Monday, August 11, 2014

Unexpected Consequences

We risked hypothermia in hopes of getting biscuits and gravy at Hardees (Carl’s Jr for your westerners).  Rain-soaked clothes in blistering cold air conditioning can set the stage for some serious frigidity.

“What breakfast do you have left?” Mandy asked the lady behind the counter.  She listed off quite a spread: two orders of biscuits and gravy (YES!), two chicken biscuits, two pull-apart cinnamon rolls, a handful of sundry other biscuit sandwiches.

“We'll take it all!” I cried silently.

Instead of all we got the biscuits and gravy, the chicken biscuits, and the cinnamon rolls.  

Let’s be fair, we earned some glorious junk food gravy feast.  We’d run about seven miles of trail in order to familiarize Mandy and her mom with the Rugged Red course and conditions.  All that food was split three ways.

My weekend running adventure had actually started more than twelve hours earlier and twenty miles back.  Yeah, I said twenty miles.

I’d not been home from work long on Friday when Mandy asked if I was going to go running.  I’d actually not planned to go running, but when she mentioned it I realized that due to my poor choice of chicken tenders and potato wedges from the grocery deli at lunch I needed to run.  And far.

For a week or so I had been thinking of a certain route that I wanted to run.  The Lost Branch/Osborne Bend Trails make a nice loop when combined with KY 715 between the “Concrete Bridge” and Gladie Creek.  The loop is thirteen and a half miles.  Okay, so it might have been stupidly ambitious of me to think I could leap from a moderate ten mile trail run to a half marathon over the river and through the Clifty Wilderness.  

Eons ago I had hiked that loop rather frequently.  It was my go-to long hiking day.  Back then it was well defined double track for the most part.  And despite thatmaybebecause of its lengthit felt wild.  Back then my loop wasn't even official trails.  I'd not actually hiked them since they'd been designated and signed as part of the Red River Gorge trail system.  I couldn't even tell you when that happened.

I started out running north on the Sheltowee from Bison Way.  I overtook a party of weekend warriors bearhugging Marlboro camping gear and leaving a trail of acrid cigarette smoke in their wake.  Way out past Hale Branch I came up on a group of young backpackers trying to traverse a massive downed tree across the trail.  And then for miles I saw no one.

The horse marshes set me to cursing.  If I can't ride my mountain bike in a wilderness area then people shouldn't be allowed to ride their overgrown pets on the trails and destroy them.  But I progress!

I missed a crucial turn.  I was unaware that there's a new singletrack alignment on Osborne Bend, and when I got onto a well driven dirt road I didn't feel as if I recognized it.  I went for a while, but eventually turned back and looked for a turn I had to have missed.

The new trail segment was obscured by a fallen tree.  I almost didn’t find it when I went back.  It’s not normal for me to have trouble finding my way.  Like I said, it’s beenyears since I’d been out there and there is a new section of trail.

Anyway, I turned southward and began the last trail stretch of my run.  Somewhere on the descent from the ridgetop down to the trailhead at the Concrete Bridge my knees started a guttural monk chant.  The last half mile I managed to run, but I was hurting.  I came out of the woods feeling great, except for the pounding explosions of pain in my knees.

At the end of the trail I stumbled onto the pavement with the intention of walking a short distance and then picking the pace up again to cover those last three miles on the road.  I couldn’t do it.  I could walk, but I couldn’t run more than three steps without staggering to a lurching walk.  So walk I did.  It took me an hour to cover those three miles.  It was as much a test of endurance as any long distance bike ride or run.  Persistence carried me back to the car.  At the end of that loop I was certain I was finished running for the weekend.

“You’re taking me and mom on the Rugged Red course in the morning.”

“When?”  I asked in surprise.

“Seven o’clock.  I told you,” she said.


“It’s like I’m talking to a brick wall sometimes.”

She’s right.  Sometimes I don’t hear key bits of information.  Later Friday night after my epic run through Clifty Wilderness we talked about running first thing Saturday morning.  I was skeptical at that point that I would be healed up enough to walk the seven mile loop much less run it.  After those agonizing three miles of walking in the Gorge I wasn’t certain I would ever run again.

That’s why I was doubly shocked twenty four hours later to find myself surrounded by thousands of people in the middle of Main Street Lexington lined up at the start of the Midsummer Night’s Run (MSNR).  Somewhere behind me in the crowd were Mandy and her mom.  Our niece Alison was with me, but I’d soon lose her in the crowd.  I shook my head and closed my eyes in stupid consternation.

By five o’clock Friday I’d ran ten miles and walked three hard miles.  Sixteen hours later I’d added seven more to my tally.  And then a little less than twelve hours after that I would be lining up for another 5k.  And I felt pretty darn good about it.

The trail run was good.  It was an easy pace for me.  My knees very distinctly did not hurt Saturday morning despite the abuse from Friday afternoon.  I had stretched, ibuprofened, and stretched some more Friday evening.  The Saturday morning jaunt was more about staving off general tiredness and fatigue.  Then there was the aforementioned fast food gorge.  

On the drive home from the Gorge we discussed the possibility of doing the MSNR.  I hoped they would forget about it, but each time there was an opportunity for someone to bow out gracefully or otherwise no one did.  By mid-afternoon we had somehow all not agreed to not agree to do it.

And that’s how I ended up at the starting line of the Midsummer Night’s Run with twenty miles in my legs and three and a tenth to go and a swollen knob on my ankle where I’d been stung by a yellow jacket while walking Radar in the yard.

I hoped I would be able to crack my most recent time (around 27 minutes at the 2013 Natural Bridge 5k) but had little hope of being able to hit within minutes of that.  It would have been easy enough for me to just do the run at a nice comfortable pace and enjoy the scenery as I loped along.  I couldn’t do that.

I ran.  It hurt.  At two miles I heard someone call out “nineteen twenty five.”  I tried to do the math in my head to figure out how fast I would need to run to get to the finish in under twenty seven minutes.  I came up with six something.  I can’t do math in my head when I have a normal amount of electrolytes in my system and plenty of sleep.  I picked up the pace all the same.  

The second half of the MSNR is a long, gradual, and very slight downhill.  It’s easy to pick up the pace.  For half a mile I ran strong, but then as I entered back into the CBD I started to fade.  I held on for the next half mile wishing I had never taken up running again.  Then I saw the digi-board over the finish line.  I tried hard to kick.  I picked up the pace as much as I could.  When I got close enough to read the numbers I saw “00:29:30.0” and I gave more energy to my legs.  I was going to beat 30 minutes if it killed me.

In the end my official time was 27:56.  It took a couple of minutes for my section of the pack to cross the beginning sensor.  I shouldn’t have been able to run a 5k that fast in the state I found myself on Saturday night.  It’s all very complicated and confusing.

I think I’m ready to sign up for the Leadman competition.


  1. Love that last pic of the fog in the gorge!

    1. Thanks! Wish I had my good camera with me! It was pretty cool out there in the rain.