Testing myself against the mountain.

You know what's a great idea?  Running hills.  You know what's better?  Running up a mountain.  Right?  Yeah, probably not but it's a nice challenge once in a while.  January 2012, right before I started Complete Runner and ran my first half marathon I attempted to run up Moore's Knob.  I had never done it, or heard of anyone doing it at this point.  In my ignorance I figured that if you could walk it, you could run it.

My sister and mother joined me for the route, but they were hiking it.  The first half mile or so runs is a sandy trail along a lake with minimal elevation change.  The next 1.5 miles the slope gradually gets tougher and the terrains gets very rocky, even stair-like at times.  Partway up this, I could not run it anymore and decided it was not possible.  Near the top, it levels off more or less and you are running along the ridge.  In January it was frosty and beautiful, the air crisp and cold breeze coming through the trees.  I was prepared in a rain jacket, but at the tower at the top I was still pretty cold waiting.  We took some pictures and admired the frost-sicles that formed pointing the direction of the wind on the tower.  I hiked down.

The tower at the top of Moore's Knob, January 2012
This week I was at my parent's for the Fourth of July and kayaking (which was a disaster, but that's another story).  My brother has actually run the Moore's Knob route in 48 minutes!  It is about a 4.5 miles.  I decided to test myself against the mountain again, to see if I could do it.  My brother and I went and started together, but he soon left me behind.  I told him it would probably take me about an hour.

Unfortunately I tried after one of my mother's sausage, eggs, and biscuits breakfasts.  Bad idea.  When the trail turned uphill, I could feel those biscuits in my stomach and my legs needing the blood rerouted to my stomach.  I briefly considered throwing up to relieve myself of this burden, but that would be a waste of good biscuits.  I walked a little, jogged a little and soon my legs were feeling better.  Blood needed in the legs, digest those biscuits later!  I jogged when I could, walked some when the terrain got rough.  The whole time I was thinking, it's possible to run this, I know it is.  I'm just not ready yet.

I made it to the top of the mountain in 40 minutes, 2.6 miles in and 1,160 feet of elevation gain later.  I thought, my brother is almost done now, there's no way I'm getting back in an hour!  I went up the tower to see the view and then started to run down the mountain.  Down seemed easier at first, but there were a lot of rock stairs on the way down and I soon started to worry about the impact on my knees and I run/jump down them.  I imagined that my brother's long legs were allowing him to take two or three at a time, while I had to tip-toe run down the ones spaced closely together.  Then there was a portion where the stairs were spaced so that I always led with one foot, creating this weird gait where I'm pushing off with my right leg and landing on my left each time.  I realized that I might be doing something similar on trail runs every time I have an obstacle.  Do people practice leading with different legs so they don't wear out one more than the other?

Me at the top of the tower in January 2012.
It only took 18 minutes to get down the mountain, 1.4 miles down that side of the loop according to my GPS.  Total time was 58:29.  Under an hour to go 4 miles!  It did take me about an hour like I guessed but I didn't realize how much the uphill would slow me down.  I'll try it again when I get a chance and try to run more of the route.  Perhaps I need to find some mountain-like hills in Raleigh to practice.

I think the important thing is, I feel challenged and excited to take it on again.  I started reading some running magazines this weekend and thinking about my next marathon.


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