Mid-week trails, anyone?
By Marlene Farrell
“It’s a dream for running right now.” This comment, from a runner returning to her car, greets me when I arrive at Leavenworth Ski Hill, for the first of (hopefully) many group trail workout sessions to come.
The runner is right. The sun is breaking through the clouds so it brings a dazzle of light while the heat is muted at the end of a mostly cloudy drizzly Wednesday. The rain has cleansed the air and softened the dirt trails, just enough, without leaving oozing puddles behind.
I’m used to prepping for a kids’ running club, with all its props and snacks and water and clipboards, so this feels too easy. Just setting up a few cones to locate the start, finish and one turn of the trail we’ll use for our intervals.
This plan — to get runners together once a week on trails for some varied paces — was inspired by the fantastic success of RunWenatchee’s Tuesday track workouts and Thursday night social runs. It seems like the natural compliment to those events because we’re offering a new surface, wide dirt trails, and a new location, Leavenworth!
So my two watches (one regular Timex and one Garmin I’m still trying to learn) strike 5:30 and I’m anxious to see if anyone will show up. It’s been a rainy day of a rainy week and our advertising has been haphazard, so my hope is for anyone at all.
Two women show up. I know them, but I’ve never run with them. Their faith in this possibility, and in me, fills me with gratitude. I know a few others who almost made it but had legitimate conflicts. I’ll take two! Their backgrounds distinguish them. One is a college middle distance track runner, visiting Leavenworth for the summer, and the other is an avid long distance hiker starting to dabble in trail running. But those details fall away and we’re left with our joy of the trails on a late spring night and a chance to run faster, camaraderie spurring us on.
After jogging to warm our muscles and get a sense of the terrain for the workout, we meet briefly by the parking lot with my co-leader, Heather. She can’t join us tonight, but with her exercise science background and her enthusiasm, I’m glad she shares this dream.
Before we begin our 0.78-mile intervals, I talk briefly about what kind of pace to aim for. It should feel like work, but you could carry on a conversation in little bursts if you had to. And an indication of decent pacing is if you’re winded afterward but you can do all three without too much rest and in nearly the exact same time. But it’s a learning experience so I expect our times to vary.
As I start running the first interval I worry that I haven’t said enough. The trail swoops up and down and then goes steadily down, only to have the last third be all uphill. I forgot to mention that, or how you shouldn’t fight gravity down the steep parts and how you should be up on your toes to help crest the hills.
But my worries are assuaged when I see them finish, one and then the other, pumping their arms, climbing the last grade to the finish cones. We cheer and chat for a moment and jog down to start the next. There is no hesitation.
After three intervals, they shock me with their near even splits. Better still, we all dug a bit deeper to have our last interval be our fastest. I’m so impressed that I probably gush.
For a cool-down, I take them to the upper trails, and we have them entirely to ourselves, the scents of wild roses, lush foliage and damp earth mingling. We share more about ourselves. The running feels effortless, like I could run with these new friends forever.
It’s a beginning. There is a lot more to come, as all the Wednesday nights of summer stretch out before me. Won’t you join us?
The specifics: Trail running workouts are held at 5:30 p.m. every Wednesday at the Leavenworth Ski Hill. We do a 20-minute warm up, intervals of various distances and then a 20-minute cool down. All runners are welcome, though you should be able to run 5-plus miles.
Marlene Farrell is a Leavenworth writer and long-distance runner who has qualified twice for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. She also helps coach the Peshastin-Dryden Striders kids running club.