Saturday, August 24, 2013

Running in US

My first US trip after returning back will be remembered for Grand Canyons and fall colored leaves on trees in Bentonville, the next one in April will be remembered for Eureka Springs and Zion National park, this one, from which i just returned yesterday will be remembered for running trails.

Last time, i was training for a Half Marathon in June and during my two week of stay in April-end, i did no training and fell sick after coming back. My coach sent a sharp email, declaring decisively, that i should not do any HM in June. I was angry at myself but i took his advice. This time, i am preparing for KTM in mid September and when i was asked to tour again, i was prepared to not repeat the same mistake again. 


The Bay Area Chapter
I reached US on Friday,  i was staying at Radisson, Brisbane and i was struggling with a flu, thankfully with no fever.  Owing to my forever jetlag, it takes me seven days to become adjusted to the local timezone in either direction, i was typically up in the morning. I was supposed to run 16K on Saturday (10 miles) and 10K on Sunday. 

I knew there was a trail next to Bay shore but i had no idea how long it was, no idea whether i will have water along the way and i had never ran such a long distance alone. However, i was a man on a mission, these petty details were not going to stop me. I know that 16K will take about 2 hrs, so i just have to run by duration but there is another twist, i do not like running with phone and i do not have a wrist watch. Brisbane is 5 miles from SF and is generally a very chilly area due to its proximity to the Bay. I waited till 8 am so that i could see the Sun and braving my cold, with some anti-biotics and multi-vitamins with me, i took the plunge and started my run. The trail was known as  San Francisco Bay shore trail, it is a tar road trail for the most part (yay!) and it runs next to the Bay for as long as it goes. There were some numbers marked with paint on the road. The one closest to the start point was labelled as 12 and it went on decreasing to 11, 10 and so on. I passed couple of labels but could not make sense of them, they were too close to each other to have a mile distance between them, could they be a km apart? Unlikely as why would US follow the metric system. I was confused with the marking and at 7 am, next to the Bay it was cold, very cold. My running nose was constantly asking me to give up for the first 30 mins but after that the body heat took control and everything went fine. After running for 45 mins, i saw my first mile marker which said 2 miles and i was like what? Have i run 2 miles or there is 2 more miles to go? As it turned out, there were mile markers throughout the entire trail but they were on the left hand side and since i was running on the right, i had completely missed them. and those labels- 12, 11, 10 were actually at a distance of half a mile. Once i figured it out, i was able to run 10 miles going all the way to almost the end where the trail is next to the SFO airport. 


SF Bay shore trail is an awesome trail to run. It just reminds me how beautiful running is in Bay area (And in general in US). There are rest rooms along the way, drinking water fountains and did i tell you that it is next to the Bay all the time. Gorgeous blue water  makes the dull yellow sun glitter like gold. Mountains rise next to the trail and there are several observation points where one can just stop and reflect on this natural beauty.  Other users of this trail were extremely friendly with "Good-mornings" being exchanged almost throughout the way. Along the way, one passes next to the yatch's of super-rich of Bay area; Brisbane is anyways a very posh locality. It is pretty much a flat trail with just one inclination that lasts for about quarter a mile and quickly comes down as well. So all in all, it is simply a runner's trail.  

I followed my Saturday's 10 miler with a 5 miler on Sunday and the cold was much more bearable. With the training this season, i can easily run 16Km without having any pain or walking difficulties post the run. For my weekday , i ran 4 miles going in opposite direction next to the slip road that connects to 101 South freeway exit from Sierra Point parkway.  

I was supposed to run 21K (the entire HM distance) on the upcoming Saturday but i had plans to go to Yosemite. So, i decided to run the distance on Thursday afternoon. Thursday was a team lunch at an Italian place and i had to content myself with an bowl of vegetables. An hr and half after the lunch, i was on trail to run the longest distance for this year. The decision to run in afternoon was quite intentional as i wanted to get some Sun (heat), in preparation for KTM which is going to be hot and humid. I had known the trail only for first 5 miles (for my 10 miler), i had no idea how far beyond the trail existed. Turned out not much, it ends at 5.5 miles, i figured it out after taking couple of exploratory routes. But in the end, i had to run 2 miles extra in between to make up for the difference. It was a great run, the cool breeze from the Bay negated the afternoon Sun making it ideal for running. I was back in Shoreline, back in Hellyer park, back in those Bay area running days with Team Asha SV, i was back running on the streets of San Jose for my first half marathon. Memories overwhelmed me, i remembered walking/running on  the trail behind my Easy street apmt. How much we take these things for granted in US, what would i give up to have such a trail next to my aptmt in Bangalore.  In short, i absolutely loved my 21K run. I met Manas after the run and had an awesome Chinese dinner post run. 

I didn't click any pics of the Bay shore trail, they can be found online after some googling. There are no experiences on the web, however,  so far, on running on this trail. Saturday was spent in Yosemite doing a 7.5 mile hike with a 2000 ft. elevation gain (Mist trail) and hence i skipped my Sunday run. That weekend, i could feel my leg muscles getting taut, i was enjoying the transition :)


The Bentonville Chapter
In Bentonville, i tried running on the road from my hotel on Walnut st, to Promenade hills but the road quickly ran out of footpath. Fortunately i found a 0.6K loop (estimated) and ended up running 8 loops around it. For the first time, i was doing more than 3 loops of anything and it was a different experience. After some time, this repeatability, it becomes quite hypnotic, like minimalist music and i was able to finish 8 without any difficulty. 

For the Saturday run of 16K again, i decided to run on the trail close to Crystal Bridges. It is called North Bentonville trail and it goes from the parking near Crystal Bridges to Bark Park which is at a distance of 2.5 miles. I ran for about 1 hr 50 mins, i was definitely short of 16K. The reason primarily was because other than that 2.5 mile marked distance, other side trails were either closed or not properly marked. Three of my exploratory trails turned out to be closed after running some distance and i had no way of quantifying that "some" part. I also ran on a side Urban trails which goes through the small forest next to the trail and it was the first time i was running on an actual hiking trail, it was full of ups and downs, an interesting challenge but i was able to manage it properly.

North Bentonville trail is again a paradise trail. It goes through a park which has a creek running close-by, big natural trees growing alongside, extremely green, airy, quiet with no cars in proximity. The bark park has restroom and drinking water making it an ideal distance to take a break. The only downside is that it is made up of concrete, may be because it is primarily meant for biking, and hence not exactly ideal for running. At several points in the trail, one can hear the sound of flowing water and that is just a bliss. Kids ride through the trail, a lot of people run and bike, making it perfect for family walks. It was great to see happy people all around you, enjoying their weekend in a natural setting. 






Sunday followed the Saturday run on the same trail, i had to run 8K. It was summer in Bentonville and i was drenched after my run. This was the first time i ran with my phone so that i can click some pics of the trail, the trail that is accessible after only a 15 min drive.
















On the last day of my visit, i again did a 6 mile run on this trail, this time starting at 6:30 am. At 6:30 am, i was pleasantly surprised to see almost 10 deers just hanging around around the trees and next to the creek. All of them looked at me like some alien had come to their area. In many national parks, people look out for animals, take their big DSLRs to click them, but here, in the natural calmness, these deers were just standing there, like they were at home. I didn't found them on my way back, most likely because number of people in trail had increased. 




I am not sure how much equipped i am to run for KTM but i can say that i have enjoyed every bit of running in US. That these things are such readily available for public in large, that people have thought about such things and have decided that such trails are a must for community, it just stands as a stark reminder of the cost of passing up an opportunity to not live there. Yet, as i ran today morning on the Kanakpura trail,  one feels in awe of these other people who are running with equal passion, enjoying every bit of their time on these dusty, stony Indian roads (these cant be called trails). It is people who make a difference, someone has figured out already in US, somebody has to do here. It is evolution in its slow movement here. The optimist in my heart whispers - "One day!"

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