Oil Well Trail – Montour Woods

I am in a recovery week, which I take on every 4th week of training. Recovery week means sleeping in, eating, crosstraining, and a little light running. This gives time for the body to heal and become stronger from all the hard efforts.

In 8 short weeks it will be Pittsburgh Marathon weekend! I am halfway through training for the Laurel Highlands 70.5 and 1/3 of the way to Burning River. The time is flying by and I suspect it will only go quicker from here. If you are running the Pittsburgh Marathon then you have 5 more weeks of training followed by taper. Five weeks! If you aren’t running Pittsburgh, why not? Click the Game On blogger link on the sidebar of this page and don’t forget to use my coupon code to save on your registration cost.

The last 3 weeks of training have been intense with about 176 miles logged and 17,450 feet of elevation gain. Two runs were 26.2 or more ( Spring Thaw )  and this past weekend peaked with a 22 mile run Saturday followed by 23.5 on Sunday.  Am I bragging? Maybe a little. More importantly is that I am seeing the gains in training hard. I am starting to feel more confident about the Laurel Highlands and Burning River races and am seeing reduced recovery time and stronger running.

The more I run and the longer I run I see the unknowns and barriers of what I thought was possible break down. And it goes back to the a few grand life lessons that running has taught me through experience:

  1. Consistent hard work ALWAYS yields results
  2. Limitations are more often than not self-imposed

After the Spring Thaw training weekend I split my weekday runs from two 10+ milers to 3 shorter runs. My legs were hammered with some glute pain. Yes, I had a pain in the a**. I foam rolled and took it easy on the shorter runs with more foam rolling after running. After a run is the best time to roll out those nagging spots. Your muscles are warm and limber and rolling then can help increase blood and oxygen flow for faster recovery time. This assumes you do not have an acute injury. In the case of a serious injury foam rolling could damage the muscles, tendons, etc more.

After a week of light runs I came into the weekend strong. Sure, I was still a little sore in spots from the previous two weeks of training, but I was ready. I went into work for about an hour and then hit the road and trails out that way to get my planned 14 miler in or if I had enough time to try and hammer out the 26 on Sunday’s schedule.

Run All The Terrain!

I started out at the Hassam Road trailhead of the Montour Run Trail (MRT). The MRT is a rails to trails project spanning 40+ miles from Coraopolis to Clairton. I don’t think of it as a trail really. It is crushed stone with a maximum grade of 3%.  My route took me along the MRT for about 1 1/2 miles before turning west onto a side trail I had been meaning to explore for quite some time.  This little trail made it’s way about 3/4 of a mile up, up , up about 300 feet in gain to a subdivision.  I pulled out my phone and checked a map. Seeing that Moon Twp Community Park was just a few miles up the road and knowing that there was a trail connecting to Montour Woods I decided to check it out.

IMG_1288It was around 3 miles of sidewalk and road with narrow shoulders leading to Moon park.  Along the way I found myself daydreaming about Burning River. This run was very similar in terrain. Hilly single track, sidewalk and road sections, and areas that were more wide open trail similar to bridle paths. I was happy to explore some new places and take in unfamiliar scenery. Moon Community park has some great trails. I am not certain how many or how far, but I ran in the park for just under 4 miles before finding my way to Downing Drive and the green way to Montour Woods. I leisurely wandered and explored Montour Woods for about 10 miles. I had been there once before with John & Alyssa so it wasn’t entirely foreign to me. Still, when I saw an unmarked trail I had to follow it. It dropped straight down the mountain. No switchbacks and no fooling around straight down. I had suspected where it was leading and sure enough I popped out on the property of the Forest Grove Sportsman Club. Knowing that there is almost always a group of people shooting bows and rifles there I headed south and took the first path to the west straight back up the mountain. I had gotten behind on my fueling and that climb didn’t make things any better. Still, I recognize that feeling well and know how to combat it. I had some more espresso gel and a few swigs of Heed. By the time I walked back up that mountain I was feeling that all was right with the world.

Going back to the Hassam Road trailhead wasn’t appealing so instead I climbed and scrambled along the cliffs and rock debris until reaching the Montour Trail again where I finished the run with an easy effort out and back. After stretching out I slammed down some strawberry Recoverite and hit the road.  I was passing Rossi’s convenience store and they make great subs and sandwiches so I had to stop and pick up Reubens for Tara and I.  A convenience store is a dangerous place to be after a 6 hour run. I walked out with the sandwiches,but also a half loaf of Generation’s cinnamon raisin bread, a giant bag of salt and vinegar chips, chocolate milk, and some of my dignity.

Another Day, Another 23 Miles

IMG_1314I woke up early, though not as early as I would have liked. I was on trail at Frick Park by 5:20 AM and had until 7:30 to meet Seth. I hiked the hilly single track and ran some sections getting in 10 miles before meeting Seth (which I was 15 minutes late for). I had on Brooks Cascadias for the first 9 and switched out to Luna Leadville Gordos for the remaining 14.5 miles.  We ran an easy pace on the relatively flat Nine Mile Run path, which is nowhere near 9 miles in length, following it down to the asphalt paved heritage trail along the Monongahela River.  Then we made the return to Frick Park staying on the wide track crushed gravel paths. Together we ran 11 miles. I was at 21 and planned to run the final mile back to my car for 22, but I was feeling good. Really good…honestly I thought too good for running 22 hard hilly miles the day previous.

This is what I have been looking for in this training cycle. Being able to handle these big back to backs, resting when necessary, and staying far back from the brink of injury. It is a balancing act of running more miles than I ever have, longer training runs than ever before, and bigger back to backs all the while staying attentive to my body and listening when it screams for rest. So far so good! So at 21 miles I took a less direct route back to my car. As I ran along a large man on the path stepped directly in front of me as I was mid-stride! He stopped me and asked if I wanted to hear a funny story about a beard. I was curious….annoyed at having been stopped, but curious.

The story was essentially this:

I had a beard once. My pastor asked me why I was growing a beard and I replied, “I just felt like it.” A few weeks later he saw his pastor who then had a beard of his own, but my storytelling momentus-interuptus friend had shaved his off. The priest asked him why he shaved his beard off and the man replied, ” I was growing someone else’s beard on my face.”  When next he saw his pastor again the priest had shaved his beard off also.

I must have looked utterly lost. I didn’t find the story funny, nor did I understand why he stopped me to tell it. Aaron happened to run by at that moment and stopped. I was glad to catch up with him after hearing another story from our new friend. As Aaron and I parted I came across the man again stopping to talk to other people walking or running by. I think he was simply lonely. If a few minutes out of my run and out of my day helped alleviate that than I have no qualms about listening to a dull story.

Arriving back at my car at 23.5 miles I stretched out and chugged a serving of Hammer Strawberry Recoverite down and headed home for a shower and a meal.