“Beep! Beep!” The alarm blared loudly at 4:30 last Saturday morning. Yep, you read that right. On a SATURDAY. Cody and I were off to join a new group of ultrarunners we had recently met. They love trail running and exploring, perfect for us to join! Except for one problem: they seem to love waking up before dawn to start running. Running in the early morning may make sense to some people. And I get it, things like “obligations” keep some from wasting away the day sleeping in and then leisurely making their way to the trail before starting a long weekend run. But for me, a slow moving morning sounds just about right. I usually have no interest in crawling out of my warm, cozy bed to face a dark and cold morning. It’s really not my thing. I can’t help it. Sleep is just too good.
As I snuggled in for the night on Friday, I seriously doubted my sanity in agreeing to go out with these crazies for an early run. The morning came much too soon and before I knew it I was standing at the start of the trail head shivering. I couldn’t believe I was standing there, but complaining was kept to a minimum in the company of our new friends Scott and Tera, two experienced ultrarunners whom Cody and I could learn a lot from.
The trail started near the top of Cuesta grade, a ridge that separates SLO from the northern towns in the county. The trail rolled along the ridge heading west. At first, we were running through a dense fog in pitch black, making it even harder for me to come to terms with the fact that I was awake. As we made it near the top of the ridge, we broke out of the fog and the temperature started rising. We were all getting into our groove and feeling great. I took a quick glimpse behind me and realized that the sun was starting to rise up through the fog, filling the valley with a pink orange glow above a sea of white fog. What an incredible sight to see!
By this time we had ditched the jackets in the bushes, hoping to find them later (I also managed to hit the deck already by tripping over myself while shedding my jacket). The chatter continued as Kristen and I got to know our friends while enjoying their brisk (for us) pace. One thing that surprised me was that neither of these runners ever had a notion of slowing down or stopping. They were prepared and knew exactly what they needed, when they needed it, and how to make it happen without even adjusting their packs (to be expected I guess, they’re both Western States finishers). What this means for Kristen and I (on top of having some awesome new friends!) is that this whole group is going to be incredibly fun to train with.
But back to the run! As our shadows faded, the faint glow to the east broke into a warming sunshine, illuminating the sea of fog above the coastal communities below us. The chaparral on West Cuesta Ridge sits low, the road passing high along the hilltops, offering spectacular full-circle views. Meanwhile the socializing continued and before we knew it we were almost two hours in!
It’s really amazing how quickly time (and miles!) get away from you when you’re in a group in a beautiful setting. It just goes to show you how much of a mental game running really is. When you don’t give your head time to wander and get bored, your body will just continue pushing. I’m really hoping that I can find some way to train my brain to focus on things other than getting tired. I’m definitely much better than I used to be but it’s a skill that could always use improving!
In the end, I was pretty glad that I woke up so early. When I made it back home around 10, my roommates were just getting up and eating breakfast, a position that I would’ve been in had Cody not been pushing me out of bed! Although it probably won’t happen every weekend for me, I’ve gained a new appreciation for mornings and how beautiful SLO can be when you least expect it!