What do I know about trail running?
1. Trails are involved.
2. Running is involved.
That’s simple, right? Find a trail and run on it.
Thanks to my scuba diving training I’ve developed a keen sense of how any sport can be disastrous given particular circumstances. Running, at least, you’re in the open air and should have a pretty good supply of air to breathe, however, there are other factors that can impact your health and well-being. Upon first telling my father-in-law my plans to just run in the suburban neighborhood in Westchester Co, NY, he let me know of a recent coyote problem in the area.
Luckily, I haven’t had any encounters with coyotes in the neighborhood. I didn’t bother to think of the coyotes when I decided on driving out to Saxon Woods this morning to do a long run. In fact, I didn’t bother to look beyond the Google Map or GPS on the car to see what kind of running conditions I would encounter. I was honestly expecting more of a shady city park, not wilderness and gravel/dirt trails.
This did not bode well for my choice of travel running shoes (Vibram FiveFingers Sprint) which have a very scant amount of protection on the bottom. At least my choice of heart rate monitor was well suited for the trek (Garmin Forerunner 405CX).
It turned out that the trails were not as well marked as I would have liked, and that the trails themselves were pretty rocky, both with imported gravel and the natural rocky terrain of the region. It was BEAUTIFUL on this sunny day, with many chipmunks scampering about and songbirds singing. There were only a few people on the trail, making it rather lonely – and as I got deeper into the trail, it occurred to me that maybe I was fresh meat for a coyote. Alarmist, sure – but I realized I don’t know how to deal with wildlife, let alone, spot and avoid poison ivy. And did I smell a skunk? I’m pretty sure I smelled a skunk. This was enough to get me to turn around about 10-12 minutes into my run.
It all would have worked out well, too, if it wasn’t for a fork in the road that I somehow missed on the way in. I ended up taking the wrong fork in the basically correct direction, leading to a bit of panic calmed by the fact that I really was surrounded by civilization (a nearby highway could be heard). This is where my Garmin 405CX comes in handy. You see, I can switch to the GPS mode and it will help me get back home. It’s a wrist compass, and was basically accurate in getting me back to my starting point. To say the least, I only ran for about 15-20 out of my 45 minutes in the woods. What I basically know about survival is to not over exert myself, and to conserve resources to get out of the jam.
I was relieved to get to the car in short order – basically navigating through natural navigation, supplemented by my compass. It’s good to recognize your surroundings on the way in to help you on the way out.
I think I may want to go to a trail running clinic. There is so much in Washington State to hike and run in, and it seems a waste to do all my running just in the neighborhood.
Who wants to be my buddy? (Another good safety measure, btw!)