While Cody and I were home for the weekend, it was necessary to spend some time out on our favorite trails. Up early on a rainy Sunday morning, we took off into the canyon on the Western States trail. While the scenery looked a little different, with muddy bogs filling
what is normally grassy meadows and waterfalls cascading over what I remember as a trickling stream, it reminded me of a run that still stands out as probably my all time favorite.
While training for the White River 50 in 2009, Cody and I decided to trade our traditional long run for one with a new twist: running the entire 32mi in the middle of the night. We started the run around 11, after dinner and hanging out in an atmosphere that was much more conducive to winding down rather than gearing up for a run. But we were both really excited! Neither of us had ever run in the dark before and we didn’t know what to expect from the new experience.
We started at the Hwy 49 crossing of the WS Trail, mile 93 along the race course and headed the opposite way first, back in the direction of Squaw Valley(rather than towards Auburn). This was the section that neither of us had much experience with so a few times we wandered a bit, looking for where the trail actually led. Our headlamps didn’t give much help when we didn’t know what we were looking for in the first place! But the running was going really smoothly and the calmness of the night was incredible. Any hill seemed to flow effortlessly when you couldn’t see or worry about the top.
Our peaceful run couldn’t last forever, though. We paused for a minute for Cody to retie his shoe and for me to look up the bank next to us and find eyes in the woods. We were unsure of what the eyes could be, but with it above us on the bank and not seeming too phased by our claps and noises to scare it away made us worry. We loudly made our way down the
trail for a long time before we could relax again, although it never returned to the same state. Even though it could’ve been something totally harmless, it was really scary. Who knows what would’ve happened had Cody continued bending over and I never looked up? Having both grown up in the area, we were no strangers to what kind of danger may lurk in the woods after dark.
Wait. You’re probably starting to get a little confused at this point. Scary animals in the woods= favorite run? This part of the run definitely didn’t make it my favorite, but it does make for a pretty cool story. And spending time in an intense situation with someone(this seems to happen to Cody and I relatively often) can really strengthen a bond. I truly believe that our bond is so strong because of all the scary, frustrating and challenging situations we’ve shared. So at least we could come out of the situation a little stronger, right?
The run gets better, though. We headed up and over the ridge to Auburn to get a glimpse of our old high school and the finish line of Western States before we turned around to jump back in the canyon. By this time I was amazed at my energy levels. We had been running for several hours at this point and I was starting to feel tired from running, but somehow not from staying up through the night. It felt as if staying moving had kept off any thoughts of actually needing to sleep(it gives me hope about hitting the middle of the night on my 100 miler!). Running continued to feel easy and relaxed, maybe something about how the changed environment made the run stay fun and exciting.
As we started up the last hill, from the American River at No Hands Bridge to Cool, I couldn’t help smiling at the awesomeness of the situation. The sky was just starting to turn a bit light and every once and a while I could hear a car in the distance, people starting their day. And there Cody and I were, with almost 30 miles behind us, feeling strong on the last hill and totally happy. The trail opens up near the top of the ridge and turns to grassy meadows and scattered oak trees. It seems as if the sun rise was timed perfectly with cresting the hill. The pink and orange sky, the misty grass, animals coming out from hiding in the ground and starting to run around.
This is what made the run. It was the perfect culmination of everything that had been learned or experienced from one night in the canyons. Everything was beautiful and fresh and Cody and I could come out of this run with such a great feeling: A new perspective on what it means to bond, be scared or just enjoy :)