Posted tagged ‘Indian Creek Trail’

bits and pieces

June 21, 2021

The photo above is one I took out at Roundrock back in 2007, on a wet July day. There was water on my gravel road, and these bubbles were rising continuously in one small pool. I understand this is tessellation, which is an arrangement of shapes closely fitted together without gaps or overlapping. I didn’t notice until now, fourteen years later, that there is a tiny grasshopper in the photo at the lower left. I wonder what it’s doing today.

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I found a sentence I wrote in Obelus that is 238 words long, with one colon, 14 commas, and four parenthetical phrases. The word “pausing” appears in it five times. The narrative voice is supposed to be self conscious and even playful, so I don’t consider this monstrosity to be out of order. Perhaps it’s a kind of verbal tessallation. And it ain’t nothing compared to the 1,287-word sentence in Absalom, Absalom that Faulkner wrote (and I managed to read after two tries).

Also, the word “potentate” occurs four times in Obelus.

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The forays into my old journals continue. 1984 was a productive year it seems. I’m getting reacquainted with old story ideas I had, even well-developed plots for novels that never happened. But what strikes me most about these visits is getting lost memories sparked again. I found an entry recounting a particularly vivid dream I had had, and as I read my old account of it, the memory of the dream came back to me as though it had happened only last night. The same has been true with most of the general musings I’d had. I read this or that random thought and remember it fully now. That’s interesting and all, but what’s more interesting to me is that without these triggers, I think those memories would be lost to me forever. And if they were, would part of my make up be erased?

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I rode the 26-mile route on the Indian Creek and Blue River Trails on Saturday morning. It was already 81 degrees when I got to the start at 5:00 a.m., and I worried that it would be a bad ride. But the sun stayed behind the clouds most of the time, and by constantly moving, I had a nice breeze, so I was never hot. This was the first time this year that I’d ridden that route. A number of factors had conspired to prevent me before including the weather (flooded/muddy/messy trail) and my pit crew being in St. Louis on some ideal weekends (or me choosing to go to the cabin instead). But all that gave way last weekend and I got going.

About nine miles into my ride, I came upon this:

An immense red oak had fallen in the night and blocked the trail. (We didn’t have bad weather, and the tree looked to be healthy. But it came out, roots and all.) These things happen on the trail, and usually there is a way around them, but this one was more of a challenge. I ended up carrying my bike on my shoulder and stepping branch to branch on the left side of this photo. My feet never touched the ground until I was on the other side. And I only got a slight laceration on my left calf. But then it was back to riding.

I expected to have trouble completing the ride since I hadn’t ridden that distance since sometime last fall, but it all went smoothly. I did get a little tired near the end, but I attribute that to having been away from it so long. My legs never tired (though my quads got very tight and I decided to foam roll them when I got home), and my heart and lungs were in the game the entire time. So now I look forward to riding the route again.

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I am still wearing a mask when I go to public places even though I’ve been fully vaccinated. My county, purple in a red state, mostly well educated, and fairly affluent, still reports that less than half of the eligible population is fully vaccinated and just over half have had both shots. I don’t know what that’s about. A neighboring city (well, three hours away) is reporting an upsurge in COVID cases because of prevailing resistance to the vaccination. As the last election showed, they live among us, and they are more common than believed.

all that and breakfast! ~ part two

July 2, 2019

Continuing my thrilling account from yesterday, the point where I had failed a third time on a hill happened to be, ironically, beside milepost 3. So I had ridden 17 miles by then, and the intensely focused chaffing had been my companion for nearly that long, but I began to consider the possibility that I could do this thing and in fact nearly had.

So onward. About a mile ahead a massive water (sewage) treatment plant is being rebuilt, and because the trail passes close to it, that part of the trail is currently closed (in fact, gone altogether). This requires a detour, but it happens that a spur of the trail, in exactly the right place to do this, had been there for years. I knew the route; I’d run or ridden on it a few times. It added a half mile or so to my distance, but I still wasn’t feeling any serious fatigue. I was, however, feeling a little worry as I remembered that this detour connects with the end of the Tomahawk Creek Trail, at the point where it joins the Indian Creek Trail. And what is notable about this junction is that it is just below one of the serious hills along that part of the trail.

I had ridden up this hill before, and it’s not long, but near the top you pass under a busy road and for some reason, the trail is really bumpy just as you come out from the darkness, still ascending the last twenty feet of the hill. When I did this on Sunday, there were two runners there, which required me to steer to the outside (cliffside) of the trail, but that wasn’t bad because the pavement was actually smoother there.

And after this, another long downhill with gentle curves that were fun to lean into, followed by a trail bridge to cross. And then I was rejoining the part of the trail that the original trail would have taken me to had there been no detour. And there on my left was milepost 1. I had gone 19 miles that morning, and while I was beginning to feel the heat finally, I knew I had it in me to keep going.

This part of the trail goes through a nice park with lots of activities including fishing, a large pool, tennis, and various ball fields. It’s fun to watch the little ones chasing around after a soccer ball when I pass, but it was too early on a Sunday morning for that, and I zipped along. One other activity at this park is an off-leash area for dogs, which meant that for a while I was sharing the trail with humans who held dogs on leashes. Most are aware of the need to share the trail, and all of them held their dogs close as I passed, but it’s always a possibility that a dog will stray into my path or lunge at me. But I made it through without mishap, and soon I passed milepost .5.

This was part of my Sunday-morning route when I was running so much. I knew what was ahead, including passing under the interstate a third time, and then a slight rise onto a bridge at State Line Road, where I would pass into Missouri and pass milepost 0.0. Not far ahead.

And I did. I’d ridden 20 miles that morning!

But the trail didn’t stop there, and neither did I. The Indian Creek Trail continues in Missouri for about three miles, and since my goal was to ride the entire length of the trail, I continued into Missouri as well.

The nicest waterfall along the whole trail comes soon after this. It was the site of a watermill back in settlement days, and some of the structure of the mill is still visible right beside the bike trail. Because the rains had stopped a few days before, the waterfall was not as impressive as usual (or as frightening as recently), and I didn’t want to stop anyway, so I rode on.

The trail here is good and bad. There is one turn that is insanely bad, and while I’ve never had a mishap there, I suspect others have. You come down a steep hill to make a hard left turn. There are large rocks piled on each side of the trail, and the outside of this turn has a “curb” about four inches high. If you don’t turn tightly enuf (after coming down that hill) and hit that curb, you’re likely to get thrown from your bike and onto the rocks. I’m really surprised it’s allowed to remain in this dangerous shape.

But I survived the turn by squeezing my brakes and creeping along, and then it was back to mostly smooth, mostly level asphalt. The next mile or so passes under two major roads, and the recent floods along the creek had left lots of mud beneath the bridges. Most of that has been scraped away, but there are places where the mud, furrowed by bike tires, has dried, and if you hit these unaware (such as passing from intense light to sudden dark), you can get thrown into one of these furrows, whether you’re balanced for that or not.

Although I have ridden along here a couple of times, I had only run this far once, so I wasn’t as familiar with this part of the trail. There was a point where the trail was fenced off because the stream (ten feet below) had eroded the bank such that the asphalt seemed to be suspended in the air. Fortunately, other riders had made an obvious path in the grass beside this, a path I suspect the city will use when it redirects this part of the trail.

I was passing mileposts along here — it seems that Missouri wants to help you calculate your distance better because they have a post every two-tenths of a mile. I still wasn’t seeing a lot of people on the trail. In part because it was still relatively early in the morning but also, I think, because the heat was getting serious. At around mile 2.4 into Missouri, I first felt real fatigue. I had known for a long while that I was getting tired, but I always felt that I had the energy/drive/foolishness to press on. At this point, though, I began to question that. I think in part this was due to riding a long stretch in the sun. Most of the Missouri part of the trail to this point had no shade. But I was so close to reaching my goal, and I knew that cool(er) shade was ahead, so I didn’t relent (though the part of me that was trying to convince me it was my rational self was also trying to convince me to stop).

Things get a little confused here. Not in my head, but on the trail. While the maps all say that the Indian Creek Trail continues for about three miles into Missouri, the trailside mileposts had begun calling it the Blue River Trail. So had I ridden the entire distance of the Indian Creek Trail? Or did I have more to go despite what the trail signs said (every two-tenths of a mile)?

It didn’t matter because when I had decided to ride the entire distance of the ICT, I had also decided to ride the entire distance of the BRT (which from this point is only about four miles).

The Blue River Trail is a nice place to ride. It’s still new, and while runners with working lower joints don’t prefer it, it’s paved with concrete rather than asphalt, which makes cycling easier. Except for the half mile that isn’t paved at all but is still gravel. But while that was rough for a little while, I kept on, and soon my tires kissed concrete again. I passed twice (thrice?) under railroad tracks, and the approach from both directions had steel canopies over them. I suppose trains can rain down gravel, which wouldn’t be good to hit your head even if you were wearing a helmet. (I was wearing a helmet.) These canopied stretches were also fenced, which I suppose is somehow related to the safety requirements of the railroads.

But onward. Soon I passed under the interstate for the fourth time that morning and was in a large park with lakes and ball fields and an RC field and picnic shelters and one of two cricket pitches along the trail. (The other is near the beer school I attend.) A game (match?) was underway, with shouting and cheering in a language I did not know.

I was tired. I was nearly done, but I could feel what I had done. My legs were angry with me, and I found that standing on my pedals, while challenging my balance, actually felt very good in my legs. So in the last mile or so, I did that whenever I could (tugging down that faulty bit of wardrobe too).

When I saw the tennis courts ahead, I knew I had nearly reached the end of the trail. (Actually, no. The trail continues off the pavement through forest and field, but that’s not for me or for my bike.) I could see the parking lot that marked the terminus of the trail. I had ridden 27 miles that morning. And just as I approached the very end of the asphalt, the very end of the trail and the parking lot where I could finally stop and call my goal achieved, a park service vehicle pulled into the space and parked, directly blocking my way. I couldn’t ride to the physical the end of the trail.

Fortunately, as I looked to the left, I saw the Prolechariot parked in the shade nearby. I cut across the grass and rode over there. My wife emerged from the air conditioning as I stopped beside my truck, and then I just stood there for a long time. My legs were grateful to be fully extended again and the rest of me was too tired to do anything. I just stood in the shade and managed to make some semi-coherent conversation. Soon my wife asked me if I was ever going to dismount, and I guess I must have because I remember lifting my bike into the bed of my truck (with what strength?).

I didn’t make an exact note of the time I began or the time I finished, but approximately two and a half hours had passed. I don’t think the time lost to stopping three times (or the turn I missed that added maybe a quarter mile to my distance) added much to that time. And I don’t know if that time was respectable or not. I just know I did it.

My wife had a big glass of ice water waiting in the truck for me, and I sucked it down as we drove home. But in my running days, after I’d complete a half marathon, I would treat myself to blueberry pancakes. This seemed like a comparable accomplishment (or at least a credible excuse).

The problem was, I was a sweaty, stinking mess dressed in wet plastic clothing (including a large hole in an unfortunate place) with hair flying everywhere. That meant our usual breakfast retreats were out, so if this was going to happen, we needed to find an informal place with outdoor seating. Fortunately, there was one not far from our house, and while I suspect their typical demographic probably wears red caps with white acronyms written on them, we tried it.

I was disappointed. The pancakes tasted like biscuits, big biscuits. I couldn’t finish them. And they were not prompt with the iced tea (unsweetened, of course).

But then I was home. The bike was hung again from the garage ceiling (with what strength?) and the truck was parked below it. I was soon in the shower, stinging where the hot water found a certain chaffed place, then into loose-fitting, cotton clothes and a day of indolence. All this before many people have even gotten out of bed on a Sunday morning.

Later that day, I crashed hard. I very suddenly felt weak, and I began sweating all over, even on the top of my head. Unfortunately, I was at the grocery store when this happened. I managed to get home, but the rest of the afternoon and evening was lost. I sat around, too tired to do anything. The weakness and cold sweats eventually passed, but the absolute exhaustion stayed with me until my even-earlier-than-usual bedtime.

I’m glad I did it, and I want to do it again. But first I need to get my bike in the shop for a tune up. It doesn’t shift well from third to second, and the gears make far too much noise as I pedal (compared to everyone I pass or who passes me on the trail). And the front brake screams when I apply it. And I’m worth a good bike if I’m going to keep riding.*

*My bike is hardly top of the line, but it wasn’t cheap, and in my running days I could easily spend as much on new shoes in a single year as I spent on my bike.

all that and breakfast! ~ part one

July 1, 2019

The incessant rain of recent weeks around here has been replaced with punishing heat. Cloudless skies rain down scorching heat as though some cosmic balancing mechanism has been turned off.

It’s not so bad on the biking trail, though. As long as I keep moving, the breeze evaporates my sweat and seems to keep me cool. I know where all of the (working) water fountains are on the trail, and the hills (for the most part) are manageable. There is a lot of shade and even relatively cool tunnels under major roads. And of late, my rides have taken me to a particular destination where I get to pursue the edifying effort of learning about the many kinds of beer in the world. I haven’t even once veered off the trail and into the creek from heat-induced delirium or clutched my chest after getting up (or not) a bad hill.

In my years I have run or ridden on every bit of the Indian Creek Trail, a riparian, asphalt quality-of-life “park” maintained by the various communities it passes through. And like the song says of Lake Shore Drive, it passes from rats on up to riches (and then more rats).* And I can say, very literally, that I have spent thousands of miles on this trail, running and riding.

So it came to pass in my little head that I should ride the entire trail in one continuous effort. The trail has mileposts on it, so I knew with pretty good accuracy the total distance, which is only a few miles greater than the longest ride I’d done to date. I thought I could do it.

The only trouble was the brutal heat. (Yes, by August a 90-degree day will feel pleasant, but in June that’s still a bit high.) As I said, as long as I keep moving, the breeze keeps me cool, but I suspect that’s a deceptive cool, especially if relied upon for a long-haul effort like the entire trail. And my solution was to get on the trail at first light, before the heat fell onto the asphalt trail. I’d been toying with this idea for a few weeks, and I realized that if I put it off much longer, the first-light heat of the morning might be worse, so yesterday became the day.

I had discussed my idea with my wife (my ground crew) before and suggested that yesterday would be the time to do it. When I woke that morning, I was ambivalent, but she seemed charged, so I slid into some plastic clothing (from my running days) and loaded my bike in the back of the Prolechariot. We drove out to the current terminus of the trail, at a place called Hampton Park in the suburban town of Olathe (which figures prominently in the settlement history in this part of the country). The mileposts on the Indian Creek Trail count up from State Line Road (thus from Missouri), and the nearest one to Hampton Park is mile 19, so I called the Park mile 20.

Just after 7:00 a.m. yesterday morning I strapped on my helmet, climbed on my bike, and rode the paved circle within the park to “ensure” that I could call it mile 20. Then it was onto the trail.

I had chosen to start there because the journey is a net downhill to the finish going east. There are a few hills that seem to make up for the loss in elevation as you go, but going the other way truly was uphill, and if not visually then certainly in muscle fatigue.

This part of the trail passes through neighborhoods and parks and is nicely paved. There are a few major streets to cross, but I timed it well and managed to reach them when there were breaks in the scant early morning traffic. There were also many people on the trail: on bikes, on foot, with strollers, with dogs. They had the same beat-the-heat idea I did, I guess.

I really wanted my ride to be continuous, that if the hills didn’t defeat me, I’d be astride my bike the whole way. And so, when I came to a boulevard stretch of the trail early on that was being watered with lawn sprinklers, all I could do was ride through them. I got a thorough soaking, which would have been better near the end of my ride than at the beginning, but aside from the spots on my glasses, I knew the water would evaporate soon.

After about four miles I was entering a stretch where I knew the pavement was in rough shape. Since much of it runs stream side, there are parts that are cracking and slowly sliding down the hill toward the water. And the recent big rains had washed out a few places where the trail was fenced off to prevent riders and runners from going over the edge. It’s also kind of trashy along this part because the stream brings down debris and leaves it when the high water recedes.

But it’s a familiar stretch that I’ve run and ridden many times, and just after mile post 15 is the establishment where my beer education classes are held, so despite the drawbacks, I liked being along there.

And I was doing fine. I felt no fatigue, and the heat of the morning hadn’t arrived yet. About the only complaint I had at this point was that in some spots I was riding directly into the rising sun, which made seeing hazards ahead of me difficult. This also made passing under roads through dark tunnels a challenge. Eyes adapted to bright light are suddenly thrust into comparative darkness, and the tunnels can hold their own hazards, like mud, collected trash, and even other trail users. I had no mishaps in the tunnels (and, sadly, the graffiti is being painted over), but in two cases, coming out of the tunnels back into the bright sunlight caused me some trouble.

I continued along the familiar path with no trouble. The short hills, to rise onto bridges to be crossed, for example, were all known to me, so I could build up enuf momentum to meet them well. But what I found along here, barely five miles into my adventure, was that if I didn’t think about how far I had to go, the present distance was not difficult at all. You could say I was “in the moment” or the “pleasant present,” but let’s not, okay?

When I say this part was familiar, I mean from the opposite direction. Most of my riding along here is to get to the beer education establishment (where a ride home always awaited me), which I had passed already. So I was gliding down hills that had always challenged me before and grinding up ones that I had breezed down in the past. That was refreshing in its way, which broke up some of the tedium of the trail.

I had not carried water, and I had passed the few water fountains on my route thus far because a) I wanted the ride to be continuous, and b) I wasn’t thirsty. I know from my running experience that thirst is not the best way to judge dehydration, and I probably should have at least sipped some water at the fountains, but I hadn’t.

The trail passes through my neighborhood, only 6/10 of a mile from my house. When I got there I would have traveled about a dozen miles, and I half expected my wife (and likely the dogs) to be waiting trailside to cheer me on (or to haul me back home if my ambition exceeded my ability). They weren’t though. She had stayed at Hampton Park after I had left to give the dogs a walk around the same circle I had ridden, and since my ride was continuous, without serious traffic or even stoplights I needed to obey (at that hour), I was actually making about the same progress to my neighborhood as she was. She calculated that when I had passed through our neighborhood, she was probably just arriving home. As it was, I was still feeling fine at that point and just rolled on through.

When I ride the trail, I tend to go west (the direction I was coming from on this ride) because if I go east any worthwhile distance, I face the two biggest hills on the trail. One is three-quarters of a mile long, and while not steep, it is more or less unrelenting. It takes constant peddling to keep moving forward. (There are some brief stretches along it that are flat, but you don’t want to be deceived into surrendering your momentum there.) So not long after I left my neighborhood, I passed under the interstate highway (for the first time) and then faced the bottom of that three-quarter mile hill. But I knew it was coming. I’d run up it many times, and I have ridden up it, so it was merely a matter of resolve. And I reached the top, making the turn that would quickly undo all of that elevation gain. But first I had to bump over a quarter mile of oddly rough trail. I think the drainage from the trailside apartment development there makes keeping the trail flat (-ish) a challenge. I’m no engineer, nor am I a city planner, but I can’t figure out why parts like this are left in such poor shape while other stretches seem to get repaved every couple of years.

But I bumped through it and soon came to a downhill piece with two blind curves thrown in. Once again, my early hour on the trail meant that I didn’t encounter anyone as I zipped down the hill. But after this point came the first of two bridges that really need some redesigning. They are over Indian Creek, and they’re road bridges with sidewalks on each side, but whoever designed them had never ridden on a bicycle. The sidewalks are probably standard width, but on one side is a high steel fence (to keep you from pitching into the creek below) and on the other side is a shin-high concrete barrier (apparently to keep wayward cars from pitching into you). The trouble is that if you’re on a bike, you have little margin for error. You have to stay focused on keeping in the middle of this sidewalk until you’re across. And compound this with the chance (likelihood) that you will face another cyclist coming at you from the other direction. I think, mathematically, there is enuf space for two cyclists, but one time as I was trying to leave enuf room for an oncoming wheeler, I managed to scrape a body part on the concrete barrier (at shin height). Anymore, I check to see if anyone is coming my way before I start across these bridges, and if there is, I stop and let them pass. Fortunately for my plan to be continuous, I didn’t have to stop either time.

Again I passed a chance to get a drink (in the park where I’ve recounted here a number of spooky experiences I’ve had) and kept peddling. But soon my continuous ride met its first stop.

The second of the two in-need-of-redesigning bridges was ahead of me, and before I could ride across it at peril to my shins, I first had to ride under it. That part was easy, but I knew that the turn to get up to street level was going to be a challenge. First, it’s blind. Second, you’re coming out of darkness into sunlight. Third, the trail under the bridge always has mud or dried mud on it, so it’s iffy about building momentum there. On this day, I went under the bridge and managed not to hit two people who were blithely walking down the center of the path. (They had sufficient line of sight to know I was coming!) Then, as I came out on the other side, with insufficient momentum, two more people were coming down the hill, not staying to the right as they should. I had to brake to avoid them, and then I came upon a woman who was running on the trail, just coming down the hill I had to climb. I tried. I cranked. But I just couldn’t get up this hill. It’s not all that long, maybe thirty feet from bottom to top, but it is steep. And without enuf momentum, it beat me.

Well, it happened. But I walked my bike up the remainder of the hill and then started peddling again, crossing the shin-endangering bridge I had just passed under, and beginning to think about the other very challenging hill on the trail that was about a mile ahead of me.

The next mile or so is a nice stretch of trail. It’s mostly flat, with rises that are easy to manage, and it’s well maintained. One particularly bumpy section was recently repaved. But after this point, it forks. A rider can go one way and, after a bit of riding on a neighborhood street, can get on a spur of the trail to rejoin the main trail ahead. The benefit of this route is that you can wholly avoid the monster hill the the other direction at the fork takes you.

My ambition was to face the trail as it came, and that meant facing that hill. But despite having a long, flat approach were I could build some serious momentum, I still couldn’t crank to the top of that hill. I could blame the condition of the pavement there, but that hardly made a difference to my climb. I was already stopping before I came to that point. I have never gotten up this hill under pedal power. (Hills are so much easier to manage running.) So I was not too disappointed when I had my second break of the morning. I walked to the top of the hill, mounted my bike again, and began sailing down the other side of the hill, leaning into the two blind curves along here and not running over anyone.

By this time I had ridden about 16 miles. I had passed milepost 4 as I was zooming down that hill. There were a few more bridges to get onto, but the hard hills were now behind me, and while I still didn’t recognize any fatigue in my muscles, I did begin to think it would be just delightful to stop riding for a while and sit on a bench.

Part of this was due to a wardrobe malfunction. Because of a torn piece of fabric, and the mechanics of a leg in continuous, repetitive movement, I was experiencing an intensely focused chafing in a place where a guy doesn’t want to experience chafing. (Subsequent investigation found that blood was drawn.) At first I didn’t realize what was happening and decided to ignore it. (This actually can work when running. A sore knee at the beginning of a run can become merely a question later: was it my right or left knee that hurt?) Because I didn’t want to stop, I poked around a little as discreetly as I could and soon discovered what was wrong. (It’s unclear to me whether a more thorough gear check earlier that morning would have identified the potential problem.) There was little I could do other than stand on my pedals and try to tug the offending garment down a little. This worked for a time, but I had to repeat it, and the damage was already done.

Not long after this, I came to and passed through a park where yet another water fountain was ignored and I had to pass under a road then circle up and make a hairpin turn to cross the bridge. I’m not the only one challenged by this poor design. The grass beside the paved trail here is being worn down by riders taking the turn more widely than what the pavement offers. That also makes the ascent less steep. And though there is most of an acre of open meadow here beside the trail, no one has redesigned the path to veer into it even a little bit to fix this. Which is all to say that I didn’t make this hill either. It’s not an especially steep or long hill, but you come at it after passing under a bridge and making a blind turn. I cranked up as far as I could and resigned myself to this third break in my continuity. Once I was to the top I started peddling again and threw my mind farther down the trail, trying to see if there were any other disappointments waiting.

But this narrative has gone on too long. I’ll finish my thrilling account tomorrow.

*I have never, ever seen a rat on the trail, though I have seen snakes and chipmunks and bunnies and squirrels and birds of prey as well as many varieties of humans. The reference is more economic than critter based, and even at that, the “rats” reference is extreme.

so I did a thing

September 3, 2018

As you probably know, I haven’t run a step since last October. That was when I did the Kansas City Half Marathon (with essentially no training) and did so poorly that I asked myself why I was doing it at all. (I still haven’t found an answer to that, but I think I need to; I have a 5K coming up later this month.) I don’t know if I’ve walked away from the noble sport of running or if I’m merely taking a break. A break is not uncommon from what I understand, but the longer my break lasts, the harder it’s going to be to get back into running.

Perhaps to alleviate that or to find an indirect way back, I got myself a bike. This is the latest in an almost unbroken series of bikes I’ve had since my earliest memories, perhaps the most memorable being a gold Stingray bike with raised handlebars and a banana seat. I called it Tiger Paws. I went everywhere on that bike when I was a boy. My last bike was taken from me when my son moved out, as I recall. It had hung from the garage ceiling for several years, untouched because I was, well, running. When that stopped, I no longer had that bike, and with the nagging in my head to get back to running increasing, I knew I had to do something to find a way back, so I got the new bike.

It’s nothing fantastic; it’s a cross bike, halfway between a mountain bike and a racing bike, meant for pavement and casual, noncompetitive cycling. It suits me perfectly. I’ve had it for a month, and in that time the heat has traded places with rain storms frequently. The times I was free for an hour or two ride didn’t often coincide with tolerable weather, so I was only able to get out on the bike (which I haven’t named yet) three times. Twice were rides of more than ten miles, and once was a rain-interrupted jaunt that had me sheltering under a park pavilion with about forty female high school tennis players doing various stretching and jumping exercises.* (I looked at my phone.)

But yesterday, before the heat got too intense and the forecasted rain came (but after bagels) I jumped on my bike and took off. I road on the Indian Creek Trail, a place where I have logged literally thousands of miles on foot (and may again). My vague idea was to ride it to the east, beyond where I ever ran. That meant going at least ten miles on familiar trail first, which was fine. I enjoyed revisiting the old places, zipping around walkers and runners (“On your left!” — I should probably get a bell) and bouncing over walnuts. This took me into Missouri (after mile 8), which made me feel like I had gone a respectable distance. And I kept going. Soon I was riding on parts of the ICT** I had never seen before. It appeared that the trail had very recently been repaved, and not cheaply either. The trail was paved with concrete rather than asphalt, which is certainly more permanent, and less prone to cracking and heaving as asphalt will do, and I suppose that’s better for cyclists, but among runners the conventional wisdom is that concrete is harder on the lower joints than asphalt. It’s a commonly held assertion that I’ve always been skeptical of, though I like to think I could feel a difference betwixt the two when I ran on them.

The ICT runs under the interstate three times, and the extension I took when I reached its end passed under the interstate a fourth time. The trail also passes under two railroad bridges, which I don’t think I’d ever run or ridden under before. The approach (from each side) to the railroad bridges was covered with metal canopies going out fifty feet. Does a lot of debris fly from railroad tracks when a train passes? When I passed under the interstate for the fourth time, the trail I was on was diverted through a shipping container (those metal boxes you see on the back of semi trailers or stacked perilously high on cargo ships). The highway bridge is under construction, and I suppose there was a risk of falling debris here as well. Thus the short passage through the cargo container. Odd, but effective.

I kept going, telling myself that at the next landmark I could see ahead (a bridge, a soccer field filled with grown men shouting plays to each other in a language I did not know, a certain rise or dip) I would stop and turn around. But I kept going. Finally, when I paused in some shade (the heat was rising) and checked my phone, I found I had dinner plans with my son. There was more trail ahead, but I knew I had to cover all of the distance I already had just to get home, so I thought best not to add any more to it. I turned around and tried to find my way back, which wasn’t easy since I wasn’t familiar with this part of the trail and there were many spurs leading from it. Plus I was going the opposite direction, so many things that ought to have looked familiar didn’t from this opposite direction. I managed to get back to the part of the trail I knew from my running days without mishap and the rest of the way home.

I did not wear my running watch to log my distance and time. If I had, I could have plugged it into my computer and gotten a map of my journey, including mileage. Instead, I visited one of the sites that distance athletes use to record their runs and mapped my ride. It turns out that my morning adventure was 28 miles. (It would have been longer, but my house is at the top of a hill. I think you can figure out what I mean.)

So, pretty good ride. The other conventional wisdom is that the ratio of cycling to running is three to one. Three miles of cycling is equivalent (in energy used? in wear on the joints? in conditioning?) to one mile of running. Thus my little ride was a bit more than nine miles of running. If I truly am building back my heart and lung capacity (and my quads), then maybe I’ll be (somewhat) ready for that 5K later this month.

 

*I’ve had a number of interesting, even spooky happenings at this shelter.

**I’ve found that there are some subtle but compelling differences between running and cycling. Hills for one. I’ve found that if I haven’t built up enuf momentum and I’m not in the right gear (and even if I have and am sometimes) I can’t always ride up a steep hill. I had to stop and walk rather than try to crank the gears into a hopeless fight against gravity a few times. With running, a steep hill ain’t pleasant, but it is manageable enuf to keep moving afoot without stopping even at a walking pace. Turns are another. At cycling speeds (even my speeds), there is less room for error. And with the luxurious growth of the trees and scrub that line most of this trail, there are some more or less blind turns. Were I running, they wouldn’t be a problem; I would simply hug the right side of the trail and come upon whatever was beyond the turn with a complete ability to deal with it (usually slowing or side stepping). On a bike, there is less time to react (stop quickly!) coming around a blind turn. I didn’t have any mishaps, but had there been a young parent pushing a stroller suddenly coming into view, I might have had to steer myself into the trees rather than something worse. So my point is that rather than call it the Indian Creek Trail, I think they should call it Insufficiently Clear Turns.

another tale from the trail

August 9, 2017

It seems that August is my time to have oddball encounters in a certain park along the Indian Creek Trail that I commonly run on early Saturday mornings. I’ve written about past odd encounters there here and here, both in early August.

My latest wasn’t as menacing as those other two, but I add it to my collection of unexpected experiences in the wee small hours of the morning there, miles from home and generally exhausted.

I was at about mile four of what would eventually become a six mile run when I ran into the shelter at this park to take a break and get a drink from the fountain. The shelter is very large, big enuf to hold a dozen picnic tables, a fire pit, two restrooms, and two water fountains. It’s roof is probably twenty feet in the air, and a series of I-beams and metal joists intersect to hold the roof over my head.

When I ran into the shelter in the pre-dawn murk, I think I registered that something was different, but I didn’t notice it consciously. Yet after my quick drink, as I was talking myself into heading out again, something made look up into the joists above my head. And this is what I saw:

What you see is a sample of the dozens of unopened water bottles that someone went to a lot of trouble to place up there. That I-beam is at least fifteen feet off the ground, and there is no easy way to climb to it. I suppose someone pushed one of the picnic tables under it and then an agile, foolhardy youth shimmied up there somehow and crept along the I-beam placing bottles that some other youth was likely tossing up. Also up there were a number of cups, possibly filled with something, so woe betides the custodian who might try to knock all of those things down with a long pole.

 

a tale from the trail

August 10, 2016

Wow! It was a year ago that I posted an account on this humble blog of an eerie encounter I had one early morning as I was running in my quiet suburban neighborhood. See the riveting account here. (I was certain I was about to die!)

I run that route regularly; lately it’s become my go-to Saturday morning run and not only because it ends at the neighborhood bagelry. This past weekend I ran it both Saturday (stretching it into more than 8 miles) and Sunday (seeking only the 6.1 miles I got from it, but giving me more than 40 miles for the week, which is only the second time I’ve ever done that!). On Sunday, my feet hit the pavement at around 4:30 a.m. (No, that’s not a typo! I love the solitude.) I reached the same shelter I discuss in that earlier post sometime around 5:00. These days I run with a headlamp. I hate the thing. Its elastic strap squeezes my pumpkin head, but I can see the trail below my stumbling feet, and I assume any cars coming my way when I’m running down (the middle of) the street can see me too.

When I came into the shelter, though, I had another unexpected encounter. I saw a lamp similar to mine bobbing betwixt the picnic tables. I assumed it was another runner, out at the ungodly hour to beat the heat (and the rain that had sprinkled me again this run). But it wasn’t. It was a woman dressed in a skirt and a jacket (from what I could tell in the dark) who may have been coming from the restroom there. Keep in mind I was the one running toward her. She had every reason to think I was the menace.

I wished her a good morning as I darted past, and she said something similar to me. (I forget what; I was so surprised!) Then I went to the water fountain on the far side of the shelter, not only to rehydrate but to put some distance betwixt me and the woman so she wouldn’t need to worry about my presence. After taking a few sips (rinse mouth and spit first, then drink), I turned to look for the woman. She was gone. I should have been able to still see her at this point if she was walking the trail, though that seemed unlikely. But she hadn’t walked to the sole car in the parking lot either. She effectively disappeared in the darkness.

I puzzled about this for a while. If she needed the restroom, why hadn’t she gone to the brightly lit, 24-hour convenience store not a block away? I suppose it was reasonable for her to assume that she wouldn’t encounter anyone in this little park. (After all, technically, I wasn’t supposed to be there. The trail is officially off limits until sunrise, which was still more than an hour away.) And she did have a light with her, perhaps pepper spray too, which she might have had in hand, with her thumb on the go button.

I’ll never know, of course.

Poe has a story called “The Imp of the Perverse” that deals with the self-destructive impulses in people: being terrified to stand at the edge of a cliff yet having some perverse desire to throw yourself off at the same time. I think I’m becoming this way about the shelter in the park on that bit of trail in the lonely hours of the pre-dawn weekends. Some perverse part of me wants to keep going there, actually hoping to have more incidents like this. In the mundane, white-bread existence of this suburban wage slave that I am, I can see how this makes a kind of sense.

But only after I finish that New York Marathon. Geez, that thing has me terrified in its own way!

And because I had included a photo of my pumpkin-headed self in that earlier post, I’m including one here:

me and three

This is a picture of my daughter, Rachel, her boy (in blue), Kenneth, me (in the cap), and my other grandson, Emmett. Somehow my face has actually managed to achieve a smile. (I don’t think it’s repeatable.)

Update 13AUG2016 – I ran through this park/shelter again this morning and encountered more than a half dozen women also running on the trail in the dark with headlamps. Of course, since it was before sunrise, they had no more business being there than I did. I don’t think they expected crossing paths with anyone since they were taking up the whole width of the trail and had to shout out to make way when they saw me approaching (with my headlamp on).

run along

January 28, 2015

trail

Note: This post is in my “let’s diversify this tired old blog” category.

At this time of the year, when shadows are long, there are occasional periods when the season loosens its iron grip and allows a series of warm, sunny days. And when that happens, I generally lace up and head out on the trail.

The community where I live has created a series of interconnected trails, mostly along streams that cut through the area, that walkers and bikers and skaters and skateboarders and runners can use. And they do.

We’ve had a string of warm days lately, and that’s meant that I’ve been turning away from the treadmill to run outside on the trail. In the photo above I am on the Indian Creek Trail, right at mile post 10, which is about two miles from my house. The ICT happens to run through my neighborhood, and the distance from my front door to the nearest access points is only .6 miles (downhill going that direction). I can go east or west from there and depending on my ambition, I may take the flatter route to the west or the hilly route to the east. (Since I’m observing Drynuary, I am not running to sports bars in either direction on this trail to meet my wife and rehydrate as I had before. And since I also expect February to return the iron grip of winter, I may not be out on the trails much then to run to the sports bars.)

I’m told (but have not personally verified) that you can, if you make the correct turns at the correct points, cobble together a full 26 mile loop on these trails, ending where you started. Part of that would involve running along much of the Tomahawk Creek Trail as well as the Indian Creek Trail. I generally find my way to the TCT on Sunday mornings (alas, three miles from my house to the closest access). Then, purely coincidentally, I finish five miles further at a salad and sandwich shop where my wife is waiting for me. I want to keep her company, so I generally allow myself a salad and iced tea (unsweetened, of course).

2.2

The trails are well maintained. In recent years, some kind soul has started painting white stripes to mark each quarter mile. (When I’m looking for an excuse to take a break, I can tell myself I’ll run to the next quarter mile marker. And then when I get there, I usually push to go to the next one.) Parts get resurfaced so that, I’m guessing, the entire route either gets new asphalt or new sealer once a year passes. (I don’t mind the new asphalt, but the sealer can by slippery underfoot for a few weeks. It also covers the quarter mile markers.) In some cities that the trails pass through, they will even plow away the snow. (Not my community though. I don’t mind running on snow, but it soon enuf turns into ice, which ain’t no fun.)

The mile post you see above is on the Tomahawk Creek Trail. The mileage there — an odd 2.2 measurement — is the distance from there to the end of the trail, where it connects with the ICT. Alternatively, it can also be taken as the distance made since the beginning of the trail if you’re going thataway. I don’t know why they put a mile post at 2.2 miles, but there is also one on the Indian Creek Trail. In that case it measures the distance to (or from) the state line betwixt Missouri and Kansas. (There are organized runs of 2.2 miles. I don’t know the significance of that distance though.) The salad and sandwich shop happens to be about a half mile in on the Missouri side, just off the trail. It makes for a good Sunday long run, though I need to start grabbing longer distances.