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Run 21: Bluffs, Mud, Perfect

March 19, 2012

Miles: 11

Other runners: no

Bird-watchers: 3

I ran this morning at Devil’s Lake State Park, my favorite place in all the world. I swam there every summer with my family, and when I grew older, I hiked the Tumbled Rocks trail with friends on snowy evenings and ran the Ice Age trail on sweaty afternoons. In 2010 I married Bijan on a grassy stretch below the east bluff. When I was lonely in China, I wrote about Devil’s Lake- the way the ice sounded like bells as it broke and splashed against the stone barrier walls; the eerie swirls of snow that danced across the frozen water; the eagles and vultures and clouds of swallows that spun above the tall pines.

There are two loops east of the main park area; sometimes I’ll run one, sometimes both. They stretch up the bluff and down it, through marshland, across open prairie and in and out of the woods. The only two times I’ve ever backtracked on a run occurred on those loops. The first time was for a swarm of wasps, the second for a groundhog. Wasps and bees are two things I’m actually not afraid of, but a mass of them across the trail is remarkably threatening. And a groundhog, it turns out, can change from a sweetly sleeping cuddle-bug to alarmingly awake and mad in a flash. Both times, I turned around.

There was nothing of the sort today, just wind and storm clouds. I’m training for a marathon now, so I ran with the proverbial monkey on my back for at least an hour. Given I was wearing a geeky back-pack with water and a smart phone (this is not the place for proprietary name-dropping, but it was tracking my run), the monkey felt pretty real. How fast am I running? How far is this? Will I be able to run like this for four hours? And that’s right: I was incredibly, pathetically, willfully proud when I entered the race, and I signed up for  the sub-4 hour category. Four hours is more than do-able on a flat surface, but this little marathon is a trail on a hilly island. Sub-4?

In any case, I ran hard for about two hours, then took a side trail and lost my shoes. Twice! It was much muddier than expected, and any stress about pace and distance slipped away as my run morphed into a strange hop-gallop-walk through puddles and muck. The mud completely enveloped my feet, and I laughed every time I lunged forward and fell out of my stuck shoes. It was a noisy, muddy run, and I was startled later to find that I hadn’t been so slow, and that I had gone so far, and that it didn’t really matter.

I also saw a fox, and crows so many shades of black they looked blue.

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One Comment
  1. i love this blog. i am going to visit devil’s lake to see foxes and crows so many shades of black they look blue.

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