Tuesday, August 29, 2017

August Half: Viking Dash in Muncie, IN

If there is an exact opposite of the Chicago Rock 'n' Roll Half I did last month, it is probably the Viking Dash Trail Half I did this month. Other than the distance, and the planet on which the races took place, and I suppose my name in the results, they have nothing else in common.

It's hard to look cool with a headlamp, but I'm pretty sure I pulled it off.
The Viking Dash is a trail race.

Run at night. In the dark.

With 19 finishers. The winner barely broke 2 hours.

There were no bands. No spectators aside from the brave few at the start/finish.

Jen and Chloe were two of those brave spectators.
Not a single Elvis spotted in Muncie, but there were about 15 Viking LARPers.

In Chicago we crossed the river, on a bridge, like babies. In Muncie, we crossed part of a lake... no bridge.

About 30 feet across, maybe 40, knee deep, not too cold
Chicago had peppy millennial MCs getting us "pumped" at the start. The Viking had Eric warning us of horse droppings on the course. He also suggested that the best time to turn on our headlamps was when we couldn't see anything. 

Eric - Race director and "MC"
I fell twice. Once hard. Once really, really hard.

I was off course once for about 0.2 miles.

I let/made a guy pass me at the 11 mile mark, knowing I was probably giving up an age group award (I was) just to have the trail to myself.

I finished 9th, 2:23:18.

Chicago was a good race for me, right when I needed it. Big race, big city, big crowd.

Muncie was a harder race, and a longer race, but it was also just exactly what I needed.

I was super anxious about this race. Before this month I hadn't run trails in years, and even then, my training runs hadn't gone particularly well, and bonus, since it started at 8pm, I had all day to think about how unprepared I was for the race.

Trail running is so unlike running on roads.  

Trails are hard. You can't keep any momentum... it's up and down, left and right... all broken rhythm.

You really don't know what the course will throw at you. Even a trail you've run a hundred times is different every time. 

It's a challenge. It's primal. It's real. It makes you feel alive, aware, connected to the Earth.

It's slow. It's hard. It's peaceful. It's quiet. It's alone. It's natural. It's scary if you think about it too much. It's addictive. It's pure.

It's the best way I know to learn how to be truly present, to achieve that state of here and now and nothing fucking else.

If your mind wanders too far from the trail for too long, it'll be brought right back... right at that moment when you fall on your face.

Those 2 falls of mine? I fell the first time looked at my watch, third mile... I looked for half a second... just a peek... and wham, rock grabbed my toe, heels of my hands collected bits of gravel. Too far, for too long. Second fall, mile 12, I wished a fellow runner well as we passed... didn't quite catch what she said... tried to process it... didn't get my foot fall right... wham! hard to the ground on my shoulder. Too far, too long...

But I needed this... I wanted it... to be reminded of, reminded how to focus... to find that level of hyper-presence again.

Crossing water up to your knees, or trudging up a steep, gravely hill, or darting left and right as the trail twitches this way and that... your mind is beautifully consumed with the present. Time doesn't mean anything. Pace isn't in your mind at all. How far you have to go doesn't even occur to you. Your brain is busy, focused on where to place your next foot fall among the ruts and rocks and roots... there's no capacity for anything else.

Now... add darkness, and a headlamp... your entire world is tree trunks that border a thin line of dirt that bisects an ellipse of light that extends maybe 15 feet ahead. That is all you see, all you know, all that matters.

5 1/2 days before this race I drove 562 miles round trip to see 2 minutes and 28 seconds of a total eclipse of the sun. I've never felt as aware of my place in the cosmos. This race, though, helped me feel more aware of my connection to my time, and place, and planet.


While I was training for this race, after a rough, hot, long but not as long as planned trail run, I sat with a stranger at a picnic table.

He ate his lunch. I changed my shoes.

He was retired, I'm guessing late 60s early 70s, training with a heavy pack for a long walk, the Camino Trail in Spain. I told him how poorly my run had gone that day, how I was obsessing about the heat, how hard the trail was, and how far I had to go. He reminded me "It's all about being where you are... step by step... 'I'm here... I'm running here... no where else matters.'"

I was in that zone in Muncie. And I look forward to finding "here" again, out on some other trail, very soon.

Pretty cool medal - a Ulfberht sward
Good running,

PS - The beer was gone when I finished... damn 5k LARPers drank it all... fuckers.

PSS - Beer supply aside, I highly recommend the Viking Dash series. Well run, good "trail runner" vibe. Check it out. If there's one in your area give it a try.

If you'd like to catch up on the year in halfs so far, here are links:
  1. Jan: runDisney StarWars half at Disneyland
  2. Feb: Gasparilla Half in Tampa FL
  3. Mar: Sam Costa Half in Carmel IN
  4. Apr: Carmel Half in Carmel IN
  5. May: Geist Half in Fishers IN
  6. Jun: Zionsville Half in Zionsville, IN
  7. Jul: Rock 'n' Roll in Chicago, IL
Next month Mill Race Half in Columbus, IN.