"For an occurrence to become an adventure, it is necessary and sufficient for one to recount it." ~ Jean-Paul Sartre

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Flirting with Destiny

Yesterday Beth and I drove down to Berryman. She wanted to get the lay of the land as far as which hotels are the closest and how to get to the trail head etc. I figured while she was doing that I would hit the trail, and see what was what. I ran the East loop because last time my nephew Michael and I tried the West loop made a wrong turn and ended up taking the Ozark Trail instead. The East loop is more clearly marked, you could call it fool proof, although I had some doubts while I was out there.
It crossed my mind once or twice that it might not be such a good idea to venture off into unfamiliar woods alone with a pretty useless map, but nothing ventured nothing gained. Right? My chief concerns for my safety were snake bite, and rolling my ankle. The main concern for my ego was getting lost and having Forest Rangers searching for me. Everything turned out alright though.
I headed out onto the trail with two 20oz bottles and a 100oz CamelBak and pretty much drank all of it on the trail. I also carried some Perpetuem powder at the recommendation of Travis Liles, and I must say it really makes a difference. If I would have used it at the marathon I know I would have made my time goal. I don't like the way it tastes, but the benefits outweigh the taste. Now keep in mind I have never been on this trail before so I had no idea what to expect. It seemed since I had no way to judge distance that the best thing to do would be to run to Brazil Creek Camp, and depending on time either run back the way I came or finish the loop. Running when you have no concept of distance, and to some extent time (I was trying not to look at my watch) can be demoralizing. Run, run, run for what seems like a long time, sneak a glance at the watch, 33 minutes. Are you serious? Now comes the math. Road pace = X number of miles. Adjust for difficulty of terrain Time + Terrain Modifier= X miles. 10-X= Holy Shit I have a long way to go. Better pick it up. I didn't think I was ever going to get there, at one point I was almost certain that I had made a wrong turn. I envisioned Beth crying on the local news describing what I was last seem wearing between sobs. I pressed onward. I was almost jubilant when I saw the sign that said "Brazil Creek", and I would have been but the trail was flooded so I had to back track a bit and get on the road. I hopped back down the shoulder and got back on the trail. When I actually got to see Brazil creek it was obvious that I would not be crossing. The water was probably waist deep, and running pretty fast. Up until this point all of the several water crossings were minor and I was able to cross without getting my feet total soaked. It was good to run with wet feet since I don't have much experience in that regard. Anyway I back tracked again to the road and ran across the bridge, and once again onto the trail.
Brazil Creek Camp is pretty much as it is described on the Forest Service website. I walked through and didn't see the trail head. I called Beth with the one bar i was afforded here, and left her a very clear and well thought out message (?) "I am at Brazil Creek. I'll probably head back the way I came unless I find the trail head to complete the loop." What could be more clear? I didn't find the other trail head so I headed back.
Now I am not going to talk time just yet because the amount of time I thought it took me to get half way (10 miles) could not possibly be correct. The trail was pretty tough but i was feeling surprisingly good. I almost rolled my ankle several times. Oddly enough it was my left ankle that was giving me the most trouble historically my right ankle has taken all of the abuse in fact I have some what limited range of motion in my right due to numerous sprains. At times I tweaked my ankle so bad I gave an in voluntary "shout out". The rocks and leaves worked together to make the trail treacherous in places. Imagine running on randomly placed baseballs hidden under a quilt. The roots didn't help either.
Finding my way back was easy. I think the trail is marked better in this direction. There were numbers written on the trail markers that I guessed were mileage from Brazil Creek if they were I was making good time. I was projecting a time of 5 and 1/2 hours which was pretty depressing. I started to get really tired and worn out. I just wanted to be done. I hate these mood swings. The mind is a terrible thing. I started to think about the race and whether or not I could make the cut off. I thought about dropping down to the marathon. I thought about not running at all and volunteering instead. I thought alot of things regarding my level of preparation for this race. The thing that stuck however was that I chickened out last year because I felt that I wasn't ready (and I wasn't just for the record), and it would be far more honorable to try and fail than to not try. Nothing ventured nothing gained. Right? I picked up the pace when I could, and I made it as far up the hills as I could before I walked the rest of the way to the top. I glimpsed a trail marker on which someone had written "9". That meant according to my earlier assumption that I only had one mile to go. I thought "but what if I am wrong?" I figured I would just keep going but if I were right then I was coming back way faster than I thought I would. As it turned out I was right. I crossed that last fire road and to the left I could see the sign for Berryman Camp, and even better I could see the car so I kicked it in and finished strong. I still like to impress Beth every now and then. Driving out I looked down the trail and realized that she could have seen me walking before the mighty finish. My total time was 4:35:21 almost a full hour faster than what I thought I was going to finish. I don't know what happened to my sense of time or how I could have been so far off at the midpoint, but I do know that if I can run the hardest section of the trail twice in that amount of time then I am pretty sure I will make the cut-off time for the race.
Yesterday was a good day

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