Just when you thought you were done with Cades Cove pictures...
On July 4th, Jay loaded up the bikes and we went riding around the 11 mile scenic loop. While we were biking around the loop, we passed a jogger. At the time my longest run was 5 miles or so, and I was amazed that this woman could jog around the entire loop!
My parents met up with us afterward for a pic-nic then a (motor vehicle) ride through the park. Talking with my mom, I told her I had two goals. The first was to be able to ride my bike the whole way; there are several steep hills on the loop where most people have to get off their bike and walk them up. Their downhill counterparts have warning signs from the National Park telling bikers they must walk their bikes down.
The second, and one I thought was more difficult at the time, was to be able to run the loop without stopping.
I did just that this weekend.
Jay's birthday was Saturday, so I planned my long run on Sunday. I didn't want to spend 2 hours away from the birthday boy. He wanted to go hiking in the National Park, then take a drive around Cades Cove. His clients had different plans, so he ended up working most of his birthday.
"We'll just go to Cades Cove tomorrow after church." He offered. The only problem was that I had a 2 hour run that couldn't be rescheduled again. "Why don't you just run the loop while I drive it?"
My run was supposed to be 10 miles, but we figured that he could drive it, watching the odometer. The road has plenty of pulloffs and he could just wait for me at my "finish line."
I was a little nervous because there was traffic to contend with, and of course those hills, but Jay assured me that if I could manage this run I could do anything. A bold statement from one of my biggest critics.
The scenery was gorgeous, as expected. Some of the cars were very friendly, and went out of their way to share the one lane road. Others were obviously irritated, pushing me over into the gravel/ditch.
Cades Cove is typically where we see most of our bears in the summer, but its getting to be a little late in the season. The only wildlife to be photographed were deer, turkey, and squirels. The horses aren't wild, but belong to a stable that is located in the cove.
If you've been around my blog for a while, you know that the Cove is where Jay and I got married. "Our" church is at about the half way point of the loop. I was about an hour into my run and hoped that Jay was waiting for me at the church.
I had visions of him jogging up to me, giving me a kiss of encouragement, then continuing on the drive.
Only I rounded the corner and there was no Jay.
I did make a comment to a man waiting for traffic to pass before he crossed the road "better not cross in front of me - I'm going so fast I might run over you." He laughed and told me that I'd already passed them several times along the way. When his family caught up to me later in the trail, he spoke to me as they drove by.
I chatted with several people along the way - from the older lady who offered me a ride, to the hayride driver who spoke to me over his loudspeaker. His passengers had fun watching me pass them as they sat in traffic, and passing me as they were able to move on up the road. "Here she comes again!" One of the girls in the back said to her father/grandfather.
Another new componet to this run, was energy gels. I wanted to try a few different types of them before the half marathon, to see which I liked best. About half way in, I opened my sharkies. They are a gummy shark that tastes like candy. Not thinking, I chewed them up and swallowed them like I normally would.
Only as I was eating I started to get out of breath.
Like every good Southern girl I have manners. My mama taught me to chew with my mouth closed. She never knew that I would need to breath through my mouth while chewing. As I concentrated on keeping my lips open while I chewed, I hoped that I didn't look like the horses from earlier in the trail.
As the path continued on, I started to get discouraged. This was my first run that I didn't have the mileage mapped out. I have always either ran the 3 mile loop in my neighborhood, or did an out and back on the highway. Not knowing how much running I had left was difficult.
Around the two hour mark, I started to get really frustrated. Around every turn I kept looking for
my car Quinn, my darling husband. I made it to the stop sign at the end of the trail, touched the sign (as my husband has tried to make a habit for me), and turn around walking.
Had he gotten bored and decided to drive the loop again? Why hadn't he waited on me like he was supposed to?
After about 10 minutes of walking, he came driving around the corner. Apparently he'd stopped at one of the pulloffs to take pictures and never caught up with me.
Turns out, the stop sign almost exactly 10 miles (to get the 11 miles in, you have to go on the two lane road back up to the entrance). I was disappointed - if I had ran 11 miles my time wouldn't have been so bad, but for 10 miles it was a little depressing.
2 hours 14 minutes.
Jay, who's normally telling me I need to work on my speed and get quicker, was impressed at my run time. He pointed out that I had to dodge traffic, run up hills that I wasn't accustom to, as well as do some of my running in gravel/dirt (when the drivers wouldn't share the road).
For good measure I included the exhaust I was breathing in the whole time (who knew that the National Park would be so smelly) as well as the cigarettes that I inhaled as the smokers held them out the window.
Beyond the feeling of accomplishment of completing my first double digit run, I took away something incredibly valuable for my half marathon. If I could handle all the hills of Cades Cove, most of them being toward the end of the run - then nothing is going to keep me from conquering the "standard deluxe" hill at mile 8 of my half marathon!