I really am beginning to believe that I do my best running in the dark.
By settling into the narrow tunnel of light and letting my brain pull what little info it can from the beam and quickly convincing my feet to trust that little bit of info and get on with things. Maybe there's too much available data in the light of day and it's my brain that can't stay on task, leaving my feet wondering what it is they're supposed to be doing.
The Stone Mill 50, my first attempt at running 50 miles at one shot, is two weeks away and I'm considering wearing blinkers like a skittish racehorse. Maybe I can start a new running fad.
Anyway, that decision can wait. For now I'm concentrating on cranking out a few last moderate length runs to stay fit and keep the legs moving. The family schedule has been wacky so night runs have become the norm. Tonight, after a couple hours of fun hiking with Lil, Piper, Dan and Adeline and then getting the kids to bed, I zipped over to Pumping Station to spend some time on the Horseshoe Trail and the surrounding area.
Yes, it's dark out there. But that is why I bring a headlamp. And here's what things look like (be forewarned, this is barely watchable):
While I didn't grow up IN the forest, I did grow up just outside of the forest and spent many nights venturing into them. I feel strangely at ease in the dark or at least I'm told that it's strange from folks (my wife, for one) who shudder at every snap of a twig and hoot of an owl. I expect to hear those sounds and they don't bother me one bit.
That's what I was telling myself as I began to hear what sounded like the steady squeak of a slightly rusted tricycle apparently pedalling along in the woods just outside of my field of vision. It held steady through a quarter mile climb and the subsequent descent. I knew I was imagining it or, more correctly, misidentifying what I was truly hearing and morphing it into something creepy.
Time to think about something else.
I began thinking about Kelly Agnew's invitation, made a few weeks earlier, to have me pace him at the Javelina Jundred (pronounced Havelina Hundred for anyone unfamiliar with the hard-as-nails Javelina's soft-as-butter J) out in Arizona in mid-November. He needed someone to accompany him on the final 39 miles and kindly (I think) thought of me.
I was flattered and intrigued even though I knew right away that I wouldn't be able to pull it off. I had neither the money or the time to get myself there, not to mention the fact that I've never done 39 miles in a single go, haven't served as a pacer for anybody at any distance and I was signed up for Stone Mill the weekend that followed the Javelina Jundred.
Honestly, I was more than intrigued. I wanted to do it. For Kelly and for me, I wanted to find some way to be there.
But, it wasn't to be, despite Kelly's persistent texts that were equal parts urging and mocking. It was an effective tact and resulted in a nagging conscience despite my sticking to my guns (facing reality).
So, anyway, here I am running in the Pennsylvania darkness and thinking of Kelly and I running in the Arizona darkness. I was no longer concerned about ghost tricyclists but I did begin questioning if I had the stuff to be of any use to anyone as a pacer.
I never did get my answer, but I did decide that I want to find out. I fully intend to keep running my own races and testing my own boundaries but, man, there's something about the idea of being there for a friend at a time that he or she most needs support while together tackling the very kind of challenge that has likely brought us together in the first place.
Sitting high up on Eagle Rock, I looked out over the sleeping valley below and looked forward to adventures to come.
So, if you're looking to go long and think you could use some company somewhere along the course, pick up the phone, send me an e-mail, let me know where I need to be. I may not be the world's best and certainly won't be the fastest pacer out there, but I will do my damnedest to have an encouraging word when you need it, shut my mouth when you need it shut and suffer right along with you to the finish line.
My finish line on Saturday night was the Pumping Station parking lot where my car waited to escort me back to my slumbering household. It was a satisfying finish.
As satisfying as making a finish can be, I can only imagine it's that much more satisfying to help someone else get there too.
Whether it's in broad daylight or by the glow of a headlamp.