Thinking it would be nice to loop back to my starting point via the Valley Bridle Trail, my feet veered left off the Buckeye Trail near the Boston Store onto the gravel path.
The bridle trail meandered through a grassy meadow below the hills this runner had just crossed. The old Boston Village marks the confluence of the Buckeye, Valley Bridle and Towpath trails. Overhead are two highway bridges spanning the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Interstates 271 and 80, the latter being the Ohio Turnpike.
Far below the I-80 bridge, the Valley Bridle Trail turns left, the sign instructing you to use the service road next to the turnpike. Another sign says "No Trespassing. Violators Will Be Prosecuted." Someone was giving me mixed messages.
The gravel road felt like pure awfulness underfoot, with loose cinder mixed with giant pebbles and small boulders. Meanwhile, the sun beat down upon my shoulders, forcing me to further deplete my water reserves.
The unpleasant terrain may have been worth the trouble had the scenery been enjoyable, but alas the road was a mile-long hill that climbed up from the river valley alongside a busy highway at rush hour. Soon the traffic was a mere 50 feet from my left shoulder, as the trail finally veered off toward the woods. The horse riders can have that section all to themselves.
Despite the brief trip through hell, the trails provided cool shade on what otherwise would have been a hot afternoon run. Water conservation became a concern as my handheld water bottle was half empty before the turn onto the Valley Bridle Trail.
My legs started to give out on the uphills during the final two miles. I tried to make up for the lagging pace by bombing down the closed portion of Akron-Peninsula Road (aka Initiation Hill) and pushing myself on the final flat stretch to my car, but alas my average pace settled in the mid-13s. I blame that damned gravel road.