Perfect way to start the weekend

How about a little neon to brighten up the woods? Here’s our group at Yellowwood State Forest before the run. (Photo by Terry Fletcher)

What a great way to start the weekend: running for a few hours in the woods, making a few new friends and catching up with old friends.

It’s been too long since I’ve done this — at least two years, maybe more. But now that I’ve gotten over my leg injury and rebuilt my base, it feels so good to be back for outings like this.

This was a familiarization run on southern half of the Tecumseh Towpath Marathon course. About 50 people showed up, ready to rock the hills. Most are planning to run the marathon on Dec. 7. I’m nowhere near trained enough to run 26.2 miles, let alone a tough, hilly course through the woods of southern Indiana.

I showed up for run just to have fun, run about 10 miles and get back with trail people.

(I last ran this marathon in 2008, and wrote this race report.)

I love running in November. True, it’s not as pretty as October, when the trees are bursting with fall colors. But November has its own beauty. The trees are thinned out, and you can see for miles across gorges and ravines. Luckily we had a bright blue sky today and great visibility.

View from the top of Indian Hill Road

The run was organized by Terry Fletcher and his gang from Indiana Trail Running.They did a great job of marking the course with pink ribbons, setting up three aid stations, handling the carpooling and a thousand other things.

Terry Fletcher, the run organizer and all-around great guy. (Photo by Christy Snider Odeen)

tecumsehsign

The goal was to run from the top of Indian Hill Road (about mile 13 of the course) to the end at Yellowwood Lake. You could run a little shorter, about 10 miles, by clipping off a loop near the end. Or you could run farther by tacking on an extra loop or two here or there.

map

I ran a nice, easy pace, near the back. My goal was just to run for fun and get about 10 miles under my belt.

The air was pretty chilly, with temps in the mid-20s. But I wasn’t complaining. I dressed in three layers and kept warm.

Like my green jacket? I was hoping it would keep me visible to hunters. (Photo by Terry Fletcher)

Even though it rained Thursday and Friday, the trail was pretty firm and the creeks were low. Of course, the hills were tough, as always, but they were spread out, with lots of creekside running, moderate rollers and fun downhills.

I ran for about an hour with Toni, Mark, Marci and Momi. I didn’t know them a day ago, but that’s the beauty of trail running. Most people love to share the miles and trade stories. Lots of long friendships begin this way.

My running buds on Saturday (from left to right): Marci, Mark and Toni.

I also had fun catching up with Jim Halsey for a while. We’ve put in a few miles together at DINO races and fun runs here and there. He’s run oodles of trail marathons and ultras and is always encouraging. 

Jim seems to be having a good recovery after surgery last fall. He told me he has signed up for the 50-mile portion of the Indiana Trail 100 in April, so he’s not letting a little surgery stop him.

Jim Halsey (in the yellow shirt) gets ready to climb a hill.

The course was mostly singletrack, with some paved roads, gravel roads, jeep roads and grassy clearings.

onroad

One thing about trail running in November: you see lots of hunters. Terry warned us not to strike up long conversations with the hunters, as they want the woods nice and quiet, and wish we weren’t even there. And for the most part, that’s what I did.

But at one point, we saw four young hunters in a parking area of a gravel road. We waved to them. They waved back and asked us to take their pictures. They were in a chatty mood.

We took their picture.

Then we asked them to take pictures of us with them. Here’s mine.

gun

Then we waved goodbye and clomped on down the road. Soon, we got to the turnoff point, where you could either finish up in a half-mile or keep going for another four miles.

I knew I was pushing my luck running this far. So I decided to wrap it up with 10 miles. The others in my little group went the other way and kept going.

Then I headed over to the finish area and gladly helped myself to some pretzels and brownies.

The temperature continued to drop, so a few of us gathered some sticks and wood and Terry built a fire in a fire ring. We traded war stories about the woods and warmed up.

Soon, it was time to go. I caught a ride back to my car at Indian Hill, and started the 90-minute drive home.

The run was a blast. Like I said at the top, it was a long time coming. Can’t wait for the next one.

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