Wednesday, April 6, 2016

State No. 13 -- Virginia!

I'm going a little bit out of chronological order on this one, since it actually happened a couple of Saturdays ago, but back in mid-March I added another state to the list of places where I have run.

As I have mentioned before, my son Matt attends Benedictine University, and this year their basketball team had a run for the ages, advancing to the Division III Final Four, which is held in Salem, Va.

Since this was such a special thing, Matt and I decided to make the 700-mile trip to Salem to follow the team. We had a great time, and even though the Eagles lost to St. Thomas (Minn.) in the national championship game to finish the
season 31-1, it was certainly an experience we will always remember.

I definitely wanted to get a run in, so I did some research on the trail system in and around the Roanoke-Salem area, and found that there was a place to run just a few minutes from the hotel. It turns out that the area has what's called the Greenway system, which consists of miles and miles of running different routes.

I have to admit, when I woke up in the morning, I was really tempted to bag the run because I was tired and wasn't feeling all that well. It was also really rainy and dreary outside, which made it even more tempting to just stay in bed. In hindsight, I am glad I made it up because I would've really regretted not running.

I messed up the directions so it took me a lot longer than I had hoped to get there, but I made it! It turns out I was at the Hollins Trailhead and was running the Tinker Creek Greenway. Kind of complicated I know, but you can read the details here.

When I pulled into the small gravel lot, I was confused because I didn't see anywhere to run. So I got out of the car to look at the map and realized this was A TRAIL! So not only was I running in Virginia for the first time, I would be getting my first experience on a trail too.

Oh yeah, and one other thing I was doing for the first time was paying to go on a training run. The trail goes into the Carvins Cove Reserve, so there was an honor box and a bunch of envelopes. It was no big deal, only $2, so I fished some change out of the car and away I went.

The beginning of the run goes through a small field and then you reach the woods. Wow, was the trail beautiful! Since it was still mid-March it was just starting to green up, and I tried to imagine what it would look like when all of the grasses and flowers came to life.

The trail wasn't too "technical" as far as trail running goes, it was pretty straightforward and there weren't a lot of rocks and roots to deal with, but it was HARD! I really struggled the first mile, and while the first mile isn't always my best, this was even tougher than usual. It was really hilly, so I stopped a couple of times for some photos, but even had to walk a little bit. It was a little frustrating, but later on I figured out why!

I reached the top of the hill and the view was stunning! The top of the
hill was the entry to the Carvins Cove reserve, and from up there it was a pretty cool sight. It was a bit of a bummer that it was so overcast, but I don't have any views like this where I live, so I stopped to take it in.

Before I made my descent back down the other side of the hill, I had to wait on a couple who were coming up. They were the only people I saw on the trail during my run, and while they were very nice I also liked the fact that I had a couple of "comrades in sweat" on the trail!

I was really liking the trail running thing, and as I got going back down the hill, I realized why trail runners do what they do...for the downhills! That was LOTS of fun! I can't say I was flying down the hill, like my friend Noah, who would've taken it at about a 5 minute pace, would, but I was cruising a little bit.

That part of the trail was a lot of fun, not just because of the downhills, but I also had to navigate across a couple of small creeks and over a couple of logs they hadn't been out to clear yet. I reached the reservoir, where I would turn around, and I had gone about 2.4 miles.

I took a couple of pictures before I started back, and stopped to read an information board that talked about Carvins Cove. It turns out the area was settled by a man named William Carvin in the mid-1740s, and while the town of Carvins Cove had long been abandoned, it had been made into a forest preserve and 270 years later people were still enjoying the area.

During that time it started to rain pretty hard. Honestly, the rain added to how much fun I was having! Heading up this side of the hill wasn't as demanding as the other side, so while it was tough in places I could still keep running, even at a slower pace.

At the top of the hill, I stopped for one more look at the reserve, and also checked my "Height Finder" app on my phone to see how far the climb was from the lake. The app said I was at 1,728 feet, meaning I had climbed about 250 feet from the lake.

I started back down the hill, and the fun continued. The rain had softened up the trail in the spots that were a little more exposed, so I was running through some mud and a lot of puddles. I thought back to what I had just learned about the area, and wondered if William Carvin had as much fun traversing this area almost 100,000 days ago as much as I did.

I'm probably guessing no...after all, he was probably wearing clothes made out of animal hide and was wearing ill-fitting shoes, not to mention he was probably carrying a bunch of gear with him. Maybe he wasn't having a blast, but those early trailblazers and settlers were certainly badasses.

When I finished the run I had gone 4.82 miles in 1:04:44, so about 13:25 per mile. Not bad for a run like that. When I got back to my car I checked my Height Finder app and it read 1,336 feet. No wonder the first mile was so hard, it was almost a 400-foot climb!

Well, that made me feel better about that first mile! And besides, going down was 10 times as much fun as going up, so all things considered I think I showed that hill who was boss!

Getting a run in while on that trip was well worth it, and it added another element to the experience. One thing I decided is that I would love to run in Virginia again and no doubt I'm not going to wait very long to do another trail run!

So here is my updated list, which will be updated again in a few days when I add to my country count with Singapore! Stay tuned for that one!

States Where I Have Run

New York
South Carolina

Countries Where I Have Run

United States
United Arab Emirates

Continents Where I Have Run

North America


  1. New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, Tennessee, Michigan, Washington DC, North Carolina. Bizarrely never in New York even though I work in NYC. Ran a bit in the Dominican.

  2. Cool! It just seems like when I run someplace new I get a better view than when I don't!