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An uncharted and fresh year lay before me waiting for new experiences and adventure. I was determined to start it off on good footing. Despite the wicked look to the bleak sky and the threat of rain I eagerly found a moment to slope away from a yuletide family gathering in Georgia and make the short journey to Bartram State Forest, the scene of my first 50k barely a month before, for a trail run on the first day of 2011.

I was excited to not only get back on the trail, but to also test run some new garb. Although Santa had not been practical in the present department this year I had rectified this situation by throwing a late night party where, my credit card, and a bottle of wine were the only guests. A shiny new pair of minimalist purple New Balance 101s, a pair of arm warmers, my first pair of capri tights and some long sleeved cold weather running tops were now in my possession and screaming to go for a run.

My car was alone as I parked up at the side of the nondescript stretch of road bordering the forest. The cold drizzle from above started. I enthusiastically intended on running maybe ten or eleven miles, but under pressure and aware that the sun was already on its journey out of our hemisphere and that the gloomy weather was also making visibility difficult.

I set off down the gravel trail, over the dam and bearing left into the brief single track before hitting the wide grassy paths that prominently delineate the forest. I started to retrace my steps from the 50k. At least that was the plan. It was going well until I realised I wasn’t quite where I thought I should be. I’d merrily run up the long open uphill stretch that had been my bane during the race, cut back into the trees and then I was lost and the sky was getting even greyer. Luckily my terrible sense of direction is not unknown, and I was also a Girl Guide, so I was prepared and carried a map. A map that got progressively more difficult to decipher as large droplets of water soiled and softened it, but a map nonetheless.

On the positive side, my new togs were performing admirably. I’d chosen the purple Mizuno Thermo Breath 1/2 zip with the thumb hole sleeves and was operating at a very comfortable temperature. Meanwhile my new capris worn beneath my running skirt were providing a welcome extra layer. I was also super happy with my 101s. They held my feet snugly yet were so light as to feel barely there. It was great to be running and aware of the trail rather than which shoes I was wearing. They also matched my clothes. So what if I was sopping wet, alone in the woods, didn’t know where I was, and might never make it back to the car alive? I looked great.

I did some scurrying around trying to determine which trail I was on and make sense of how to get back to where I needed to be. This seemed to entail running up and down the same wooded stretch of trail several times before finally making a decision as to which was the correct direction. When I eventually continued on and saw some more familiar forest sights I was simultaneously much relieved and dismayed. I had somehow looped back onto the section where I hit the wider paths at the very start of my run, cutting off most of my intended route and placing me back at the pretty much the beginning.

It was too early to just head back so I resolved to run the loop properly and with an eye to the sky, get back before dark. I set off again.

I didn’t get very far. This time I came across an animal in my path. I think it was a grey fox, either that or a coyote. It was pretty neat as it was very close, but it was in my way. At first I was in awe and just stood and watched the animal, taking him in with fascination. Then I started to get a little nervous as it showed no fear at all of me. Indeed, it kept pacing around, ambling in circles, and getting closer. Throwing a couple of rocks down the path to scare it didn’t do anything. Not having any experience with foxes, or coyotes, I wasn’t sure but something didn’t seem right at all. I decided not to try to venture past and tangle with the beast. Spying the lake through the trees and down the hill I bid a hasty adieu, called it a day and shortcutted back to the trail head.

A very rainy but pleasant five mile run. The sound of silence in the woods, punctuated by my foot falls, breathing and the raindrops falling through leaves was rejuvenating and I headed back to the family a happy girl.

Happy New Year 2011!

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