Seen on the run (March 16, 2019)

Sugar Hollow loop

Just me.

The CAT 50k training run was on Dick Woods road today. I’d had enough of roads and really wanted to get back into the mountains. Brian hurt his knee on our long run last weekend, so I was on my own.

There were two cars and three guys in the parking lot when I got there. I couldn’t tell what they were doing. Fishing, probably.

I didn’t see another soul for the entire 18 miles and 4+ hours that I was out there. Crazy. And a little spooky. It’s so weird that Skyline Drive has been closed for pretty much the entire winter.

It started out chilly, but not too bad. The river crossings were knee-deep at most. But as I climbed up to Skyline Drive the wind picked up. It was really whipping up on the ridge and bitterly cold.

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The trail was relatively clear until the last two miles of the Appalachian Trail, where there were many blowdowns. Turk Branch trail was even worse. Lots of downed trees and leaves and sticks in the trail. I tripped on so many loose sticks!

IMG_20190316_111315186_HDRIt felt like a completely different day when I turned onto the Turk Branch trail, though. Sheltered from the wind, I could really feel the sun. It felt about 40 degrees warmer than it had up on the ridge. I stopped and sat on a fallen tree and took my shoes off to apply some lube to my big toes because my new socks were giving me blisters. The run so far had been hard and cold and sitting in the warm sun felt so good. It was the happiest I’d felt all morning, so I took a minute to enjoy it before I headed down the trail.

I can’t say I felt very strong today, but it was definitely nice to be in the mountains with no snow on the ground.

I’m looking forward to spring.

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Seen on the run (March 9, 2019)

Jarmans (times two) and an out and back on Skyline Drive

The CAT 50k training run was at Three Ridges again. Brian and I were planning to do it. But the snow we got last night made me reconsider. That run had been challenging enough with the little bit of snow and ice we encountered last time. With several inches of snow it would be a very slow hike for me. I didn’t want people waiting around for me and a slow hike really isn’t going to do a whole lot for me as far as training goes.

Brian didn’t like the 7am start time for the group run, so he was more than happy to skip it.

I was not happy about the snow, but there was no denying that it was beautiful. I would have loved it in December or January.

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Our back-up plan was to run up Jarmans to the AT and then do a loop using the South Fork Mormon’s River and Turk Branch trails. But by the time we reached the top of Jarmans we were running in a couple of inches of snow.

The snow-covered rocks on the AT were treacherous. There was no way we were going to attempt to run 12 miles on that.

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At first glance, I didn’t think we’d be able to run on Skyline Drive either. It was icy at Jarmans gap, but it ended up being mostly snow-covered.

I thought running on Skyline Drive when it was covered in snow and closed to traffic was pretty cool. Brian was less enthused, but he did admit it was better than running down and up Jarmans two more times.

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We encountered some fresh looking bear tracks and followed them until they turned off into the woods. There were a couple drops of blood in some of the tracks. The fog rolled in and out as we were running and it was a little eerie when it was really thick.

We had followed another runner up Jarmans the first time. He turned around at the top when we continued on towards the AT and Skyline Drive. He was at the top of Jarmans again when we returned. He had just finished his third climb. He and Brian ran down together. I quickly fell behind. That first mile was slippery and steep.

The guy stayed ahead of us on his fourth (and our second) climb back up Jarmans. I contemplated turning around early just to avoid having to run down that last steep and slippery section. That would mean I’d have to backtrack somewhere near the bottom in order to get our scheduled 18 miles in, though.

The closer I got to the top, the less appealing that option became. It was mentally much easier just to get to the top and know that when I turned around, all I would have to do is run back to the car.

Plus it wouldn’t have been quite as satisfying if I couldn’t say I climbed Jarmans twice.

This was not an easy run and I’m pretty proud of us for managing to get all our miles in with such challenging conditions.

There are so many adventures with winter running!

I’m ready for spring.

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Seen on the run (March 2, 2019)

Sugar Hollow to just beyond Blackrock and back with the CAT 50k training group.

The temperature didn’t feel too bad when we started out, but that first river crossing was so cold it hurt.

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Photo credit: Pete O’Shea

The trees became more and more ice-covered as we climbed to Skyline Drive.

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IMG_20190302_090121331_HDR.jpgOnce we were on the AT and climbing toward Blackrock, the ice was so thick and heavy that the trees were bent over and blocking the trail.

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We got on a forest service road that paralleled the AT, which was more passable.

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The icy trees were so beautiful.

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IMG_20190302_092843555_HDRThe rocks on Blackrock summit were coated with ice, which made descending the other side towards Trayfoot mountain rather treacherous. Luckily it was only for a short stretch.

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Photo credit: Brian Hapeman

But the trail once again became just a bushwhack through heavy branches, so we decided to turn around a little early.

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On our way back down, the ice was melting and raining down on us. Some of the bigger chunks of ice really hurt! Particularly when they hit you in the face. The fallen ice was several inches deep on the trail in some places.

We ended up a little short of our 16 mile goal, but it was a fun adventure.

Seen on the run (February 23, 2019)

Fox Mountain Loop with the CAT 50k training group.

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Photo credit: David Smith

Skyline Drive is closed and all of our usual trails are sloppy with mud or flooded. It’s been a crappy, wet-weather year.

Did I tell you how grateful I am for these CAT 50k training runs?

I actually had quite a bit of fun this morning considering we ran 17 miles on roads in the freezing rain.

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Photo credit: David Smith

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Seen on the run (February 16, 2019)

CAT 50k training group run on the Mau Har/Three Ridges loop.

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Photo credit: Amanda Blondeau

Cold hard pellets of ice rained down on us as we set out on the trail this morning. We climbed steadily and it wasn’t long before the ground was covered.

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The temperature felt relatively comfortable until we neared the top. The wind up on the ridge was bitter and the ice-covered trail was really slippery.

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It warmed up and got more slushy and less slick as we headed down the other side. The trail was still really rocky and technical though, so it was slow going for me.

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We met several hikers and one runner headed in the other direction. More people than I would have expected  considering the weather.

It really wasn’t that bad, though. We had a nice group of runners and the views were stunning. The weather just made things a little more interesting.

I’m grateful for these CAT training group runs. They make getting out for winter long runs so much easier.

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Brian came back from Detroit with another cold. So he stayed home with Molly who has an abscessed anal gland in addition to the UTI. The poor little thing has to wear a cone of shame until it heals.

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Seen on the run (February 9, 2019)

The 50k Training Group run was in Charlottesville this week. We started at Barracks Road Shopping Center.

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Photo credit: Sophie Speidel

As we were heading over to join the group, I heard this week’s group leader (Sophie Speidel) saying those dreaded words that never fail to make me sweat, “I’m going to have everyone go around in a circle…”

It was fairly painless though. I only had to say my name and which race I’m training for. Two words. No “tell us something interesting about yourself” or anything open-ended and terrifying like that.

She also had the faster runners stop and wait for the rest of the group at intersections, which is not something that we’ve done on these training runs thus far. It made it feel more like a group run and was kind of nice, although I’m glad we don’t do it every week. It probably would have frustrated me if I was one of the faster runners and had to wait for a really long time. It was too cold to be not moving for long. Plus I’m a little impatient and generally don’t like to stop a lot during my runs. I’m closer to the back though, so the wait was never very long for me.

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Photo credit: Sophie Speidel

We ran through Foxhaven Farms, which was new to me. We just ran the perimeter of several fields, but it was pretty.

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Most everyone added a section of the O’hill trails towards the end of the run, but I was getting very anxious to get home to check on our sweet Molly who has a UTI and has been feeling terrible.

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So we opted out and just returned to Barracks Road the way we’d come, on the Rivanna Trail.

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That also meant we missed having coffee with everyone at Greenberry’s afterward. My feelings were mixed about that. Equal parts disappointment and relief. Talking to people is stressful.

Coffee is good, though. And as hard as it is to socialize, I know it’s good for me to make an effort.

Molly was fine when we got home. Or, not any worse than when we left her anyway. I really hope the medicine starts working soon. I can’t stand to see her sick.