Monday, February 11, 2013

My Near Death Experience On The Trail

Last week was the highest training week I've ever had. My scrawny chicken legs carried me 80 miles. This gave me a little nugget of confidence for the Buffalo Run 100 coming up next month.

Monday, February 4th 2013: 8 miles
Tuesday, February 5th 2013: 10 miles before work, 20 miles before bed
Wednesday, February 6th 2013: 5 miles
Thursday, February 7th 2013: Rest
Friday, February 8th 2013: 7 miles
Saturday, February 9th 2013: 30 miles

During Wednesday night's run I also had one of my scarier trail experiences. I spent the first seven miles weaving my way through some trails in the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve. I found this great rolling trail that lured me into the belly of the desert guided by the light of my head lamp. Just for fun I stopped and turned off my head lamp. It was the kind of dark that feels like it's swallowing you. All I could see were the pin pricks of a million stars above me.

I turned on my light and ran. Soon my body went on autopilot the same way your body can go on autopilot while running on the road. But all too soon I was snapped into reality by what felt like a near death experience.

As I passed a bush, a crash exploded through the silence.....and then flew away. It was either 1) an eagle on performance enhancing drugs, 2) a pterodactyl, or 3) an enormous owl. I ruled out the steroid-enhanced eagle and the pterodactyl. It must have been an owl I surprised in the middle of the night, perched close enough that I could have petted him.

I heard myself yell in fright, making a sound that a grown man shouldn't be making. My heart felt like it was going to beat out of my chest. Like I just had a near death experience. Autopsy = Death By Owl. That thing sounded like a helicopter as it flew away. I'm scared of rattle snakes, mountain lions, and drunk hippies.....but owls? OWLS!?!??!

About an hour later I passed a power pole and I heard an owl with it's distinctive "Whooo. Whooo." But it wasn't a sissy "Whooo." It was a determined, powerful, deep "Whooooo". The kind of "Whooo" that is generally followed by "let the dogs out!"

After those seven miles on a dark trail, I was thankful to run the other thirteen miles on the much more harmless roads. The next day I went back to this same trail to see what views I had missed the night before. They were awesome! There was a great shot of the Virgin River down below.

On Saturday I ran 30 miles on the Chinle Trail in the back country of Zion National Park. Serious props to my wife who let me escape for a plethora of hours. There were ominous clouds on the horizon and I was just waiting for them to start dumping.

The trail wraps right around the base of Mount Kinesava. Pictures don't do this place justice.

Much of the trail is very runnable and not very technical. On one side of the valley the clouds were rolling past the sky all day. I had a hard time putting the camera away.

It felt like it would be unethical to pass a place like this without getting a jumping picture.

I read that this trail used to be called the Petrified Forrest. No surprise why. Sections of the trail looked like someone broke open a pinata filled with petrified wood.

Some pieces were huge, and some were approximately the size of a Zinger. Oh, great. That reminds me of Hostess. Pardon me for a moment while I sob uncontrollably.

After a few hours of running I was out in the middle of nowhere. I'm talking nowhere. I'm totally cool being in the middle of nowhere by myself. But then I saw some people coming toward me on the trail! In the thousands of miles I've run on trails, I have seen another runner a total of TWO times. Not only were they runners, but they were also runners I knew! It was my friend Locke Ettinger who runs the IHC Live Well Center / Run Fit program and his wife Carol Sue!

It snowed for about three hours total of the run. It was a little chilly but not bitter cold. I'm okay with chilly, not okay with bitter cold. Eventually that ominous storm hit with a punch. It was a complete white out with huge snow flakes. The whole experience was stunning and beautiful.

This was the perfect ending to a record week. And as a public service announcement, beware of startled owls. That would be an embarrassing cause of death.

"Go fast enough to get there, but slow enough to see." ~ Jimmy Buffett


  1. Crap, now you got me thinking about Hostess!

  2. Well done on the mileage. I've never been close to that number. It's good to see Locke coming to the good side of running with trails. He was my pt for a few years. I knew he did that ironman nonsense but didn't know about trails. Keep the training going. You'll have no problem getting in under time limits with those training miles.

  3. You make me want to just get out there and run. I love the feeling of being alone on the trails...unfortunately I don't feel incredibly safe doing that. Question...with all your long hours out there, do you listen to music or books on tape or just the sound of nature?

  4. Busted a gut laughing. Whooo let the dogs out? Ha!

    Hostess, a moment of silence.

    Wow, those clouds are incredible! Gorgeous!

  5. The title of that mountain Kinesava sounds like a shoe. But more realistically it looks like someone from the heavens beckoning you towards it. Goooo towards the light...........OK DON'T!!

  6. You've got every right to be terrified of owls. Just ask any mouse.

  7. Awesome training week Cory and fantastic pictures. You are going to rock the 100 miler coming up. I am incredibly excited for you!

  8. I'm glad the owl didn't eat you for dinner! Be careful out there, buddy! Great week of running! Keep up the good work!

  9. Great pics as usual..... Nice week in miles. Hope I make it in one piece on race day. Ankle had been mean and ugly. Had an MRI today.... Results with the doc soon. Cross your fingers.

  10. Cory, there are Great Horned Owls living in the erea where 600 N crosses Goulds wash. You probably met one ot them. I love seeing wild life but I can symathize with you. I was out taking star pictures once and heard something in the bushes. I swung my flashlight around and saw something about the size of a dog run off. I spent the rest of my time out there on top of a large boulder where nothing could come up behind me.

  11. it was fun to see you also Locke

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