Monday, April 30, 2012

Night runs

No, not the kind of night runs you get when you eat some bad Mexican food.  The kind of night runs that involve running.  At night.  Besides being something drunk college students do on a regular basis, they're also something that many ultrarunners training for a 100 miler do.  So, I decided it was high time I went ahead and did one.

I run in the dark quite a bit.  During the winter, it actually seems as though I spend more time running in the dark than in the daylight.  But those runs are on city streets or country roads where street lights or the moon/stars provide sufficient illumination (i.e., no headlamp required, other than if I want to make sure motorists can see me).  Truth is, even though I have finished a 100 miler, I had never run on a trail at night.  Yes, the Lean Horse 100 is held on the Mickelson Trail, but the Mickelson is a trail in name only.  In reality, it's a wide bike path that offers virtually none of the technical challenges that come with a "real" trail (like the Centennial, for example).  We were lucky enough during Lean Horse to have a nearly full moon (it was about 4 days past full), which provided.ample light to follow the Mickelson.  I turned my headlamp on a couple of times, but found it easier to run without it.

Bighorn will be another beast entirely.  No streetlights and, basically, no moon (we will be nearing the new moon on June 15th).  Just a dark trail in the mountains.  So, I got to thinking that I should get some experience at this night running thing, both to test my body and to test my headlamp in "real" conditions.  All of last week, I had planned on running 20 miles on Friday night followed by another 20 sometime on Saturday to get a nice back to back in for the weekend with a bit of extra physical fatigue, all while getting my runs done around my kids' soccer game on Saturday morning and a10K my wife was running on Sunday morning.  Of course, Mother Nature, in all of her bitchly glory, tried to throw a wrench in the whole works.  After bright, sunny afternoons with highs in the low 80s during the week (which transitioned into running-perfect overnight temps in the 50s), we got pelted with a cold, two day long rain event on Friday and Saturday with highs in the 40s and snow in the high country.  Rationalizing that it could very well rain (or even snow) during Bighorn at night, I stubbornly forged ahead with my plan.

After running an easy 6 miles on Friday morning before work, working the entire day (which isn't a physically demanding activity, but can be mentally exhausting sometimes), I headed out for Sturgis just after 8:00 on Friday night.  By the time I started running, it was a bit past 8:30.  By then, the rain had tapered off some, there was a slight drizzle floating around, and the moon was actually starting to peek through the clouds.  My biggest trepidation about the run was what condition the trail would be in after the all-day rain, but it turned out to be mostly solid.  A few muddy spots here and there, but that's to be expected.  Other than getting pelted with a brief downpour of freezing rain just past the halfway point of the run, the precipitation stayed away and I stayed about as dry and warm as you could expect given the conditions.  Once I got my headlamp positioned correctly, I didn't have any problems running the trail, although it was a bit slower than my "normal" daytime pace.  But, I think that was actually a good thing, because at the end of the run I still felt great.  The slightly slower pace overall seemed to pay big dividends in endurance, something I need to remember the next time I'm running in the daylight.  Maybe I just need to find a race that starts at night (I know there are a few out there).

Finished the run a bit past 12:30 on Saturday morning and drove home for some sleep.  Turns out, the rain cancelled the kids soccer game on Saturday, so all of my careful scheduling was for naught (2nd time that's happened in the last 3 weeks).  At around 3:00 on Saturday afternoon, I headed out for another 20 around Belle.  The wind/rain had picked back up by then and that 2nd run was fairly miserable....much, much worse than the night run, and not just because it was on roads instead of trails.  My legs felt fine, but the cold, wet wind and a slightly sour stomach were making life a living hell.  Wanted to bail after 5 miles, convinced myself I needed to go at least 15 and then eventually managed to forget about what mile I was at until I glanced at my Garmin and saw I had done 17 and at that point, well, you might as well just get to 20.  So I did.  And then I ate pizza (after chewing on some ginger to calm my stomach down).

Tacked on a meaningless 4 miles, for the sole purpose of hitting 90 for the week (turned out to be 91 actually...damn it, ran one extra), before going to Shannon's race on Sunday morning (where I tacked on another mile running the kids race with my daughter....92 now).

Now, time for a cutback/taper week before Quad Rock on the 12th (where I'm hoping the 5 AM, headlamp-recommended, start will help me set my pace for the day).


mike_hinterberg said...

Good stuff. QR should be 15 minutes until twilight, then 15 more minutes to sunrise, then a bit more for the sun actually reach the valley. But the good news is that the first 3 miles in the valley are pretty non-technical. Hope that's enough night-running for you!

Chris said...

Mike, if we get to full daylight on the 12th and I'm running alongside you, then I've already effed up my pacing. Do me a favor and punch me in the gut if that's the case.