Trailblaze Challenge: South Mountain State Park – take 2!

People always ask me what I think about when I’m running or hiking these long distances, so I’ll give you a quick glimpse into what a lot of this hike looked like…

*singing in my head* 
Don’t you dare look back.
Just keep your eyes on me.
I said, You’re holding back,’
She said, ‘Shut up and dance with me!’
This woman is my destiny
She said, ‘Oh, oh, oh,
Shut up and dance with me.’

Yes, these are the only words I remembered, so repeat that a few times in a row and then try to think of a different song to sing… and then just start singing the same song again. 

I also like to distract myself by doing math – once you get into double digit division, it makes things a lot harder! Especially when you’re trying to convert minutes to hours and back again while keeping track of your pace and mileage as well. When I was running my marathon, by the time I would figure out what my pace at the last mile marker was, it was time to recalculate again. 
So, if you ever need things to distract you, I highly recommend songs with lots of repeating words and long division! But on to the actual hike… 
We hiked at South Mountain earlier in our training, and as part of that, I took a detour to see the waterfall since I hadn’t been there before. This time, we were going to finish by going down all the stairs beside the waterfall. Originally, we were supposed to do a 22-mile hike, but due to the strenuous hike at Stone Mountain a few weeks ago, the group leaders decided to change things up and create a difficult, but shorter route covering 13 miles. 

As you can tell, this hike had a lot of elevation change again, and you can actually almost see the stairs as we start to descend after mile 10. Because of the route that we went, we did get to see some good views of the rest of the mountains near the beginning of our hike. 

Again for this hike, our group spread out pretty quickly, so there were times I was hiking with 3-4 other people and then times when it would just be me for awhile. I could definitely tell that spring had finally settled into the mountains – the trees had a lot more leaves on them, there was a lot more undergrowth started, and you could see flowers starting to poke out everywhere!
At one point during the hike (and I’m not entirely sure where), we actually passed a cemetery. It’s hard to see most of the stones, but there’s a fairly prominent one to the left of the big tree on the right side of the picture.
Finally, we got to the top of the waterfall and I realized that I hadn’t even come close to it the last time I was hiking! To start our descent, we actually crossed a bridge over the top of the falls.
And, then there were two sets of smaller falls before we got to see the big falls.
I thought about trying to count the number of steps we went down, but I realized pretty quickly that was going to be a fruitless effort – there were way too many! 
I did a quick stop over at the falls, but since I had been there before and because my legs were already pretty shaky, I decided not to linger too long. 
After the falls, there were still a lot more steps down to the bottom where it opened up into a wide trail again. There were a lot more people on this section of the trail, including a lot of dogs who appeared to enjoy the water on their way up to view the falls. Overall, my legs felt good on this hike, but the repeated downhill steps definitely took their toll. 
The total hike was 12.5 miles and it took me 5:13 which means I was averaging about a 25 minute pace, which seems to be a pretty consistent pace for me. At that pace, my 28.3 mile hike should take a little less than 12 hours, so hopefully I can stay in that range. Just less than 2 weeks to go!

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