Sunday marked a few new running milestones for me. I had planned this run back in July as a solo journey I would attempt on my 35th birthday. Life got too busy, it didn't happen, and I soon forgot about it. A few weeks ago, my brother Greg did a long trail run in Vermont with a few of his friends. This awesome run reminded me of the one I never did. I contacted Justin about it. My brother found out my intentions as well, and was interested in joining us. We decided to run it over the Thanksgiving break. Logistics were worked out, invitations to others were extended, and we settled on a Sunday, 6:30AM start. According to the mileage on my map, the total distance would be somewhere between 21 and 22 miles. I was a little skeptical, thinking that the author might have used GPS to calculate, and it might be longer. I figured we would just take our time, go slow, and stop and smell the roses along the way.
We set off at 6:41AM. It was still pretty dark and cold (my car read 23 degrees). Our pack included me, Justin, Greg, and Boj. Our Arcadia journey began appropriately on the Arcadia Trail. The first few miles were mostly uphill, and the trail was technical. We passed one annoyed hunter, and made jokes about him once we were safely out of his ear and gunshot. We stopped at the Boulder Field so that I could snap a picture:
We crossed 165 and hit the John B. Hudson Trail. This short trail connected to a favorite of mine - Breakheart Trail. Boj briefly wandered off course, so I took over the lead, as I didn't want to miss the yellow markers (this part can be tricky - I've messed up before). Somewhere on this trail we hit the half way point. Who knows where for sure. The guys were not amused that I could only assure them that we might be halfway done or then probably a little over halfway. Eventually, we began the climb up Penny Hill. The sun was in our eyes, but its warmth felt great. We stopped at the summit (well, false summit) at the two hour mark. Here's a quick video I took. I'm not proud of my heavy breathing.
We started back up again, hit the real summit, and then had a nice long descent to the Falls River. Here we picked up the Escoheag Trail. Also, I hit a new milestone for time running, eclipsing my previous long of 2 hrs 15 minutes at last year's Pisgah Mtn 23K. Unfortunately, this portion of trail was all uphill, steep at times, and very technical (or maybe it was because my legs were getting tired). We turned left onto Mt. Tom Trail and continued ascending the mysterious Mt. Tom. Luckily, this part was not steep at all, and very easy on the legs. Right before reaching Rte 165, the trail descends steeply. I felt a little out of control, and grabbed for a small tree to slow me down. The tree snapped and I stumbled. Greg was concerned (or convinced) that I was bonking. I assured him that I felt good energy-wise, and we only had less than 6 miles left to go. This last comment was met with laughter. No one believed me.
South of 165, the Mt. Tom Trail meanders along exposed rock ledges for a mile or so. This is my favorite spot in Arcadia, and it's a place my family likes to hike a few times a year. We stopped at a couple spots for pictures and to take in the views. I took another quick video:
We reached the bottom of the ledges, the trail evened out, and was lined with a bed of pine needles. Everyone was happy to run on them, but my feet were so fatigued that nothing felt good. I fell behind the others, but I willed myself to never get too far back. We were rudely greeted by two more steep hills before reaching Summit Road. Although a dirt road, it was hard packed, and it made the last two miles, plus the half mile of paved Arcadia Road challenging. Greg and Boj pushed this part to get it over with, while Justin and I held on for dear life. We returned to our cars after 3 hrs and 20 minutes of running time (about 4 hrs total). My feet hurt, but nothing else really did, and my energy level was good. Boj calculated the true distance in his head - 24 miles (based on his and Greg's expert opinions on our pace). Sounds good. New record for me! Another confidence boosting run this fall.
One day later, and my body still feels good. I have no soreness in my feet. I now have the idea of doing a trail marathon next year!