Thursday, February 27, 2014
If you like this blog, you might enjoy my book: Quiet The Noise
The word “epic” might be the most overused adjective in the world of endurance sports. Seems like if someone completes a 5k and there was a hill with some pebbles on it that is sufficient to use the term “epic”! Back in the day, the word was reserved for really out there courses, days with brutal weather or suffering beyond imagination (i.e., finishing a race with a broken femur. No, I’ve never done that, I don’t think).
In my haphazard training for the “Georgia Death Race” (that name alone is worthy of the term, epic, don’t you agree?) I decided to hit the mountains about 4 weeks out from the race.
Not a bad idea to train at least a little terrain that I was going to race for about 15-24 hours on in a month I suppose.
Back up a bit, this is a blog about Snow, which we don't get much of in Atlanta, so that alone is an "epic" event - and we had 2 events in 3 weeks! In the first storm I was able to get a couple of runs in on the snowy trails and it was really fun, but not really epic – they were short and easy, just a little different cause there was 1 inch of snow on the trails.
During the ice storm things were different. I tried to get out the first day but it was even too slippery for me so I settled on an indoor Crossfit workout.
However, I was not be denied on the day after the storm.
Btw, this is not the “epic” run, just a lead up to the "epic-ness" that was to follow (is epic-ness a word?).
We had shut down our business for a couple of days (people got smart, I guess, in this storm and no one wanted to drive anywhere) so I had a free day.
I decided to run from my house to the nearest decent trail (about 5 miles away), run the trails and come back.
When I left the roads and sidewalks were still covered with snow, however it had warmed up so the traction was perfect. Even though there was a light snow covering, it was still running on a harder surface than I was used to so it hurt – in a different way.
I ran to our gym to check it out and turn all the computers back on – then I ran about a mile on a small trail that has signs that say “no running” – so, of course, I had to run there.
Then I ran to the trail – now it got interesting. It had warmed up enough to melt a lot of the snow so 90% of the time I was running through ice cold slush. At first it was awesome cause it cooled off the sore spots in my feet (they are always there, they just move around on a weekly basis) and my painful Achilles. Then it got pretty uncomfortable as my feet became numb.
After an hour of trails I headed back home, ended up getting about 17 miles, 3 hours plus of running in on a non-long-run-planned day.
So that was pretty cool.
But not worthy of "epic".
Now the trip to the mountains.
By the weekend, pretty much all the snow had melted so I headed up to Amicolola to run Springer Mountain and the Hike Inn loop with “silent Bob”.
We started later than normal to let it warm up a bit (9am) and it was cold, but not freezing in the parking lot. There were little patches of snow around but not much. At the bottom the trail, road and stairs were pretty clear and easy to run on, looked to be a fun and easy day. It was warming up, we were all feeling good, ready to pick up the pace when we hit the trailhead.
We hit the trail, and within 5 feet our whole view of the day to come changed.
Lots of it.
Once we got in the shade, for the first hour we were running (?) on a sheet of ice and hard snow. We actually gave a thought to turning around it was so difficult to get running, but we decided it would warm up and soften it up a bit.
It really was amazing, a totally different kind of running. You normally have to stay pretty engaged when you trail run, but this took total and complete focus. The trail surface changed constantly, from hard ice, to soft snow, to slush, to hard snow, to dirt and some icy mud at the end.
I loved it!
The climbs were really, really difficult cause you had no traction, pretty sure we burned 2x the calories we normally do.
The descents were, well, epic.
So much fun. It is not often you hear a 51 year old man leaping and shouting in joy, but that is just what I was doing – when I separated from silent Bob cause he was, well you know….
Running down took a different skill set, you had to heel strike so you wouldn’t slip, and sometimes run on the sides of the trail so you got traction.
Did a Rosary, put on the headphones and really go into it.
I felt fantastic until we made the turn to Hike Inn (a 1 mile fun descent, stop at the Inn for treats, then an “easy” 6-7 miles back to the car.
I stopped to take some cool pictures, Silent Bob kept going. I had a nice quiet moment and then took off again and then.....
My wheels fell off.
I realized I was working so hard on the uphills and having so much fun on the descents, I didn’t fuel properly. I started to get that down feeling of “I really do not want to do this for 8 more miles, I wish we were done at Hike Inn”.
Luckily I have done this enough to know that with a break and some good fuel these feelings normally pass.
And they did.
We got to Hike Inn and I was about to eat the very unappetizing cake they had there for hikers when the cook came out with some fresh baked goodness. The name of my new favorite food in the world is, "epic-ally":
Basically a cross between a (warm) brownie and a (warm) chocolate chip cookie.
Epic food for sure.
I wolfed that down, chased it down with real Sweet Tea and real sugar filled lemonade.
I was now ready to climb Mount Everest.
6-7 miles? That’s it? Cmon, lets do repeats in the ice! Lets do jump squats, and burpees in the mud!
Can you say a bit of a sugar high?
The rest of the run was a blast, it became pretty muddy and slushy and I felt better and better as we got close to the end. Actually gapped Silent Bob (this never happens) and beat him back by about 4 minutes.
The only non cool thing was we decided to run down the road, instead of the trail and/or stairs. This road is about a 25% grade, downhill.
In beat up, wet, muddy shoes.
After 4.5 hours of snow trail running.
Got back to the car and in line with complete and total "epic-ability" of this run, there was an ice cold stream right next to the car to soak my hurting feet in.
It was one of those days I really love. Unique conditions. Ran with others but spent a ton of time alone praying (mostly praying that we wouldn’t get hurt). I did fall 1x but it was so steep going downhill I just reached back, put my hand down and pushed myself back up, and thanking God for such a wonderful day.
Also spent a lot of time focusing on how wonderful it is to have the freedom to do this type of thing.
In perfect timing, we had seen the movie “Sole Survivor” the night before and I was praying for and thanking our men and women in our armed forces for fighting for just that freedom I got to enjoy that day, and every day.
One of the things I have started doing, and did on this run, was when I thank God for some blessing in my life, I dedicate my Rosary to those who do not have that particular blessing (like freedom).
I pray he hears me.
I know on a run like this, I hear him!