Javelina Jundred: Into the Dark Unknown

Never in any of the marathons I’ve done, have I had to run in the dark. Although my times have been pretty slow, so I’m surprised it never came to that. However, there is no escaping running in the dark during Javelina Jundred so I better prepare for it.

Saturday night I joined up with my friends Mitch and Sundar – whom I ran the Backbone Trail with and who are both training for the Rio Del Lago 100. We, along with a couple of other ladies, Jamie and Debbie, who were running a few miles with us, set off on a night run.

Smiles before it got dark.
Smiles before it got dark.

Initially I was going to do a long run of least 20 miles that day, but I wasn’t going to focus on that when this opportunity came up. Instead I decided to run that morning for 9.22 road miles and figured whatever mileage I did that night would be icing on the cake.

The sun is starting to pack it up for the day.

Mitch had estimated we’d be around 13 miles so I planned for at least 15 which is what I did the day before on the trails. To be honest, I wasn’t aiming to do a very long run that night, but I was going to prepare for some solid double digits. I filled up my bottle with a couple scoops of CarboPro and put a few Hüma Chia Energy Gels in my pack and away we went. Oh, and I made sure my hydration pack had plenty of water.

Down in the Valley

Running in complete darkness is not the norm for me and I’ve only had a couple of instances when I did, or at least had to. The first time was during my first San Diego 50 in 2015, and the second time was again, during the San Diego 50 back in January. Both races had their, let’s say, scary issues for me.

The first time I was all alone with a creative imagination thinking a wild animal was going to be right behind me whenever I turned around to check for any approaching headlamps. There were none. Neither were there any wild animals. And the second time I was at least running with somebody, but had several packs (or could’ve been one pack) of coyotes howling my ears off and giving me the heebie jeebies.

A few weeks ago someone told me, “you’re too chicken to go by yourself.” And this person was correct. Because based on what I experienced before, I would’ve been. And am.

It’s not so much I’m scared thinking an attacker would actually run 10 miles on the trails to hang out on a mountain just in case an unsuspecting female runner just so happened to decide to venture out on a trail run all by herself at 9PM on a Saturday night. It was more because I don’t want to encounter a pack of coyotes, or worse, a mountain lion. In the dark. All by myself.

When Mitch invited me for a night run, you bet I jumped at the chance. Safety in numbers people. Plus, a night run with more people was going to be a lot funner! And it was! And this was my time to test out what I had for my light sources – my Black Diamond headlamp and my handheld flashlight I got a couple of months ago. Both came in handy.

The trails had a few people on them when we got started but they got quieter as the minutes passed by. As I saw the sun set down over the other side of the mountain I became more and more aware I’ll be heading into darkness soon. I was a little nervous. Being in the dark unknown is a little nerve-wracking for me.

One concern I had was knowing I don’t see well at night in general, so now I need to contend with running on trails as well. Great. But I gotta do it. Of course my other concern was wild animals, mainly those pack of coyotes or mountain lions. We had neither. Actually that’s not true. We had a couple of coyotes at the tail end of our run but they were more concerned with getting food from smaller critters such as the cute furry bunnies I would hear scurrying in the brush. At least that’s what I convinced myself they were.

At one point Mitch had us turn off our lights and we stood there admiring the stars. I loved seeing them in the quiet still of the moment. The coolest thing was Sundar had an app which allowed us to see exactly where the constellations and planets were.

Stargazing on the mountain.
Stargazing on the mountain.
Sundar and Mitch heading up the mountain

Knowing I tend to go pretty slow on the rocky downhill sections, I was expecting to slow down a little more at night. And I did. The idea of rolling an ankle crept in my head, but I relaxed and slowed my pace when I needed to, even if the group got a little ahead of me at times. I was fine with that.

When Javelina rolls around, I expect to be in the dark for a good 8 or 9 hours. We were only out here for about 4 hours, but in complete darkness maybe only 3. We even turned around a little early and short of our initial destination. But overall, the run went pretty smoothly and energy-wise I felt good. In the end, we completed about 13.5 miles which got me close to 23 miles for the day. It was definitely something different to experience and I’m happy I didn’t have to do this one alone.

Glowing in the dark.

Thanks for reading!

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  1. Glad to see that you survived! I just picked up a headlamp and have started using it on my long runs early on Saturdays. My 50-miler will have a few miles on the beach in the evening hours and for some reason they don’t put streetlights on the beach. Keep up the good work, race day is coming soon.

    1. That’s excellent Bill! I also enjoyed using the hand flashlight. I felt it gave me better perception of the rocks.

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