Sometimes in the name of training we make decisions that may seem questionable to those around us, particularly those who don’t know us so well. Yesterday I had one of those days. I have spent the last couple of days in a pretty intense Advanced Coronary Life Support class and was forced to cut back on training time. Yesterday afternoon I had gotten pretty anxious from the cut back of exercise time and after wrapping up homework and a few chores the day was quickly slipping by. I aggravated my right calf doing a short speed work session a few days ago and decided I was going to get out on the single speed mountain bike, the time of day set me up for a race against the dark. I figured that I would be pushing it so in my haste to get out on the trail I grabbed a Petzl e-lite and threw it in the pocket of my bike jersey.
As I quickly pedaled from my house towards the local trails I noticed the start of a beautiful sunset that was lighting up the sky, I put my head down and pushed the cadence as quick as the single speed would allow. After about 5 minutes on the road and 15 minutes on the trail, I arrived to an intersection that would allow me to return home easily before it got too dark to see, or I could take the other trail and almost certainly leave me on the trail in the dark. After moment of contemplation I made the decision to race the dark on the longer of the two routes. I stood up and started hammering out the miles as quick as my lungs could handle, near the top of my proposed route I realized I was a little ahead of where I thought I would be, and with a smirk on my face I turned up another trail that would add an additional mile and a half. I smiled and even laughed out loud as I stayed out of the saddle pushing the pace knowing that it was going to be a very tight race to hit the trailhead before it was too dark to see the trail.
I hit the top and started the descent back down somewhat cautiously because the light was beginning to fail. This made for a difficult quandary- I wanted to push the descent but couldn’t see well enough to do it safely- I pushed as fast as I reasonable thought I could knowing the dark was winning the race. My level of focus increased as the light got dimmer and dimmer making it difficult to see the undulations of the trail, but yet I pushed on. I hit the trailhead a few minutes later and realized the amount of focus the near darkness required, when a car pulled into the trailhead literally blinding me with its headlights. Wow it was really dark! The driver of the car rolled down the window and asked if I was okay, they thought it was really late to becoming off of the trail and were worried that I was hurt or something. I assured them I was great and wished them a good night. I then asked myself if I won the race against the dark, and me only response was yes. The dark doesn’t care if it loses or not, it is a great competitor- it allowed my to push and push against its unrelenting pace, and no matter the suffering it forced me to find another gear. It might have been dark when I got to the trailhead, but I won because of the benefits I would reap from racing such a formidable companion. I then pulled the e-light out of my jersey pocket, attached it to my handlebar so cars could see me, and pedaled home with a huge grin on my face!
As an additional note I thought I would welcome the sun’s light back to the trails and got up before sunrise this morning to get in a run on the same route that I rode in the near-dark last night. What a cool experience to put the sun to bed and welcome it to the day while out on the trail doing something you love!
Last weekend I raced at the Kelly Canyon trail race, La Sportiva Teammate Brad Mitchell wrote a great report that can be found here.