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Too Many Spiders

June 1, 2012

Last night I faced a moral (or is it ethical?) dilemma.  That very, very rarely happens while running.  In fact, one of the reasons I so like to get out on the trails is to clear my head and just not worry about much of anything.

When at home I have no problem smooshing any fur-less creature that makes its way into “my” domain.  But outside, especially in the woods, I feel like the assorted non-human life forms get right-of-way.  So, roughly 5 minutes into my 5 hour run, when I came face-to-face with a chunky spider monster spinning a massive web right at face level across the single-track trail, I ducked under and continued on.  Same with the next one, maybe 3 minutes later.  And again a few minutes after that.

When I – surprise! – nearly ran into the next in the series of wannabe Mike-eating-arachnids, I stopped.  I knew that I’d be doubling back over the same terrain, probably a couple of times.  And I knew that the later it got, the more tired I’d be, and the more distressing it would be to get some eyelashes full of sticky web or, worse, inhale one of these particularly menacing looking bugs.  I made a choice, one that I like to think saved my life and the lives of any other brave souls who followed in my footsteps: I knocked down a spider web in the woods.  Then I did it, again and again and again, all along the trail.

I have to admit it felt both mean-spirited and empowering.  While the spiders were super creepy, I’ve always thought it was a special brand of dick who did things like web-destroying.  I justified each act as self-defense.  Me or them.  An hour or two of work for a mindless web spinner versus my safety and sanity.  So, with breaks in the action only when crossing the creek (thigh high, almost stepped on a frog swimming underfoot) and on some of the wider sections of trail, I perfected my web-knocking strategy* over and over and over for many hours.

I got in over 22 miles, ending around 3am, without a single fall or known spider attack.  It was mentally tough, with all the sudden stopping and starting for spiders and then hiking back and forth through the creek, and the dark and the heat and the humidity and wearing a pack with 70 ounces of water and the tired legs (I ran 15 miles the day before and just shy of 90 miles for the last seven days).  But, it was a special run.  Being out in the dark like that in the woods, completely alone, in the middle of the night, has a surreal aspect to it.  I kept one ear to the often quite loud hissing and humming and squirming of a billion legged and winged things, and the other taking in stories, news, and interviews from a handful of my favorite podcasts (Talk Ultra, Adam Carolla, Endurace Planet, Real Time with Bill Maher, and an assortment of NPR staples).  While tired and slow, I was able to stay steady and run without pain.

Quick aside – I am back to doing some of my trail running with trekking poles, in order to gain some upper body fitness, move more confidently over technical terrain, and lighten the load on my legs.  I’m undecided about using them for Cactus Rose but leaning towards it.  I did something of a test on two recent workouts; a 15-repeat (15-mile) hill session without them, followed a week later by a 20-repeat (20-mile) hill session with them.  Each time I went on tired legs, perhaps more tired the second outing, and at the same time of day on the same course, with similarly hot/humid conditions.  I actually had an easier time doing 20 repeats with the poles, and less resulting soreness, than I did doing the 15 repeats without them.  I know some purist trail runners think that poles are, at best, a crutch for the weak-minded and, at worst, a legal aid that may as well be cheating.  But, to them, I say this: my reasons for running are to (1) move as quickly as possible under my own power, (2) gain full body fitness without injuring myself,  (3) enjoy the experience and (4) have enough longevity in the sport to be ready to run with my grandkids.  I think poles might help on all four fronts, though I welcome the thoughts of my trail running buddies who think otherwise.

In non-running news, this is how I spend my most mornings:

*Strategy evolved to a single wide clockwise sweep of the web perimeter with the tip of my trekking pole.  It was quick, assured that a spider wasn’t still hanging by a literal thread, and avoided the possibility of hitting the spider with the pole, as that would increase the likelihood of it crawling up to my hand, up my arm, hopping into my hair, and burrowing a hole into my scalp, where it would lay baby spiders who would eat important brain parts.

  1. Anonymous permalink

    The lure worked!

  2. Rosie permalink

    You are such a tender soul! Most folks would smash a spider web in a heartbeat. Thanks for caring so much about all the creatures in the forest — and thanks for ending up deciding it was them or you! Good job, son. (Mom)

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