This week I got in two night runs at Twin Brook. The first was our regular Tuesday night run, and it was good to see that despite the darkness we still had a group of four heading out onto the trails (Ian, Emma, Blaine & Shauna). As much as I love running the technical single-track trails at Bradbury it's great to be able to run on the easy trails of TB after the sun goes down. There is a comfort in these trails that comes from running them every week for the past year, I know the loop, I know the turns and the hills and I trust them. Night running on trails is a very special kind of running, where you lose sense of pace and time and you just run.
Thursday night was a different experience, a different kind of enjoyable. I left work in Portland at 5:30 and headed to Bruce's Burritos in Yarmouth. I had never been there before, but James raves about their food and has managed to work out a deal with them to provide chili for after the Bradbury Bruiser, so I thought it was about time to check them out and see what's cookin'. I got to Bruce's just before 6 to find a mob, a happy, hungry mob. I decided that perhaps this wasn't the best time to meet the owners and talk chili, but it did seem like a good time to get a run in and TB wasn't far. By the time I got onto the trails all the soccer moms had packed up their minivans and it was getting pretty dark, it wasn't long before it got very dark.
I was enjoying a quiet and peaceful run at a comfortably quick pace, confident in where I was going so I wasn't concerned about the fact that my headlamp only illuminated the trail about 30 feet ahead. All of a sudden there was a deer standing there within my little cone of light! She looked at me like... well you know, and then bolted, immediately followed by 3 others. It must be part of their routine, after the screaming kids get hauled off and things quiet down the deer come out to graze in the fields. I guess they weren't expecting a trail monster. The only problem was that they turned and ran back into the woods, and because of the loop that I was running I was afraid that I might cut them off. I finished the C-loop and repeated the A-loop without encountering the deer again, but the whole time I was on-edge.
I don't mind running alone, but in the dark it's easy for your eyes to play tricks and your mind to wander. After the deer incident it seemed that the forest came alive as I became super-aware of what was going on around me, convinced that I was going to find some other creature of the woods on the trail in front of me. After about 20 more minutes, when I had nearly forgotten the deer, I came across what I thought at first was a small black bear. Luckily I remembered the first rule of bear encounters: YOU DON'T HAVE TO OUTRUN THE BEAR, JUST YOUR RUNNING PARTNER. Oh shit, I didn't have a running partner tonight...
Turns out that it was just a piece of black plastic culvert laying on the side of the trail, but I swear it looked like a bear!
Another 20 minutes later and I finally began to think rationally as I was approaching the dirt road that leads back to the parking lot. As I crossed the big wooden bridge and climbed the last small hill my headlamp caught 4 pairs of eyes watching me from the field. This time I knew who it was, the deer I had spotted earlier finally found a quiet spot for dinner. So I switched off my headlamp, wished them goodnight and made my way back to my car by the light of the stars.
Now it was time for my dinner. I drove back to Bruce's and picked up 3 of the best burritos I've ever had. I've got a good feeling about that post-Bruiser chili!
P.S. If you're running with Blaine, expect to be bear food.