I have a friend coming in from Boulder around Labor Day. She's taken up running and has been doing some pretty good training. She wrote me about a month ago and asked if there were any races in the area to do when she's here. Oddly, there weren't too many. The one that looked the best is an 8.5 mile trail run.
Trail running is something of which I've done very little. The times I have done it, I have always been a bit put off by not being able to see where I'm going in the distance. Trail running times are also a bit demoralizing. They're always slower. Ticks, chiggers, and poison ivy are three more reasons I generally avoid trails. On the plus side, however, trail running is gentler on the joints (if you don't trip over a root and fall on your face).
Still, unless we wanted to go do a 5k (those races pop up like flies at a picnic now, they are so ubiquitous), the longer trail run was the only real option. I mentioned the race to a friend of mine, Eric, who loves running on the trails. He said he was up for the run as well. On Saturday, I invited him to go for an early morning 6-8 mile run in the country near my place. Instead, he suggested that we run the trails next to the levee (egad). After some back and forth, I acquiesced, and agreed to the run.
So early Saturday, after a night spent drinking too much wine, and staying up way too late to watch The In-Betweeners on BBC America, I drove to my friend's house and picked him up to head to the trails. It was as humid as swimming by the time we arrived at the trail head. A portion of the Eudora High CC team was there getting ready to run. Eric knew the coach so we chatted for a short time, kinda waiting for them to go first. The coach finally said that we should go ahead - that way we'd be the first to take down the spider webs that criss-cross the trail with our faces.
I mentioned to Eric that he might want to set the pace (I really didn't want to hit the webs first).
Rather than going into each step of our run, suffice it to say that it was beautiful. Eric set a good pace out, and I led the way back. I had one near fall, got covered in mud and plant matter, sweated like a sumo in a sauna, but all-in-all had an awesome time. We finished 10K in 53 minutes (there's that slower time), but psychologically, the slower pace didn't devastate me like it does when I run the trails alone. We had expected the Eudora CC team to blow by us at some point in the run, but we never saw them again.
When I got home, I slathered my legs with anti-poison ivy soap. I washed my trail running shoes (the Brooks Cascadias are really great shoes), threw my clothes in the wash, and was done.
So now, once a week, Eric and I plan to hit the trails. By Labor Day, I may even look forward to running in dirt and mud.