Thursday, August 8, 2013

(Almost) Long run on the (almost) Appalachian Trail

We were in northern Georgia for the weekend so I had the luxury of doing my Saturday training run on the Appalachian Trail.  Or at least, kind of the Appalachian Trail.  As I learned from Janette, a friend of a friend, before I got there, the southern end of the AT is actually in the middle of the woods.  The only way to/from it is a roughly 8 mile trail that starts from Amicalola Falls State Park.  (It seems logical to me to just include this trail as part of the AT, but never mind...)  So, technically, most of my run was on the approach trail, with just a few miles on the AT itself.

I didn't have much time to run Saturday morning so I left the hotel bright and early at 5.  I made it to the trailhead at 6, which is when I learned my first new piece of information about the area:  it doesn't get light until 6:30.  No, I didn't have a headlamp.

I hung out at the car for 20 minutes and then decided there was enough light to at least be able to walk.  Within a few minutes it was light enough to run.

Only a few miles to Maine then

Amicalola State Park is centered around a very beautiful waterfall.  Janette had explained to me that I probably wanted to park at the top of the waterfalls, but I failed to take heed of that and parked at the bottom.  That made my first mile and a half straight up the steep hill, though it was worth it for the view:

After the waterfall you finally get on the approach trail proper.  From there it's about 7.5 miles to Springer Mountain, which is where the AT actually starts.  It was GREAT running the whole way:  just the right amount of hills, a nice mix of technical and non-technical parts, and really not very hot for how you would imagine Georgia in the summer (this section is between 3,000 feet and 3,700 feet altitude, so that helps a fair bit).

I felt strong the whole way and had a hard time convincing myself to turn back when it was time.  Although I'd had 25 miles on the schedule, I couldn't fit it all in, especially with the delay to the start, so I had to settle for 20.  This was a little disconcerting; I only have two pre-Sawtooth long runs planned (this one and one on the 17th), so shortening one of them wasn't exactly ideal.  It was at least good to get some practice on rocky sections, but I probably could have done with a little more distance.

Another good part about this run was learning how friendly the local walkers and runners are.  Everyone I saw smiled and said hello and seemed to be really enjoying themselves.  How could you not, I suppose?  The trails were perfect.

The hills were deceptively big, though, and I was getting tired on a few of them.  Fortunately it turns out that trying to learn how to use your camera's self-timer is an excellent way to get a rest while pretending that you only stopped to play with the camera.

I might have a bit more work to do on learning to work the self-timer though:

About 8.5 miles into my run I made it to the official Appalachian Trail.  How could you not want to run to Maine when you see this?

Maybe someday...