GI problems today, no thunder. Except down under. I decided to do a trail shoe clinic. Road, railroad tracks, unknown boggy trails, road and monstrous hills, yet more railroad tracks, and finish with roads.

Image I am running in a pair of Cascadia 8s. I wanted the Peregrine by Saucony at my favorite running store, Morgantown Running, but they were sold-out in my size. All the Inov8 trail shoes had been scooped up already. I got the Cascadias.They dropped the heel, shaved the width of the midsole and outer sole. It’s like riding in a Range Rover. It’s an excellent wet shoe, and very durable. I wore my Cascadia 7s, my first trail shoe, to work for two years.

The store is owned and staffed by amazing runners, all of them. The guy who helped me out with these, Josh Simpson, is a legend in West Virginia. He’s got sick stats, solid dude, coaches at WVU. It was nice to see him, and he wished me luck on the Highlands Sky 40 Miler, which is sort of like my Mecca. I’m not fast enough to get a BQ – my closest time was 9 minutes off at 3 hr 24 min, but I’m going to try again this fall. When it cools down I get faster. Today, though was not about fast, it was about terrain,technical running. I did a half mary the hard way.

Road: Unusually stiff, under the weather with GI revolt in overdrive, making me weak. Going to be a slow one. I trotted down to the riverside tracks and headed out-of-town, found a well-used ATV trail system and started exploring. In the winter, I can usually ferret out which way I’m heading, but in the summer, with all the thick green foliage and twisting trails, I get lost. I had a full water bottle and a salt tablet, no gel. I needed to grind the gears. The trail followed an abandoned, ancient railway. The sleepers were splintered heaps buried in mud, the ends intact like the rounded ends of bones in a stock pot. The mud was thick and slick, and my tread was hardly a match for it. I tried to stay out of the milky jade pools of standing water. We’ve had a lot of fresh rain lately. I’m worried about snakes, copperheads. As luck would have it, I would only see one snake today, a black racer sans head on a railroad track.

i lost my turn to the road and found more trail instead that suddenly climbed nearly vertical up to an abandoned depot swallowed up in the greenery, only the bare horizontal surface where the platform rested astride the track atop an iron arch.The shoe gripped really well. No concrete or asphalt, just mud, with those bone ends of railroad sleepers buried in the mud alongside the trail.  I continued on in the mire.

I was pouring sweat, cold sweat. After a couple of dead-ends I heard the rushing of a large creek and threaded my way through to find myself beside a shallow crossing some thirty yards wide. The trail picked up askance the creek. I moved into the current and bullied my way upstream up to my knees. Really pleasant, so cool. On the other side I climbed up a steep, nasty hill and onto the crumbling ruins of a brick road. A fox I startled went bounding away. I smelled a skunk and hollered out so it would know where I was and go elsewhere. The bricks had washed down to the creek, and I continued over fired clay shards, red sand, then a rubble field of yellow and red bricks, hunks of concrete and rough stone that petered out and became the ruins of an old asphalt road, nothing but gobs of black chunks, more sand and mud than anything else. I passed a couple of hastily dumped mattresses and a broken TV, so I knew I was heading towards a main road. I passed junk more often and finally reached the foot of a monstrous hill that climbs over five hundred feet in less than a mile.

I emerged onto the road and tried to keep from leaning over my feet too much on the climb. Very tough climb, but not as tough as finding a job around here. It’s been four months since the lay-off. MENSA contacted me for a testing in two months, on the day my unemployment benefits run out… So, if I’m still unemployed on August 30th, I’ll think it’s ironic if it turns out I’m a genius, or fitting if I’m not. Either way I’ll be mopping polished floors or washing produce, and the question will be put to rest once and for all. When I got the invitation yesterday, I responded simply, “I’m stupid, but thank you very much.” An actual person responded to my feint and mentioned something about free food in a non-threatening environment, said I was on a list.If you gave me $100, I would call you a genius, most assuredly. I thanked the MENSA head hunter and indicated my interest. I once hired a medical student as a janitor. Sweet, sweet karma.

I had to hop the guard rail a couple of times because of traffic on the narrow, twisting pass. Once I hit the top, it was pretty much flat if it wasn’t falling until I reached a little borough called Newell, I think, about three miles away. i was doing seven out and six back. A sort of HQ for the railroad where I could get some water, hopefully, lay ahead at my turn-around. All of a sudden I nearly shit myself. I hobbled to a ball field and found a port-a-let. Oh god, no. Surprise, it was spotless! A sign-off sheet hung in a frame inside indicated it was serviced on Monday, two days ago, and it had a foot-pedal flushable. Fancy. I emerged a new old man, jogged to the commercial depot, asked a guy smoking a cigarette if I could fill my water bottle at the water fountain and he said, sure. Usually the place was deserted and I just walked in, hollered hulloo, maybe bought a fig bar from the snack machine, and went on my wayness with the freshness.

The railroad track to Brownsville snaked along the river. I endured bad footing entire way. I passed a couple of idle trains loaded with coal. I passed the switch motor where I’d fallen on giant bolts in January. The sleepers were deeply exposed, the cinders washed away. I’m lucky I didn’t break my lower leg when I fell into the jaws of that snow-covered steel bear trap. I tried to keep up a steady pace, but I found myself winding down like an old tin toy. By the time I got home my tank was empty. I lay down on the sidewalk a moment, eyes closed, nothing left. Ill again. Showered, ate a bellyful of fresh organic watermelon, oh sweet mama!

So, I got hills, a rushing water crossing, mud, ankle-breaking rocky terrain for miles, and illness that made me feel like I was twenty miles into a tough event. I needed coffee, good stretches.

I’ve got two days to get some strength back. Training at high elevation Saturday in West Virginia should be fairly challenging and I need to push, push, push.

Juneathon 2014 total miles: 26