Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Fast Trails

Finding places like this really makes me want to run, and run fast.  Long, hard-packed dirt road in the woods with no traffic.  It's like a cross between the J. B. Starkey bike path and power line road.  Perfection.  Can't wait to train here and run some strong quarters and kilometers.

I can't deny that I tested out a section of the road for about 100 meters.  How could I pass it up?  Great news: it runs fast. 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Coming Home to Starkey and Other Runners

What a wonderful day to be home.  I am glad that I made it in last night.  After a longer than expected drive due to seven accidents that brought traffic to a halt, I was back in Pasco County.  Just like old times, I woke up early the next day to go to J. B. Starkey Wilderness Park.  Although overcast and wet, the morning was peaceful, welcoming, and beautiful.
I took to my still most frequently traveled path, the same one I ran down over ten years ago during my first cross country practice at the park.  Immediately I was reminded of what I love most about this park.  Diversity.  Although small in comparison to the Osceola National Forest, close to where I love now, the landscapes in Starkey vary greatly.  The ecosystems are always changing, the land discretely rising and falling around lakes.  Live oaks, scrub palmettos, cypress strands.  Even on a small walk of just a few miles, I am able to experience so much. 


As wonderful as my outing turned out to be, it began as the first time this year with my injury that I really felt removed from the running community.  As I was sitting in my car behind a line of others eagerly awaiting their opportunity to hit the trail, a group of energetic forty-something runners ran by, hopped the fence, and continued down the road.  Normally, I don't feel down when I see runners, but this morning I did.  Maybe it was the location.  I was jealous that they were able to run in the place that I call home and the place that taught me to love running, to love Florida.  Maybe it was that they were the first group of runners who reminded me of my team: bouncy, smiling, chatty, tall, thin, and toned.  They looked like runners; they moved like runners.  I miss that.  Maybe the setback with my injury got to me early today, but I know that I am still moving forward and still progressing.  Today, I am happy to be able to rediscover my home on foot, even though those feet are walking.

Little Moments

How do I still have drafts from Spring Break?  I guess better late than never.  Clearly it has been a busy few weeks at work.

During Spring Break, I woke up early as usual and had the urge to go somewhere, to explore a new place.  This happens often, but usually on days when I need to drive to work instead of to a new park.  I was determined to take advantage of my free morning.

I grabbed my camera, watch, a few layers of clothes, and I started driving.  Not too far along the way, I turned into Alligator Lake Park.  Despite being located so close to where I live in comparison to the state parks in the area, I had never truly explored the quaint community oasis.

As I made my way up the long drive through the front portion of the park, I realized that I was the first one there that morning, as I arrived minutes after the opening time of 8:00 AM.  I parked in the main parking lot near the large pavilion.  There didn't seem to be a trailhead, so I walked across the grassy area and further down the road.  I quickly found the trails once over to the other part of the park, away from the playgrounds and picnic tables.  I chose the first path, which took me straight out to the lake, instead of around it.  I didn't know it at the time, but that path was an out and back, about a mile long.

With the temperature in the thirties and the wind barreling across the water, I regretted not bringing a hat, but I kept walking.  It was so beautiful, to be in the center of the lake, watching the birds sunning themselves and others trying to swim against the strong wind.  I refused to turn around until I had experienced the entire trail.  Trees had fallen because of the recent storm, but the sky was a brilliant Florida blue.  After days of heavy rain and winds, the sun was shining, illuminating the firsts of the Spring greens on the trees and at the bases of the grasses.

As one of my good friends would say, these moments exist, even when no one is around to experience them.  I want to see the tall grasses waving in the water and the ripples of the lake make their way around the trees.  That is why I get up early on those cold, windy mornings.   I think that someone should be there to witness what happens deep in the woods.  These moments will happen, with or without me, so why not be there?