GEAR & SUPPLIES:
Through the connector trails that bring runners and hikers from Georgetown-Rowley State Forest to the Hood Pond trails I was loving the Springtime weather, and it is clear that Mother Nature is in labor, getting ready to give birth to the new season. Although, as I came around a corner I saw old man winter's claws still gripping in - damn, should have brought the Kahtoolas! :-)
Through the Hood Pond section of the Bay Circuit Trail, and across Route 1, I arrived at the entrance to Willowdale's Pine Swamp section:
I never ever enjoy this section of trail from Route 1 to the tree line on the East side of Pine Swamp because it reminds me of a horror movie. Dead pines and lots of mud, nothing romantic here. It is rumored that this section of trail made Nathaniel Hawthrone throw up his salt cod back in the early 19th Century... alright, maybe not. But it could have happened. :-) Another delight this short section beholds is a rickety foot bridge constantly tormented by a colony of beavers that have clearly been busy building their lodge this young Spring:
The lookout saw me and darted into the water for safety. I looked at the bridge and thought, "Eh, what the hell". I made it to the other side and thanked my good karma, especially after a section of bridge began submerging with my initial steps:
Into Willowdale proper, I looked at my Garmin and saw I hadn't quite been at it for an hour. Kept cruising along. Was just overwhelmed with how great the day had been. I gave no notice of mileage or pace, just wanted to cruise along. I really have to thank Nipmuck Dave in this respect because I barely talked with him during the group run at the Fells three weeks ago (he was cruising over the terrain as I was crawling my way over the rocks), but I learned a very important lesson by watching his gait. It almost looks like a shuffle, but is effective in avoiding most rocks or roots. It seemed like he was barely lifting his knees, but he was moving quick. I think this really helped me during the first half of this run because I expended far less energy on flats and descents using this faux-shuffle style. Thanks Dave!
I have to admit, Willowdale looked so different in the Sunny Afternoon and I got slightly lost, but relied on the compass on the GPS to move in the general direction I knew I should have been going. Eventually I picked up the Bay Circuit again, and the bridge over the Ipswich River - into Bradley Palmer State Park:
(Over the Ipswich)I lost the trail first thing into Bradley Palmer, and I was a little unsure about sticking with the BCT while there, not really knowing anything about the conditions and terrain. Realizing I didn't have any better ideas, I found the next white blaze and ambled on. The recently consumed power bar started to provide a little bit of a lift, which was good because I found myself ascending Moon Hill. Arriving at the top one enters an open field which instantly reminded me of a scene where there should be some large modern art sculpture prepared for a Pink Floyd video - Boy I hope this isn't where I hit the wall!:
Following the perimeter of the field I eventually caught back up with the Bay Circuit, going up and over Blueberry Hill. After descending Blueberry Hill I found myself lost again, encountering what appeared to be a trail covered in grass, but was actually a quagmire of mud and standing water. I splish-sploshed my way to the end of the bog, finding one of the access roads that go through Bradley Palmer. I was not agreeable to heading further up the boggy trail and really wanted to find the BCT again. Following the Access Road for a little jaunt I noticed I was at 1 hour, 40 minutes OUT. I felt pretty good, yet I could hear the lyrics from one of the songs by a new band I really like, Hey Rosetta!: "Ambition Give Me Wings, Ambition Break My Legs". I decided running for another 5 minutes would get me close to 3:30 for the run, which is essentially what I did at the Fells, so no harm, right?
Well kids, I noticed I was pretty close to 10 miles out and thought there was no harm in running 20 miles, right? 1:45 turned to 1:50, and then the BCT spit me out on an unfamiliar local road. At this point I saw that I still hadn't eclipsed 10 miles yet, and followed the road for as long as it would take to get that 10.
Here's where I arrived:
(South Entrance, Bradley Palmer S.P.)
(Cool 'Castle Gate' to the Park)
About a quarter mile into the park I finally hit 10 miles and promptly turned around to head for home - I guess this means I am now committed! This is where the torment really started to seep in. I was hydrating like crazy, and I purposefully removed the Bladder from the HPL to see where I was regarding fluid. It appears I only actually took in 20-24 ounces over the first 1:45 of the run, which may have contributed to what follows.
Out of Bradley Palmer, and down the road, I came across the sign for the Pingree School where I initially met Breakheart Dan and kZ:
(Sorry, I snapped it as I was running - no time to stop, I need to get home!)
Having eclipsed the 2-hour barrier I reached in and grabbed the Ibuprofen I was keeping. I had been feeling some discomfort in the legs, but I am not sure if it was IT related, or just the extended, unwanted time on the pavement. The payoff was great because for the remainder of the run I didn't have any IT Band issues. The compression strap was great, I loosed it a little before it had a chance to kill my hamstring, and the Ibuprofen allegedly alleviated any inflammation - that test was a success! What was not a success was the consumption of a Clif Bar at two hours. I had to choke it down in small bits and it really turned my stomach over. It only amplified the discomfort the Gatorade was clearly causing me. I didn't hurl, but boy it seemed like one of those times when yakking vs. not yakking would be the way to go. Wow, a lesson learned from earlier days of irresponsible consumption of alcohol, wonders never cease!
I quickly fell apart at about 2:20. It wasn't good. I easily took all five minutes of a walking break early, and then ascended Blueberry Hill, which just about made me decide to call it a day at the Fishing Bridge and call the wife for extraction. Back into the Pink Floydian pasture - no High Hopes, just Brain Damage... "The Lunatic is on the Grass... Got to keep the Luners on the path", indeed. I thought I was hallucinating when I saw a baby carriage coming toward me on the perimeter path, but it was a couple that was dreadfully lost. I got a little break here giving them directions ( I hope I was coherent!), and mercifully headed DOWN Moon Hill, wooooo hooo!
Across the Fishing Bridge and back into Willowdale, which is NOT a kind place when you are running the main trails in a clockwise direction. Whatever I had left was taken here, and the last 80 minutes were completed on pure grit, honestly. At this point the 30-5 run walk strategy was out the window. I ran as long as I could, and walked when I had to. I made haste on the flats and descents, and arrived back at Beaver Dam Bridge. It dawned on me that I only had an hour of time left, you can see it did nothing for my spirit:
(Look Mom, I am worn down to the core! This is a fun ride! Zombie Runner for sure!)
About a half second after this picture I took a digger into a log and a mud puddle, good times! Talk about beating a guy when he is down! It actually sort of cracked me up!
I continued to try to work the flats and the downhills, but even the flats were not going well with movement. I just felt that primal need for "relentless forward motion", as they say in the Ironman Triathlon circles.
Amid my crapulence I was treated to another cool critter appearance! One sure sign of the arrival of spring is hearing the chorus of the 'Pseudacris crucifer' or as we call them here in New England, the Spring Peep-ahs! (Volume might be a little sketchy as the TrailCam has a crappy Mic.):
I exited the BCT and was back on the roads again. Everything hurt and I could feel that my shoes had clay and mud inside. It was really pissing me off, but at this point I knew if I stopped to do maintenance on the shoes I might not get going again. I was basically employing a run .2 of a mile, walk .1 of a mile strategy. Running longer if I could. Eventually I hit the 20 mile mark, and then kept going to get 4 hours, I figured it was only right.
Wanna see what four hour feet look like...? Please also take care an notice the new personal champion of blood blisters on the right foot. The thing was easily the size of a large green grape. I was so proud.
All being told I covered 20.6 miles over 4:00:39 (11:40 pace). When I uploaded the data to MotionBased I got: 21.72 miles, Moving Time: 4:08:46 (11:27 pace), Total: 4:26:19 (12:15 pace).
Either way this was a most excellent adventure, and a good butt-kicking for me. I pushed myself past that safe place and left everything out on the trail. I honestly think more training on the roads would chew me up and spit me out, which makes me wonder, do I become one of those runners that sticks to the trails? It makes no sense to me that I can run for four hours on trails, but basic road mileage is more of a test to the system. I feel like I have a long way to go still, but doing these types of training runs can only help. I also wonder if consuming S-Caps or a more specialized Sports Drink like Succeed would help with the stomach issues and the overall quality of the run. I spaced the fluid properly, running out with a mile to go, but was it the wrong fluid? More experiments are needed, for sure.
Still debating whether or not I'll be running the Merrimack 10 miler next weekend, but after this run I am definitely encouraged! Plus it looks like there will be trail friends there too!
I am left wondering if there is anything better than a 4 hour jaunt over the countryside on a beautiful spring afternoon and evening to cure what ails you? I think not! :-)
Happy Trails Everyone!