Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Revelation and (sort of a) Gear Review -- Petzl Tikka Plus Headlamp

Trail runner is getting back to the/his roots this week. Mostly because I thoroughly enjoy trail running so much, have been getting little fixes running with Gil's each week, and have been bugged by a really silly endurance challenge that I am trying to gauge whether or not I even want to go through with - more on the latter when it becomes official or I am feel particularly imbalanced one day! :-)

So with the official summer season rapidly moving away, so too goes the evening light. What one was a nice bright evening run at 7 pm, has now become a twilight/night run. With darkness approaching and the regularity of running with a club that doesn't hide from either trails or darkness or the two combined, I have procured a headlamp.

I have to say, as I was standing in front of the display at Dick's Sporting Goods in Saugus at the Square One Mall (shout out to Breakheart Trail Running!) I was a little overwhelmed at what I was getting myself involved in - I mean seriously, after all I have been through with trying to find the best hydration belt or handheld water bottles, I wasn't exactly ready to jump in feet first without studying up on the subject.

After looking at the various styles and models I went with the Petzl Tikka-Plus:

Essentially it has four LED lights, three positions, three different brightness settings, as well as a strobe setting. Along with the durable elastic headband and within my budget ($35-$40) I decided upon this one. I also was a bit picky trying to find something with a decent amount of 'lumens' and that was also lightweight, I think my choice fits the bill in these categories as well.

A Run in the Woods After Dark...

As I was saying above, I have been wanting to get out to the trails more, and as I road home from work yesterday I realized that the weather was such that any bugs would be at a minimum and the terrain would be a little sloppy - Perfect! But between negotiating with children, getting changed, getting some calories in me, and slipping on my Montrail's, it was bordering on 7 pm, and I knew that the headlamp was going to get it's first work on the trails.

I did take the headlamp out on a couple of dusk road runs and it seemed to work well. It takes a little getting used to with presence of new gear, but for the most part I have been happy with the performance on the roads.

It was an interesting trail run to say the least. Prior to having to use the headlamp I started up a trail off of the dirt road that cross through Georgetown-Rowley State Forest, I had a general idea of where the trail went, but in the fading light I lost the trail and sort of wandered aimlessly trying to discover if the trail just washed out from the rain we had this weekend. I resolved to turn around and get back on to the dirt road. As I crossed over the I-95 footbridge in the Forest, the light really was fleeting and I turned on the headlamp. I turned off of the main fire road down a narrower road that has a little more distance. I figured an out and back would be a bit easier than trying to navigate single track in the dark.

I tried to keep all of the ax murderer, headless horseman thoughts out of my head, but just as I would get around those thoughts, I'd hear a group of dear (I am hoping that is what they were) crash through the brush and through the water in the distance. No, I am not embarrassed to admit I had a VERY bad case of the willies! I think I'll have to work on this a little bit before I decide to do a trail ultra that requires more than 25 minutes and three miles running in the darkness and the woods.

Logistically, it was kind of weird. I was able to manage not turning my ankle any more often then I might on a normal trail run, but the beam of light, combined with the humidity/mist in the air provided a bit of a fogging effect and I had to adjust a few times to not catch too much light off of the reflect, which was really important because of my eye condition - ocular albinism.

I did make one slight wrong turn, but since I was on my way back I knew it was a wrong turn and quickly back tracked.

I see the difficulty in trying to move quickly along a course, watch your footing, but also keep an eye out for blazes or other trail markings in these types of conditions. Georgetown-Rowley is nice because most of the intersections on the trail are marked with reflective signs, so I never really had too much to worry about with regard to getting too lost, but I can't even fathom what it might be like on a nasty single track.

Aside from my issues with losing the trail earlier in the run, I managed to run in the 8:45 to 9:30 per mile pace amid the conditions. I am not really sure either way about the timing, because as most trail runners will attest to, sometimes the completion of the journey is the most important part of the adventure, and isn't that really why we run on trails, for the adventure?

I am looking forward to more night time jaunts on the trails, but I really think it wise to do so with experienced trail runners like the guys at Gil's. There must be more technique and strategy. Of course, it may just be a situation where you do it, and learn from the experience.

Until next time....


Dan said...

Rob, Are the GAC folks running in Willowdale on the weekends? I would like to do a few runs on the marathon course before the race day in Nov?

Dan said...

Rob - I can run Willowdale tomorrow at 9AM. I think pace wise I would have to do 10-10+ min/mile if that works for you. email me at if you want company. We can work out a location to meet. Thanks