Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Dancing in the Rain

Fighting thru a head cold, perhaps brought on in part by running. Nonetheless, I took yesterday off so was eager to get back at it this morning.

Within the first half mile I got that "man it's great to be out running" feeling. Just the simple act of running... legs churning, feet thwapping the ground,  heart rate elevating...  the sights, sounds of being outdoors and being in motion.

Maybe it's odd or funny that being forced if you will away from running for merely one day would conjure such a primal response.  Like tapping into a primitive state inside the body and mind.

Later back in the Carolina Beach State park I ran a few intervals at threshold pace. I thought I could ignore the humidity which bore down like an enormous wet sponge upon the island... but it claimed victory over tiny little me again. Hence I cut that part of the workout short after 2 1200s and 2 400s on the campground loop, as I watched the sky turn greyer and darker thru the tree tops.

As I ducked back onto the single track trail leading up and behind the Visitor's Center the sky opened up and threw torrents of rain upon the earth below. Which felt rather cooling to the touch, though I did have to continually wipe water out of my eyes. After a short while I reveled in splish splashing through all the puddles I came across, like a kid cut loose and free to roam about.

For every run is such a unique gift.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Upstate Magic

I wanted to see the Hudson River. And I figured the only way that was going to happen on my work trip to Albany was to hitch a ride on the 'ol shoe leather express, if I can borrow a phrase from an old running friend of mine.

So I plotted a route using the map function on my I-phone and headed out the hotel doors a little before 6pm... unsure of just how far away my destination was, or if I'd even have time to make it there and back before nightfall.

After about a half mile running on the main commercial drag we were staying on, I took a right and headed down Albany Shaker Road towards the Hudson River where it would pass a bit north of the downtown area.

I ran through several middle to upper-middle class residential neighborhoods, sort of digging the scenes around me as I passed through.  I always enjoy the sensation of discovery when running in new places. Not knowing what's around the next bend in the road. Was also afforded occasional views to the west of a far off mountain range looking so diminutive beneath the big fiery setting sun... but otherwise I couldn't see much around me beyond the next few peoples' yards upcoming alongside the road.

I kept hoping for more of a clearing so I could perhaps catch a view of the downtown skyline, or even the river itself so I could get some sense as to how close or far away I was from my objective. Around 40 minutes or so into the run (wore my cheap wristwatch and not the garmin), I about gave up on the expedition... and was ready to turn around and head back towards the hotel.

But as I came upon the next stretch of road it was like someone pulled back the curtains and the show began. There was the Hudson River Valley stretching east into the far distance like an unfurling painting. I could see rolling hills and mountains on the other side of where the river bottom must lie. And as I rounded the next turn I could also see the valley extending northward, with more hills, and more mountains beyond them some 20, 30, 40? miles into the distance.

The grandeur of the Hudson River Valley and all its natural majesty in upstate New York was now mine for the viewing, as my cadence quickened on the long downhill sweep towards the river. I thought of a scene in Dharma Bums where Kerouac writes "...and suddenly it was like jazz," hiking down trails in the mountains of California.

For it was all breathtaking and lyrical... as I kept rolling and rolling faster and faster down the steep ascension to the valley's floor.  I felt wildly spiritual and even a tad religious...for at that point I was a believer. I felt like someone discovering that God had been with them all long, and loved them, and would always love them...and everything would be alight in this big complicated and messy world of ours. Because right then and there it was all so simple, and tangible. I was free. I was running. And I felt joy in my heart.

And I did eventually make it to Hudson River. I stopped and stood quietly on her bank and gazed out across her mighty waters and gave thanks for such a wonderful evening. For there was a bit of magic in the late summer air...I could feel it tingling my skin as I bade goodbye.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Out Here.

I think at times like now I get into a netherworld where I can crack up or break down. But for now no big sign posts of trouble on the horizon. Sometimes I feel like it's just as important to handle the running and all the mileage mentally and spiritually, as it is physically.  Perhaps in part because a good bit of the physical realm can be quantified, and understood on a cause and effect basis. The measure of man's soul by its very nature cannot be. Therein lie many, many mysteries.

Maybe I've hit a point where I've pushed though a lot of the doubts as to why I am doing what I am doing. Or perhaps a better of way of stating is that I don't seem to ask myself those questions quite as much. Do I know the answers deep down inside... and it's merely a matter of tapping into that part of the subconscious where such knowledge dwells?  Or is all mental trappings that interfere with what I seek to do physically?

Why is sometimes a fool's errand. Or a Pandora's box that goes much, much beyond running.  In the words of Nike, Just Do It. I chose this path, and am enjoying the journey.

As I've written before, the numbers are but a small part of the narrative. They serve as  communicative symbols which can be translated and understood by the vast majority of those who run. Even those who don't, can get a bit of an insight into the scope of the endeavor when presented with numbers. To the laymen, 75+ miles in a week comes across as a crazy amount of running.

Today I rest. Tomorrow god willing I run. Within such simplicity, new worlds begin to slowly emerge...

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

More trails, getting lost.

Immersed in the local trail scene the past two weeks near my birth place in eastern Pennsylvania. Was trying to loosely calculate the number of miles of trails that are say within 10-15 miles of where I'm staying. Must be 50-75 miles worth, maybe even more?  Paul agreed with me that there are also likely trails that I am not thinking of or do not know about.

Yesterday I branched off the Switchback trail onto a challenging and technical single track trail called the Fireline Trail. Was pretty much a straight climb up the north side of Flagstaff Mountain. Somewhat rocky and rooty, and a bit narrow in sections, but runnable. Very dense, damp old woods. A mix of deciduous and coniferous trees. Which keeps the temperatures pretty cool on a warm day.

Later in the day ran Mt Pisgah trail which is anther single track trail off of the Swithback Trail that basically cuts diagonally up the mountain back down towards the town of Jim Thorpe. Not nearly as technical as Fireline; and in fact since I was feeling good and light of foot I ran at a fairly brisk pace on most of the trail. Some great views of Mauch Chunk Lake through some partial openings in the woods.

Today I ran the Blue Mountain trails off of the DnL (Delaware and Lehigh river rails to trail). Took Three Ponds Trail which lazily meanders through some high grassy meadows and passes some small ponds (hence the name), before intersecting with Prairie Grass Trail which begins the ascent up the Blue Mountain. This trail is single track and cuts in and out of some wooded areas, and is a bit rocky in places, but not too technical.

Prairie Grass ends at dirt and grass road that runs parallel along the mountain maybe a quarter of the way up. Then I took a 3rd trail, of which I cannot recall the name (a signpost here to trouble?) which mostly travels vertically up the mountain, save for some turns and a few downward loops along the north face of the small mountain. Very rocky and technical in many sections which have to be cautiously walked. Even so the footing can be tricky. One also must look at times for the next trail marking on either a duck (small man made pile of rock) or painted onto a tree.

The views became more and more spectacular as I slowly ascended higher up the mountain. I would guess I could see a good 20-40 miles especially to the north and to the east. The vegetation is sparse in spots which also leads to numerous vantage points to take in such breath taking wonder. Wonder that the only way to experience is first hand by hiking or running up these trails. Was reminded again of Japhy Ryder in Dharma Bums stating that such experiences are only meant for those hearty and fortunate few who make it themselves to such spots.

I finally reached the summit and then foolishly decided to bush wack off trail and explore for myself. I walked thru a large grove of trees sort of out cropped  until I could see down off to the other side of the Blue Mountain, or southward. After taking in the views and trying to figure out what towns were what (it's almost like looking down out of an airplane window) I decided to head back down the mountain, and back to the DnL.

Somewhere in the middle of the summit I found a trail and decided to take, thinking it would loop back around the Lehigh Gap, and on around to the other side of the mountain, and eventually to the trails I used to climb upwards. But somehow I became disoriented... (and also amazed at how innocuously this can happen). The good news was the trail was very runnable, and I wasn't too tired, and thought to myself at least you are in good shape, and this would also make for a good story. On the downside I did not have any water with, and was starting to feel a good amount of thirst coming on (at this point an hour and a half+ out). Though I did have 2 power bars in my pockets

At some point though in the midst of staving off any sort of panic, knowing that this would only make the situation worse while draining mental resources... I really started to question where the heck I was going. I could see the Lehigh River like a little blue thread down below and thought I was heading towards, knowing that in a worse case scenario I could descend straight to the river and subsequently follow it back up stream to where I had begun this now somewhat ill fated journey. The sense of disorientation was becoming a bit too palpable in my mind's eye, though physically I kept noting I felt fine. But I knew at some point that would diminish.

About 2-3 miles later on the trail I came upon 3 large radio/ cell towers on top of the mountain. I decided the best course of action was to follow the dirt access road down the mountain. Since one, it would be a lot quicker, and two, it would eventually take me back to civilization. Which a mile+ later it did... though just to make the adventure perhaps more interesting, I was on the wrong side of the mountain. Fortunately after asking a lady in her yard what road it was and which way to the main hi-way... I was finally able to make it back to the DnL trail, about 3 miles away from where my car was.

Epic, indeed. As they say, pride goeth before the fall. Since just a few day ago I was telling people at a cookout about how I never carry a phone with, and rely on lady luck to carry the day should any misfortune befall me.

Though I got to run some picturesque trails I may have never found otherwise... capping a wonderful 12 days back home in Pennsylvania running.

Things have a way of working themselves out.