As if the ascents on the Shut In Trail (outside Asheville, NC) were not enough I (sort of) went for a larger challenge on Saturday morning. About 90 minutes prior to the onslaught of steps I downed a Sausage McGriddle with Cheese, a Hash Brown and an O.J.; for balance you know.
About 10:30 am I found the trail head and began the gentle climb from HWY 191. At first I was just cruising, finding that head space for the long run; my first in 2 weeks and my second "run" in two weeks after a brief respite. The night before I hit 9 miles at a tempo feel (for 6) and at death crawl (for 3). This "long" run was off to a bad start with heavy legs and a much heavier stomach but I thought, 'just run out 43 minutes and then get back to the car.'
Then the first wall came upon me. The pace went from measured to pedestrian as this initial climb reminded me off why a good general rule is to stay away from McDonalds, especially before running. But up I went. I found my "stride", seemingly 3-4 inches of labored progress.
This ascent gave way. The trail opened up and I gently glided along in a sluggish body. At 25 minutes I reached a small grade. Here I actually wanted to stop and go back to the car. Fortunately I was stubborn enough to go on. This is part of the process, to face down adversity and prove to a future self that anything is possible; though only when we continue to move forward. And that is what I did.
I came to the top of the final climb on the way out. The land gave way to all directions and afforded views toward Asheville and off the Blue Ridge Parkway. I met a couple from Richmond, Va. here and we chatted for a couple of moments. They headed down into the depths of the trail and I headed back to my car, pleased to be getting closer to the beer tent at the Belle Chere festival. The trail on the return was much friendlier with only a few gradual climbs.
With 2 miles to go I found a blackberry bush and munched for a couple of minutes in lieu of the gels I was carrying.
The day brought a promise in that I rarely feel so terrible and yet was able to go out for a relatively easy 11 miles on some challenging terrain. The same old story of the laid off runner getting back into the flow. Running is a good friend, but a stubborn one too. It will hold a grudge and just when you think you'll never have another blessed step in your life you will return from one of those runs that cannot last long enough; and then you'll fall in love again. Running will have grabbed hold of you again.