Sunday, December 13, 2009

Lost and found - but mostly lost

I had such a nice experience at Stillwell Woods yesterday that I decided to return this morning for another run on the trails. My plan today was to do the majority of my run within the interior of the Preserve. I figured I'd be more protected from the wind than yesterday so dressed a little lighter. I also wore my Helly Hansen Trail Lizards because I knew that I'd encounter some technical terrain and I'd need all the help I could get. That turned out to be far truer than I'd anticipated so it was a good choice of footwear although at times I wished I'd brought something with a little more horsepower like a 250cc dirt bike. But since I have not been on a 2-wheel gasoline powered bike since Reagan was president I needed to get by with two legs.

My first thought every time I enter Stillwell is how long it will be before I get lost. It's a given that will happen but I don't worry about it since there's only so far you can go before you reach civilization. My second thought is how to avoid the spectacularly difficult inclines that are carved out within the woods. I am good for a 10-12% grade with the right shoes but some of hills are much greater than that. I made a mistake within the first few minutes when I misjudged a path off the field trail, thinking I was traveling east when I was actually heading south. I eventually figured out my error when I came upon a construction site near the railroad tracks and I reversed direction taking another path the brought me back to the field trail.

I eventually made my way north and then east, encountering trails that were increasingly difficult. At one point I came down a steep path that put me at the bottom of a valley where all exit routes were as steep as the trail that brought me there. I knew I had to go somewhere and I didn't really feel like tackling any of the available options. After a second look I saw a more level path (relatively speaking) that got me traveling east. On the way back I ran into a few more steep challenges. I was growing tired but my larger concern was that I may have been redirected away from my intended direction and that I would end up exhausted and far from the the trail head.

I ended up becoming waylaid north as I grew closer to the western side. The trail literally ended and I followed the path back the other way. The sound of men playing flag football gave me hope that I was relatively near my destination and after a while I saw the path open in a way that told me I was nearing the open field. I was very happy to reach the trail and I followed it back past the trail head to the parking lot. According to the Garmin I covered 4.26 miles in what was a much more rigorous workout than what I did yesterday. I was pleased to have completed two trail runs this weekend and I left Stillwell once again with the feeling that I could run those trails 100 more times  without ever really knowing just exactly where I was.

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