Trail Training – Laurel Ridge Trail

We explored a new trail a couple weeks ago in an effort to get an extra couple of miles in on our weekend long run. We were already up at Bowman’s Island near the Lake Lanier Dam and had never explored Laurel Ridge Trail.

There are lots of places to start any adventure on Laurel Ridge Trail. We started at the River basin. There are parking lots there for the Chattahoochee National Recreation Area for Bowman’s Island and a parking lot for the Army Corps of Engineers with a boat launch. There are several parking lots and restrooms right off of Buford Dam Rd. as well.

The trail is approximately 3.9 mi long according to AllTrails and has lots of ups and downs. The average grade is approximately 5% and there are several sets of stairs to give you an idea of the maximum grade. The trail is relatively well maintained and most of it is shady. There are a couple of road crossings and the trail goes around several parking lots near Buford Dam Rd. Sometimes there are lots of people along the trail because access is so easy.

The scenery is beautiful and would make a lovely hiking trail, but I’ll pass next time if I’m looking to do some trail running. Bowman’s Island, across the river, is much more pleasant for a trail run if that’s what you’re looking for.

Tough Treads Trail Series – 10 K & Trail Training: Charleston Park

Had another great trip to Charleston Park in Forsyth County this past weekend for our second 10K (ish) race. We’ve also been to Charleston Park to do training runs several times over the past year. This is another great mountain biking trail, but going in the early morning or after it rains a bit and bikes aren’t allowed is a great way to avoid the crowds if you want to hike or run. There is a separate parking lot for the trailhead (MTB parking lot on Google maps), as the rest of the parking lot gets crowded with people using the boat ramp and picnic benches near Lake Lanier.

The trail is essentially two loops; A shorter loop close to the parking lot and then a loop farther out. The signage is great, and again, bikes and runners/hikers should go in different directions depending on the day. There are lots of switchbacks and some great views of the lake from some of the trails. Our friends got engaged at one of these views back in the fall! There’s also a bottomland section at the furthest point from the parking lot which is shady and has lots of roots. It’s pretty awesome and just a little other-worldly.

Be careful of roots and loose rocks, but as long as you’re paying attention the trail isn’t too technical and there aren’t any non-natural features put in for mountain biking like there are at some other trails. Most of our GPS watches clocked the whole course at 5.4-5.6 miles from the parking lot for those of you looking for specific mileage.

Happy trails!!

Trail Training: Sawnee Mountain Preserve

Last weekend we took a trip to a new location: Sawnee Mountain Preserve in Forsyth County. This area has a visitor’s center and two other parking lots with amenities and playgrounds. There’s plenty of parking and really good signage for (and on) the trails. There isn’t any parking fee and the website looks like it has lots of opportunities for fun and educational activities. Unfortunately there are no dogs allowed on any of the trails, but it’s still a great place for a hike or a challenging trail run.

There are essentially two loops in the Preserve. Check out a map of the trails here. The more northern of the loops is about 3.5 miles and leads up to the top of the mountain to a natural rock feature called the Indian Seats. From here you can see the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance.

The southern loop is about 5.5 miles, depending on which trails you actually take. This section of the preserve has more climbs (both gentle and severe) and the trails have a bit more loose rock and uneven terrain. If you run clockwise, good luck with the connector part of the Mountain Trail that has a consistent 15-16% grade, or if you run counter-clockwise there’s a section with a 28% grade on the Mountain Trail. TrailRunProject ranks both the northern and southern loops at intermediate running trails, so we knew what we were getting into.

The trails were challenging, but the views and terrain made our 9.5 mile trek absolutely wonderful. Compared to many of the forested trails we normally run, Sawnee has more rock formations, more open tree canopies (especially towards the top of the Indian Seats trail), and bright green palmettos right near the trail to brighten the winter scenery. It was lovely! Highly recommend!

Tough Treads Trail Series – 5K

It was our first event yesterday and everything went swimmingly! We held our 5K at Cochran Shoals, part of the Chattahoochee National Recreation Area. It is a marked 5K course, really flat (remarkably so for Atlanta), with great gravel footing. We started at 8 AM and the parking lot was already crowded. Luckily the trail is really wide all the way throughout and it never felt crowded while running.

It was great seeing how many of our friends decided to show up and spend some time outdoors. Some came out to race, others to test themselves or set PRs, and still others came to enjoy the morning and get some exercise. We had about 14 people show up. It was lovely!

My husband and I decided to make things a bit more interesting. We both set what we figured were realistic goals for the course (both having run here numerous times before) and then I got a time handicap. I started with everyone else and my husband waited several minutes to start. The idea was that if we were both accurate with our estimates, then we would meet at the finish line. It was fun to have someone chasing me and my husband enjoyed having someone to chase. Turns out that my time estimate was better than his because he crushed his estimate by almost a minute and passed me with about 0.1 miles to the finish. I think we will probably try this again for the 10K in a month, but it’ll be a bit harder to get a good estimate because of hilly and less familiar courses. My guess is that it’ll be fun regardless!

While we waited for everyone to finish, I was pleasantly reminded about why I originally decided to organize this endeavor. It was really nice to see friends that I hadn’t seen in months except over a Zoom screen. We stood around chatting in a nice big circle with our masks on, just enjoying each others’ company. At that point it didn’t matter how fast we ran, just being with each other was more than worth the effort of organizing. Looking forward to next time!

Trail Training: Sweetwater Creek State Park

Sweetwater Creek State Park is advertised as the most visited state park in GA, and it’s absolutely lovely. Well worth the trip for either hiking or running, camping or fishing. The trails are well maintained, well labeled with colored blazes, and the creek is beautiful with mill ruins and history to learn. We did an 8-ish mile run at Sweetwater this weekend. One of our goals was to scope out a possible 10K course for our Tough Treads Trail Series with our friends.

We always make a point to arrive early at Sweetwater because of the crowds, especially during pandemic times. In our experience, you can generally find a parking spot in the main lot if you arrive before 9 AM (the park opens at 7 AM), otherwise you might be stalking a parking spot or parking in one of the overflow lots. There is a $5 daily parking fee or you can get an annual pass for all of Georgia’s state parks.

The trails at Sweetwater have something for everyone. The Red trail runs along the creek to the mill ruins and has interpretive history signs. The Red trail is relatively flat and wide up to the mill and then it turns into more of a scramble over rocks and the trail narrows considerably. It’s super fun to walk along and explore, but it’s not that great to run over especially when it’s crowded.

The White trail is a 5 mile loop that has a bit of everything in terms of scenery. It has wooded and gently rolling trail portions, switchbacks into and out of canyons, more open grassland areas with wide trails, and a portion along the creek that is much narrower trail that climbs over some rock formations and heads up some stairs. It’s not an easy run, but it is certainly satisfying if you enjoy scenery.

This weekend we also did the entry part of the Yellow trail which is relatively flat after the very beginning and crosses the creek. We didn’t get a chance to check out the rest of the Yellow trail loop which looks pretty hilly, but did meander onto the Blue trail for a bit. It was pretty hilly also, but might have been good at the beginning of a long run instead of the very end.

Well worth the visit, but plan accordingly for potential crowds.

*The pictures below are from a trip to Sweetwater in June, 2020.

Trail Training – Olde Rope Mill Park, GA

We (my husband and I and whatever friends want to join) head to local trails almost every saturday for a long run. As we get further enmeshed in our Tough Treads Trail Series, I’m sure our workouts will have more purpose than just getting outside for a run, but for now enjoying the outside and discovering new places to run is the primary purpose.

This weekend we met a friend at Rope Mill Park in Woodstock, GA. He is an avid mountain biker and loves the mountain bike trails at this park. Runners and hikers are allowed, but are required to travel the opposite direction of bikes and bikes always have the right of way. We figured an early start time and the cold temperatures would mean not much competition for the trails, and we were highly rewarded!

We ran the Avalanche Trail and a bit of the Explorer Trail were rewarded with a hilly, well-maintained, single track trail leading through the forest. The Little River could be seen in the valley below during the first part of the trail. Running on a mountain bike trail is a bit different than a normal hiking trail in that there are lots of switchbacks and the hills, while copious, are not very long. It was fun running down the trail and seeing my husband and friend headed the opposite direction up the mountain. The signage is great and there’s very little opportunity to get lost.

After the run, I explored the mill ruins on the opposite side of the Little River and the paved walking path along the river’s edge. It would be a great place to have a picnic if the weather was nice. By the time we were done (about 10:30 AM) the parking lot was starting to fill up, but it didn’t feel crowded. There is an additional parking lot across from a Kia dealership up the road, and I imagine during a nice warm summer weekend the trails would be full.

We will definitely be back to run the rest of the trails, but maybe only in the early morning cold!

For more info on the park check out the City of Woodstock Parks Website.

Tough Treads Trail Series By 7 Wonders

Vickery Creek, Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. Photo by Miranda Wilson

This pandemic has taken a huge hit on running with the cancellation of almost all in-person race opportunities. We have been missing our running community horribly and so my husband and I decided to organize a trail race series to do with our friends.

The idea is to hold 5 “races” throughout the year in a pyramid of distances – 5k, 10k, half, 10k, 5k. They will be spaced 4-8 weeks apart and will all be at local trails around Atlanta. We will meet in the parking lot at a specified time (with masks on of course), say hi, and then run. There will be a staggered start to limit contact, and people will time themselves. All the races will be self supported to limit contact as well.

We are going to make shirts for everyone, as we’ve been wanting to do for a while and if people complete the series, I have agreed to make medals. If people want to compete we will keep track of times for everyone and may have extra medals for those.

We already have 12 of our friends that want to come out. I’m really excited to see people and have something to train for. I’ll keep you posted!

Ultimate Training: Intervals and Circuits

This workout combines long interval training with short circuit work.

Running interval work:
30 minute run – 2 minutes jog/ 2 minutes of running at a good clip (it should be effort levels of 3 for the jog and 7 for the run portions)

Ladder work:
Long ladders – set up 3 cones 15 m apart. Run to the first cone, back to the start, run to the second cone, back to the start, run to the third cone, back to the start. Rest. Do the first set running forward both directions. The second set is side shuffles, and the third set is forward on the way out and backpedal on the way back. Rest 1 min between each set. Repeat the three sets.

Circuit work:
Set up a box with sides of 30 m. The goal is to sprint around the box, stopping at each corner to complete a task. The task at corner 1 is 10 pushups, corner 2 is 10 squat jumps, corner 3 is 5 lunges on each leg, and corner 4 is 10 burpees. Do not rest between tasks or sprints until you get back to the beginning. Rest for 3 minutes and repeat.

Mid-Week Running Workouts

Part of training for any endurance event is actually building endurance. So we have added some mid-week running workouts to enhance endurance. This should help the ultimate frisbee player perform at a high level on Sunday afternoon. These are mainly running distances of 3 miles or longer and sometimes include long intervals.

A couple of the mid-week running workouts we have done are below.

Workout #1:
3 mile run at a quick pace (effort level of 7; for my husband that meant about a 7:30 min/mi pace)

Workout #2:
3 mile run at a moderately quick pace (effort level of 7; for my husband that meant about a 7:30 pace)
3 ~ 200 m sprints at 85-90% sprinting speed
2 sets of 10 burpees

Workout #3:
3 x 1 mile repeats at a fast pace (effort level of 8; for my husband that meant about a 6:30 pace), 1 min rest between repeats

** A note on pace: I often tell people to gauge their pace based on their perceived effort, but this does take some practice. For all mid-week running workouts your perceived effort level should never exceed an 8 on a scale from 0 to 10. Also, these effort levels are for running, not sprinting.

Welcome to SEA Fitness

Welcome to my new endeavor! A fitness blog!

First off, you might be wondering what SEA stands for. Strength, Endurance, and Agility!

You also might be interested to know what prompted this new blogging experience. I am a long term runner, soccer player, triathlete, and ultimate frisbee player and have always been interested in maintaining fitness and training for specific athletic goals. I have finished graduate school and am interested in regaining my pre-graduate school fitness and motivation, with an aim to complete a marathon by the end of 2013.

My husband also plays on top nationally-ranked ultimate frisbee team and is planning on trying out for the U.S. National Team in March. He has asked me to be his “personal trainer” so that he can go into tryouts in top shape.

While I do not have any formal training in exercise science, personal training, or nutrition, I do have a plethora of personal experience and the web at my fingertips. Please do not take anything I say as medical advice. I am just here to share the ravings of a fitness enthusiast.

Thus, I am going to use this blog to do a variety of things:

1. Document the workouts, advice, and training regime I have designed for my husband and the sport of ultimate frisbee.

2. Discuss my own marathon journey.

3. Talk about training, nutrition, motivation, gear, and racing.

4. Discuss the benefits of developing and maintaining fitness.

I hope to be posting once or twice a week and look forward to interacting with the blogosphere!