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Trail Running Boot Camp...the 16 ...

Posted Jun 13 2009 12:00am

Trail Running Boot Camp...the 16 Mile Initiation

I was very excited about this, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit to threads of trepidation and negative self-talk reels playing through my head. My stomach was a mess yesterday and wasn't certain if it was the overeating at Hibachi Japan Friday night that was to blame, or the 10k yesterday or a combination of factors. My I-T bands have been feeling weird--not outright flaring, but giving me warning that a full fledged flare-up might be in the imminent future. Still...I tried to push these negative thoughts to an used portion of my brain (lots of empty space available) and just look forward to an adventure.

Kurt and Jim were already at Pine Lane when I pulled in. I showed them the geekoid square fanny pack thing I pilfered at my neighbors garage sale for 50 cents. I'm not sure what the original intent of this thing was supposed to be--possibly a CD holder--but it has 4 separate zippered pockets for stashing stuff. I could fit Shot Blocks, a power bar, the ultra slim camera, my cell phone, and toileting accoutrements for any continuation of yesterday's gastrointestinal display. I felt as prepared as a girl scout. I didn't think I was going to like running with this thing around my waist, but I need my stuff. I had a full 20 ounce bottle of Gatorade ready to go, but Kurt informed me that its going to be 12 miles before we can fill up at Boston Store, so he advised I run carrying two bottles. Fortunately, I had another bottle of Gatorade in the car. It was still humid and cool, but it was going to steam up today.

Once Debi and Maria showed up, we piled in Kurt's car to drive to the start of the Buckeye 50K-Oak Grove trail head in the Brecksville Reservation. We were doing a point to point run--essentially covering a little over half the distance of the Buckeye 50K trail course. There was a group of approximately 15 veteran trail runners amassed as part of the Vertical Runner training group. I recognized another face from the Blogger circuit--Chef Bill Bailey. I knew we wouldn't see them 30 seconds after starting, blazing off into the woods like a pack of wolves. I realistically knew we would be DFL and I was happy as a clam. I was so excited to run 16 miles of the beautiful Buckeye Trail. I felt myself on the brink of a new running dimension of insanity. Now...I'm really crossing the line, but I couldn't stop smiling.

It took a few miles for me to get in that trail running mode where you have to closely coordinate your eyes with hopping over trail roots. I think I tripped no fewer than 10 times on today's run...had several near ankle rolls, but I managed to stay upright today. Now...about mile 5 an odd thing occurred: we hadn't seen a single soul, when a pack of trail runners were quickly approaching us from behind. It was part of the Vertical Runner group! How the heck did they get back there? Are these trail running cheetahs coming back for a second pass? Are they human? Actually, they had taken a wrong turn on one of the many feeder bridal paths that connect to the Buckeye Trail. I feel the Buckeye Trail is very well marked with its characteristic blue blazes, but it can get dubious at times as to where the heck you're supposed to go.
We were going so darned slow that they could go a few miles out of their way and still catch up to us! Then...as quickly as they appeared, they were gone like apparitions in the night. I'm so glad Kurt, Maria, Jim and I were sticking together. The Buckeye Trail is a bitch of a beauty, but we had to save our strength by walking the monster hills. Let me take that back...at this point Kurt blazed ahead of us and we didn't see him again until mile 12 of Boston Store.

I was starting to worry about big Jim about 9 miles into the run. He's done trail running before, but none yet this summer. He's a huge dude; he reminds me of a trail running rhino. I enjoy having Jim along--he's always pleasant, but quiet usually, and I just feel better having this quiet behemoth of a man with us on the trail. He could just sling any one of girls over his shoulders if, God forbid, we met with disaster. He was sweating absolute sheets of water. He was running in swim trunks, which was a good call since he looked like he just walked out of the river. He ran yesterday's race--he pushed himself and finished in a speedy 44 minutes. He only had one bottle of water with him. I knew a guy that big and a heavy sweater to boot was going to need more. He was starting to complain about his legs, and he just usually doesn't do this. I felt very well hydrated. I offered him my Gatorade and he downed it in a second. Wow!!

We were so glad to see Boston Store. Debi had some cleaning up to do cause she took a spill on the trail. Now...does a Debi make a sound in the woods when no one is there to hear it? No...she doesn't. Amazingly, she falls, doesn't make a peep, gets up and keeps on going. Most of the run Jim, Debi, and I stayed within sight of one another, but the one time she fell behind, and we didn't know it--she takes a stumble with no one to help her! I felt bad. She was OK, because she's tough as nails, but I felt we needed to do better staying together. Heck, if I fall on the trail you are damned well going to know about it, and if no one comes to my aid immediately, I will be despondent the rest of the day! Running karma was with both Kurt and Maria today...they went ahead at times, but Jim, Debi, and I stuck together for the duration. Debi felt bad that Jim was sticking behind with the girls. But then, I thought, "Well, why the heck would he want to barrel ahead with Kurt when he's got all his bases covered by running with a blond, brunette, and a redhead?" Jim was sticking with the girls! We almost have him girl peer-pressured into tackling the 50K with us. We were doing over half the distance today. We aren't trying to break any time goals. He might just sign up.

We took our good ole time at Boston Store filling up our bottles, stretching, and chatting with a few other runners.
I think the next section from Boston Store to Pine Lane is my favorite section of trail. Maybe because its more familiar territory. We had run this section last winter--was really our first heavy duty trail running exploit, so maybe I was charged with sentimentality and familiarity for the duration of our run. We goofed off plenty taking pictures at various photographic opportunities.
I love this one of Jim and Debi running through the the root bound obstacle course of Pine Lane, where you run through a long stand of pine trees planted years ago by a girl scout troupe. The roots formed a tortuous labyrinth of trail running fun! We were 14 miles into our run and it gets a little tricky lifting the feet high enough over roots sticking 3 inches out of the ground! I think I have only one minor complaint about trail running. The scenery is absolutely breathtaking, but you can't take your eyes off the trail for a second! It definitely keeps the runner busy, where zoning out isn't an option.

Finally the end! I was thrilled. I felt much better than I expected. I think my I-T band was grateful for the soft terrain and the working of all those different muscles running this up and down coaster-like terrain. It's an oxy-moron, really, that trail running is so much more gentle on the body. What a fabulous run. Kurt passed out congratulatory salt tablets, then we all had to rush off for afternoon commitments. I came home and took my first ice bath! I filled the bathtub with 3 inches of water and poured in a bucket of ice. This idea is intolerable to me in the winter, but I could wrap my mind around now that its 85 degrees. It felt phenomenal. I'm still a little stunned I went that far and feel so good. I've met my fears concerning this race...I know we could do it now!
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