No, this is not the title of some obscure horror movie, it is what I did on my birthday. And believe it or not, I ran through the woods voluntarily! This in itself is a huge step.
Most people who know me well realize that despite the fact that I live in one of the most beautiful places in the world, I am NOT a nature girl. Growing up in suburbia, I was a cautious child who learned early on that nature=risk and risk=danger. After all, isn’t the woods a primary setting for murders in procedural cop shows?
So I avoided wooded areas, except in field trips when we were forced to go on a “nature expedition” so the private schools mostly privileged, suburb-bound students could experience real nature, identifying certain plants, learning how to tell direction using a compass (I still couldn’t figure out which way is north if you paid me–thank God for iPhone compasses!) and other “survival” skills we would probably never have to use. And then there was the time our class went to a nature retreat where we were encouraged to don those thick rubber waders and wade into the delightfully polluted Hudson (believe it or not, I did this voluntarily; somehow my fear of nature did not yet extend to rivers).
As I got older and spent more time in the rink, even less time was spent outside, so I suppose I disconnected from it. When I was younger, I would spend time outside in our yard (which was considered safe enough) climbing in trees, running around the yard, jumping on my trampoline. But after a while, the rink became my primary place (when I wasn’t at school) and therefore I grew out of touch with the outdoors.
When I moved to Lake Placid, I resolved to become one of those rugged, tough nature girls, a person who climbed mountains on her days off and went swimming in the lake every morning. I did neither of these things. The only mountain (more like large hill) I managed to climb was Cobble Hill, and the incredibly transparent lake water freaked me out (I could see all the fish, tree limbs, and other detritus on the sandy bottom of the lake, which made me nervous for some reason).
But I started trying to engage with nature a bit more, since it is after all surrounding me in abundance. Two years ago, I started paddle boarding on the calm, clean waters of Mirror Lake, and after initially feeling too scared to stand up, did to find out that nothing would happen. Sure, I fell off once, but when I realized that I wouldn’t drown instantly, I clamored back on the board to resume paddling.
This was probably the most enjoyable outdoor activity I had tried, I remember thinking. Paddling serenely past canoes, swimmers, and other paddle boards, I realized what a great way this was to spend time in nature. I could paddle alongside the banks, enjoying the view of the pretty houses and the breathtaking landscapes of people enjoying Lake Placid. Best of all, I got a pseudo-tan from all that time spent outside.
But then it started to get expensive to paddle board, and I realized I wasn’t getting quite the workout I wanted, so I decided to try to find another, slightly more strenous, (and free) activity. I think I found it. It’s called trail running.
I first tried trail running back in 2004 or 2005. I talked an extremely long limbed friend into running with me, and was quickly left in the dust. Luckily at the end of the run (which was probably one of the most exhausting 15 minutes of my life, only surpassed by Alex McGowan’s figure skating endurance class) there was an opportunity to take a dip in the lake. That was probably one of the only times I tried to conquer my fear of swimming in fresh water; I much preferred a chlorinated pool .
But a few days ago, on my birthday, I decided to give trail running another try. My mom and I agreed that we would split up–I would run up ahead, and she would walk–and of course, I would try not to take a wrong turn.
I started running, and immediately noticed how difficult it was compared to running on flat pavement. In a way, it was easier, but it was also more difficult; my knees didn’t hurt as much as they do when pounding on pavement, but it also challenged my muscles in different ways. Running on natural uneven ground made me work harder, as did running up hills and around corners. But it was nice to have a little variety, and not feel the knee pain I usually feel if not during, then after, running.
And then there is the whole “nature” aspect. Surprisingly, I found this the most appealing part of the excursion. The sun was hot and bright, and the trees shaded me a bit from the heat. Other than the swarms of mosquitos and black flies that tried to bite at every opportunity, it was a great experience and one that I look forward to repeating.
Of course I did intervals, but I’m still a bit sore today. Unfortunately, the day after my birthday, it rained. Then today, it rained again. Who knows what will happen tomorrow, but I’m hoping to get back out there soon. 😉