Day 28 – (Not Stephen King’s) The Fog

Posted: February 2, 2012 in January
Tags: , , , ,

Saturday rolled around and with it the session I’d been looking forward to all week, my long run. I had to leave for our soccer match at half nine, and after that the Liverpool/Utd match was on, and on top of that I had college assignments due so the only way to fit in my long run was to get up at six and be out of the house by about half past. Stepping out into the pitch dark street I was slightly surprised to see everything covered in a heavy frost, and to find that the footpath was very slippery. As I was headed up to the woods though I wasn’t that bothered about the conditions underfoot.

Conditions in general, though very cold and foggy, weren’t much of an issue as I was very well kitted out – my trusty Brooks trail runners, running tights, three layers on top (nicely high-vis Brooks running jacket on top), gloves, hat, headtorch and backpack with water bladder. By the time I got to the end of the road I was pretty much warmed up and enjoying being the only person out and about. Only person I may have been but I wasn’t entirely alone as on the way up to the woods I did have a couple of dogs come rushing to their respective gates to voice their displeasure at me disturbing their peace. To tell you the truth I was quite glad the gates were there as they were quite large canines, and with the light from my headtorch glowing green off their eyes they looked an awful lot like the demon dogs from Ghostbusters.

Displaying the sort of bravery more normally associated with men more luxuriantly moustachioed than myself I pressed on regardless,  and a minute or two later found myself turning up into the woods. For reasons of, er, safety, I decided to forgo my headphones and started off on the first of my four laps. Despite having clocked countless laps here over the last year and knowing the place like the back of my hand, or at least so I thought, within a couple of hundred yards I had gone astray. The fog was so thick that even with my headtorch I could only see a few feet in front of me, and all I could see in those few feet was thick, swirling, freezing fog rushing towards my face, so I turned around and retraced my steps, and then another hundred metres or so did exactly the same again. After a couple more twirls I was completely disorientated and ended up just making my way back to the start of the trail. It’s crazy how different everything looked and felt, the trail seemed narrower, the stones, the dirt, the feel of everything underfoot was completely different but after a bit more effort I managed to figure out where I was and set off.

That first lap was one of the strangest experiences I’ve ever had running – no visibility to speak of, no points of reference, the only sound the sloshing of the water in my backpack. It’s something I was eager to do though as I really want to try a night race of some sort, but it made me really think how hard trail ultras that go through the night must be. I was running around an easy trail that I was familiar with and I struggled to keep going in the right direction, even when I was fresh and rested. What must it be like when you’re seventy or eighty kilometres in to a race, on your feet for ten or twelve hours at that point, and on a strange mountain somewhere with only the vaguest idea of where you are or where you should be going? Hopefully at some stage in the future I’ll get a chance to find out (and come out the other side to talk about it).

After the first lap it didn’t exactly get bright, but the gloom did start to lift a bit, and I started to really enjoy the run. The air was so thick and cold it smelled like ice cream and birds and small animals were starting to wake up and scurry around the woods.Three laps in and although it was meant to be my long slow run I was feeling great and having trouble keeping my pace down, so I decided that on the fourth lap I’d up the pace a bit. I had done my first three laps at between 23:30 and 23:50 a lap, pushing on but still keeping a steady pace I did the last lap in 20:30 before leaving the woods and heading for home. I was so happy with my run and felt really satisfied on the way home. I remember doing three laps round there just before I did Gaelforce last year and even at a slower pace than today’s the final hill on the last lap caused me to slow down quite a lot and was a bit of a struggle. Today felt really easy and was the surest sign so far that I’m getting a lot fitter now than I’ve ever been.

 

Best Coast – When I’m With You

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