Monday, April 15, 2013

Weekend Adventures: Lost in the Woods

With the Promise Land 50k less than 2 weeks away, the hubby and I joined in on an organized training run this past weekend to get a better idea of what the course would be like. The training run started at 7:15am from just north of Bedford, VA, which meant a 4:30am wake-up to make the 2 hr drive out to the course. The perk of waking up early? Beautiful sunrises:

I was pretty excited for the run, both because I wanted to see the course and because my restless legs have been aching for a longer run since Terrapin. The plan for the day was for me to do the "short" loop of 18.5 miles, Jordan would run the longer loop of 26 miles +. Really, all I wanted to see what the renown Apple Orchard Falls and the tremendous climb I'd be facing late in the race.

Jordan and I prior to starting the run.
To keep this post short, I'll start of by saying my run got off to a rough start. Shortly before starting I realized I was wearing completely the wrong shoes (and was 3 miles up a mountain from my actual trail shoes). I panicked momentarily then decided to suck it up and do the run anyways. Still, I felt like I was hyperventilating for most of the first climb.

After about 30 minutes I settled down and got into a good groove... perhaps too good. About 7-8 miles in I missed a turn and starting running down a mountain in the wrong direction. I had a gut feeling telling me to turnaround, but I was enjoying the downhill so I didn't. Whoops. That took me about 3-4 miles off course.

Many miles later I finally made it to the top of Apple Orchard Falls at Sunset Fields. By this point I was feeling both relieved but grumpy from just having an overall rough day. I considered refueling at an aid station there, but remember thinking "I only have 2 miles downhill left, no problem...I'll be fine." I also contemplated quitting at that point and catching a ride downhill but stubbornly decided to end the run on a positive note (famous last words).

I set off down the mountain feeling quite strong and determined to push the pace for the final few miles. Unfortunately, I quickly made a wrong turn and started retracing the course in the wrong direction. I saw streamers so I thought I was on the right track. This too was downhill so I continued to run and didn't pay much attention to my watch (big mistake). I'm certain that dehydration and fatigue did not help much. It was not until a few miles later that I realized I still was not done and I was now running uphill (definitely not correct). I turned around with 24 miles on my watch, 6 miles more than I had anticipated running. By this time I was toast... no more running for me. I was also now out of food and water.

Essentially I wandered my way back up the mountain, but due to my level of fatigue I was not moving fast at all. I ran out of food and water shortly after turning around. Then, after several unsuccessful attempts to call my husband, my cell phone died. Even after reaching the top of the mountain, I was unsure how to get back to Sunset Fields. I sat down for a bit and reluctantly opted to make the trip down the mountain (this time the correct way, another 2-3 miles).

The entire run/walk took me 8 hours. When I finally made it back to camp, everyone else was gone. Even my husband had left. Though leaving me a "picnic" of food, water and clothing, he went to Bedford for a phone charger. I was finally reunited with him while waiting at a restaurant at the end of the road.

Lessons Learned on the Trail

#1: If you're running downhill, make sure it's in the right direction!!
I get excited with the downhills and tend to just put my head down and go--making it very easy to loose track of where I'm going. Now I know to be more vigilant about staying on course.

#2: Don't run in the mountains solo!
At the beginning of the run my husband asked if I wanted him to run with me. I said no and let him go ahead with his friends. Apparently he was not far behind me when I made it back to Sunset fields shortly before I got lost (meaning I should have just waited... meh).

#3: Carry more food and water than you think you might need.
My 3.5 hr training run turned into 8. Enough said. Never hurts to be over-prepared.

Final thoughts: I'm a bit beat up mentally about the whole ordeal, though it was still beneficial to see the course in such detail. I made a lot of mistakes during this run, but it's a good reminder of what NOT to do come race day. Maybe then I'll get it right ? :)


  1. Very scary. Seems you did an awfully good job of keeping your wits. It is so easy to get lost, and so scary.

    1. I think my husband was more scared than I was... I was more just emotionally distraught from being on my feet for so long (and having been up since 4am). Definitely not an experience I want to repeat.


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