A few days ago, I had a curious self-realization about this blog. For all intents and purposes, each blog posting is my version of the classic “Shaggy Dog Story”. For my readers who don’t know what exactly a Shaggy Dog Story is, here is the Wikipedia definition:
“In its original sense, a shaggy dog story or yarn is an extremely long-winded anecdote characterized by extensive narration of typically irrelevant incidents and terminated by an anticlimax or a pointless punchline”
So, while off on a run today, a pretty routine run, which I hadn’t planned on blogging, a very minor punchline became apparent, so I thought I would do a short write-up on it. I only have one photograph in this posting, as I wasn’t really looking to write it up, until something curious happened…..
I went into today’s run with one thing in mind. It was a cool, pleasant Sunday afternoon, a week before the Vermont City Marathon, and I wanted to get outside, push myself over a modest distance, and enjoy the pleasures of mother nature. As I mentioned in my last post, I like to benchmark myself on early season runs, to check into my training, and to establish times to beat as the summer and fall progress. The run on Brooks Road (the right turn on a dirt road about a half mile past Breadloaf, before the final ascent to the Snow Bowl), from the Chatfield/Widow’s Clearing parking lot has long been one of my favorites for this purpose. It is a forest service road, with easy footing, and climbs in a series of short, moderately steep ascents, with long flat sections in between, leading to a 3.5 mile, slightly less than 700 ft vertical ascent.
Setting off from the bottom, the run is flat for about a quarter mile, then starts climbing, shortly thereafter. As I reached the end of the first mile, I suddenly saw two dogs bounding towards me off leash. Hearing their owner behind them shouting “Don’t worry – they don’t bite….” I reminisced over incidents when the next dog move was to lunge at me. Fortunately, these two where indeed only interested in having a good sniff of sweaty runner. But that isn’t really the shaggy dog story. What I did notice, was that I was running very well, so I began to wonder if I could match or improve upon my PR for the ascent. Sure enough, as I reached the end of the dirt road, I looked down at my watch, and noticed that indeed had ascended faster than ever before.
I don’t make a habit of posting times and speeds in this blog – because frankly I am not that fast, and I don’t want this to turn into just another training blog. That said, I also knew from past experience that I had never done this run, as a round trip, in less than an hour, and realized that with the downhill acceleration, I just might be able to accomplish this, so I turned, and headed back down the hill. Are you bored yet? Still waiting for the punchline?
The descent did indeed prove to put me on a pace to break the one hour barrier for this run, until about a half mile from the bottom, where I noticed a black blob in the distance. Another untethered canine perhaps? But no, it was my second bear sighting of the season. Now, I have two favorite bear sayings, pertinent to my running interests. The first adage goes “You don’t have to outrun the bear, you just have to outrun your slowest friend”. But, since I was running by myself that wouldn’t do much good. The second one is “If you stop and take a picture of a bear, you run the risk of having the last shot on your camera be of the bear’s tonsils”. Hence, I have never had the chance to take a picture of one of these wonderful creatures while out running. This time was different; I was on a long broad straightaway, with a good line of sight, but still far enough away that I hadn’t startled the bear yet. So, I pulled out my cell phone, and took a shot, using the digital zoom, not thinking about my running goals for this run, as I finally got a bear picture on the trails. After convincing myself that I had a serviceable photo, I shouted kind words to to my ursine companion, a hundred yards or so away, and he calmly lumbered off into the woods, allowing me to complete my descent. At this point, my adrenaline was flowing, but I suspected that my goal of finishing under an hour had been squandered. Riding the adrenaline rush, however, I was indeed able to complete the run in 59:30, kicking it in. Now – here is the shaggy dog. My amazing bit of photography:
Feel free to click on the photo – if you expand it to full size, you will see that it is indeed a black, 4-legged creature.