I couldn’t take my eyes off the changing sky.
The darkness of a long night run is a different experience. The world grows close, the limits of sight are what my headlamp throws for light. I feel alone, and special, as the dogs and I travel through the darkness and the wildness of night, alone on the trail at a time when everyone else is asleep. Time is experienced differently.
As the sky broke with the start of the day, I smiled. The slow glow at the edges of the mountains came first, a red burn smudged in a gray sky. The sky had started brightening with a lighter cloud cover and a brighter moon around 4 a.m. The dogs and I had started this third run after a rest from 11:30 pm until 3:30 a.m., heading out for a brief 35 mile run as the last leg.
The dogs were running well. Ia and Hyside were setting a nice 8-9 MPH pace. Wembey would occasionally stop the team to pee, as she does, but they would zip back in line again and resume their pace and recover the forward momentum.
We wound around the higher elevations, the wide valley basin of Millsfield Pond below, an open view to the left, the openness delivered by clear cuts and the sloping hillsides.
The sky turned an electric blue. I could make out the thinning cloud cover that had lifted through the night. The moon was above, as well, and I tried to get both the rising sun and the declining moon into my vision at the same time, to recognize the activity and exchange that was going on. To recognize the loss of the wild beauty of night, of the adventures just had with the team through a whole night.
The electricity of the changing environment, relinquishing the mystery and pure solitude of night for the shared brightness of day.
During this long night run, I didn’t see a soul from 9 p.m. on. I did see multiple small critters zip across the trail, and a moose lope off to the distance. As we neared the end of the run, I kept listening for oncoming human traffic as the day grew bright, but encountered only a pair of moose that crossed the trail and ambled in front of the dogs, giving Hyside something to chase for a brief moment.
The run had started at 10 a.m. the day before, taking the dogs and I through a run/rest/ run/rest/ run cycle, testing the endurance of both them and myself, testing their pace, testing their training, testing their knowledge that straw meant it was time to lie down and removing their jackets meant it was time to stand up. Throughout it all, I was greeted with affirming positivity from them. It came from Hyside and Ia in lead, it came from Taz in wheel, it came from Ariel and Nibbler’s steady and constant pace in the middle. It came from every leap of excitement, it came from the eager eyes and tails at snack time, and it came from guzzled bowls of food at rest time.
It was a good run. Smooth and calm. Affirming. Empowered by that smooth and calm confidence, I greeted the day, and regretted the passing of night, and the end of the time on the trail.
There are so many times I’ve had night-into-day runs that were less than smooth. The run to Rocky Brook when I ran the Can Am 250 for the first time, a long and hard run with reluctant leaders that led to the end of our race. Last year, the unknown of the first time I ran an all-night training run, camping along the trail with the team, waiting and wondering if Bayley would lead.
Those other runs were infused with something else. They were a different kind of fear, a mix of the unknown and discomfort. A lack of confidence.
A lack of faith.
As the sun rose, I felt regret that the night was over. I regretted that the day would be bright, and that the light would make things easy, and that the small family of the dog team and I would have to share the world with so many others, alive and awake in the daylight. We pulled up to the truck, and I set the hook, and as I worked up the team, removing iced-over booties and thanking each dog, they shifted over and lay in the straw, remnants of the previous two rests.
I cut most of the dogs loose, and they wandered around the truck, exploring and sniffing and stretching out. So many of them looked like they hadn’t just run through night and day. So many of them looked exactly the same as when they started. There were wagging tails, constant fluid movements, and smiling faces.
It was a good run. Two more weeks until the UP200.