Posted in Gear reviews, Training

A view from the “mountaintop”

It is a bit hard to call a 1300′ foot hill in Montgomery County Maryland a mountain.  But, this is I have to work with, so a mountain it will be. On Sunday, Luke and I decided we would go for a  for a trail “run” at Sugarloaf Mountain in preparation for our Pennsylvania and Vermont Spartan Races.

I also got to test out a new pair of trail running shoes Salomon Speedcross 3’s.

In a nutshell the shoes rocked. The grip on the wet and muddy trails was amazing, I didn’t slip at all and they protected my feet from all of the pointy rocks which cover these trails. I will probably write a bit more about the shoes once I get a chance to wear them a couple more times and get a much better feel for them. But, for now, the gear review is over.

So we set off on our “run.”  At first the trail was nice and smooth and was simple to negotiate. Then we made a left hand turn onto one of the trails and it was “game on.” We began to come across trails that looked like this one, except the higher we went, the steeper it got.  We also had to contend with small streams running over the rocks and down the trails due to the heavy rain. It was an interesting and challenging day to say the least.

We battled our way up the hill, with a combination of slow running and fast hiking until we got to the top hoping for an awesome view.

So what kind of view do you get when you combine 56 degree rain, low clouds and a summit overlook? As you can see in the picture below, none; but, we did have a great training day.

Below is what view would be on a clear day. But for today, I preferred the rain. It reacquainted me with a very important lesson. Even if you start out warm, when the temperature is in mid-50’s with heavy rain, eventually you become cold. If we get this type of weather in Vermont, I will need to figure out a way to stay warm for close to five hours.

When I looked at the trail map and planned the route, it was supposed to be a relatively simple 4 to 4 1/2 mile run with only a couple of turns. But, when staying on the right path is dependent on me, in a lactic acid induced haze picking the right direction to turn, it is a lost cause. When you look at the map of our run below, the big loop on the top of the map was from us taking “the scenic route” around the mountain and not heading straight back down to the parking lot as planned, at least that part was relatively flat.

Who would think that two guys armed with trail maps and GPS watches could manage to get lost so easily? Next time, I should probably program the course into my watch.  That would make life much easier.

Fortunately, the diversion wasn’t a huge problem, but the extra distance was a bit tough on Luke since he had only run a couple of times in the past several weeks. It also lead to his only fall of the day; however, no serious damage was done and we made it back in one piece.

So our planned 4 mile run turned into a 6 1/2 mile excursion. It took us more than 90 minutes and we racked up 2,000 feet in elevation gain. At least the elevation gain part of the run went according to plan.

The hardest part of the day was the first climb from 500 feet to the summit. Luke and I thought that we would be able to run the entire way to the top.  In a humbling experience, the 40% grades taught us a valuable lesson, power hiking can be your friend. This knowledge will serve us very well in both the Pennsylvania and Vermont races, which will be on terrain similar to what we encountered today, except they will have longer distances and slightly steeper grades. Maybe as we come back here throughout the summer, our ability to run will increase and the need to hike will decrease. Or, we may just learn how to hike faster. Either way it will lead to getting to the top sooner, which is the goal.

At the end of the day, Luke and I both agreed, today was our most mentally taxing run. We needed to concentrate where to land each step in order to avoid tripping and falling on the roots and rocks. In the end we were as mentally drained as we were physically.

Good thing we have four months to get ready for the Spartan Beast, we are going to need all of it to be ready.

Killington is calling . . .



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