I signed up for the Night Light Trail Half at Battle Creek because it looked “fun.” I mean, who wouldn’t want to run on a hilly trail at night with a head lamp for a touch over 13 miles, right? How hard could that be anyways? Besides, I own a rockin’ headlamp and I like to use it.
The day of the trail race snuck up without warning and the weather didn’t look favorable. Sustained wind of 15-20mph with gusts of up to 40mph and a pending storm in the works. Oh well, it is what it is. I obsessively watched the weather as if the wind would magically disappear. No cigar. The great thing about trail races is at least the tree’s block some of the wind. It’s different than the road where you either fight or use the wind. I could deal as long as a tree didn’t blow over onto my head. Hey, it could happen. The interwebs told me so.
I spent the morning doing a lab for school and then took a midterm. This of course caused me to forget to eat lunch until around 3pm when my stomach reminded me that I was hungry. I dug through the kitchen and could only find some egg/cheese/bagel Jimmy Dean frozen sandwiches. I ate two and got back to my homework. I’m lactose intolerant so probably not the best choice but whatever, they’re yummy.
Time slipped away and it was suddenly time to get my running clothes on. I threw on some Nike Capri’s, my Woodsy shirt, those awesome Fitsok F4 socks with a thick layer of Body Glide to the feet, grabbed my Black Diamond Spot headlamp and a hat to keep it from giving me tunnel vision, my Garmin and realized I probably hadn’t eaten enough so I grabbed a Clif Mocha Shot from the running cupboard. I had never tried this before…it was a sample from a race. Might as well! “Take with Water” OK, I grabbed a bottle of water, the old Merrell Pace gloves that were overdue for retirement and headed to the trail race with the husband at the wheel. I took the Clif shot with water on the way to the race. It was kind of good in a gross sort of way. It tasted like a melted tootsie roll that had coffee spilled on it.
There were a lot of people already there when I arrived. I had no idea that so many people wanted to run Battle Creek. I had no idea so many people were masochistic. I picked up my bib for the half and stood in line for the bathroom. I didn’t actually have to pee but it’s always good to make an attempt.
Everyone lined up at the same time for this race- 5K, 10K and Half all at the start of the trail. It was already pretty dark at 7pm. They made us stand there for what seemed like forever with our bright headlights on while they talked about loops and not tripping and mounds of new dirt we should go around rather than over as well as how we should know if we are on the wrong trail.
Then the horn and we were off.
The race started with a gradual uphill on grass. Not so bad and it was fun to wear a headlight and run in the dark. It felt smooth and not too difficult. According to Ms. Garmin, I was cruising along at a comfy 9:29 pace for the first mile. Mile 2 rolled up and then had some steep downs. Battle Creek does nothing gently. When you go down, you go down. I got the hang of the downs after a bit, but at first it was crowded and it was difficult to fly. I noticed right away that woodchips were creeping into my shoes on the downhill and that footing was a bit iffy. I made sure to pay attention and use cruise control. It felt easy. If this was the race, I had it in the bag. Overconfidence is bad. Ms. Garmin said mile 2 was at 9:35. The next mile proved that the course was not easy. I thought the rule was what goes up must come down. Apparently at Battle Creek, what goes down, must go UP. Because this mile went up…over and over and steeply. The ups were sharp and felt long. I tried to small step it and conserve energy. My breathing got ragged and at the top I said “OK! Let’s go!” then another one came and I said “#$%#!”
Towards the end of Mile 3 I was ready to call it a 5K and be done with this crap. Visions of beer were dancing in my head. I could hear the music from the party at the finish line. What the hell. Why should I do this THREE MORE TIMES? Why not just stop and get some beer? Ms. Garmin said mile 3 = 10:55. It took about 300 meters to hit the finish area where there was a sign with arrows…LAP one direction…and FINISH the other. Which way would I go? DNF or Continue?
I stopped at the water table and drank a cup of water. My husband yelled “Go Sarah!” I went.
I did the whole dang thing again. Ms. Garmin said Mile 4- 10:13, Mile 5-10:22, Mile 6-11:27.
I wanted to quit. This was stupid. Running was stupid. Why was I doing this? I had to poop and I was tired. I didn’t want to do those dumb hills anymore and there were woodchips in my shoes.
The finish line came again. LAP/FINISH. There was my daughter’s coach by the water table. “How’s it going? How’re you feeling out there” “I’m tired” as I drank some water and glanced at the faraway porta potty (WHY DID THEY PUT IT BY THE BEER?!)
I couldn’t quit in front of the coach. I went. I started shining my headlamp around the trail looking for an off-ramp to poop. Some little kids were cheering—can’t go there.
BUSHES! I detoured. Some headlights were coming. I turned mine off (modesty you know). I did my thing, awkwardly as there was no tree for support and my legs were tired. I pulled up my pants and realized I had made a serious mistake. Serious, serious mistake.
I had pooped in burrs. The inside of my capris were coated with burrs. THERE WERE BURRS ON MY ASS.
I attempted to run a few feet as I was angry that I was wasting so much time and that the clock was ticking by. OUCH. There were BURRS ON MY ASS. This was a problem. I detoured again and picked the burrs out of my capris and with a sad face took back to the trail.
Ms. Garmin says I wasted 2:36 minutes on this. Ms. Garmin also says I went fast after getting back on the trail. Mile 7 where I made this grave judgment error Ms. Garmin gave me a 12:36. Mile 8- 11:18. Mile 9-11:38.
Wouldn’t you know it? The Finish was coming again. Screw this. I still had to do this again. My legs were at the exhaustion point and I had to pee but was afraid to detour in the dark with visions of burrs everywhere. I vowed never to have a Cliff shot with water again, I vowed to eat better before a race, I vowed to train on hills, I willed my legs to do those stupid hills just ONE MORE TIME. I couldn’t DNF now that I had come this far right? Just one more time. Besides, I was really enjoying the downhills and they were somewhat making up for my really, really slow uphills.
The finish came to view and this time I went ahead and went the extra 50 or so meters to the porta potty. I had a cup of water and stretched out my hamstrings. Then I took off for the last lap. I wish I would have dumped the woodchips too. Those bugged. Everything else was just tired, but those bugged.
Ms Garmin gave me 13:12 for mile 10.
During Mile 11 I saw a reflection and thought I was about to run into another runner. Suddenly there was a deer in the path! My headlight was lighting up its eyes. Beautiful. It meandered across the path and I ran on smiling as that was super cool to see at night and a reminder as to why trails are fun. Ms. Garmin gave me 11:43.
Mile 12 was painful and I wanted to curse the hills. I didn’t know they could hurt just walking them. The steepness made my legs want to quit. I made a note to do more hills and felt like a wuss. Ms. Garmin said 13:03. Mile 13 I grit my teeth and did the last of those dumb hills reminding myself that if I wanted to do ultra’s that this was nothing at all and to suck it up. I was angry that my legs were so tired. Ms. Garmin said 13:10.
Heading to the finish I just ran. This was .12 and I was ready to be done. Ms. Garmin said 8:30 pace/1:00min to finish.
I crossed the matt and was handed a pint glass. I clicked off my lamp and smiled. That wasn’t so bad. I could do it again.
Final results: 2:29:46
Moving Time: 2:23:50 (too much time pooing/porta pottying/drinking water!)
Elevation Gain: 1,594 ft
Lessons Learned from the Night Light Trail Half:
Keep your light on when you gotta poo.
If there’s a porta potty, use it.
Cliff Mocha Shots + Water, ok tasting/not great on tummy.
Eat properly before running
Get some gaiters.
Enjoy the trail.
Slowdown in the beginning, it may save some for the end.
There you have it. Would I do this one again? That’s an easy yes. Battle Creek felt like an actual accomplishment and I can’t wait to go back and try to use the lesson’s learned.
This post has been brought to you by my sore feet.