Sunday, June 29, 2008

Spiders and Fences

My long run took me again to the Chattahoochee River Club this morning. I had run Kennesaw three times on Friday then run a slow 5+ miles on Saturday, played a short tennis match (6-0, 6-0 thank you for asking) and was nursing a more painful than usual foot. No the plantar problem is not gone.

I started off at 20 minutes after 3 am. I expected a 4 hour and 10 minute poke fest. Maybe I need better self talk but I got what I expected.

My foot was causing more pain than usual and I considered bagging the run. I decided to run an hour and turn around if it was still a problem. Sometimes it loosened up after a while.

I realized I had forgotten my flashlight. Oh, no. I knew where that would lead since I was intent on taken the very route I had aborted due to a missing flash light a month and a half ago.

I had run less than a half mile. Brother.

I remembered the light was in the car and turned around. After retrieving the light I headed the opposite direction. This would put me on Old Atlanta Road but at 3:30 am how many cars could there be. It turns out that a lot of people are just getting home but I made it to Windemere without... ...well, frankly, without dying.

The foot pain did not subside but did not get any worse so I lumbered on, stepping off the sidewalk onto the grass or weeds wherever the terrain allowed. The foot had been giving me problems long enough now that my expectations were sufficiently diminished and I only thought wistfully about the sub-10 minute times I had become accustomed to.

The long up and downs of the hills between Old Atlanta and Highway 20 went by uneventfully until I diverted to the golf course restroom and soda machine to discard an empty Gatorade bottle in a trash receptacle I had found there.

As I turned to go I noticed paper cups stacked above the trash receptacle. Hmmm. Sure enough, where there are cups there is water. I would not have been happier if I'd have looked down and seen a twenty dollar bill.

When I came back this way I would have another empty bottle. I would not be throwing it away. My smile lasted a quarter of a mile or more.

A couple of weeks before I had discovered that the Fish Hatchery was closed and I would not be able to access the trail up to the dam there.

I was now a veteran of the River Club and had no problem finding the trail.

This would be new. Anticipation and soft earth quickened my pace. I rolled up the small berms around corners with the bright beam of my $6 flash light illuminating the dark.

I came to a bend in the trail. Before the bend there was a fence blocking a gravel road on my left.

As I continued down the trail in the dark I heard the footfalls of a startled deer on my right. I swung my light around but saw nothing. The trees wrapped themselves over my head. I heard what could have been a branch fall in the dark behind me.

I thought of Bilbo and the Dwarves of The Hobbit in Mirkwood. On cue, a thin strand of a spiderweb gently settled across my forehead. I was amused and wiped it away. Running early on Kennesaw had cured me of being adversely affected by such a triviality as had the spider bites on the back of my neck.

Not much further and I was stopped. A tall chain link fence with barbed wire stretched across the top stood before me. I thought I had been heading upstream but I would later come to understand that I had found the other side of the trail that I had been barred from by the fence at the fish hatchery a couple of weeks before.

In my consternation I thought that I had found yet another fence that had effectively blocked another potential route to the top of the dam.

I turned dejectedly back. I thought I would just bag the run as successful enough and head home.

But, where would I go next? I needed to find someone who ran in the night like I did. I needed to find a trail that wasn't closed. Closed! First I find that running would cost money. Now I find that I'm closed in by the fences of the 8-to-5-ers.

But then I came back to the gate to the gravel road. I stepped under it and headed in a new direction.

The road wound pleasantly by a small meadow and ended at some sort of communications shed with a high antenae. Warning signs posted the danger of quickly rising waters when the dam water was released and something about horns blowing warnings and what to do.


I had found the trail up the dam!

Beyond the loudly painted warning signs, the antenae and the shed was a narrow trail.

First it was narrow. Then the reeds began to close in. Then it was narrow and low. I was running stooped over like a clumsy giant in elf land.

Then it happened.

In a split second my light fell on something that vanished too fast for me to register and I was covered with web. This was no random trace of web across a trail. The clumsy giant wasn't in elf land. He had found spider land.

The web was off me as quickly as it was on. Now I was creeped out.

I began again. One, two, three steps. This time the web was highlighted beautifully in my lights beam. The residence was occupied. I reached out to one of the anchoring strands with my light and pulled it back. The web, spider in the middle, was still intacked.

I swiped it again. It was gone.

5 more steps. Repeat. Repeat, again.

I only ran through one more web. I thought about what kind of spider bites I might be dealing with.

I finally came out of the reeds into a wooded area. I registered the noise of swift water. Someone had put a several pieces of patio furniture out to look down on the river. I could just make out the water below but with the flashlight all I saw was mist.

I turned to go on. The trail seemed to take a turn away from the river.

There was another sign. "Private Property, No Trespassers. Protected by dogs behind invisible fences."

Finally, a fence I could get through!

I looked at my watch. It was time to turn around. Time and mortality. The two strongest fences.

At least there would be no spider webs on the way back.

Of the 17.5 miles of the run less than two were on the trail.

The trip back was uneventful. The water from the golf course was a treat. It took me 4 hours and 10 minutes.

I would hold off buying a pack for fluids. I will need to carry something to clear webs on the next run. I had no discernible bites in spite of the chaos I had inflicted on a quiet spider neighborhood.

My journey to the top of the dam in the dark was unfettered and would be revisited.