Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Mud Fest - Plant Pest

With no running on Saturday, I needed to get a long run in Sunday. Furthermore, Meredith had given me her bottle of Miwok beer after the race since she was flying home. I have a strict "no long run, no beer" policy so there was extra incentive to get out on the trails. Besides, watching all those brave runners battle the elements on Saturday had me inspired. I was ready to head out into whatever mother nature could throw at me. However, she is a fickle one and never seems to give exactly what you expect.

For various reasons, I have felt a bit uninspired lately. Illness, schedule shifting, my runs lacking, heck, blame it on the bad economy. I really needed to head out on what one could call the trail running equivalent of "soul surfing." One description of which could easily be applied to time spent out on the trail:

"...the man upon his board who shuts out the world and its clamor, for the silence of rolling green passageways of bliss and beauty."

Exactly what I needed. Just head out on the trail unconstrained by the specifics of route, distance or even time. Just run, letting the terrain dictate my pace, choosing trails as they appear before me and returning only when my spirit has been fulfilled. Truth, however, is that I am not quite such an unfettered soul. I had some ideas to at least spend 4-5 hours and I did have to pick some place to run.

My original thought was just to head out from home and spend time out on the Ohlone trail. However, as I was going to drop my wife at work, I realized that heading to Chabot would offer a much broader range of options. I also had a vague idea of trying to explore some new trails such as Chabot-to-Garin or Chabot-to-Las Trampas. I was not going to be constrained by a plan, though, and when I arrived, I simply headed out on the west side of the lake. Based on what I'd seen the day before, I was prepared with jacket and gloves. As usual this assured that the rain stayed away, the gloves in my pack and the jacket around my waist for my entire run.

I had decided to head out to Bort Meadows and back to get some basic miles under my belt and then return around the lack and search for those trails on the other side. However, as I approached Bort, I was drawn to the MacDonald trail heading out to Redwood. I figured out what I was craving and it was something a bit more comitting than wandering around looking for new trails. The plan was then set to head over to that park and complete the full East/West ridge loop before heading back to Chabot. It's not the most beautiful route, but I knew it would give me the miles and hours on my feet that were what I really needed. I switched my GPS to not show pace or distance and simply focused on "being out there" and letting my mind wander. There would be no pushing on this run.

While it didn't rain, the evidence of recents storms was everywhere. The singletrack trails were littered with plenty of tree branches and other debris and all was wet and muddy. Running the East Ridge firetrail was like treading through something between the texture of wet glue and a swamp. While I was taking it easy, my hips, right knee and left foot felt a bit worked as the day crept towards dusk given all the slipping sliding and balancing I'd been doing. At one point I was thinking back to a discussion I'd had with Rick Gaston at the Miwok finish line. He said that, displite the wet conditions, the mud on the course wasn't that bad. We both agreed how much stickier things always seemed over on the east side of the bay. It's a conversation I probably should have recalled before chosing my route for the day.

In the end, I had a great run. I covered 29 miles and spent about 5 hours and 45 minutes out on the trail with the sun breaking through the clouds just as I finished. While the trails were a mess, the day itself was quite nice. Warm. Humid, even. Slipping into my nubby sandles and cooling down while walking around the parking lot, I had that glorious feeling of exhaustion that comes from a good, long run. I'd had my fill. I was happy.

After a refreshing shower at home, the night was completed with a Chipotle burrito and that Lagunitas IPA with a Miwok label on it. All good.

Well, all except for the next morning when I awoke to a bitter reminder of something I'd neglected the night before. A certain common west-coast shrub lined many of the single track trails I'd been running. Sporting its bright-green spring coat on each of its characteristic 3-leaf clusters, it wasn't difficult for me to recognize Poison-oak having grown up in California. What was difficult was remembering to dig out my Technu before hopping into the shower. Strangely enough, my exposed lower legs and arms seem to have avoided the leaf. It must have been transferred from my clothing. The big patch beneath my right eye is perhaps the most obvious, but certainly not the most uncomfortable location where I am currently displaying the tell-tale rash of my body's attempt to fight off the plant's toxic urushoil.

A small payment for a much-needed trip through "the silence of rolling green passageways of bliss and beauty."

1 comment:

meredith said...

So glad that you enjoyed the beer! My husband was THRILLED that I left it with you,as I would have just kept it unopened at our house. I hope you are starting to feel a bit more of the WS inspiration...bad timing, wrong year, but you are still in :)