Three days of running in a row concluded today with a 2.5 hour run on the trails. I took off from my apartment on 1st Street and headed up the hill to Chester. The colors and the temperatures have been amazing lately and it's been great to take advantage of Duluth's incredible trail system. I plodded along up through lower Chester at a leisurely pace, trying to keep my heart rate low. A quick loop through upper Chester's ski trails and I was off to Bagley to enjoy the scenery there.
Little did I know, or rather, I had completely forgotten that the NMTC trail race was taking part in Bagley at the time. I dinked around for a loop in Bagley, trying to stay out of the racers way (luckily I got there as the leaders were finishing up, so I didn't get in anyone's way) and crossed Arrowhead to Hartley, assuming to get lost!
Back to Bagley for a bit, however. Last Friday, before Saturday's wind and rain, I did a loop through Bagley and was taken aback by the stunning colors there. The leaves on the maple trees were thick and this incredible neon green/yellow color. Against a clear blue sky they created this ceiling of gold above me as I ran on the perfect wood chipped trails. It was one of the most simple, beautiful runs I've ever had.
Okay, now to Hartley. I actually didn't get lost! I think I'm starting to get most of that park figured out now. Anyway, I entered off of Arrowhead, headed over to the guard rail loop, cruised over to the Nature Center, doubled back a bit and exited Hartley again at Arrowhead where I retraced my route back home through Bagley and Chester.
It was a classic day of trails in Duluth!
Despite the rain we had Saturday night and Sunday morning, the trails were very dry, save for a few spots in Hartley along the COGGS trails. I want to declare, publicly, that I LOVE MUD! It's one of the great things about trail running, getting dirty! As I see it, if your legs aren't covered in mud after a trail run, then no matter how good the run was, it still wasn't complete!
When I co-directed the world famous Pilot Knob Trail Race in Forest City, Iowa we had two races per year, a 15k in the spring and a 5 miler in the fall. Our race and those trails were notorious for being incredibly muddy. I'm talking about slipping around corners and falling muddy. Sliding down hills on your ass muddy! One year for the 15k it was an absolute downpour, the people had a blast! I remember one lady saying "Why don't they pave these trails?!" She never came back!
There are some runners who simply don't like running in muddy conditions. When they encounter a puddle, they will do everything they can to avoid it. Slowing down to a walk, tip toeing around the edges, their shoulders hunched up as if trying not to wake a sleeping lion. For some reason, they seem to feel that their running clothes should be treated like their finest dress clothes. It's the mindset. The mindset that mud is to be avoided. At all times.
Me, I go in with the feeling that this is my chance! Why do I care if my shoes are muddy? Why do I care if the back of my white running shirts are all permanently stained with mud splatters? These puddles, these muddy runways are opportunities to bring back my inner child, to get dirty and play!
Life is not always a smoothly paved road that lies down for you and surrenders. Sometimes it's a hilly, rocky, mud strewn trail that fights back. Treat each as they are. Respect each as they are. And in that present moment do what the situation calls for. Next time, run right through the middle of that damn puddle!