How did I get the name theBrainrunner?

Well it's a long story but I'll keep it breif. On November 3rd, 2008 I was getting ready for work and passed out in the shower. Luckily, my wife was home at the time and ran upstairs to find me and after having trouble reviving me she then called the paramedics. After an ambulance ride, followed by a CT scan, then a helicopter ride to another hospital I ended up having surgery to repair a ruptured Brain Aneurysm. 5 months later I had two more aneurysms clipped. I was thankful to be alive, as 40% of ruptures are fatal, and 66% suffer from some permanent neurological deficit. I use to be a runner in High School, and after I had recovered from the surgeries I wanted to be healthier than I had been at that time so my wife and I started running again. Every time I run I'm thankful to be alive and able to be outside doing what I love. Thus, theBrainrunner was born.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

My Foray Into Trail Running

Trail running. When I think of trail running, I normally think of ultra-marathons run in remote places of the country or globe. I've never run an ultra-marathon. Heck, I've not even run a full marathon yet, but the idea of running on trails seems interesting to me. I listen to a couple of podcasts that talk about trail running and ultra-marathons but I've never done any of that type of running before. During our vacation a couple of weeks ago, we were staying just outside of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. As part of one of my runs into the park, I noticed a side trail that I knew lead to the visitor center near the entrance. So, being adventurous, I jumped on the trail and took off.

I noticed another runner ahead of me and tried to pick up the pace, so that I could chat with him as we ran together through this beautiful scenery. This trail is very well manicured and had a fine layer of crushed stone, making it softer than, but as smooth as a road, and I was able to catch up to him fairly easily. Upon striking up a conversation, I found out that the other runner was from a neighboring city to the one that I live in three states away from where we were running now. We ran together for 20 minutes or so, then split up once we reached the visitors center. On my run back to where we were staying, I thought about trying to map out a more adventurous trail run for the next day.

Log Bridge, over troubled water?
So I jumped on the internet and found a trail map for the park then decided on a loop run that would be about 12 miles. The trail map didn't have any elevation notations on it so I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into. So the next morning I filled my fuel belt, ate some breakfast, then headed out for my first "real" trail run. I've done some hiking in the Smokies before, so I knew what the trails were like, but I'd never even thought about running on them. I started down the main drag in Gatlinburg, then headed onto the trail that I'd run the previous day. At about three and a half miles I got to the trail head of my adventure and started up a slight incline. This slight incline quickly turned heavenward. I knew I would be a little slower than I normally run, but I was sadly unprepared for just how quickly my pace would slow. Over the first three miles, my average pace was in the 9:20's, with only 38 feet in elevation gain. However, the next four miles were all uphill. The time it took me to run those next four miles was just over an hour, with 1,108 feet in elevation gain. Being from a fairly flat part of the country, I'm not used to this type of elevation gain so I was spent. However, I was having fun and enjoying the scenery, which to me is part of the enjoyment of running, wherever you are. Near the top of the mountain, I came to a stream crossing, which I had to walk vs. run because the "bridge" was a cut log. I didn't feel like I should take a chance since I hadn't seen anyone else in about an hour and the cell coverage, if I was to get hurt and needed help, was nonexistent.

Throughout the run so far, I'd come to three trail markers, each one with other trails veering off in other directions. According to my research, I should have only seen one until I reached a scenic access road, which I was planning on taking back down the mountain and back toward town. I am fairly gifted (according to my wife) with directions, and being able to know which way I'm facing, where we are headed, etc. But being out here for as long as I had without a map, other than the one in my head, I was starting to get a little nervous because I thought I should have come to the road by now. I knew the names of the trails that I was supposed to take from my research, but all of the signs at trail intersections had different names on them. (I know what you're thinking, and that is, "What the heck are you doing; turn around and go back; you're lost, you idiot; are you trying to get yourself lost in the forest without any real supplies?") Nevertheless, I trudged on. After about another 1/2 mile of normal hills, I almost ran into a van, which came out of almost nowhere. It was kind of foggy, hence the name "Smoky Mountains", and I didn't even see the road, but there it was. A nice elderly couple was out sight seeing and I think they were as shocked to see me as I was them. The gentleman rolled down his window to ask for directions and I kind of chuckled to myself and explained to them that I wasn't sure about where they were heading. He then asked how rough the trail was, to which I explained that the last 1/2 mile or so was fairly easy and that there was some great sights to see.

We parted ways and I headed down the road. The road was, you guessed it, downhill. On the way down the mountain, I came around a bend to see a line of cars stopped with camera lenses sticking out the windows. This made my heart jump! Having been to the park at least 12 times I knew that this meant wildlife was near, and that sometimes this meant black bear. If this was the case, it looked like a great time to catch my breath and start walking.
Black Bears in the Smokies
I raised my glasses so that I could see more clearly, and was relieved when I saw not bear, but wild turkey strutting through the woods. Whew was I relieved to see Tom walking and not Yogi! The rest of the run was normal and without incident. I ended up with 11.98 miles and my first real trail run in the bag. I loved the experience, and got a real sense of nature just being out there with the mountain. I look forward to running some more trails in the future and think that I will have to add this to my training regimen if for nothing else than to break up some of the monotony that roads can sometimes have.

1 comment:

  1. Great writeup, Mike! More trail reports, please! ;)

    All Day!