Monday, July 4, 2011

4th of July on Stillwell's Black Trail

Fun times await you on the Black Trail
Today's run (Stillwell Woods): 3.8 miles

Happy 4th of July! It's been a great long weekend and today's weather is holiday perfect. We have a busy day planned, including a cookout and some time by the pool. I headed out to Stillwell first thing this morning to get in my last run of the weekend. It was already hot at 7:00 AM when I arrived to see mountain bikers staging their gear. I was surprised to see so many people out at that hour, especially on a holiday.

After yesterday's hard training I had no intention of pushing my pace today. I watched the shaded paths unfolding in front of me and took a left onto a trail marked "More Difficult." I've gotten into the habit of running my safe, standard loop at Stillwell that isn't that hilly. More importantly, I know that trail well enough by now that I don't get lost.

The trail I picked today did not seem too challenging as it wound around trees and large rocks. I soon recognized that I was running the Black Trail, that served as the primary course for the 2010 XTERRA 6K trail run. As soon as I made that connection I knew what I was in for and 50 yards ahead the path dropped sharply into tight switchbacks that came back up as fast as they'd dropped. I remember, during the race, seeing runners going down, then up, as the path weaved across the woods like nature's bank teller line. I knew today that my reward for reaching the top was 100 feet of flat trail before I'd encounter another climb.

I wasn't running all that fast so the extra work didn't bother me much. After 20 minutes of hard running I peeled off to a path marked "Less Difficult" that eventually intersected with my normal route. I decided to take the easier choice and finished the run after covering 3.8 miles.

Going off the beaten path (pun intended) put me in the cross-hairs of the mountain bikers who seek out the most difficult parts of Stillwell Woods. I had expected the park to be deserted but I encountered almost a dozen bikers along the way. At one point I was coming through a tight, winding section of singletrack when three mountain bikers suddenly appeared in front of me. The lead biker yelled "Runner!" and we yielded to opposite sides. I liked that -- I am a runner!

I was a wet noodle by the time I left the trail head and reached my car. I headed right home, forgoing the car's AC, and changed immediately into my swim trunks when I got home. A quick jump in the pool cooled me off better than any shower could. We'll be out later for more swimming but that was about as good as it gets. Enjoy your holiday, I've had a great start to mine.

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