Running (haha) a bit late, I decided to start from Tredegar since I would get there right at 0600. This would allow me the full 2 hours to get in as many miles as possible before I met up with the Monthly Trail Run (MTR) group.
So I parked, quickly changed shoes, grabbed my pack and got it situated, picked up some of the trash lying around, then off I went to cross the pipeline without the dog. It did feel kind of liberating to be able to run on the catwalk instead of walk and then climb up the ladder without a 70# dog on my lap. Then I ran across the bridge to the Slave Trail saying ‘good morning’ to the fisherman and one fisherwoman as I passed. I stopped at the porta-potty then disappeared into the Poop Loop. Since discovering this loop it’s been my favorite and I try to run it as often as possible.
The loop didn’t disappoint: dark, damp, twisty and lonely. It’s a lesser known trail so isn’t frequented by hikers, MTBers or runners as much as the trails around the river. The ground was soft and muddy because the dew point and air temperature have been almost matchy matchy for the past 2 weeks meaning the ground hasn’t been able to dry out due to the amount of moisture present in the air. That also means you sweat a lot and lose a lot of salt in that sweat so hydration (endurolytes!) is very very important in these warm months. But I digress.
For some reason the Loop smelled like Old Bay, it was quite intriguing. My theory is the Queen Anne’s Lace. There is so much of it in this Loop, fields of it, and they do have a distinct aroma. I think because there is such a concentrated amount of the plant the smell resembles Old Bay. I only noticed this scent when in the Loop, too. Once I exited the spice stayed behind with the Loop. As I left, I said ‘good morning’ to a fellow runner who was headed inside.
When I ran back to the Slave Trail, passing 2 porta-potties and thinking I was home free till I got to the Isle, my tummy reminded me how irritating and unsatisfied it can be at times. Being a bit less than a mile from the porta-potties, did I think about turning around and going back? Hell no. That would mean retracing my steps and taking additional time to get to the MTR crew. It was only 0700 and I had just run 7 miles in 1 hour (I later got yelled at via Messenger, complete with stickers) so there was no one around and my usual routine is to need a potty about an hour into a run so it’s not like I shouldn’t have expected the distraction. So I did my thing (trail runners love this part of running in nature) under the overpass which ended up being a good thing because I wouldn’t have met Leo otherwise.
Leo was running up the hill to the top of the flood wall just as I was getting to the bottom. We met at the top, both passing another guy walking up while smoking a blunt. Leo and I both bid the guy a ‘good morning’, Leo talking to him for a bit, and we continued up the hill. Leo and I ran together for about a mile, crossing the bridge together. He told me about his intended route and how going that direction meant a little bit of a climb for him but he’s just out there to run and love life. He was maybe in his late 60s, early 70s, dressed in a white cotton tank top and cotton shorts and probably not the best running shoes. We chatted about the trains and how watching them cross the river and head into the city was so awesome and how he loves listening to the trains. This was good practice for me because I asked him questions about himself to make small talk and I even introduced myself! We parted ways just after the bridge ended, calling out “nice to meet you’s” and “happy running” to each other.
As I ran back to the pipeline, the guy that had been in the Tredegar parking lot collecting cans was at the trashcan at the entrance, also sorting through the recyclables to get the cans. I laughed as I ran up to him and said, “You know what’s funny?” He stood up and smiled in that uneasy, not sure what to expect from a stranger who blurts out such a random statement kind of way and said, “What?” I said, “I was hoping you’d still be in the area over on Belle Isle so I could tell you to come by this can because I saw there were a lot in here. But you figured it out so now I don’t have to tell you!” He laughed, much more at ease now, and said, “Thanks.” Then I climbed down the ladder and back across the pipeline I went. I ran passed my car and onto Northbank, now only 3 miles from meeting with the MTR crew.
I made it with 10 minutes to spare. Plenty of time to take off my pack, switch shirts, ingest a Huma gel (mango flavor), ask Kathryn to roll some ProShield on the parts of my shoulder blades that were chafing and suck down a lot of Skratch water. The gel wasn’t all that tasty but the best part is it didn’t upset my stomach either and that matters way more than taste. Then we took off and I was still going way too fast which surprised me but also sort of worried me because this is 22 miles! I need to slow my ass down! But the throttle got stuck and fast I still went and it felt great. I took a salt pill when we got to Reedy Creek, telling my friends I was taking a salt pill because last time I took 2 of them I got real lightheaded and loopy feeling. Jokes about how me acting weird wouldn’t be any different than other days were made and laughed at because it might be a little bit true.
We rock hopped to Belle Isle, picking up trash along the way. It seems people are able to carry their stuff in but unable to carry it back out which is very frustrating. It was excellent watching 40+ people hopping across the rocks in the James to get to the island, accumulating trash along the way. Many of us made our own way, others followed the leader like we were an ant family. Then we did the loop around the Isle and headed to Northbank.
Friend B wasn’t in the front of the pack per his usual so I asked him if he was broken. Come to find out he was tapering since his ultra is in 2 weeks and he had run 20 miles up in the mountains the day before. He told me I shouldn’t be running as fast as I am because long runs are about time on my feet and pacing myself and I laughed, telling him I had just gotten yelled at by my coach via Messenger, complete with angry yelling stickers, expressing the same thing. We got a kick out of that. It was nice hanging with Friend B on the run since he’s also an ultra runner and has run many ultras already so I was picking his brain about the climbs since it’s hard to simulate that when you’re below sea level most of the time.
We got back to the lot and I chatted with Friends K, K and G while they played with G’s camera on his iPhone taking various videos of them running up the slight hill back to the lot. That was enjoyable. Then I chatted with other Friend B for a bit about our upcoming races and off I went to complete my final 5 miles. I ran back via Texas Beach so I could stay off the road and get some peace and quiet; I ended up stopping about a full mile in to sit on a rock, listen to the river rapids and eat my final gel and take another salt tab. It was so nice! I squatted in order to stretch out my quads a little since they were feeling tight and just be’d. It was lovely.
On Northbank, I passed a guy on a MTB and soon after I passed his girlfriend, also on a MTB. She said, “I’m not a good bike rider.” As I ran by, I said, “We all have to start somewhere!”
Shortly after that I approached the portion of Northbank where I could start hearing the river and I almost celebrated. That meant I was only 1 mile from my car! I was not 1 mile from being done, however. As that realization sunk in, I was a bit disappointed. But I ran past my car AGAIN and onto Belle Isle to do a loop. I decided to do a big loop so I could finish while still on the isle and walk back to my car which would afford my legs the opportunity to work through some of the lactic acid and help my muscles cool down and repair themselves. Walking for even half a mile after running that many miles helps you be able to walk the next day.
As I was walking back across the pedestrian bridge where I would finally get to take off my shoes and get into my car, I saw that boyfriend/girlfriend duo again. As she passed I said, “See! You made it!” She said, “Yeah, I did!”
As did I. Finally. I was back at my car 4 hours and 30 minutes after I had left it there. Total running time was 3 hours and 37 minutes. Whew.