Black Hills Forest Service Road Run
I decided to go for a moderate-easy run today- only ten miles. I am now tapering for my 50-k in about two weeks.
We only had a couple of inches of snow yesterday down in Rapid City. I hoped that the snow was not much deeper at the higher elevations. However, as I drove up out of the plains towards Deadwood and beyond, I could see that I was wrong.
I parked at the Englewood Trailhead of the George Mickelson Trail, a gravel rails-to-tails biking and hiking path. But the snow on the trail was so deep, over 8 inches, that I was forced to run on the dirt road instead. The George Mickelson Trail would have to wait. It was a quiet day with few vehicles, which was nice, but the road was slipperly and very muddy in places.
The day started out cool, in the 20s but the bright sun warmed it up very quickly to the upper 30s lower 40s.
One of my favorite reasons for living in the West is the weather. You might have a blizzard one day but you can count on seeing the sun the next. This is good for one's attitude and mood during the winter. I do not miss the weeks of bleak grayness during the winter in Wisconsin and the rest of the Upper Midwest. Even in sunny weather, most other places in the US do not have the bright clear blue skies that we do in the Western half of the country.
I saw a couple of wild turkeys and some deer tracks on the road. Nearby, but out of sight, I heard a nuthatch and several chickadees calling. Crows flew overhead and announced their presence with loud CAW-CAW's.
A gentle breeze picked up and whispered through the pines, dusting the snow off the needles. Occasionally a large clump fell to the ground; once, one landed my shoulders.
Because my upcoming 50-k will be run at 7,000+ feet elevation and the 52.4 mile ultra I'll do in May will be as high as 8,700 feet, I decided to head to the higher elevations today to get a little bit of altitude training. Despite the name: "Black Hills" these mountains are actually the highest points between the Alps and the Rocky Mountains- they are only called "hills" because they happen to be in the shadow of the much higher Rockies to the West.
The trailhead where I started was at about 5,800 ft elevation; I topped out on a ridge at just over 6,100 feet. This is not very high by western standards but certainly higher than Wisconsin. If I ever choose to run any of the higher altitude Western US ultras, I think I will need to spend some training time out of the area and in higher places for proper preparation.
But for my next two upcoming races, this should do just fine.
The wind picked up and I felt chilled, so I put my coat on. At mile 5, I turned around and started heading back. After all of my long runs these past few weeks of hard training, it seemed much too soon to already be at the half-way mark.
It is funny how one's perception changes with time and experience. Only several years ago, five miles seemed like a long distance to me. Now, I barely feel warmed up at five miles. It hardly feels worthwhile to assemble my gear and put my shoes on if I am running any less. I don't consider a run to really be long unless it is at least 20 miles; a ten mile run like today is "moderate."
Yes, it's very strange how my perception has changed.
It was a very nice easy run today. One problem, though, was the layers of mud building up on my shoes. There was no way of keeping it off. There was no point scraping it off because it reaccumulated in only a few hundred yards. The mud added at least another half pound or more to the weight of my shoes. That made for tougher going.
"Oh well," I thought to myself, " it'll just make for a better workout today."
It was still easier than trying to run on the trail through the snow. At least there wasn't a headwind both ways like last week.
On a beautiful day like today, it didn't make sense for me to complain.
After I made it back to the car, I changed into clean clothes. I then headed back to town, but on the way, stopped for a few minutes to play my new Native American Flute. I usually try to limit my posts on this blog to running-related only, but I decided to make an exception this time and include the above video.
I got my new flute from Native Flute maker and player: Odell Borg of High Spirits Flutes in Patagonia, Arizona. It is a Double Flute in Key of F#, made out of Walnut. One side has fingerholes like any other Native Flute; the other is a drone flute. The audio of this recording does not do the sounds made by this flute justice. I have played many Native Flutes but never one like this.
I played for a while and listened to the flute music along with the wind and the birds. In the background, you can hear crows calling as well as a curious nuthatch, who stopped by to investigate this strange music he had never heard before.
Afterwards, I got in my car and headed back out of the hills. I stopped at a restaurant in Deadwood for a late lunch/early dinner. The food was great but the town of Deadwood is like every other tourist-gambling town I have seen. There were only a few people around, this being a quiet Sunday in the off-season.
I wonder how many thousands and thousands of visitors come here every year and never get out of town to see and experience the natural beauty only a few miles away?
Perhaps that is just as well… if every single one decided to get out there to "experience" the outdoors, then it wouldn't be very beautiful for long, now would it?