Running Happy in Snoqualmie: 2022 Brooks Trail Summit

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Summer is a busy time for our family like for most, so it’s hard finding time for everything. But when I found out that the Brooks Trail Summit was happening the weekend of August 13th, I knew I was going to have to make this happen, even if it meant moving a few things around. The location of Snoqualmie, WA was a bit off the beaten path for this Oregonian, but there was NO WAY I was missing this. This event was a proud “running geek’s” dream.  Be prepared, blog readers. This is a long recap but there was so much worth reflecting on and it was a long day.

Originally, the Trail Summit was supposed to occur over 3 days with camping and even a glamping option, but in the 11th hour, Brooks changed it to a (FREE!!) 1 day event in an effort to make it more accessible for people. It sold out quickly, because who doesn’t want a chance to hang out in a gorgeous location with pro runners, fun quality sponsors showing off products we all use, and a whole day surrounding epic running trails and delicious food? Well, maybe no one who isn’t a runner, but THIS girl was both eager and excited for it.

I arrived for the trail summit in Washington on Friday evening because the free shuttle option from the Brooks Headquarters in Seattle was set to leave for Snoqualmie Pass at 6:45AM on Saturday. I was greeted outside the building by a friendly Brooks employee who made me sign a waiver and gave me a bracelet to wear for the event’s activities. The bus was spacious and uncrowded, as a lot of people that maybe were originally going to shuttle in opted instead to make the drive to the summit on their own.

Many were locals to the surrounding areas and there was plenty of parking at the summit ski resort. I certainly didn’t mind the extra room since it was early and dark, plus I had packed a backpack full of extra clothes and “essentials” because I had no idea what to bring to an all-day outdoor event that had a “last call” for the bus shuttle at 9:30PM.

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Homebase of the Brooks Trail Summit started right about here.

Once the bus reached the location, the sky was just starting to brighten a bit and it was breathtakingly beautiful up there at the Snoqualmie Pass. We were surrounded by heavenly mountains and crisp air all around. It was a little chilly, but there was a lot to take in and see. Thankfully it took no time at all to check in and collect our goody bags.

For a free event, I was completely floored by the generosity of the swag. Since it was a cupless event, everyone received high quality mugs and water bottles provided by Hydro Flask. In addition to that, we all got a tech shirt and a Brooks fanny pack. There was time to roam around since the festivities weren’t quite yet starting, and there were big tents and tables going up everywhere for the day’s vendors and activities. There were large Jenga blocks and the Cornhole game was ready, as well as some slacklines.  There was a large tent with picnic tables and plenty of coffee, bagels, and some other delicious breakfast items ready for the taking, so I headed there to get some food and caffeine in me so I could feel more functional.

Brooks never disappoints, and they have always been so incredibly generous to Run Oregon. As soon as I got to the location, a lovely Brooks rep was there to greet me, and she was available to help me all day along my journey. After I ate, she steered me over to the Brooks merch area where they had a few hats and shirts for purchase as well as some trail shoes to try out.

They had three trail shoe options available – The Brooks Cascadia, the Brooks Caldera, and the Brooks Catamount. The reps manning the shoes were very knowledgeable and patient with everyone, even later in the day when everyone was sweaty and covered in dirt and dust. I learned a bit about the Cascadia, a good classic standby for the trails, the Caldera, which are a great sturdy standout for all-trail terrain, and the Catamount which are almost like the minimalist of the trail line. I loved that the Catamount felt closer to the ground that the cushier other models, which I imagine really translated to a faster ride for a more intuitive runner, but I ended up running later in the Caldera which was a beast on those trails. But more on that later.

After geeking out over the shoes, off I headed to the UltrAspire display, where some hydration packs and lighting options were laid out for people to check out. They offered free fittings, which is honestly a great idea, since my guess is that many people have no idea how to adjust a hydration pack or what all the bells and whistles on the vests are even for.

The UtrAspire rep was there alone and doing a fantastic job considering there were several people vying for his help when I got there. He was patient and polite and he explained that UltrAspire was a small family-run company, and that though their vest were not necessarily the lightest weight vests of all the choices out there, they had strived to make them the most comfortable. Considering many of their athletes could wear vests from virtually any other competitor, they knew that their vest had to be the best, and they certainly delivered with their unique design. The one I tried out was called the Legacy 2.0 and I was very impressed. There was a ton of pocket room on the sides, and the lightweight mesh felt super breathable and virtually unnoticeable while running.

I also loved that the water reservoir area, if you chose to use a bladder vs bottles, was completely separate on the back from the zippered areas you could pack a jacket or several of your essentials. And lastly, the design of the straps was a contoured shape rather than the straight vertical fit that doesn’t really fit the typical shape of the human body. The whole vest had an ErgoFit design that hugged the body where we have curves and it moved with the body instead of against it. The Legacy 2.0 is a unisex “one size fits most” vest and there were certainly enough bungee cords to tighten it to my liking, but UltrAspire does have a female vest option specifically cut for a woman. Once I got the unisex one on though, I knew I didn’t need anything else. It felt like a second skin.

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This UltrAspire rep was one of the nicest people I met that day.

Right after my vest fitting, it was time for my trail run, but not until I visited the Nuun station. There were several taps set up with free Nuun refills all day long. Brilliant. I loaded up my vest with the soft flask I was given and I was ready to run.

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Everyone who had registered for the trail summit had been able to customize their itinerary two weeks before the event, and there were several runs that were to occur that day. I had signed up for the “difficult” rated 8 mile trail run that turned out to be led by none other than Scott Jurek.

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Meeting Scott Jurek at the start of our trail run

Let me pause here to tell you that Scott was at least 85% of the reason I wanted to sign up for this event. When I saw that he was slated to appear, I couldn’t believe it. After reading one of the books he wrote, “Eat & Run,” I was so inspired to continue my plant-based diet and to just keep going. He seemed like such a normal guy but one that could do extraordinary things. He had run (and won!!) the Badwater 135 (dubbed the “World’s Toughest Foot Race”) and the HardRock Hundred.

He had also not only won the Western States 100 seven consecutive years in a row, but won it on his very first attempt at it. He’d also visited amazing other countries and run all over the world with fascinating people. This guy was IT, and he was standing right in front of me with that big friendly smile and those long runner legs, and he reached out and shook my hand like he wasn’t a big deal. I was, of course, awestruck.

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Our crew of runners on the PCT

Scott informed us that we’d be taking the run slowly, and even just hiking parts of it. It was the Kendall Katwalk Trail along the PCT, one of Scott’s favorite places to run. There were people out on the trail doing the famous trek immortalized in the autobiography “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed. The hike starts in California, heads thru Oregon and Washington, and finally ends in Canada over the course of several months.

Scott stopped to chat with several people along the trails, asking how long they’d been out there and wishing them safe travels into Canada while they stared at him agog, hardly believing that a legend like Scott Jurek was acknowledging them. Along our run, he stopped often to give us running tips or to point out wild huckleberries or to tell a story or two. He was clearly in his element and having a great time, and also somehow super humble as well. The trail was steep at times and also pretty technical. There were a lot of roots and rocks to stumble over and no smooth sections to glide thru. Thankfully the Caldera trail shoes did exactly as they should out there, and I never turned an ankle or felt unstable.

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One of our breaks along the trail

Nikki Smith, another amazing Brooks athlete, was our sweeper that day to make sure no runner was left behind. She’s a writer and photographer, most notably for National Geographic, and she also happens to be an incredible badass rock climber who’s written five climbing guidebooks. Though she’s so statuesque and strong that you’d find her intimidating if you’d never met her, she is also very humble and sweet and a pleasure to spend the day with.

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A lot of the trail was really rocky

Once we got to the turnaround point of the planned route, several of us didn’t want to stop because we were still waiting for the trees to open up a bit to the gorgeous mountaintop views. It was another mile and a half or so up and Scott was up for it, but he also wanted to do what was best for the safety of the group. It was decided amongst all of us that Nikki would lead down the people that wanted to get back to the Pass and the rest of us would head up further with Scott. I wasn’t about to miss that opportunity, so on we climbed.

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The views are generally worth it

The views at the top were worth it. The terrain was very rocky, both climbing and descending, but it was a stunning view. Once we got to our new turnaround point, we started to head back. One of our runners got a bit lightheaded and was struggling, as he had never run on trails before and wasn’t really prepared for it, but Scott had everything in his UltrAspire vest that anyone could possibly need. He helped refuel our bonking trail runner with electrolytes and water, and another runner gave him a Stroop Waffle.

At a certain point, Scott filled up a bottle with a filter on the lid with some creek water, and he was able to share some with those of us who were getting low on water. We had, after all, been expecting 8 miles that day and were already past that with an hour or more to go. In the end, several of us ran ahead, with Scott putting another runner in charge of not letting anyone pass him, and Scott swept the back with the runners who were falling a bit behind. In the end, it was a successful run and everyone felt very accomplished and appropriately challenged.

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Another climb

After I returned to Summit’s basecamp, I headed to the Camp Chef display for some lunch. They were whipping up some amazing marsala chicken, rice, and Naan bread seasoned with garlic and butter. No one had told them I was a vegetarian and they felt extremely guilty for it, but I hadn’t told anyone either and I couldn’t recall being asked when I registered for the event. Either way, it was not an issue, as I simply grabbed the rice and bread and it was SO delicious, I didn’t need anything else, though everything sure smelled amazing.

As I was finishing up my food, Scott was preparing to do a cooking demonstration. He was going to make us all a Japanese recipe from his book, but he decided it would be more fun if we all helped by making our own with him. The recipe consisted of sticky white rice, Shiitake mushrooms, tofu, rice vinegar, and some delicious spices. Everyone had a blast trying to shape their sticky rice into little balls to nestle the ingredients inside, and since we didn’t all have access to immediate water for our fingers, we mostly made a sticky mess with the rice. It was a total BLAST!! Also, the rice triangles we ended up making were delicious. One of Scott’s children brought him some water and his wife Jenny and their son were running around having fun too. BTW, Jenny Jurek, Scott’s wife, is completely adorable, as are their kids.

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Scott Jurek making us some sticky rice triangles

After the cooking demo, I headed to a panel of runners under one of the tents to listen to advice on crewing and pacing ultra runners. The panel was led by runners who often crewed, and some of them had also been crewed themselves, like Jordan Hamm, the Senior Sports Marketing Specialist at Brooks who was on the panel. It was a fascinating conversation and we heard lots of amazing stories, many of them pretty humorous.

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Everything you ever wanted to know about Crewing

After I was finished there, it was off to mocktails made by Rowdy Mermaid with Alison Mariella Désir. Alison is an amazing firecracker of a human being .. Smart, funny, inspiring. She’s an activist, a mental health advocate, and the founder of both Harlem Run, ( a NYC-based running movement,) and Run 4 All Women. As if THAT isn’t enough, she’s got a book coming out in February called “Running While Black.”

She has a great story about her road to distance running too. She was a 400 meter runner who was inspired by a black distance runner that made her think “now, why can’t I do that?” She wishes to continue to spread the word that running is for everybody … Black, white, man, women, mother, father, and every other person in between. She is very approachable, and I feel I could sit down for drinks or coffee and talk to her for HOURS and hours.

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Refreshing mocktail, courtesy of Rowdy Mermaid

After the whirlwind of all the activities mentioned above, it was 5:00PM and dinner would be in an hour. There were people getting massages and hanging out and relaxing before food, and I found a hanging hammock by the peaceful yoga class and got off my feet for a while. Then just before dinner, I was convinced to go for a ride up the chair lift, since we were, after all, at a ski resort. The weather than day had turned out to be absolutely perfect – cool in the AM, overcast for the run, and warmer in the afternoon but never baking hot. By now, the breeze was setting in and it was starting to get a bit chillier.

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Resting in the hammock

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Checking out yoga from the hammocks

Back at the summit after the chair lift, I packed my plate with some of the most delicious looking food I’d seen since lunch. Fresh salad, rolls, chicken or tofu, mushroom penne pasta, veggies, and rice. It was all SO SO good. I wanted seconds but I also didn’t want to stuff myself, though it had been a very long day.

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Heading down the ski lift

After dinner, there were several people in the beer garden, so I joined for a couple of drinks just as the live band was starting in the middle of the summit. The band was great.. upbeat, happy. Everyone was dancing and embracing the “Run Happy” philosophy that Brooks was so famous for.. these were certainly happy Brooks runners.

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A truly delicious vegetarian meal

After a little time by the fire pits, I was whisked back to my shuttle bus to head back to Seattle.

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Rocking into the night

Everyone was so warm and friendly and it was all a great reminder of why I love the trail community so much. It really does feel like family, and even more so when you’re surrounded by it and embraced for it, no matter your speed or experience level or where you came from or why. This was definitely the highlight of my summer, and maybe even my whole year. I am already planning to pencil this in for next year. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us in it’s second year!! I have no doubt that Brooks will continue to make this event worth showing up for.

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About Author

I'm the owner of Healthy Girl Fitness and I'm a personal trainer, certified AFAA group exercise instructor, and an RRCA certified running coach in SW Portland. I am also the mother of two young boys and am on the board at my youngest son's school. I led a relatively inactive life throughout my 20's until I discovered the world of fitness and running. I ran my first marathon in 2006 and haven't looked back since.

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