Sunday, June 15, 2008

Fell running, ticks, and the turtle

Yesterday I was introduced to "fell" running. This is apparently when you just run over hill and dale over no distinguishable trail, but where you make the trail. I experienced this with Ian and Chuck, when we met Saturday morning at Bradbury Mountain State Park. The run started normally enough at 6 AM and started out on the nice tame trails of Bradbury. Soon, under Ian's compass heading, making our way through the woods and over fields towards Pineland. The trail we took is part of the trail system whose intent it is to link Bradbury with Pineland farms. After one very minor detour, we made our way over a field and saw the NOAA station at Pineland. Because there was a pretty impassable river in front of us, we turned off to start our fell run. This took place primarily along the power lines, but not before we made our way through a swampy field with waist high grass. This trespass deposited a number of scratches on our legs as well as an unbelievable number of ticks. By my last count, Ian ended the day with somewhere near 19 ticks, I took home 14, and Chuck somehow escaped with only a couple. One of the highlights of the power lines, excluding the tick count, was the red tailed hawk that
decided to treat us to an audible delight. I've never heard a hawk "speak" before, except on nature shows. This live display was much better.

We changed course a bit after about an hour and a half of this fell running and hit the roads for a quicker return to the park to meet up with Emma. While typically a road run that follows an awesome trail run is boring at best, this road run turned out to be pretty cool. As we passed over a bridge we spotted a huge snapping turtle on the side of the road. The shell on this thing measured approximately 16 inches tip to tail and 10 inches side to side. Because of her (we know this to be true) dangerous proximity to the road, we decided to move her a little closer to the water. First we decided to see how long her neck would reach to see if we would be in danger of losing a limb. Chuck grabbed a stick and placed it somewhat close to her face and we confirmed it was a snapping turtle, and one that did not want to be moved. Still we carefully tried to pick up her back end to push away from the road but quickly realized she had laid (or maybe was still laying) eggs in a hole she had dug (the reason we knew the sex). There were a probably 10+ eggs in this hole. So we left her as she was and moved on.

When we picked up Emma at 8 AM, we had run just under two hours and covered about 12 hours. At this point we hit the Bradbury Scuffle course and stayed there for the next two and a half hours. Two loops while at the same time laying down course markers for today's race. We also saw a little more wildlife: a couple garter snakes (I think) and a very cool looking frog that was camouflaged perfectly on the leaf fall. It looked like a tree frog, with some pretty cool markings.

All in all, this was a great run. Ian, Emma, and Chuck were great running partners and the wildlife was top notch. I also gained a ton of confidence from this run. I feel like I finally am getting ready for my 10o miler. Last year I remember there was a definite point in my training where I felt like I turned a corner and was ready to tackle the 100 mile distance. Yesterday I got that feeling. The run took about 4:30 hours and covered a total of 24.5 miles. Ian went out for one last lap but I had to get home to help Kelly. While I did bail out on the last 6 mile loop, when I got home I stepped behind my lawnmower and also cut down some trees in my yard. So if time on feet is critical to 100 mile training, yesterday I hit a home run!

Saturday run stats: 24.5 miles, 4:28 hours, 10:58 pace (includes stopping to mark today's race course), 1,500 feet of elevation gain/loss (using SportTracks elevation correction)

I will post my Bradbury Scuffle 6-mile Trail Race report tomorrow. I did well finishing 3rd overall with a 7:04 pace. As always, Ian of Trail Monster running did an excellent job organizing the race. He even ordered up perfect weather for the race: rainy and muddy as hell!

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