Night run to the ‘Y’
I really wasn’t planning on running today, but it wasn’t looking like I would be able to fit in another long run before it was time to start tapering down for the Leadville Trail Marathon next weekend.
There is a big ‘Y’ painted on the mountain above the BYU campus in Provo. I’ve always thought it was kind of an eyesore, but it was created 100 years ago so I guess it gets a free pass from most people. At any rate, it would provide a good destination for my night run.
With the Bear 100 getting closer all the time, it’s important that I get in some good night time practice running with my headlamp (I’ll be going through almost 12 hours of darkness during the 100 miler). I loaded up my trusty Camelbak, scrounged some batteries for my headlamp from my parents, laced up the Montrails, and hit the road at about 9:30 pm.
There was enough light that I didn’t have to use my lamp for the first 3 miles of pavement running through the north end of Springville. Just as it was getting dark, I started a big climb up to the foothills where I would access the dirt roads/trails that would take me to the ‘Y’. I had ridden my bike through here dozens of times years ago and was pretty familiar with the area, but soon became frustrated with dead ends, no trespassing signs, and new housing developments built on top of the trails I used to ride. I had to backtrack several times, and eventually had to give back all of the altitude I had gained in order to find a way around the houses. After running about a half of a mile in the weeds alongside a major highway, I finally gained access to the trails.
This was a low point for me, I was feeling tired and frustrated and just about bagged the whole idea. Reaching familiar territory, I was finally able to get into a good running pace – then I hit yet another dead end. I really wanted to just quit and go to bed now, but I gave it one last shot and backtracked until I found a faint trail heading straight uphill to some power lines high up the slope. Jackpot – there was a good trail here that I would use for the next several miles.
The first hour was difficult, I kept stepping in holes and tripping over rocks. I started feeling better and better, though, and soon was running like I would in daylight. I love running at night, everything is concentrated into the spot of light ahead of you on the trail. All of your senses become finely tuned. The full moon rose behind me and I spun around thinking someone was coming up behind me the light was so bright.
I made it to the base of the ‘Y’ and started the steep hike up. There were several groups of college kids on the trail, none of them had lights. One girl coming down had a death grip on her boyfriend’s arm and was taking steps that were about a centimeter in length. It was a little slippery, but no problem in my trail shoes. The climb took me 20 minutes and I stopped at the top for a little break. At this point I had been on the go for almost 3 hours. I started down at half past midnight, and with my headlamp on its brightest setting, bombed the descent as fast as I could. I made it in 8 minutes with a huge smile on my face. The same girl from earlier screamed “Oh my gosh!! I’m so impressed!!” as I flew past taking 6 foot strides. Might have been sarcasm, but it made me smile. Whatever. It used to be that this long into a run my legs would be so tight I could only manage an ugly looking limp/hobble/run. Now my legs were still supple and loose and I took full advantage.
I noticed a tiny diamond-like reflection on the trail while I was heading back. When I stopped to look, I found that it was the eyes of a huge spider that were shining back at me. Cool! After that, I started noticing those little reflections everywhere. Even from spiders as small as a dime. Who knew?!?
The rest of the run was almost perfect, nice cooling summer breeze, full moon, great rolling trail, and I kept up a good steady pace. The one concern was water. I counted on refilling at the base of the ‘Y’, but the fountain only spouted about a quarter of an inch – I hate that!! I sucked down as much as I could, which helped, but it wasn’t enough to last. I had to stretch my 15 mile supply into 20.
The last 3 miles on pavement were tough. My legs were starting to drag, and I was ready to be finished. It’s funny how all of my runs always seem to end up being 3-4 miles longer than what I can comfortably handle – and I end up limping into the finish like a B-17 bomber coming back from a raid over Germany. Full of holes, controls not working, sputtering engines, and trailing smoke.
I made it – it was now past 2:00 in the morning. 4.5 hours and 20 miles.