rainy days, knowing how special it will be when the rain stops. Itís kinda like putting up with all the pain during an ultra, knowing how good it will feel when I cross the finish line!


Since my report in Prep20 after Iíd done a 70-mile training week, Iíve completed two more high-mileage weeks of 65 and 60 miles. This week will be easier, although I plan to do a long run/walk of eight to nine hours soon.

For me, this is very high mileage. Iím amazed that I still feel energetic most days. I keep saying, ďOK, Sue, you need to rest this week or youíre gonna break down. Letís just WALK today.Ē  So I get out on the trail with the best of intentions to take it easy and walk, and what do you know, the first downhill (which comes early on my favorite route) Iím RUNNING.

I just cannot seem to WALK down hills or the few level spots at Explore Park!  Itís that ďhappy feetĒ syndrome again. I do know better, but . . .

In my 70-mile week (March 28-April 3), I had one long run of 27+ miles on trails at Mill Mountain and Chestnut Ridge. The rest of the miles were at the hillier Explore Park.

Explore isnít as tough as a lot of the AT, but itís excellent training with its constant ups and downs of several hundred feet. Jim and I run at Explore most of the time because it has beautiful trails, we have had the place virtually to ourselves the last six months, it happens to be the closest park to our house, there is no fee to run there, and it has a lot of creeks and the Roanoke River for the dogs to play in when they run with us.

Parks don't get much better than that!

During the 65-mile week from April 4-10, I ran six days with mileages from 9 to 14 miles Ė no long runs. I ran several of them faster than previously because I could run some of the uphills. All were at Explore except the 14-miler, which was on the AT and Andy Layne trails the Saturday when I did my ďelevationĒ run (about 7,000 feet up and down, total).

Last weekís 60 miles included two days with no running, three easy days from 4 to 8 miles, and double long runs of 20 miles each at Explore park. A little easier, but not exactly a rest week! 


I love doing ďdoubles.Ē Over the past thirteen years they have been excellent training for me for any ultra distance from 50K to 100 miles. Iím hoping this bodes well on the AT, where Iíll be running ďdoublesĒ repeatedly.

I learned about double long runs from Ray Krowlewicz back in 1992 when I was training for my first ultra, the Mountain Masochist Trail Run (MMTR) 50+ Horton-miler near where I now live.

I had been reading Rayís monthly ultra running articles in Running Journal for several years and met him at a 5K road race at the Hampton Motor Speedway south of Atlanta a month before MMTR. (One of Ray's other passions besides running fast ultras is racing fast cars.) Since I knew what he looked like from his photo in the magazine, I introduced myself at the race and told him I was doing my first ultra soon. During our conversation, he recommended I do doubles to train for ultras.

So I did Ė starting that day right after the race! 

Mind you, I was a lot younger, faster, and more energetic then. I ran 50 minutes before the 5K just to warm up, ran the race and won $75 for first masters female, THEN ran enough miles to reach 20 before leaving the speedway.  It was all on pavement, and I ran the distance in under three hours.

The next day I did 20 trail miles at Atlantaís Stone Mountain Park in just over three hours. In my log, I noted that I went ďeasy,Ē "felt fine the whole way,Ē and had a resting pulse of 35 the morning after the doubles.

Sheesh!!  My trail 20-milers are decidedly slower thirteen years later. My recent 20-mile doubles at Explore took me 4:38 and 4:26. At least my resting pulse is still in the mid-30s and I still love doing doubles. Over the years, the second run of the pair has invariably felt better than the first, and sometimes itís even faster, all factors being comparable (as happened recently).

Now Iím not so naÔve as to think Iím going to feel progressively better each day on the Trail if I do long runs without adequate recovery days, but I do hope that my fitness will gradually improve to the extent that I can comfortably manage 125-150 mile weeks by June or July. To attain that kind of mileage, I'll need to do more than a few "doubles." 

Stay tuned.

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and Tater

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© 2005 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil