Monday, May 25, 2020

Run-cation – Day 6 – Whitewater Center

I finished the last day of my 6 day 20 mile challenge on what I consider is my home trails – The Whitewater Center Trails. I could have run any number of trails, and I did think about running somewhere else. However, I felt that I needed to finish it where I enjoy running the most.

Frankly, after going so many other places, I was ready to hit my local trails again.

Today’s run held no surprises, and only a few people were frequenting the WWC. Social distancing was more like social isolation.

I clipped off my fastest 20 miles in 3:26:02 which also surprised me. Over the last couple of days, my quads seemed to be a bit more fatigued. Soreness became way more pronounced during the closing miles.  Then, my quads have weathered quite a few runs so maybe they do have a right to complain about how I treat them.

Being that this was my first run-cation, it provided some extra perspective. When the only things on my daily to-do list are eating, sleeping, and running, life is pretty nice.

I am glad to have wrapped up this challenge on a positive note, and I am looking forward to the rest of the summer. If racing does not pick up, I will have to come up with may own challenges, just like this one.

Challenge yourself first and your friends next,

The Cool Down Runner

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Run-cation – Day 5 – Kings Mt State Park

Last night, I decided to head down to Kings Mt State Park to recreate part of a run that I did a few years ago. This time, I would only be going 20 miles instead of those 45 Labor Day miles. That was indeed a very long day.

Kings Mt State Park is roughly 30 minutes west give or take from Charlotte. They offer a lot trail options some good and some not as good. The trails inside the military portion of the park typically are well maintained. Those outside of it, well, a good weed eater may be needed or perhaps a chainsaw in some spots. Those trails can be overgrown in places. If it were not for the trail markers, I am not sure that I was on the trail.

May be from anticipation or just from tiredness, I was up early this morning. I cruised in to their parking lot around 8:35 this morning. This was a good thing since the weatherman had forecast a temperature close to 90 degrees today.

Today’s run was 9 parts trail run and 1 part obstacle course. Those storms that rolled through Charlotte late this past week did a number on the trees in several places along the trail. I quickly realized that I was not the first through here, however. The path through the fallen trees were somewhat visible. I made every effort to follow the broken limbs.

Along the small creak, the cool air felt awesome during the first hour. Then, the trail meanders away from the branch. Sweat rolled down sides of my face and in to the ever growing beard. I finally gave up on my hat. The heat was just too much to wear it.

My course today took me out by the Kings Mt visitor center and later up the Ridgeline trail to the Boulder Overlook. This was actually the first time that I went up to the overlook. However, I didn’t climb out on it. I will leave that for another day when my legs were not so tired.

All in all, this was a good run. I am noticing that for the first 10 miles my legs have some bounce but over the last 10, the bounce quickly weans.

I have 1 more day in 20 mile 6 day challenge. Wish me luck on the final day of my run-cation.

The Cool Down Runner

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Run-cation - Day 4 – South Mountains State Park

For day 4 of my run-cation, I headed for South Mountains State Park.

When I started this little adventure, I knew that I wanted to run at least one place that I had never visited. I explored several possible locations, and I finally settled on South Mountains State Park. The next thing that I did was pull up park map and looked to see what the possible trails were. I noticed a couple of high points nearing 3k in evaluation. I marked both as places that I wanted to visit during this run. Because I was running a 20 miler, I decided that I would run on the perimeter trails.

South Mountains State Park is about 80 minutes from Charlotte along some beautiful country roads. But it is in the middle of a no cell service zone. As I pulled in to the park, my phone immediately went in to its no service mode. It never returned until I left the park. May be they have a cell phone jammer. Who knows?

I parked in the Equestrian parking lot. Since the trail that I expected to return on ended here. The moment that I stepped out my car, I noticed something different. The air was filled with two scents: wood smoke and Spruce Pine. In fact, I can still smell the Spruce Pine scent on me now.

Being totally unfamiliar with these trails I must have looked lost. I was smart enough to print out a map of the trails and have it with me. This was a huge help because while the trails are marked, they are marked for that location only. There is no map at the junctions to help orient the runner. Often I pulled out my map to affirm that I was still going in the right direction.

From the parking lot, I followed the Turkey Ridge Trail. This was tough because I started climbing almost immediately. I switched over to the Little River Trail which led me back downhill to the Hemlock Nature Trail. I was snaking my way along these interior trails because I wanted to run the Chestnut Knob Trail. This trail leads to the Chestnut Know Trail overlook at 2,291 ft. This trail was the most rugged of all of the trails. Rocks steps, roots, stumps, super narrow off camber trails, and numerous switchbacks were the norm the entire way to the top.

I made a brief stop at the overlook to take in the view. Several people were coming and going so I decided to not linger very long.

From Chestnut Knob, I picked up Sawtooth Trail. Along this trail is where I took this panoramic picture shown above. 

The climb up is a tough but once I was on top, I was mainly running on old washed out fire roads along the ridgeline. I would climb up and down a few hundred feet. Some of the climbs and descents were gentle but others were steep in both directions.

From Sawtooth, I picked up the Upper CCC trail which transitioned to Horse Ridge Trail, then to the Lower CCC trail, to Bern Knob Trail. I was basically running the perimeter of the park at this point. Somewhere along the Bern Knob trail, I passed over the 2,894 ft mark. However, I never saw anything noting this.

In fact, I didn’t even realize that I had transitioned from the Bern Knob trail to the Raven Rock Trail. 

I simply saw a sign saying Raven Rock. This part of the trail is strange. I say strange because I am running along on this old fire road and then, I step out on a paved road about 8 feet wide with a dashed yellow line down the middle. For a moment, I thought I had missed a turn but upon checking my map, I could only conclude that this was part of the trail. Definitely, this section of pavement see no traffic since grass was growing up in the cracks.

This was the hottest section of the entire run. With the trees cut back, I was in total sunlight.

This road must have run for a couple of miles with ugly climbs and nasty downhills. Eventually, the road ended, and I saw a sign saying the Raven Rock Trail. It was all very confusing, and this was another good reason for me having my map.

My plan had been to follow the Raven Rock Trail to Saddleback Trail which led back to where I parked. Unfortunately, this trail was closed which meant I would be taking the long way back to my car. Thus, I followed Raven Rock back to Little River Trail. A long the way, I met several horseback riders. Each time, I slowed to give them plenty of room and not spook the horses.

Once along the Little River Trail, I could feel the coolness of the water. I was hot, tired, and sweaty, and I was ready to be finished.

In time, I made it back to my car. I had run further than expected - 22+ miles in 4 hours and 11 minutes but it was worth it. I got see to see some new sights, and I got to cover some new trails.

After I finished, I walked over to the stream and set down in the cold mountain water. At first, my legs stung from the cold, but once the sensation went away, oh, did it feel good. I just laid there for about 20 minutes. I wish that I could finish every run with a dip in cold mountain stream. 

The South Mountains trails are definitely on my to-do list for going back. There are probably another 20 or so miles of trails that I never got to see. I want to do them too. 

Next time, however, I will have a better idea of where I am running. I suspect that I will still need a map, however.

PS, today’s miles were recorded by my iPhone. When I pulled out of my driveway, something in the back of my mind told me that I was forgetting something. Half way to the park, I realized what it was – my Garmin. I assume that my phone was roughly accurate. I included the screen shot above. Tomorrow, I will be back on my Garmin.

The Cool Down Runner    

Run-cation - Day 3 – Latta Plantation Nature Park Trails

For day 3 of my run-cation, I headed to Latta Plantation Nature Park for some miles. Honestly, I am not sure why I don’t run here more. These trails are less than 5 miles from my house. However, I have not run on them in more than say 3 or 4 years.

I started with the Shady Trail and headed toward the western side of the park. I picked up a few of their hiking trails down by the water. But with the recent rain, some sections of the trail were flooded. I had to do some inline trekking to get around the flooded areas.

Coming back on the other side of the road, I picked up the Catawba and Buzzard Rock Trails. Buzzard Rock does give a nice of the lake, but there is another view which is even better. I picked up a couple more hiking trails before back tracking along the some of the trails. Then, I ran the Shady Trail in reverse back to parking lot.

With nearly 13 miles in the books, I headed out along the Hill trail. A long the way, I picked up the Split Rock Trail. Then I moved to the Cove Trail. Toward the midpoint of the Cove Trail, there is a short path out to the water. This little extension is work the extra run because the water's edge gives a much better view of lake. I wish I had my camera.

As I was looping around the backside of the Cove Trail, I was lost in thought. Then, a noise registered in the back of mind which brought my attention front and center. I was trying to reconcile what I was hearing. Someone seemed to be singing. Was I really hearing this correctly? I rounded the bend in the trail, and here was another runner coming toward me singing. I wasn’t going crazy. He was truly singing. I didn’t recognize the song but I did remember his flaming red hair.

After passing him, the rest of my run was uneventful. But I couldn’t help but smile. In my many years of running, I don’t recall ever seeing another runner singing. That is, they were singing while running. That’s something that I don’t have the wind to do.

Changing shoes back my car, I heard a familiar sound coming in the distance. He was coming back in to the parking lot, and he was still singing. As I drove away, I wondered how much faster that he could run if wasn’t singing. Guess, I will never know.

The Cool Down Runner    

Friday, May 22, 2020

Run-cation - Day 2 – Crowders' Mt Trails

For day 2 of my run-cation, I headed down to Crowders Mt. Crowders’ is always good for some climbing but I didn’t know what would be open given our Governor’s new orders.

From the signs, nothing appeared to have changed since my visit two weeks ago. The parking lot was empty not that I expected it to be crowded. Heavy rains were forecast to fall all day so I was likely to be the only idiot on the trails.

They have mapped out a loop for people to walk which goes up the Pinnacle trail to the Turnback trail which returns back to the parking. This is about a 2.2 mile loop.

As I was going up along the Pinnacle trail, I noticed that they left trail leading over to the camp grounds open. With camping currently not being allowed, I assumed that they were still allowing people to stroll the trails and gravel road. This was fortunate for me. I wondered down in to this section last year, and I figured that this would give me an opportunity to grab some extra mileage before heading off on the Crowders’ Mt trail.

Unlike yesterday, the rain was already falling when I left my car. In some places, the water would like a torrent coming down the mountain. Dry little branches were now streams with water heading from the high spots to the low spots.

I circled the camp ground road and popped out along the power line. I guess when they built the power line years ago, this road was left over. I don’t know if anyone else ever uses it but I do. This little section adds about 3 miles out and back. It is not well maintained so footing isn’t the best. However, social distancing isn’t a problem either.

Instead of going over the rocks on the Pinnacle trail, I went around them. This was a big mistake. The footing was terrible and made worse the deluge of rain falling. The Turnback trail was flooded in several spots so grabbing the edges was my only choice to pass through.

When I reached the parking lot to end the loop, I quickly turned around and headed the opposite direction. I did not want to give myself too long to think about it.

Back up Turnback and down Pinnacle, this time through the rocks was uneventful. I only saw one other soaked hiker.

I made the hard left and headed toward Crowders’ Mt. I knew that Tower and Backside trails were partially open so I planned on running some repeats if necessary to fill out my 20 miler.

The rocks were slick so I was treading carefully. When I popped out on the from the Crowders’ trail to the Backside trail, I saw the barricades instructing hikers to not proceed to the top. I touched the barrier and headed down Backside to Tower. Then, I ran up Tower to where it intersects with Rock Top. Here, the rangers also had a barricade. I touched it and headed back down. Now, I had a pretty good idea of where I could run. I could run from barrier to barrier which would give me some good climbing.

On the way down Tower, I met a Park Ranger driving up. I suspect that he was wondering what kind of fool would be out in this weather running. Honestly, I was envious of his nice warm truck.

I touched the Backside barrier for the 2nd time and started my second repeat. On the climb back up Tower, I met Park Ranger coming down. He said nothing to me. I guess that he was leaving me to suffer in silence.

Rounding the turn at the Rock Top, I suddenly realize that the barricade was gone along with the signs. Apparently, Crowders Mt is now fully open for business. I couldn’t resist the temptation. I pushed on to the top. I was likely going to be the first person to stand atop Crowders in several months. Some things are just too enticing to fight back. .

Of course, the view was lost in the white fluffy clouds so in my big moment, I couldn't see anything. The rain was still falling so I only indulged myself for a second or two. Time to head back down the trail and finish up this run.

All told, I only saw 4 people during the entire run. Everyone looked pretty much liked I did – soaked.

Tomorrow, I am off to Latta Plantation for some miles.

The Cool Down Runner