Summer Trail Running

By: Matt Ostrander

With summer well underway, we’re at the three-way intersection of tick season, mosquito season, and deer fly season.  Add in heat and humidity, and it’s a perfect time to get out and run area trails.  Yesterday I hopped in the truck, drove out to Hatchery Creek County Park, and ran my old reliable 8-miler:  up the Birkie Trail to Mosquito Brook Road, and back.

The trail was in good shape, especially near Hatchery Park, where the good Birkie folks have done some resurfacing of the trail bed and planted grass seed.  It’s a constant fight against erosion and gullying on those sandy downhills, but they’re keeping up with it nicely.  If you run or bike out there, try to stay off the new grass until it gets strong.

I’ve run this section of the trail so many hundreds of times that it’s a Zen experience for me.  My mind and body can go on auto-pilot if I have other things to think about. If nothing special is on my mind, then I guess I practice what sports psychologists would call “mindfulness running.”  That’s a fancy way of saying that I pay close attention to what my body is doing, how it feels, how all the parts are working together, how my form looks and feels, and so on. Running is super interesting to me, so I’m never bored when I run.  

I’ve been in the “Masters Runner” category for about twenty years now, so when I listen to my body, it doesn’t sound like Beyonce or Sinatra.  It sounds more like the animatronics at Lester’s Possum Palace.  That doesn’t make it less interesting, though.  I’ve got this old double-trunk pine tree in my yard that’s been dying for years, ever since it almost killed my son Ray.  Everyone from my wife to my brother-in-law has suggested that I take it down, but there’s still some life in it–both its own and the many critters that inhabit it.  Here’s a photo:

Part of the reason that I leave the tree alone is that I’m fascinated by the decay process.  Watching my body run is, at this point, similar.  As I get slower, tire more easily, and take longer to recover, I just have to remind myself that it’s all part of the process.

Back to the run.  Although I had a protective veil on the back of my hat (a scrap from some old long johns, safety-pinned to the hat), I decided to add a deer fly strip just for fun.  You can get these at L&M Fleet Supply.  They’re not expensive, and they work great, as you can see.  (I pinned it on because if your hat gets really sweaty, sometimes the adhesive fails.)  Back at the warming hut, I swapped bug stories with some bikers.  Being from New Mexico, they were more concerned about our Northwoods ticks, but they confessed to being harassed by deer flies as well.  Until you’ve experienced it, you don’t know how irritating it can be to have deer flies down in the vent cracks of your helmet, buzzing around and biting you while you try to shake your head, slide your helmet back and forth, and not crash.  I shared my anti-deer-fly trick with them:  you get a $3 mesh mosquito hood, stretch it tight over your helmet, run a bead of hot glue all around the lower edge of the helmet, and trim off the excess.  If you plan to use deer fly strips on it, apply some Gorilla Tape permanently to the mesh, and then stick the deer fly strips to the tape.

Anyway, the run was hot but enjoyable.  I was well hydrated, and I took advantage of the cold drinking water available at the Mosquito Brook warming hut (thanks again, Birkie crew).  The heat left me feeling sweaty but loose and pleasantly tired.  A quick dip in Hatchery Creek was refreshing, but since the deer flies were there too, I didn’t linger.

If you’re new to the Hayward area and looking for places to hike, bike, snowshoe, ski, or run, call the Hayward Lakes Visitors and Convention Bureau at 715-634-4801.  Ask for Matt.  If I’m out on the trails at the time, any of my co-workers would be happy to give you some recommendations.  We really are blessed with an amazing variety of trails.