This weekend I took my wife to Columbia, MO to hand her off to my parents so that they could take her to Georgia where she is starting her through hike of the Appalachian Trail. You can read about her adventures on her blog "Kasey Takes a Hike".
So, anyways after dropping her off on Friday morning I needed to clear my head with a good run. I had found some information about a rails to trails project called the KATY Trail. It runs for about 260 miles across the middle of Missouri. There was a trailhead just off I-70 a few miles West of Columbia. It was marked with signs on the highway which how I originally found out about it.
I was looking to get a long run in, but didn't have any gels so I decided to make a semi-long out and back with negative split on the way back. I noticed on the map that there was a section that claimed to have >5% grade and a tunnel just to the West of where I was starting so that is the direction I went. I turns out that the 5% grade wasn't on the trail itself, but a scenic overlook that climbed above the tunnel. I wasn't in a hurry to get anywhere so I too that and explored a little around the top of this mound. The views were pretty neat and it was kind of neat to be up on above this tunnel that I was going to run through. I could have ventured further away from the trail, but decided to get back to my game plan. I went through the tunnel which you could tell had been used by coal powered trains due to the black soot lining the ceiling. As I ran I realized that trains don't like to turn or go up and down hills very often. This trail was very straight and very flat. The only turns were gradual and short, most of the trail had me looking at the same crushed gravel surface for miles ahead of me. The only noticeable hill on the trail itself was a 3 foot mound right before a bridge. I'm not sure why it was there, but it extended on either side of the trail for as far as I could see. I got splits every mile from the original train mile markers. They seemed to be fairly accurate and I was holding a good easy effort the whole way out, getting only slightly faster with each mile. When I turned around I had finished my first mile under 8 minutes, right where I wanted to be. Then I realized that I had been running in a slight head wind the whole way out. My splits on the way back were way faster than I expected and I wasn't even pushing that high of a heart rate or effort. I had taken myself out over 5 miles so holding this pace did become a little difficult near the end, but was still able to pull off a 6:36 final mile. I have to attribute this kind of time to the near sea level altitude and cool temperatures. I've got a short mileage week coming up with some testing so I can't wait to see what I can do at altitude.