Finally finding a minute (literally, there hasn’t been a moment in the past week or so) to sit down and start writing about our evening run from a couple of weeks ago, Red Moon Trail Run.
We made it home in one piece from the ultra event. Knowing that we needed to eat something, even if we didn’t feel like it, we stopped and grabbed some food on the way home. Neither of us finished what we ordered, but the large Coke went down easily. Dan and I never really drink pop, but that ice cold Coke was the most delicious thing on earth that day.
The kids had been hanging out with their grandparents since the morning, and they were going to do a sleepover as well, so we came home to a quiet house. Although it was nice knowing that we could rest without being interrupted, I tossed and turned after showering off.
For some reason, after endurance races, I can’t take a nap. I find it hard to get comfortable enough to relax. That day was no different. I tried to read for a while, but as soon as I’d shut my eyes, I’d have to change positions and would find myself wide awake again. My back was especially achey, after having to bend over to ascend all of those steps earlier.
The hours went by fast, seeing as how we didn’t even get back until mid afternoon. We had to be at the next race by 8:30 pm for a 9:00 start. Luckily, the course was very close to home.
Dan and I had already run on the trail that we would be running tonight for the evening race many times. This would work in our favor, since it was going to be pitch dark by the time we went into the woods. We had our headlamps still sitting out from the earlier race, and the batteries still looked good.
After walking downstairs, backwards, of course, I made it to the kitchen and grabbed some water. I still wasn’t feeling very hungry but managed to get some pasta in me. Dan was close behind and decided to finish his lunch. Later, we would find out that that was a bad idea…
We drove to the trail and the excitement began to build. I loved seeing runners getting geared up at night. Head lamps were being turned on while people chatted quietly in the parking lot and at the trail head. It was a totally different vibe, and I kinda liked it.
I voiced my concern to Dan that I didn’t know if my legs would work. I had resolved myself to hiking this race, knowing that it was a bit technical with some rolling hills. Even during the day, it could be tricky in parts, and I didn’t want to take any chances.
I had originally signed up to do 1 lap of the course. I figured I would be hurting from the morning, so that seemed realistic. Dan, however, had signed up for 4 laps. Pure silliness, of course, which is fairly typical.
As we stood in the corral area, Dan decided he’d back down to 2 laps and I said I would try for a second lap only if I felt like I could handle it.
That’s when I saw it….a bat flew overhead. Why had I not even thought of bats when I signed up???? Dan assured me that bats aren’t interested in me (lie), and that we should be happy to see them since they eat all of the other bugs that bite us (whatever). A bat is a bat. Still creepy.
Then, my mind started wandering to other things I hadn’t thought of…snakes, skunks, creepy crawlies, spiders….What had I been drinking when I signed up for this?
I figured if I just focused on the trail and the cone of light from my headlamp, I’d be ok. But, I warned Dan, he’d better stay with me or I would freak out. He agreed, but I had my doubts. He always says he’s going to run with me….he just doesn’t tell me it’s only for the first half mile…
The Race Director got everyone’s attention and we walked forward to the start. The sun was dipping below the tree line, and quickly disappearing on the horizon. Go time.
Another bat flew overhead, but I focused on my feet, and we set out on the trail.
As soon as we turned the corner, it was dark. Once again, we saw head lamps bobbing up and down. It was so cool. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to start AND end today like this. My heart was full.
The trail was in perfect condition. I love this trail because it’s wide and has beautiful trees. There were, of course, roots to deal with, but as long as we picked our way through it without rushing, it was fine in the dark. There were LED’s along the trail as well, which really helped and made the trail look seem “magical”. It was exhilarating, to be honest. I wasn’t expecting this, but it would stamp a permanent mark in my brain. I already love trail running for the feeling of freedom and the beauty of God’s earth and trees, but this was a whole new experience, a whole new level of love for the trails.
We could hear other runners around us tripping on things and giggling as they hopped over roots and things. We were actually running, although it was slow. I was honestly surprised. Dan was being his usual, silly self, and keeping our conversation light.
At about 1 mile, the trail comes right up to the water. It was so beautiful, and I was disappointed that I hadn’t brought my phone to take a quick picture. The water was calm and you could see the light of the sun disappearing in the distance.
We paused to take it in, and then dove back into the woods. There was a little incline, so we slowed to a walk. My legs were tired, but it was a good feeling, actually. I honestly like that feeling.
We began to hike, since it felt good to slow the pace a bit. Dan was getting quiet – which is never good. I was concerned.
We reached the access trail where you had some options: go toward the water, link up to another trail, head out to the road, or go back onto our loop. I heard familiar voices telling us to turn right and then right again, so that we would head back onto our loop to finish. I always love seeing my friends that I work with out on the course. Since I do a lot of the races that the company I work for puts on, I get to experience everything from a participant’s point of view. I feel like that helps me do a better job when I work the races. The course was well-marked and we were given good directions, as always. I knew that we had about a mile or so left on the loop.
Dan wasn’t doing well. He had GI troubles, probably from running in the heat earlier and then not eating well before the race. We slowed our walk a little. He was struggling, and was starting to think that one lap was good enough. I was just happy to be out there, so I was agreeable to whatever happened. I was tired, so I didn’t mind stopping at just one. I also knew that we’d be back two more times, since this was just the first race of the series.
We slowed a little more while he worked through some nausea. Moments later, to my surprise, he began running again. I picked up my pace and joined him. We were getting close to the finish and I could hear runners around us asking what our Garmins were reading. They wanted to know how close we were. After being on this trail so many times, I knew that we had a slight incline and would curve to the right, and that would be where the aid station was and the entrance to the next loop.
We came out of the woods and veered to the left to finish.
Dan was still not feeling well, so he wandered off in the dark toward the car. I stopped to grab a drink and chat a little with another buddy of mine that I enjoy working with. I was smiling and a little giddy after the experience. I was already imagining how cool it will be to return and do the next race in the series in September, and then again in October. I could already envision how the trees will change and it will be darker, and cooler. It sent shivers up my spine; the anticipation was palpable.
I headed back to the car, where Dan was sitting in the dark. I knew he was a little disappointed, but he was taking it well. It was definitely a new experience for us both.
Time to call it a day. We drove home, showered again, and headed to bed. Tomorrow was going to be interesting…..
Would I do it again? Yep. It was so worth it. Next up….Harvest Moon.
I can’t wait for September!
Run happy. Run long.
Amy is an ultramarathoner and triathlete, a coach, a mother of four, an Exercise Physiologist and a Physical Therapist. She lives with her husband, Dan (also an ultramarathoner and triathlete), and kids in Ohio.