In The Darkness of Winter I Find a Glimmer of Light

With a sense of nausea my eyes opened to the darkness, the sun hasn’t yet risen and a dark grey world greets my foggy mind. Rolling over to peer out of the window a low cloud ceiling has hidden the tops of the hills and the trees appear like spectres. Remorsefully I get out of bed and work my way downstairs to the coffee, already contemplating what today will bring. The frigid cold outside holds the land in check, everything seems lifeless and dead around me.

Sipping on my coffee and slowly eating breakfast I read the news online and catch up on what’s happening on all of the social media platforms, procrastination at it’s finest. This is of course a stall tactic on my part for I loath the idea of going out in to the cold just yet, I can already feel the cold on my face and the burning sensation that comes with it. Glancing outside the window between sips of coffee the mid morning sky had lightened up but not much to my liking, the clouds though thinning have yet to reveal the bright sunny day I had hoped for.
Half a pot of coffee later it seems as if I’m experiencing an out of body experience, watching myself slowly begin changing into my running gear and for the next 20 minutes I try to stop myself but my body continues through the motions, oblivious to my minds protests. Out the door and down the stairs I feel the crunch of the hard snow beneath my feet and the cold air that has already worked its way through the first of three layers of clothing.

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The beginning of these runs are always the same, the breathing is tight and labored from inhaling the icy air, my arms and legs feel stiff and non responsive. In a mile or so my mood will change, my body will warm up and I’ll begin to enjoy the world around me but for know I’m miserable and even while heading out for my run I have no idea where I’m going. Usually I leave with a game plan, to run a certain route and distance, hill-work, speed or tempo work, but today I’m playing a form of Russian Roulette, just letting my body and the land tell me where to run.

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After a half mile of running down the snow and ice covered road I’m approaching the trailhead for the Rosie Creek Trail system a recent favorite place to run for me, but the trail’s been very soft lately and difficult to run. Just as I am about to pass the trail access point, unexplainably I find myself running down the trail ducking low tree branches, skirting overflow ice and hopping over patches of soft snow. Running down the trail I still have no idea where I’m going and in three miles I’ll hit an intersection and another decision will have to be made, but for now I’m enjoying the moment as best as I can trudging along this soft trail and feeling like every step is in quicksand.

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As I slowly approached the main intersection the trail was improving and becoming more firm and my spirits were lifting, I was beginning to have fun! At the intersection I stopped to pull a soft water flask from beneath my clothing to get in some warm fluids before setting back off, I had learned to heat the water up in the microwave for a minute so when I was out here the water will not have turned to ice or become unbearably cold while drinking.

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I set off again, a couple of choices had faced me at that intersection; turn left heading down to the beaver pond a half mile away and end up on Rosie Creek Trail rd. and the 4 mile road run returning me to my home or turn right heading towards Christmas Tree Trail and the junction to the remaining Rosie Creek Trail. I turned right immediately, the thought of running on the road sickened me but just as I began running again not even a quarter of a mile later I have to make another decision at the junction of Christmas Tree and Rosie Creek and once again unconsciously my body made the choice for me, I was heading out the Rosie Creek Trail and to what ever was ahead.

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The trail was super soft, the soft snow kicking me left and right on the trail as I fight to maintain my balance, thankful that it was slightly downhill taking a bit of the stress off of me but I neglected to consider the battle I would have on the return trip later on. I began climbing up a small section of hills just as the trail began to firm back up and I finally ascended above the maze of trees I’ve been enclosed in all morning. This grey world was beautiful to me for some reason, every shade of grey imaginable was laid out before me like a delicate black and white photograph in my hands.

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The world was still and quiet, unchanged from the moment I stepped out the door, but now everything was different. I was in my element, far out on a trail running through a world that few can understand and every breath was fresh and new, a sense of calm washed over me as I continued on down the trail. Rounding the property of Rosie Creek Farms a series of short steep climbs woke me from my meditative state leaving me to power hike the steep pitches of soft snow, sucking in as much air as I could manage. Eventually I made the turn for the Overland Trail, having never ran on this trail before I didn’t know what to expect aside for knowing that this trail pretty much goes on to the south linking up with other trails after the Tanana River and stretching off into the horizon.

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I knew however where I would end, about a mile up the Lake Trail. I was 6.5 miles into my run and standing there on the Lake Trail having just passed the lake my time was up, I needed to get home. I was sad that I couldn’t continue on up trail to join the connecting trails that would lead me to Wood Rd a trail that would eventually bring me back around to the trail Pagh Rd and linking me back up to the first section of Rosie Creek Trail and finally home all told roughly 15 miles but there was a lot of climbing involved in the next few miles requiring much more time than I had in addition to a few more extra miles.

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Sipping from my rapidly depleting water supply I took a moment to breathe and enjoy where I had found myself, loving how regardless of the mood I am in, regardless of how I feel about the weather or anything, this place always brings me back to the awareness of why I run trails. Turning away and heading back I settled in for the slow soft conditions and followed my footsteps home.

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