Once a week I do an LSD, a "long slow distance" for my run. Yesterday I went looking for a flattish 13 miler and decided to run a loop out a secondary highway I know well and back along a trail I don't know well. I'd biked the trail a few times 10+ years ago and remembered it as a lovely gradual downhill meandering along a creek and through subalpine meadows. I'd also skied it in the winter and I know it's still used a fair bit by skiers.
Well, a lot can happen to a trail over the years. My first clue should have been that the first 100 yards required me to hold my arms in front of my face to push the bushes out of the way, crouching to keep my eyes on the trail. But then it opened up; there were some bike tire marks and ATV tracks. Perhaps I should have considered the likelihood that they had been there for quite a while, since before things started growing?
It turned out most of the trail was really overgrown with lush summer vegetation. I doubt anyone had been through there in a couple of months. Weeds, including burdock, thistle and wild rose, up past my knees, slashing at my bare shins. Lots of places the alder and other bushes had me bushwhacking again. And then at mile 3 the bridge was gone, the bank having washed out, leaving me with a 3-metre wide mucky bit of thigh-deep water to ford. Backtracking would have turned my 13-miler into an 18-miler, so I went on. Plunged in.
Then to top it off the end of the loop I'd plotted out had "no trespassing" signs on the spur I needed, so I had to run an extra mile and a half, down into a gravel pit and then up a nasty grunt of a hill in full 9 a.m. sunlight. Uggh.
So I ran 14.65 miles, through marsh and weeds and muck and water, and it took me forever. Just over 2 1/2 hours. Epic.
My shoes will likely never forgive me, but they're almost ready to be retired anyway, so that's okay. They used to be white and silver. Now their worn greyness is cast in sharp relief by the ambitious bright-blueness of their successors-in-waiting, my Nike Lunarglides.
I guess the take-home message is "know your trail."