Hawaii Spartan Trifecta Weekend 2017 Race Report

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As a little girl, I daydreamed. A lot. Instead of paying attention in school, I would stare out a window, or at a wall, or at Mrs. Farmer’s gray hair, and dream. In my dreams, I could leap like a deer. I could clear a fence and hit the ground running. I could climb a tree like a squirrel and leap to a rooftop.

Now I do Spartan races. Coincidence? I think not.

 

The road to Hawaii was a long one.

And there was also that plane ride.

But I’m talking about the other road… the metaphorical road. Or symbolic or figurative, whatever you call it. I’m talking about the training, the planning, the financing, and the training. The major family events (two babies!!) that postponed the trip for a whole year. And the training.

In case you don’t know about Spartan races, or confuse them with the Spartan Ultimate Team Challenge that you may have seen on television (same organization, totally different race) let me explain:

Spartan races come in four distances: Sprint (3-5 miles, 20-23 obstacles), Super (8-10 miles, 24-29 obstacles), Beast (12-14 miles, 30-35 obstacles), and Ultra Beast (run the Beast course twice). One of the goals of Spartan racers, after #1-not dying, and #2-finishing, is to complete the three distances in a calendar year, earning your Spartan Trifecta. The Beast and/or Ultra Beast both count as a Beast for Trifecta purposes.

Some athletes complete several Trifectas every year, but my husband B and I have made it our goal to complete at least one Trifecta each year. The necessity of travel to races puts some constraints on us, plus we don’t want to lose the childlike joy that the races give us. No, that was not sarcasm.

Last year, we planned to go to Oahu for the Spartan Trifecta weekend. This was a convenient, and certainly beautiful,  opportunity to get our Trifecta in a single weekend! Our younger daughter was expecting her first child in June, so the August race date would be about right for our mutual comfort levels.

So, let’s do this!

As my cursor hovered over the airline “PURCHASE” button, someone knocked at our front door.

We are generally anti-social and don’t get many visitors, so we gave each other “that” look. The look that says, “I don’t want to get it, YOU get it.”

B got it. As soon as he saw our daughter and son-in-law, he knew they were coming to announce their pregnancy. I’m a little slower, but I got it eventually, after it was clearly explained.

Their baby was due in August.

 

So. One year and two granddaughters later (TOTALLY WORTH IT!!!!!) we start planning again. We irritate both daughters by making them confirm repeatedly that they are not pregnant before we book every little thing.

I suspect that completing all three race distances in two days will be the most challenging physical feat of my life. I’ve done some difficult things. I’ve run through rain and snow and ice and limb-sucking mud. I’ve fallen hard on my ribs and made it two miles back to my car while my ribs clicked with each step. I’ve made it ten miles with an open gash bleeding from my elbow.

The previous year we completed the Seattle Beast on Saturday and the Seattle Sprint on Sunday. I recalled the full body pain on Saturday night. I couldn’t sleep because of the aches. And I couldn’t sleep because in the morning I had to get up and do it again.

This will be the same, except the courses are said to be much harder, and we are running the Super distance on Sunday morning, and the Sprint on Sunday afternoon. That is, if we complete the Super on time…

 

Spartan races begin with a rousing starting chute speech. As if we need to be pumped up any more. My heart is already pounding long before our final “AROO” fades away. Almost immediately, I’m plunged into a slippery, cooling stream. Then the climbing begins. The climbing is broken by a few walls, a five foot, a couple of six foot, then a seven. I’m relieved to start running again, with no other walls in sight. Next are some Spartan standards, the Atlas Carry and the Bucket Brigade. As I start up the outrageously steep hill with my bucket full of rocks, I see B just reaching the end. We are running separately today, and together tomorrow. I holler and wave like a fool until he sees me. That’s the last I see of him for many hours.

The uphill continues. I pass Jurassic Park Gate and across the valley I see King Kong’s skeleton littering the hillside. Yes, this place has been the star of several movies.

After the monkey bars and the beginning of the memory test (remember a word and a series of numbers for many miles and seven obstacles) I reach the jungle. Really. Real jungle, with vines and water, slimy mud, and heavy foliage that completely blocks out the sun. My pace slows to a literal crawl in many places. Some of the slopes are so slippery that ropes have been strung from trees uphill, but the ropes are so covered with mud that they slide from your hands. Groups of people are trying to get up, struggling for every step. I finally go around, using the trees and vines to pull myself up through the jungle alongside the trail and pass the slimy groups. It’s thick and scratchy, but at least I make progress.

In this jungly, slow and slimy section, which lasts about five miles, the obstacles come as welcome breaks. There are some heavy carries, two with logs and one with tires. There is a very muddy Z-wall where I am convinced that only my bouldering training at the climbing gym saved me. Both feet slipped off but I held on with my fingertips until I could get my feet secure again. After I ring the bell, I realize I’ve torn the palm of my hand, which presents a challenge for the rest of race.

There is the hardest Tyrolean Traverse I’ve done so far. That’s a rope strung horizontally across the ground. As you move along the rope, it sags under your weight so that you must climb in order to reach the bell. There is the first of two barbed wire crawls and an eight foot wall. I pass my memory test and start to run downhill. Downhill!! Not for too long, but the jungle seems to be slipping behind me now and the going is much easier, even if it is still mostly uphill. I start running with some Ultra Beast racers. I’m able to keep up only since it’s their second loop. A lot of people are walking now, blocking the singletrack, but they’re letting the Ultra racers pass, so I just tuck in behind them.

Next I face a couple of obstacles I’ve never tried before, The Bender and The Twister. The Bender is made of pipes starting about six feet off the ground and slanting overhead so that you have to climb awkwardly over the top while you’re pretty far off the ground. Then The Twister. I’ve watched videos of this one, mostly of people falling off before reaching halfway, and that’s what most people are doing now.

“Go backwards,” someone yells. I go backwards. Nope, that is not working. I swing around and go forward, grabbing the pipe as it twists downward. I hear a voice, “you’ve got it! All day! All day!” I don’t know what that means, but it is very motivating. I make the halfway transition and I start to slow down. I’ve been skipping a section each time (watch a video of it, it’s really hard to explain) and now I slow to a stop. The voice is still yelling. I start going, not skipping anymore, just going, until there is suddenly a bell in front of me. I slam it with unnecessary force and drop to the ground, celebrating like I just won the lottery. I yell a ‘thank you’ to the voice, and start running. I was worried about that one. So far I’ve run clean, completing every obstacle without the dreaded thirty burpee penalty.

There are some more Spartan staples, the second barbed wire crawl, the Hercules Hoist, and the most brutal sandbag carry I’ve every done. The sandbag carry is usually pretty easy, but I know I’ve just been lucky and that some are even harder than this one. This sandbag is heavier than I’m used to, and the course goes up and down three hills. The course is littered with bodies and sandbags. I put my sandbag on one shoulder, then the other shoulder, then I carry it with both arms like I carry the bucket. I put it down, gasp for air for a minute, pick it up. Ugh. Finishing is such a relief. I try to ignore that horrible voice in my head that reminds me I have to do this twice tomorrow.

Next is the Plate Drag. Then the Spear Throw. I approach the Spear Throw with a sinking feeling. Funeral music is playing in my head. No, it’s fine! I practice all the time!!

Okay, I miss ninety percent of the time. Even at home. Key the funeral music.

This Spear Throw looks longer than usual. B later agrees that it is. Maybe that’s why my throw is about five feet short. I walk to the burpee area after a small, inappropriate outburst which is being echoed all around me. There’s a reason they call it the burpee maker. I can hear the festival area as I do my burpees. The festival area is obstacle heavy, since that’s the easiest place for spectators to watch. The burpees are wearing me out and I’m thinking of the Olympus and the multi-rig and the rope climb. Then I give myself a mental slap and remember my training. I’ve worked SO HARD. Burpees are nothing, I do them all the time. I finish up and start running. I’m almost done and I’m going to run clean the rest of the way!!!

I hope.

As I run down into the festival area, I hear someone yelling my name. I see B standing at the fence and I run over to give him a high five and say some incoherent, adrenaline-filled words.

Then I run to the dreaded Olympus. The Olympus is also hard to explain, it’s basically a slanted board with varied grips for your hands, including chains and climbing grips and holes cut in the board. To get through, you have to keep your feet off the ground and traverse the board, using your choice of hand grips, to the bell. The one I pick is muddy already, but I climb up, trusting my Salomon’s to give me some grip. In Seattle, this thing about killed me. I failed it on the Beast and barely made it through on the Sprint by smacking the bell as I was falling, hitting it just before my feet touched the ground.

So, yeah, I’ve been worried about it. I start moving. I’ve been climbing, these grips are familiar. I can hear B shouting. I’m moving at a steady pace, OMG I’M MOVING AT A STEADY PACE. B is shouting, his voice is echoing my own excitement. I finish easily, slamming the bell so hard I’m surprised it stays put.

Again, lottery-winning-style celebration.

There is a high bridge thing that I climb next, it’s not hard but I’m tired, so I go pretty slow. Next is the multi-rig, but it’s not really a multi-rig because instead of a variety of rings and pipes and ropes, it’s only rings. It seems easy, but I’ve learned to never underestimate an obstacle, plus a lot more people are falling off than are completing it.

Huh. It IS easy.

Next up, rope climb. The ropes are new and they seem pretty slippery. They ARE pretty slippery. I struggle up the rope. It seems to take about a hundred pulls, since I’m making very little progress. Only my severe burpee-aversion is keeping me going. I inch up, looking at that far-away bell. One more pull. I reach for the bell… nope. Just one more… got it!!

Now the Inverted Wall and the Fire Jump, that’s it!

The Inverted Wall has always been easy for me, but it’s never been at the very end of a grueling Beast. I struggle over it, every muscle saying noooooo! Video of me going over the top would probably be very amusing and embarrassing, but I don’t think any exists, so I don’t care. Then I run. Run!!! Jump over the fire and run over the finish line. I forget every bit of exhaustion and pain, at least for a moment, as a medal is hung on my neck.

B finished more than an hour before me, running entirely clean!

The Beast was 34 obstacles and 13 miles. Tomorrow will be even more. Plans for grilling a steak quickly dissolve into ordering a pizza. We shower and wash our clothes. I take inventory of my bruises and try to clean up the cut on my palm. Then we sleep. I notice, as I drift off, that I don’t feel that horrible pain that I remember from Seattle.

Good. That’s good.

 

In the morning, we get an early start. Our Super start time is 8:30 a.m. and we need to complete it to make our Sprint start at 1:15 p.m.

We run together, which makes it fun. We’re pretty fatigued at the start, but we start feeling better as we go. B slips in the stream near the beginning and slams his shin pretty hard, but after walking for a bit he seems to be okay. We climb all the walls and get to the bucket brigade. I’m not too excited about doing this again, and it dawns on me that my training didn’t include enough heavy carries. I make a mental note to fix that. I struggle up the steep hill, resting several times. I struggle down the steep hill, resting once. B is waiting at the bottom. We run for a bit until we reach the Monkey Bars, then continue for a while before we realize we are approaching The Bender already.

“We bypassed the whole jungle!” I tell B.

“No, really?”

“Yes!”

We are thrilled about this. It was fun and challenging, but exhausting. We knew this course was shorter, but it didn’t occur to us that we weren’t going to struggle through the jungle at all.

So we are feeling good. We complete The Bender and The Twister, crawl through barbed wire and do the Hercules Hoist and that nasty sandbag carry again.

I’m feeling good about the Spear Throw. I think I can make it. I’m feeling positive. This time I hit the bales of straw, but not hard enough to stick. I don’t even bother swearing. Then B misses his throw.

We do our burpees and head to the festival area. The Super is almost nine miles long, but after completing the longer course yesterday, it seems really short. We’re still feeling good when we complete the Olympus and climb over the bridge. We complete the rig and the rope. Even the inverted wall doesn’t seem too bad today. We jump over the fire together.

We have plenty of time before the Sprint. We have a shaved ice and change our clothes.

My adrenaline is severely depleted in the Sprint starting chute. We’ve completed almost nine miles and twenty-five obstacles so far today, with four miles and twenty obstacles to go. At this point we figure we should finish. That was definitely not guaranteed when we started this thing yesterday, so I try to get excited about this last race.

One challenge with Sprint races is that a lot of people do them. A lot. A lot of people are here because a family member is running the Trifecta, and they’ve decided to do the Sprint. A lot of people do the Sprint that haven’t trained at all. Nothing against them, it’s very brave to sign up for something like this, but it does tend to clog the course up a bit.

We spend a lot of time waiting on singletrack where NOBODY is moving. The trail has become slippery, and without good trail technique, probably pretty scary. Eventually the course widens and everybody is able to run at their own pace. And we do run, surprisingly, for most of the race. This course is much shorter, but many of the difficult obstacles are still here, including the bucket and sandbag carries. The spear throw comes up quickly, and I miss.

I haven’t missed any obstacles, except THREE SPEAR THROWS!!!!

B makes his spear throw and waits while I do burpees.

“How many do you have left?” he asks at one point.

“Eighteen.”

“I got ten of them,” he says.

“No, I got it.”

“For your birthday. It’s a birthday present.”

Did I mention that today is my birthday? His argument seems valid.

“Okay.”

Then we head to the festival area and complete the Olympus, rig and rope climb.

The inverted wall seems impossible. I’m struggling and struggling and just can’t get over it. Finally I get a foot hooked over the top and drag my suddenly very heavy body over. The other side has been baking in the sun and is shockingly hot, so I slide off quickly.

I grab Bs hand and we run for the fire jump, leaping over in unison.

Unlike yesterday, the exhaustion doesn’t slip away, but it doesn’t matter. We did it. Twenty-five miles and 79 obstacles, 5300 feet of elevation gain. B failed one obstacle all weekend. I failed one obstacle each race. It was as difficult as we expected, but our training got us through.

That’s my advice, if you want it. Do the training. Work as hard as you can. Do a wide variety of things so no part of your body gets left behind and your mind doesn’t get bored. Use your body weight and buckets and sandbags and swing from everything you can find. Have fun and pretend you’re a wild kid that can leap over anything.

That’s what we do.

But now we have to find something even harder to do next year.

Aloha!

When Gravity Attacks

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2015-02-24 14.05.00The trail is almost perfect. A few patches of mud to dance through, but mostly dry. The mid-calf snow is behind us and we’re making good time, just two miles to go in an eleven mile run.

This is the fast part of the run, downhill but not too steep, no loose shale, no braking necessary. I’m leading, even though I’m the slow one, so my daughter J gets the full view of what happens next.

Suddenly I am soaring, flying through the air. Feels good. Flying is awesome. My arms are stretched out in front of me like Superman.2015-02-24 12.24.55

Then the ground intervenes with my flight. Ugh. I can’t breathe. Stupid ground knocked all the wind out of me. Every bit.

I sit up. J unfastens the straps on my vest so I can catch my breath. She doesn’t say anything for a minute.

“Can you breathe?”

I nod. I can breathe well enough to stay conscious, but not speak. I look back up the trail, trying to find the bastard that tripped me.

Nothing. I can see where my toe dug up a bit of dirt, but there’s not even a rock. No rock and no sign of The Stick Man or his minions. Hmmm…2015-02-24 13.05.52

I feel like there are three bad things about falling.

  1. It hurts
  2. It is embarrassing
  3. It hurts later

This particular fall hurt. It scraped up both forearms, banged up my knees and hurt my ribs.

This particular fall was embarrassing. I’m not embarrassed to have J see me fall. She’s seen me at my worst in many situations, so this was no big deal, besides she falls more than I do. Sorry J. But as I was sitting in the middle of the trail there was suddenly a dog nose in my face and her very concerned human asking if I was okay.

The human was very nice. He was very concerned and I don’t think he believed that I was really okay. Probably because I was still just sitting there blocking the trail. I continued to insist I was fine, so after he confirmed that we had a phone with us, he continued on his walk.2015-02-26 15.59.49

This particular fall hurt later. As we continued our run, my rib was kind of popping repeatedly like when you pop your knuckles. I could feel it and hear it and it was really freaking me out. Apparently, there is a lot of cartilage in the ribcage and if you throw yourself onto this cartilage at a moderately fast pace, it can be damaged.

Another bad thing about falling which I did not mention above is that it might put you on the sidelines for a while. Fortunately, this doesn’t happen very often, but this particular fall kept me from running for a little while. Not too long, but long enough to cause me to annoy friends and family because I felt SOOOO sorry for myself. Sorry everyone.

Falls can hurt. Falls can be life-threatening. Falls can be life-ending. We all know this, so analyzing the first and third bad things about falling is pretty pointless. The second bad thing about falling is the one that deserves some attention.

2015-02-24 13.43.34Interestingly enough, on this same run, J and I were discussing exactly WHY falling is so embarrassing. Why is embarrassment the overriding emotion after a fall? I’ve been so embarrassed after falling on my bike (okay, crashing is probably more accurate) that I was downright rude to a family that rushed to help me. All I wanted to do was get back on my bike and escape those witnesses as quickly as possible. Sorry nice family.

I recently fell down a very steep section of trail and landed on my hands and knees in rocks. The pain in my knees was excruciating for a few minutes. I thought I might not be able to continue my run, and I was at least two miles from the nearest road. I was completely alone. Thank goodness.

Yep, that’s what I thought. At least nobody saw me fall. I could call a family member who knows falling is one of my hobbies and they could come and rescue me. Pride intact.

2015-03-29 13.41.11As J and I discussed this on the day of my Superman fall, I suggested that it was instinct. Maybe an injured early human would be left behind, or left out for predators. J didn’t think so. We have been civilized for a long time, she pointed out, and some early human remains have signs of pretty severe injuries that have mended, proof that somebody cared for the injured person as they healed.

So I don’t have a good explanation for the embarrassment phenomena.

You may wonder why we were discussing this before my fall. The reason we were discussing this is that J had already fallen. She was behind me, but forensic evidence (you know, mud) suggests that she did a tuck and roll maneuver, possibly reducing her injuries. Her fall was earlier in the run, maybe five miles in, so she completed six more miles with hurt knees. Tough woman.2015-03-08 14.24.13

I don’t fall much, considering the miles and terrain that I cover. I really don’t. And most of my falls start but don’t finish. When you start to fall, I suggest you move your feet faster and wave your arms around like you’re crazy. Maybe throw out an f-bomb or two if that’s your thing. You might just find yourself still running, with nothing to show for the near-mishap but an elevated heart rate. And on those rare instances when the ground wins, I think we all know who to blame.

I call her gravity.

I want nachos!

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2014-04-15 18.12.55The mud is deep and sticky. It is the mud of the town where I live, a sticky gray clay that threatens to pull off our shoes. It is the mud of my backyard, where vegetables won’t grow and trees grow in a stunted way as if they are inches below timberline, not 4200 feet above sea level.

My daughter J is ahead of me, weaving back and forth along the trail, picking the driest path.

“I want nachos! Gas station nachos. With jalapenos,” J calls back.

“That sounds terrible.”

2013-09-08 11.41.43J was kind enough to do some handicapping the night before. In other words, she drank enough that she is running closer to my pace. Only closer, mind you, still not as slow as thetrailsnail. This is also causing the usual morning-after cravings, amplified by running.

“Or a gas station hot dog. No, both. A hot dog and nachos.”

“How about a honey gel instead?”

“No thanks. I need fat. Fat and salt.”

2014-04-15 18.27.24We are only about two miles in on a planned twelve mile run, so each mention of food makes me hungry in that hopeless way, knowing there are miles to go before I sleep… I mean eat.

The trail was an unexpected find. A couple of weeks before, I was running with my husband on a canal road near my house. He noticed a dirt road that crossed the canal and headed into the foothills.

“Where does that go?”

2014-07-08 11.04.46“I don’t know…”

I had run the canal road a few times, but never noticed this before, so we followed it. We didn’t go too far that first day, but we could tell there was a lot to explore.

The next time we took the dogs. This trail provides bunnies for chasing, so the dogs wear out closer to the time we wear out.

This is the first time J has been on this trail, and our first chance to really explore. We have all day, if we need it.

100_0285“Or a hamburger. I want a hamburger.”

“Stop talking about food!”

She does. For about a mile.

“I want a Crunch Wrap Supreme.”

“I don’t know what that is.”

She describes it. I gotta say, it does NOT sound good, but it still makes my stomach do that uncomfortable growl.

“Ivy Dog, go catch us a bunny,” I call, “we’re hungry!”

She acts like she knows what I’m saying and starts criss-crossing through the sagebrush like she’s hunting.

100_0425We run into the foothills and take a couple of side trails. The views are beautiful and the dogs are happy. We realize at some point that we are lost. This makes us more hungry. We may never find our way home. We may never eat again!

“I just wanted nachos,” J says, her voice forlorn and hopeless. “I just wanted potato chips.”

I realize that I can see the nacho gas station. It is far, far in the distance, but at least I know the direction we need to go. We find a trail that heads in that direction. It’s not so muddy and, for the first time all day, we start to make some good time.

“I don’t want nachos.”

I stop, shocked.

100_0284“You don’t want nachos?”

“No. Just a hot dog. And a Crunch Wrap Supreme.”

“Okay.”

“And potato chips.”

When we get back to the car we’ve run just over ten miles instead of twelve. That’s the problem with exploring new trails, you just never know where you are. We load up and head to the gas station.

They don’t have hot dogs.

nachosThe hot dog roller sits empty, still and silent. J stares at the clerk in disbelief.

“You don’t have hot dogs?”

“No,” the clerk says, “we never sell them on Sunday so we quit putting them out.”

So we get nachos. We smother them with fake cheese and jalapenos. We get potato chips, some for us, some for Clayton the Malador. We will offer some to The Ivy Dog, knowing she will politely take them and hide them in the car. She didn’t get that figure by eating potato chips.

We haul our loot out of the gas station. I glance back to see the look of horror on the poor clerk’s face as she sees the mud we have tracked all over her floor. I mouth sorry. Oh well, it’s a slow day for her.

J sits despondently in the passenger seat, eating her nachos but no hot dog. So, being a good mother, I drive her to Taco Bell for her Crunch Wrap Supreme.

Author’s note: thetrailsnail does not recommend the above diet on a regular basis if you want to run and/or live very long.

BECAUSE THE NIGHT BELONGS TO… THEM

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2014-10-31 18.31.11Daylight is mostly a memory, just enough remains to silhouette the peaks to the West, and that only for a moment.

Night closes quickly, falls like a curtain. There is no moon tonight, and the few stars that can be seen near a city are hiding behind clouds. The trailside trees vanish. The familiar canyon vanishes. Our world consists of a double circle lit by our headlamps, too many night sounds, and our imaginations…

An owl hoots on our right. A reply comes from further up the canyon. A few minutes later an owl flies over, so close, so big and so silent, that it startles us to a standstill.

“Did you see that?” B whispers. Somehow the dark forest makes you feel you should whisper.

“It was huge!” I whisper back.

We continue on, struggling along a trail recently trashed by rain, unseasonably warm temperatures and a lot of horses. Do you know how deep a 1200 pound animal sinks in mud? We focus on each step, keep our eyes to the trail in front of us. B stops.2014-11-28 18.51.06

“What was that?” he whispers.

“What?”

“That sound.”

“I didn’t hear anything. What did it sound like?”

“Like a growl.”

Great. I ignore the goosebumps crawling up my spine and go straight for my favorite weapon. Denial.

“Maybe it was the stream.”

He doesn’t answer, just stands there trying to get his headlamp aimed in the direction of the sound.

“Hmmm,” he says, then starts going again.

We started running in the dark about a month ago, when the days got too short for after-work runs. We started in a paved canyon that is closed to cars for the winter. On that first run we didn’t see a single deer in a canyon where we usually see dozens.

“Why aren’t there any deer?” I whispered to B on that run.

“I don’t know.”

This lack of deer made us nervous. Were they hiding? We know there are large predators in our mountains. We’ve seen very large paw prints, both canine and feline. So, being effing insane, B did some research.

Gray wolf. Pretty, pretty gray wolf.

Gray wolf. Pretty, pretty gray wolf.

Some facts about canines: There are no wolves in our area. Okay, wolves would be really really cool, but terrifying to see on a trail at night. Coyotes are generally afraid of people. This doesn’t make me feel any better because a coyote attacked a security guard at a copper mine that is approximately one stone’s throw from the paved canyon where we did our first night run. The one coyote I have seen on a trail run was quite large, as big as Clayton the Malador, and therefore terrifying to see on a trail at night.

coyote

Coyote. Also pretty.

There are foxes, too, but they’re just adorable and fluffy and not scary at all.

Some facts about felines: There are mountain lions in our area. Many, many mountain lions. Mountain lions absolutely LOVE our area. I love big cats. I love mountain lions. I would love to see one. I would NOT love to have one attack me from behind and bury it’s teeth into my neck. Yep, that’s what they do. Mountain lions are generally afraid of people. Does this make me feel better? No. Mountain lions begin hunting at dusk and hunt during the night. They seldom attack humans. When they do, it is usually a solitary person. I run alone a lot, but not at night. When a mountain lion DOES attack a human the person is probably on a mountain bike. Or running. That’s right, running. It really sets off that killer kitty instinct when they see you running. There are bobcats too, and they are apparently bad-tempered and aggressive, but not really big enough to kill you.

Mountain lion aka cougar aka above me in the food chain

Mountain lion aka cougar aka above me in the food chain

Cats of all sizes have a fear of dogs and will probably avoid a person with a dog even if that person is slow-moving and delicious-looking. But we don’t take our dogs on night runs. It’s hard enough to run a dark trail without a leashed beast pulling you around, and we’re afraid of having them off-leash in the dark.

Enough facts, back to the muddy slog through the dark and terrifying canyon…

Oops wrong kitty

Oops wrong kitty. Not afraid of dogs. Has a crush on Clayton the Malador.

We try to make it up two miles, but the trail is just too muddy and annoying so we turn around about a half mile short of our goal. Heading back down is always more scary to me. I feel like now I have my back to whatever is out there even though I really did all along. We come to a crossroads and stop. One side trail doesn’t look too bad. It looks downright passable.

“Where does that go?” B asks me. In a whisper, of course.

I tell him. We head that way. It’s a steady climb, and muddy, but better than the other trail. We run for about fifteen minutes before it gets too slimy to continue. B takes this opportunity to answer nature’s call and I scan the trees with my headlamp so he doesn’t get attacked mid-pee. Then I scan the trail we have just come up. You know how people say they were so afraid of something that their heart stopped? That’s what happened to me at this moment. My headlamp is highlighting a very clear, very fresh, and very large cat print. 2014-11-28 18.34.15

I stutter something to B and he comes to take a look. I start back down the trail, pretty quickly, assuming he’s following me.

He’s not.

Remember, he’s effing insane. He’s following the cat tracks up the trail. So I run back up the trail. I really don’t care to be alone right now. The tracks disappear into the trees after a short distance. I imagine the cat circling around to the other side of us and waiting.

The run down is slow, but my heart rate is fast. I carry on a comforting monologue in my head. There are plenty of deer this year… and turkeys… tons and tons of turkeys. Why would a mountain lion bother eating a human with all of those delicious turkeys around? That sound? That breaking branch sound? Couldn’t be a mountain lion, they would never break a branch, they’re silent… so silent you would never even hear them coming up behind you… whoa, no don’t think about that.2014-11-28 18.34.24

We make it to the car, both of us alive. I don’t like fear. I don’t like horror movies, haunted houses, scary stories, any of that. I REALLY hate clowns. I sit in the Durango for a minute. My heart rate slows, I relax.

We made it. We’re okay.

I hate being afraid. I hate it.

So why am I so excited for my next night run!?!