Tuesday: I've mentioned a few times that I think the roads I'm running on are causing the pain in my right knee, and the pain in my left Achilles tendon. While I was walking back home from the grocery store tonight, I started noticing that my hips were hurting, because they were being thrown off by the curve of the road.
So, that's a little more fuel to throw on the fire. I'm going to try to shift up my schedule some and run right after work, on trails and bike paths, instead of roads. When possible, of course. The last few weeks have been so crazy that I haven't been able to do that.
Wednesday: I participated in the Summer Solstice 14k Trail Run, put on by the Shawangunk Runners, and held at Minnewaska State Park. The race follows the carriage roads up to Castle Point, and then back to Minnewaska via the Upper Awosting Carriageway. I had decided to park in the lower lot and walk up to Minnewaska, but I hadn't counted on the construction going on there. The popularity of the park causes significant traffic on Routes 44/55, and the park is in the process of constructing an enhanced entrance, with space to queue cars off of Routes 44/55. So, my walk from the lower lot to the Sunset Carriageway was quite dusty, but otherwise OK. At one point I stepped off of the temporary road surface to let a car pass and nearly stepped right in to a patch of poison ivy, but beyond that, there were no significant hazards. The park appears to also be in the process of constructing a new trail linking the lower lot with the Sunset Carriageway, which will be excellent.
I made my way up the Sunset Carriageway, enjoying the blooming laurel and the occasional views. At the top, I signed in, queued on two bathroom lines, and looked around to see if I recognized anyone. I found Laura Clark, a fellow Stryder, and talked with her for a while. Finally, it was time to line up. We all queued up on the carriageway, with Lake Minnewaska on one side, and a small cliff on the other. We received our instructions, a note of caution about the first steep downhill, and we were off.
Somehow, I managed to push myself harder on this race than I have in quite a while. I did take several days off of running before the race, which might have helped. My left Achilles had been acting up, as mentioned earlier, and I was noticing the start of some plantar fasciitis in my left foot as well. Neither of these bothered me on the race, and though I did start get some cramping in my upper legs around mile 7, all in all it went well. We climbed up to Castle Point, and the light...
I caught glimpses of it on Gertrude's Nose, but nothing prepared me for the light when we reached Castle Point. The sun was so low, so bright, and yet it touched so little of us. The nearby bushes and trees caught most of what the sun was sending, leaving us either in darkness or light, there was no middle. It was fantastic. There were wonderful volunteers up there, too, handing out water and collecting trash, our second of three water stops.
After the summit, it was time for a quick and exciting drop down a series of switchbacks to the junction with the Hamilton Point Carriageway and either the Lower Awosting or Lake Awosting Carriageway (it's not clear which one it is, they're both labeled as "Black" on the map.) From there, we picked up the Upper Awosting Carriageway at our final water stop.
I had been running primarily by feel, and by heart rate, trying to keep it around 160, which I felt was hard but still manageable. Around mile 7, I started getting cramps, and I backed off a bit for a little while.
To be fair, the Upper Awosting Carriageway always does this to me. The part over by Lake Awosting is usually fascinating, with a massive, dripping wall of water and plenty of streams, but on that day it was bone dry. The middle of the Upper Awosting Carriageway, is monotonous at times, and it feels like an interminable slog on the best of days.
(Now that I think about it, I don't recall hearing Rainbow Falls running, either. I need to do some more exploring there soon.)
At any rate, it's no surprise that I started hurting on the Upper Awosting. I gave myself a break, and backed off the pace a bit. After a short break, I put the hammer down once more, and started passing people again, which hadn't happened since the downhill off of Castle Point.
It's funny; I hate hiking down steep stuff. Hate it. It scares me to no end. Put me in running mode and give me a descent that can be run down? Let's go. I used that trick to get myself down off of Gothics two years ago, when I felt like I couldn't hike another step.
Back here, in the now, I was pushing hard, and the terrain was pushing right back. People had been talking about a hill at the end, and I thought they just meant the push from the base of Lake Minnewaska up to the cliffs, but, no. The last kilometer or so tilted up enough that my tired legs were feeling it fiercely. I pushed as long and as hard as I could, before finally breaking down on that very last hill that I had known about it. I power hiked, glad to be out of sight of the finish line thanks to the cliffs, and then did my best to sprint out the final meters. I finished around an hour and 44 minutes; off of my hour and half target, but happy with the fact that I was able to push that hard for that long. It gave me some hope that I'll be able to handle the races I'm looking at in the fall.
Oh, and I can't wait to run this race again.
Thursday: I had taken the morning off, because I wasn't sure what I would need. I had anticipated going for a walk, but I was feeling like I wanted to run more. To that end, I decided to explore one of the trails I had been avoiding for an unknown reason. It turns out my subconscious new something I didn't.
I started the Bog Meadow Trail in zero drops, but I quickly realized that it was as hard as pavement near the start, and I was courting disaster. I switched into my backup pair of shoes, and headed out. Aside from being as hard as rock in places, the trail is also littered with roots and old railroad ties (the wood that the track rests on). In parts, the ties have been removed or have rotted out, but in other parts they are unrelenting. It occurred to me that someone from the area who was training for the HURT 100 might find this to be an excellent training trail; that course is said to be littered with roots, too.
I stopped counting after 20, but I flushed a ton of garter and other snakes. I think I also flushed as many chipmunks. The water that the trail gets its name from is gorgeous, and I would have loved to pause and take it in, but the deer flies were hungry, and I had miles to go before I slept.
I made it a mile out before I started hearing the sounds of talk radio, the grunt of heavy machinery, and the strong smell of petroleum products coming from a small bluff above the trail. I decided that I didn't want to breath that any more than I had to. The smell reminded me of turpentine, but I can't imagine someone using so much turpentine that it could be smelled that strongly from that far away.
The return trip was uneventful, and I headed over to Saratoga Spa State Park because I felt like I still had something left to give.
It wasn't very much. I ran for perhaps half a mile before my muscles decided they were done.
Saturday: I have nothing nice to say about this day.
Sunday: Went back to Saratoga Spa State Park, late in the day, with the intention of running on bike paths, but ended up running on some of my usual gravel roads and some of the park roads, until the stupid crown of the road proved to be too much. I walked for as long as I could, until it was time for the park to close, and then I headed home.