Growing up in California there are a lot of trail races. One of the hardest races I ever ran was a trail race outside of Bishop ca. The race was called the High Sierra Challenge at the time. It was a series or ultra distance trail runs. I ran the shortest distance which was 20 miles. Thats right, the shortest option was 20 miles with the longest being 100k. Crazy to think that when i finished that other people weren’t even half way yet.
The hardest stretch of the run was a 6.5 mile stretch where you are running uphill. Some portions were steeper than others, but uphill for over a 10k was taking a toll on my legs and on my lungs. But at the top of that hill I had some downhill miles ahead of me and I had built my lead. I knew I was ahead, but because the trail was winding I didn’t know by how much.
As the trail began winding its was back towards the finish line I had just over 6 miles left. In my mind I told myself it was just a 10k. A distance I had run dozens of times. My mindset was just one foot in front of the other. What I loved about trail running was the ability to almost black out the mind and just run. Let the miles click by and not worry about anything.
It was in the next moment I thought I was going to die. My mind suddenly went from zoned out to fully alert as I heard the sound of a rattle, and just like that a rattle snake just off the side of the trail was startled by my running and launched at me.
I jumped to the side, my eyes half way closed as I braced for his teeth and venom to puncture the skin of my thigh. But it must have been my lucky day as he barely missed. Luckily my momentum from running put some space in between us. He went back into the bushes, I took a coupe more steps forward and then bent over. It felt like my heart was going to explode inside my chest. I had already run a grueling 17 miles and suddenly I just escaped a rattle snake.
After a few more deep breathes, I started putting one foot in front of the other and finished my race. 3 miles later I crossed the finish line in first place. It took over 7 minutes for the second place runner to cross the finish line. The victory was dominant, but I was just happy to be alive.