Monday, February 25, 2008

Who's afraid of the dark?!

For the past few months I've been training for the Barkley 100 Miler that takes place March 29th. It's considered one of, if not the toughest trail race in the world. Only 6 people in 20 years have finished. So, I've been training my butt off with big dreams of possibly finishing this monster.

I went out to Cuayamaca State Park last Saturday in the afternoon to put in a 50 Mile Training run by myself. I get out there, park my Harley and ask the Ranger if it is ok to leave it there while I go for a run. She asks how far, I say 50 miles. She then asks, "All at one time?" I say yes, hopefully be done around 1-2 AM. She says, "You're going to be out there after dark?!" I say yes. She says, "OH! That's when the Big Boys come out!" I know she means mountain lions. I try to act like I'm not scared but now she has planted the seed!

I take off, it's a beautiful afternoon. I'm at the edge of the Anza Borrego Desert when the sun sets. Absolutely breath taking. Now the sun is down. No problem. I'm an ex-hunter/ex-soldier/all around tough guy. I ain't scared of the dark or any old mountain lions. No sir.

As the time goes by in the dark, I hear the normal forest critters. Coyotes howling in the distance, owls in the trees and other normal noises. No big deal. It's pitch black without a soul in sight. I'm completely alone. For some reason I keep thinking, "that's when the Big Boys come out!" Darn it, I can't get it out of my head!;-)"

Then it happens, about 10 PM I hear a far off scream that sounds like a woman being strangled. Having heard it before, I knew the sound. It was one of the Big Boys announcing his arrival! Goose bumps crawl up my neck but I try to convince myself it's no big deal. For some reason that always becomes difficult when you're alone in the woods.

I notice that my pace has increased, dramatically! I still have roughly 20 miles to go and the first 30 took me about 7 hours. Great, I've got about 4-5 more hours I'm telling myself. I'm leaping streams in a single bound, running up hills that I would generally walk and pretty much hauling some serious butt. It's funny how this just happens.

Need less to say, instead of 4-5 hours, I make it back to my Harley in a little over 3 hours. Probably a new course record! I'm sweating profusely, my lungs are heaving and my legs are smoked. After I catch my breath, I stand up, collect my composure and try to make sure that no one has witnessed my mad dash out of the woods. Good, no one around.

It wouldn't have mattered anyway. "I'm not afraid of any ole mountain lion. I always run 4 minute miles during my late night trail runs!" Right?!


Travis said...

I just heard your interview on EndurancePlanet. Best of luck training for Barkley! Stay away from those Mtn. Lions.

Dmitri said...

Good luck at Barkley, Joe! Looking forward to the race recap!
I can totally relate to everything you say about night running! Mount lions can be scary especially at night and when you are on your own, but usually there is little scarier on those trails than own vivid imagination that goes wild after the sunset! :)