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
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!
AFTER THE STORM
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
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!
DOUBLES AND RAY K
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
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
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."