Around 23 miles yesterday on the Potomac Heritage Trail portion of the upcoming North Face 50k trail race. Needed a good long trail run as I've been slacking off a bit lately on long runs and getting out on the trails in general though I have been riding a bit more instead. Also wanted to see what the course will be like which from what I saw yesterday it should be pretty fast!
It looks like it begins with around a mile of paved path (which I skipped yesterday) followed by a mile of crushed gravel path before it hits the single track. That'll make it hard not to go out fast, though also means it'll be a good idea to hit this part fast so as not to get stuck too far back once we hit the single track.
The majority of the PHT section is basically flat with the very distinct possibility of being very muddy should it be wet and rainy leading up to race day. There were 3 or 4 very abrupt and steep sections where the trail was rerouted due to the Potomac river washing away old sections of trail or for other reasons. Should be mostly runable, especially early on but probably will be a good idea not to expend to much energy on these steeps.
Somewhere, likely along the way where I ran the course will leave the PHT though the runner's guide description wasn't clear enough for me to fingure it out so I just stuck to the trail down a bit past the dam near/in Great Falls park.
Slightly disturbingly, my garmin reported just over 650 feet of elevation gain for this 23 mile section of trail while the 50k runners guide states over 3000 feet for the course. Either one of these is way wrong (and the garmin has been known to be well off the mark, though Garmin Connect now has topographical map corrections included) or the 10 or so miles in Great Falls will produce 2500 + feet of elevation gain to really kill us mid-race. Hopefully next weekend I'll manage to get out and check out some of that section to see what that's like.
My 23 miles took around 4.5 hours, though I spent a good bit of time stopped, either taking pictures of/watching wildlife, trying to figure out if I was going the right way based on the course description or just generally putzing along. The goal Matthew and I have set for this race is a sub 5 hour time which based on the sections I ran yesterday and our times at the Seneca Greenway Trail 50k should be well within reach. We just need to average 9:40 for the course which should be doable on this course.
Yesterday my average was just under 12 overall but just over 10:30 "moving time" according to the garmin. That was self supported (aka with backpack filled with water and other stuff) and getting dehydrated after running completely out of water with 5 or 6 miles to go. So, there you have it, a publicly stated time goal. Now its time to live up to it.
Otherwise the run was pretty scenic with a good bit of unexpected wildlife. I caught a bunch in pictures after rigging up my cell phone to my pack strap. Unfortunately I didn't catch the huge red fox (probably 40 or 50 lbs, by far the largest fox I've ever seen), the giant red headed woodpecker, the deer, the lizards or the big turtle that scuttled into the creek as I ran over a bridge. Also should have a grabbed a picture of the guy that nearly punched me when he didn't hear me coming as he stood on the trail talking to his buddy (who saw me and I figured wwould warn his friend). He then proceeded to cuss me out. Nice. He looked like an unhealthy version of Ron Swanson from Parks and Rec so I suppose a heart attack was a real danger there.
Enjoy the rest below!
Baby frogs all over the trail near the golf course and swamp like (though likely man made) area.
A swarm of butterflies that found something tasty.
A very large black snake (non-poisonous I now know thanks to Matthew) plastered to the side of a big tree along the trail.
A large millipede stuck to the side of a bridge. Took this one for Aimee and I even managed not to step on any of these guys along the trail.