After a long winter, we welcome the arrival of spring and its lush greenery with open, finally non-itchy arms. It's like a whoooole newwwww woooooorld. It's beautiful! If you're not a trail runner you are really missing out. There aren't many things more wonderous than trails in spring. But before you know it the grass and weeds have grown a foot in the blink of an eye.
Let's take a moment to realize what this means. During the warm months, vegetation grows at an incredible rate. Now think about the length of the trails you run on. Now think about how long it takes to constantly keep that vegetation from encroaching on those wonderful trails. In Lawrence, the River Trails are about 9 miles long and the Clinton Lake North Shore Trails are about 23 miles long. The Lawrence Mountain Bike Club and Kansas Trails Council maintain our trails in Lawrence and they do an amazing job. Find out what organizations do trail maintenance in your area and lend a hand!
But back to running now. As the spring turns into summer, the vegetation grows and becomes difficult to keep under control everywhere at once. We run down the trail in an increasingly narrow path to avoid the encroaching greenery. Why would you avoid the greenery, you say? Well in case you aren't familiar with the Kansas climate, it's damp. Lots of things love the damp climate here: chiggers, ticks, poison ivy and stinging nettle. And I assure you, regardless of the precautions I take, I encounter all of these every year.
By mid to late summer, a midwest trail runner's feet and ankles are usually covered in red dots which may or may not be oozing (from ticks/chiggers). I finally became sensitized to poison ivy last year, which had never bothered me in my 27 previous years. I discovered that poison ivy starts off looking like a bright red scratch. You might think you got it from running into a branch. Then it explodes into a giant itchy mess. And you know you have poison ivy.
In addition to the uncomfortable state my body is placed in due to these external assaults from plant life and parasites, I also tend to suffer from eczema (can they come up with a less disgusting word, seriously sounds like I have herpes or something), another itchy enemy. So by the end of summer, luckily my skin is not dry, but it is decidedly hot and itchy.
By late summer, the spiders are approaching Aragog size and they can build webs across the trail that are strong enoug to knock you on your ass (or at least slow your momentum) before you can say "Holy Aragog!" I'm not ashamed to admit that I usually put off my August morning runs until I've seen a few bikes ride through. I will say one positive thing about spiders. In August, on a dewy morning, the light glistening off hundreds of spider webs high up in the trees is truly gorgeous.
If you're not squeamish about eating web, you might be turned off by the giant horseflies that will chase you for miles if they really want a piece of your flesh. Yes, they bite. According to Wikipedia, it's the females that bite. B****es! The one benefit of horseflies is that they usually get you into a good tempo run. If you can't run fast enough to beat a horsefly, your best bet is to trade places with a friend (don't tell them you're trying to pass the horsefly). Horseflies can be easily distracted by other tastier treats. If you don't have a friend, you just have to pray that you will run into some other poor schmuck on the trail.
In conclusion, The Green is awesome for about 4 weeks until it turns into hell, but do I want to stop trail running? Heck no! Like my mother always told me, "No horsefly bites, no gain." She might argue with the truth of the statement, but I'll just claim it's her failing memory. Kidding mom!