Sunday, November 2, 2014

Muddin' it up

I attempted a long trail run Saturday morning. It's been awhile since I felt motivated to hit double-digit mileage on a run, but the "perfect storm" of new trail running shoes and a chance to hit some new-to-me trails presented itself. I couldn't resist.

I set out in Ed R. Levin County Park after dropping M at the Oakland Airport for a quick boys' weekend in Joshua Tree and Long Beach. I arrived at the park, on the outskirts of Milpitas, before 9 a.m. and paid the modest entry fee. Despite miles of trails wending up the grassy hillsides, the parking lots were empty. I felt surprised, but was excited to have the paths to myself.

I laced up new Project E-Motion N2 trail shoes by Pearl Izumi, decided against listening to music and popped a Hammer Endurolytes Fizz tablet in my water bottle. I had roughly planned a 9- to 12-mile adventure that would take me to Monument Peak and perhaps all the way to Mission Peak, in the adjacent Mission Peak Regional Preserve.

Unfortunately, it also was the morning after one of the first storms of the fall in the Bay Area and the rainfall (after so many months of so little) congealed the trail dust. Large signs declared the trails closed to bikes and horses because of the rain, a regulation I silently celebrated — I wouldn't have to contend with those trail users and I got a brief boost of confidence for being out there when cyclists and horsemen weren't. 

Quickly, I realized the trails should also have been closed to runners and hikers. The mud sucked my shoes in, encasing them in a thick, sticky paste largely composed of decomposing horse shit. I paused to clean my shoes on a wooden fence, then continued my run. As the hill steepened, my feet slipped in the slick mud but I soldiered on. 

A quarter-mile into the run, I encountered the first locked gate. Maybe this should have been a sign to turn back, but I assumed it was meant to keep those horses and bikes out. I just climbed it and used a rail to, again, clean mud from my shoes. I changed my mind when at the second locked gate, a long 15-minute mile farther up the trail. The trail conditions hadn't improved and likely wouldn't, even though the rain had let up and the sun was peeking through clouds. So I turned back, hopping a different gate to access a paved service road that led back to the parking lot. 

Just before the parking lot, I detoured onto another trail that seemed less mucky than the first. Yeah right! Muckity muck mud everywhere. It felt like my shoes could be pulled right off my feet by the goop. On downhills, the mud naturally shook off of my shoes, and clumps of muddy horse poop flicked against my calves. Eventually, I found my way to manicured grass near the nearly-dry reservoir built for recreational fishing. I ran loops there to clean off the mud until I hit 4.5 miles. Unable to keep a pace in the extreme trail conditions, I called it. 

I think I'll hit a favorite trail at The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park tomorrow morning before work. The rain improves those paths! 

But Ed R. Levin County Park — I'll be back. A friend had recommended the trails there and they do look great, given the right weather conditions. 

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