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As a kid, I walked the deer trails by our house into the woods all the time.  Never got lost.  Imagined what it would have been like a couple hundred years ago living out in the wilderness and tracking.  I haven’t done that in years.  Once I moved to Indiana I started thinking about property lines and wondering if I would be trespassing by crossing a field.

It turns out I’ve lost some of my navigational abilities and am slightly directionaly challenged.

There were 37 of us who turned out for a practice run for the Planet Adventure Winter Marathon.  The marathon will loop around Eagle Creek State Park 4 times.  It being my first true trail run, I’m opting for quarter marathon, which is what the practice run was.

The forecast for the run start was to be 22 degrees with an 80% chance of snow.  Me being the wimpy runner, I psyched myself up for it and bundled up. Starting from the bottom up I had: two pairs of socks (one summer weight, one a little thicker), my new trail shoes, the fleece lined running tights I found in Florida, long sleeve fitted tech shirt, my NWM finisher’s tech t-shirt, my new fleece wicking jacket, an extra pair of ear covers around my neck, a wicking hat, and my running gloves.  I’m pretty sure I was looking stylish.  And hoping that I would be warm enough, but not too warm by mile 5.

After a group picture, off we went.  Knowing I wasn’t going to be a front-runner, I let most of the pack go ahead of me.  So glad we did the practice run in the daylight.  I now know to hug the right side of the trail for the first half mile, or risk falling in the reservoir.  I was able to see brightly colored jackets in front of me for the first mile and didn’t worry much about where I was going.  Then I lost them.  The person coming up behind me helped me find the route again.  There were a couple of turns I had to break the map out for after that.  Thank goodness for the map.  Mile 2 was a breeze, a straightaway around a lake.  I needed to consult the map again a couple times in mile 3, and even got warm enough to unzip the jacket and take the gloves off.  Then at mile 4 I got completely lost.  I have no idea what happened.  I was doing good.  I even heard and saw the the back of the pack, with a guide, right behind me.  And all of a sudden they were gone.  I couldn’t even see the bright yellow/green jacket in the white snow.

Again I broke out the map.  It’s a marked up copy of a copy of a copy, with our trail highlighted.  But no street names or shelter numbers.  So consulting the map did me no good.  I came up to a street at a point where I didn’t think I should be crossing a street, and had no idea which street it was or where it was on the map.  I followed it for a bit, thinking that I had to cross paths the back of the pack again soon.  I came to a familiar intersection and decided to turn.  I’m glad I turned, otherwise I really would have been going the wrong way.  Not too much further down the road, I came across another path with the snow packed down due to foot traffic.  I took it the way I thought I should go, and ended up right back at the point where I realized I was lost in the first place.  Geesh!  Then I heard people, and saw familiar clothing.  Hooray!  One guy split off from them and was going to take his own way back to the start.  The others in the group kept following the outlined trail.  The guide apparently has this really cool app that tracks the designated trail and shows where she is in relation to it.  I want that app.

Anyhow, so the trail Gill chose just happened to be the one that I was lost on.  He runs the trails there all the time and knows exactly how to get back to where we are going. Me, feeling very inept and ready to be done with the scavenger hunt, went along.  We chatted as we ran, and made the time and last mile go by quickly.  Since neither of us where sticklers on our mileage for the day, we took a short cut and got back to the start at least 15 minutes before the rest of the group.

With it being done and over I’ve come to a couple of realizations:

  1. Trail running is fun and liberating, when you aren’t freezing your tuckus off.  There really is something to being on the trail and figuring your way around.
  2. I’m glad I signed up for the quarter marathon.
  3. Doubly glad I did the practice run in the daylight.  At least I know what I’m up for.
  4. I need that app.
  5. I will be sticking with Jessica for the actual run.
  6. Time on this run does not matter, we just need to make it back to the car.
  7. There will be at least 498 other people on the course on race day, and all of them will have lights.
  8. The winter wear works. The only excuse I have now for not running in the cold is the extra laundry, cause I only have one of these outfits.
  9. There WILL be a hot beverage at the end.

Wish me luck on race day, January 28th!