Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Big Two-Hearted River -- Hemingway

Some days I feel like Nick Adams, in Ernest Hemmingway's immortal Big Two-Hearted River.  I don't know why that is, but occasionally I face my weekend training runs in Otter Creek (OC) with some sense of dread.  I don't know if it's related to weather forecasts (which are only partially accurate in the mountains), stale legs, or what, but nonetheless, it is sometimes there.

Last Saturday is a perfect example.  I was scheduled for 18 and the weather looked wet.  I don't mind running roads in the rain so much, because I can run fast enough to generate heat and not become chilled.  I definitely do not run fast on trails and I was fretting about how to dress.  I didn't want to be over dressed (and of course over heat), but I sure as hell did not want to be under dressed and get caught in a hard rain and wind. 

So I mopped through my pre-run routine.  Added an extra spoonful of Buckwheat Honey to my cereal (the old comfort food approach to adversity) and ate.  The skies were not quite leaden, but close.  I packed up my gels, cookies, water, and headed out the door.  So far, no rain but it sure looked threatening. 

I arrived at the trail head with out using windshield wipers and thought to myself, maybe I'll dodge the bullet.  It was 50 degrees, cloudy skies and no rain.  I saddled up; hydration belt, food pouch, and the ever present hat & gloves, and hit the trail.  As I settled into a steady pace, my sense of gloom seemed to vanish.  OC was no longer as dark and foreboding as it had been in my mind earlier that morning.  A feeling of well being seemed to wash away all the anxiety leading up to that day's run.  Was the "depression" a sign of over training?  That's one of the symptoms, but I don't think I'm close to the point of over training.

Overall, the day was going well.  I enjoyed a couple of brief breaks in the cloud cover, allowing a little sunlight to bathe the forest floor.  The trail was somewhat muddy from the previous night's rain; certainly muddier that the weekend before, but not terribly bad.  I finished my loop on the OC Trail and started up Yellow Creek Trail to its juncture with the McGowan Mt. Trail.  I saw a large cock Ruffed Grouse run across the trail, just before I started up McGowan.  I had run McGowan Mt. a few weeks before, but did not go to the end.  I wasn't sure how far I had run (where is that GPS function when you really need it?) or where the turnaround was, so I cut that day short by about 3/4 of a mile.  After consulting with Casseday following that run, he told me how to ID the next trail junction, and sure enough on Saturday I soon saw the rock cairn marking the intersection with the Moore Run Trail.

I'm going to tell a story on myself here.  I pride myself in being able to navigate my way around in the back country.  Rocky Mountains, Smokies, Appies, you name it, I've always been confident in my ability to get from point A to point B.  I've always thought it impossible to get lost in WV.  You may not come out where your car is parked, but surely, with a little common sense, you can get back to familiar territory.  Anyway, I passed the rock cairn marking Moore Run and kept running.  I was looking for a cut back that would tie into a forest service road.  After running for another quarter mile or so, I knew I was going in the wrong direction.  Instead of going West toward the FS road, I was heading East back towards OC.  Well time for a turn around and re-assessment.  I backtracked to the rock cairn and carefully searched for a trail going West.  There it was, somewhat masked by some undergrowth, but never the less, a distinct trail.  In another 400 or 500 yards I hit the McGowan Mountain FS Road.  I was exceedingly happy to know where I was and how much further I had to go.  It's interesting, but there was an SUV with Diplomatic license plates parked at the trail head.  I still wonder who they were and how they found their way to "boon dock" WV.

The road was a very welcome relief following several hours of trail running.  I felt like I was flying, even including a couple of miles of uphill.  It was great.  I could eat and drink without watching where I was stepping.  I was zoned out, just enjoying the views.  To my right, I could see down into the Shavers Fork drainage and could even see the river itself (what, 2000 feet below?) a couple of times.  The Otter Creek Wilderness was on my left.  After cresting the ridge line and a mile and a half of downhill, I came back to the Yellow Creek Trail.  It felt like home court advantage, simply because I have run this trail so many times, since late winter when it was covered in snow and bear tracks, through early spring.  I did fall twice going down YC.  I think my legs were just really fatigued at that point, and I  didn't realize it.  Nothing major, just carelessness.  I was angry with myself.  Finally, back to the car, more fluids and the rest of a peanut butter sandwich.  Visions of a hot shower were swimming through my head.

I had left Nick Adams somewhere far back on the OC Trail.  I missed the rain completely, or should I say the rain missed me. 

This Saturday is the Highland Sky Trainer.  I'm looking forward to some new country (although I've hiked much of that through the years) and running with some companions.  It has to be safer, right?

One other bit of personal good news; Danielle ran 5 on the tread last night and her knee seems to be doing well.  She's feeling good about it, as am I.  We are both looking forward to Wineglass this fall.


  1. Good luck this weekend! I am sure you are looking forward to seeing some familiar faces- heck, you are probably looking forward to seeing any faces. I was thinking yesterday on my run about prepping for the Wineglass- I can't wait!

  2. I'm glad you found that turn Jim! See you on Saturday.

  3. Hey Adam. Without your description, I would probably have run the trail back to YC. Thanks again for the tip. See ya at Lanesville.