Saturday, April 19, 2014

Northeast Tennessee Spring Break

After running Forge Racing's Faint of Hear 4 miler this past Saturday, I caught a plane bound for northeast Tennessee. Maureen recently accepted a nice job up here, she is the new Nursery Crop Specialist Extension Agent for a thirty-three county area, basically the northeastern third of the state. I have been really looking forward to this trip because I would be visiting for more than just a day.

Sunday (04/13): 9 miles
Since we both had the day off we headed up to Bays Mountain Park north of Kingsport. We both planned to run for an hour or more and would be sticking together for a while before I would take off to get some extra distance in. I loved the park because it was a mix of both rough gravel roads and single track trail, don't get me wrong, I love single track but sometimes you just want to open it up. After we split I did exactly that but quickly realized I was pretty tired for yesterday's hard effort at the race. Most of the trails circle a large reservoir but some of them run the ridges of the surrounding mountains. Starting at the lake, I turned onto Fire Tower Trail to discover it went up and up, but that's what I'm here for right? It was here that I realized how tired I am and how much work I have to do before USMR Championships. Other than being completely exhausted, the gravel road on the mountain ridge was quite enjoyable with nice views on every side. Eventually, I dropped into Chestnust trail which was amazing, immaculate single track running relatively flat mid way up the mountain. The trail was just too nice to not run fast, so I dropped the hammer and started running mid to low 6s. Sometimes I just can't help myself. While tired, I was really satisfied with the afternoon. After running, we had a picnic by the lake then went hiking and did some bouldering together.

Monday (04/14): 10 miles
Maureen had to work this morning so after dropping her off, I went to Persimmon Ridge to get in a few miles. Frankly, Persimmon Ridge is pretty boring and sketchy because part of the trail runs behind a berm for a shooting range. Still, its not terrible and is a great introduction for the mountains as its a mix of gravel road and pretty easy single track. Not to mention lots of wildflowers and native orchids! I planned on three loops but was really tired, so I settled for two loops with some fartlek intervals (minute on minute rest) on the uphills and gravel roads. That afternoon we headed to Buffalo Mountain Park. I really loved the trails here because they were steep and dangerous with steep drop offs on either side. I regretted not bringing the camera to get some pictures so I'll have to go back. We found a really steep and technical mile long downhill that I just had to bomb even though we were supposed to be running together today. In the process, I tweaked the same ankle that I hurt at Faint of Heart, not a sprain or roll but just enough to make me feel it every step but the rush of running a technical downhill fast and slightly out of control is just too good to pass up!

Tuesday (04/15): Day off.

Wednesday (04/16): 12 miles
Originally, I had planned to run Roan Mt. on Tuesday as I would be in the area already but we were hit with lots of rain and really cold weather that I didn't bring gear for. The higher elevations got plenty of snow and sleet with temperatures hitting twenty-one degrees at 3000ft. After I dropped Maureen off at work, I headed to Roan. Initially, I was a little upset as there was no clear trail from bottom to summit like there is at Pikes Peak. So, I drove up to Carver's Gap (~5600ft) and got on the Appalachian Trail for some higher altitude running. It was pretty surreal running on the AT. Plus, the scenery was amazing, lots of snow and ice everywhere! Words, nor will my pictures do it justice. I choose to run in the balds to the left of the trail head as they offered better views. Balds are an interesting ecosystem, it is basically an alpine grassland with very sparse tree cover. After running the ridges on Roan, I ran a section of the AT that started dropping in elevation pretty quickly. This section of the trail was covered with thick mud, after falling on a steep downhill, I was covered in it. I continued running down for almost an hour when I realized that I had to run back up through the mud! After stopping to eat some shot blocks, I started the return. Slipping and sliding all over the place I finally made it back up in nearly the same time I went down. Today was a reminder of why I run and why I run trails, while its definitely not the highest mountain I've ever run it was still special. Every mountain is unique and challenging in different ways, but they all humble and inspire. (Note on pictures: These are but a few, I'll do a separate post with nothing but photos from Roan.)

Thursday (04/17): 6 miles
Unfortunately, it was time for us to start heading back to Louisiana so we thought a quick run in Knoxville would be appropriate. First, we stopped at the Knoxville Botanical Garden then headed to Haw Ridge to hit some trails. Haw Ridge was highly recommend to us by Jeff Beck. Maureen had previously ran there and also enjoyed it. The trails were very maintained and we initially ran around the lake which was flat and very welcoming after a long week on rugged terrain in the mountains. This section of the trail was beautiful with the trail winding along the edge of the water. After some time we turned and started running into the the interior of the park which quickly turned hilly. I was very impressed with Maureen's running, her seven weeks living and running in the mountains has turned her into a stronger and faster runner as she was able to hang with me for an hour. The only problem we had with Haw Ridge was a lack of trail markings. In Louisiana, you typically only have one option and at most of the places we ran this week you have lots of trails to choose from in one park so it can get a little confusing.

Friday (04/18): Day off

Saturday (04/19): 8 miles
Ran an easy eight miler on the flat at the sports park. My shins and legs needed a break from all the big hills and mountains. All in all really happy with the week. I would have liked to run more but I'm supposed to be creeping back into my usual mileage and some parts of my legs aren't agreeing with this; however, in due time I'll be back to where I was before. In the meantime, I will keep the mileage around 40-50 miles a week but focus on doing quality speed work.

Weekly Total: 45 miles

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