Thursday, May 13, 2010

Needing an Appalachian Trail Fix

(Photo credit here)

Over the winter, when I was preparing for the Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run, I needed to crank out several long training runs (~ 30 miles or so).

I love running on the Appalachian Trail--it's only 20 minutes from my home at its closest point--and I have found over the years that my speed is about 4 MPH. That's 15 minute miles, a seemingly glacial pace. I keep thinking that if only I applied myself, I could run faster.

But I just can’t do it. It's 4 MPH no matter how hard I press. The speed (or lack thereof) is dictated by a couple factors:

--The rocky nature of the trail: Pennsylvania's rocks are notorious among AT thru-hikers; this is the one consistent observation of PA across multiple hiking diaries across many years. You run the rocky sections at your own peril. Most of the time you pick your way gingerly at slow walk.

--The hills: at least where I am, long uphills of a mile or more are common. These may be either gradual or steep, but in any case, these hills are walked, not run.

--Water: There is only limited water immediately along the trail, so by and large you need to go off trail to a shelter and hope the spring there is flowing. Other options include caching water along the way, or using surface stream water and treating it. In the summer, taking care of one's water needs can be particularly time consuming.

So...back to Umstead training. I passed on AT running for these long training runs just because it'd take too much time in the dead of winter. To cover 30 miles of AT would be a 7 or 8 hour proposition, before driving time is even factored in. Plus this winter, for a change, we had significant snow and the mountain trails were buried.

On the other hand, if I went to the C + O Canal or ran on rural roads around the house, I could maintain 6 MPH, resulting in a 5 hour run. By going out at 4:00 am I could be back before 10:00 am and thus still have most of full a day to live my non-running life.

Anyway, I'm suffering from Appalachian Trail deprivation, and gotta get me a fix this weekend. I'm desperate!

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