Tree Roots and Bar Codes

As I contemplate the varied shades of color that make up my lower body, I realize that my outdoor activities are written all over my body.  Like the tatoos that sport my arm and my foot, the scabs, bruises, cuts and scrapes that take up residence along my shins, knees, thighs, and occasionally, elbows add their own story.

During my trail run this morning I considered these markings and their causes.

Am I simply a piss-poor mountain biker (the sport behind the majority of knee and elbow scabs, and a repeat layering of bruised shins)?  I ride fast and hard on my singlespeed 29’er, especially when riding with my male counterparts.  “Bomb it” is frequently heared on knarly stretches of steep singletrack to get me lay off the brakes.  Dodging rocks and hairpin turns on some of my favorite trails rarely unseats me.  Instead, its the technically challenging uphills that take up residence a purple shade across my thighs.  Its seems strange that a crash at a pace more akin to a snail than a cheetah could inflict so much damage, while the wind rushing through my helmet downhill ‘endo’ is rarer.

Tree roots are my particular nemesis.  These wily, unassumingly smooth, tentacles of death unseat more times than I’d like to admit.   One one of my favorite ‘easy’ rides, the Peaks Trail runs from Breckenridge ten miles to Frisco.  An undulating trail that is rarely technical other than a few rock gardens spewed across the path.  Yet, become too settled, and WHAMMO!  You forget to watch out for that slippery tree root, rubbed smooth as glass from other bikes, hikers, and the elements.  It’s laying in wait along the trail…and without fail, my rear tires slides and down I go, usually with my feet still clipped in.  Painful?  Yes.  Embarrassing?  Very.

I thought of those tree roots a lot today while trail running the same said Peaks Trail.  They’ve never taken me down running.  Instead they, along with the rock gardens, offer a workout on par with the quick-step drills you see American Football players do at practice.  Usually through rope ladders.  My off-road version offers the same benefit of light, quick steps with the added bonus of uneven surfaces and varied terrain.  It strengthens your feet, ankles, and calves while improving your balance.  Nature is the best training ground.

Still many of the grazes across my legs have come from trail running.   Today was one of those reminders to pay attention or pay the consequence.   Its not the tree roots, but the barcodes that do me in.  During a small window of time in the morning or evening on tree lined trails, the sun shines through and breaks across the trail in between the trees creating a deadly bar code effect across the tree root and rock laden trail.  An alternating effect of light and dark that messes up your ability to read the trail at any speed faster than a power hike.  Toes catch the rock behind you, you misjudge the space between obstacles.  All in all, a lesson in concentration at pace.

Yet, like the tatoos that I have chosen to place on my body permanently, the temporary tatoos that grace my limbs remind me of how much I love the trails.  Instead of putting me off, they offer up a challenge, and I cherish them like a warrior’s battle scars.  Each layer of bruising reminding me of the freedom I feel on the trail, and the joy I derive from the speed and strength that I develop each time I venture out.

Tree roots and bar codes beware, you haven’t put me off yet.


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