The day before the race, my in-laws and husband took me up to check out the trail. The gravel road leading up to the trail head was a bit frightening. It was narrow and winding, which made me nervous about cars coming in the opposite direction. But, thankfully, there was actually room for 2 cars to pass – in most areas. At the trail head, we got out of the car and checked out the great views and the trail. Seeing the steepness of the hills in real life started making me nervous, but I did my best to focus on the amazing views instead.
Race morning was cold. It was in the 40s, but sunny. I shivered as I waited for my start time. While waiting in line for the port-a-potty I begin to notice everyone’s shoes. My trail shoes, which are fairly new, were brightly colored with splotches of dried mud on them. The trail shoes of the local runners were not muddy at all, but instead, covered with layers of dust. I guess my shoes were a dead give-away that I was from the wetter side of the mountains. Heading to the starting area, I started feeling warmer. I looked up on the hillside and saw tiny little dots that were the half marathon runners ascending the hill. They seemed so high and so far away, it was hard to believe I was headed up in that same direction soon. I realized that I was not going to need my long sleeved shirt, so I took it off and wrapped it around my waist until I discovered that volunteers were collecting gear in black garbage bags for the runners to unload. I tossed my shirt to one of the volunteers and hoped I would remember to grab my shirt afterwards. Trail runs are definitely a more casual event. At any other race, there would be a formal gear check process.
The 5 mile and 12K races began together. We started out on a gravel road, but after about 1/4 of a mile we turned on to the single track trail. We were pretty close together still, and even though I was running with those going my usual pace, I quickly began to feel winded. I realized that I must be feeling the elevation, because I wasn’t running too fast at all. With bodies directly in front of and behind me, I felt pressured to continue at my current pace, despite my protesting lungs. I worried that I was going to gas myself too early and the trail hadn’t even gotten steep yet. As we continued, several people stepped off the trail to let others pass. I wondered if I should do the same, but I didn’t want to get stuck running too slow. As I passed by a man I had chatted with before the race began, he patted me on the shoulder and told me “Good job.” It reminded me of one of the many reasons I am enjoying trail races. People are just different out on the trail!
The climbing and switchbacks began quickly. That started spreading the crowd out a bit. I ran off-trail for a few feet to let a couple of people pass and then slowed my pace a little. The climb was tough and it went on for miles. The open grasslands and all the switchbacks made it kind of cool, because you could always see lots of runners on all sides of you. And, the views were amazing. The hillside was covered with grasses and wildflowers and in the valley below the river could be seen with orchards, farmland, and cities surrounding. In the distance the snow covered peaks of the Cascades added to the breathtaking scenery.
Eventually, my run became so labored that I decided to power walk the steeper sections. It turns out that my walking speed wasn’t much different than my running pace at that point. I somehow became the unofficial pace leader of a group. Even though I offered to let those behind me pass, they were content to walk when I needed to and begin running when I would run. There was some chatter among the group, which made the climb pass by more quickly. The open hillside was warm and the heat began to get to me. My hands started tingling and I was feeling dehydrated and like I was close to overheating. But, I kept going as I felt pressure to keep up the pace and not slack, as I seemed to be in charge of our speed.
When we finally crested the hill, there was some celebration among us. I was happy to see a water stop, as well. I grabbed a drink and poured some water over my head to cool myself, then made my way down the hill – no longer on single track, but on a gravel road. The downhill was awesome! My lungs and legs were happy to be finally be cruising downhill. There was also some shade on this side of the hill, so between the water stop, the cooler temperature, and the sweet downhill I had my second wind. The last stretch seemed to fly by and in no time I was at the finish line. Another trail race in the books.
Despite the challenging uphill, I enjoyed the Horse Lake Trail Run and definitely plan to return. Run Wenatchee put on a well-organized, but casual-feeling trail race. It was fun to run in the sunshine on dry trails, take in the amazing views, and enjoy the camaraderie that a trail run creates. And now, my trail shoes are covered with a layer of Washington dust, allowing me to blend in a little better with the Central Washington trail runners.