Game changers

A few days ago I ran 8 miles in the rain. What's next? Climbing mountains? Yup. Today I met up with a group of people to run Terrapin Mountain in Bedford County, Va. It's funny that I grew up in Bedford and have spent much of my life in the area, but I'm completely unfamiliar with the names of the mountains beyond Sharp Top and Flat Top. I've spent a lot of time on the Blue Ridge Parkway, so these areas are familiar to me -- I just never took the time to learn more about them. Anyway, the idea today was to pretty much tackle the half marathon course for upcoming races on the mountain.

Until today, I really haven't tackled trails too much. I've done a few runs and races on trails ... but not a mountain. Not something with a 3,200-foot elevation change. What a huge difference that really is. My friend Travis has been talking up this mountain and other trail races for a while and how different it was -- he always explained it as a run/power walk/hike. I thought, walking? Hiking? That's not running. But after today, I'm a big believer in this method of working out -- running to a hill, power walking it, running when you can. That's really the best way to explain it.

But there is so much more, especially today. A couple of miles into it, I was surprised that we had to cross a creek with no rocks to really step on -- yes, my feet were getting wet weather I wanted them to or not. Then as we gradually climbed the mountain, things got a little icy and then suddenly we were going through an ice machine. The ice that was at the top of this mountain was like fast food ice. We had to climb up it, then across it and then down it. I seriously had to remember some of my skiing moves to avoid busting my butt.

That didn't stop me -- or others -- from busting my butt though. I did it twice. The first fall was on the ice and I scraped my leg up a bit; my second fall was later on some crazy wet leaves that left my right elbow and shoulder aching. Then there was also leftover snow from last month's /storm that we had to go through that left cuts on the front of my legs.

On the way down the mountain there were some smaller creeks, which allowed me to refill my water bottle. Then toward the end of the trail there was a final creek to pass through -- similar to the first one, only bigger. Like water up to your knees bigger.

Aside from the workout, there were two or three spots that just had some breath-taking views. They were the kind of views that just make you appreciate life -- it's tough to find the right words.

All told this was a 12-mile adventure. Besides some soreness with my legs, I feel great. It'll be a while before I decide whether I want to do this again or not. Right now I'm just happy that I did it.

I've had two runs this week completely out of normal for me. I thought an 8-miler in the rain was crazy enough; today was just wild. These types of runs are ones that change my thinking; they change my routine; they change my focus. This is the boost I've been looking for since ... well, I'm not sure when. It's been too long.