This past week started off with a bang in Boston as I watched Gaby cruise to a PR finish on tired legs, a bum IT and nine days out from a 3rd place performance at the Bull Run Run 50. Gaby’s realistic goal was to reel in a sub 3:30 and damn if she didn’t cross the line in 3:29:55. Cheers to her for hanging tough the last few miles after her IT had given out and energy spoils were all but depleted. And, again, thanks to the good people at JetBlue, our generous and courteous travel, accommodations and race registration benefactors for the long weekend, per Gaby’s fortunate winning of the JetBlue Boston Marathon Extra Mile contest. For me, as a spectator of the Boston Marathon for the second year in a row, it is easy to see why the race enjoys such an illustrious reputation. The energy and the atmosphere throughout the city for the duration of the event is nothing short of electric. Plus, any opportunity to visit New England, particularly in the warmer months, is an opportunity worth taking.
The beginning of this past week also signaled the four week countdown to Massanutten, which meant I only had two weeks of real training left, followed by a two week taper. So, on Monday, the mile piling continued. Also intermixed in the week I included a little fast stuff. Some hill stuff. Three two-a-days. Three days over 20 miles. And, finally, culminated the week this morning, with- I am somewhat embarrassed to admit- 143 miles in total.
Aside from running 143 miles (which is a significant marker for me and more than I have ever run before in a week or would like to continue running on a weekly basis) and spectating Gaby at the Boston Marathon, two other memorable running events stick out from the week.
1. The first annual WUS Donut 10k (more like 6.9 miles). Martha organized a real treat for WUS runners on Thursday night with a hilly, out and back dash to DuPont Circle, on a dog legged shaped course, from WUS HQ whereby runners must stop midway, scarf down six Krispy Kreme glazed donuts, then turn around and run back. Not only did I consume eight donuts midway in a grossly fast time but also then cruised to race victory where upon I enjoyed a final victory donut, bringing the total to nine. Admittedly, competition at the Donut Run was a little light. Not many of the real eaters, fast WUS runners or fast runners who can really eat were in attendance. Hopefully they’ll show up Thursday for the Beer mile, which, again, Martha is hosting. My status as first place finisher at the Donut Run, says Martha, elevates my seeding to #1 at the Beer Mile. A few dozen runners are poised to show up so Thursday may or may not be a two-a-day for me. Meaning, I’m brining my game, WUS peeps. That is all I have to say about that.
2. 36 miles, three back-to-back 2,750 foot tempo climbs straight up a very soppy, technical Buck Hallow Trail to Mary’s Rock and 9,000 feet of climbing in total added another solid long run to the bank yesterday morning. Another run like this next weekend and it’ll be all she wrote for training runs until sometime after Old Dominion on June 4.
Speaking of Old Dominion, I was told first hand by another runner (a definite contender) that he is registering for the race. I truly hope so. It could be that this year the field at Old Dominion will be the most competitive it has been in years. This is exciting news. Unfortunately we’ll never know who all is running until the night of since the Old Dominion race director doesn’t post an entrants list.
And, finally, speaking of Buck Hallow, the title subject of this post, this is a very special place. No matter how many times I’ve managed to leave my DC house on a Saturday morning in pre-dawn darkness and rain, heading west bound for the Shenandoah National Park (SNP) and the Buck Hallow trailhead at the base of Thorton Gap along the south side of Route 211, I am always in awe once I arrive to discover a ceasing rain and an opening sky. I find it hard to ignore this kind of fortune and am very grateful for it. The trails themselves here in this particular section of the SNP, however, are not for the faint of heart. They are steep, at times very technical and cross in many directions the deeper into the forest one goes. A map is a must. A few water bottles and proper food supplies are a must. Sure, you can keep a run short with an out and back or a loop up to the Appalachian Trail and back, but then you miss out on the real treasure this area has to offer for trail running. This treasure includes bursting streams and waterfalls tumbling down the hallows, with water suitable for drinking at high elevations (in my opinion), well maintained and debris-free trails, 3,000 foot climbing or descending options, access to the Appalachian Trail and, best of all, unspoiled and wild mountain-scape vistas with no visible human built obstructions. I have run 30+ milers at Buck Hallow on several occasions and each time barely scratch the surface in terms of covering available (and realistic distance) terrain options (from my car). In fact, to this day, there are so many miles of trails I have yet to experience because they finger off in so many directions and seemingly go on forever. Another treasure at Buck Hallow is the Thorton River. This crystal clear, spring fed river, which crashes down the mountain gap, often paralleling 211, flows right by the car lot and offers an excellent ice bath after a long day on the trails. If you live in central, northern or western Virginia, or are a visitor to the area, and have yet to visit Buck Hallow I strongly encourage you to do so. Buck Hallow, without a doubt, has made me a better runner and after each time I visit I depart with even greater appreciation for the SNP and the mountains in Virginia. I am confident it will do the same for you.