Well, today’s run kicked my ass. Ruth has a 101° fever, so she skipped her long run today. I’m almost hoping that I’m coming down with what she has, so I can use that as an explanation for how my run went.
I’m doing the Bear Brook Trail Marathon in two weeks and I haven’t been doing much trail running lately (none at all, actually) so I decided to load up my Camelback and do this week’s long run in the Middlesex Fells.
We’re lucky to have the Fells nearby. The Reservation (map) was created in 1894 to protect the Fells from clear-cutting for timber. The 2575 acres of rocky forest are too rugged for farming or development, but they’re great for hiking, running, cross-country skiing, and other recreational uses.
I wanted to do around 20 miles, so I decided on a route that went from my house to the Fells, along the fire roads to the Reservoir Trail, around the Reservoir Trail the long way to the Cross Fells Trail, and then over to the far side of the Fells. I figured if that wasn’t about 10 miles, I’d pick up some other trails on the way back to add a few miles.
There aren’t any real mountains in the Fells, but there are plenty of hills. The Reservoir Trail winds among and over them, much of it single-track with roots and rocks to keep me occupied. On trails that are at all technical, I’m more of the trail jogger than a trail runner, but I moved along at a reasonable clip. I wasn’t moving terribly fast, but one of the nice things about trail running, especially on highly technical trails, is that there are plenty of things to keep your mind occupied and keep you from being bored, no matter how slowly you’re going.
It was humid, and the temperature was up in the 80s, so the sweat poured off of me as I worked up and down the hills. Thankfully the skies were overcast or it would’ve been worse, even in the shade of the trees.
I followed the Reservoir Trail to Sheepfold, and then got on the road to cross over to the Cross Fells Trail. It’s a little sad to run on trails for a while and then run a short section of road. The road is easier, but it shows me how slow I’m actually going.
I turned to take the Cross Fells trail through the East side of the Fells and things got more difficult. Most of the trails make some concessions to the gnarly terrain that makes up the Fells. Not the Cross Fells Trail. It cuts from one side of the Fells to the other with little concern for rocks, hills, rocky hills, or other impediments.
I always see plenty of mountain bikers on the trails on the west side of the Fells, even on the single-track that they’re not supposed to ride on. But I’ve never seen a mountain bike rider on the eastern section of the Cross Fells Trail. That trail makes much of the Reservoir Trail look like a pleasant sidewalk.
By the time I approached the far end of the Cross Fells Trail, I wasn’t terribly concerned with whether or not I would get all 20 miles in. I was starting to feel beat. I went into in ultra mode and began walking a lot of the uphill sections.
At the east end of the trail, I was 9.8 miles from home according to my Garmin. I turned back and churned through the Cross Fells Trail back to Sheepfold. By the time I made it back to the Reservoir Trail I was pretty well cooked. My pace had dropped from a jog to something more like a fast hike.
From there. it was a long slog back to where I’d entered the Fells. When I reached the roads for the 2 miles back to the house, picking up the pace was a lot more challenging than it should’ve been. I ended up walking big chunks of Playstead Road into West Medford. I might not have looked very good – someone walking their dog in the other direction warned me to be careful.
By this point my Camelback was empty, so I stopped in at the Dunkin’ Donuts in West Medford for a glass of ice water and a dose of air-conditioning. That was enough to get me through the last mile back to the house.
I was totally wiped. The trip back from the far side of the Fells had taken me 15 minutes longer than the trip out. I mixed up a big glass of cold juice and protein powder, poured that down, and then stumbled upstairs to shower.
When I got out I weighed myself. Even after drinking an entire 70 ounce Camelback, 16 ounces of ice water from Dunkin’ Donuts, and about 10 ounces of juice, I was still down 3 1/2 pounds from what I weighed at the start of my run. That explained why I felt so crappy. However, I knew the solution. I went out and had a big bowl of salty soup with udon noodles and a few more glasses of water, and by the time I got home I almost felt human again.
After today, I won’t be taking Bear Brook lightly. My slowest marathon ever was a 5:47 at the Nipmuck Trail Marathon back in 2005, when the race was still held in June. I was training for trail ultras then, so I was in much better shape, but it was 88° and sunny that day, nasty weather for any marathon, let alone one where the race director makes first-time runners wear a bright orange sticker on their number that says “High Fall Risk”. It would be nice to be faster than 5:47 at Bear Brook, but I’m just doing it as a training run so I’m not going to worry about it. I was considering trying to fit in a few extra miles after the marathon, but if conditions there are at all similar to today, or to Nipmuck, that idea is a non-starter.
(19.5 mi. run; 149.5#)