Sunday, March 3, 2013

Week 40: The Bench Marathon

Week ending March 3, 2013

Tue 2/26  4 miles on Cottonwood

Wed 2/27  4 miles on Cottonwood

Thu 2/28  8 miles at Croft. All three days have been pretty miserable. My legs feel heavy and kind of floppy, and I feel a residual soreness from something, maybe walking so much on concrete. I cut this run a little short, turning back onto the old trail from the new trail. 

from Dairy Ridge: Palmetto to Chapters back to Palmetto.

February total: 129 miles in 18 runs

Sat 3/2  24.8 miles on the Foothills Trail. The Bench Marathon is a segment of the 77-mile Foothills Trail through the mountains of northwest South Carolina. I’d still not gotten out there with these good folks who love it, and was treated to snow, stairs, and long runnable sections. Did I mention 5000 feet of climbing, a ton for around here. Most of that comes in the first few miles and the last few miles before the turn-around. A good four or more miles is pretty flat and entirely runnable.

Lots of snow for the first couple hours.

We started out slowly, staying together early in the snow. They’d had a lot up there, the wet, sticky kind that makes for beautiful running. After climbing to a ridge, we dropped down fast (note: that will be painful on the way back, wet stairs and mud...) to Virginia Hawkins Falls. Group photo 4 1/2 miles in.

From Virginia Hawkins Falls to Laurel Fork Falls is pretty flat, unless I’m blocking something. The trail crosses Laurel Creek several times, and the bridges were slick from snow. I stayed with Jason through this part and the part from Laurel Falls to the Bench itself, a great treat in my book. Jason is a real supporter of running and runners. He’s always positive, even when he’s talking about getting to dark places through the over-nights of 100-mile races. We ran most of the way. Bristol had gone ahead with Bo, Justin and Lester. 

The weather changed to blue sky and sunshine.
This trail is amazing.

The Laurel Fork Falls to the Bench section has another pile of climbing up Heart Break Ridge, with a whole bunch of stairs and false summits. Bristol, by the way, was waiting for me through this section after spending a good 45 minutes with those ahead. I was ready for that part mentally, choosing to be surprised by getting to the true summit, not by getting to a false summit.  I spent some time running with Lester, another inspirational runner who’s willing to take punishment over a long way. He’s planning a 100-mile attempt that includes the Foothills Trail, with thousands of feet of climbing and descent over rooted, twisting, ankle-breaking trails.

Lester and I got to the Bench in 2:56. I ate some chips, and a couple gels, and filled my bottle with Perpetuem, which I’d had before but not on such a long run. I have to say I loved it, and used two packages on the way back. We left at 3:05 or so. 

Bristol set the canine FKT for the Bench Marathon.
Yeah, he's happy about it.

I was a little surprised by how runnable I found the way back. I still didn’t feel loose, the heaviness I’d been experiencing all week sticking around, though not enough to make me stop. I went into it thinking I’d run when I could, and I was pleased that I could so much. The climbs were less than I thought, the flats were easier than I thought, and the excitement of finishing the run more energizing than I thought. I caught up to Jason, then Bo and Justin. Justin had gone beyond the Bench, caught up to us all again and then ran in with Bo. I had the feeling we’d never see him if he pushed harder. Seeing them ahead of me gave me some push, too, not to pass them but to catch up and discover I was indeed on the right trail and all. 

Did I mention the steps?
I ran most of the last 4 1/2 miles with just Bristol. As always, he amazes me with his trail finding, his endurance and his discipline. The trail on the way back was dry, the snow having melted and clouds given way to sun. The trail follows the contours above the gravel road you park on for a mile or so. I was glad I noticed that on the way out, because it just hung down there,  the trail even dropping down to it and then back up onto the ridge once. I watched 6 hours go by--going in I thought that would be a reasonable expectation of my time, and Jason said he was shooting to go under six. I finished in 6:02:something. I ran almost the same time back as out, which I think is a pretty good sign of my fitness.

Next up: The Dump 50K+

Sun 3/3 A nice walk through the neighborhood with Christy and Bristol. Jogging a little to keep Bristol from crapping in someone else’s yard was plenty of running.

Total: 40 miles in 5 runs

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