Saturday, June 30, 2012

I'm going to miss you North Park

If you know me, you know that I love the mountains. I've never felt more free than when I'm in the mountains. Every time I drive west, after getting through the plains states I'm constantly scanning the horizon for the first glimpse of mountains. If you've driven with me we've probably had this dialogue:

Me: Look! There they are! You can finally see the mountains!
You: No, Allisa. Calm down. Those are just clouds.
(Repeat conversation at half hour intervals)

So it may come as no surprise that I'm am very excited to move to Denver with Cory two weeks from today. What has surprised me the most, though, is how nostalgic I've been feeling about Pennsylvania lately. Growing up in Wisconsin, I thought I knew the meaning of "lush" and "verdant" but being in Pittsburgh has redefined that for me. I know that in just two weeks I'm going to be missing the dense forests of Pennsylvania.

The other day I was working up at the equipment room and on the way home I stopped at North Park for a trail run.  Every time I go, I marvel at how many runners are on the roads. I used to be one of those runners when I was training for a road-marathon this past spring. I would run laps around the lake trying to beat my body into racing condition, but all I was doing was killing my spirit. I knew there were awesome trails surrounding me but I would try to forget them because my training plan said I needed to do 20 miles at a certain pace.

That didn't work out too well for me when it came around to race time and so I'm trying to be more spontaneous and free-spirited with my training. If I feel good then I should run longer, and if I'm feeling poorly then I should not feel that I need to force a workout. At the end of the week I make sure my mileage adds up. I went to North Park with the intention to run for at least 5 miles of trail, but brought enough with me to sustain me well beyond that. I was rewarded with the most life-giving trail run of the summer.

I started out at the Rachel Carson trail terminus and ran a 10 mile loop that was used in the Marshall Mangler 50k that Cory ran last fall. Most of the section is a rolling single-track mountain bike trail that weaves through awesome pine groves and through small patches of prairie. I saw 5 deer, including a fawn that was no bigger than a puppy (but could definitely run faster than I was running). I also startled a large group of wild turkeys. Maybe not too exciting since turkey and deer are pretty common, but I was filled with such joy. I tried to savor the run knowing that soon I will need to be more cautious about running into bears or mountain lions after we move to Colorado.

When I got back to my car I felt bad for the dozens of people out running the roads in the blazing sun. Most people don't even know about the great trail system North Park has to offer. I saw a total of 3 people out of the trails. Best kept secret of the Pittsburgh area. Next time I go out, I'll have to take some pictures.

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