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Final 20-Miler: North Is South and Maps Are Useless

Yesterday I ran my final 20-miler of training for the Steamtown Marathon. I knew that if I could make it through that run without injury, I'd be good to go for the race. And I'm happy to report that I did! But the run wasn't without some folly. 

Because my youngest niece was having a birthday party on the same day I was scheduled to do this training run, I'd planned ahead for Tim and I to spend the night at my dad's house in Longwood (which is close to where my niece lives). I knew my dad lived very close to the Seminole Wekiva Trail, so I planned the 20-miler on this route. Or so I thought. We knew my dad lived 2.5 miles from the trail, so we would just need 15 miles on the trail, or 7.5 out and back. I used someone's Map My Run route to get an idea of how many miles we'd be able to get at the entrance point from my dad's house. I even "enhanced" the map with my own notations, for Tim's benefit.

The map I studied and enhanced.

Clearly we'd get more distance going north on the trail, so all we had to do was take one road west to the trail, head north for 7.5 miles (or as many as we could get), and head back, get back on the road to my dad's house, and voilá: 20 miles in the bag.

So on the drive in to Longwood Friday night, I realized I'd forgotten to pack any kind of lighting to make us more visible in the dark, early hours of the morning or to see where we were going on the trail. So we made a pit stop at a Dick's Sporting Goods on the way and bought a small flashlight that I decided I'd carry and then clip on to my shorts when I no longer needed it (a headlamp would have been ideal for this situation, but I don't like wearing things on my head while I run). Perfect--safety was taken care of. We got to my dad's, spent some time visiting, and then went to bed for a 4:30 a.m. wake-up and 5:00 a.m. start.

Alarms went off, we rose, prepared, and headed out. The flashlight was pretty necessary; even though we were running on a street with street lights, they were far apart and the road was winding and a bit hilly, which decreased the chances of cars seeing us ahead of them. After 2.5 miles, right where it should've been, we saw the trail. Yay! It worked. I took the lead with directions, as this was more my territory than Tim's; and after all, I'd studied the maps. At this point, Tim had planned to part from me and run his faster pace. Cool, I thought. We can each just run our own pace on this lovely out-and-back route on the trail. We turned left onto the trail, and Tim went on ahead of me.

So after two or three miles, we came to a section of the trail that had an underground tunnel. Only problem was, the tunnel was gated and locked. Tim had run back to this point to ask me if we were supposed to cross the street to continue on the trail, and I reassuringly told him yes (I'd never been on that part of the trail before, but I didn't remember seeing a turn at that point on the map I studied multiple times). So he went off again, and as I continued to run straight, I realized that tunnel never came back up, and the trail did not, in fact, continue in the direction we were going--at least, not anywhere I could see. But by the time I reached this realization, Tim was too far ahead for me to yell--although I tried my best, at 5:30 in the morning, in a fairly populated (and sleeping) area. So I took my handy flashlight and flashed it on and off, hoping he'd see the reflections off of the street signs. I thought he looked back once, but he kept on running, getting farther and farther away from me (it turns out he did see the flashes but thought it was just the light bobbing up and down as I ran).

I considered running down that same city road for several more miles, but I really just wanted to be on the trail. I knew Tim had his phone with him and could look at the map on his app to get back to the trail or to my dad's house. So I turned around and searched for where the trail went. Before I got back to the tunnel that led me off course, I saw a sign for the Seminole Wekiva trail pointing left, so I decided to go that way to try to find it. After running for close to a mile and not seeing any sign of the trail, I gave up and went back to the tunnel. I tried to determine where it came back up on the ground, and I couldn't find it anywhere. I was pretty frustrated at this point, so I just headed back down the trail I'd already been on, thinking I'd just cross the street my dad lived off of and follow the trail in the other direction.

However, once I did cross to the other side, I got about a mile in and realized I'd been there before. My mom also lives near this trail, but she lives north of my dad. Only at this moment did it occur to me that I turned the wrong way on the trail to begin with. When I went left, I went south instead of north. I felt like a complete idiot and could only imagine what Tim was thinking--wherever he was, as I knew he'd come to the same realization sooner or later.

As this map of my run shows, I went west to get to the trail and then pretty much went due south after accessing it (instead of going north, like I was supposed to).

Finally back on course, I felt I could relax into my run a bit more. It was still pretty dark, but I'd seen a couple of other runners/cyclists out by then. Despite that, the peace and solitude was lovely. The weather was cooler than it had been in recent weeks. After a few miles, now at 10, I reached my first water stop, which I was thankful for, as I had been rationing my 10 oz. of water in my handheld bottle that whole time. After refilling, I determined that I needed to run to 13 miles and then turn around and retrace until I got to my original trail starting point to get the proper mileage. So I carried on, and, as I began to approach 12 miles, I came to the intersection where I would access the trail if I were coming from my mom's house. I considered running to her house, but I wasn't entirely sure I knew how to get there (I've only been to this house twice), so I didn't risk it. And guess what happened next? I encountered ANOTHER tunnel on the trail. And once again, it was locked. And once again, I couldn't tell where it came out. I really didn't feel like trying to figure it out, so I just turned around and headed back south. I knew this meant I'd have to cross back over the road my dad lives off of and go about a mile or so south on the section of trail I'd already been on twice, and then back north (making it four times) to get on the road and finally run the 2.5 miles to my dad's house.

And that's exactly what I did, but I passed Tim along the way, who thankfully was amused, and not annoyed, at how much I'd led him astray. We were running in opposite directions at that point, so we wished each other a good remainder of the run.

Once I got back on the road to my dad's house, I knew I only had to push for 2.5 more miles, and I knew exactly where I was going. But it was rough, as this was the hilliest part of the run, the sun was directly in my eyes, and there was no sidewalk on parts of the road--the parts where it was also hilly and winding, making it rather dangerous. But I survived, and I even ran my last three miles at a progressively faster pace--my last mile coming in at 8:59! Although it did not look hopeful from the get-go, the run turned out highly successful.

Fastest 20-miler to date!

After a humorous retelling of our adventures to my dad (mostly at my expense), Tim and I enjoyed some breakfast that my dad made and then left to see this cutie pie on her second birthday:

Photo credit: my dad. Can you guess the theme?

I don't get to see my other two nieces often, so I was very excited to see them, as well as my mom, two of her sisters, and, to my surprise and delight, my cousin, her two little boys, and her new baby girl, Ava (awwww):

My finger is stuck inside her pacifier. I was afraid to pull it out and risk waking her.

I absolutely loved spending time with family and friends, although it always seems to go by too fast. 

The family!
After arriving back home in Tampa, all I wanted to do was lie in bed. I'm not a good napper, so I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep, but I also didn't feel like doing anything at all. So we just lazed around for a couple of hours.

Eventually, we did get up for takeout food and cupcakes:

I ate my topping off in the car. It was a Nilla Wafer on top of a banana cream pie cupcake. Tim's was a raspberry white chocolate cupcake. They were both insanely good--and well earned. 

Gig's Cupcakes are reserved for very special occasions. (Sometimes getting through the day qualifies as a special occasion.) I soon slipped into what felt like a deep coma and awoke this morning feeling very well rested. The weight of that final 20-miler had been lifted. I've made it through the toughest part of training, and now I have three weeks of tapering. I'm looking forward to it!


B.o.B. said…
I would have done the same thing with the maps and run. I'm not so great with north and south. Excellent job on your last 20!!! I'm sad we didn't run together more. I've got 15 scheduled for this weekend. I need a buddy and have to run on Sunday. Thoughts?
Life is like that, sometimes turns out better than expected. Congratulations on a great run. Does walking one mile a day qualify me for one of those cupcakes?
Lee Davidson said…
Beth--planning to do San Antonio hills Saturday, around 16. If for some reason that doesn't work out, I'll call you!


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