|Chewalla Lake in the Holly Springs National Forest|
Once or twice a year, I get to go to Memphis, TN for work. Since I have decided to run a marathon in all 50 states, I haven’t gone down into the south yet (even though Texas is down south, I don’t feel it’s part of the “South”).
I could’ve run right in Tennessee, as that would make the most sense, since my business was there. However, since I was travelling alone on this trip, I planned ahead. I figure next time down here I will have my colleagues join me so that I won’t be able to drive 30min south into Mississippi. Next time, I will be stuck in Tennessee, and then I might as well run there.
Holly Spring National Forest looked promising and it is a very large area, but I picked a fairly close laying Chewalla Lake region to run in. I had read online about the trails around there and the ATV dirt roads, so I figured I could spend a few hours playing in the area.
Since only roughly 3 weeks had passed since my 50 mile race, I planned on taking it very easy on this marathon and not attempt a 3-4 hour run, but really take my time to ensure optimum recovery overall, since I am planning my next 50 miler in October and don’t want any neuromuscular injury in the time leading up to that race.
The first thing I had noticed getting of the plane just 60 minutes prior was the insane humidity and heat (95F). In South Dakota, we somewhat skipped that sort of summer this year. Usually we get several days above 100F, but this year has been extremely mild. Therefore I had to stop numerous times just to catch my breath, even though I was going slower than at my recent 50 mile race (80Km).
After running outside of the picnic/swimming park area I came across the Chewalla Dam (reminds me of this one: “Two fish swim into a wall, says the one to the other :Dam(n)!) J) from which I could enjoy a very nice view of the area before going deep into the Holly Spring National Forest. I stumbled around the swampy area and truly felt like I was in a movie (at least from what I’ve seen of the south in movies). A huge moth attacked me, but I think I scared it off by my high pitch scream that I learned from my daughter Leiana. Truly a life saver.
Speaking (more like writing) of my beautiful daughter, I got to FaceTime with her and my wife during this early stage of my run. I decided to walk for about a 1.5 mile with them on my screen. I am truly grateful for the technology nowadays. I can see them live face-to-face while running in a National Forest in Mississippi while they are changing diapers in South Dakota. Leiana even spoke to me and told me about her day. My fault for not knowing baby language at this point, but I vow to try to learn more in the coming weeks. My wife Christina was my rock during this time, as this was my first night away from home since Leiana was born and she insisted that she had everything under control. She actually urged me to get off the phone, finish my run and call her later.
The Trail started to become a road less travelled. Literally. It was an ATV road, but it hadn’t been mowed all year and didn’t show any sign of usage. It was beautiful . Crickets chirping left and right and deer ever so often getting startled by my stomping. Once I even hurdled one of the many local non-venomous snakes that crittered around the trail. I think it was dead , but I wouldn't know who was more afraid of whom.
The dirt ATV road gave me a nice trail rash as I continuously got brushed by the foliage along the trail for the ensuing miles. My mind at this point was thinking very stereotypical for the south (mostly based on movies). I was expecting to see a moonshine distillery around every corner with some guy in overalls yelling at me to get away.
I explored the surrounding trails a bit and even scrambled around the ever rolling hills of the surrounding area that were without trails. I felt comfortable knowing where the lake was and based on the sun could orientate myself very well. As it started turning dark, I called my wife once more and talked with her and listened to Leiana telling me about her day. Again I’m sorry for not understanding anything beyond that I am the best dad in the world.
The sun had gone down and I dropped my backpack and switched to a single water bottle, as I planned to sprint the route I had just taking once more. Since I was comfortable knowing how far it was and how to get back to my rental car, even as the daylight diminished, I went on my way and guided my route by flashlight. This will also help me in my long-term goal to race throughout the nighttime. The temperature had relented and the humidity had gone down so that I could easily crank out a 9 mile run in 1:12h, which was my hardest effort of the day. The area was going to close by 10pm and I hadn’t eaten since breakfast and was starting to seriously feel low on energy as the 19.2 miles took their toll on me and I had only lived on a handful of gels at this time. Therefore I decided I’d take a small break and drive back to the hotel (30min), get a subway sandwich and finish on the hotel treadmill. It felt more like a dreadmill. Even though I ran slower than earlier before, I hated it as I only had myself to stare at after being spoiled by the beautiful Mississippi forest and swamp. I listened to a podcast and the remaining 7 miles went by uneventfully. Not my most favorite way to finish an effort, but probably the most reasonable/safe way.
Anyways, Mississippi is done. 6 states down, only 44 to go J.