It’s 9:43 on a Wednesday morning. I’m setting out to enjoy some new-to-me trails at Miller Woods Conversation Area. The Outer Loop Trail has about 4 miles of mostly single track through the woods. Beautiful. On this particular morning, I’m the first and only person out here! I came to do two laps, but…we’ll see. I take off out of the parking lot, through an open field section and up a gravel road to the first stretch of wooded trail. My body is just starting to get warm, my mind questioning if I can do this today, when I nearly collide with a baby deer.
Baby Deer Stare Down
I let out an audible, “GAH!” as both the baby deer and I stop, dead in our tracks, about 6 feet from each other. Eyes wide open. Just staring. Until it kind of got awkward.
What the hell do I do now? Stupidly, I think I should step aside and let it pass…much like I do when I come across another trail runner bombing down a hill while I’m chugging my way up. But of course the baby deer isn’t going to pass me. It doesn’t want to be anywhere near me. The abrupt sight of me probably shaved a few years of it’s life, poor thing.
I stay put while baby deer takes a moment to find a place to escape the trail. Then she bounds into the brush and away from the awkward human. I take a few deep breaths, laugh out loud, and start going again. This time, instead of questioning my ability to complete today’s run, I question what other adventures might be on the trail ahead.
Our weather feels very summer (above 90 degrees this week), but fall is approaching. All the spring baby spiders are now mature enough to cast impressive bridge lines across the forest. Naturally, being the first person on a trail in the morning feels a little bit like running through a haunted house. At first I try batting and rubbing off the invisible webs wrapping up my arms and legs. Frustratingly invisible. I can’t see them but I can feel them.
I cleared cobweb all along the trail for that first loop. All the work those spiders put in the night before and here I come crashing through it. The ever present strands waving behind my biceps and hamstrings. Stuck in sweat across my forehead. Collecting on my shins. For a while I could see light reflecting off a web string caught in my eyelashes.
Like I said, it was really frustrating at first. What if a spider was hanging on for dear life inches behind my neck? RUN FASTER! But then it was obvious how pointless it was to try to rid myself of all the cobwebs. I’d only find more on the trail ahead. They weren’t slowing me down or hurting me. There were no spiders web-surfing behind me as I ran. So I accepted them and let my mind turn to other things.
Finding The Path
I had trouble finding the trail my first time at Miller Woods, but once you know what to look for, it’s pretty easy. Two sections along the Outer Loop Trail were heavily cut back last month. Dead limbs lay all around and the trail path is sometimes barely perceptible between the carnage. This time I knew what to look for; blue markings along the ground help guide you through switchbacks in the brush, as well as pink flags, numbered sign posts, and sometimes just patches of grass that are more matted down than the grass surrounding it.
I finished both laps, as I’d planned, and in about 50 minutes a piece. I love being able to stop at my car for fuel and refills every few miles. I finished and felt better about my training. I’m healthy. I’m capable.
Less than a month away from my first marathon in years (this’ll be #5), and I’ve been struggling. My runs haven’t all gone like they should. As you probably know, or can guess, there are many more mental battles to be fought when you have a string of bad runs. If you miss a run or two, you’re suddenly worried you’re out of shape. If you’re sore for too long or a little more fatigued one day, you’re worried your coming down the flu. You doubt your ability to do the distance. You drag your feet getting out the door. You negotiate your long run mileage or pace down.
So many negative thoughts have clung to my subconscious, like invisible cobwebs. I feel like I have to STOP IMMEDIATELY and clear them away before I can move forward. But I don’t. Yes I have some doubts, but last I checked, I’m healthy and capable. The cobwebs will only slow me down if I let them. So I don’t let them. Stop questioning if I can do this. Focus on what adventures might be on the trail ahead. I have a good plan and if I stick to the path marked out for me, I’ll be just fine.