Friday, May 30, 2008

New personal bests (and an open letter to trail spiders)

This past weekend's 11 mile trail run was my longest in some years in distance, and my longest duration run ever (1 hour 50 minutes running time, not including walk breaks). There were some neat changes of scenery, from oaks to pines, to open areas with fewer tress, to a (controlled?) burned area. On the way back, I scared a black racer next to the trail, which slid rapidly away, and to my astonishment, it crawled right over another black racer! If I interrupted a reptilian romantic moment, I apologize.

If that was an unusual sight, there were some weird parts to the run, such as a 15' x 10' paved area seemingly in the middle of nowhere, with the trail running right over it. Bizarre. I also ran past a number of white vertical pipes sticking out of the ground, again seemingly far from anything other than a dirt road.

The worst part was the bugs. The biting fly season season is really picking up. Two weeks ago, 2 deerflies. On this date, 18 flies dispatched, a new record. Technically, I think these are actually yellow flies, not deerflies, based on their focus on my legs more than my head. They were on me pretty quickly when I took walk breaks, which discouraged me from taking too many photos, and encouraged me to get running again quickly. Fortunately, they were not up to full speed, and I was able to outrun them without much difficulty. However, as I recall from previous years, as the season progresses, it requires a full sprint to elude these flies.

Another less-than-fun aspect was repeatedly getting hit in the face with spiderwebs, which has prompted me to draft the following...

An open letter to trail spiders
Ok, arachnids. You have my attention. Last weekend, running on the Cross Florida Greenway, I ran through web after web, destroying your beautiful work, quite by accident. You see, I often cannot see your webs on these trails at running speed, and even if I could, avoiding them could be a real challenge. Some of you went so far as to rebuild your webs after my first pass, unaware that I was running an out-and-back course that day. That's a lot of work, without much to show for it, if I may say so.

I would like to propose something mutually beneficial. If you could simply build most of your webs off the trail - there are plenty of good locations between trees there - I would not run through them. This would save us both a good bit of grief. In return, I would leave for you any and all deerfly/yellow fly carcasses you may find along the trail.

Thank you for your consideration!


Ellie Hamilton said...

Hey, works for me (letter to spiders)!

You like the trails for the same reasons I do. I do my running mostly on roads but I hike on trails.

Are you running on THE Florida Trail? I'd like to hike it someday!

Jeff said...

Hi Ellie,

I try to get out on a trail every week. I also take an occasional short hike with my wife and kids on a trail.

I am fortunate to be fairly close to a section of The Florida Trail, running through the Ocala National Forest and on through the Cross Florida Greenway. The Greenway portions I've done have been well-maintained and offer some good shade. I like that stretch. Some areas in the National Forest, on and off the Florida Trail, have not been as well-maintained (many downed trees), but are scenic in their own right and offer some great wildlife viewing opportunities.

Ellie Hamilton said...

Hey Jeff! If you enable your email contact on your profile, I can answer your replies directly when they come to my email.

AWOL on the AT is my next planned read. I met the author at the AT Gathering last fall, got a free pen that says "AWOL on the Appalachian Trail" -- cool beans!

Jeff said...


Thanks for the email tip. I'm a newbie at blogging so I appreciate such comments.

It's neat that you got to meet AWOL.


Anne said...

That's why a lot of us trail runners carry a big stick on our summer runs. The spider webs are relentless.

Sunshine said...

Jeff.. Just came across your "About Me" .. Very inspiring!! Good luck to you. Wishing you running.. and life!!

Jeff said...

Anne: that sounds like a good tip. I'd rather get that sticky stuff on something besides me. The banana spiders (aka golden silk spiders or golden orb weavers) are getting bigger and when mature, can be the size of my hand. On the plus side, their peak summer size makes them easier to spot - you can often see them before you see their web.

Sunshine: how very kind! Thank you. I look forward to visiting your blog.