Friday, March 29, 2013

Lost in Bradbury

For the first time in my running history, I turned on the mapping function of my GPS watch hoping that it would help me find my way. There I was standing somewhere on the East side of Bradbury, looking at a bunch of dotted lines on my watch unsure how to follow the lines back to my car. As concerned as I was, I had Wild excitedly sniffing about while on the leash, unaware that I had no idea where we were or how we were going to get back.
It all started so simply as I had about forty five free minutes before I had to pick up my son at pre-school just a few miles away from the park. There were less than ten cars in the lot at Bradbury but I still decided to avoid the ‘crowd’ and darted over to the East side.
There was still plenty of snow that was nicely packed down and I was glad I had put on my ice grips. I could have followed the snowmobile trails but I decided to turn on the Lanzo trail even though there were only a couple ski tracks to follow. It wasn’t ideal running but I wasn’t looking to go fast and even though I knew there wouldn’t or shouldn’t be any other people I decided to hold onto Wild’s leash instead of letting him run totally free.
I got to the Island Loop intersection and after I turned onto it I turned back as I had noticed a ziploc bag hanging from the trail kiosk. There was an envelope inside the bag marked, ‘For you.’ Since I am a ‘you’ I opened it up and found read the note which stated something about me being wonderful and other loving stuff that was just really nice, granted a little sappy but nonetheless a genuinely nice gesture by a total stranger meant for other random strangers.
It was here along the trail that the trouble began. The ski tracks were easy to follow but then I began to notice that the tracks were leading off the trail once in a while but would loop back to a noticeable trail underneath the melting snow which was about ankle high.
I pressed on figuring I would be able to still complete the loop and get back to better packed trail. I’m not really certain if I lost the ski tracks or just decided to follow what I thought was the trail but I soon found myself standing in the snow looking around wondering just where the hell was I? Then I noticed some yellow blazes on the trees so I made my way toward one and then the next and so forth. What was puzzling me was that nothing seemed like a trail around me. I wasn’t pushing my way through branches but clearly the path I was following the blazes was not a path most normal people would not be following. Once in a while though it did seem as if I was on a ‘trail’ and this false confidence was actually getting me more and more lost.
I came to the realization that I was truly unaware of my location, in other words lost, when I came back to my own tracks. I figured that I shouldn’t follow my own tracks back since they had gotten me lost to begin with and also I didn’t feel like cutting short my run even if my tracks led me directly back to Island intersection. Wild could have cared less which direction I chose as he ate some snow between sniffs.
I tried following more yellow blazes, still thinking these were trail markers and thinking once in a while there was a trail at my feet beneath the snow. There were more deer tracks around us than signs of human travel, except whenever I came back to my own prints. I had managed to go in circles at least a couple times. I knew I was circling around as I came across one of my ice grips that had fallen off unbeknownst to me. I picked it up, and took my other one off not wanting to lose them, and there was little ice and just ankle deep snow. Now I knew that I was truly lost. I couldn’t believe that I had gotten lost in a place that I had traveled so many times. Despite the countless miles I had run at Bradbury I didn’t know where I was or how I would be able to find my way back.
I came to a spot where I could identify a rough field through the woods, a place that I couldn’t recall ever seeing but there were still plenty of yellow blazes that I continued to follow and once again there seemed to be a trail as I crossed a couple of small bridges. My watch was set on auto-pause so although it indicated I had only been running for about twenty minutes I knew I was probably out for a while longer and I needed to find a way out soon in order to pick up my son in time.
I passed by a rusted out bed frame, something that I defiantly had never seen before and even though it seemed like I was on a trail I knew I had to do something different to get unlost. That was when I clicked my watch over to the map option even though I really didn’t know how to use it properly. The screen showed a bunch of dotted lines going relatively straight until it came to a spot where there was a small mass of dots all circling around one another and then one small straight one leading to where I was presently standing. I could try to follow these small dots out of the woods but I decided to head back to where I had seen the field instead.
It was here I spotted what seemed to be a woods road. As rough as it looked I made the decision to check it out. After all it had to lead somewhere right. I knew of some roads surrounding the park besides Route 9 and hoped that this woods road would lead to one of them if not Route 9 itself.
Coming out of the woods onto this little road, that was of course not plowed but clearly a road, probably leading to a woods lot, I could now see a couple houses and a small farm. And in a short while I could even see a couple green road signs on a telephone poll. At the end of the road I stepped around a rope barrier and read the sign hanging on it stating ‘No trespassing’. Too late. I was pretty certain I had come out to Route 9 and just needed to turn left to get back to the park. Still I checked the road signs a little ways a way in the opposite direction but confirmed that I was on the Hallowell Road, also known as Route 9. Yahoo!
Wild still had plenty of energy left as we ran down the road back to the park no more than a half a mile away. It was the first time in quite awhile that I was truly happy, if not even thrilled to be running on a road. I got back to the mini van and filled Wild’s water bowl saving a little for myself. A few minutes later I was greeting Quinn getting some awesome five year old hugs.
I look forward to my next run, which most certainly will still be at Bradbury. Next time I think I’ll deal with the ‘crowds’ and stick to trails that I know will not let me live up to trail name, The Lost Osprey.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Two Runs

I did a foolish thing the other day. I put my name into the Mount Washington Road Race. I’ll know in a couple days if I’m in, until then I need to focus my running on becoming stronger. I don’t need to be faster but certainly stronger. I signed up for that race just after I had gotten back from a six mile trail run in the woods near my house. There was nothing in my running to make me think that I was ready for the seven plus mile run up New England’s highest peak. I was originally supposed to be going out for an eight mile road run but there was really no part of me that wanted to do eight on the road. I didn’t even feel like running whatsoever, but after reading a couple more chapters of Scott Jurek’s book I felt inspired to hit the trails. Also having my newest edition of Trail Runner magazine also helped get me out the door.
I figured I would run for about an hour, as this would be close to the time I would put in for eight miles of road running. So I carried my ice grips in my hands for the half mile to the trail. I didn’t need many layers as the temps were somewhere around forty and the snow soon felt like it was melting underneath my feet. Every time I landed a foot it would slip away from me in an unpredictable direction. The ice grips were on mostly to prevent me from falling on my arse if there were some real ice spots but they did little to help me from gliding with the melting grains of snow. So this of course made for a real slow run but I had to power through it. It was a tough workout. It became even tougher when I had to break some trail. I wouldn’t have minded so much but the melting snow I was breaking through was also quickly soaking my feet. I’m sure my feet would have been much drier cutting through snow drifts in sub-zero temperatures.
I did have to retrace my steps a little in order to stay out for an hour but I felt that was better than driving anywhere, even if that would be less than ten miles away. By staying close to home that gave me time to get home and put my name in the lottery. I even had some extra time to sign up for a half marathon when I go to Indiana in about a month. I know, road, yuck! But it will be a bit of a family event that I look forward to. I just don’t look forward to doing much road work. After all this snow actually melts and there is nothing left but seven feet of mud, I may begin to appreciate road running a little more.
I watched the driving rain Tuesday night from my window feeling sad that winter was not going to be with us much longer. I was planning to go for a run at Bradbury the next morning and I began to wonder just how bad the trail conditions would be and the same weather pattern was predicted for the morning. I also wanted to bring Wild with me and I began to wonder whether he would be up to the run. But then I put him outside while the rain came down sideways and then had a hard time convincing him to come back in, I knew then that he would be up for just about anything.
The rains did stop the next morning, and after I dropped off Quinn at pre-school Wild and I headed to The Brad. There was one car in the lot, and a young couple were putting on their boots. They were not exactly fit bodies, but bless ‘em for getting out there on a day that really had little appeal for an outdoor adventure. While I waited for my watch to find some satellites, I eyed the trail and saw that the rains had really only melted away the top layer of snow and exposed all the packed ice. So I immediately took my ice grips out of my pack and put them on.
Wild and I quickly caught up with the couple and we broke free some ice in order to get around them. I kept hold of Wild’s leash as we continued on the Boundary Trail but once we turned up the Northern Bluff trail I let go of his leash and let him do his own thing. He came and went while I slowly made my way up and took a small break at the summit to look around. I wasn’t sure what I really wanted to do so I decided to continue on the Boundary Trail. There were a few good slushy puddles along the way and I did what I could do to get around them. I started to feel a little less powerful by going around but then I noticed that Wild didn’t really want to get his feet wet either.
I turned off the Boundary to intersect with the Tote Trail. There was more snow here than ice but it was all firmly packed down. There was one small stream crossing, well normally a stream but now lots of ice covered with flowing water. I got across without getting soaked but the trail just up ahead proved to be more challenging. Here I started to unexpectedly break through the snow. It was only a few steps here and there but a reminder that this snow was really not going to be around much longer.
I made my way back to the Boundary Trail but then turned back up the Bluff Trail. Wild thought quickly followed and was soon ahead of me as we headed straight up. I thought of Mt. Washington as I slowly found my best footing getting up this hill. We were only at about two and a half miles as we stood at the summit once again. I had figured three miles would be a fine workout for the both of us, but Wild was looking much better than usual at this point in our runs. So instead of just heading back down I decided to head back on the Tote. Wild enjoyed this choice as he bounded down the trail all eager for more. I noticed a large pool of water to the side of the trail that actually looked like the world’s largest pool of piss. I could have taken urine samples to my doctor with that water. I don’t know what turned the water yellow and I don’t want to really know.
We passed the crossing once again, this time I got a little more wet but nothing that chilled me to the bone. I was slightly surprised just how cold I was when I did start the run. The air temp was in the forties but I soon came to the realization that not only hot air rises but so does cold air as I could feel the temp coming up from the ice below.
I was able to avoid breaking through the snow better the second time by spotting my steps from the first time through. Wild was still going strong, checking out things off trail and then catching back up and not just running right behind me which he does when he starts to tire. At another intersection I had to decide to take the quick route back to the car or do an extra quarter mile. I opted for the latter and once again Wild took off wildly down the trail and I felt justified by my decision. He did start to slow the closer we got the car and I took him back by the leash right as the field came into view.
The car was still in the lot and I was glad the couple was still out there. A truck pulled in and the driver was accompanied by three dogs, and as he said two birders and once couch potato. I refilled Wild’s water bowl and had some myself before we headed home, he for a nap and me to write this report.