June 18, 2012

Trail running lately

The trails, just when you hit them, they hit you back. At least that's what happened to me on my last couple of trail runs. 

If I rewind a couple of weeks, I hit Moss Creek Preserve with my brother. It's another free-entry set of trails close to Birmingham. 

This is pre-running, when I was still excited about some new trails to explore.

We pulled up to a completely empty parking lot, but I was feeling good about the immediate port-o-potty sighting. 

And a trash can is always handy. So are rules for hooligans like us.

Once we started navigating the trails, it felt like we were going in lots of circles. The trails were pretty short before you made a turn or met up with another trail. There were several of these directional signs posted on the trails, but I never spotted a general park map at the location. We had a tiny one on our phone that we were trying to use for navigation.

The rapids were pretty gnarly. Does this make anyone else think mosquitoes and yellow fever?

Is this real? Do you have sparkleberries (one word) in your neighborhood?

Which reminds me of Portlandia's Sparkle Pony.

If you like other dumb stuff, you'll love my photography skills. Wow, you're welcome, my brother, for really capturing a great moment you were having with nature. The sadder part of this story is that I was really trying for a picture of him looking at the camera and smiling.

But I'm not surprised he was mesmerized because this park had some really cool rocks that you could climb or crawl around. The ones below were slick and mossy in spots. Moss Creek Preserve ... now I almost get it.

With all of our meandering in circles, we made it 5.38 miles in 1:15. That's a smoking 14 minutes per mile. I kept swearing to myself that my Garmin wasn't picking up signal because I was so blasted worn out by the end. At one point we hit the power line path to see if we could add some mileage that way. Mistake. The weeds were so tall that they were lashing our faces and arms and legs with every swish and step. Ouch. Plus, the insect life was buzzing happily and plentifully all up in the tall weedy flowers. Just when I had perfected breathing without inhaling a bug, a bee stung me on the shoulder. Dang you, bee. 

We quickly left the power line trail to avoid more lashings and stingings and headed to the quieter refuge of the regular trails. They had much less insect life and better shade. While we were trying to find our way out, we came across a pimped out school track just beside the trail. Neither of us brought water, so I thought it would be a great place to discover some fountains. 

The track had hurdles and lots of other fancy looking equipment so I assumed that this was not the middle school next to which we had originally parked that morning (but it was!). How many middle schools have pimped out tracks like that? None where I grew up. I'm pretty sure our high school track team had to practice on glass shards and pot holes in the alley behind our school. 

But with fancy equipment comes fancy rules. Dear sign maker, a gun is a weapon, and tobacco (well, nicotine) is a drug. 

But we would have faced guns or weapons (and maybe even tobacco) to get to this water fountain. Thank you, public school, for keeping the water running even when school's out for summer. 

Much livelier after water intake.

The trickiest part was the exit. For future reference, once you get into this area from the trail, the only way out is to go back onto the trail (boring) or hop the fence (rational). Keep going to see the most awkward fence exit of your life.

Super slow running, super hot day, super bee-stingy shoulder equals super pathetic.

If you squint, you can see the bee sting. No, you can't? Me either, but I swear it's there. 

So this Saturday, I had an equally, if not more, dehydration-inducing run at Red Mountain. I met the Fleet Feet group there around 7. About one minute away from the Red Mountain parking, I realized that I forgot my already-filled fuel belt at home. Criminy! 

Well, I wasn't into turning around and missing the group, so I drank some more water from my giant non-running water bottle and figured I'd refuel after the run. 

Here we are figuring out the trails. Notice that everyone else remembered their water bottle.

Here I am figuring out that I'm lost on the trails. I need to start looking up more when I run trails so that I'm not always confused about where I am no matter how many times I run the same trail.

The one good thing about looking at my feet during Saturday's run? No falls. Tiny trips, yes. Face planting falls, no. Maybe it was the new shoes.

We took it pretty easy for the first 7.5-mile loop, so I thought it would be a good idea to drink a sip of water from my car and head back out for another 4.5-mile loop. Another runner was taking the loop, and luckily, he was willing to share water with me because I think I got pretty close to my dehydration limit somewhere in that last 4.5 miles. 

If you are a person I know in real life, you know that I DO NOT drink after people. Really. Never. So for me to drink out of a complete stranger's water bottle tells you how thirsty I was. Desperately thirsty. Chew tree leaves to eek out the moisture kind of thirsty. So I thank you, total stranger (but not anymore), for sharing. 

Tip of the day: don't forget your water on the counter at your house because you will totally regret that.

Do you run trails? 

What's your best trail running tip? I need all the tips I can get!