So after the Blue Hills race on Sunday I've come to realize I am slow and getting slower. If I can't run fast maybe I can at least run far. To that end I decided to take advantage of the good weather today and left the house early to get in a long run. I packed my gear an made the short drive from my house to Breakheart Reservation. I wanted to cover some ground here and then head over to Lynn Woods for some additional miles before returning back to Breakheart.
My goal for this run was to experiment with pace, nutrition and hydration to get a sense of what might work for me if I throw my hat into the Pineland Farms 50K next month. I haven't committed to it yet but I'm leaning that way right now. I figured a steady 12 min/mile pace for the 50K might be doable, ambitious but doable, so that was the plan for today.
I started out from the Ranger's station and climbed the hill up to Ash Path. From there I took in both lake trails, Silver and Pearse and then over to the Saugus River trail. It was a beautiful morning in the woods. It was a little warm but there was a nice cooling breeze the whole time. I wasn't the only one enjoying the day. The Canadian geese were really whooping it up out on the water. I also saw a few snakes sunning themselves near some warm rocks. They slithered away when I got too close.
On my way to Camp Nihan on the Saugus River trail, I came upon a snapping turtle meandering down the trail. I'm not really sure what it was doing there as it was far from the river. I stopped and picked it up and took it down to the river bank. I'm not sure if that's where the turtle wanted to be but I felt better leaving it there. I stayed a while and watched it eventually move into the river and disappear under the dark water. On my way again I checked my watch. Five miles down in one hour. Exactly where I wanted to be.
Moving out of Camp Nihan I ran about a mile on a busy street and one not so busy one. These two streets took me to the entrance of Lynn Woods. From there I ran along the reservoir to the dam. On this side of Lynn Woods there is some sweet single-track running parallel to busy Route 1 in Saugus/Lynnfield. I'm sure very few of the 100,000 daily commuters realize the beauty they are missing just a stones throw away.
Over here I got into a zone and the miles passed very quickly. I was thinking of the words Stu Mittleman wrote in the book "Slow Burn." He said instead of pushing off from the ground, imagine the earth rotating underfoot, and lift your feet just enough to clear the ground. I practiced this method and the miles felt effortless. There is some danger to running this way on rocky technical single-track. One time I did catch my toe on a rock and was close to going down. My nose must have been about 8 inches from the ground but I never put my hands out and luckily, didn't fall. Excellent recovery if I must say so myself!
I crossed two very well built wooden foot bridges (aka Trail Pixie Platforms) that span the Meeting House Swap area. Don't ask me why you would have a meeting house in a swamp. I don't make the news, I just report it. My trance-like state was interrupted by the alarm on my Garmin. 10 miles in 1:58 and still right on target for the run. I came out of the northern section of the woods and headed up a long hill into the main section of the reservation. More single-track, more sunshine and more cooling breezes. Everything was going well but I kept thinking when will I start to fade?
Well, I didn't fade but I did go off trail without realizing it until I saw a high ledge staring me in the face. I had to scale it hand over hand. I thought how Streph would have loved this stuff! I found my way back to the main trail and continued on my way. I got lost once again and had to bushwhack my way back to a trail. Eventually I located Birch Pond trail that you guessed it, runs along Birch Pond. The single-track here is more technical and my pace slowed as I tried to avoid the many rocks. Still, I hit 15 miles in 3:03 so I wasn't too far off pace.
Right around 15 miles I ran out of fluid. I still had another hour of running to do so I would have to locate water somewhere. I took a trail I never ran before that brought me out of the woods and onto a busy residential street. I ran past several houses looking for a water faucet in which to fill my handheld. No luck! I thought I was going to have a thirsty run to the finish but then I saw a man raking leaves on his front lawn. I saw he had a garden hose attached to the outdoor faucet!
I excused myself and asked if I may have some water. He said I could help myself. He was wearing a tee shirt with Bill printed on it. I asked if he was Bill and he confirmed he was. As I was filling my water bottle he asked me what I was doing. I explained I was training for an ultra marathon. He said "Why are you doing that? You're going to hurt yourself." I said I was taking it slow so I would be OK. I just needed the water because it was a little warm and I still had another hour of running. He then said, "Do you know what happened to the guy after he ran the marathon?" I just looked at him without answering. Bill said, "He died!" I responded, "And still people continue to run." Bill just shook his head disbelief. I thanked Bill for the water and was on my way once again. As I was leaving Bill said I could take his water any time I needed it. A good man that Bill.
I was starting to feel a little fatigued but not too bad as I entered Camp Nihan for the second time. Only a few more miles and I would have 20 in the bank. The short trail between Camp Nihan and the Saugus River is unmarked and unnamed but it's one of my favorites. I like it because it wide, rock free and covered with a thick bed of pine needles. Very easy on the feet. It was here where I got the surprise of my life. As I climbed a small incline I could see what appeared to be a piece of fabric on the opposite, downhill side. I didn't think much of it and thought perhaps a hiker or walker had dropped something on the trail. Well, when I crested the hill I saw a man and woman, let's see how can I say this nicely, engaged in acts only found on pay-per-view. (Sorry folks, I didn't bring my camera today) Yikes! I looked straight ahead and booked it out of there as fast as possible and continued about my business. To the best of my knowledge, so did they! Funny, not a word was said by anyone although I had a strong urge to look back and yell " GET A ROOM PEOPLE!"
One last time around Pearse Lake and I would be close to finishing. I came across another turtle here, even farther away from the water than the first one I saw. I picked up the wayward turtle and carried it over to the lake where I saw 4 of his/her family members sunning on a tree limb floating in the lake. I dropped off my hitchhiker and made my final push to the Ranger Station. I finished the 20 mile run in 3:58, just under my goal of 4 hours. I felt very good except for the last 2 miles when fatigue starting setting in. Not sure how much longer I could have gone today and I don't really care. That's a worry for another day. It was a near perfect day which made up for my not so perfect race yesterday. I'm just not sure who enjoyed the day more, me or Romeo and Juliet!
OK, time for a cold shower........