Monday, April 23, 2012

Trail Tales

So, I've decided to tackle an ultramarathon. Ultras come in several distances--25 kilometers, 50K, 50 miles, 100K. Since I'm planning on running a road marathon in October, the Empire State Marathon, right here in little ol' Syracuse, a 25K will seem anticlimactic. So a 50K--31 miles--it is! Luckily, there already exists an ultra in Syracuse, the Green Lakes Endurance Runs, held every August at lovely Green Lakes State Park.

So I'm considering August 2013 for my maiden ultra, which provides plenty of time to train.

Which leads me to the point of this blog--the trail system at Green Lakes. I took a break from the Mountain Goat training runs (that race is May 6) on Saturday, April 21, to tackle the 8 miles or so that one loop of the Green Lakes ultra course entails. It was a cool, damp day, and I dressed like I would for an 8-mile run in 50-degree weather.

Unfortunately, conditions deteriorated quickly--it got colder and damper--and I was soon too chilled to really enjoy myself. Then there was the confusing map I had printed, in color, and carried with me, confident that I could find my way. Once I made my way up the steep hill from Round Lake, I encountered a confusing intersection and pulled out my map. A helpful hiker happened by: "Do you know where you want to go?" I couldn't resist in my answer: "Sure, I know where I want to go; I just don't know how to get there." He pointed me in the proper direction, really trying to assist me--"It's a right, and then a quick left and then another right. . ."

At one point I called my husband, who asked if I was all right. I was fine, I said, and, while not technically lost, still having difficulty finding my way. Stubborn is one of my strengths, or not, so I kept at it, following the printout right out of the state park and onto private property that was labeled with a "No Trespassing" sign.


I turned around and headed back down the steep hill I had climbed, found another trail which again led to private homes, headed back out and then tried yet again. After having run for an hour and starting to feel it (trail running, while not so jarring on the lower body, carries with it its own set of challenges, and my legs were starting to complain). So I headed back out and made my way back to the beginning of the series of trails (those above Round Lake).

The map showed a less-serpentine route at the back end of the prescribed route, so I took that for a few miles, hoping to link up to where I had gone wrong. Those legs just weren't going to cooperate, however, and I headed back down. Fatigue (and hunger; not dehydration--I had plenty of water and Gatorade) won out over my obstinate nature.

Here's the issue I discovered with the trail map vs. the trails that map outlined: it was confusing! The map labeled the trails by their name--Deer Run Trail, Old Growth Trail, etc. The trails are labeled with small colored signs and corresponding blazes on trees. So. . . I'm out there looking for the Deer Run Trail, and all I see is yellow (the label I discovered after comparing the maps).

When I got back to civilization I studied both the race map and the state park map; I'll be damned if I can figure out how the green trail, which should have linked with the orange trail on the backside of the route, wound up with me, scratching my head, on posted private property.

So next time I head out that way, maps in hand, I will run this route in reverse. Eventually I should remember exactly where I need to go.

Now if only the miserable damp weather we've had for most of late April will be gone by then, so I can adequately warm up while I'm out there.

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