An hour before the Bridle Trails Winter Running Festival was due to start, Kris and I were at home watching the trees whipping back and forth in 40 mph gusts. The rain was coming down hard, and sideways.
Odds were that the race would get cancelled. Bridle Trails State Park is just a quick run from home, a bit over a half mile to the start from our doorstep. I’d been running out there one day last winter, when a large tree came down over a section of trail I’d run less than a minute before. That could hurt.
visiting with friends in the rain and wind – photo by takao suzuki
Huddling under the tents as we waited at the start, we did some commiserating. Someone pointed out the irony of a tree coming down on top of a tentful of us, while we were all waiting to see whether it was safe to run.
the pre-race briefing – photo by takao suzuki
After a 25 minute delay, Race Director Eric Sach told us that the weather should change Any Minute Now. We’d take it one loop at a time. They’d have people stationed at the corners of the park to pull us off the course if things got dangerous due to the wind.
Eric, our brave race director – photo by takao suzuki
We ambled off to the start, not sure how long we’d be out there.
The first loop was crowded. The five and ten milers were out in force, and the narrow slippery trails got us all a bit closer to each other than usual. Kris and I ran together for a bit – a rare but nice thing. She left me behind about halfway around, but I still took that first lap a bit faster than I should have.
heading for the puddles – photo by takao suzuki
As it got dark, the footing was more difficult. When you’ve got a couple of hundred people slipping around, it makes things interesting.
During the middle miles, I felt the usual restlessness and doubt. Hitting that east edge of the park each time I’d struggle trying to find each footstrike. It was really dark, really muddy, and this section has more roots to avoid. At times I’d slow to a walk, because it was hard to judge where to step.
On a very cold dry course last year, I’d finished in 5:06. This time, I’d take longer than six hours. Quite a contrast. But we didn’t think we’d be able to run at all today. That last time around I took in the quiet and dark, – running mostly alone. Clear goal (finish), and a beautiful place – even in the mud.
Sometimes I’ll tear up a bit at the start or finish – knowing how lucky I am to be there, to be able to run. Each time we line up, there’s an element of doubt. You can train, but you’re subject to all sorts of elements you don’t control – today it was the weather. We took it one lap at a time, not sure how long we’d be able to continue. Focus on the goal, and have fun doing it. Live in the moment.
When I crossed the finish line in the dark, I felt blessed. Again.
charts and graphs for running geeks
Here’s the course – we did six of these loops
Here’s the altitude. Each of these loops should really be the same. I guess the barometric pressure changed a bit during the race.
My pace got slower as the race went on. First loop was the fastest. More walking later on too. Not the most disciplined event I’ve done.
My heart rate was pretty steady throughout.