We’ve all been there, crashing along a trail and then rounding a bend, find a massive puddle in front of you. What do you do? Do you, like most people try to get on the edge of the footpath to avoid the muddy foot bath?! Or do you plough on through into the unknown depths? Here are a few tips on how to avoid getting mud on your face this Autumn.
What colour is it?
The colour and consistency of the soil and mud will tell us a lot about how slippery it could be when wet and also how likely puddles are going to be. Without getting your portable chemistry set out, let’s do a quick check of the most common encounters…
- White: If it’s white, then we’re talking chalk, in my experience the worst soil type to be on if it’s wet. I have seen many a brave man or woman think they can outwit this slippery customer. As soon as the rain hits you’re looking at something with the consistency of wet soap. Not worth doing any sudden movements or turns, ideally you want to find the grass and avoid the white stuff like the plague, otherwise you will fall and it will hurt. Note, puddles in chalk often form in quite deep ruts as the water cannot escape.
- Orange: Next worse one – clay. Same as above for chalk. You’ll also be pleased with how quickly your treads fill up with both these sorts of mud, rendering them completely useless. Mud on mud. So a top tip is to take a moment and either wash it off or wipe it off on the grass, getting some grip back.
- Yellow: If it’s yellow… then it’s probably quite sandy, the consistency of the track might be made of gravel as well and for either this shouldn’t be a problem in wet ground, charge on through.
- Black: Most likely peat. Doesn’t normally stick to your shoe like the white and orange mud but it will be a sign of very wet areas. This could be a long day out, best just stick to the path.
- Brown: Just your usual mud, get stuck in bearing in mind the other techniques talked about below.
- Green: Grass. Grass is always the better option than chalk or clay but not always vs. other terrain. Most accidents occur when people are descending wet grass, unfortunately there are no “grass training courses” but the best technique is to keep your centre of mass low and knees bent.
- Purple: Not all grass is made equal. If you’ve ever run in the hills in the UK, such as Snowdonia, the Lakes or Scotland then you may have spotted areas of purple grass, commonly known as ‘purple moor grass’. Despite it’s purple appeal it’s best avoided as it likes swampy ground. A good tip to avoid a dip.
Get a grip
Having sufficient tread on your trail shoe (if you can keep it from getting clogged up) as well as the right grip type for the terrain is going to make a big difference. From massive lugs, to old school spikes and everything inbetween, trail shoes have many different treads, they are also made of different softness of rubber, grip patterns and depth of grip. Know which ones have the best grip for your terrain.
Most of the time its best to just plough straight on through, keeping your stride and gait unchanged. That way you won’t risk a slip on the edge of the path which could see you not only land puddle bound but worse with a twisted an ankle.
Some puddles are worse than others, watch out for those ones at the side of roads which could see you knee deep or have an uneven bottom. Be aware of narrow tracks which mountain bikers and horses use which can deep uneven ruts.
Just avoid bogs, areas of the Peak District are notorious. You can spend days getting out of those. If you do get stuck in them, spread your weight out as much as possible.
Be like Jesus and try to walk on water. Well what I mean is don’t put too much faith in each footing, moving quickly to the next foot will reduce the time you’re sinking into the mud. You can also reduce the weight on one foot by doing a mini step, hopping quickly to the next foot, just remember you’ll land more heavily on the next step.
Leggings or better still a good coating of freshly dried mud will keep your legs warm so you can tackle all the mud and puddles on route with warm and reactive muscles.
Use your poles
As George Orwell once wrote… “4 legs are better than 2”. Use the poles to dance along the path, jump the puddles with added security. Possibly even stop and use them as a depth gauge. Keep your hands out of the straps if you are at risk of falling, broken wrists are worse than muddy legs.
Which way is north?
Not that old chestnut again! Yes I like knowing where I am. It’s also true that paths that run east-west have more puddles on the southern aspect. Yes I am a nerd.
Goretex trail shoes?
Tricky one, depends on whether you are going to be consistently running through puddles, if so, don’t bother with waterproof shoes as they are more likely to become waterlogged as the water struggles to get out.
Pick your moment
I remember hurtling along a particularly muddy, puddly stretch using the “Be brave” motto as above, when as I came to a corner in the trail, I spotted a family. Clearly out for a nice morning stroll in their wellies. Kindly, they all stepped back off the path allowing me to pass, I didn’t even need to slow down. Feeling in my element with mud splashed up the sides of my legs, the true symbol of a gnarly wild trail runner I approached the corner with speed. In reply to their kind gesture I managed to just about get out the “good” part of “good morning” as my legs went from under me and I hit the deck. Turning in mud, and at speed is unwise, it’s also embarrassing when people watch. Make sure the coast is clear before you clown around, unless of course you’re taking part in tough mudder…