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Easy Running in Mountain Country

June 29, 2009

The reason for my absence is a good one: the family and I took a long-awaited summer vacation to Cherokee, North Carolina, site of the Boss’s childhood vacations for many years. We drove from our home in southeastern Florida to Cherokee, which is in the far southwestern side of North Carolina, where we had rented a cabin at the KOA Campground.

The trip was so enjoyable! A lot of the reason for the fun was getting to spend all of our days with the Boss, and not having to share him with chores or work. But you can hear more about that at our family blog. As this blog is all about my running, let me tell you a little bit about how that went.

I couldn’t believe it. The last time we visited that part of the country was a few months into my running life. My husband supportively allowed me to run several times during our week’s stay–once at the stadium of his alma mater–and I could not run a mile without stopping. I just couldn’t catch my breath. Everyone I related the story to agreed that it was the altitude: the university is about a mile up, at 3,333 feet above sea level. All their students, even their athletes, have to adjust to the thinner air upon arrival.

So I went up this time expecting some of the same trouble, though I was told that the part of the state we were going to this time was located in a valley and not quite as high as Boone. I figured I’d just see what happened.

Well, according to the website of the place we stayed at, they’re at nearly 4,000 feet!

I got in three runs. The first time I ran, I thought my breathing was a little ragged, but I ran five miles, stopping only to say hi to the family since my biggest problem was that I had to run in short little loops around the campground since running on the road was absolutely unsafe since it had no shoulder and I’d have been in the river the second a car passed. My pace, which I couldn’t believe when I glanced at Garmie, was much faster than it is on easy runs at home–it started at 10:16, already faster than it is for my first mile at home, and picked up from there to 9:39, 9:26, 9:18, and 8:59.

The next day I set out later, so I knew I wouldn’t get in as many miles and I figured I’d put them in faster to make up for it. My splits: 9:33, 8:58, 8:54, 8:32. I felt like I was flying. I wore my visor and my new running ‘shades, and I ran back and forth across the campground, feeling strong and like running was what I did for a living. I wish running felt like that all the time.

The next day we had a full day scheduled, so I didn’t run. Instead, we climbed hundreds of stairs to go sightseeing, and a little walking around a hilly garden. I felt like that was enough crosstraining, though I glanced guiltily as a runner passed our cabin.

Day four saw me up and running with an ambitous plan to put in six miles and wrap up fifteen miles for the week. I didn’t want to be a slouch about it because I didn’t want to set back our plans for the day by taking too long, either; my splits: 9:54, 9:49, 9:32, 9:28, 9:02, 8:23.

I loved running in sun-dappled dirt roads in mid-60s weather with full sun. I cannot express to you how difficult it was to set my alarm at 4:30 this morning to set out in the darkness, in the mid-70s, with 89% humidity, facing 8 long miles. But I know that this is the exchange: I run through this in May, June, July, August, and September, and then in November, December, January, and February, when Northerners are shivering and some are slipping on ice or putting their training in on treadmills, I’m running in those glorious 50s and 60s in shorts and short sleeves.

But for now, I’m missing Cherokee.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. Boone runner permalink
    June 30, 2009 7:45 am

    I live in the mountains of Boone NC. I spent last week in myrtle beach running and couldn’t wait to until I could get home to the mountains and run in the milder temps. I am glad you had fun. Glad you had fun in the mountains. Keep running!

  2. the Ringmaster permalink*
    June 30, 2009 7:58 am

    Oh, I don’t blame you! I envy you your mild, wonderful summers, and even the conditioning you must get from running up all those hills (who am I kidding–MOUNTAINS!). Hey, there’s a reason Lance Armstrong trained in your backyards. I have to admit, though, that I get nervous when my sweetie talks of moving permanently to the area–I don’t know how I’d deal with the deep frost you all put up with during the winter. I do love your part of the world, though, and I look behind me sadly every time we drive back down the mountains. Happy running in Boone!

  3. June 30, 2009 9:19 pm

    Congrats on the great improvement since the early days! That has GOT to feel good.
    My marathon is on December 12th — Rocket City! It’s in Huntsville, Alabama.

  4. July 1, 2009 3:44 pm

    I love KOA campgrounds!!! Sounds like a wonderful place to run! Nice blog!!

  5. the Ringmaster permalink*
    July 1, 2009 4:19 pm

    Thank you, Mark–yes, I loved the KOA and the people there–even the dogs were nice! LOL

  6. Boone runner permalink
    July 2, 2009 7:19 am

    You should consider planning your vacation around running “The Bear” at Grandfather Mountain.

    Below is the website. Maybe I will see you there sometime!

  7. the Ringmaster permalink*
    July 3, 2009 3:04 pm

    Hey, are you in cohoots with my husband (whom I affectionately refer to here as “the Boss”)? He’s been after me to run The Bear for about two years. But it makes me nervous to drive up Grandfather, never mind run up it! Yes, I do want to run The Bear–someday. It was encouraging to me to know that I’m already able to run five miles at some altitude—now for hill (HILL!) training!

  8. July 5, 2009 8:37 pm

    I enjoy running on vacation — it’s a great way to see new places. Running at altitude is also good for your running when you get back to near sea level. I can usually tell a difference for about a week — love all those extra red blood cells.

  9. July 6, 2009 12:13 pm

    Try running in 100+ heat in Phoenix. Ugh. I SO want to start a running program at a park or outdoor track (instead of a gym), but it’s so HOT… 😦

  10. the Ringmaster permalink*
    July 6, 2009 1:05 pm

    Ugh. I tell ya, heat’s the worst. Nothing saps your pace or endurance like it. So, dry heat is just as ugly, huh? What’s your heat-break date? We can’t look forward to easier running here until October . . . Until then, it’s like we all have a free sauna.

  11. Boone runner permalink
    July 13, 2009 1:20 pm

    The Bear just finished. My husband and son ran had a great time. You should consider it. It is amazing to see the runners come up the hill to the swinging bridge. You have my email and if you decide just let me know and I can fill you in on the details for next year. Believe it or not, the temp was in the 60’s and the runners all loved it.

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