Two miles. Uphill. In the snow. Both directions.
Okay, so that was a more accurate description of my hike this weekend rather than my run, but it's pretty close. This weekend McCrae and I escaped to his aunt and uncle's mountain cabin outside Sparta, NC. We had an...adventurous...time getting up to the cabin via the Blue Ridge Parkway (which was closed) and private roads (which were gated and locked) and icy vertical drives (which apparently popped one of our tires), but we made it and we spent 4 days in the cabin together and didn't want to kill each other (#romancegoals)
Of course, mountain cabin vacation or not I had a running streak to maintain! So I did an out-and-back down the private gravel road to the cabin. It was just over one mile from the cabin to the end of the gravel road intersecting with the Blue Ridge Parkway, which surprised me because it always feels so much longer coming and going in the car, but I suppose when it's an unnervingly steep and narrow path up a mountain then one mile stretches long in your imagination.
I decided to fully commit to the run and go as far as the gravel road could take me, mostly to test my mettle and gauge my fitness. I have foolishly committed to a team running the Blue Ridge Relay in September and I wanted to determine my baseline effort and pace for mountain running. I've always loved the idea of running mountain races - it seems like the perfect combination of my love of hiking in the mountains and my love of running - but big hills aren't common in Durham and my training logs reflect that. Most of my races have been relatively flat courses - beach races or rolling piedmont races - and so the idea of jumping into mountain races is a bit ludicrous. But ludicrous or not, it seems the time is right to push myself and work on something a little harder.
The challenge should be good for me, and at the very least more hill training should translate to faster mile times on flat courses. And so this weekend I ran two miles on a mountain: first a gloriously easy and fast mile (8:47) down to the Blue Ridge Parkway, and then a calf-burning, lung-combusting, sweat-dribbling-into-my-eyes sort of tail-busting mile straight back up the mountain. In all honesty, it was more of a hike than a run: I pushed myself to run up the more amenable ascents but there were plenty of sections that loomed frighteningly vertical and slowed me to a trudge. My mile time is cringe-worthy (and I'm sure if I printed it I would not be invited to any relay team...ever!) but it's a start. My best hope is that there won't be any gravel roads going straight up a mountain in the relay course...but even so I've got my work cut out for me! Here's to a ton of hill workouts and weekends in the mountains over these next nine months!