I arrived at the 2008 Dark and Dirty nighttime trail run with my two new friends Diane and Paul, who I had literally just met when they came to pick me up earlier that evening. My dad hooked us up because Diane had gone “all the way to California to run a race in a tutu,” so to him it seemed logical that she would like to run a race in the dark through the woods, because they both seemed fairly silly to him. Anyway, he was right, and she thought it was a great idea.
As we picked up our numbers and shirts we also picked up some free glow sticks. Lacking enough connectors to make my four glow sticks wearable as bracelets or necklaces, I stuck two into my headband as antennas and two around my writs. I was so ready for darkness. Spectators loved my antennas. However most people called them “horns” or “rabbit ears.” I thought that it was very clear that they were antennas. Oh well.
At the start, everyone had headlamps. I think I may have been the only one going old school and using just a flashlight that I bought at Home Depot. It turns out that the headlamps turned into “bug-in-your-face magnets,” I did not have that problem (or any others) with the hand held flashlight.
After a delayed start (as usual) we were off. I heard a girl next to me say “I wonder if it will be hilly?” oh, it was hard not to laugh. I assured her that it would be. About a quarter of a mile after the start the whole blob of people headed into the woods for a scramble up the first hill. Without much time for the group to spread out, the trail is a bit congested at first and everyone is scrambling up the hill like we are being chased by bears. I am quite afraid of bears, and it was dark, but I was pretty sure none were present so I took my time and didn’t get worked up in the scramble.
Further up the hill I heard many people asking “when does this hill end?” I wanted to tell them never, but instead I just thought to myself that maybe they should not have been knocking people out of their way at the bottom of the hill to get up as quickly as possible. I cruised right up the long hill, passing many on the way. In the dark you can’t see the top of the hill. But on most hills in Ron Horn’s races, you can’t see the top anyway since most of the time you are so far away from it. So that did not seem to bother me.
I took the downhills easy and the uphills hard, passing people on every uphill. Most people would say that is a silly waste of energy, but I’m not the best on the downhills. On the smooth sections of road I ran as fast as I could. Everything was a little bit of a different strategy than if I could see better. Actually everyone seemed to have a different strategy. Everyone ran in groups when possible and no one wanted to be the lead of the group. People would let you catch up and even pass because it was much easier to follow that to lead. Usually my experience with passing people is that a guy sees that a girl is about to pass and starts running harder. Tonight, these guys had no problem letting me guide them through the darkness. However, a few times I got stuck between groups, and learned that I am not very good at navigating in the dark. I didn’t get lost, but it was a little slower when I was on my own.
In the meantime, Paul had no idea that he was in the lead. He was trading on and off with another guy for the lead for mot of the race, until two other guys came out of nowhere to take the lead. Paul ended up taking fourth place overall. The guy who won beat out Mr. Second Place by only a few seconds because apparently he knew his way through the boulder field at the end better. The week before Paul had actually beaten Mr. First Place in a 50k.
Unlike Diane and I, Paul spent most of the race running alone. He kept talking about all the eyes he saw in the woods looking back at him. I did not see any eyes. I think by the time I was coming by the animals were like “what the hell is this? I am out of here!” I however liked noticing the long trail of lights through the woods. Everyone’s lights made Christmas light like trails through the woods ahead and behind of me. Looking ahead, I could see just lights bouncing and snaking up the hills to come.
The race ended at a beer garden, with some very tasty German beers. We hung out for awards, and I ended up taking third in my age group, winning a very cool ceramic skull thing. Paul got 3rd in his age group and fourth overall, and Diane just missed getting an award by one place. She was fourth in her age group. However she already ran a race that morning and won a bobble head, but I was really hoping that she would score two awards in one day.