update: A bit worn out from the hike and run yesterday at Signal knob. Not sure if I will run today. Bye bye seneca. I will just have to risk it on race day without checking out where the trail goes at certain spots. (I read Benrunsonbeer’s report on his race and it got me worry. I am experiencing about the same thing)
I expected a cold morning yesterday with the temperature fell to mid to high 30s for the first time in our area this Fall. There were ice forming on my windshield.
I was slow in getting myself ready in the morning. I had a breakfast and tossed a bunch of food into my lunch bag. Got a bunch of clothes too, by the time I left the house it was 8 o clock. The drive took an hour and I set the wrong location to the trailhead without realizing until I showed up at the wrong place. I realized when I pulled into skyline drive, that this was not it. I had to reset the GPS to the real place and so got to the trail by 9-ish. Originally I wanted to be out there around 7-ish am to do one loop first before the kids arrived.
Kids! They were my sister’s and family. We were going to do the day hike together and in the afternoon I would run some more. They showed up at 10.
I ran there last year. It was challenging but not as bad as Wild Oak. The loop is shorter between 9-11 miles depending on the trails you take. You have a choice. The elevation gain is maybe 1000-1500. Oh, it is 2200 ft. But Wild Oak is twice to three times as that. still a loop at signal knob took me about 4 hours. I am slow. My goal is to run it in 2 hours.
As a matter of fact, we came across a guy four times on the trail. He was there when I started and he finished at 4 pm while I was just about to start my second loop. Amazing. He was going very strong when he passed me on his final loop! 36 miles in what 7 hours? Crazy! Did he even stop for lunch? If only I could run like him 🙂 It was a training run for him because the way he was hitting the strides, he was not straining or putting in sweat, while I was like a wheel has fallen off.
I got my run in though. The last lap for me was iffy. The time was four pm and I was unsure whether to start the second loop because sunset is around 6:30 and I don’t want to be on the mountain after dark. I experienced that a few weeks ago. Nope not going to repeat that trying to descend from the mountain with a tiny candlelight flashlight.
I did start hoping I could finish it in about 2 hours. So I went for it. Then came the hill climbs. My feet were jack. I couldn’t run uphill. Yes I need to work more on the hill climb. I literally hiked up the mountain. I ended up getting caught in darkness.
My hope was to chase the kids as they literally were doing 40-45 mins a mile. They had about 6 miles to go when I left them. I was hoping by running I would caught up to them. Nope, I took the wrong turn and ended up doing the longer loop of 11 miles instead of the 9 miles. I arrived at the separation point at about 5:20. We were there having lunch at 2 pm when I said I would run and hope to catch up on my 2nd lap. I know I was 3 hours and 20 mins behind them and they had only 6 miles to go. I was hoping they would slow down to 1 mile an hour. I have about 1 hr ish to catch up. They texted me later that they finished. I thought so too that they should be finishing around 6:30. I knew I had an hour left and 6 miles to go. If it was on flat ground I could run 6 miles in an hour, but we were on the mountain here. Looking at the stat now, I was moving 3 mi an hour – yes very slow!
I got their message that they arrived back at the car around 7 o’clock with me having a mile-ish left, maybe 1.5 miles. It was good though because once I got their text message, I relaxed. No longer was I chasing them. I took a water break, got my gu gel in me, to restore my energy. They called this a reset – to reset your heart rate. The sun had completely set by then.
I could still make out a bit of the faint outline of the trail using my god given spider sense. Then I told myself let not break a leg and need to turn on the flash light. Flash light actually made it worse because now my night vision ability was gone. The faint outline of the trail was completely gone. The flashlight did not help in seeing the trail. I felt more blind with the light on than without the light, but it was too late to turn off the light now, a little light is better than none. All I could see is the immediate steps in front of my shoes! You don’t run by looking at your feet! You have to gaze ahead. Basically that was the end of running for me. I hiked the rest of the way out.
I had a flashlight on me but it was hard to see the trail. I went by feel and trusted my feet would find the path. The last two miles were in darkness. The final mile was iffy because I was not sure if I was on the trail or some other terrain (it felt like I was on a dry river bed). I could not see the blazes at all. There was that fear I might be lost in the forest with half a mile to go! I finished around 7:15 pm. The kids left me their birthday cakes (It was one of them birthday). They said so long by messaging and was long gone when I arrived at the parking lot. I hopped in my truck and out of there.
The reason that it was kind of scary was I was wearing a tee and shorts and temperature would drop to freezing point in the night. So I didn’t want to be stuck out there. I have layers put away in my hiker pack but still, the thought of spending night out in the woods is no fun.
So that was my exciting adventure of the week. (voting too could be up there as the most exciting thing for my week, but I don’t write about that. I did the early in-person voting the past Wednesday. Running in the dark though, you can’t beat that)