It was April of 2011 when I was training for the Everest Marathon that took place at Everest Base Camp in Nepal. I had to work construction as much as I could to save money for the trip. That only left training for the marathon at night after a long day of work.

trail running

I was doing tons of trail running mostly in the foothills of San Diego County. The places I liked to run were veined with endless trails to almost nowhere, yet didn’t have the overcrowdedness of some of the more urban trails. It was perfect for 15 miles trail runs with just me, my hydration pack, La Sportiva trail shoes and sometimes an iPod.

trail running

This ecosystem of dry sage brush and boulders would be booming with animals like rabbits, rattle snakes, and the occasional coyote, but nothing really bigger than that in size. Or so I thought.

One of my favorite trails to run is by this historic steel car bridge. I would park my Jeep there and run out through this valley. After work when the sun would drop, it got dark. Really dark. Creepy dark. On this particular night in April, I was about a 1-2 miles from my Jeep heading back. It was so dark I had maybe a five foot radius around me with my headlamp.

trail running

It was so quiet and dark that this feeling of discomfort would come over me. “Let’s hurry up and get back to the car,” I said to myself. The only thing creepier would be coming across another person. I would always be suspicious of their intentions for being back there. And they probably thought the same about me.

Steelbridgerun2

On this particular night, with my five foot radius of light, and about a mile from the car, I sensed a presence in my peripheral. I looked over and saw this large, dark object just outside the range of my headlamp running parallel with me through the brush.

 My heart beat picked up along with my pace. Its pace quickened with mine as it continued perfectly parallel with me. I kept flipping through a rolodex in my mind of the different animals that were out there. Nothing was of this size. What is this?

As it crashed through the brush beside me, it became clear that somehow a bear had escaped from an unknown, perhaps top-secret facility close to here. That’s it, that’s all it can be. Or maybe a triceratops.

I ran faster as it did too. It finally passed me and started to veer over towards my path, still just out of range of my head lamp.

There was crackling and crashing of sage, then it finally stopped in the trail right in front of me. I stopped. It was finally in the range of my lamp. We stared at each other for a moment…

It was a cow.

It could have escaped from a ranch miles and miles away, but I still have no idea exactly where it came from. It had my imagination running, that’s for sure. I yelled at it to get it off the trail, then I kept running. I made it back to my Jeep. My pace was still quicker than normal.

That’s my side of the story. I often wonder what the cow’s was….

Steel Bridge

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