Hot Days, Trail Run Nights

Sunday Runday and technically I finished my weekly long, slow distance very early this morning, even before I went to bed last night.

The arrival of what the weather forecasters have called โ€œa mass of hot airโ€ over the western half of North America has provided us with a second great excuse to mix up the running training plan.

The first excuse is that a large contingent of our running crew is off to an overnight mountain race in less than two weeks thanks to the lifting of pandemic restrictions and the resumption of in person racing. They need some serious mileage to help with their training.

Two great excuses collided into an impromptu plan to start our run just as the sun was setting last night, providing a bit of reprieve from the heat and some local training for trail running by headlamp.

The first five or six kilometers wedged neatly into a golden hour dusk even after most of the sunlight had faded beyond the horizon. We trod through a more open section of gravel trail still able to mostly see without artificial lights and stumbling through the terrain without much difficulty.

The next three klicks took us into a winding, twisting, rolling bit of the river valley that swtiched back on itself and sometime between entering and leaving the disorienting maze of trees and roots and flitting insects, the night fully collapsed into darkness and my seven companions and I were little more than spots of light and echo-location-like shouts from the distance.

Yet, it is remarkable how the dark plays with all your senses on a run like this. Confusing them. Blurring them. At one point, stumbling down a narrow tree-lined path in the dark, I caught myself checking to see if I was maybe dreaming and mentally pinching myself as I felt my mind drift past it’s bedtime fuzziness.

Our full path crossed with late-night picnickers, a porcupine, a creepy man rollerblading through the trails in pitch black, and the eerie silence once abruptly broken by the echoing boom of a distant blast of noise. For one long stretch of about fifteen minutes where we had nothing but smooth asphalt ahead of us we turned off our headlamps and ran in the pitch blackness under the starry sky and soft glow of the surrounding suburbs.

It was all at once crazy, serene, painful, and intimidating.

I crawled into bed shortly after one-thirty am, having crept back into my sleeping house and quietly showered the dust from my calves and sweat from my back, my Sunday run done, and my mind a blur from the mash up of heat and experiences.