This past week we got an invite to join a fatass run this morning at Afton State Park, and potluck, to thank all the volunteers and supporters of the Rock Steady Running group and their races. We assumed that we would just be doing the typical course that the race follows, but Mr. Storkamp had other ideas.
The day started with the realization that this would be the first cold weather run of the season. The air temperature when we started driving was 18 degrees, and the high was only predicted to get to 28. Needless to say we needed to do some clothing planning quickly this morning to make sure we wouldn’t freeze.
We arrived at the park in the nick of time and got ourselves geared up quickly and set out with the group onto the trail. Upon leaving the visitor’s center we ended up taking a sharp right, and started a morning of adventure as we navigated deer trail for a large portion of the run. The climbs and descents were steep, and we were often clamboring for any type of tree limb or rock to hold on to. Most of the time on these trails was spent hiking, unless you were very sure-footed and could confidently stride over a lot of the rocks and roots.
Every now and then we would all stop and let everyone catch up with each other. These pauses were often punctuated with some fun. At many stops there is apparently a tradition of reading from a book, as if it were a sacred tome. The book… the Warriors young adult novel. Someone would be handed the book and they would open up to a random page and read a section. The hilarity was how much of it was applicable to what we were doing! The very first reading, after bushwhacking a bunch of deer trail, contained the line, “What are you doing out here?” It seemed so appropriate! At one of the stops three guys did a reading in unison that had us all cracking up laughing.
When we finally descended onto some of the main trail, John announced that it was time for a sprint race. He lined us up by our marathon pace time, and gave the slower folks a head start. We sprinted as fast as we could about .05 of a mile and then back. My wife actually got second place in the female division!
After the race we got to ascend Meatgrinder hill, which is as much fun as the name implies. I’ve visited this hill before, and it sucked just as bad then too. After having just sprinted like crazy, running up the hill was doubly frustrating.
Once we crested the top, we headed down to the snowshoe paths and had a ton of fun on those. My wife and I (and a few others) opt’d out of the “Death Scramble” path, and instead met people at the bottom. However, on the way back up we stuck with the group and got to do some amazing rock climbing, through the middle of some large boulders in a ravine.
Before we came across that section, it was time for the aid station. We filled up on snacks, and to add some more fun to the morning, John announced a shotput contest using a large rock. I was proud to say my wife did quite well. I decided not to partake in that adventure though as I was having too much fun eating.
Once we got back to the main trails we passed by the ski hill area and got our first taste of snow for the winter. The snow making machines were going full blast, and we got a mini-blizzard for just about a half mile. It was rather surreal to run in, and then back out, of a snowstorm like that.
We couldn’t get too comfortable though since the next section was another incredibly steep climb up some more deer trail to a big overlook of the ski hills. Again, it was somewhat surreal to watch the snow forming on a hill surrounded by green grass all around. We did another reading, took some photos and then headed around the north side of the park.
The group then split into two groups, those that wanted to hit a “V02 Max” hill, and those of us that wanted to stick to the trail. A bunch of us decided to just stick to the trail (which had a sizable hill of it’s own) and headed around to the prairie section. We all met up with each other again on our way to see the new trail section being constructed by the campgrounds.
By this point in the run many people were heading back to the potluck, but since we hadn’t gotten in a ton of miles I decided to do one more mile on some of the flat ground before calling it a day. The rest of the morning was spent having some good food and chatting with really great people.
Today wasn’t the run I had thought it would be, it was an awesome adventure, and despite being incredibly tough, was worth every minute of it.