Friday, October 22, 2010

Semi-Rugged - trail running in the dark

This run was something different, for sure. Mines Falls park in Nashua has a great collection of trails and will be host to the Jack London 10K trail run in early November. A bunch of friends all entered the race and Cathy organized a run of the course so we'd be familiar with it even though we've all run at Mines Falls in the past. I pulled into the parking area at 5:50 to see Cathy and Bob already there. They'd never met but had seen pictures of each other online so had already introduced themselves. Dani was going to try to make it, but told us not to wait if she wasn't there yet. We dressed for the run (hats, gloves, headlamps) and started out on the first loop.

It was still light and Cathy thought we should take advantage of being able to see so she took off at a blistering pace. Bob and I wondered what we had gotten ourselves into. The first part of the course is good footing so we were able to keep up, just barely, we even saw a muskrat in the canal. Over the bridge and back towards the gate house we heard a yell "Cathy" from the other side and concluded it was Dani. We decided to wait at the gatehouse at the end of the first loop and on we went on the rougher trails. I was pressing hard to keep up with Cathy who knows every root and rock so was running with purpose. Dani was waiting for us at the gatehouse when we arrived and we pressed off into the woods as the light dwindled.

Soon after that I turned on my headlamp and was centered in the cone of light. My concentration was on the reflective patch on the back of Cathy's pack, her feet, and the trail. If I allowed anything else to catch my attention I stumbled so I was forced to focus. There were a series of downed logs that we had to jump over, so naturally I tripped on the flat ground in between them, no blood - no foul. Cathy and I were running a bit faster than Dani and Bob (who ran faster than me in the half marathon on Sunday) and unfortunately we lost them on the other side of the highway. Since Bob knew the trails I assumed they elected to stay on the better trails while I plunged on following the reflective triangles that darted and skipped past obstacles.

Night time trail running is challenging. I stepped on a few roots and rocks that threatened to twist an ankle but never did. I tripped once and caught myself on my hands with no damage (except to my pride) and slowed down a bit after that. We kept up a conversation the entire run in our two little cones of light. Back to the major trail and we headed back towards home. But the Jack London has a trick or two up its sleeve as we headed back to the river, down and up a nice hill that had me slowing down due to not being able to see far enough ahead. Cathy, knowing the route, could run with more confidence and she sped ahead. Back to the last turn and a sprint for the finish, where we met Bob and Dani who had run their own route.

I've liked the trail running I've done in the past, but night time training is its own special world. As winter is coming up and sunset is now before 6:00 this may be a regular option until the trails are full of snow and ice. It's definitely a way to break up some boring training runs, and have fun on what would otherwise be familiar trails. Next time, rain and mud! Rugged!

10/21/2010 - Mines Falls trail run by metsky at Garmin Connect - Details