I love running in foreign towns when I travel. I have experienced the most wonderful things this way. Plus, there's no better way to spice up a long run!
On Saturday morning, Jason and I headed to the historic town of Abingdon, Virginia, 10 miles north of the Tenessee border to do our weekly long run on the Virginia Creeper Trail. Believe it or not, I actually lived in Abingdon for a stint while in high school so it was also a trip down memory lane.
It was difficult to wake up at 8:00 am EST for breakfast; we were still on PST. However, it was nice to have room service deliver eggs, bacon and breakfast potatoes to our door. I also sipped on coffee and OJ. I normally never eat such a wholesome breakfast before a long run.
By the time we got to the trailhead in Abingdon, it was a little after 10 am. It was nice to take our time and digest breakfast. We both were drinking in all the sights. Next to the trailhead was a really neat bike shop, the Virginia Creeper Trail Bike Shop, where you could rent a bike on the trail. It was very tempting. The staff was very friendly and offered Jason and I maps as well as the use of their bathroom, even though we were runners, not cyclists that day. They even helped us with where to go to lunch afterwards!
We started running at 10:30 am. My stomach was a little tight from the heavy breakfast but not bad, especially for a low intensity, long run. In addition, my energy level felt great. I felt well-rested and properly fueled. We had brought the San Diego weather with us. It was clear, sunny and in the 70s.
We crossed the bridge at the trailhead and drank in the sights. The first yellow leaves of autumn had fallen on the trail, blanketing the well-packed gravel. The yellow leaves markedly contrasted against the thick, velvet green carpet of grass lushly growing along the banks of the trail. It was cool and moist on the trail, protected by thick lines of shady maples. I could smell the fresh, wet earth from a recent rain. Auburn and black wooly worms wriggled across the path, a clear sign of fall. Some say you can predict how harsh the winter will be by how much black is on the caterpillars.
I fell into a deep rhythm and pictured the Native Americans who used to traverse this path in the 16 and 1700s. I pictured the Revolutionary War and Civil War soldiers marching on the trail to battle. Then, I pictured the steam engine, pulling trains of coal and lumber into the Appalachians. It felt like I was going back in time.
Rolling farmland surrounded us on either side. Pastures filled with sleek, happy horses or dotted with black and brown cattle lined the path. Against the rolling pastures and farmland was a steep backdrop of mountains, the Appalachians, Smokies, and Blue Ridge all in the distance. A bright, red cardinal flew atop a neighboring limb and began chirping. Used to the dry, arid region of San Diego, I was amazed by the lush, green vegetation surrounding us. Of course, on our drive back to the hotel, a giant bug splatted on our windshield, and I was quickly reminded with the negatives that come along with all that greenery.
The other runners, walkers and cyclists on the trail were very friendly. Everyone said "Hi," or "Good morning." There was a group of elderly cyclists that I kept passing, who were very encouraging. They would stop to admire the view, and I would run by. The men in the group ran to their bikes, exclaiming, "C'mon! She's beating us!" The women in the group encouraged me as I passed, "You're doing great!" Next time I saw them, "Still doing great!" It definitely gave me a spring in my step. I loved all the positive energy from the other people on the trail.
I had to force myself to stop running at mile 5.75. I had only meant to run out 5 for an even 10. But I was having so much fun! The mile markers just zipped by. However, even though I desperately wanted to know what was around the next bend, I had to stop myself. Otherwise, I might be tempted to run the 34 miles into North Carolina! On the return to the start, the going was much slower. As I had been warned by the staff at the bike shop, there was a sneaky 2% grade on the way back. 2%, pshaw! It definitely got me on the return home. I couldn't see it but I could feel it. The sneaky little incline was relentless!
I felt exhilarated when I returned to the trailhead. I had run 11.5 instead of 10, and it had gone by in a snap! I felt as if not only had I done my physical exercise, but also a spiritual rejuvenation that morning.
My camera pooped out on me so these pics are not my own. They are from the bike shop's website: http://www.vacreepertrailbikeshop.com/
However, I did see all these things!
historic steam engine at the trailhead in Abingdon
view of the trail and mountains in the backdrop
view of farmland from the trail