This weekend, Saturday night, I ran my first nighttime trail race, the Yeti Nightmare five and ten mile trail run. While I wanted to do the ten mile run, I opted instead for the five since Ragnar is a week away and I have never ran these trails in the night or daylight. I added this race a month or so ago as a nighttime trail run and afterword beer party sounded like a blast. The final event was incredible and nothing like any of my other races.
The lack of direct light was the least different thing about this race, as its informality lied at the heart of what made it so different. In my previous road and trail races, time was everything and the finish and start lines were important. This race proved drastically different. The pre-race meeting set the tone. We were told flat out that if you got lost it was your fault and try to follow the creek back. Of course they also informed us that the trail would be marked with flagging tape and that the tape should always be on the right, if not, you are lost or going the wrong way. The last important thing we were informed was that there would be mud and creeks and we were going to have to get wet. Then before heading out to the start line we were further informed that we could just stay there and drink beer if really wanted to. I knew I was in for some fun, this was super informal.
The start line was basically a designated arbitrary imaginary line that the race directors stood at and basically shouted go. We were off, headlight beams turned on and bobbing in the night. The first couple miles were not bad and I listened to some music at a low volume so I could still hear others passing. I stuck to my basic run/walk ratio and just enjoyed running in the night. Eventually I dropped back enough where it was just the way I liked it, me and the dark alone. After a few miles my phone lost signal and I now was running naked, without music. This was fortunate as I could then hear the rushing of the water and the movement of the current as the trail ran along side Sweetwater Creek. The course suddenly grew some teeth and got narrower and threw up other surprises. At one point there was a massive rock scramble and another a giant pit of mud, of course there was a water crossing with the only way to get across was to plunge into the calf deep cold water. I pushed on, enduring on the climbs and enjoying the night time running and all the trail had to offer.
At the end of the race existed another stark difference, no formal finish line. The finish line basically was a card table set up and the race directors there to high five the finishers and cheer on the runners. As you came up to the table your number and time was jotted down. Being cheered in by the race directors and volunteers was better than most finish lines I have seen and I loved it. They did this for everyone running, fast or slow, first or last. After finishing I was handed a finishers pint glass, which was then filled up. There were snacks left over from the Georgia Death Race provided. I walked around chatting and enjoying a beer or two with the other participants. It was such a jovial atmosphere it was almost hard to believe everyone had just ran a race and were not sitting around chatting and drinking all night.
Later I began to look at my time I recorded for the race, uncharacteristic of me to wait so long, but I was enjoying the after party. Turns out I had my best trail running time in any race or run ever. I managed a 15:36 minute per mile pace, shaving 30 seconds off my best trail run. This race was such an awesome run that as soon as I was done running it I wanted to run the 5 mile course again. Instead I just sat there drinking another beer and enjoying the party. Til next time.