“What do you think of the trail so far?” Gary “Story Hawk” Henry asked.
We were shuffling along the north shoreline of Clinton Lake, Gary providing the first of two “previews” he’d lead that morning. We’d be doing some trash pick-up later, but at the moment we were engaged in a little footwork. At our current position on the “5K-ish” course, the terrain involved big, white, untrustworthy rocks mixed in with little, white, untrustworthy rocks—enough of a challenge that even the venerable Story Hawk had a couple ankle-wiggles. It was a beautiful mid-September morning, Clinton Lake seemed within reach of our left arms, and I was having fun.
“It’s pretty gnarly,” I said.
“Right here it is, yes,” said Gary, who was (effortlessly, of course) enjoying his first run since cracking his knee a few weeks prior. “Are you enjoying the view of the lake?”
“I’d enjoy it more if I weren’t watching my feet,” I said.
Gary chuckled in a this-is-what-it’s-all-about sort of way.
“Yes! Look up, and you fall down, that’s the trail runner’s adage,” he said.
The course begins in dewy, shin-high grass, passes “Land’s End” and heads downhill over small, slippery rocks before reaching this climactic lake view and the crumbling shoreline. As it heads away from the water, back uphill, the course smooths out considerably, with the odd root or rock and a couple interludes of downright easy going. Still, I was glad I’d worn my bulky Saucony trail shoes for the occasion, as the Nike Eclipses I favor on the Sandrat trails would have left me sliding on the slippery, rocky descent to the water at the beginning of the course. (Nike Eclipse is marketed as a leisure shoe but is darn similar to the more expensive Nike Free, though with even less under foot. It’s the best simulation I’ve found to true barefoot running, which I do regularly where terrain permits.)
As we made our way to higher land, Gary blasting through spiderwebs like a champion, we heard voices and came upon a man with two boys, eight or ten years old, and a little girl. The older boy enthusiastically cleared the way with a large stick while making dramatic grunts and unintelligible words, perhaps anticipating that week’s national “Talk Like a Pirate Day,” while the younger ones panted along.
“Taking the kids exploring,” the dad reported to us with a smile.
“Glad to see it!” Gary chimed.
We picked up our pace a bit as we rounded out the course, in the meantime discussing writing, triathlons, Coleen “Lil’ Big Hawk” Voeks’ recent kick-ass 48-hour run and the general superiority of trail runners. The course finishes with a steep, concrete stairway to heaven and then a short sprint to a nearby tree.
As we emerged from the trail, the day suddenly was warmer. I chugged some water and wondered what sort of weather the Shoreline Shuffle would bring in just a week.
Soon, Gary and I were back on the trail picking up glass, plastic and paper towels of questionable histories with Karen “Sassy Hawk” Collier, Micah “Milk Hawk” Rose and his adorable daughter. (Story Hawk was sure to regale the wee child with tales of Clintie the Lake Monster, though she proved unfazed.) I had to leave the cleanup team early. As I drove out of the state park, I looked forward to my first official Trailhawks race (Coleen’s Sweaty Ass being a run, not a race), the Second Annual Shoreline Shuffle.