like hansel and gretel. kind of.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

So my return to the trails with the training group was not exactly spectacular.

First of all, weather conditions were hardly encouraging -- it alternated between light showers and straight-up rain. Then we got lost driving to the trailhead at the Pan Toll ranger station in Muir Woods. And the road was so winding that by the time we got there, I was ready to barf. I felt so sick and so off that I was dead last during our 14-minute warm-up run along a fire road. I have never been dead last with this group before. (With my track group, yes, I am regularly horrible. But with this group, I am usually a solid mid-packer.)

And then we headed out onto the trail. There was a slippery, root-ridden downhill, and I was extra-paranoid about falling because of my ankle, so I walked this and ended up -- once again -- dead last. (It actually got to the point where I was so frustrated that I started to re-think my plan to run the Chesebro Half in three weeks.) Thankfully, Neveia and Lisa weren't too far ahead, so I just kept following them and eventually caught up.

We were supposed to be running this route.

I don't know what the hell happened, but somehow we missed the turn to the TCC Trail and ended up on the Deer Park Fire Road instead. And then suddenly we were no longer on the trails but on the highway -- as in, with cars.

We were totally and completely lost. And we had no clue how to get back to where we should have been.

Luckily, we saw two other runners -- Tonie and Drue -- from our group up ahead, and they were in the same predicament, so the five of us joined forces. We asked a mountain biker for help, and he pointed us in the right direction, which meant running through Muir Woods National Monument. That's right -- running on a wooden boardwalk and dodging tourists with umbrellas and cameras. Eventually we made our way to the Bootjack Trail and decided to take it back to where we started.

At first it was great. Lush green ferns. Small waterfalls tumbling into a creek. A ravine full of mist. Fallen logs. Moss. (If I could've had anything right then, it would've been my camera -- it was gorgeous.) And we were running uphill, which was such a wonderful change from all the slippery downhill. I started to feel like myself at last, picked up the pace and ended up leading the group. It was easy to pretend I was some kind of woodland creature, hopping over stones and roots and trotting along. Or that I was part of an expedition, and I needed to lead us out of the wilderness and into safety.

But that got old when I realized the uphill was never going to end. Up, up, up. And there were so many stairs! Dear god, it was like the this trail was one giant staircase! Eventually I couldn't run anymore, and all I could do was hike up steps. It was like we were stuck in a twisted fairytale, where the characters wander on and on down a path (or climb up and up a staircase), and no matter how far they go, they can never escape the woods.

Just when I was getting really frustrated and somewhat angry, we ran into others from our group. The good: We followed them, the run from hell ended and we found our way out. The bad: Instead of the planned 10 miles, our adventure yielded only 7.5. The ugly: Yes, I got a good butt workout on those stairs, but I'm anxious -- I have a race in three weeks, and my mileage just isn't where it should be!

At least there was food. We went to the Dipsea Cafe afterward, and a soy chai latte covered in nutmeg put me in a better mood.

And this made me feel even better.

I have to say, though I may be a mediocre runner with a shitty ankle and an unnatural fear of falling thanks to said ankle, when it comes to eating, I can claim elite status.

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