Swamp and Sun

“Choose Your Own Adventure” Trail Run Day (aka Long Run Sunday)

So I’m currently training for my first marathon (I probably should have mentioned that in the “About Me” blurb since it’s been taking up a lot of time and been a big part of “me” as of late…whoops). This will actually be the second marathon that I’ve trained for, but hopefully the first one I complete! I was hoping to run the 2012 Tobacco Road Marathon over in Apex/Cary, NC, but I suffered a pesky stress fracture in my foot a mere two weeks prior to the race. I toyed with the idea of running the race regardless, but a painful 10 mile run and a visit to an orthopedic doc convinced me otherwise.

Training for that run was pretty brutal (I guess I’m not a distance running guy; oh, I’m also not a sprinter or even a middle distance dude for that matter). However, after a sufficient amount of time, selective amnesia took over and thus I decided a few months ago that running a marathon seemed like a good idea again. After a bunch of half marathons, this seems like the natural transition, right?

Well, like all newbie wannabe marathoners, the amount of faith I have in myself varies wildly as does how I feel during my runs (particularly the long runs). Everyone has those varying levels of confidence, right? Right?

Today’s long run was a “shorter” 12 mile jaunt pancaked in between last weekend’s 19 miler (that was rough) and next weekend’s 20 miler (I’m already scared). The training ground I chose for the run was the beautiful and secluded Dungannon Plantation Heritage Preserve out in glamorous Hollywood, SC. I had stumbled across this spot on-line in the past while combing for possible hiking/running spots in the area and then fortuitously drove past it with my lady friend last weekend while on our way to pick out a Christmas tree. We promptly checked out the preserve on the way back from Christmas tree shopping, and also took our pups out there yesterday for some hiking shenanigans.

The thing about Dungannon Preserve is that its trails are not what you would call “well marked” and it seems that numerous different trails have blue blazes (that just adds to the fun, am I right?!). Coming into this morning’s run, I wasn’t even sure how much dedicated trailage there was within the park. The info board at the parking area stated that there are 5.5 miles of marked trails and 5 more miles of fire roads and other offshoots that can be hiked/explored/enjoyed. Since the info board shows only one long (by scope on the board) and meandering trail, it’s natural (or maybe just hopeful?) to think that this trail would be 5.5 miles in length, right?

Well, the moral of this story is twofold: 1) Distance measurements are a bit screwy in SC (I’ve run into similar measurement shenanigans in the past) 2) Don’t be a hopeful sap.

That meandering trail is 2.25 miles one way for a total of 4.5 miles out and back (nowhere near 12 miles!). Thus, today’s 12 miler had to be a bit creative. I ran that main stretch twice and probably hit every possible off shoot from the trails as well as made many of my own “trails” out in the forest. Every now and then I would run into random trail markers out in the woods, but they would seemingly be associated with only a couple hundred yards of “trail” (which could be seen only with a very healthy imagination).

Don’t get me wrong, though–I had a great time and the plantation is absolutely beautiful! Longleaf pines, swampland, the possibility of seeing alligators, boardwalks, and a wood stork nesting area–this place has it all! I just don’t think it’s the best spot for a longer run is all (unless you want to utilize a lot of creativity).

Not Too Shabby a Running Spot!
Not Too Shabby a Running Spot!

During the run itself, I felt great at times and super sluggish at others. All in all, I didn’t hit the overall pace that I was aiming for. I’m rationalizing it by telling myself that the random forest detours and running through thick leaves and thicket at times didn’t do my pace any favors. Yes, all that may be true, but I still worry that with performances like this I may be unable to run 26.2 miles let alone finish in a sub 4:00 like I’m aiming for.

What will ultimately happen? Well, I guess both you and I need to keep tuning in. Regardless, it’s never a bad day when you can run 12 miles in a beautiful backdrop and in 70 degree weather in late December!


Penny for your thoughts?