Soaring Eagle Solstice

Well that was quite the race. A real honest to goodness heart pounding race for the finish line. I walked away from the end of the five mile trail romp through Soaring Eagle Park thoroughly exhilarated and on an absolute high from the chase.

00:40:45.3 good for 10th place.

It was a rare Thursday evening race. I was excited. Most people seem to enjoy running in the mornings, but evenings are primetime for me. Despite this, although I’d been looking forward to this event I was severely wavering on the drive over. I’d awoken to a grim Seattle morning of wet and gloom and had been happily anticipating a soggy and cool run through the woods, but the day had progressed and as seems to be trademark for Seattle the changeable weather had brightened up considerably after such a poor but welcome start. Great news for sun worshippers, but not so good for me. Suddenly the temperature seemed to have headed back out of my running comfort zone. Coupled with being new in town and facing the prospect of not knowing anyone I was dragging my feet. My tummy was voicing significant concerns too.

Driving across Lake Washington over the floating bridge I couldn’t help but feel uplifted by my favourite stretch of scenic driving, but I still felt very alone and shaky, questioning what I was thinking leaving the kids and Bill to venture off. Then, movement atop a pillar caught my eye and I gazed up at a majestic bald eagle preening before it took to the skies again. Incredible. Perhaps a sign?

Once checked in and bib attached I concentrated on just taking an easy out and back along the initial stretch to warm up and take a little course recce. I still wasn’t feeling it at this point and as others comfortably ran past doing their warmups my jog was reduced to a meandering walk. Not so good.

Lining up at the start, I tried to take several steps back from the big boys but the entrance to the timing mat was narrow and I didn’t want to get too hemmed in. Before the race I had taken a moment to check out the course map, and had noted that we had a good length of fire road to plough down before hitting any true trail. I was counting on taking off hard, making the most of the fast easy terrain and being paid back with no bottleneck choking the nice single track, and hopefully a good lead.

Time to race.

Point eight of a mile to the single track and maybe just over a handful of fast guys in front of me leading the way. Perfect. As soon as I turned down into the leafy trail the smile grew larger and the fun really began. 7:28 for my first mile split.

The next section saw me haring down the trail with what sounded like a bunch of heavy breathers on my tail. I’ve noticed that Pacific NW trail runners don’t seem to believe in using the same etiquette for passing that the Southerners politely adhere to so I spent a lot of the next few miles wondering if I was setting a good clip, or just holding up a line of runners who were trying desperately to pass. No one called out to take the left so I just kept on running and didn’t look back.

Midway a gaggle of volunteers yelled and cheered with delight as we rounded into view, I heard them cheer to see the first lady down the trail. Yes!

Running felt effortless. I felt like I was running strong but totally manageable. It was complete joy. Living in the pure moment of hurtling over root, nettle and stone, sinking into mud, making quick placement decisions and feeling so very alive.

Then I tripped.

I tend to joke that when my Garmin GPS spits out the crazy fastest running pace data, it is recording the moments when I fall and crash down the mountain. That was definitely true this time. (5.07 pace)

I didn’t fall. But I did absolutely careen headlong and wildly for several crazy strides while squealing before managing to catch myself. I didn’t flinch from the race, though it left me a little off kilter and in the stumble I had tugged a shoelace loose.

With hungry runners breathing down my neck I didn’t dare stop to retie. I feared having to commit energy to working on passing back there and would rather be hunted than hunter on the single track. Grimly I maintained my charge with the lace flapping and my shoe loosening until it threatened to leave my foot. I just had to hold on as far as the aid station. Then it would be straight gravel track to the finish and easier to battle any lost time.

I made it without further accident. Quickly I begrudgingly stooped to retie, some ten milers peeled off and then a lady in black ran past.

HELL NO!

I’m pretty sure I may have cursed out loud.

No. No. No. That was not going to happen! This race does not end this way.

Shoe secure, I took off down the gravel and hunted my quarry. She had me scared and it was a relief when I reeled her back in. Successful surge accomplished I then hung back and recovered a moment while I assessed my next move. With 3/4 mile to go, maybe, we hit a hill. Discarding thoughts of hanging behind and striking with my solid kick at the end I decided to take a chance. I would break her by passing on the hill.

It worked.

Telling myself to trust my legs I ploughed on past her and did my best to make it look as if I was making mincemeat of that wonderful well timed hill. Okay, I may have had to take a few walking recovery steps myself at the very top but I don’t know if she saw that, and by then the dagger of despair had been sunk right between her shoulder blades. I envisioned Chollacott Lane, and Rocky Hill, and the Nassau Hill, and Crowders Mountain, and I ate that hill.

Then I turned my attention to the runner in front. Mentally I discarded that pesky lady behind me and concentrated on reeling in the red shirt.

I almost had him too. I was within a stride or two and was just about wondering if I ought to be powering up my finishing kick when we turned a leafy corner and ran through the timing mat. Ooh so close!

Ladies’ winner!

Soaring Eagle Solstice Run was pure fun. It was in my comfort zone for sure though and very reminiscent of my old stomping mountain bike trails in North Carolina. Narrow, rooty and rolling with some elevation to navigate but nothing too sustained. I’d usually gripe about so much gravel road, but didn’t mind this time as it shook things up and worked tactically.

Oh, and did I mention that I knocked 3 mins off the ladies’ course record? *grin*

00:40:45.3 and I got a pair of socks.

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