Monday, May 5, 2008

TTAC Complete! A Sunday Well Spent

(From left) Dominic, Derek, Lori, Landy, Mike V., and Joel enjoy a scenic break and ferry ride at roughly the mid-point of the Trans Tred Avon Challenge loop.

Forty-eight hours. That's about all it took to get seven runners into an Easton parking lot ready to embark on some or all of the Trans Tred Avon Challenge. We had some of our morning regulars, Landy, Dominic, and Joel; our second guest appearance by Lori Callahan; and a couple of newcomers to our group of running vagabonds, Easton ultra runner Derek Hills, and speedy marathoner Mike Bickford (Mike was so speedy he turned and headed back for Easton before we could capture him on film). Fair warning to anyone thinking up a challenge to throw out there: if the quest is tasty and the timing is right, watch out!

A little after 7:30 a.m., our traveling circus started its way up St. Michaels Road. The pace stayed fairly easy and the conversation was flowing--from past and upcoming races, jokes, stories, and plenty of laughs--time moved by apace, and we soon found ourselves heading up the shoulder-less Royal Oak Road, with Mike B. on point, since he was wearing the brightest green shirt. This route was a concern for Landy, who had mapped an alternative, but the Sunday drivers were mostly gracious and fairly infrequent. Mike B. was planning a two-hour run and said good-bye and doubled back along this stretch. Reports have him taking the equally shoulder-less Glebe Road home... perhaps looking for a motorist to take him on in a game of chicken? ;)

Dust your shoulder off--the TTAC crew making their way along Royal Oak Road towards Bellevue during the inaugural long run with a boat ride.

Bellevue Road was warm and the sun-baked conversation led to a couple possible future challenges--the Turkey Chase, spotting and chasing actual turkeys across a field (we spotted some, but did not give chase) as well as the Firehose Challenge, which is best described as a Fear Factor type of event. A warning to cross country enthusiasts--from at longest a 1/4 mile jog on the grass along the road, Joel came out with a number of ankle-biting hitchhikers. Invest in flea and tick collars early!

The timing of our start was to allow us to catch the first ferry leaving from Bellevue, which we arrived early for (ferry starts running in Oxford at 9 a.m.), giving Joel, Landy, and Dominic a chance to dip into the Tred Avon River for a cool down and the rest of us a chance to snack and relax as the ferry made its way over. Lori's Garmin had us arriving at the dock in 10.3 miles.

We had the ferry to ourselves as we rode to the sweeter side of the Tred Avon, and Landy's family--Megan, the kids, and dogs--checked in on us and said hello. We all stopped and refueled at the Oxford Market and then creaked the legs back into gear through town and up Oxford Road.

"The weather isn't going to get any nicer than this," predicted Joel of our 70 degree day. "It's only getting hotter from here on out." No doubt--if I could order up running weather throughout the year, it wouldn't change a bit from Sunday.

Our crew stretched out a bit along Oxford Road, with Derek working through some lingering calf cramps, and Joel and Dominic scheduling a pre-arranged pick-up. Of considerable note here: when Joel completed the Tuckahoe 10-mile Challenge a couple months ago, it was the farthest he'd ever run. His goal for the TTAC was to run about 12 miles to set a new distance record. He and Dominic made it seemingly effortlessly through 14 miles, up to Trappe Station, and stopped for moderation, not because they had to. Dominic, who has been running with us for a couple weeks now, may not have broken a sweat, and actually went and played tennis after the run. Those guys are each boundless energy and awesome to run with.

My two chatting mates now picked up by motor vehicle, and Derek a little bit behind, I caught up to Landy and Lori and pushed up towards Trippe Creek Bridge. With Derek's ultra experience (several 50 milers now) giving us comfort, and the toll extracted by last weekend's trail marathon somewhere waiting for Landy and I, the three of us pushed ahead looking for landmarks and waiting for the return of Joel via mountain bike.

I had the feeling that if I slowed down or stopped moving, I might not be able to start again, so we made a move across the Easton Bypass and into town, beginning to pick the pace up on Washington Street, and passing Joel's casa just as he was coming out to meet us. We had a mountain bike escort through Easton to complete our loop behind Coffee East. Total elapsed time - 3:48 (including the ferry ride, wait, and market stop), total running time 3:16, giving us an average pace of 9:17 minute miles over the 20 - 21 mile loop (aren't Garmins great?). Derek appeared coming around the corner into the parking lot a short time later.

We finished at a brisk pace, much to the amusement of java juicers in Coffee East, who couldn't have known that we were just finishing the first recorded Trans Tred Avon Challenge, having connected Royal Oak, Bellevue, Oxford, and Easton, and thrown a ferry ride in for kicks.

For their trouble and willingness to come run 20+ miles with us on less than two days notice, Lori and Derek were appropriately "mugged"--they are the two latest runners to receive the coveted RUR mugs. A good day in the schwag department for sure ;)

I rode a high for the rest of the day, one that still sits with me when I think about it or check out the photos above. Joel (and possibly Dominic) ran the farthest he has/they've ever run. We got to run with Derek, another long distance nut who we just met, and met Mike B. We got Lori back out with us, ramping her long run back up to 20 miles after her spring marathon. Landy and I proved that we could run 20 miles a week after a brutally hilly marathon. And we put an exclamation on a run I've been thinking about for more than a year, which seems an epic. That's a Sunday well spent. Here's to many more!


Runners on Trails said...

Fantastic photos, especially the group on the ferry. We live in an awesome place, folks, and that ferry-photo proves it. I'm so glad you took advantage of an outstanding day and made the most of our local byways. I am sorry to have missed the fun with you. Hopefully, next time i'll be able to join in. Valliant looks so fast in that one photo that he's just a blur. That's one happy gang of runners.

Oh, by the way, I had a Mocha made by Abbey in my RUR mug, today. She was shaking her head and laughing the whole time I was waiting. Why? Is there something I should know?

Joel said...

great stuff Mike.

I look forward to these recounts!
No pressure.
Great work to all who completed the loop!

Michael Valliant said...

You keep running them and bringing some sort of camera, I'll keep scribbling, big guy. Fantastic day.