Graveyard Fields and Skinny Dip Falls

I’ve been enjoying just running for fun a lot. With no set mileage to do on set days it has opened up more opportunities to go where we feel like with my husband and just enjoy the trails. That day it was hot down in Asheville so we headed up the Parkway. Our first thought was to park at Graveyard Fields, run and then drive back to Skinny Dip Falls for a swim. Ultimately we decided to make things more fun by leaving the car at the Looking Glass Overlook, at Mile Market 417. We took the connector to the Mountain to Sea Trail but then took a left on the first trail. It’s an unnamed trail going through tall grasses. It crossed the parkway and followed it all the way to the Graveyard Fields parking lot. We hiked that section as a way to warm up.

Once at Graveyard Fields itself, we waited until we crossed the creek to start running and headed towards the Upper Fall. We didn’t always follow the official trail because there are unfortunately a lot of unofficial ones that take you around to crossing the creek and more. But it was fun. Once we reached the main trail again we started going the wrong way but thankfully realized it quickly enough to turn around. All around us Catawba Rhododendrons were in full bloom, it was beautiful.

We started walking as we got close to the Upper Fall. The trail was becoming technical and wet and this was no time to twist an ankle. A big group of teenage girls greeted us at the bottom of the Falls but thankfully they were on their way out. We took some time to enjoy the beauty of the place and then took the (unofficial) trail to the top of the fall.

The view from the top was simply amazing. We chilled there for a while, soaking in the views. I was hot enough from our run that I had ditched my shirt and gone for the minimal running look. We hiked back down and started running again.

Remember that group of teenagers? Well they didn’t seem to know trail etiquette much. I always announce myself when I’m coming up on people. The first 4 girls were great and let us pass. The rest of the group? Not so much, I ended up yelling three times before they realized we were upon them. Even the group leader apologized. Thankfully it went well and I guess it was a good learning opportunity for them.

We continued down the trail, but instead of heading for the Lower Fall, we took the connecting trail to the Ridge Trail. This meant a good uphill and switchbacks but also less people on the trail.

Once again we took a wrong turn. Going South on the MST instead of North. Thankfully I hiked that section last fall and realized our mistake pretty quickly so we didn’t go too far. The MST from Graveyard Fields to Skinny Dip Fall is mostly downhill. Half of it is in the thick rhododendrons bushes, the other half in the trees. So there is good shade the entire way. The trail is pretty smooth and non technical.

We finally reached Skinny Dip Falls after what we estimated to be about 6 miles. The water there is always cold and it was only in the mid-60’s outside. However, after our run we could not resist it and jumped in with our running clothes. Was it cold? Yes. Did we stay long in the water? Absolutely not. But it did feel amazing and by the time we walked the last 1/4 mile or so to the car we had already warmed back up anyway.

This was definitely a fun hike/run day and a great way to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors with my husband.

Do you ever go for a random run on the trails or do you prefer to stick to familiar grounds?

Asheville Chamber Challenge 2012

Photo Credit Olivia Marone

I’ve done this race annually since I started running. It’s put together by the Chamber of Commerce with the goal to promote physical health within businesses. While some people sign up as individuals, this is mostly a group race. Teams sign up and while there is a Female and Male winner overall, the rest of the awards are given to teams only. But this is not about who runs the fastest (well only a little bit). This is about everyone, from the fast racers from the local running stores (I’m pretty sure they went home with all the top prizes) to the  stroller running mom and dads. This is about having fun and gathering at the end of the work day.

It’s both a blessing (early work release) and a curse (it’s hot!) to have the race starting at 4:30pm. The course starts at the parking  lot of the Chamber of Commerce, goes down one hill and then the uphill starts into the Montreat Historic District. There are a few downhills, but the last mile of the race is all uphill on Montford Avenue. It’s always a tough finish.

Thankfully this year we were greeted with rainy and cloudy weather. Temperatures in the high 60’s made this race perfect for once. The sun broke through the clouds right at the end, but not early enough to make it too hot.

I started somewhere towards the front. I new I was starting fast, but I still tried my best to find my pace once we passed the first downhill. I was still shocked to hear a volunteer reading 7 minutes as I passed the first mile marker. With the few seconds it took me to step on the start line I knew this was fast for me. At that point I decided that what the heck, if I’m going crazy, I might as well go for it. Now mind you, that first mile was the one with the most downhill, so I did not go any faster than that. Actually I slowed down after it.

Past that first mile I could tell that a lot of runners around me had started way too fast as I started to pass them. We hit the halfway point before I even knew it, then headed on a slight downhill towards Montford Avenue. Suddenly it was mile 2 already. Wait how did that happen? Oh yes, I know I’m used to do longer runs now 🙂

Montford Avenue… I love hills, but this one is tough, and long. This is not a course to break records! As we started on Montford Avenue I found myself with a group of runners going about the same speed as I was. There was this guy in particular, wearing a grey shirt whom I would pass and who would pass me again. It was annoying me a little. I could hear his breathing, I could tell that he was struggling, so why did he insist on passing me every time? He couldn’t stand being passed by a girl? At least I managed to leave him behind in the section of the hill and I raced to the finish. I knew I would not pass anymore girls in front of me.

As I saw the clock, I knew I would not beat my last 5k time. However… I have doubts that my last 5k was really 5k and it wasn’t chipped. Which makes this my new Official 5K PR and on a rolling hill course as it is. Not to mention it’s a big course PR for me by close to 2 minutes. The Half and Marathon training have paid of.

I waited for my colleagues at the end. We all gathered up and cheered. Then I took a few minutes to go get some (free) beer from the local Highland Brewery. If you ask me it’s one of the best perks of this race… Other co-workers came in, including a new dad with his daughter in the stroller, the mom came a few minutes later. Good moments.

One of the best parts as I waited for my co-workers was when grey shirt guy came a few seconds after me and came to shake me hand to say thank you. It’s always so special to me when you know you helped someone push beyond what they think they could do. He told me he tried to keep up with me (I should have told him my husband learned better, HA!). I said you’re welcome and told him the thought had crossed my mind that he didn’t want to be passed by a girl in a skirt. He said that was part of it, but mostly he just tried to keep up. I feel very happy I was able to pace him.

We all hanged out a little longer to see how we did. You see, girl teams from our company have had a habit of placing in the first three for the last three years. They started the award as we got closer and suddenly we hear a name. Only two of us from the team were still there and we’re like, wait is that us? We didn’t know which name we had been registered under. And yes it was. We placed 2nd female group overall. Not bad at all. We finished just a minute ahead with out total time of the 3rd group but a good 20 minutes behind the first group (all from a running store). Not bad right?

Chip Time: 22:53, 7:24 pace
85th Overall
15th of the Female Overall
2nd of the Female Team

Photo Credit: Olivia Marone

Big thumbs up to the organizers this year: they had the water in the cooler (unlike last year). Nice cold water and bananas were awesome. I also grabbed some healthy goodies such as a 15 day free YMCA membership and two free pilates class. What a great way to inspire local businesses to be healthy. One of those years I want to do it in a costume.

Finding My Joy on the Trails

The longest run I’ve done since the marathon was the Biltmore Kiwanis 15k. I’ve struggled with IT Band issues a few weeks after the marathon and just had to take it easy. At the same time last year I was already training for the Asheville Half Marathon. At this point I yet have to sign up for the race, let alone train for it.

Once I started feeling better, I decided to follow the Runner’s World Running Streak challenge. The goal was to run at least a mile daily until July 4th. Well let’s be honest, I’m out. I did not run yesterday because I just felt too tired and just wanted to chill. Even one mile did not appeal to me. But that challenge was enough in the first two weeks to give me back some good training free running joy. I ran every day with a minimum goal of a mile, not caring how far I would go. Getting to run daily also allowed me to take some slower days where I could follow my husband at a slower pace instead of torturing him at mine.

This resulted in some beautiful trail runs that we shared together. One of those was an easy 2ish miles run right in the Craggy Gardens area. Another one at Graveyard Field which I’ll need to share with more details.

While I love training for a race, there is something so incredibly satisfying in running just for fun, on trails, with my husband. To share the love of the outdoors together is something I look forward to do more in the coming months. Last week I was running with a grin glued to my face the entire time. The freedom of the trail, of not having to plan for a specific length, to just go for fun, stop if we feel like it, run like rabbits and jump in cold water at the end. This is why I run, for that feeling, not for a medal at the end, but for the moments shared and experienced.

PS: I am looking forward to doing a few longer runs again, now that my legs feel back to normal.