Saturday, March 19, 2011

Trail Run at John Muir Woods

This is my first post in about 2 weeks. That's the longest I've gone without posting since I started this blog back in May 2010 so sorry for those of you who are regular followers. (In my head, I imagine people eagerly awaiting posts, scratching their heads wondering what is that crazy bison girl up to that she can't post. Ha, if you are that person, I applaud you;) )

Anyway, the reason for my absence is two-fold. First off, I was knee-deep in the winter blues. February and March are not good months to be in Chicago. They are dark, cold and gray, and no snow (snow is the only good thing about a winter climate, in my opinion). That plus a horrible work schedule, no vacation in the near future to look forward to, and my bi-annual 'I-hate-being-a-doctor-why-did-I-lock-myself-into-this-awful-career-choice'-fest left me pretty down in the dumps.

Then, just when I started feeling better, our computer's mouse crapped out on us. So, I'm on borrowed time on a borrowed computer, so probably should be brief (we'll see about that).

But today is the glorious first day of a TWO-DAY WEEKEND!!! Crazy! 48 entire hours without having to go to work. Precious and few (isn't that the title of a bad '70s love song?). So, how did I spend it? Running, of course.

After 5 years of running up and down the Chicago Lakefront Path over and over, I'm getting a bit bored. So I grabbed my (new!, will post about later) Garmin, my Nathan hydration pack and hopped in the car for a 2 hour trip up to the John Muir Trail near Whitewater, Wisconsin. This trail is in the southern section of Kettle Moraine State Park. I was looking to run part of the Ice Age Trail (which I learned about because of the Ice Age Trail Ultra that takes place yearly in May), but found the JM trail nearby.

I found the place w/o trouble, and paid my $10 (!!) daily trail use fee for non-WI residents. I planned to run for ~3 hours. I'd say my running hasn't been going well lately, but in reality, it's just not "going" at all. Especially long runs. I haven't done a true long run in weeks and with my 'tune-up' marathon on 4/30, I really need to get my butt in gear. I hoped a nice, chill trail run would do the trick.

The JM trial is mostly for mountain bikers- lots of technical single-track- but bikes aren't allowed there during the 'spring thaw' so I had the place to myself. I started with my ipod but quickly realized how absurd that was- I so rarely get to be in nature - I shouldn't waste my sense of hearing on music! So I quickly turned it off and took in the sounds of the forest. Lots of little creatures (squirrels, 'munks) skeedaddling around. Every once in a while, a plane would fly overhead. Otherwise, just the sound of my breathing and my shoes getting sucked into the mud.

Oh, the mud. I figured Wisconsin in March would be muddy. I figured there would also be snow. But I wasn't really prepared for the mud/ice combo (no snow, mind you) that I encountered on the trail. I spent A LOT of time walking/sliding and grabbing trees so I wouldn't fall down hills. I also spent a lot of time laughing at myself. So what I had initially hoped would be about a 13-15 mile run ended up being only 5.48 miles @ about 14 min/mile pace.

Here's the scene: I'm running along, at a comfortable pace, soft mud flipping off the back of my shoes onto my favorite lululemon tights (why didn't I wear old ones?). All of a sudden, the path changes from mud to ice strip. Since the ice strip has some mud on the side I figure I'm good- slidy ice steps with my right foot, stabilize myself in the mud with my left foot. Right, slide, left, stabilize, right, slide, left stabilize, right ssllliiidddeeee- oh-my! my-left-foot-can't-reach-the-mud. Oh no! Left, ice, right, ice, sliding, sliding, shouting (in my head) Val slow down! There's a sharp curve ahead, I'm on a downhill, to the right is a drop off, to the left are huge muddy puddles (ankle deep, no can do), so I slide and slide and ......god I don't want to fall out here, I'm a ways from the car.....Aha! Glorious, saving tree! And grab! On the tree, not going in the ditch, not going in the mud, not going in a boot due to a broken foot/ankle/leg. Phew!

So, after that happened a few times (I'm a slow learner), I thought I'd better call it quits. (But, only after taking a really goofy picture of myself, see right.) I brought my Yak-trax just in case, but I wasn't sure that would help since they'd get so full of mud so quickly.

Since the main objective of the run was for mental health (the longer I'm in Chicago, the more stir-crazy I get for nature), I saw no need to push it. I'll just get some extra miles in in the morning before spinning....on the ho-hum Lakefront Path:) (I know we are lucky to have that path and that I'm lucky to live literally right next to it, I'm not taking it for granted, really!)

So, I headed home, went grocery shopping and cracked open a bottle of Zinfandel instead:) Not quite as good as a 15 mile run, but it will do:)


  1. Ha - "hug a tree" for an entirely different reason! Sounds like a perfect mental health run - hope your slump is over soon. I do a winter depressive thing, too, but by March it's actually nice here, so mine is January/February.

  2. Sounds like an enjoyable experience, even if it wasn't as long as you were hoping for. The sounds of the forest - one of my favourite things about trail running. I just love hearing my foot steps, the wind, and the sounds of random little animals that are running away from me.