The one less traveled, for sure…

  

Umm…who else sees a perfectly fine trail here? (to the left…)

So I’m hanging out at my cousin’s for a bit in MD before flying out to Korea on Sunday…and of course, must get in my runs. She lives very close to Rock Creek Trail which I’ve run before but only on the DC side. Needless to say, I was pretty excited to explore! I knew it would be paved trail and lately that’s all I’ve been running…well, that and the local middle and high school tracks.  (Yep, I’m one of those BQ coveters and working on my speed endurance.)

 What I learned yesterday though is not so deep in my heart and soul, the unmarked, rough looking trail excites me more than the paved and civilized known way. I can’t help but venture off into the unknown. Something about the navigation required underfoot and through unpredictable elevation and terrain provides me the energy needed to get through it. I feel light, alive, oxygenated!   

I love the improvisation, the absolute need to stop thinking because you must pay attention to the rocks, tree trunks, twigs, branches, and unsavory looking dudes drinking cans of lite beer and smoking ganja mid-day. Oops, yes this did happen! Good thing I know how to keep cool and incapacitate grown men with my bare hands if I must. #usmctrained 

I had a 6 mile MP run on the schedule and was feeling pretty awesome when I left my cousin’s house. I had just finished a 2 day deep cleanse on Sunday/Monday, with a steamy 18 miler in the books on Sunday! My calves have been consistently swollen, tight,  and crampy for weeks, so I was SHOCKED that they felt just fine only 2 days after the long run. Not only did my calves feel awesome, I felt clear mentally, my vision was sharp and I was ready to give my coach what he’s been waiting on for weeks now. Just a tiny 3 mile block at marathon pace. It doesn’t seem all that hard and I’ve done it before…and then some!!!  

Speedier days before gastroc (calf) tear

But, I’ve been failing to produce! And now, I’ve got some weird mental block about it…and it doesn’t help that it usually feels close to 100 degrees with the ungodly levels of humidity! So…yesterday, I’m feeling pretty confident despite the 84% humidity…and dummy me seems to be going out right after high noon these days. First warmup mile is right under 10min/mi.  Feeling awesome! No cramping, lots of energy but wow…major sweatfest and I am one of those Asian women that don’t sweat much nor do I ever have to wear deodorant. #TMI 

Even my forearms were sweating!

Mile 2 warmup pace about the same as mile 1, a tad slower to recover a tiny bit before marathon pace from miles 3-5…but then what appears right before my wandering eyes?!!!!!  A tiny beckoning of a “real trail”…a mere suggestion of an entrance into the woods. But I just couldn’t help myself!

I 💚 trail running! 

To give myself a little credit for wanting to stick to the plan, I did consider the option of staying on the paved trail…for at least 5 seconds before I shot off..like a shot?  LOL

I had my run-in early on the trail with the unsavory but harmless dudes and kept running a bit further up and deeper in. I stayed on for about 2 miles and ended up coming out onto the paved trail once again, which looked familiar and I started the run back to the house.  I was a bit discombobulated and ran past the turnoff onto the main road!  And at this point, I had 3 droplets of water left. 

Excited to find a patch of bamboo although I didn’t recognize it at all, I had to take a runfie.  Oops, I’ve lost my way! I did one of those, let me run back and forth on the same patch of trail so I can figure out where I went wrong and then I got distracted a second time…

 And another time…

 
I knew I couldn’t be completely lost so just kept my Garmin running and didn’t stress about the much slower pace.  

 

As trite as it sounds, if I had stayed on the paved trail, I wouldn’t have found all the sweet little spots of enjoyment. The planned 6 miles turned to 8 and not more, thanks to the only other runner I ran into on the trail!  Yes, I actually stopped him to ask for directions but not enough guts to ask him for water! LOL. (After chitchatting, he asks me why I just didn’t use my GPS!  Duhhh…but that wouldn’t have been nearly as fun!)

I look back at my unconventional life and perhaps I’ve made some peace with my inability to stay on the traditional “paved” path. I can only sit in gratitude and marvel at the unconventional yet priceless payoffs of having taken the road less traveled. Even at 44, there is still so much to do and explore. Bring on Kilimanjaro! And damn that Robert Frost, he was right.   

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