Sandy Creek 16M Trail Run - Franklin, Pennsylvania
October 17, 2017 - After a restful summer to allow the repair of an acute knee injury, the time was approaching for me to re-engage the racing world. A gradual buildup had brought me 80% of the way back, but some lingring pain and apparent weakness left me questioning whether I was returning too soon. The only way to know my level of restored health would be to just jump in there and do it. With the final week of taper I wanted one final good run to cement my confidence and this one was it.
Sandy Creek Trail was a new adventure for me, recommeneded by my cousin Bob. Eight miles of paved rail trail from the little town of Van to Franklin and back again following the creek to its destination of the Allegheny River where my dripping sweat would finally course its way to the Gulf of Mexico.
Starting right after noon, mostly under leafy shadows, the temps were brisk at around 50 degrees under full sunshine. Dressing down, there was no comfort to be found in standing around. My aim was to find a relaxed tempo between 4.5 and 5 miles per hour on this entirely level route. From the outset, there was absolutely no push. The question that begged an answer was whether my knee could sustain 16 miles of pounding macadam at an even gait.
The jaunt was as pretty as a leafy Pennsylvania trail can be. Very enjoyable. Most notable were the seven bridges that spanned the many crossings of Sandy Creek, and then across the mighty Allegheny River. It is always cool (literally as well as figuratively) to run through tunnels. The May's Hill tunnel stretched for about a hundred yards before emerging back into the guiding light on the other side. The trail is smooth and clean from end to end and seems to attract a fair number of pedestrians seeking a reprive from civilization.
I don't wear a watch for these things, but prefer to rely on reading the signs my body is ever feeding back. Without having to bear down I was able to maintain a comfortable tempo to the run's conclusion. The clock in the car read 3 hours and 2 minutes, translating into a 5.5 miles-per-hour tempo. Better than I was aiming for, but most importantly my knee felt great after the run. I was not nearly healed completely, but my knee showed all indications that it could bear the burden of racing. After three more days, the first test would await me.