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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Woods Ferry 24 Hr.

I drove the 3 hours or so to Woods Ferry Rec Area with little in the way of expectations. My basic idea was to get in time on my feet, time on the trail and time running at night and not a single step in the front. That was it.

Since Boston my motivation to break through new barriers has been... non-existent. I've been slogging through some mileage every other day, maybe 30 miles a week. I've been thinking some about what I want do to next and I've been really enjoying my "extra" time at home with Lynnea and Sylas. That said, I had committed to run Woods Ferry for quite a while now and so I had the "goal" of completing 50k at a minimum... just trying to get out and run in the woods.

The Course
50k at Woods Ferry means 4 laps, each 7.75 miles in length. A perfect distance per loop with aid at about 4 miles into each lollipop. With temps in the mid 90s to begin on Saturday afternoon we shuffled to a start in a slow moving (mostly) blob. I haphazardly landed in the middle of the blob which worked itself into a mostly single file string on the initial horse trail.

Winding through tall pines the course begins with rolling, and meandering toward the highest point on the loop at mile one. Then, the trail drops away from this ridge and down, down and down into the first of several (dry) creek beds. Not much rain this year which created some dusty conditions (though muggy) early on. Another ridge, another dry creek and another climb brings the course to the service road and then to the power line trail.

The power line consisted of more climbing and descent. 3 hills leading back to single track of a mile or so in the forest, pine needles and sand as the majority of the elevation has been gained back. Soon the mid point aid station is reached and a good chance to stop and chat with the parade of amazing volunteers.

Section II
Many Moons Ago
The course then turns red, as in red clay. It also turns very flat and very runnable with lots of exposure to the sky as well. The night loops here were great to stop and gaze at the pinholes of the sky... the daylight loops got hot in this baking clay. I also had some difficulty spotting strewn debris at night in this section and after loop #3 I found that I was head to toe painted in the red stuff. So before causing permanent damage I stopped for a rinse off and a quick nap. Mistake.

A Quick Nap
10 hours later... yeah- 10 hours later... I awoke to the morning song of birds and chatter of the crowd. High praise for the Honda Element and its sleeping quarters, but my time on the trail was now short. Gone was the night and here was the sun. I had one loop to complete to garner 50k and so I set out, groggy and hungry. Choked down a couple of Cliff Bars and some Mint Chocolate Gu to regain my blood sugar and soon was swiftly darting to and fro through the twisty single track feeling great and dreaming of all the mileage to come.

Closing out loop 4 I sat down and gobbled last night's pizza, sat in my chair, cracked open a celebratory beverage (for finishing the minimum) and thought about going back out for #5. In hindsight, I was searching for a reason to go home and spend the rest of the weekend with Lynnea and Sylas. So, I packed up, turned my number in, picked up my finisher's award and got by with the bare minimum. Better than Chattooga I suppose...

Looking Back, Looking Ahead
50k in 17 hours is... a modest "accomplishment". Though, I am happy (not thrilled) with it. I ran, and that in itself is enough. I had my time on the trail around friendly faces. I ran in the heat, I ran in the stars (and I slept in my car).

The trail became a part of me (NOT all of me). I knew every turn and every hill, I Saw them, didn't Feel them. I had highs and lows and lots of mediums- it's mostly mediums out there though that is forgotten in time, I run for the mediums mostly- the time to settle the mind and check out from stresses.

A simple movement, repeated.
I saw the look of determination in those pushing their limits and in the end I felt like... a tourist in this race, not an involved participant.

To flow through 31 miles and not be fully engaged leaves a strange feeling with me and one I am not accustomed to. I don't know where this new trail leads, I can't recognize it, there are no signs to point to where I came from or where I am going. The sounds are strange, and the sights are new, this adventure is real.

Yet, there is no fear, just comfort... abundant comfort. The confusion arises from a habitual desire to achieve clashing with contentment, a lack of a need to prove something to myself. This year of transition has me scratching my head and wondering where the line is that has suddenly blurred? This vanished distinction that joins the living of real life and the experience of a running life... In time, things will settle. In time, I will recognize my surroundings. In the meantime, I will run. Far or short, I will run. I am a runner.

Happy Running.


  1. what a good post, especially the last part. thanks!

  2. Really enjoyed your report. Keep kicking up that dirt my friend!

  3. Seems like a truly interesting journey, Sean. Glad to see that you are not taking it for granted.

  4. Great report!
    "...I don't know where this new trail leads, I can't recognize it, there are no signs to point to where I came from or where I am going. The sounds are strange, and the sights are new, this adventure is real."

    Transitional phases of life...I hear ya. And I have no doubt whatsoever that as runner, father, husband, and all the other hats you wear- you will find your way. (And the world will be a better place for it : )).


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