On Saturday had twenty miles on the agenda for my 50 miler training. Originally, I was going to do it on Sunday, my normal long run day, but there was a mountain bike race on the course so I switched to Saturday. It went well, but I didn’t quite make the scheduled twenty.
Several of my fellow 50 milers were planning a run on the course, but it’s an area I’ve done a few times now, and I’m wanting to get some experience with the entire course, so I decided to run a different section. I put it out to the group and several people seemed interested, with one person planning to run with me. Unfortunately, she backed out early that morning, so I went solo. Not a big deal, as I enjoy my long solo runs, but it would have been nice to not be flaked on.
My plan was to start at Riley’s Lock, where I ran to the previous Sunday with a different fellow 50 miler, head south along the C&O Canal to Pennyfield Lock, then hit the Muddy Branch trail up until I made 10 miles, and return back. The trails weren’t so well marked on Muddy Branch so I got off course several times. Not until I was done, did I realize just how far off I got.
I was planning to meet my running partner at 7am and headed out at 5:30 to get there in time. With no traffic, I was there with over 30 minutes to spare, so I sat in the car watching a movie on my phone. About 5 minutes until 7:00, I decided to check my email, and there waiting for me was an email saying she’d not slept well and was backing out. Grrr! I could have been 30 minutes in by this point! I don’t know why she didn’t txt me. Oh well.
It was freaking cold! I had my running jacket to keep me warm (more on this later), and headed out I went. Running along the C&O Canal on one side and the Potomac River on the other was pretty cool. At such an early time, the trail was barren, and mist was coming off both waters, quite serene.
Three miles in, I hit Pennyfield Lock, and entered the Muddy Branch trail. Right off, I made a wrong turn and went 100 yard or so before realizing it. Thankfully I had a GPS version of course and was back on track. The trail wasn’t as technical as some of the other spots, making it easier to run and a faster pace. Another section of the course wasn’t well marked, and I took the wrong fork going off course for several minutes before realizing it. A quick glance of the map and I was back on course…again.
Several stream and road crossings and I was at 10 miles. Time for a nice break and to attempt to dry my wet feet (yeah, yeah, I didn’t make it across all the streams without incident. The temperatures were starting to warm up, but stopping for a bit with a sweat-soaked jacket made for a frigid rest. I liked my jacket when I was training for the Shamrock Marathon, but that was during below freezing winter days. I realized this jacket holds in way too much moisture and doesn’t breathe. By the time things were warming, I was soaked in sweat and wishing I didn’t have it. Time to find a new running jacket!
The way back was relatively uneventful. No side tracks from the course, and before I knew it, I was back at Pennyfield Lock. Ah!!! Port-O-Potties! From here on out, it was the C&O Canal trail for three miles and I’m done. But wait! I’ve only gone less than 16 miles! Whoa! I mush have been off course much longer than I thought! I did have some knee trouble the last few miles before reaching the lock. Thankfully, after the potty break, it didn’t bark at me the rest of the run.
These last three miles sucked. I was tired, my legs were spent, and the flat course was boringly monotonous. I just couldn’t keep up a good run. Lots of walking was done at this point. I was also feeling a bit bummed, because my left knee had given me some troubles, which I thought were over. Nothing major, but more than it’s been lately and coupled with the fatigue, it had me depressed about my ability to run another 30+ miles in a little over a month.
Finally, made it back to the car. 18.71 miles. Not the 20 I was planning, but it worked. I felt pretty good afterwards. My knee had some tenderness to it, but it’s basically gone. Had I woken up today with an overly sore knee, I’d be rethinking the race, but It’s fine. Also, my fatigued legs recovered more quickly than normal. I’ve got the Army Ten Miler in one week, time to change focus!