Saturday, July 30, 2011

Fail Trail

I've christened today's run "The Fail on the Trail". It wasn't a bad run, it was just kind of a meltdown of preparation and mental sharpness on my part.

Like I've said in most of my recent entries, I'm not really starting my marathon training yet, since I'm shaving the first few weeks of Higdon's Novice II because I'm already ahead of the mileage, but I was still hoping to get a longer long run in this morning. 14 was my goal. I thought I'd run on the rail trail, because it would give me a change of scenery and, if I started at Brillhart, the opportunity to stop and refill my bottles at the turnaround point at Hanover Junction. Brilliant! Since I wanted to beat the heat and be on the trail around 6am, I laid all my clothes and paraphernalia out the night before. That's not just preparation, that's extraordinary preparation!

I checked the always reliable (please consider the italics to be the sarcasm font in this case), and noted that today's low was predicted to be 67 degrees. Awesome! Anything under 70 is a gift I'll gladly accept. But, when I scrolled through the hourly forecasts, none of them showed lower than 74. D'oh! That's not terrible, but a little warmer than most of my summer early morning runs. With that in mind, I considered lowering my distance goals a bit, but instead decided that the shade of the rail trail and the built-in refilling stop would be too much of an advantage to give up.

Alarm went off at 4:30, and I'm ready to be out the door at 5:20. Clockwork. Except for one little thing...I saw that I hadn't put the plug from the charger into my Garmin fully, and it had less than an hour of charge.


I like to have Garmin, despite its inaccuracy, since it lets me monitor my pace without having to resort to math, but this wasn't a critical error -- I still have my trusty Timex Ironman Triathlon (no sarcasm here, I seriously love this watch). No problem, everything was still going smoothly. I got to Brillhart station at 6:00am, and headed southward on the trail. I was running along, everything was going fine, and I don't need Garmin when I have an awesome and reliable stopwatch... that I forgot to start.


A bit discouraged, I started my watch. I'm estimating I was only 3-4 minutes into my run before starting it. Not the end of the world, but I bet Meb Keflezighi never forgets to start his watch.

I quickly noticed that the humidity was humiditating rather heavily, but luckily the trail has a great amount of shade and it was mostly overcast, anyway. Of course, I'd opted for the visor, even though under these conditions it's unnecessary and even a minor detriment.


Within the first mile, I was already sweating profusely. In fact, people following me on the trail probably had to swim for it. My route turned out to be not as well-thought as I'd planned. You see, Chris and I had biked this same section of the trail on Tuesday night. This had the unfortunate effect of making it seem like it was taking forever to get anywhere while running. On a bike, the Howard Tunnel seems just a few minutes past Brillhart Station. Today, it seemed light years away (Really, it's about 2 miles from where I started/finished.)


(Isn't it pretty? Doesn't it look humid?)

Once past the tunnel, things seemed to take a turn for the better. Using my now-running chronometer and the mile markers on the trail, I could tell I was running about a 10-minute mile pace, and I started feeling better, or at least getting used to how gross I felt. There was one close call where I thought I saw a snake coiled on the trail ahead of me (EPIC FAIL), but fortunately it turned out to just be a branch with some leaves.

I reached Hanover Junction in approximately an hour. It turned out to be between and six and seven miles away from Brillhart. I took a short break to drink some water and refill both of my bottles, and then headed north (to FREEDOM!)

The way back didn't seem to take as long as the way down (In reality, it took the same time or a few minutes longer.) I was still laying down between 9 and 10 minute miles and, since the trail is picturesque but really just running in a straight line, was bored out of my mind. All I could focus on was watching for the next mile marker, just wanting to get this one over with. Finally, it seemed, I reached the cool relief of the tunnel, which was just a cooler but more humid spot on this humid run.

(Crap. Is it "Come into the light, Brian." or "Don't come into the light, Brian"?)

From there, though, it was easy. Just two miles to go. As I reached Brillhart Station, my watch read 2:03:10, so I'm estimating my full run at 2:07. It turned out, according to the distance reading from Tuesday's bike ride, to be 12.76 miles.

Good enough.

Also, People are Jerks
As I ran, I said "hi" to everyone who passed. Maybe 1 in 10 returned my hello. I don't expect to become best friends with people I meet on the trail, but I'm running, they're running, isn't the bond of shared suffering enough to warrant a friendly greeting?

Several people have told me that they've noticed that solo female runners usually won't say hi to a lone male runner. Do I look like a creepy stalker? I've never stalked anyone, and I really don't think I'm that creepy looking. So thank you to the two ladies who did return my hello, you reassured me a bit that perhaps I don't look like an axe murderer. And even if I were, where I would hide an axe while I'm running?

There was one guy in particular that I thought was a jerk. He was definitely a better runner than me, catching up to and passing me after starting at Brillhart a few minutes after me and then pulling way ahead of me. I said hello as he passed, and was greeted by a stony silence. At what I believe to be the 5-mile mark (based on a previous bike ride along this course), he turned and passed me going the other way. I said hello again, and this time was glared at for my troubles.

Well Mr. Cool, I'll have you know that while you may be (much) faster than me, I continued on to Hanover Junction and back again, and I believe that makes me the better man.

So, that's the end of today's rant. Am I off-base here? What's proper running etiquette in this situation -- hello or no?


  1. I say good morning of give a nod to most runners that I pass. I assume that it's because I'm in NJ or maybe because my knee high tube socks are annoying to people that I rarely get any acknowledgement in return.

    I did wear my Marathon Maniacs singlet on a run once and I did get A LOT more acknowledgement from runners and non runners on the boardwalk. What's that about???

    Thank you for this post, btw. I was considering heading out to my favorite trail. But I realize that perhaps I should stay right where I am and keep the convenience of a post-run dip in the ocean available while it's so freaking hot out.

  2. I very rarely say hi during my runs to other people who I see. Way too many people out there. However, during a race that's out and back (and just about every race I do is like that), I'm miss chatty cathy and acknowledge everyone, whether it's a hi, smile, thumbs-up, and huge shouts to people I'm actually friends with. Hmm, now that strikes me as sort of weird!

  3. Thanks for the comments Lisa and Val!

    @ Val -- at Shamrock there's a street that you run up from like miles 14-16 and back on like miles 22-24 (it's not quite an out and back -- there's a loop around Ft. Story in between) and I noticed that the "Maniacs" jerseys definitely got peoples attention. I tried to cheer on the people coming back as I was going out, since they were almost done. Since I'm on the slower end, there were so many of them, so most just got a thumbs up or a little head nod.

    @ Lisa -- I said hi or waved to every single person today that I passed, passed me, or who was going the other way. Maybe I was less creepy today, because I did get a few more responses. I'm working on a Grand Unified Theory of Reduced Creepiness.