Sunday, January 02, 2005

20k in the Mud

Yesterday I felt fortunate because the rain predicted for the end of the week had not come and was anticipated on Monday or Tuesday. Whoops! Meteorology is not an exact science. When I left my house this morning it was foggy and raining. I went to the North Shore Trail anyway because I really want to do all my long walks on trails--I need to train on a surface as close as possible to my races.

When I got closer to the lake there was no rain and the streets looked dry so I once again felt fortunate. It was still dark so I put on my headlamp, then gulped down a Hammer Gel and headed out of the car. As I did, a light, gentle rain started. I hit the trail and walked carefully since there are some small cliffs at the beginning (the trailhead is called Rockledge Park for good reason) and it was damp and dark. The walk was great--the trails were deserted and the temperatures were in the 60s.

After about mile 4 it started to rain, not really hard but hard enough to get the trail good and wet. And that is where the fun began. I avoided the mud and major puddles for a while, but it started raining harder and harder and the trail turned into a little creek! I discovered two interesting things about trail walking in the rain and mud:

1. Your strategy totally reverses. Normally I look for smooth dirt to walk on and avoid rocks, roots and leaves where possible. But in the slick conditions the rocks and leaves became my friends. They gave me enough traction to get up and down the hills relatively safely.
2. On single track trails, you pretty much have to walk/run in the water. The water gathers in the center of the trail for one reason: gravity. You are subject to the same force--if you try to walk on the sides of the trails, you end up sliding down into the center anyway (and almost falling in the process) so you might as well just stay in the middle and get good and dirty.

The more I walked, the slicker and messier it got. I turned around a little after six miles and never saw another runner or walker. I started to see footprints after the five mile marker on the return trip--it looked like two guys running together, and I could tell from their footprints that they were getting just as messy and wet as I was.

I walked through mud and water that came up over my shoes. At one point I put my foot someplace I thought was solid but I sank down to the tops of my shoes. When I lifted my foot it came almot all the way out of the shoe! I shoved my foot back in but the shoe was filled with dirt and crud.

I never fell until about mile 11.8, within distance of my car, when I came across a guy walking the trail with his dog. We exchanged pleasantries and I tried to make room on the trail for all of us, but I slid and landed on my right side. I wasn't hurt, just muddy.

Back at the car I stomped around in some puddles trying to wash off some of the mud and dirt, then headed to Starbucks for a nice warm Soy Latte. When I got home I sat on the back porch for about 15 minutes to hose off my legs, feet and shoes.

It was a great walk and I'll never be afraid to walk on trails in the rain again! What a blast! It wasn't fast but it was fun.

Distance: 12.21 miles
Time: 2:45:54
Pace: 13:35