Coach Spencer Runs in the Woods

Coach Spencer Runs in the Woods

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Wow- Caesars Head

On the way back from running camp in Brevard, NC, I decided to go 12 miles out of my way to get in a nice longer run. I'd heard about Caesars Head State Park & seen pictures, but hadn't really investigated the trail maps or anything. Never heard of anyone going there, so it was a mystery. Turns out, Caesars Head & the adjoining Jones Gap State Park have some of the best trails, waterfalls & overlooks around! Who knew?

I showed up at the Visitors Center & talked to the friendly rangers who seemed genuinely interested in my running. They warned me, "The trails are kinda gnarly," but they weren't that bad. I ran most of the trails on the east side and went back & forth over creeks and along the scenic Middle Saluda River. Saw Jones Gap Falls, which is about 50' tall and though outstanding, is supposed to be the least spectacular of the several waterfalls in the two adjoining parks. The 5 mile (one way) Jones Gap Trail was the least technical of the trails I ran, but it still had its share of rocks & roots. Seemed like an old logging road. The other trails were more narrow & technical.

I gave myself 2.5 hours Saturday because I wanted to go home after a week of being away from the family, but next time I go, I'll plan on getting out to most of the trails in the park which would be a solid 5-6 hours most likely. I can't think of any trails 2 hours from home I like more than what I saw here!

About 10 years ago, I started getting into photography & spent a good deal of time in the woods taking pictures. Waterfalls were my favorite subjects. It disappoints me that I can only carry a tiny, basic point & shoot camera when I run. Every time I'm out somewhere new, I want to spend an hour or two taking pictures. Of course, if the equipment were lighter & smaller, that would severely alter my running routine!

Brevard Running Camp

Had fun week with 22 of my runners at Brevard Distance Runners Camp. Ran 77 miles for the week (including a longer one Saturday morning) & the runs were much prettier than last year. All of the runs are in DuPont State Forest & Pisgah National Forest. The ones in DuPont are mostly wider double track & rough fire roads, while the Pisgah ones are single track.

The run up Art Loeb & down through North Slope Trail was the longest & hardest. Only about 10% of the girls in the camp attempt it & some have to cut it short. I'm happy to say 8 of ours did it & were strong doing it. This run was about :50 up & :35 down for me. As much as the camp makes this run out to sound suicidal, it's actually one of the more moderate sections of the Art Loeb Trail, which goes over 30 miles & from an elevation of just over 2000' to over 6000'. We were on the low end.

We do an early morning run the last full day of the camp up to John Rock, which has the best view of the week, over to Looking Glass Rock. The fog was rolling through when we were there, so you had really beautiful views one second & it was completely white the next.

One of my favorite runs of the week was Cedar Rock in DuPont Forest, where you're out running on the rock face for a mile or so.

I had to struggle to keep up with my top girls this week, but that's not a bad thing, as long as it's them getting faster & not me getting slower. I actually ran the runs a little faster than 2 years ago (We didn't run many of these last year.). This was a great experience for our team & a way to build momentum for the coming Cross Country season.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

I can actually run run.

Lately, because I only run on trails, I've thought maybe I can only run on trails. I've run on some hard trails lately and I've had to walk & wondered if I could even really run run. You know like miles and miles without stopping. I told someone the other day I'd be scared to run a 10K for time and I'm scared to see what my flat road marathon time would be. As silly as it sounds, I just haven't done that in a long time. I'm at the beach with the in-laws and decided to go out at 5 AM this morning and run 18 miles. Ran 7:45 pace, which is rolling right along for me. I picked it up and ran 7:00 or better the last 2 miles. It was very easy. Could've gone much longer & could've gone faster. I've run 3 runs of 2 hours or longer this week. The 18 miles is more than I've run on the road in the past 18 months combined. I guess it feels good to be able to run like a normal person. People have been accusing me of being more Man. vs. Wild than runner lately. Good to maintain a balance. Actually I prefer Survivorman. Man vs. Wild is fake. :)