Shady Run: West River Trail

Last week my Sunday long run was cut short by one of the runner's foes I'd forgotten about: heat. I set out to run my self-prescribed 9+ miles at 10:20 am on June 2. It was probably about 82 degrees already (I'm guessing, I didn't check). I was wearing my usual outfit of capris, knee socks, hat, and technical tee. I had my water, my GPS watch, and my phone, and I started on my way. As I ran down my flat road of choice--a route I've been using all spring--it slowly dawned on me that it was Really Hot Out. The road was in full sun, and I was woefully overdressed. (At least I was wearing lots of sunscreen!) Then, my run started to change as problems unfurled.

First, I realized I wouldn't be able to make it to my turnaround point, so I decided to take a shady side road instead. Then I realized I wasn't going to make it to the side road (always keeping in mind that "making it" involves dividing my perceived energy in half, so I can turn around and run all the way back to my car). Then I realized that I was starting to feel quite odd--a fear took over me. I felt impending doom, and that even if I did turn around, I might not be able to run all the way back. So I turned around. I also saw that my heartrate had spiked to 170, which is not good. Usually I see that number when I'm sprinting, I do not want to be at 170 in the first part of an easy country run. So what to do?

That's when I did the highly unusual. I walked. I walked until my heartrate got back down to the 150s, then started jogging again. Then I got the chills. Knowing how ungodly hot I had just been feeling and what I was wearing and the temperature, this seemed worrisome. My heartrate started to creep up again. So I finally threw in the towel--I stopped my watch, meaning the run was over. I started to walk. And I called home for a rescue.

That run was a huge learning experience. Conditions change! Formulas need to be adjusted! What had been working for several weeks didn't work any more on a hot summery day. I was disappointed, and felt stupid for trying what I tried, but I'm also proud that I was safe--that I was carrying water, that I was carrying a phone, and that I used both to help me get through the experience without something bad happening like heat prostration or my heart exploding.

Clearly it was time for a change. One obvious choice is to get out for my run earlier in the day. However, as I've mentioned here before, my spouse and I have a "sleep in one day" deal on the weekends and I can't bear to lose my one lazy morning of the week. Another idea was to hire a babysitter for two hours on Sunday morning so that I can still run fairly early while my husband sleeps, and not lose my Saturday sleep-in. Or a third idea: run in the shade.

Today I had a unique opportunity for a long run because the rest of my family went to the Strolling of the Heifers parade and Expo in downtown Brattleboro. I was left to my own devices, a precious and rare occurrence. My first thought was to go for a run! I could get my Sunday long run done on SATURDAY! And I knew just the shady spot for it. The West River Trail.


Look at that shade! It was lovely. I started at the Marina Restaurant in Brattleboro. The trail runs beside corn fields and goes under the I-91 bridge, then becomes wooded and shady for about 2 miles. It was perfect.


See that white-hot strip of pavement through the trees and across the river? That's where I was running last week. The West River Trail is pretty much exactly parallel to my Route 30 run, except it's on the shady, quiet side of the river. It's a pretty obvious improvement! (The main reason I haven't done this before is that I have to drive to the trailhead, whereas Route 30 is very near my house.)


Another view of the trail--dappled with sun but not sweltering.



After about 2 miles of bosky shade the trail opens out into a sunnier logging road. But at least it's not hot pavement.



The setting seems so New England-y, with giant rocks and flowering shrubs (and powerlines).




At a bend in the trail I got a full view up the West River.



After 3.67 miles (per my watch), the trail ends at Rice Farm Road in Dummerston. Rice Farm Road is charming, dirt, and country. Any passing vehicles tended to be pickups or bikers, and they all waved.



Look, numbers! These look like good negative splits (progressively getting faster and faster). I have an excuse/theory about mile 8, which is that in the shade of the trees, my Garmin can't catch the satellite signal. For the price of some shade, I'll take it.



Training note: In my quest to find a sugary snack I can easily consume in transit, I tried a sample pack of Jelly Belly Sport Beans on this run. I really liked them! There were 4 flavors in this packet, and two of them were nice and tart. Also they're a good size and texture for running. I find something too goopy or chewy tends to distract me or even get in the way of fast, steady breathing. I liked the Sport Beans!

1 comment:

Amber Gabrenas said...

Wow - nice run! Beautiful scenery, too. I remember when I was running how the first hot day of the year always felt like torture. Fortunately, as you learned, you adapt and it gets better. Happy Running!