Monday, August 2, 2010

Mayor of Buttermilk Trail

Since I just won the mayorship of the Buttermilk Trail yesterday on foursquare (#nerd), I thought I'd share two of my latest and greatest hobbies that I picked up over the summer.

I've always been a treadmill runner. When I first started running, I'd focus on endurance and
consistent speed as I trained my body to run longer and faster. Now I know
exactly when my muscles will start to fatigue based on various speeds and times without even looking down at the stats on my machine. I'm perfectly comfortable staring at the same crack in the brick wall in front of my treadmill for a full 5 miles and not even think twice about it. I actually enjoy it. It's a chance to blank out my mind, forget about everything and just run blindly. I don't even enjoy people watching, imagine that!

But recently I've picked up a new hobby. Trail Running. At first, it was awkward. Tripping over tree roots and rocks, unstable ankles as I try to "run" down steep hills and then squat-run up-hill while my hamstrings scream in agony and my heart rate shoots to an all-time high. I didn't realize that trail running would be absolutely NOTHING like treadmill running. My first time on a trail was Buttermilk back in April. Buttermilk will always be my favorite I think. It was such a rush to run through the woods and along Belle Isle, leaping over boulders and avoiding tree limps along the path. My first thought was the movie Avatar and every time I run I still think about that damn movie.

So now I've had the opportunity to try other trail runs and they all are different in their own special way. Like Powhite Park. That place has a huge half pipe that I never thought I'd run through but I did it, screaming the whole way. Forest Hill Park has an incredible view of a man-made lake at the bottom of the trail, followed by the steepest hill I've ever had to climb. Although most of the time I feel like I'm going to throw up after this up-hill sprint, after that sensation goes away, the feeling of accomplishment eventually kicks in (after sucking in all the air I possibly can into my lungs while I recover).

I recently traveled to Abingdon, Virginia where I got to pursue my other new hobby of mountain/road biking. I'm not good at it, but with few months (or years) of practice I hope to actually keep
up with my other bike friends and not be scared of bridges anymore (Yes, a certain someone thought it was a good idea to bike across the Huguenot Bridge as my first ride on my new road bike...). My first time in Abingdon was nothing short of amazing. After a tour of the town, we stopped by the Farmer's Market to pick up fresh goat cheese, braised ground pork, dark chocolate fudge (made out of goat cheese), and marmalade to bring home to my Mom (she loves that kind of stuff).

After the Farmer's Market and our 4th or 5th cup of coffee of the day, we headed over to a bike rental store along Creeper Trail and rented our mountain bikes. We hit the trail and enjoyed the ride. Creeper Trail is absolutely gorgeous. I've never seen views like this in Virginia. Who knew this kind of scenery was right in our backyards? The trail went through rough roads, long wooden bridges over small waterfalls, and stretches of grass where cows dined as we passed by. We got about 9 miles out, just 7 miles shy of the town of Damascus before the sky fell on us. We were already covered in rain and mud, but turned back anyway to enjoy a chili dog at the Old Alvarado Station for lunch (about half way along the trail between Abingdon and Damascus) and watched the rain fall.

As soon as the rain lightened up, we hit the trail home, trying to beat out other riders and runners as we raced to the end. It was quite the experience despite the soreness in my butt and legs. I was looking forward to a long hot shower and maybe another cup of coffee. Or a beer.

The rest of the trip was fantastic, but that'll be another story since I wanted this post to be about my new outdoor adventures in running and biking. Trail running has transformed the way I look at my normal fitness routine. It's definitely opened up a new door of opportunities and fun. I don't think of it as exercise at all even though I reap the benefits of just that. As a result of picking up new activities, I'm training for my first triathlon and hope these adventures will help with my training. I'm also somewhat of a chicken and these adventures have made me a little less fearful, which could be a good thing or a bad thing. We shall see!

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