Fall Weather, Long Run


I have to admit I was a bit giddy when I saw the weather forecast for the week. At long last, some hints of fall weather! Of late it's been a mix: cool nights, but often days spent in the mid-80s. Even when it was below that, it was often humid. I hate humidity. I sort of… wilt. Cool weather, though? I love it. It's great for sleeping and it's certainly great for being active outdoors. Today was a win-win in that regard, as it was even cool enough overnight to shut some windows.

I knew I wanted to go for a long run today, but I was undecided as to where I wanted to go or for exactly how long. I had my water bottle and a single energy candy, so really anything in the 7-10 mile range felt acceptable. I decided to try a new exploratory route that I had vaguely driven (in at least part) once or twice. I started my GPS watch and took off at a light run down to Mt Airy Rd.

As its name implies, Mt Airy Rd involves a bit of elevation. I live around 160ft above sea level while the road tops off around 510ft. Accounting for the initial downhill to get there, it's about a 380ft climb. It's a pretty good workout, in particular since it's about double the elevation gain of the “big hill” on Batten Rd in the local 10K for which I'm training. On the downside, the road has a very limited shoulder (if any at all) to go along with blind turns and cars that are going too fast. Once or twice I had to wave my arms so a car would slide over and not run me off the road.

The road is a little confusing because it has an intersection with itself. I knew that when I drove on it last, the way I went eventually took me to Rt 9A and that I could run on that until I hit another road to go somewhere else (as it's another road that's not prime for running). Of course, I couldn't remember which way it was so I chose one at random. It quickly started losing elevation, so I was fairly confident I'd soon see the river or hear traffic on the local divided highway (Rt 9). I came across a swamp and thought, hey I must be near sea level! But as confident as I was, I also thought of all the swampy land I pass regularly in other runs that are hundreds of feet above sea level. I kept running.

Finally I heard real traffic and the road split, with one branch obvious if you intended to make a left and the other to the right. I went right and ran up a small hill. A mechanic shop of some sort was there, as was a road sign. However, it was not Rt 9. I was at Rt 129, which made my brain short circuit for a second. Not only was I not near the river or sea level, I was still about 150ft above where I live.

I knew I wasn't too far away from the intersection with Batten Rd. I could go that way and basically pick up one of my normal runs, either going down Batten or the opposite way across the Croton Dam. I was all of 3 miles into the run, though, so that felt like a non-starter. There was still time to explore.

I vaguely knew that the next left turn off Rt 129 would meander a bit while generally going North, so I went off in that direction. I was only on the road for perhaps a half mile, but still had to step off to avoid a caravan including a construction truck spraying dirt off a poorly enclosed top, followed by multiple cars not paying attention. I was all too glad to get off that busy road and on to a side road with just the occasional car or pickup.

The new road more or less hugged the reservoir. At the start it was largely losing elevation, eventually settling within a dozen or so feet above the waterline. Every turn that hugged the coastline opened up a new view of the large body of water before me. I felt like I was being spun around with a blind fold on, as I really wasn't sure where I'd end up. Would it hook back to Rt 129? Would I end up in a different town to the north entirely?

The road came to a T intersection. To the left it looked like the road proper continued, as it retained the yellow center line. To the right was a warning of low salt use for bad winter weather, no yellow line, and an apparent continuation of tracking the reservoir. I stayed with the water route.

I didn't come across any cars on this road. I did see another runner come from the opposite direction, but other than that it was just the birds and small animals scurrying about. The actual sounds of nature enhanced the view of the surrounding countryside. A couple spots took my breath away; sunlight bouncing off the water, all of the green leaves still at home on the trees providing a nice balance to the bright blue sky and dark water. Small birds chirping, singing, or calling out warnings. The loud yell of a hawk making my head turn to see if I could spot the raptor.

The miles started to add up, and I wasn't sure where I was going. I debated when I should turn around. Initially I thought at 5 miles I would, but it felt like I was close to a tipping point so I kept on. I paused for a minute and ate my energy candy. I continued on, pace increased momentarily as the sugar pulsated through me. I came to a fork, but one way was just for what looked to be a farm so I stayed on the water path. Soon after, however, was another intersection; in one direction was what looked to be a small village, in the other, a continuation of a low traffic volume (if any) road hugging the reservoir. Maybe. I wasn't quite sure. I was also getting a little nervous, as I was now over 6 miles. Even if the road hooked back up with Rt 129, I might be stuck running on that ugly road for miles. I decided to give up the exploration and return back.

Once I made my way to Rt 129, I decided I'd take it to Batten Rd and run the backside of that hill to get home. So, one more hill. I wondered if I'd be close to 1000 feet of elevation gain; a mini-goal I just thought of trying to achieve last week after a separate exploratory run that was just shy of 900ft. Although I was only on the road for about a mile, there was more traffic I had to stop and avoid, the most nerve wracking being an 18-wheeler that was cooking down a blind turn. Outside of those pauses, my pace was about as quick as I could manage at that point. My kingdom for a road with a wide shoulder.

As soon as I turned onto Batten Rd I was more or less back in my comfort zone. I still felt strong and managed a good pace up the hill. I even opened it up a little on the big downhill portion. In the end I was close enough that I extended the run a little to get a nice round 11 miles, a personal best. Thanks in a large part to the cool weather, I also manage a decent pace throughout the long run. The elevation gain ended up being 864ft, so that goal will have to wait for another day.

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