Sunday, July 30, 2006

Night Walk

Last night my trail running club, the North Texas Trail Runners, hosted their annual members and guests Night Run. This was a race I might actually win because it is a prediction run - no watches or cell phones or MP3 players, just guess your time and see who is closest.

The race is on the rugged and wonderful North Shore Trail at Lake Grapevine. It's probably the most popular trail for running (and mountain biking) in the Dallas area. We started in the middle of the trail at the MADD shelter; the course went south out and back (little over 9 miles total) and then north out and back (little under 9 miles) for an 18 mile course. It's a pretty low key affair and largely self-supported except for water, gatorade and food in the middle.

We started at 8:00 and I quickly dropped back to almost last place. I had predicted 3:54, a 13:00 per mile pace. I haven't trained or raced on trails since March, and I've only walked 18 miles or farther once since March, so I really didn't know what to expect.

It was light for about 30 minutes, then dusk for about twenty, then it was time to turn on my flashlight and headlamp. Some of the fast runners passed me on the way back, then I hit the turn around and on the way back in I passed a few runners.

I love walking at night and think that I'm relatively fast in the dark, so I was enjoying myself immensely. I was alone, which is how I prefer it, just enjoying the experience. It was HOT! At 8:00 pm it was 97 degrees; when I got home around 1:45 am it was still 84! So I had to stay hydrated. I drank about two bottles of fluid on the first out and back, and about three bottles on the second out and back (I wasn't carrying bottles; I was wearing my Camelbak FlashFlo, which holds two bottles worth of fluid).

I hit the halfway point at MADD shelter and refilled my Camelbak and headed right back out. The north half of the trail is more rugged and hilly, so I knew it would be a challenge. But so far I was feeling great and felt like I was going fast (for me). On the north out and back I fell twice. The first time I put my right foot out and stepped on a stick. The other end of the stick was pointing back toward me and when I stepped on the far end, the near end lifted up. I caught the toe of my left foot on the end of the stick and couldn't get it dislodged in the milliseconds it took to fall. I wasn't hurt at all, but I was covered with dirt and sand because of the drought we are having in Dallas; the trail was dusty like a desert.

The second fall was similar except I was just getting tired and lazy climbing up a hill, caught my left foot again and fell on my left side. Again, no injuries but I was laying there in a cloud of dust and dirt, and my whole left side was filthy. The mouthpiece of my Camelbak was dirty, too, but I had to just suck it up and drink out of it anyway after a cursory cleaning.

I saw runners in front of me pass by on their way back in, and then I passed runners behind me on my way back. I could tell there were a lot of DNFs because I passed very few people, and some people that I knew should have been behind me were nowhere to be seen.

When I finally got back to the MADD shelter I was welcomed back by the RD, then I drank some water and had a seat. There were a lot of members sitting in a circle sharing war stories, but I was tired and really didn't feel like chatting. So after sitting for a while I headed home, stopping at the store to get milk and a bite to eat.

Unfortunately I forgot to ask for my time so I don't know how close I came to my prediction. They will post the results on the NTTR website (last year's results) so I'll post again when they are there.

I was pleased with this race because, as I mentioned above, I haven't done this distance or any trails in quite a while. I really want to get my ultra legs back, and I now feel like I'm well on my way. This has been my best training week in a long time (36 total miles, some good speed work) and I'm really starting to feel good again. I'm also very motivated to start biking to work again (for health reasons, political reasons, environmental reasons) and plan to bike all week except the two days I'll be out of town.

So if you plan to be in Dallas next July please join me at the NTTR Night Run as my guest; it will be hot, but it will be fun!