Text And The Trail

Buckeye Trail after all-night rain

Forty minutes into the woods, well before the planned turn-around point, I abruptly stopped in front of this. Four days earlier, it was soft creek bed with a shallow puddle here and there. Easily passable.

To my neophyte trail-running self, I was now poised in front of the raging, rushing River Styx.

My first impulse was, “OK, adjust plans. Go back 40 minutes to the start and either do a shorter out and back from there repeating this section, or continue for a bit on the next section of the 50K course.”

Immediately, I questioned that. I don’t know much about traversing trails, but I do know that my default is to be overly cautious on them and that I am not naturally nimble. Just a few years ago I busted open both knees when I tripped on the pancake-flat, smooth, easily navigable C & O Towpath. My rear end still has a faint bruise from a spill I took on a much less challenging trail in January.

I wondered what my more experienced ultrarunning friends and mentors like Lloyd and Meredith would do. It occurred to me that I could ask. I pulled out my phone, snapped a photo, and beamed it over to Lloyd.

“Am I supposed to cross this?!?”

“Yes! Don’t wash away.”

“Uhh … here goes nothing.”

I talk to myself a lot on the trail, and launched into a motivational monologue. “OK … you’re just going to do this. Pretend you’re at the beach wading through the surf. This is part of trail running. You might have to do this in the race. What is the worst that could happen? You slip and ruin your cell phone. Hmm, that would be really inconvenient. I hope that doesn’t happen. I won’t let that happen!”

With the new mission to preserve my phone, I plunged a leg into the calf-high creek. It wasn’t deep, but the water was moving and I couldn’t see what I was putting my feet into. Tentatively and slowly, I wobbled across, letting my feet explore the rocks and holes as if they had eyes. I pictured a great photo taken of Lloyd mid-creek during his successful 100-mile run attempt. He strides confidently, leaning forward, his skilled posture announcing, “I am parting these waters!”

Then I tried to picture how I looked at that moment. Unsure, unbalanced, with arms and fingers splayed out Karate Kid-style for balance, as if I could grab the air to steady myself. Had I not been concentrating so hard on avoiding a spontaneous swim, I would have laughed out loud at the image.

A few hesitant steps later, my feet reappeared before me on the wet, muddy bank.

My phone had survived the crossing bone dry, so I pried it out of my shorts pocket to let Lloyd know of my safe passage. I tried to sound nonchalant.

“Not so bad.”

Having got my feet wet with water crossings, there was nothing else to do but continue forward.

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1 Response to “Text And The Trail”


  1. 1 Meredith July 9, 2008 at 4:05 pm

    Good job! I am not fond of water crossings and had nightmares about crossing the American River at Western States! lol.


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