The word of the day is MUD.
Torrential rains last night, coupled with un-July-like rain over the past few days, have left the trails soft in places and downright wet and gooey in others.
My first indication of what was to come lay 25 yards from the trailhead, hidden from view. A ten-foot long puddle of water covered the single-track up to the weeds’ edge. I circled the water and resumed my slow pace. The mud was clinging to the bottom of my shoes already, adding weight and throwing me off balance.
The trail was empty, save for the footprints I left in the soft dirt. My breath evened out and I settled into an easy 9-minute pace. Every so often I came across the tiny tracks in the mud of the bunnies and deer that frequent the area.
The Garmin announced the one-mile mark when I was halfway across the bridge. Water flowed underneath with about three feet to spare, running swiftly through the streambed and spilling into tributaries that meandered into neighboring fields. The soaked wooded slats made a muffled noise and bent slightly under my weight as I ran, adding a new rhythm to the soft roar of the rushing water.
The sun peeked through the lingering clouds that sat still and high in the east. Raindrops glistened in the early morning sunlight and I remembered my sunglasses; time to take them off the brim of my hat and utilize them.
The weeds were overgrown on the path and brushed up against my legs. As I climbed the trail to the water tower I had to constantly adjust my stride and place on the uneven path. The rushing water from the night before had washed the top layer of dirt from the trail, leaving swirls of debris and deep cuts in the single-track.
The trail undulated and as I made a sharp hairpin turn my feet slipped on the slick mud, as though I were in a car and the tires were bald. I kept going straight even though my body was trying to turn, and I slid off the path into a patch of weeds. Thankfully the green growing things that sprouted from the ground provided traction for the knobs of my shoes, and I regained control as I skidded to a stop. Looking backwards, I saw the deep footprints that showed my lack of turning radius, now memorialized in the mud until the next big rainstorm.
I took a slug of water from my handheld bottle, wiped the sweat from my upper lip, and continued on my journey. I hadn’t been to the water tower in months, and it would be good to see what North Boulder looked like on this wet July morning.
The mud was more frequent on this section of trail, and it slowed my normally slow uphill pace even further. I wouldn’t be breaking any records on this run. Thankfully, there was no one there to push pace; this was a trail run for the sheer enjoyment of seeing the morning after a hard rain.
A few miles later I coasted into the lollipop of the loop. The trail was damp but not soggy, and there was no standing water. My hip flexors appreciated the break from the uphill running, and I relaxed into a gentle pace. The weeds brushed up against my shins and calves from time to time, almost as though the earth were petting me and saying Hello.
Back at the stem of the lollipop I headed back to the trailhead. Five miles down and three to go; an easy 5k was all that remained. My stomach was starting to feel a little empty after being awake for two hours and not having any caloric intake for the past 12 hours. A quick glance at the Garmin told me that I was slowing down; my blood sugar level was dropping. Other than a minor loss of speed I felt okay though, and didn’t worry about minimal bonking.
The last mile was unadulterated enjoyment. I passed a few people that were just beginning their run, and one that was enjoying his (medical?) marijuana as he climbed the trail to take in the view. The pungent smell wafted after me and threatened to give me a contact high. Ah, mornings on the trails of Boulder…
The last 100 yards of trail contained that initial surge of soggy mud, and my shoes picked up another full load. I skittered into the parking lot and scared a family of cottontails into taking cover in the tall weeds. The Garmin said that this was one of my slowest trail runs to date; it was time to go home. No time to stretch and wait for my body temperature to drop into the normal range; I would just have to sweat it out in the car and hope I didn’t get too much of my stink on the upholstery.
The drive home was happiness on the open road. My arm hung out the open window and the filtered sunlight warmed my salty skin. The wind blew through my sweat-soaked hair and cooled my forehead. I daydreamed about which beverage I would drink after my first huge glass of water… would it be coffee or tea? Choices, choices… the day is a plethora of choices. Today I chose to get up and take a solitary run on a rain-soaked trail. I hope all of today’s choices are as fabulous as this one.