Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Jess Goes Running: Kettle Moraine State Forest

On Sunday, T. and I packed up the Honda and drove about two hours northwest of Chicago to the Kettle Moraine State Forest near Whitewater, Wisconsin.  As I mentioned before, T. has really been getting into biking and wanted to re-familiarize himself with John Muir Trails, a very popular area for mountain biking with loops of varying difficulty.  Since he has a road bike, he called up the bike shop not far from the trail head and rented one for the day for a very reasonable price.

Personally, I wasn't much into the idea of biking.  I enjoyed it when I was younger, of course, and I'm sure I would now, but lately I'm more of a runner.  I was especially nervous about biking some of those trails without any recent biking experience.  My compromise?  Trail running!  It's a one way trail system there, with cyclists traveling clockwise and hikers traveling counter-clockwise.  This is an incredibly intelligent way of doing it as it keeps hikers and bikers aware of one another, especially as trails are narrow in some parts.

I was excited for the adventure, but the morning of, I woke up feeling not so great.  I hadn't slept nearly as well as I hoped and I was still feeling a little deprived from two morning shifts in a row.  Needless to say, I was a little out of sorts.  T. made us breakfast, we loaded up the car, and set out on our way.  I started feeling a bit better by the time we got to Wisconsin, and closer to the park, but I was still a little wary.  I think I had a little bit of anxiety about trail running in "new" surroundings, knowing that I may full well be the only hiker/runner out there in a sea of bikers.  I knew I couldn't let that get me down, though.

After we picked up the bike that T. was renting, we made our way over to the park.  It was a perfect day--just the right temperature and breeze.  We got prepared for our respective activities and decided that we would meet up back at the car in 2 hours.  I didn't really think that I'd be out there for 2 hours, but I felt like it was a reasonable length of time.  I figured that even if I went out for an hour, and spent the second hour reading or writing under a nice shady tree, I'd consider it worthwhile.  We kissed goodbye and he headed towards the start of the bike trails, while I headed in the opposite direction, to the hiking entrance.

All in all I was out running for about an hour and a half.  Not too bad!  Trail running is a lot different from the flat, easy, urban terrain that I am used to.  I was definitely sore in places that I am not when I go running in the city.  But it was so fun, the nature was beautiful, and I loved the challenge of a) keeping a steady pace, even going up and down hills and around corners on tiny trails and b) staying visible and avoiding the cyclists that I encountered.  There were a few close calls, and a few times where I had to jump off the trail briefly to allow for a passing bike.  But for the most part, everyone was very friendly and I didn't feel entirely ridiculous being the only runner out there.  (Seriously!  I saw two hikers very early on the course, but besides that, during my 1.5 hour run on the trails, I didn't see a single hiker/trail runner.)

It was a beautiful run, and a strenuous one, but I was and am so glad I went out.  It's a gorgeous natural area and the adventure reminded me of those T. and I used to take in college...  it was nice to have that nostalgic happy feeling while I ran.  When I finally completed the loop, I went back to the car, grabbed a few things, and parked out at a picnic table.  And only 5-10 minutes later, T. came rolling up on his bike (with a few new battle wounds that haves since turned into some of the craziest bruises I've ever seen).  He had just finished one of the longer and more difficult trails.  We concluded that we'd both had a good outing, but there were things that we would do differently.  Mostly, we both just want to be better prepared for the conditions and the difficulty of the task.  We had such a nice afternoon!

So yeah, the Muir Trails are really nice, and great if you are running or riding a bike (I have been there once before, a few years ago, on a bike--there were a few natural landmarks I recognized, which was nice).  When I got home, I was looking at a map to determine if I had actually taken the White trail like I was planning, I realized that I had done a hybrid of both the White trail and the Blue/Green trail.  I used MapMyRun as per usual, and while it said that I ran 4.68 miles, I believe the distance was quite a bit longer than that.  Since I have auto-pause enabled on the app (which is great for running in the city where there are frequent stoplights and cause for pausing), there was a lot of "Workout paused" and "Workout resumed" when I disappeared under the cover of trees.  Very rarely did I actually stop moving when it thought that I had.  It was probably over 5 miles, really, but it's not worth worrying about.  I know better for next time.

T. and I are definitely planning on doing more combination adventures like this one.  I can't wait to do more trail running!  We're lucky to live somewhere with close proximity to a lot of pretty natural areas.  This upcoming Sunday, I am running in the Chicago 10K, which I'm pretty excited about!  As for the rest of the weekend, we shall see...  anything is possible!  Maybe I'll end up getting another trail run in after all!

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