The forest floor is covered in a thick layer of fallen leaves, each wet with the morning’s light rain, making a thick orange and gold carpet over the trail itself. A canopy of empty branches and evergreens blot out the cloudy sky, which attempts to peak through. Other than the scrunch of leaves under my feet, the forest is silent save for:
“Jesus!” I blaspheme, as I attempt to run up the trail, “Oh S***.”
The slick running surface hides deeper dangers: erratic patterns of roots waiting to catch at my feet, rocks covered in nothing but slick forest floor detritus. The South Acorn loop trail at Great Brook Farm state park feels a bit less like a pleasant place to run, and more like a deathtrap. Even during the walking intervals, I find my footing is less sure than I’d like.
Considering I’m alone, and my family won’t be home for hours. I have driven out to their place to do some yard work, stashed my keys in the wood pile, and slipped the TuneBelt over my arm.
Now, I am alone and starting to run.
Now, I am giving up on that.
In addition to learning very quickly about slippery running surfaces (I’d say I learned the hard way, but there was a harder lesson I could have learned), I am learning that running on an uneven, hilly, and I’d say risky forest trail differs greatly from the Chestnut Hill Reservoir track I am used to. In other words, track running prepares you little for trail running. Muscles I didn’t know I had were starting to ache and tense, and the ankle muscles which started to lock up after Monday’s run were becoming more stiff with each step.
I have lost the course of the trail I was on. Following it in fits and starts from the trailhead, I am now back where I thought the loop met itself. However, the last marker I had seen had vanished. I had only a rough idea where I was.
I kept following the trail into what appeared to be a maintenance path. What I thought was a backhoe turned out to be a large, downed, yellow tree (to be fair, it was behind a bunch of other trees when I started toward it). I followed that out to an empty field, where I saw a road in the distance, a row of New England houses behind me, and a white-tailed deer.
I pull out my phone, still playing the New Pornographers album I had queued up for my run. The GPS informs me I am in a field between my mother’s street and the info station for Great Brook Farm. I start for the road, the deer puts up its white flag tail and retreats into the woods I had just vacated–silent and graceful. As I start tromping toward it, I realize I could take a road behind me back to a main road my mother’s street branches from. I turn heel and attempt to run, wet grass soaking through my running shoes.
The road is not quite where I expect it to be. Instead, it’s becoming increasingly clear I am walking the border between two peoples’ backyards. A ‘No Trespassing’ sign makes me hesitant to meet people on what looks like a trail, but is actually a riverbed. I have given up on running, and am just trying to get somewhere without meeting people. I am equal parts annoyed, tired and ashamed, and don’t particularly feel like asking the one man I see in his backyard for help.
Eventually, I run out of forest, as manicured lawns start to engulf the tree-covered area I am cracking and cursing my way through. I look to my left and see a road. The two houses on either side appear vacant, their driveways empty. I make a break for it–run along what might be the property line–and get onto the road. I continue running for about one or two houses, finally feeling like I am getting something done.
“Slow to an easy pace to cool down,” RunDouble tells me.
I have worked up a sweat, true. But, I don’t feel like I have succeeded. I keep running for another few seconds, but the locking left ankle slowed me to a walk.
The robotic voice from my phone chimes in again, “Good work. You have completed your run today.”
I walk the rest of the way. I don’t feel as though I have completed my run. I barely feel as though I have started. I am still covered in sweat, but I am too frustrated to really think about it. At the end of the street, I paused to get my bearings. My mother’s mailbox is just up the hill.
Tomorrow, week six of C25k ends with a 25 minute run. Given yesterday’s performance, I am hesitant to try it. However, given my surprise at last week’s 20-minute run, I may be better equipped than I assume. I’ll head to the track and do my best. If not, I’ll repeat C25k Week 6 next week.
Shin Status: Drained.
Shirt of the Day: Long-sleeved red shirt over the green Activision Pitfall! tee.