Monday, April 20, 2009

Happily felled by a crafty stone

Trail running is my passion, my play time, my challenge, my inspiration. For me, a 20 mile run on the roads, even in perfect weather with great companions, is at least part drudgery. So repetitive, so leg-deadening. I always feel sort of hungry and bored after the first 90 minutes or so, and just want to head home. Sigh. But yesterday, I ran 22 miles on trails, back at Bear Mountain/Harriman State Park again for probably my last recon run prior to the race on May 9. The weather was rather glorious, typically histrionic meteorological predictions of gloomy precipitation never reaching fruition. The park was as crowded as I’ve seen in awhile, with lots of hikers (many proudly stomping about in squeaky-clean new boots) probably out for their first woods excursion of 2009. Some were a bit stunned by me; admittedly, I must have been a rather stark contrast to the sunny, quiet spring woods as I came thrashing along, dripping sweat and slurping out of my energy drink bottle.

But most folks were friendly and happy, displaying that kind of peaceful glee that getting out of your car/house/office and spending time in the woods will do for you. It’s something not only joyful, but also broadening … I’m finding it hard to put into words. People are friendlier when they are out on trails, water bottles bouncing and trail mix in their pockets. It’s almost like it becomes difficult to be in a bad mood when you are walking in the woods. I think this also applies, at least to me, about running in the woods.

I bumped into a few fellow runners who were also out checking the course. In fact, I passed the same two guys three times, they must have been using shorter routes than I was … you’d think they’d have been annoyed by it, but in fact each time I caught them they were grimly studying their trail map, trying to figure out which way was up. So I think they were glad to have me come huffing and puffing past each time, saying hello once again and pointing them in the right direction.

Long trail runs aren’t without their perils, of course. It was warmer than I expected yesterday, and I did not really bring enough liquids with me. During the final 7 miles of my run I must have crossed 4-5 streams of babbling clear cold water. I was just dying to plop down and drink deeply, but alas one can no longer do that because of giardiasis. I should have brought something to purify the water. I also didn’t eat enough (again!), so I was bonking a bit for the last hour, but I struggled through.

The laugh-out-loud moment came at about 18 miles, when I had just finished a long and gruelingly technical descent on a rocky trail, and finally hit an easy section of fire road. Within 15 seconds, I was face down in a small cloud of dust. I had tripped over the only stone within at least 50 meters in any direction (isn't that the way it always happens?). There it was, clear as day, about the size of a loaf of bread, sitting in middle of the trail and seemingly mocking me. I swear I never saw it. In fact, I think it may have been hiding behind a small shrub, plotting its attack, and then executed its plan perfectly, catching me on the toe and dropping me immediately. I had hit the dirt with a solid thud and a sort of neanderthal grunt which echoed off nearby boulders and came right back at me. It sounded so cartoonish that I guffawed like a teenager at a Seth Rogen film.

I ask you this, how many times do you think you have fallen down clumsily, bloodying your knee in the process, and then responded by laughing hysterically? You see, that is the magic of running on trails.

However, I do hope that rock picks a different victim on May 9.

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