Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Day 103 - Trail running at Town Run

For the first time this year, I visit an old friend... Town Run Trail Park. Town Run is mostly a mountain bike park. Any decent day you'll find a dozen or so dusty SUVs with dusty bike racks holding extremely expensive and dusty bikes ridden by dusty guys, and the occasional dusty gal.

Thanks to my good buddy Marty, I have ridden the trail once. I have scars to remind me why I prefer to run these trails.

Here's Marty, and the bike he lent me for my suicide attempt.

Running trails can be a challenge. Where the road is smooth and regular and wide and more or less straight, the trail is in constant motion. You are under constant acceleration.* Up. Down. Left. Right. Constant motion and constant change.

The twists of Town Run.

Running the trails of Town Run is a special challenge.Designed for bikes, it has sharp switchbacks. Some sections feel more like surfing than running. The hills are short, but wickedly steep. Climbing them requires precise timing and execution of sure-footed bursts. Descents test your strength as momentum and gravity compress your legs and core as you reach the bottom, where the hill abruptly turns into flat.

Trail running is as much mental as it is physical. On the roads, you can afford to let your mind wander, to day dream a little. Try that on a trail, and you'll meet on of these...

No this is not a snake. It's a root.

or one of these...

Like an iceberg, most of this rock is under the surface.

For the mountain bikers, rolling on their big fat tires, these obstacles are of no consequence. They're more worried about hooking a tree with their handlebars, ripping the skin on their hands to shreds while being vaulted over said handlebars headfirst down the hill coming to a stop just in time for the bike to fall on them, right Marty?

For runners, however, these innocent looking guys, inexplicably placed right in the middle of the trail, for nearly the entire length of the trail, are little booby-traps. Take your eye off of one for even a fraction of a slice of a second and they'll reach right out of the ground and grab a toe. And then...

Trail running is an exercise in meditation. Your mind had better be present while you're out there. If it strays very far for very long, you'll be brought back to the present in a hurry. And your present will include dirt and bits of gravel embedded in the heals of your hands, and elbows. And probably knees. And maybe a hip.

Yet nothing makes me feel as alive as moving along a trail, focused but relaxed, alert but calm. Three steps onto a trail, and the outside world vanishes.


Troubles, lists, traffic, people, cares, agendas, meetings, PowerPoint, conference calls, interest rates, politics, lines, bills, computers, cell phones, WiFi, laundry, squirrels, gutters, in-laws, everything, goes away.

It's you and the trees and the winding dirt ribbon through them. Until you pop back out at the other end.

The good news, you can always go back in for another lap.

Good running,

Numbers: 3.7 miles on trail, and one almost fall.

* Here I mean the high school physics definition of acceleration, where the direction of force is changing.