Tag Archives: Trail Running

18.76 Miles and Broken Down

So I opted to complete my long run for the week today (Friday) rather than on a weekend day as I typically do. I had the day off as part of my holiday vacay and you take what the week gives you, am I right?

Given the clear schedule that inherently comes with a holiday day off, I set off for my favorite local-ish (45 minutes from my front door) running spot, Francis Marion Forest. This national forest is a vast stretch of undisturbed, natural forest and wilderness, and it adds even more reach to its vast domain as it merges with Sumter National Forest. Thus, the possibilities are seemingly endless! Great trail running, camping, mountain biking, fishing, hunting, and much more–it’s all here!

Myself, I set out for the Swamp Fox Passage, a 42 mile portion of the much longer Palmetto Trail that lays down some of its length within the boundaries of Francis Marion. I’ve run portions of this trail numerous times in the past, and it always makes for a great run. The trail is far from technical with no elevation gain and largely smooth trails (aside from the occasional stumpy areas). The trail meanders through pine forests, pass the Halfway Creek campground, and over the occasional small bridge. It’s largely well-groomed single track and doesn’t see too much foot traffic so you don’t find yourself elbowing your way past others.

Boy oh boy, was it a beautiful day to hit the trails! The sun was shining brightly and temps were hovering in the low 50s. Perfect weather for a romp in the woods.

Trees For Days
Trees For Days

Sticking with my trusty Hal Higdon Novice 2 Marathon Training Program, I was slated to run 20 miles today. For better or for worse, today’s run was also meant to be my longest of the “long runs” with tapering afterwards until the much dreaded/anticipated marathon in 3 weeks (aka “The Real Show”).  So I set off on the trail…

At first, I felt good. In fact, I felt surprisingly good. So good that I daydreamed of someday running a trail ultra and also envisioned myself as an ancient Tarahumara superathlete runner (perhaps I was hallucinating already at that point…). At one point, I even considered taking what I told myself would be a “slight detour” down a side trail that I had never travelled before. Luckily, my sane mind chirped in and told my illogical Tarahumara wannabe mind to hush up, and ultimately the wiser mind prevailed. So there I was bouncing along the trail, trading pleasantries with a couple of backpackers I passed and snapping the two photos you see in this blog. Life was good! After all, I was a future ultramarathoner envisioning future trail conquests.

At mile 9.5, I started to tire (I should mention that despite how great I felt early on, I didn’t push my pace as I feared such a move could only end poorly). Though I began to feel a bit fatigued, it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary–legs a little heavy, pace dropping a bit–you know, the kind of stuff you may expect after 9.5 miles of running.

Around mile 15, I started to feel much worse. I was very weak and fatigued, as well as uncertain as to whether I could make another 5 miles. I slowed my pace and went into “survival mode”. Jack Johnson’s “Breakdown” ominously came onto my iTunes shuffle.  I continued to take a swig or two of Gatorade every mile, and then began to do so every half mile or so. I continued to consume a couple of Clif shot bloks at regular intervals. However, none of it mattered. I continued to fade more and more. I tried to look at the run as half mile increments, telling myself to just make another half mile. And then one more half mile. And then one more…

At 18.76 miles, I had to stop. I felt as though my body was shutting down. I was nauseous, light-headed, and my feet/legs didn’t seem to be doing what my head was asking them to do. In addition, my shoes suddenly felt very tight on my feet. I stopped and sat down on two occasions, the second of which I untied my shoes to loosen them up a bit and even gave my screaming feet a bit of a massage in an attempt to quiet them down a little.

The 1.24 mile walk back to my car was much more difficult than it should have been. I drank the rest of Gatorade I had in my handheld bottle hoping that it would bring a bit more energy and a bit less light-headedness. It didn’t. I felt as though I may faint numerous times on the short trek back to my car. It was scary and something I haven’t experienced before. Sure, I’ve had my share of painful and draining runs, and I’ve hit “the wall” tons of times in the past. This, however, was different…

Ultimately I did make it back to my trusty chariot. I immediately plunked down into the driver’s seat. My head was still swimming and my legs were shaking as though I was taking them dancing after all this. I drank the rest of the Gatorade I had in my car and forced myself to have a few bites of an apple I had brought along as a post-run treat. Let’s just say that the apple and Gatorade decided to make the visit to my stomach a quick in-and-out affair rather than making a weekend of it.

I lied down in my car for a bit until I felt well enough to make the 45 minute drive back home. Ultimately, I clearly felt better after some time, a hot shower, and some homemade pizza.

Still the question remains as to what caused this less than optimal ending to my already shortened trail run? Hyponatremia? Dehydration? Simply not taking in enough fuel before and during the run? I’m thinking it may have been a touch of hyponatremia given my symptoms though I don’t think low sodium to such a degree to cause this picture usually happens at 18ish mile distances. Plus I was consuming an electrolyte enhanced drink during the run.

The most disconcerting aspect of all this, however, is that it clearly does not inspire much confidence in my ability to run 26.2 miles in roughly three weeks. Yikes.

Maybe a handful of pretzels along the run is the only solution I need…

Hey, a boy can hope!

“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!