I like that bottom of my trail shoes look like they have extra teeth on them. These extra teeth are just what this novice trail runner needs in case I need to cling for my life.
I like that my new trail socks shield my ankles. These shields are just what this clumsy runner needs in case I brush up against three-leafed danger.
I like that my hydration backpack has pockets full of fuel. This pack is just what this distracted jogger needs in case no one can find me for days.
I love trail running, but I’m still learning to subdue the apocalyptic brain chatter that won’t seem to shut off when running solo on a new trail…like what happened this weekend.
Waist-deep in weeds on a new-to-me trail, I get nervous deciding if I should forge on. There’s a semblance of down shrubbery which should have been the path — I keep running.
The trail gets thinner. I stop, look around, reference my map, and know that I’ve gone too far. I retrace my steps only to find the trail sign completely hidden by overgrown plants. I miss the impressive signage in New Zealand and fantasize about writing a “Dear Mr. Mayor…” letter. I’m getting distracted.
I get back on the right path, only to wind out of the sun and onto a new trail. It reminds me of Portland — shaded and dark enough for me to take off my sunglasses. I hope I don’t completely eat it and lose my sunglasses like I did in that Marin race last summer. More distraction.
The wind is blowing and makes what’s left of any leaves rattle in that creepy October way. The branches let out a creeeeeeeeeeeek slow enough to question if these hills are haunted or if ghostface is behind you. You want to shout, “Don’t run upstairs, you idiot! The killer is always upstairs!”
I listen to small animals — or giant, man-eating predators — scurry away from the trail with my steps. Speaking of ferocious beasts, I start to wonder if there are snakes out here. The answer is highly likely and I question whether or not I would know what to do if I encounter one. I think of that old show, I Shoudn’t Be Alive, and the episode of that woman who saved her life using a seat cushion. I’m getting distracted again.
The trail winds back into the light and my nearsightedness gets the best of me. Are those giant logs sticking out? No, those are antlers! I get out my phone and Instagram the brunching trio as any good social media practitioner would do. I smile and start thinking happy running thoughts.
I’m nearing the loop that will send me back home, the trail thins and suddenly, my training from last week’s hike kicks in. I see your leaves of three and your scalloped edges you little plant devil…and you are everywhere! Literally everywhere! I navigate through the trail flanked by poison oak, but as I look further, there are no signs of it stopping. I’ve never had poison oak and I didn’t want to start now, so I turned around and opted to add on mileage elsewhere. I feel like my legs are starting to itch.
As I retrace my steps back to the start and revisit familiar scenes, the hypochondriac itching subsides and the mind chatter goes on mute. I’m bopping up and down, listening to nothing but my breath, and waving to the bunnies that bounce by. Those early-on jumps and bumps tend to turn on the unnecessary brain babble, but it’s experience and time that apparently turn them off.