Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Bittersweet Trail Run - Beauty and Injury

For my last training run before the 50k next weekend I had decided I would run a different part of Harriman. I described it as a modest route of what I guessed to between 8 and 11 miles.

On Thursday night I mapped out the route to include several destinations I had wanted to visit.

I parked my car and started the run at about 8:15 AM. I trotted my way across a small field and entered the woods on the Appalachian Trail (white) and the climb started immediately. The trail switched back and forth through the hardwoods as it made it's way up Green Pond Mountain.

Climbing the Appalachian Trail
I have to admit it was a tough start. Without an opportunity to really warm up my heart was pounding, my breath was labored and my calves were burning. I power walked some of it and shuffled along when and where I could. Eventually cresting the grassy peak.

Moments after crossing the crest I started a descent that switched back and forth along a trail soft with forest decomposition. Through the trees I could see the shimmering waters of Island Pond.

I followed the white blazes of the AT up and down the small ridges around the Island Pond. I crossed a small bridge and headed away from the waters and into the woods of Island Pond Mountain.

After a brief ascent a massive boulder structure appeared before me. I followed the AT down to the foot and entered The Lemon Squeezer.

The Lemon Squeezer
The Lemon Squeezer is where the AT goes through an opening created by rocks, then tightens until you need to squeeze through, my hydration pack scraping against the rock walls.

After the Squeezer, there's scramble up a rock face that's harder than it appears, I had to spend a few minutes figuring out my ascent (there is an easier option). Once at the top, I took  a brief look down through the squeezer and turned to finish the climb.
Scramble after The Squeezer

I passed over the summit and headed downward to the shadows of an evergreen forest. Entering the woods the temperature dropped and the morning sun beamed in like spotlights. The path meandered through the soft pine floor to a junction of trails that I had often seen in photos.

Trail Markers
I took a moment to check my map and adjust my hydration pack before switching trails  to follow the southbound Long Path (aqua).

The Long Path transverses the border of two ecosystems a swampy marshland on my left and the evergreen forest on my right. The path rises and falls like a motocross course as it wraps its way around the marsh.

The Long Path and Wetlands
As I emerge from the shadowy forest the path starts heading up the vastly different terrain of Surebridge Mountain. Patches of pines groves and boulder outcroppings intersperse with the sun-bleached skeletons of trees that have been dead for years.

Surebridge Mountain
At "Times Square" I missed the turnoff but quickly sensed my mistake and doubled back to catch the Ramapo-Dunderberg trail (red dot on white) heading west.

The Ramapo-Dunderberg climbs Black Rock Mountain across large stretches of barren rocks with sparsely populated evergreens. Blueberry bushes and seemingly misplaced boulders color the exposed landscape.

Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail
The trail continues for what seems like several miles of similar terrain with the blazes often painted on rocks due to the shortage of trees, I often found myself searching the ground for the swatches of red and white paint.

At about two-thirds of the way through my trek and at the southern most point of the route, I stopped on the top of Black Rock Mountain to check my map and to have a bite to eat.

After a quick rest I switched from the Ramapo-Dunderberg to The Nurian Trail (white) and headed north. I followed the white blazes mostly downhill and returning to the hardwood forest.

Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail
I felt a modest tightness in my calves which I attributed to dehydration but as I started a short steep climb I felt a sudden stabbing pain in my left calf. I yelped in pain as I realized the pain was more serious than a dehydration issue and that I may have just removed myself from the event that I've been training for since February.

Descending to the Valley of Boulders
I came up lame just as I was about to descend into The Valley of the Boulders, a challenging rock strewn descent that did nothing to help my situation. Virtually every step (or every other one) was accompanied with a stabbing pain in my calf. The uneven terrain making it difficult to balance as I favored my leg trying to prevent further injury.

Valley of Boulders
I picked my route carefully, trying to avoid obstacles and pain. Stream crossings were especially challenging as I attempted to balance on rocks and avoid sudden lunges. Quite difficult when attempting to cross a wide stream.

The one mile trek through The Valley of the Boulders and across Stahahe Brook took over 40 minutes.

Now with the technical terrain and water crossings behind me, there's only one more mile between me and the parking lot.
Crossing at Stahahe Brook

Fortunately the path turns to a relatively level and grassy fire road that I'm able to hobble along with moderate success. Moving as best as I could I angled my way across the final stretch of path and reached the parking lot just as my Garmin chirped out 10 miles.

Who knew that I would only have 8 in me today?

Arden Valley
As for the injury I'm being cautiously optimistic. I had initially thought there would be no way I could recover well enough for a challenging 50k just one week away, but some progress has given me some hope that it may not be as bad as i had initially thought.

I'm hoping hydration and rest will do the trick, but all I can say is we'll have to see how it goes.




Distance: 10 Miles
Time: 3hr 46min
Elevation Gain: 3,042 ft


The Route

Elevation Profile



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