This is a photograph of the stream that runs through park of Ravensburg State Park in Pennsylvania. There are a lot of trees both standing, falling, and from the looks of it in the process of falling.
One of our friends decided we should take on the Mt. Tom Challenge instead of our regularly scheduled local trail run. So at the last minute the night before the event we decided that was just what we would do.
The Mt. Tom Challenge consists of going straight up a mountain. Then going around and down the other side. And you do this as many times as you can in two hours. There is no warm up to the incline. You immediately start going up the mountain as soon as the race starts.
You quickly discover that most likely this is nothing like anything you have done before. Well, at least thats what I discovered. The incline is a climb of 1100 feet over a distance of .8 miles. Someone good at math figure out what the angle of that ascent would be.
Once you get to the top you head down this very brief but flat trail. It was so nice to be on flat ground again. No more climbing. Each lat is about 2.5 miles. So once you get to the top you still have over a mile to go to get back to the bottom and start again.
As you leave the flat land you come to this nice depression that was filled with snow. I couldn’t resist stopping to take a photograph here. It was such a nice spot.
The uphill climb was snow-less. Thankfully for me as my trail shoes are virtually bald. I never would have been able to get up a slick snowy slope. On the way down it was a different story. It was muddy in spots and there was varying amounts of snow. The snow could be just a dusting, to half frozen/half melted ice, to ankle deep or more amounts of snow. It was pretty tricky for me picking a route down the mountain and watching my footing. Trying to figure out where I would have the best traction. I was constantly varying my speed and stride to maintain control on the way down. And it almost worked too. At one point on my way down I over stridded and my front foot slide out in front of me and I went down. I basically sat down on my back leg bent right under my butt. I slid down the slop a little on a frozen hard snow that felt more like gravel and cut up my knee a little bit. But I was able to bounce back up and continue running. No real injury, thankfully. As I was getting close to completing my race I stepped in a thick mud hole and lost my show. As I was going downhill I ended up taking about three shoe-less steps downhill in the mud and then I had to walk back through the mud to retrieve it. (Check out my Instagram for that photo.)
When I looked at what the incline was like I was nervous I wouldn’t even be able to complete one lap. So I was very happy with the two laps I was able to complete. I completed my first lap in around 45 minutes and my second lap in about an hour and a half. I could have went for a third lap but I just didn’t have it in me mentally to go back up that hill a third time. Plus I was battling a cold, so that didn’t help. Maybe if I do this event again my goal will be three laps. It was a great but challenging event. Check out the Tyoga Running Club and the Mt. Tom Challenge.
Last night I set a running challenge for myself to complete this morning. I had no specific goals in mind regarding pace or anything. I had one simple target. Finish the run and, spoiler alert, I did. I finished one of my most challenging runs to date.
I have been wanting to start running more trail runs and run distances of half marathon or a little more. My biggest challenge has been figuring out runs that would allow me to stay in shape for those type of events. A friend suggested I run from my house to a nearby nature preserve, Plymouth Woods.
For some people that might not sound too bad, but for me it is a little different. I live nearly at the top of a 1500+ ft high hill. I am not good at hills and have relatively little experience running them. Earlier this year for the first time I ran down my hill and then right back up. But on that run I did not add any more mileage than just down the hill and back up, plus that run was on the less steep side of the hill.
Today I ran down the steepest side of the hill. I ran down the hill and out along the highway and reached the nature preserve at just short of 5 miles. I felt pretty tired on this first part. Surprisingly so. But once I started on those trails I felt so much better. There is just something about getting out in nature. Those leaves crunching under your feet. Alone except the mammoth trees towering over head. These are the things that propel me.
I used that energy to hit all the trails available at Plymouth Woods. The Red Trail, The Blue Trail, The Orange Trail, and Another loop on Red. It was a tough hilly run but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I wasn’t fast, but that wasn’t the goal. The goal was to get out for a run and enjoy myself and just see what I could do. While I was at Plymouth the weather started to turn against me. I am pretty sure I was being pelted with ice pellets at one point.
I left Plymouth woods and headed back down the highway towards home and the hill that lie ahead. The way back was a little down hill so I actually achieved a decent pace for me. But the whole way back I was consumed of thoughts of the hill that loomed ahead of me.
I got to the bottom of Combs Hill Rd felling pretty good, but I knew I could never run up that slope. So I didn’t and I didn’t feel bad about it. I did the best I could so that I could cover the rest of the distance to get back home once I got to the top. If I had tried to run I would likely have ended up just slowly walking the last mile or two back home and I was not having that. I wanted to have something left in the tank to get me home. It did not help that the weather was turning or it was just getting colder due to the increased elevation, but it was getting windy and cold. But I pushed on. It actually helped to motivate me to run. It was too cold to walk.
When I got back home I wasn’t quite to 12 miles so I actually ran past my house and then back to it so I could get to 12. I was hoping the run would be closer to 13 miles but it wasn’t quite as long as I thought it would be. Maybe I will add another loop in the woods next time.
I got back and I was exhausted. My legs were wobbly and sore. I walked more than I would have liked, particularly after surmounting Combs hill on the way back, but I made it. I achieved my goal. I challenged myself and I pushed myself and I did it. This is why I love running. I can challenge myself. I can test my limits and I can learn about myself and I can adapt and get stronger. Now, what is the next challenge…..
Check out the profile of this run on Garmin Connect.
This is the view from Middle Sugarloaf in New Hampshire.
I recently captured this photograph of my niece on a photo shoot I did for their family.
We recently took a trip up to the Adirondacks and 1000 Island Regions of New York. I just wanted to take a moment to share a few photos from that trip. I will likely have a longer post with more photos to share soon. Enjoy these photos until then.