So now that I'm officially a runner and have some experience with the quasi-moto-fascists while afoot I thought I'd give the peds a little more love.
Well, when I say that I guess I oughta just be honest and tell you that I want to spray about my latest non-ankle spraining trail running experience and to complain about the old coot that almost ran me over on my morning run on Monday.
You'll remember Cobhill? That was Friday evening. Saturday morning I hinted around to my loveliest of wives that I wanted to go up to the Gorge for a trail run to satisfy the "6" marked on the calendar for our ten week 5k to a half marathon training schedule.
I'm not going to say I was intimidated by the thought of running 6 miles because I wasn't. But I also knew I needed something to take my mind off the reality of running that far, the farthest I've ran in years, and to inspire me to really get into the idea of running more than my usual 3 or 4 miles.
Finally I blurted out: "Do you care...if I go up and run the Auxier loop?"
Because she's amazing, and tolerant of my schemes, Mandy said she didn't. As fast as I could I threw everything together, "everything" being my hydration pack and my running kit. Then I was gunning east for the trailhead.
The Auxier Ridge trail out to Courthouse Rock is a Gorge standard. It's very popular for day hiking and camping, and for good reason. I've ran it before, but it’s been years. Actually, I'd run the loop I intended ages ago, but I'd never timed myself on it. Those were the days before Strava was even a possibility.
I set out from the trailhead strong and managed a good solid pace almost all the way to the Haystack Rock overlook. I slowed on one long-ish uphill to a walk, and then I picked up the pace as the grade eased.
I'd not forgotten my Pilot Knob mishap a few months ago. I was laser focused on every foot placement. Of course this time my shoes were broken in, and I am in better shape than when I rolled my ankle. That ankle still sings to me on a daily basis. So I was very cognizant of my steps.
It was easy enough to traverse Auxier Branch—I'd already decided I would walk out up the short steep climb—and once I regained the ridge elevation my brain turned off and I settled in to a nice pace. My fourth to fifth miles felt really good. I was going to stop at the trailhead, which would have been almost five miles, with the justification that five trail miles would equal six road miles, but I was feeling so good when I hit the TH at 4.8 miles I turned and ran out and back out old Tunnel Ridge Road for 0.6 miles.
For the distance and terrain that I ran I felt pretty good. I realized that my recovery would be a different story though, and I was right. I ran the Auxier loop Saturday morning and was sore all day Sunday despite my best efforts at allaying the aftereffects.
I agonized over what I would do Monday morning. I actually wanted to ride…Lone Oak…but my schedule was for 3 miles of running. With the late sunrise these days I am forced to use lights either way if I want to squeeze something in before work. If I’m going to move in the darkness I’d just assume be on the bike, but when I get on the bike I want to go an hour or more. Anything less seems like a wasted effort. Anything more becomes showing-up-for-work-on-time threatening.
Finally I decided I’d do a 3 mile run from home in the foggy darkness and try for a nice fast pace. Monday morning I kitted up and headed out into the void. I felt fast on the first mile. It’s hard to push yourself when running or cycling in darkness. On the bike you can go fast enough that the darkness is a real danger. On foot it’s just hard to plod on without being able to see much of anything. It doesn’t help that I have an active imagination and bears have become a reality in my home watershed.
I hit my first turnaround point at the bottom of a hill and back up I went. At the top of the hill on the left is the entrance to a subdivision. As I neared the side road I heard a car overtaking me. Within a few steps of the road a huge boat of a vehicle started to pass me, and as it came even it started to slow.
No way is this guy going to try and turn in front of me… I thought. I was wrong.
I caught a glimpse of the driver, an older man, as his rolling death machine cut directly into my path. I had to almost stop to keep from being clipped and in a white phosphorous flare up of rage I swung a foot out to kick his bumper. I would have smacked down hard on his trunk if I’d not had my phone in my left hand.
If I’d been on my bike I would have chased him down into his dead end neighborhood. As it was, it would have been easy enough for me to chase him on foot too. What he did was uncalled for, unnecessary, and he could have hit me.
I see two possibilities:
1) He saw me and didn’t care.
2) He didn’t see me.
Either possibility is frightening. It was dark, but I had a bright LED headlamp, and I know his headlights were on me because I cast a pretty distinct shadow as he overtook me. We were both going slow, so I know he had time to react.
I guess there is the third possibility that he was incapacitated in some way. At 6:00 am that might be the most frightening possibility of all.
All three possibilities point to one source: poor judgment.
I know there are people out there that would say me choosing to be on the road running (or cycling) before sunrise is poor judgment. Without understanding the situation I could see someone making that claim. But I know what I’m doing. I’m well lit. I never take it for granted that someone like that old man is going to give me space. And if I want to run for my health I really don’t have much other choice.
I could drive over to the park in town, but that’s not the most efficient use of my resources. There is so little traffic on my road in the mornings (or all day for that matter) that there’s no reason I shouldn’t be able to run or ride on it without being threatened by a motorist’s poor judgment.
I’ve lived on that road for most of my life. I know people drive far too fast on it around the sharp and blind curves*. More often than not I drive far too fast on that road. I realized something on my run the other morning though: it’s on the best loop for walking, running, or cycling from Stanton. And there are a lot of people that live along the loop that take advantage of its benefits.
The loop is four miles. Once out of town there are no major intersections. There are two distinct hills (one ridge really) that must be crossed, but they offer a nice challenge. While the traffic is low the loop is not remote. There are no vicious dogs (at the current time). And finally—the big pro—it’s almost entirely on minor roads, and where it follows a busier road there are sidewalks.
A lot of people utilize this loop. Some use it well; some not so much. There is a group of ladies, I like to call them the Wrong Side Club, that walk four abreast on the narrow road on the right side with traffic. They tend not to get over when cars approach and then scowl when you try to squeeze past them. I believe they have every right to be on the road, but I also believe they have every right to be considerate. Plus, because of the *aforementioned reasons it’s just not smart to take up so much of the road all at once.
Most users tend to be going solo, like myself, and I’ve never heard of anyone being hit or of an accident involving non-motorized users. That said I try to motion for speeding people to slow down, and when I’m out in my yard I often yell at the speeders in front of my house. I’m a speedo-fascist that way. I’ve been making a conscious effort to slow down myself behind the wheel. I do go as fast as possible on the bike though…