I was more excited than usual about setting my alarm for 4:30 am to run before work this morning because I planned to branch out. Instead of my now-usual coastal routes, I'd spotted a natural area with trails inland within reach of my normal 7-8 mile morning run.
The first half of the run was fairly uneventful - running through the quiet early-morning city streets with a short section of dark trail where I was pleased to have my headlight (a fairly powerful one, worn around my waist) to see where I was stepping and my route programmed into my Garmin for confirmation I was on the right track. 40 minutes in I'd gone 4.6 miles - pretty much the pace I'd expected to go.
Then I made the turn into the far end of the natural area. My route took me along about half the total length of trails and out the other side - about a third of the way home as the crow flies.
The first thing I noticed was that it was muddy underfoot, then that I was running into the woods, then that it was very dark and a bit foggy. Nothing really to worry about. Then the going started to get difficult.
I found myself having to slow down a lot to pick my footfalls in some places due to the mud, puddles and fallen trees etc. Then it got to be hard going.
At one point a crested a small rise, saw a dark area ahead, slowed thinking it was water and realised it was a dip in the path. As I, in a state of relief, started to run again only to realise it was a much deeper and wider 'dip' than I'd thought and nearly tumbled down the slope.
At this point I realised I was deep into an area of trails in winter with no phone. It looked like this*:
I pictured myself falling and having to limp or drag myself out. I decided to slow down even more. I considered going back - but it was a long slow route back and then I would be well over 4 miles from home when I made it out.
Later I had to cross a railroad track. This offends my British sensibilities (trains are fast and deadly in the UK rather than often slow and sometimes deadly, sometimes useful for hitching a ride) but I was pleased that I took it in my stride (!) only to discover the other side of the tracks was another steep muddy bank to descend.
I also lost the trail once. I would definitely have got lost if I hadn't had my Garmin telling me I was right even when it looked wrong.
I will confess to being rather relieved when I made it back to a road - and didn't mind when it started to rain as I ran back home.
Here were my mile splits (in minutes and seconds):
1 - 8:47
2 - 8:26
3 - 8:24
4 - 8:29
5 - 11:16 (entering the trails)
6 - 16:01 (yeah)
7 - 9:58 (mostly back on the roads)
8 - 9:07
Not my finest hour (or so), but it was worth it for the views. Or not.
*This is an actual picture from my phone. I didn't take it today - as I mentioned - I didn't have my phone (or a camera) with me. I don't know why I took it at all to be honest!