Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Really Short Stories: Unexpected Training Extensions.

        A story involving me getting lost and a "day in the life of" style update are almost interchangeable. There are more than one occasions where I have taken a wrong turn or didn't bother to acknowledge where I was and paid the price for it. The end result is usually some extra training time and severe to moderate frustration.
      Of all the times I can think of the most recent mistake takes place in the Adirondacks of northern NY. The Adirondacks are some of the oldest mountains in the world. Though I'm willing to bet I still managed to find some uncharted territory.  It's a major plus having all the hiking so close to the OTC. There are a lot of options and if you time it right the trails are not too over crowded.
      All I had to do was three hours of easy distance. No problem, right? There really wasn't any problem for the first hour fifty. I didn't have enough time to summit Algonquin. I mostly planned on taking the same way back that I had came. A small part of me wanted to take a different route. The trails are fun if your good at uneven terrain and don't care about the health and well being of your ankles. This is me. I took a right when I should have gone left. I don't look up much when I'm running on hiking trails. When your on the verge of tripping with every step it's hard not to concentrate on the ground immediately in front of you. It's either that or slow down... So really there's no time to look up and see the signs written in plan English.
       By the time I realized the ground didn't look the same as the ground I ran out on it was too late. Not too late to physically turn around but more so mentally. You see, we had just recently picked up these new GPS heart rate monitors from Polar. They were pretty slick, but I really wanted to put mine to the test. After you upload the info to a computer it overlays the coordinates onto a topo map and a google map. This leads to an addicting effort to produce the coolest looking training loops. As I said I mostly wanted to do an out and back session.
     There are a lot of trails in the Adirondacks. Most of the time you can get to your point B in more than one way. With that in mind there was no hope of me going back the way I came. I kept pressing forward and assumed I would be back in under four hours at the worst. Eventually the single track hiking trail turned into a dirt road. I stopped seeing other hikers. I came out to parking lot. It wasn't empty but I didn't really recognize it either. I ran down the paved road until I came to another hiking trail opening. No reason to panic. "Surly I'll be back in forty minutes or so." I smugly thought to myself. It had been raining a lot that week. When I came to a river the foot bridge was out and littered with warning signs. I don't mind running through water, but there's a sense of insecurity that comes with not knowing where your foot is going to land. That and a $300 camera in your water belt.
      I saw a sign for Mt Adams. At this point I wasn't in to the mood for any summiting. The trail oscillated between single track and dirt road. I tripped wading through the water on another downed bridge. I didn't have the courage to glance at the total time display on my watch, but I couldn't dodge the parched feeling from not bringing enough water. After all it was only three hours, right? I did pay close attention to the compass feature on the GPS though. This will point you in direction of your starting point. Apparently, my car was only 16km north of me. Still, no reason to panic. The reason why I brought up the compass feature was because eventually the dirt road came to an end. Should I have just turned around? Probable yes. Did I? Most certainly not. After all, I had a compass pointing me back to HQ. What could go wrong?
      A lot... A lot could go wrong. Not that it did, but I was pretty nervous for an hour or two or three or four. Not really sure. I jumped off the road and started bush whacking. The uncharted woods made it an upper body effort. I was paying close attention to the digital compass. The arrow was becoming more and more inconsistent. I came to river and ran up stream. This was the point was when I realized I didn't know where to find the last trail I so valiantly  abandoned. I really was beyond the point of no return. "Uh oh!... uh oh! I may have really done it this time" I said out loud. It's not like anyone was going to here me talking to myself anyway. While running up the river a little more I actually started to think back to a survival course I took when I was younger. I don't remember most of it and that only further complimented the situation.
      After ditching the river and running though the thicket following what I suspected was a false prophet I, for what ever reason of dumb luck, came to a hiking trail. I didn't know where it was or see any signs, but who cares? It was something! The trail went on for a while and seemed to be heading in the direction of my elusive parked car. Much to my dismay the trail faded away. "Seriously." I thought. "This doesn't make a lick of sense?" It was here where I came across a couple of hikers. It was a couple of guys who, for lack of better term, will be referred to as hippies. I was wearing a bright orange training shirt that day and the hippies probable thought I was the sun. Thankfully they let the sun take a gander at there map. They didn't know where they were either. With a brief view of the map it looked like I could go through the swamp lake I was in and make my way to lake Colden. From there a sense of direction might show up and help me get home. I wasn't really in the mood to do any more bush whacking. I gave the trail the benefit of the doubt. After running along the edge of th swamp lake and the last stretch of trail I decided the trail option was out yet again. I started out the "Flowed Lands" in what was supposed to be the right direction.
If you look closely you can see where the signal was lost right after I gave up on running around in circles. 
      Naturally the GPS on my trusty piece of Finish technology watch lost it's signal. So now I was running (or rather drudging ) through the woods with no more than a suspicion of where I might be going. Thankfully dumb luck prevailed again with not only a hiking trail but one that was recognizable. It felt like I was pretty much home free at that point. When I started the run hike that morning I was practically floating over the terrine. At this point it wasn't exactly as fluid. I can't say I didn't fill my water belt up with river water once or twice. The black flies must have set up camp along Lake Colden because I ran through a mile long blanket of them. I may have been tired, but when I tripped and broke the fall with my face, I cursed the blinding level of black flies for it. Still, who cares? For the first time in hours I knew where I was.
       Turns out I still had a long ways to go. On the last stretch the GPS kicked back on. Seeing the car made my day. The wipers were up and someone had left a very cryptic message in the dirt that I shouldn't really post. Apparently I wasn't the only US team member out there that day. I stopped my watch to see a total of seven hours and twenty two minutes. "Meh, close enough" I thought. The slow fire at four wasn't going to happen, but dinner was just opening up at the OTC.
       As pathetic as all of the shenanigans are I can pride myself in a 100% success rate of making it back. Obviously, or I wouldn't be here to type this one up. On a long enough time line I always make it home. Some times it's roller skiing down a high way in Wyoming, hitch hiking in France, or the running the back roads of East Germany. So anyone need a partner for an orienteering race? 




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