My next race (Varmint Half Marathon) is a hilly road race. In the past, I would have chosen a comparable route for my long run this weekend. I usually try to simulate race conditions as closely as possible. This makes me feel like I’m doing everything I can to prepare for the race, both mentally and physically.
And that may be true.
It hasn’t been working very well for me. It has been a long time since I set a PR in the marathon or half marathon distance.
I think I’ve been taking running too seriously.
I’m working on loosening up. Instead of training, I’m just running. That meant instead of finding a long run course that closely matched the Varmint Half Marathon course, I allowed myself to run wherever I wanted to.
And last Saturday morning, that meant a trail run in Shenandoah National Park.
I’d been hoping to get up there in time to see the Rhododendrons in bloom.
I planned to do my favorite Appalachian Trail/Riprap/Wildcat Ridge loop, but the loop is only 9 miles long. I wanted to get in a few more miles than that, so I parked at the Turk Mountain parking area. This turned the run into more of a lollipop than a loop, and upped the total distance to just under 14 miles.
I had forgotten that the Appalachian Trail heading north out of the Turk Mountain parking area climbs quickly and steadily. I was breathing hard (and wondering if I was even more out of shape than I’d thought) for the first mile.
The elevation profile of this run:
After that discouraging first mile, the run turned into more of the ridge running I associate with the AT in SNP (mild, rolling hills). I settled into an easy pace and was relieved to realize that I was actually able to breathe normally when I was on more forgiving terrain.
It was a beautiful morning on the trail.
The valley was still blanketed in fog.
The climb back out of the valley was not easy. I started wondering why I hadn’t jumped into the swimming hole when I’d had the chance. I usually do.
Thankfully, there were plenty more flowers to distract me from the tough climb.
It felt so good to get out there, though!