A Night Out With Chris
I went out for a nearly 26-mile "run" last night with Chris after work. Chris has been doing research on how to get from Issaquah to Snoqualmie Pass, a distance of about 50 miles, and has established three routes through the city and on the trails that he has done separately before and he shared them with me beforehand. At about the halfway point of our "training run," the gates were literally closed to us at the entrance to the Snoqualmie Valley Trail with barbed wire and signs that said "No Trespassing."
The purpose of these runs is to gauge our fitness levels and test things out, like our equipment, gear, etc. and our ability to navigate great distances in the dark after substantial sleep deprivation in the real world. In short, to be out there, in the middle of the night, alone, at our own devices. We are also replicating the rules of the Hong Kong Four Trails Ultra Challenge by wearing masks, no earphones, and going at it self-supported, which, in this case, meant carrying heaving loads of nearly 30 pounds of additional weight (clothes, gear, water and food).
Last night was a good test. I had thought at the beginning, and although we started later than we had wanted to, that I was as prepared as I have ever been (in terms of preparation, if not training) but still managed to forget to put my headlamp in my backpack while we were getting ready. I did have, however, three other "back ups," a tactical flashlight, an ordinary one, and a small, clip-on LED light that I've been using forever. I also had new equipment, a Garmin watch, and a Garmin GPS device, and applications on my phone for them that proved harder to use at night, in the dark, without glasses and for the first time while "out there."
This was my first time out on the routes that Chris had established. The first 15 miles or so, which I had expected to have more "trail" was mostly road, and there was one particularly grueling stretch with a long, progressively increasing upgrade. It really sucked. About the time I got to Preston, there were flats and downhills I could easily run, but it was still hard concrete and primarily along roads with not much in the way of shoulders and it was dark. Really dark. Finally, I got to a spot where, although it was steep, up, and technical, I was out on the trails proper, and I was elated. But it was even darker and treacherous and I swear I could smell a bear nearby. There is also something earie about being out there for hours and not seeing a single other human being.
On the plus side, I managed to stay relatively close to Chris (usually a half-mile to a mile) and it was comforting to know he wasn't too far away and reachable by text and by phone call. He also knew the routes and helped navigate me when it mattered. That made all the difference. There was one place in particular that I would never have found if it had not been for him anticipating that ahead of me and giving the the waypoint to make a critical turn.
There was a house that looked like something from a horror movie (my apologies to whoever actual lives there), freezing wind and cold, and a downtown area that looked and felt completely abandoned. It's good to be out all night after work in the cold and in the dark. Normally, I would have been on the couch with a beer, or in bed, asleep, and oblivious to the adventure that is out there if we are willing to go out and find it.