Early Saturday morning, I ran most of the loop -- all but the Snowshoe Loop portion, the last 5K or so. Probably 13.5-ish miles overall. I was tired. (Overtraining? Not enough carbs?) It was challenging. It was easier to stop and walk and take pictures than to run in good style. But the glory of the scenery, and the day, and the experience of a cool, breezy, mid July morning overwhelmed anything negative about this run.
It was glorious.
|5:30 am start. I've never seen the sky look quite like this before. First car in the Visitors' Center parking lot.|
|Still a little dark at the start, but navigable.|
Can you believe we're already a month past midsummer?
A perfect morning for an INKnBURN tech shirt and armwarmers.
|Shortly after photographing this deer, I passed another, much closer.|
She (? no antlers) snorted at me -- a sound like a soft sneeze -- then trotted away.
|Sun still wasn't quite up, so blurry pics with flash turned off|
|A few miles of rolling prairie trails|
The remains of an old farm are up here, including some old tools.
|Might be my favorite picture from this run. Look at that lighting!|
I made a small navigational error coming down Northern Hill, and ended up on the un-maintained trail (that dotted line with the black diamond on the map) instead of the trail used in the race loop. It was a fun, technical, occasionally washed-out descent!
|Washed out gully on the left, detour on the right heading over the downed tree.|
|The river was quiet, but I did see one boat with a couple of fishermen.|
Today, I walked all of Campground Hill, but was rewarded by a close encounter with a doe and fawn, halfway up the hill.
|These two crossed back and forth on the path a couple of times, very close to me.|
|The obligatory "It's steeper than it looks" picture. Really, it's steep.|
The next segment is along the river, completely flat, and completely straight. The map indicates it's just over a mile long, but it feels much, much longer.
Out of fairness, it's beautifully shaded, has nice views of the river, and is very very runnable. But after 10+ miles of climbs and descents, it's hard to persuade your body to run that long, or to run fast.
It goes on...
|A sight any Afton runner probably recognizes!|
I was running low on time and had no gas in the tank. It was a stupendous day, but it was time to head back and eat something. So I headed back more directly toward the Visitors' Center, through the prairie.
The clouds had largely cleared away and the sun was strong and bright. It was about 9 a.m.
|I couldn't believe this sky and this sunlight. It was so pure, and crisp, and big.|
I'm going to take it easy this week, eat some more carbs, sleep more and stretch a lot. Every time I come to Afton, it challenges me in a new way. I want to come back ready to run its trails with strength and joy.