6 Days – Close Encounters of the Arrogant Kind

It was a pretty average Tuesday night at practice, assuming you can refer to anything our team does as ‘average.’  I’d definitely put some mileage on my legs the last few weeks and after mildy twisting my ankle during a run that Sunday,  I felt that it might be time to start backing off any kind of distance running in lieu of some hard, fast training runs.  It was a little trick I’d done in the past that seemed to work well – jacking up my intensity a few weeks out from a big event so when I took off at a ‘slow’ pace, what felt slow was faster than it would have been otherwise.  So halfway up a climb in the canyon, I decided to turn back early.

It was pitch black as I raced down the ridge and back towards where we had started.  I turned off my headphones to make myself aware of my surroundings and suddenly things seemed eerily silent as I made my way towards the bridge, which would signal that I was almost out of the woods.  Then I heard the unmistakable sounds of leaves and a few little twigs breaking in a methodic way, signaling footsteps.

“Hello?”  Suddenly I felt like I was in a horror film.  “Eric?  If that’s you this isn’t funny!”  Eric had left us early that evening and I wouldn’t put a stunt like this past him.  I definitely felt something or someone’s presence there.  With the recent mountain lion spottings in this area, I began to assume the worst.  I started to think about how ironic this story would become, considering that I’ve always said when I’m an old lady I want to die on the trails by mountain lion attack.

I slowly turned my headlamp towards the bushes that were now rustling loudly.  There was no wind.  For a split second I saw a figure and what I thought was the reflection of two eyes, and a very low grumble from some kind of animal.  I began to back up, very slowly at first, then started running towards the trail where I’d come from.  I nearly knocked John over.

“Hey!  Are you ok?”  He asked.

I nodded.  “I wanted to cut things short tonight, but I heard something down there…”

“Yeah, my knee is bothering me,”  He said.  “We’ll head back together.”

We made it back safely and as we waited by the parking lot, for the rest of the runners to finish, a police woman approached the gate, locking all of our friends into the park.

“Should we say something to her?”  John asked.

“Nah…”  I smiled.  “They can get over that.  Plus I’m not sure what the rules are about being on the this late.”

“You wouldn’t believe the idiots that try to go out there after dark if I don’t lock this,”  she said as she headed back to her vehicle.  John and I exchanged a quick smile.

It was less than 10 minutes later when our friends approached the gate and we enjoyed some night time entertainment watching them all conquer the new obstacle that had been placed before them.  The most amusing was Monya, who without a moments hesitation, took a flying leap towards the gate and was over it within the same amount of time it would have taken her to run through it had it been open.

The team was instructed to do a lap around a local monastery after their jaunt in the park, but it appeared that everyone was cutting things a little short in that area.  Bob came back, explaining to us that a Father had approached them telling them both a bear and a mountain lion with a cub had been spotted that evening.  I shivered thinking about what my encounter could have been with out there.  Note to self – no more running alone at night.

On Saturday, I said ‘good-bye’ to my friends, who I knew I wouldn’t train with again for up to two weeks.  I have two more short and fast training days I am off to run my Western States qualifier.   This will be the first time in almost two years that I tackle a distance like this without crew or pacers, but Donn will be out there on the course with me and I know that will push me to achieve more than I would otherwise.  I have yet to really feel the type of excitement towards this race that I did when I ran the Mt. Disappointment 50k, but I guess that makes sense.  There was so much on the line with that one!  However when we hit the road for Granite Bay on Friday, I’m sure all of that will change quickly.   I’m so glad I waited until I felt 100% to decide to conquer this.  It’s ON!

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