Although the holidays are over, I am still posting special blog posts chronicling 12 of my favorite running races from 2012 and the somewhat funny lessons, or gifts you could say, that came from them (well…they’re funny now; at the time not so much). After all, the new year is ahead ready to take new challenges on.
On the 10th day of running, racing gave to me the darkest, craziest 10K ever.
One of the handball players at the gym is a feisty old man – he’ll hit on everything. He’s half joking but at the same time he’s somewhat serious because, hey, you just never know. He doesn’t let being really old limit his life choices. After another attempt to woo me and join him for dinner, I informed him the waitress would probably think I was his granddaughter, not his date.
“Oh, Jenny. Age doesn’t matter. Every cat looks black in the dark,” he informed me.
Same with nighttime races – every runner and course looks the same in the dark. But they do feel different.
Starting around twilight on a humid August night is the Trail Nerds Psych Night 5K/10K at the Wyandotte County Park near Kansas City. I’d never run a night race OR a trail run, so I was in for an interesting experience. Top that with typical thick KS humidity, and the run was definitely going to be a challenge.
The most important thing for a night run is to bring a strong flashlight. Also, get over the fact that headlamps are dorky. They are NOT when you’re running in the woods, by yourself, you’re not sure you’re still on the course, you really hope raccoons don’t eat people although you suspect otherwise after that incident at Girl Scout Camp, and it’s pitch black all around you.
You suddenly realize you are probably on the set of the Blair Witch Project 2: They Mostly Come Out at Night…Mostly. And Eat Runners.
When I was running with other people, I used their lights and the sound of their voices to help me navigate. But during the last mile, I was a lone runner, and suddenly my flashlight seemed as useful as a tits on a man.
Besides being pitch dark, the course was marked with small orange and pink flags placed on random trees and rocks. Oh yea, there were also rocks and roots and branches and all sorts of things to dodge and duck and dip and dodge some more around. In the daytime, this wouldn’t be a big deal – at night, it’s suddenly the obstacle course from hell.
But I enjoyed it – taking your time and navigating the course kept me from thinking too much about how long the race took. It takes a lot longer to run a trail race than a road race – like going from 8-9min miles to 10-12 min miles, if not more.
One of the miles of this race is called the Bermuda Triangle – it’s a large circle full of all sorts of nasty things to run into and around. There’s currently a cash prize for any one who can run the mile in under 8 minutes (I think). And this is hard. Don’t think that sounds like an easy feat. Especially in the dark.
You also use A LOT of leg muscles running on uneven terrain, and it will tear away at your shoes. I ran in my usual Mizuno Wave Riders, but definitely in the older ones so as not to ruin my new ones. I have strong leg muscles and know my strength is what helped me pace this race so well. But my ankles, the ligaments around them, were sore for a WHOLE WEEK after. You’ll be sore in ways you never imagined from trail running.
And definitely take safety over speed when trail running. Blazing over a rocky bridal trail and pulling or breaking something isn’t worth it.
What is worth it is the cold beer at the end of the race. An hour and seven minutes later, I emerged from the woods to see the somewhat lit path to the finish line. I was never so glad to see other people and lights in my life than I did at the moment. The last mile felt like I was running aimlessly with no end in sight, wondering the whole time if I was still on the course, wondering if I was close to the end, kept thinking every bend around the corner was the last. Time starts to distort – its so surreal running into what looks like nothing. And I admitted that Jason was right – I should have borrowed his dorky headlamp from his Boy Scout days.
It was so hot most of us were taking more ice out of the cooler than beer – but once we’d cooled down a bit, the beer was next to go. I never thought Miller Lite could taste so refreshing (I’ve become a beer snob). The other cool thing about this race, or maybe I should say hot, is instead of t-shirts (although they do sell Trail Nerd apparel – and it’s great gear at a great price!), you get an awesome Trail Nerds mug.
I also like the night runs because I’m a lot more awake at 8pm than 8am. So if you’re not an early riser, or you want a trail adventure, or maybe it’s because you like the idea that every runner looks good in the dark, then definitely try the Psych Night 5K/10K.