As I dropped down to the creek, I was flustered by a severely overgrown trail of flowers, shrubs and poison oak. The descent bothered me, which drove me to run faster and faster to escape the suffocating feeling. I reached the bottom and began the exposed climb to Charlton Flats. Almost every water bar had failed and my feet were wedged inward in the trough in the middle of the trail. My ankles yelled out for freedom to flex naturally, but the shape of the rut and the narrow trail were completely constricting. Upon reaching the top of the bluffs, I cruised down to the fire road and climbed over several downed trees. Every quarter mile featured a different maze of branches to weave through. When I finally reached Chilao, I was debating even running back.
For me, trail running has become about the freedom to move through terrain without any feelings of constriction or limitation. What I described above is a good metaphor of my first year of running long distance trails. When I first started, I wore heavy trail shoes, carried too much gear, and wore tight synthetic "running socks" that constricted my toes. I remember distinctly thinking that every run in the mountains was a risk, that I had to protect myself from the dangers of the mountains. As I developed as a trail runner, I started to wear lighter shoes, carry only what I needed, and wear Injinjis. Gradually I began to look at trails as a blank canvasses for my free-spirited legs. The only rules were to use whatever works: nothing more and nothing less. Though the lightest shoes felt great at first, I still needed some level of protection. Occasionally I tried to run without socks, but blisters would eventually form. Injinjis were (and still are) that perfect blend of freedom and protection. I can run 100 miles races with my Injinji Performance 2.0 with natural toe spay and no blisters. It's a beautiful thing to figure out your gear and connect perfectly with the terrain. Ultimately, that's why I have so much loyalty to the brand: the socks support my pursuit of freedom in the mountains.
After I stopped for a bit and ate, I turned around and took off flying out of the campground. I checked my watch a couple times as I negotiated all the hazards that would slow my progress, but I eventually forgot about time and ran free and hard. I leap over trees instead of slowly climbing them, quickly danced over the gaps in the trail, and drove headfirst into the brush overgrowth. By the time I reached Shortcut Saddle, I had ran my fastest time by some 13 minutes: 55:45-pure freedom in rough terrain.