last call.

The final daylight hours of the last day of the year were slipping away.  My had arrived to watch the girls while I snuck out onto the Horseshoe Trail for one final run in 2010.  I was moments from stepping out the door when Clouseau misunderstood Veterinarian Lily's waving of a tongue depressor with a too meek "say ahhh" command and ended up giving her a pretty scary double swipe to the face that barely missed delivering damage to her right eye.  I'd eventually soother her with two calming (though thankfully unnecessary) band-aids and gotten her to agree to my departing.

Pulling into the trailhead parking lot just off of Route 72 South, I glanced at the dashboard clock and realized that I had two hours of light left and I'd forgotten to pack a headlamp.  No time to waste, I fired up the GPS and headed up the abandoned but paved road on the far side of the gate and hoped that the yellow blazes would soon deposit me on unimproved terrain.  Nearly half a mile later I got my wish.

The next few miles wound through Governor Dick park lands on a path that wavered between technical and smoothed-over single track that allowed me to move briskly.  I passed a number of small access points that harbored parked cars but I never did see the people who had piloted the vehicles there.  Not that I minded.

Other than pondering Lily's near miss, I'm not sure my mind was terribly active with anything other than taking in the unseasonably mild weather, the rhythmic crunching of my feet and the periodic called complaints of woodland birds as I clambered by.  In other words, I was enjoying myself.

Crossing Pinch Road and entering into PA state game lands, the single track gave way to overgrown abandoned logging and fire roads, open meadows and woods-ringed farming tracts.  While not technical in the least, this portion of the run was a blast as I could push the tempo a bit without worrying about each footfall.

Reaching what turned out to be Colebrook Road, I peeked at my wrist and discovered that I'd traveled nearly 6.5 miles.  The sun was definitely riding low on the horizon but I decided to cross Colebrook and go far enough to ensure that I'd have covered half-marathon distance by the time I got back to the car.  I wasn't sure what time it was but I knew I'd need to maintain pace to finish with any light remaining.

On the return trip I was overcome with gratitude for the luxury of health and support at home that was enabling me to do what I was doing.  The shoes I was wearing had been Christmas gifts as was the camera I was carrying.  My boss had been generous enough to give all his employees the day off and my aunt had been kind enough to tend to her nieces so I could spend the time I was spending in the woods.  I silently thanked all involved and vowed to pass along my appreciation at each available opportunity.

Minutes passed swiftly and, relative to the limits of my abilities, so did the miles. I arrived back at the trailhead with a few moments of light to spare.

As far as running was concerned, the year was over.  Proof that it had been a good year, I would be able to step into 2011 injury-free.  I undid the laces on my shoes and grinned at the realization that I'd be lacing them right back up again in the morning.


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