I hit the road. I start out with a brisk walk. Put the I-pod on shuffle. I pace myself to the variety of the music’s speed. It breaks up the monotony of the flat road stretched out before me.
I’ve never run 10 miles before. Never even walked it.
Today looks like rain–a bit chilly out. Muscles ache from yesterday’s exertion.
Maybe I’ll scrap this idea. Bake the perfect chocolate cake instead. No. Better run.
Load up on carbs, and caffeine and H20. More for the road as well. I’ll bury it two miles into the route in the snow so I can rehydrate on the way back.
It’s a ten miles plus rails-to-trails road.** But I will go out five and turn around. The sun is starting to pop out. What if I injure myself and have to hobble back? I didn’t bring my cell. What if I overdo it so much that I put myself out of commission? Face the fear. It’ s all about those fears and little roadblocks that seem like mountains but are really only molehills. The fear of them builds their grandness.
I-pod starts out with MGMT’s ‘Future Reflections’ a perfect metaphor for the moment. A mid-tempo piece to warm up. It rolls along. Sun is coming out, future looks bright…puts a spring in my step.
‘Also Frightened’, by Animal Collective. Still walking. Now beginning to run. Still warming up—will be for the next 20 minutes or so. This feat will take three hours. Slow, I admit, but this isn’t a race, it’s a challenge to myself-I’m facing my fears. ‘Are you also frightened?…Are you also frightened?..’ the refrain repeats and I don’t know if it’s the beautiful harmonies or the idea that strikes a deep chord in my heart the most. I mean, aren’t we all frightened? And not willing to admit it? The emotion of the song makes me teary eyed and energized. It spurs me on.
The birds are coming back. Sandhill cranes, the swans that never left, Canadian geese, wild turkeys. They’re all squawking and mate-calling amongst themselves. The turkeys and cranes share the cornfields’ leftovers from last season. They seem to get along.
Sometimes I turn off my I-pod entirely. To take in nature. There are bluebird houses scattered along the length of the trail. They will soon be filling up with new residents. The trail cuts through a lake…on the old railroad bed…literally cuts the lake in two. A few ice fishers–two men and a boy–brave the ever thinning ice. I wonder if they simply enjoy this pastime or actually need to economize by eating their catch. I wish I had my camera…it’s a perfect Michigan late winter scene.
This whole area is where the headwaters for the Kalamazoo River begin which feeds into Lake Michigan. Great for birdwatching. A lot of wetlands abound here and today I see my first garter snake of the spring sunning itself on the trail. Often, the babies get run over by the speedracers and I’m always picking up their little flattened bodies and fertilizing the grass with them. Otherwise, I try to shoo the bigger, still alive ones off the trail. I know, I’m nuts. But I can’t help it. The first year the trail opened I saw a four-foot blue racer literally make a blue streak across the trail ahead of my bike. I didn’t know we had snakes that big in Michigan. I haven’t seen the likes of him since.
All of a sudden, I’ m almost 4 miles out without even realizing it. It’s starting to look like I will accomplish this thing.
Erykah Badu comes on. Good song to sing along to. ‘One day, all them bags goin’ git in your way so…pack light.’ Reminds me of my recent commitment to minimize belongings this year. ‘Betcha love can make it better…’Running is so good for clearing one’s head and making you remember the essentials.
On the other side of this lake I will reach the bench at the five-mile mark. I’ll stop and stretch, adjust my socks, retie my shoes and finish my Power bar. I am elated with the thought that now the feat is no longer out of reach, but will be fairly easily accomplished. After all I only have to retrace my steps home now. I lie on my back for a moment on the bench and do a few stretches. I jump up and head back.
I am mixing running and walking by the point. Sometimes I even walk backward, skip or do some traveling pas de bourres/grapevine steps to give my various leg muscles a rest. I let the music dictate the moves. I pass by the ice fishers on the return. They are still hunched over their poles on their buckets in the now lightly falling rain. Feels refreshing to me. Back on the other side of the lake, I’ll take a quick pee in the port-a-potty, too many folks out today to do it in nature. At that point, I’ll be at the four-mile mark and more than halfway home.
I pass a couple of short stretches where country roads cross and I look for traffic. On the corner sits a house where they have built up a mounded wall with an oversupply of ‘No Trespassing’ signs on their property…which consists of a lot of empty truck trailers, old cars and trucks, some four-wheeler trails and, well, junk. It’s not that inviting. I theorize that they are amongst a few of the locals who opposed the trail to begin with. People who use the trail are more interested in bird watching, exercising, weekend warrioring and such–not in trespassing. There were rumors, when they started grading for the trail, that some folks actually tried to sabotage it with rolling boulders and the like on to it. The sheriff apparently came out and set them straight. Told them that they would be in violation of destructing state property and punished accordingly. That pretty much took care of that.
In just a few months, box turtles will start to build nests in the stones and grass beside the trail. They’ll be digging their holes to lay their eggs, bury them, and leave them to their fate. They’ll be lucky if the raccoons don’t get them all. Today, that grass comes in handy as I give my starting -to -be sore soles a rest by alternating between running on the blacktop and the brown, spongy soil mixed with early yellow-green sprouts.
I am on the last stretch. It’s a very gradual, uphill grade and although I’m starting to feel the exertion, that last half Powerbar and the knowledge that in a few more miles I’ll be able to retrieve my stowed water bottle make this stretch a little easier.
The trail is well marked with nice wooden posts at each half-mile point. At intervals, there are also green, plastic-coated, woven steel benches and trash barrels behind one of which I have stowed the water bottle. Its orange label pokes its head out of the last bit of snow. Two miles from home and I’m glad about it.
A few more Animal Collective tunes, ‘My Girls’…’I don’t mean to seem like I care about material things…like social status. All I want is four walls and adobe slats for my girls…’
As I near the last mile I go all out with their, ‘Brothersport’…fast paced and electronic trance-driven beat to carry me home. It’s my victory dance and I slam my fist into the air for this something new accomplishment.
Later, I’ll treat myself to a martini.
**For any of you living in the Jackson County, Michigan area or are within driving distance, here’s the link to this rails-to-trails park.