Monday, July 4, 2011

Nota Bene: When Reading Trail Descriptions...

For a Fourth of July treat, I decided to go on my inaugural trail run of the season this morning.  I also decided to test out the RunKeeper app again, as I was less than thrilled at its functionality in the city.  I drove out to Difficult Run, right outside of Great Falls National Park, and figured I'd run into the park, check out the falls and then head back to the lot.

Getting on the right track proved to be the most challenging aspect.  First, thanks to the wicked crazy storm last night (links to a YouTube vid, not mine, of the storm), the road that I'd planned on taking to get to the trailhead was closed.  Never fear!  There are about 6 different ways to get everywhere in DC, and soon I was crossing the Potomac and in the Commonwealth.

I arrived at the trailhead right at 8am, and there were probably 10 cars in the lot.  I geared up and set off.  Issue numero dos with trail running the morning after a wicked crazy storm:  lots of puddles.  Not that I'm averse to them, but I just hadn't dealt with them in a while.  I hopped over stepping stones to cross Difficult Run.  As I leaped from rock to rock, I thought, "Huh, I don't remember reading about this in the trail writeup."  I shrugged and kept running.  I saw a grey heron in the water.  The trail seemed to be in people's backyards at points. 

And then there was a road.  Bloody hell.  The trail description definitely did not mention crossing a road.  Where on earth was I??  Runkeeper app to the rescue!  I had run about 1.5 miles in the wrong direction.  Sigh.

Lesson learned:  If you cross a cool set of stepping stones, but the trail description doesn't mention them, you've probably gone the wrong way.
Cool stepping stones that weren't mentioned in the trail description.
After a quick water break at the car, I went in the correct direction.  Not much is eventful, other than I need to get better at climbing hills, and maybe not as averse to rocky terrain.
Back on track!  Much better.
I checked out the confluence of Difficult Run and the Potomac and doubled back onto the main trail.  I passed a few hikers, 3 trail runners, and a gaggle of rock climbers setting up their top ropes.  A couple miles later, I had reached what was, in my head, the "halfway" point: the views of the falls. 
Great Falls, from one of the viewpoints.
Having only ever entered the park from the main entrance, I was a little spun around and spent a few minutes figuring out how to convince the early bbq-ers to give me a burger get back onto the trails that would make a loop and bring me back to my car.  It turns out the Old Carriage Road is broad and easy to run on.  The merge onto the Swamp Trail was easy single track (although only foot traffic is permitted) and not swampy at all. A few more turns, and I was back at el coche, with only one scrape on my shin.
Legs were muddier than they appear.
Not surprisingly, RunKeeper performed better at figuring out where I was outside of the city.  It also thinks that I run straighter, too.  Oddly, though, it did not record my first 1.5 miles in the wrong direction.  Total distance, per RunKeeper: 6.8 miles.  Actual distance: closer to 7.5 miles.

I had a quick refuel of a PB sandwich and loads of water/Nuun.  Just for kicks, I decided to time the drive back home:  32 minutes.

Happy Fourth of July!

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