Friday, September 30, 2011

Mud Run

I've officially signed up for a mud run in November. It's not a Tough Mudder, so there won't be any fire or electric shocks or anything, but it might be a little insane nonetheless.

My friends Dave and Jo told me about it and will be running it as well. None of us are mudders, so it will be an adventure!

Here's a video of a test run of the course. I am now a little scared.

I've been filling up my free days hiking and biking, but I haven't been for a good run in a long time. My last run was a Vibram FiveFinger run the day after I did a Wii personal trainer workout on a hard surface with no shoes. The result was a lot of pain in my arches midway through the run. So I've stuck to other exercises since then. If I'm going to be ready for this mud run, I really need to get running...and climbing...and practicing balance...oh boy.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Trails and towers

In between hurricanes, flooding, and generally gray, dreary days, I've managed to get out for a few nice hikes and runs.

On Labor Day weekend, I went for a 5-mile hike with my own personal guide and bear protector (that's what we call boyfriends nowadays) in a local state forest, where we hiked to a fire tower and through some trails that he frequently mountain bikes on. The tower was stable and didn't sway very much, but it was all see-through mesh, including the stair steps, so you could see all the way down. Luckily I'm not afraid of heights, and getting to the top was worth the climb.

The view from the top was a little misty, but still amazing.

My tour guide's 3-year old German Shepard came along and enjoyed scampering around in the woods (read: treeing a family of bears). My favorite trick is when she hops up on a rock on command. So cute!

The trail to the tower was steep, and my calves were really feeling the burn on the way up. I could tell that I was not in great shape, but I really enjoyed getting out and walking in the woods after being cooped up inside with no electricity and lots of rain for ages. After hiking back down the mountain and taking a loop around some other trails, I was itching to run, and it made me realize how little trail running I've done this summer.

After hiking, we kayaked on pedal kayaks. Very cool. You push the pedals back and forth with your feet and steer with a little knob that works the rudder. It takes a lot less energy than paddling with your upper body. (Believe me, I stopped pedaling, raised the rudder, and used the paddles instead just to see, and it was quite difficult in comparison - and wetter.) The only downfall is that you can't go backwards. It was a lot of fun and made for a great day of outdoor activities.

So this morning I woke up to a gloriously bright sunny day. It was 60 degrees and just perfect, so I put on some running gear, packed my bug spray, and drove down to a state park to go for a run.

I've run a few trails here several times, but there are still some that I haven't been on before, so I decided to do a little exploring and check out a new one. It turned out to be a great choice. Aside from a few rocky areas and stream crossings, it has great footing for running. It has just the right balance of technicality and runability. It was still a little wet from all of the rain we've had lately, which was a little bit of a hindrance, but in drier conditions, it could be one of my best trail-running options close to home.

I noticed in the beginning that I was feeling pretty good - entirely better than I was two weeks ago on the day I saw Momma bear and babies. This time I felt lighter and nimbler and more powerful. Maybe the fire tower hike had some good effects on me, and maybe the other exercise I've been doing is improving my fitness a little. Whatever it was, I was in a great mood and was just thankful to have the opportunity to be able to go out and enjoy the forest like that in the morning before work.

If the weather cooperates tomorrow, my tour guide/bear protector and I might go for another hike, location to be determined. Should be fun!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Mamma bear...and babies

It was a beautiful day Monday, so after work I drove up to a park with some single-track bike trails to go for a run. The road to the main section of the park was closed thanks to the effects of Hurricane Irene, so I parked at another end of the park and ran along some paved roads to get to the trails. I didn't go far before I was tired. In fact, I was tired before I even got to the trails. When I did get to the trail, I leaped around over some tree roots and started to get into it. I had some speed going up some little inclines, and it felt good to stretch my legs. I came out into a field that last month was filled with black-eyed susans, but this time was just filled with a lot of standing water from the storm. A friend asked me to do a mud run with her this fall, so I decided to get a head start training for that and plunged in. The puddles were fairly clean, since the path was more grassy than muddy, and the water was warm. I didn't mind splashing along down the trail. I came to some very deep puddles, and it wasn't until I was calf-deep in one of them that I heard some noise on the path ahead of me and saw a mother bear and two cubs. Oops. I waded backwards, clapped my hands, and tooted a whistle that I wear for that purpose. All three of them scampered into the woods, and I waded and then jogged away in the other direction.

After I was out of view, I was still a little scared that I might run into them when I got back into the woods, so I clapped or blew the whistle a little every once in a while. And so ends my terrifying bear attack story. I ran back to the car and drove around to another section of the park, but by then I was feeling like my wet shoes and socks were going to cause some blisters, and I decided to head home. Definitely need to get out running regularly again.