So with that in mind, I decided last weekend was THE weekend. The weekend to start back up. I made plans with my friend Sarah to meet up Sunday morning for a 20-miler at Clinton Lake. I've spent a lot of time at the smooth, fast River Trails lately. Far too much time actually. The advantages of running the River Trails are:
- Fairly non-technical. You can keep a decent pace and get your run knocked out quickly. In contrast, Clinton Lake is quite technical with lots of rocks, roots and hills.
- Close to home. Clinton Lake is about 7 miles away, so it's kind of a waste to drive out there for a short run.
- Good drainage at the river. The trails at the lake can get very muddy, especially in the spring time. Last year was especially challenging, due to the large amount of snow we got in the winter. Recently however, the Kansas Trails Council added a great deal of armoring to the normally soggy sections and it has helped a ton!
- Non-technical. I know I already referred to this as an advantage but well...it can get a little boring when you're not challenged much. In addition, very few trail races are on trails this smooth. My reflexes and ankle strength seem to have deteriorated a bit due to my months-long hiatus from the lake.
- Short on length. A full loop of the river trail is only 9 miles. Loops get boring. A full loop at the lake is 23 miles. And the scenery is constantly changing.
Well it was the perfect time to get back to the lake! It was in the mid-30's for our run. My favorite temps for running. And the trail was nice and dry. We started out at 7am and after the first mile we had both warmed up quite a bit. So I stopped to take off my jacket and my brand new glove/mittens, bungied them into my Nathan pack and put on my thin liner gloves. I'm getting pretty good at having the right gear on hand at all times. The quirks of a runner I guess. I actually keep headlamps in my purse all the time. What kind of odd things do you keep in YOUR purse?
The rest of the run was just wonderful. I probably wasted a lot of time stopping to look at things, but I was just having too much fun. It felt like I was on vacation! I would look down and see some cool bird feathers with bright orange accents and point them out to Sarah. I'm sure by the fifth time I pointed out bird feathers she was thinking, "Enough already!" All along the way, I stayed fueled with the energy balls Sarah made at home. They are sooo good. Made with dates, figs, and apricots. I think there was some yummy coconut in there too which provided a nice texture. We were a little nervous at times, because we kept hearing what sounded like gun shots. And to my knowledge hunting is not allowed in the park, so I can only assume someone was hunting on nearby public land. I was wishing I had worn a bright orange shirt instead of my all-black ninja-esque getup. At least I wasn't wearing a white fluffy tail. The good news is, we never got shot!
On our way back to the trail head we spotted a big bird, which I thought might be a hawk, because I'm not good at identifying birds. I commented that I wish our friend Kristi was there to tell us what it was and to identify all the feathers we kept seeing. Not a minute later, we came across Mike Goodwin (president of the Kansas Trails Council) hiking the trail. We greeted him and he asked if we had seen the baby eagle fly by. Well that answered our question in a timely manner. We saw a baby eagle! Pretty big for a baby! I asked him about the next trail maintenance day and he said it would be sometime after the new year. I forget what it would involve. Something about a water crossing maybe?? Anyway, sounds like a fun project for January!
We did a bit more walking toward the end, but I didn't feel totally exhausted or unbearably sore. We finished up in about 4 hours and 45 minutes, which I was pleased with--taking into account eating breaks, staring-at-birds-and-feathers breaks and the challenging nature of the trail. I mean, if I'm really bookin' it, I can maintain a 5mph pace for about 10 miles out there. And I don't think of myself as a slow runner. This trail just takes it out of you.
After the run, I grabbed a Jimmy John's sammy, went home, ate, showered, planned on doing stuff around the house, but ended up just conking out. The effects of the long run hit me like a sledge hammer. I didn't mind. I got in a great nap, anyway! I did not envy Sarah, who went home, took a shower, then had company over to bake cookies all afternoon. Zzzzzz. I don't know how she does it all, AND wrangles a 2 year old.
Well, I can definitely say that I was excited about my first weekend back at distance training. Ask me what I think about it in a couple months when I'm doing back-to-backs.