Friday, February 4, 2011

A bend in the form. . . . February and the Year of the Rabbit.

Less than two months until the Gator Trail 50k.  Forty Miles (and a mule) will get me to the finish, maybe, but my weekly total should be more like 60-70 miles and not 35-44. My endurance of mileage is making me nervous.

2.3.11 Lung Distance Logs & Pain Management: Brunswick Nature Park, ten miles. 
Blue Clay trails were closed again, making it the third time in two weeks, so a twenty minute drive had me pulling into the Brunswick Nature Park.  Originally a paper mill forest, this land was granted to Brunswick County to become the newest park to green-mark our coastal region map.  Situated in northern Brunswick County, the 911 acres display a magnificent variety of terrain everyone can enjoy, especially mountain bikers, day-hikers, or trail runners.  (Equestrian trails are in the works, and there are horseshoe prints on the road!)  My last visit was a year ago, Run for Ray 2010, so I drove around to get my bearings and see the recent work. First off: the land is beautiful.  Big improvements include: a. a sheltered picnic area, including a grill  b.  a permanent facility offers a shower and actual bathrooms, though they weren't open yet (meanwhile there are port-a-johns)  c. a new trail, running about 1.5 miles (thanks to SORBA and the volunteers), marked by a laminated sign which had been tacked up on a tree.  The new trail plus the existing system of fireroads, animal trails, and previously blazed trails makes it easily five miles of trail, interconnected to keep navigation slightly confusing, but making difficult any desperate disorientation.  
As the damp cold was leveling my motivation for the run, I grabbed a water bottle and headed down a gravel road towards the Town Creek, towards the new kayak launch where a trail crosses, allowing a left or right turn into the trail network. I made a left and ran through a picnic area overlooking the creek, where a few lazy sandwiches with Kyote and the Wife could be enjoyed.  The trail took a more serious breath as the first mile started burning the hips and abdomens, leaning into and out of turns and berms and trees-turned-pikes (careful y'all!!). . . x-slope reblistered both feet through jackrabbit turns, quick pitch shifts, root-knobs bulging obscurely through pine-straw and dead leaves, spear-ended spits pointing into the trail at every twist and turn (one damn near getting a nick on my neck on one of two falls). . . a massive pile of unidentifiable feces that, if I didn't know better, I'd call bear shit, distant choruses of angry dogs, sudden mud-slicks slinging legs multiple directions like a cartoon, and the sheer beauty of it all, running along the Town Creek river, her black surface full of resin and lazy drift. . . and while I ran slow and steady across the varied & unpredictable terrain, while I was pushing up root-riddled hills to sand-slides knotted by ropes and branches, the pleasure was erratic, intermittent, because, honestly, it was work.  Plain and simple work.. . keeping the legs milling and not crashing into the next pined corner, plain work avoiding the deep holes where trees were pulled up by their roots by unknown forces, plain work keeping eyes focused on the next ten feet of foot-falls. . . tunnel-vision trails. . . by mile six the wheels were coming off the wagon, felt like I got hacked down by a bushwhacker. . . thought to myself “holy shit” a few times. . . and my pace slowed until I was shuffling along, side-stepping the bear shit, thankful to stop and step aside for the four other mountain bikers out there, catch a breath, then resume into the sporadic lunges of pace along the new trail, bumpy and rooty, primitive and fun, over fallen trees with orange wood splintering, past with one heroic guy laying sand across stretches to “smooth it out for you”, and he was resting with a tin of pistachios during a lull, his empty wheelbarrow beside.  Another mile or so , a gulp of water and then to the car.  “So much depends upon a mountain bikers' wheelbarrow.”

2.4.11. Pain-management Run Number Two. . . Cold, wet slogging out at Poplar Grove. . . . four miles of wishing my wife could be running beside me, talking or not talking, just there. . . the weather was horrible, the run was rough, yesterday's run lingering, taxing the legs and knees. . . eyes cast down on the rivulets and trenches and puddles of rainwater, cast down blankly into footfalls, cast down on numb-hot legs. the highlight, a moment of pleasure for which I paused, was a wonderful blackbird cyclone spiraling onto long brown fields rolling towards unseen sea, their stark forms (individually, collectively) moving rhythmically onto the furrowed chunks of earth, searching for the worms emerging from the clay. . . . . rain dissolved the trees like an impressionist brush about a half-mile away, sfumati of the storm, the renaissance light of a winter rain in the woods, and rain pelted my jacket and legs and my legs burned red against rain and run, splashes of sand & cold on every step, sloshes of shoes and socks.  A pain management run, a weather-endurance  run. A run obsessed with the PCJ at the end, a medium tanzania (dark and bold, a slight roasted-nut note) and a delicious orange-cranberry muffin for the drive home, including some new song by the Decemberists before switching off to a late Beethoven piano sonata.