seasons change on the trails

Had an interesting trail run yesterday.  Motivated by committing to do a hilly marathon next month, I thought it would be good to get some time on hills while doing a longer run.  And I thought that spending time up near Snoqualmie Pass (in the nearby Cascade Mountains) would be a nice place to do that.  I typically try to get out there as much as possible during the summer, but hadn’t done so this year.

I decided to return to the Pratt Lake trail.  This is a simple 12 mile out and back route, with just over 3000 ft of ascent.  The distance was about right for what was supposed to be an off weekend for me, and the elevation would add some nice challenge.  And the trail is very nice too.  Other than a brief segment through some rocks, it’s not very technical – just about all runnable.

I arrived at the trailhead in a 47 degree drizzle.  Figuring I was pretty comfortable running like this normally, I decided that short sleeves and no gloves would be juuuust fine.

I started up the trail at a nice slow steady pace.  I’d been experiencing a bit of tightness in my chest area, probably due to some work-related stress, so I was going to take it pretty easy on the hills.  I made it up to the Granite Mountain trail in good time, and pressed on.  I had one bottle of Perpetuem strapped to my belt, and was carrying another in a handstrap.  I was also armed with three hammer gels. 

By the time I reached the junction for Talapus and Olallie Lakes, I was pretty chilly.  My hands were not working very well because of the chill, and the rain was still coming down.  When I crested the climb at the junction with the Mount Defiance trail, I was really cold, and the footing had gotten a bit tricky sometimes.  As I descending towards Pratt Lake, it was clear that the rain had turned into snow.  And the snow was sticking.

I reached my turnaround point at the far end of the lake, and started back.  By now, I was pretty cold.  I was also aware that the only thing to do at this point was to keep moving.  That was the best way to keep warm.  I walked a bit more as I made the 600 foot climb up out of the lake basin, scrabbling clumsily over the slippery rocks.  By the time I started downhill, I was feeling a bit better, even though the snow had started to accumulate around me.  Navigating back over the streams was interesting – my tired legs were not as steady as before.

I progressed from junction to junction at a steady clip, knowing I’d be fine now.  I made it back at one minute over three hours even.  Tired and cold, but feeling like the run had been worth it.

Days like this are hard, but fun in a way.  After all, one of the best parts of running is gathering the stories along the way.  And it was nice to run the mountains at least once before the snow made it impossible before next summer.

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