Today was the perfect day for a run. It has been nearly a week since my last run, though only three days after logging many miles walking around NYC. The weather was perfect. Ashley was at my parents' house. Don was at the dentist. I optimistically decided today was the perfect day to run 6 miles -- my longest run since the Princess Half Marathon in February.
I decided on a path that would take me through Village Park in Lawrenceville, NJ through the Pole Farm, and over to the Hunt House in Hopewell before turning around and coming home. It was 50 degrees out with hardly any wind. Knowing I could hit the water fountains in Village Park and at the Hunt House I did not bring any water with me. The temperatures were probably warm enough to wear shorts, but as it was already 4:30, I decided to wear long pants and a sweatshirt over a running tee-shirt.
In the end, one bad decision and one good one (yes, in that order).
Over the past few months, Mercer County has put a lot of work into the Lawrence-Hopewell Trail (LHT). During the six week deer hunting season when I avoided the park even on non-deer hunting days, a bunch of work was completed. This includes a bird blind, a latrine, picnic areas, signage with mile markings, and the changing of the paths. Parts that had been paved, are now returning to nature, and new sections are paved.
I passed a sign that said go to the left another 1.5 miles and you will reach the Hunt House. Sounds simple enough. I knew the Hunt House had running water (a plus for a girl like me) and an ice cold water fountain. The path divided. I stayed left, knowing the Hunt House was to the left. Around a bend I found another sign saying go right .7 miles and you will reach the Hunt House. Okay, overall it would be more miles than originally thought, but still do-able. I found a mowed path, crossed a semi-busy street (which I knew about), went along another mowed path and ended up in a swamp.
Yes, a swamp.
I could see the lake. Last summer I knew how to get from this lake to the Hunt House. In the meantime, that trail was overgrown. By this point I am at the 3.13 mile mark with no trail in sight, AND soaking wet feet from being too stubborn to turn around after stepping in my first puddle.
There was no way I was turning back now and getting them wet again. No way. No how.
Instead I tried to carve a path through the thorn bushes and other friendlier bushes along the coast of the lake. Meanwhile the other side of the lake with bathrooms and clearings was taunting me. But, with the grace of God, I can do it! Each time I was stuck beyond belief, I said a prayer and God shined the light in the direction of the way I should go. Thank you, God!
At least 45 minutes later I made it through the woods. I was ever so grateful for the long sleeves and long pants and they kept getting stabbed with bramble. I extracted one thorn from my finger. There is still another one in my hand. I wished I had packed some water, though.
I found the new path leading further away. I avoided that and instead aimed for the driveway. Driveway implies cars. Cars imply road. I got out of the woods and ran along a 2 lane country road without a shoulder. Followed this until I found the other side of the Pole Farm and my favorite running path. Wish I knew what had happened to the path I ran on in that park last summer.
The trip added another mile of running, plus at least 45 minutes of cutting through the woods (I turned off my watch for this portion of the run). My sneakers are a mess. I felt as if in addition to a 7 mile run, I also accomplished Tough Mudder training -- at least enough to know I don't want to do a Tough Mudder race.
In the end, I feel great. I kept a 12:07 pace -- which is great for me for that distance (especially on trails). For the most part I ran 3 minutes and walked 2. I finally inhaled water around the 6.5 mile mark when I made it to Village Park (never did find the Hunt House). Mile 5 was nearly a minute faster than mile 4 (I still jack rabbit too much in the beginning (10:47) and cannot maintain that pace). I came home with renewed confidence.
That doesn't mean I won't be sore tomorrow -- but much of that will be from climbing over and under trees and brush and through the water.
The kicker, though, came from telling a friend about my experience and he said "how you could miss it? All you have to do is stay right and follow the trail." Umm...how can I miss it? By staying LEFT and going on the old trail.
I did wish I had a RoadID tag on me in case the wild animals found me first. Thought about my cell phone. Not sure it would have helped in this case since I barely knew where I was, how could I have explained "stuck in the woods" to Don?
Hint...the RoadID tag might make a good birthday present.