I headed for the base to run late this morning on a cool and very sunny day, in wonderment that we are only a week away from Christmas.
I began the run wearing long tights, a long sleeved tech shirt and fleece vest, and 20 minutes into the run knew that I was overdressed.
Wishing that I had worn a short sleeve shirt I continued running, wondering if I could suck up the heat until I was done but quickly realizing that I couldn't.
My entire torso needed to breathe and was screaming for cool air.
Reluctant to stop but stopping anyway I shrugged off the pack I was wearing and began peeling layers off.
A few minutes later the long sleeved top was stashed inside my pack and I was wearing only the vest on top and I continued with the run feeling cooler but trying hard to not look at my watch.
Trying hard to not become obsessed with my time, which is getting harder to do with each passing run.
2/3 of the way through my seven mile loop I was feeling very good and so was the running.
A little more every day I am remembering what it was like to feel like a runner.
I used to wear headphones all the time when I ran, playing the kind of music that (as I told someone once) "makes me feel like I want to break things".
Now it is about 50-50 wearing and not wearing, but I think I still prefer listening to the music as opposed to listening to my heavy and sometimes labored breathing.
I ran consistently for a few months while living in Wyoming but in truth it was half hearted.
Everything is so wide open in Wyoming and most of the time I loved that openess and ability to see for many miles in every direction.
But running on gravel roads and Bureau of Land Management land is just not the same as running on trails.
For me the trails provide varied and interesting terrain, shade from the sun and often protection from the worst of the rain, and most importantly privacy.
Trails feel both comforting and protective.
They feel solitary and more intimate.
They feel isolated and they feel alone but not lonely.
They feel like home.
And after sticking with it for the past few months the running that felt disquietingly foreign to me after returning to Tennessee is every day becoming a little less foreign.
Making decent but still not good time I finished the run and walked the last 100 feet to the trail head briefly thinking about running some more because it had felt so good and I still had energy to burn.
As I approached the trail head I could see horse trailers in the lot but no horses and no riders so realized that they had already geared up and headed out.
And then I saw more and more vehicles parked behind the trailers.
Mine had been the only vehicle in the gravel lot when I first arrived, and these trails are not widely used, so it was startling to see so many vehicles
Other vehicles were still arriving and as I looked closer I saw bikes in truck beds, bikes on racks on the roofs of cars, bikes leaning up against vehicle bumpers and a couple of guys already slowly riding around the lot warming up their legs and checking out their gears.
Running the loop again was not going to happen, at least on this day, and I slowly sucked water through the tube of my Camelbak bladder and slowly walked back towards my truck.
I scanned the faces but did not recognize anyone.
As I got closer to the truck I looked over and finally did see a familiar face.
A guy about 10 years older than me who owns the one local bike shop in the area.
I had taken my bike to his shop many many times over the years while adventure racing and had a comfortable and easy rapport with this man whose name is Woody.
We talked for a short while, caught up with what each other had been doing over the past couple of years and then headed in different directions - me eager to go and him eager to begin his trail ride.
It was good to run into someone from my past..................
After leaving the base I called my Mountain Boy to tell him I was heading for Winchester to take some pictures.
We had both driven quickly through the town not long after first arriving back in Tennessee and the town looked very different from the one I remembered.
I drove through Winchester many times over the years, mostly to either pick up my sons from school, attend high school football games at the old high school (before the ancient building was torn down and a huge new school building was built on another site in town), or take spin classes at a fitness club on the outskirts of town.
Highway 41A South from Tullahoma quickly leads to the community of Estill Springs and then continues further to a "strip mall town" of Decherd and then the very long strip mall section of Winchester before arriving in the town square.
It is impossible to know exactly where Decherd ends and Winchester begins and that entire section of 41A is yet one more large, ugly and overinflated series of shops, restaurants, gas stations and business offices.
But the Winchester square is beautiful when it was not beautiful only a few years ago.
Over the past couple of years it is obvious that Winchester has done a lot of work to make the downtown area more user friendly and visually appealing.
The exterior of the architecturally wonderful buildings are colorful and welcoming. The one way street around the square is clean and the square is now filled with Christmas lights and wreaths and trees.
There are few empty store fronts and the new businesses are eclectic and colorful and worthy of a trip.
It is lovely downtown core and I want to try and get back to Winchester before Christmas to take pictures of it in the evening.
I was never really impressed with Winchester but today I was very happy to see that it is now a cared for section of town.
The courthouse above and multiple historic stores along one section of the square below................
The picture above is the upper portion of the coffee shop shown below.
San Miguels was actually in business before I left Tennessee to head up to Juneau and at the time I was uncertain of its future because its upscale coffee, fancy sandwiches, large overstuffed chairs and couches that encouraged both conversation and lap top surfing seemed out of place in this run down small town.
Today it did not seem out of place at all and I was glad to see that it has survived and continues to thrive...........
Other sections of the courthouse as I slowly wandered completely around the square, enjoying my visit and enjoying the fact that this town has worked so hard to make its square a welcoming place...............
Hammers is a pivotal store in Winchester and has been so for a very long time.
Rows and racks and containers filled with discounted merchandise of the clothing, toiletry, hardware, home fashions variety, people love to visit this store regularly because you are never certain exactly what you will find.
It is a discount store but not in the Dollar Store sense.
With aging hard wood floors and aging plaster walls it has the air of the old fashioned Woolworth stores..............
Different roads that are direct off-shoots of the main road around the square, lead back to Tullahoma, to Tims Ford State Park and Lynchburg, and to Sewanee............
The downtown movie theater is another of those pivotal businesses in the downtown core.
It has been in business since 1949............
Monuments on the grounds of the courthouse remembering those who fought and died in all the wars from the time of WWI..............
A brief history of Winchester:
Winchester was created as the seat of justice for Franklin County by act of the Tennessee Legislature on November 22, 1809. The town is named for James Winchester, a soldier in the American Revolution, first Speaker of the Tennessee Legislature, and a Brigadier General in the War of 1812. The Mary Sharp College (originally the Tennessee and Alabama Female Institute) was founded in 1851 by Dr. Z. C. Graves and the Baptist Church. Though a women's college, it offered a classical curriculum based upon what was being offered at the time by Amherst College, Brown University, and the University of Virginia. It closed in 1896.
The city was occupied first by Confederate and then by Union troops during the Civil War. It lay on the line of retreat to Chattanooga followed by the Confederate Army of Tennessee during the campaign of 1863.
Recreation in Winchester received a significant boost when the Tennessee Valley Authority started construction of the Tims Ford Dam along the Elk River in 1966. The project was complete in 1972 and Tims Ford Lake is now known for excellent boating and bass fishing opportunities.
The city hosts an annual Dogwood Festival each April.