Wowza, what an adventure! My run on Monday was more like a run through an Amazon jungle than a trail-run in Vermont. Sunday night brought torrential downpours to the Mad River Valley that continued through Monday morning. Honestly, given the high heat and unbearable humidity I was really hoping the rain would hold up and shower me during the run. However, by the time I set out around 12:30 the skies had turned rust-colored and sun was hazily spreading across the sky.
I’ve complained about humidity often in the past few weeks, but please believe me when I say this was the worst it’s been so far. It reminded me of the first time I went to St. Maarten, one late April, which I later learned is off-season due to the egregious humidity and lack of a cooling breeze. The ground was still sopping wet when I headed out, so at least I had a cooling sensation on my feet to break up some of the wet-hot air.
As I set out, I couldn’t believe how slippery the ground underneath me was. I slipped and slid on mud as I speed-walked, almost biting it a few times. However, I was quite proud of myself for not sliding around at all when it came to running. I’ve mentioned previously that early in my running research I found a blog where a barefoot runner compared proper barefoot form to “running through paint”. He said one must be sure not to smear the paint. What he meant is that it’s important to pick your feet straight up (kind of like jogging in place) and not push off the ground. Sometimes when I’m feeling heavy in my body I turn to a mantra of, “Pick up, pick up” as I lift each foot. On my return trip I even noticed that my footprints when I ran were solid marks, whereas my walking footprints were smeared.
Along with the wet wet wet came unexpected challenges on the path. Trees had fallen down from the high winds the night before, the edges of the path had become overgrown from a week of high heat and a solid mix of sun and rain, and parts of the path were actually flooded by the massively swollen river (more on that later). These obstacles provided a motivational distraction from the humidity and kept me entertained as I ran. While I definitely sweat more than usual, and had some issues pushing myself on the way back, overall this was a successful and fun run.
The one thing I was really looking forward to after a long hot run was a dip in the river. However, while I ran it became apparent that might not be possible. Generally, the banks of the river are anywhere from 2-6′ high and beyond the height of the banks there are some swimming-hole areas that have up to 20′ of pebbles where one could sit or stand right next to the river. As I ran, I saw that the river had swollen over the banks and pebbles and crept up the paths to the trail. It only covered the trail in a few areas, but the paths to get to the beach areas were covered with a good solid 1-2′ of water. Even in Spring, when the river is high due to the snow melting, it’s never that high. Even last year when we had unusually high rain falls all summer, which contributed to the tomato blight and there were e.coli warnings in the river that stopped us from swimming most of the summer (quick note: when we get a lot of rain in the valley runoff from the farms end up in the river causing high bacterial counts), it was never that high. This was crazy!
I took a picture, albeit with my iPhone because I don’t exactly run with my fancy Canon (kinda wish I could!). I looked for a comparison shot and all I have is a shot from early Spring, so the river is a high in that one too but this is the same area of the river (the Spring picture is just taken with a wider-angle lens):
To give you a little perspective, the rocks that you can see poking out in the Spring picture are usually fully exposed this time of year; people sit on them and picnic or play music; it’s usually a safe place to sit fully clothed. The banks in this area this time of year are usually a good 6′. The picture on the right shows the rocks are totally covered (though you can see a lip of waves on the right side gliding over the highest rock) and the banks are basically indistinguishable.
Needless to say, this was not a good time to swim. Toby and I did venture down one path to the river in an attempt to brave it, but we were quickly swallowed up by brown murky river water and were unable to even make it to the river. This was probably a good thing considering how fast the current was moving and how much bacteria was most likely in the flow.
Next run is Friday! So far it sounds like the weather will be fair and sunny. Fingers crossed!