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The Loveliest Trail

My good friend Sophie invited us down to the Southern end of Shenandoah National Park for one of her legendary runs. 

Am I ever glad we made the journey.

All of us at the start. Not sure why I'm holding my leg up.
It was the perfect summer trail adventure. Stream crossings abounded, so many I lost count. Sophie claims she has run this trail during dry spells and finished with dry feet. I am dubious.

One of many stream crossings. My shoes are still wet three days later.
The weather was cool, the humidity was low, and the trail was like a dream.  It was smooth and runnable. Even the uphills were gentle. 

Hubz and I
There were several overlooks with pretty views of the valley. The mountain laurel were in full bloom.

Mountain Laurel, everywhere along the trail
Two runners braving the coldest swimming hole south of Alaska

We lollygagged and laughed and sauntered through the woods, cooled off in natural pools, and marveled at the beauty of our surroundings.

Those 21 miles were over far too soon.

This run transported me back to childhood days of open-ended exploration with no schedules, obligations or distracting thoughts about pace, miles or cutoffs.

Friends moseying up the trail. All photos by Sophie S.
It reminded me, once again, why I love trail running.

Wordless Wednesday

Warming up for my volunteer stint at an Aid Station during the MMT 100.

Capon Valley 50K, A Rite of Spring

rite noun

1: a prescribed form or manner governing the words or actions for a ceremony 
2: a ceremonial act or action 
synonyms: observance, ritual

Capon Valley
50K means that Spring is here in earnest. There'll be no more of Winter's cold, dreary days. From here on out, there'll be a few amazing, low humidity, sunshiney, glad-to-be-alive days before it feels like a sauna and the mosquitoes are out in force.

The trees here put on a lush show of greenery, that brilliant hue that fades as summer approaches.
The weather is usually pleasant and cool. It often rains a little, and this year was no exception. As I cranked out the last two miles, a  light drizzle began and spurred me onward. It didn't last long, clearing up before I had tucked away my post-race chicken dinner.

The course has a little of everything. Woods. Dirt trails. Gravel roads where you can put the hammer down.

A whole lot of hills.

Elevation chart. Ups and glorious downs!
A section of trail early in the race. It crosses the stream to the left a few times.
No one has ever finished this race with dry feet.
And stream crossings. Eleventy-thousand of them.

I knew I wouldn't be running a PR this year. Instead I spent the day grateful: for the glorious weather, the friends who kept me laughing and chatting and moving along, the beauty surrounding me and the ability to run this challenging course.

The course includes some gravel road sections.
Every year I tell myself I'll try more new races, but in early April, I find myself signing up for this one again.

This was my fifth visit to Capon Valley, and I'll probably run it again next year.

Why do I keep returning? Maybe it's the time of year, maybe it's the fact that one can only run most of this course once a year, as it covers a lot of private land. Maybe it's the people.

This beautiful section of trail comes after the last big climb. Six miles to go.
The horse folks just over the border in West Virginia aren't ultrarunners, but they sure know how to put on a great run.

The aid stations are well-stocked. The volunteers are warm, friendly, quick to offer assistance and always know the distance of the next section.

There are outdoor showers at the finish line, and you can even pitch a tent then night before the race.

The chicken dinner at the end (included in your race fee!) is cooked up behind the Ruritan Club. The smell is amazing. And, there's homemade pie!

I have resolved to do a little more training for my next ultra. Really. Now that I'm feeling fully healed, I need to buckle down and improve. My plan: increase my mileage overall, invest more time in tempo runs, add some interval training, and specifically work on my hill climbing skills.

I'm not usually a morning runner, but I intend to start that habit. I don't mind getting up, it's getting out the door that's tough for me. Any other lollygaggers out there have suggestions?

Photo from a few years ago. I have no idea whom to credit.

The Beer Mile

The WUS Beer Mile was a rousing success.

The speedy kids had been talking trash all week. Frankly, I was quaking in my rugged trail shoes, fearing the possibility of coming in DFL.

Amazingly, I finished second woman!

My pre-race warmup. No one else is apparently taking this race seriously.

The WUS gang, awaiting the word GO

Ok, it was a distant second (more than 5 minutes behind Martha) but I was proud of my very first Beer Mile. 

Especially in light of the fact that it took me 59 seconds to down my first beer.


First off the line: holy 7 seconds of beer chugging!
Overall I met all my goals for this race:
  1. Finish
  2. Don't hurl
  3. Look cute in new running dress
Robin (not pictured here) is way ahead of me. But hurling cost her an extra lap.

Post Beer Mile. It took me about 14 minutes total. Feeling bloated yet stylish.
Overall winner Bobby with a coveted Martha Mile (Layer 1) shirt.

In summary: OMG. So fun. So awful. And my Kansas-bred belching talent came in MIGHTY handy.

I always knew it would, someday.

I get a shirt too? Great! Hey, are those CUPCAKES?
(photos by Aaron S, mostly)