Trail running and the Platinum LEED certified visitor’s center at Sweetwater Creek State Park

Black bears in the Blue Ridge Mountains, rattlesnakes in Sweetwater State Park… nobody said that trail running doesn’t come with its fair share of dangers, but I’m still loving it! Today, I spent about 3.5 hours in the woods of Sweetwater Creek State Park training for the Stump Jump 50K coming up in Chattanooga on October 3rd. Below is a description of my run (if you’re thinking about running Sweetwater), but first, some of the thoughts that kept me occupied during my second hour or so today. After years of road running (and my more recent forays into trail running), here are a few observations of trail running versus road running. And please feel free to let me know what I’ve left off!

  • There’s a lot more under-the-breath swearing that goes on while trail running…
  • The scenery while trail running is usually amazing! Even though you don’t necessarily get to see that much of it since you’re concentrating on every step…
  • I’m okay with a run / hike combination on trails whereas when running, my ego doesn’t often let me run / walk, which makes trail running more enjoyable. (I would venture to say I feel less competitive on trails, but we’ll see after my first trail race…)
  • You’re a little more likely to sprain your ankle running on trails versus roads.
  • When trail running, I hit my squirrel zone earlier. If you’ve ever run with me before, you’ve probably heard me talk about the squirrel zone. It’s the point you reach while running where your mind and body are so tired that you can’t be trusted with logical decisions. Poor judgment prevails and it would be in your best interest to have someone looking out for you (so you don’t cross roads into oncoming traffic, etc.). On streets, this usually hits around mile 18-20, but on trails, I’ve found it happens in the early teens. This is due, in part, to the constant mindfulness of every single step as well as the dappled sunlight – which sounds romantic, but actually kind-of messes with your eyes as you keep running in and out of shaded leafy patterns.
  • Trail running should be easier on your body since you’re not pounding pavement, however, we’re still trying to figure out if we end up more sore from trail running than road running. Last weekend, after 15 miles in Blue Ridge, I was pretty sore, but I hadn’t really been before that. We’ll see after today’s run – perhaps it’s just that you’re using more muscles and in different ways when you’re on trails?…
  • You don’t usually get a view like this when running on roads:
Sweetwater Creek State Park trail running

Taking a break by Sweetwater Creek after running for a few hours

  • If you’re lucky, you get to do this after a trail run:
Why not lie down in the river? You can't do that on streets!

Why not lie down in the river and cool off? You can't do that on streets!

When I started out this morning, I took the blue trail to the white trail loop (5 miles) and then did that same loop in reverse. Following that, I cut back through the parking lot by the interpretative center, and headed out to the yellow trail loop (3 miles) to do that twice. Several months ago, Zack and I did the blue-white loop and I loved it because parts of it were pretty technically challenging (roots, stumps, boulders, etc.) and enjoyed it just as much this time (except for the never-ending hill halfway through the white trail, but even that wasn’t as bad as I remembered it). Then it was pretty straightforward, open trail back to the parking lot. The part where the trail runs through the woods on the soft ground is a pleasant change of pace. Both trails follow along the river for sections and have hilly parts for your running enjoyment. When it came to the latter legs of my workout, perhaps I should have done a better evaluation before choosing to do the yellow loop second…

The yellow loop runs north of the other two and consists of a steep hill, intense enough to where I was cursing it as I was walking part of the way up and wondering how I was going to do this loop again. Of course, what goes up, must come down, and the downhill on the other side was quick and dirty. So by the time I made it back to the parking lot and coerced myself into leaving the proximity of my car and heading back out again, I had decided to do the loop backwards, which proved to be better since the hill going that way was steeper, but took less time. And all I wanted at that point was to get in the water!

On a side note, another thing to love about Sweetwater State Park is their platinum LEED certified interpretive center / visitor’s center. More to come in a separate blog post, but here is a photo of the green roof and building:

Sweetwater State Park's interpretive center is platinum LEED certified by the U.S. Green Building Council

Sweetwater State Park's interpretive center is platinum LEED certified by the U.S. Green Building Council

You can also take a Green Building Tour and the upcoming dates are:

  • Sunday, Sep 13, 2009 2 PM to 3:30 PM
  • Sunday, Oct 18, 2009 2 PM to 3:30 PM

The cost is $5 plus $5 to park. You’ll learn about environmentally-friendly buildings, sustainability, and what sets this one apart. Please call 770.732.5871 for more information!

And if you’re a fan of Georgia’s parks, you may want to check out the Friends of Georgia State Parks website here!

2 Responses to “Trail running and the Platinum LEED certified visitor’s center at Sweetwater Creek State Park”
  1. Kate Brun commented on facebook:
    You gotta do the 50k out there next april! You get to go on “top of the world” twice and a deep river crossing!

    To which I replied:
    I was going to send this link to you and see what else I need to add about trail running since you’re the expert! Are you doing Stump Jump?

    And Kate commented:
    no, i wish i could! but i am doing a 40miler on Oct. 4th. You are going to have a blast! Do you wanna come out to kennesaw soon? I know it is not technical but fun!

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] I love trail running! This does not come as a huge surprise as I really enjoyed my training runs in Sweetwater Creek State Park, Kennesaw, along the Chattahoochee, in Blue Ridge, etc. and I simply love being outdoors, in the […]

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