If you could not tell I have Ragnar fever, probably will for the next three weeks. As I mentioned previously, my prime goals right now involve preparation for my final half marathon before triathlon season and my upcoming Ranar relay race. Last week and this week I began incorporating one running workout with four hours separating my runs. This leaves my remaining unknown to tackle running trails in the dark.
The shift of the clock forward greatly helped this endevour by providing extra hours of darkness in the morning. The only factor I had to figure out was where to run. I found a nice set of dirt bike/hiking and general use trails off of the Chattahoochee that was not too far from my work. Armed with my new headlamp, a Black Diamond Spot, I eagerly parked my car, geared up and headed out onto the casual wide trail. I use the term trail loosely as this part of the trail system is basically a very wide, even path that most runners occupy. On this morning I came upon a few other runners and continued to push forward. My real goal was the bike trails that forked off of my current path.
As I veered off to the bike trail I made sure I had my lamp set to output all 130 lumens available. While the previous path was dark, this path was pitch black, leaving a feeling of being covered by an inky blackness that oozed from everywhere. Unlike the other trail this trail was barely wide enough for a single bike and proved difficult with tons of large mud pits, gnarly roots pushing up from the soil every where and tree canopy that hugged the trail. I ran forward trying to get a feel for the process of running in this darkness with awareness of the terrain. After a little while I got used to noticing hazards in the trail ahead and I learned to rely on my trail shoes to stabilize my feet and ankles when I mistepped. After a while I got into a rhythm and running in the darkness with only a headlight to guide me became fun. I began to just run and trust my shoes and eyes and my breathing became regular.
Similar to trail running, running at night on trails is a learning experience. Your eyes are less important than your sense of balance and the feel of the terrain. Little roots become monster threats and downhills become thrilling and scary. But once I learned to let go and just trust myself my run became very enjoyable and even a bit more relaxing. One of the oddest experiences happened about an three miles into my run. I turned off onto a section of trail I had not been to before and ran smack dab into a metal fence and a giant funeral obelisk. I knew there were some ruins in the area but I was not expecting this in the middle of nowhere. In the dark it was extremely eerie and creepy.
After a few miles my trail emptied back out onto the wide, common used soft track. By this point the sun had arisen and the morning was alive with animals and a faint humming of nearby cars from the interstate. I was slightly muddy and fortunately not bloody. The morning was an amazing learning experience and I am possibly now a huge fan of running at night. The world and trails feel so different than in the daylight. I am going to have to squeeze in a few more practice sessions so I can be better at it by the time Ragnar rolls around. Til next time.