Last night – well, very early this morning, actually – I had the pleasure to connect with Scott, Aaron, and Sam from Ten Junk Miles on their latest ‘Meet the Listeners’ show. I spent a few minutes talking about running here in Europe, some of the ultras I had done and would like to do again, and I took the opportunity to ask for a little advice ahead of the Saintelyon. As someone who runs mainly road ultras or looped ultras on pretty easily understood trails, I wanted some advice on how to prepare for a nighttime trail race like the Saintelyon.
Scotty’s advice? Run trails at night.
Yeah, it’s simple, but simple advice is always going to be easier to implement than complicated advice – and so that’s what I did tonight. I mapped out a mostly-trail run that would include a couple of different surfaces (hardpacked trail, some soft clay, and some singletrack, too) and would total about 25km. I planned to take it easy, enjoy the darkness, and relax listening to the end of the TJM podcast I started last night, and the post-election Common Sense podcast from Dan Carlin. And then, when I get home, I could write it up while I cooked up a mess of broccoli, lardons, and cheese.
The perfect Saturday night for a guy in the city by himself, right?
Heading out across the Rhone, I dropped down onto the berges and made my way along the path to the Parc de la Tete D’Or. When the lighting next to the path let out the headlamp kicked in and I started along the wet but still fairly hardpacked trail underneath the International City. Before too long I was entering the Parc de la Feyssine and hitting the first really wet section of trail. I think the clay soils there just don’t allow for the rain to drain away and I got a little wet once again misjudging a puddle as I entered the park proper.
I ran along the boardwalk on my way through the park and this was both an exercise in avoiding puddles and trying to avoid slipping, too. The moist air and the rain makes the wood very slippery if you don’t land with your weight placed right and I focused on maintaining a steady cadence and not letting myself fall over. Exiting the park through the clay soils again, I hit on some harder trails, some asphalt sections, and some rocky sections, too, as I made my way to the turn around point near La Balme.
I crossed over the bridge to Vaulx-en-Velin and started down the wide, smooth trail heading back towards Lyon. There were a few cars parked up here on the trail with people who were either fishing at night or engaging in activities that it would take a particularly NSFW Google search to identify. The headlamp caught the eyes of some dogs but they didn’t bother me at all. I dropped down the slight downhill here onto the singletrack taril that was covered in leaves, overgrown with grass, and generally difficult to find good footing on…but then this was the whole point of running trails at night, right?
When I crossed back over to the Parc de la Feyssine I was still feeling good and I was maintaining a fairly steady tempo at 5:00 pace. Like the night before I wasn’t pushing super hard and my heart rate was sitting under 160 beats per minute almost the whole time. After clearing the park, I crossed over the footbridge at the International City for the final stretch of singletrack. This part was very overgrown, a little slippery, and I was watching my footing the whole way as I knew there were some rocks and branches to trip over. Luckily I kept my feet and managed to keep my pace steady. After climbing the stairs and waiting for 30 seconds or so to cross the road safely, I ducked under the Croix Rousse Tunnel, passed beneath the Pentes, crossed over Terreaux, and then headed for home. A final loop around Jacobins brought up the 25 kilometer mark, and I was done.