So, I slept a little later, but was out the door by about 10:30 a.m. Of course it was a little too late as the month now reads August and even in the mountains of western NC, the temperatures do rise up. I chose a route that recieves full sun exposure. My thinking here is that I am training for a run in the desert, so might as well get adjusted. I was off well, cruising just below the 7 min pace and feeling comfortable though I was glisteing in the sunshine.
I reached Bethal Baptist and turned left onto Mountain Dale Road and decided that today would be a loop run. As is normally the case my runs begin with a vague idea and then I adjust that idea into a concrete plan with each step. A "Turn here, okay that'll be fine" kind of an approach. So, off on down Mountain Dale I ran. The pace was a cruise effort and I was creeping a little closer to 6:30 per mile now. Enjoying the scenery with Christmas Tree farms surrounding me and cows chewing on grass. Passing beyond the occasional farmstead and refurbished silo.
I eventually came upon Stone Mountain Road and turned left again, hit the 'split' button and began the ascent of 800 plus feet over the next mile and 3/4.
The first mile was on the aggressive edge of gradual and this went by in about 7 minutes, the heart rate climbing gently . Climbing a few switchbacks I entered the domain of cow fields and then looping left around a hairpin turn; Grandfather Mountain came into view off in the distance with a dusting of white clouds on its southern edge.
I was so thankful to be out there and feeling good, able to wave hello to folks in their Saturday morning yards, enjoying the beauty in their own way. The hill gave way momentarily and even descended. This is a sure warning for any runner, the best is yet to come.
For the first 1/4 mile I was regaining all of the elevation lost during this rest period. Up and up I plodded feeling that this hill was much more serious than its previous kin. Soon, I reached the cover of the forest and then the climb turned left and even more aggressively upward. I was now making my way up a grade in the middle teens. The birds were filling my ears with song and my heart and lungs were doing what they could to supply the muscles with what they needed. Body and mind working together to lift the body literally and the soul otherwise.
Another quarter mile up and 3-4 switchbacks I could see the beacon at the crest of the hill. A few inches at a time, patience... patience, stay aerobic and use your strength. Let this grade slip beneath and just feel the movement. Never run in a hurry (especially at 20+% incline).
...that emmense relief that awaits your arrival at the more gentle edges of a tense climbing effort. About 15 minutes was all it had taken, but those seconds become precious as the goals comes into view.
Can we keep that perspective which allows us to see the movement as the goal, the lifestyle itself being the essence? It'd be ideal, but really what we, as runners, are looking for is to conquer challenges. I had one more in front of me for the day, to simply enjoy the 5+ mile cruise back to the house.
All the elevation gained would now be given back to me over the next 40 minutes or so. I popped a gel as the watch hit 60 minutes, settled into a comfortable stride, quick and light but not zealous. I glided downward through the miles absorbing the rush of air over my ears, my eyes, my skin being cooled gently on a sunny August morning. On my way to eventually complete household chores that loomed ahead. But for these moments, on a morning in my life, I took the time to live the the way I choose. To experience happiness in a personal and complete way.
I return to the long run because this is where the magical things will come.