Bridle Trails Winter Running Festival 50K … or, How Did I Get So Lucky?

Yesterday I ponied up to a starting line for the first time since my DNF at White River 50 last summer. I’ve had some wonderful runs on gorgeous trails since that DNF—including a weekend in the Olympics, the UltraPedestrian Owyhigh Loop, and of course R2R2R—but still feeling the sting of that DNF, doing a race (!!) felt intimidating.

Bridle Trails is kind of a winter lark. The 50K is six loops of a 5-ish mile course, and there are options for a 5 miler, 10 miler, and 50K relay too. And, it starts at 3 p.m., so if you’re doing anything longer than 10 miles, you’re pretty much guaranteed some time chasing the beam of your headlamp through the woods.

I signed up a few weeks ago, as it fit well into my training plan. I’ve done a few long runs on my own lately, and podcasts—while nice distractions—cannot replace the camaraderie of running with other people. This would be an easier way to get in those miles.

I started the day with a fun late holiday party with some wonderful friends I’ve met through road running. Every year we set aside a Saturday morning for a quick run or walk followed by a potluck of all sorts of yumminess, and then we have a crazy, out-of-control gift exchange. We all randomly get a gift, share what’s in our package, and then pass two pairs of dice (in opposite directions) around the circle. If you get doubles, you have to exchange your gift for someone else’s—even if you don’t want to. For 5 minutes, it’s hilarious mayhem!

After the party, I headed home and started getting my gear together for the 50K. So this starting at 3 p.m. introduced all sorts of weird challenges: when should I eat? What should I eat? When should I eat what? With my gear finally organized, it was off to a local school to cheer one of my daughters as she played basketball. Her team was short players this week, so she played the entire game. It was like she did her own version of an ultra.

I then headed to Bridle Trails State Park. I was there about 1:30, which meant 90 minutes of sitting around in my car worrying. I knew Rich would be there, but wasn’t expecting to see anyone else. I texted Wendy and shared how nervous I was. She replied, “Well, I signed up for the 10-miler at the last minute. I’ll run the first two laps with you.” Shazam! I was so happy!

Little did I know that that was only the first surprise of the night.

Lap 1 was the typical jockeying for a place on the trail until folks got spread out. Wendy reminded me to watch my pace (I’m known for going out a bit too fast) and had fun trying to run in the muddy parts to squish down mud lumps. Rich was out on the course ringing a crazy loud and obnoxious cowbell, which was fun to hear and made me smile. As we set out on lap 2, he joined us for a mile or so until we hit a trail that cut out to the street—that was his turnoff to head home, so he waved goodbye and Wendy and I continued on.

Wendy kept me company for the rest of the lap, and we had a good time chitchatting and passing the time. As I finished our second lap, I starting thinking about what it would take mentally to run four more laps on my own. As we headed over to where the drop bags were for me to restock on food, there was Sarah … ready to run! That stinker! Such a surprise! Sarah, who’s just back running after a knee injury suffered during our R2R2R, chattered away and made lap 3 a breeze. Sarah was only up for one lap, and I was back to thinking about three more laps on my own …. this lap after lap thing is mentally tough!

I hugged Sarah goodbye, still feeling the love, and headed out for lap 4. I ran for a while with Sonja, who also has a race in February. Wendy introduced us before the race, but it was our first time running together. Our eating/walking schedules on the trail were off by just enough that we spent the lap leap-frogging each other, and then at some point I lost her in the dark of the forest and didn’t see her again. She accepted my FB friend request this morning, so she must have made it out. 🙂

As I came back in from lap 4, I was practicing my race mantra (“You are strong! You’re going to finish this!” but it was evolving to “You are strong! You are going to finish this f’er!”). I love race courses that feature big climbs, and this course has a lot of flat—which means waaaay more running than I’m used to. My February race will have a lot of running, hence the choice to use this race as a training run, but stil.…

As I start to head out for lap 5, I turned around and got surprise no. 3: there was Ana, grinning from ear to ear, and holding out a Pepsi and a package of Oreos. Another stinker!! It was amazing, and by now I was feeling in the love of my friends and their support. I can’t tell you how much I appreciated them!

I said farewell to Ana, but was quickly shortstopped by Christy and Sharon, along with Sadie Blue (Sharon’s dog). I was starting to figure out that my friends had been making plans behind my back!

Loop 5 felt a bit longer. By this time I knew the trail well—where the mud pits were, where the hills were, turn left, turn right, over the fallen tree there, almost back!, down the hill, yay! another lap done.

As I came back in, I was thrilled to see Christy, Ana, and Sharon still there. Christy and Sharon were decked out in strings of Christmas lights—I cannot tell you what a happy sight that was!! As I took an Oreo from Ana and Christy handed me a little Halloween-candy-sized package of Sour Patch Kids, Sadie Blue licked the sweat from my legs (ewwww!), and then we exchanged hugs all around and they headed home while I headed out for that last lap.

Lap 6, not surprisingly, was a bit of a chore. Same hills, same flats, same mud pits. Maybe I found myself mentally whiny, but I focused on my mantra (which was now, “You are strong! You’re gonna finish this mother f’er!”) and felt my focus return. I found myself cheering on some runners I passed, sharing “woot woots!” and encouraging one guy who was walking that he was gonna get it done.

I finished in 6:17ish—my fastest 50K on my least-hilly and least-technical course. And, as I drove home, all I could think was, “How did I get so lucky?” I have this crazy supportive and wonderful husband who lets me take the time to train, I have these silly and spontaneous daughters who are proud of me despite complaining about my training time, and my friends? Seriously, they’re awesome.

Special call outs to:

Wendy Abbey, Rich Bennett, Sarah Brouwer, Ana Hinz, Christy Cherrier, Sharon Hendricks, Sadie Blue, all the Running Lattes, Mike Maude, Abby Maude, and Meg Maude.

And afterward I learned of more people who wanted to cheer me on but couldn’t, including Elly Searle, Callista Salazar, Heidi Flora, Kelly Woznicki, and Nina Hadley.

You guys rock! I love you all. And, I think I’m ready for that next one. I will dedicate miles to each of you!

And to Seattle Running Club and Northwest Trail Runs—thanks for a great event! My horse-loving daughter has absconded with my finisher’s horseshoe. And I had a blast.

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