Sunday, April 22, 2012

Huntsville Final Tune Up

Decided to head out to Huntsville for the last long run before Miwok.  Simply gorgeous morning for a quiet run in the woods.  The plan was to do the Rocky Raccoon 100 20-mile loop.  Nearing the Nature Center and the 3-mile mark, I decided to explore a broad utility cut nearby.  I had checked it out last summer when it was still under construction and recall some nice hills.  As I was heading out the cut, I saw a runner ahead coming my way.  Turned out to be Robert King, who was getting some hill work in for Hardrock.  He said the 7 Hills Running Club out of Huntsville dubbed this the 7-Hills Trail.  He estimated it was about 2.5 miles end to end, for a 5-mile out and back.  He also mentioned that there were some excellent hills ahead.  

"Seven Hills Trail"

Not so sure about the 5 mile part, as I think it's probably closer to 4 miles round trip, but Robert wasn't kidding about the hills.  Lots of excellent rollers and a couple of hills that are easily the biggest in the area (on the longest, it took 2 minutes at a fairly chippy pace to make it from top to bottom.  Obviously, not Colorado, but it's definitely a great place to come for some good up & down. 

End of the road - Elkins Lake

Back in the park proper, I tried to keep an honest but comfortable pace as long as possible.  Soon enough I found myself at the Dam Road Aid Station site about to head out on what I think of as the Heaven & Hell Loop.  About six miles total, it heads out the perimeter CCC Trail - that's the Heaven - one of my favorite sections.  Fairly straight, lots of fun rollers, a sense of isolation, and pretty good footing throughout.  I ran nearly all of this section.
CCC Trail - The Heaven of the Heaven/Hell Loop
All good things come to an end, though, and I found myself deposited out of Heaven and into Hell - the long stretch of the Chinquapin Trail between the spillway and the boardwalks.  I loathe this section.  Where Heaven is straight and predictable, Hell is twisted up like a small intestine and the footing sucks in places.  Despite these feelings, I was still having a nice run and arrived at the spillway in good spirits.  

Chinquapin over the spillway

But while the mind was clear and light, I started to experience some pain near my right achilles, a problem that has cropped up a couple of times near the end of a few of my runs lately.  I hoped it wouldn't slow me down too much and forged ahead.  Back at Dam Road, I started walking while I had a GU and some water and prepared for the long stretch to the Park Road crossing.  When I started moving again, the achilles/ankle was definitely unhappy, and halfway down the one-mile stretch of Chinquapin, I was reduced to walk. 

Chinquapin nearing the Park Road

Spilling out back on the fire road, I toyed with the idea of pressing on, but decided against it.  Two weeks out from Miwok, the last thing I needed was to force the issue.  So I didn't.  Hiked most of the 2 miles of so back to the car, and while I was a little frustrated, even the achy ankle couldn't completely dampen such a wonderful morning in the woods. 
Dogwood heading in

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