Mud, grace, trails and more mud

The original plan for Saturday was a tempo run in conjunction with the Bengal 5K race in North Buffalo. But going a bit long on my first outdoor bike ride of the season (well worth it to be cycling anywhere but my basement) followed by a long and somewhat painful 12 mile run the next morning combined with my own version of March Madness with women’s basketball and college hockey and well, plans changed.

Instead, my coach wanted me to do an easy 8-10K instead.

So I took the opportunity to go trail running. While I did the annual Mud Run and a cross country event this past summer, this, for all intents and purposes, was my first real trail run. Mark served as my trail guide, generously (and patiently) taking me for a run through Chestnut Ridge Park. As we started into the trail he gave me my trail running tutorial:

1. Watch your footing.
2. If it looks wet or like ice, it’s slippery.

OK. Those are rules I can remember. At least it’s less complicated than what I have to think about when swimming.

There was no such thing as speed, particularly when my shoes were being sucked into the mud. For a good part of the run, my eyes were fixed on Mark’s feet, following his lead in an attempt to stay upright.

Then I took the lead on a relatively innocuous downhill section.

Turning the corner with adequate momentum came a wonderful view of a waterfall.

“Aw, pretty!” I said, then promptly slipped, flew forward outstretched (like Superman), sliding in the mud face first.

And … end scene.

I rolled on my back laughing so hard no sound came out. I am, after all, the epitome of grace. What I lack in skill I make up for in enthusiasm and entertainment value.

Granted, 2010 may only be three months old, but that’s already a contender for best moment of the year.

More mud, but no falls, with up hills, downhills, ice, logs — pretty much everything you’d expect when running in the woods. But then again, I didn’t really didn’t know what to expect. Hiking has been part of my existence for as long as I can remember. Growing up, my dad would take me to Royalton Ravine on a regular basis (or what felt like a regular basis when your 6) and we’ve spent plenty of time hiking in the greater Western New York area, sticking to trails because our orienteering skills are rather poor. And by “rather poor” I mean non-existent. But being out in nature, well, that’s the fun part.

I wondered how running the trails might feel different. As I suspected my stumble and fall came from getting caught up in watching my surroundings instead of, you know, paying attention to not getting hurt. Then again, I guarantee you there was a good probability of a similar fall had I been hiking instead of running, just at a slower speed and less comical.

Trail running automatically equals a slower pace than road running, a bonus for someone like me on days when training is just about getting in some easy miles. And I’ve decideed there is not better way to get in these kinds of miles than in the woods. Who the heck cares about pace when there’s so much to look at, so much variety, so much joy and fun?

Oh, and did I mention the mud?

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