Race: Bridle Trails 50k
Runner: Julie U
Location: Bridle Trails State Park, Kirkland WA
Results: 4:37, 2nd place female and 10th overall
3 Bests – what aspects of the race did you like the most
-So many team members there running the races and cheering us on. It was so great knowing so many other people were out there on the course with me or at the start/finish, waiting to see me run through again. I wanted to run well and make them all proud.
-Course markings were great. I was a little nervous running in the dark since I haven’t done it in so long and really didn’t know these trails but I had no issues at all with finding my way. I also knew once the 5 and 10 mile runners were gone that I might be by myself, which made me more thankful for good markings.
-My performance despite some setbacks. I had been sick with a stomach bug all week, not eating much for the 5 days leading up to the race, and I was nauseous the whole second half of the race, but I tried to stay mentally tough and just talk myself through each lap, finding something to get excited about in each lap. I also don’t run in the dark on trails often, so I was happy that I was able to do it without falling or stubbing my toes a million times.
Not so much – aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you
-The one time I stopped at aid, after lap 5, to get a swig of coke, took a few minutes, as there wasn’t a coke open or anything poured in cups, which felt surprisingly slow considering there were lots of us there stopping and it was an aid station. I didn’t want to seem too diva-like but I was definitely expecting a more well-oiled machine kind of aid station with a few cups of coke poured and ready for runners. It could be I came in after a wave of people, so who knows. Or it could be my face was so cold my mouth wasn’t working right and they just weren’t sure what I was saying!
Weird factor – what’s the weirdest thing about this race
-It starts at 3pm so if you are running the 50k or 50k relay, you will run in the dark. I ran about 2.5 (out of 6) laps before turning on my headlamp. It’s also on horse trails and we saw two horses, ran around lots of horse poop, and since the ground was nearly frozen solid, ran on solid hoof marks. I was happier to run on solid hoof marks than muddy ones though, as has been the case in past races in the rain.
Highlights of your race – what did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular
-I felt like I managed my energy well given the fact that I was sick all week, that I had a hard time eating while out on the course (could only choke down 3 gels, a swig of coke and 3 potato chips), and that I pushed all I could in the daylight, knowing I would slow down in the dark. Even in the dark I tried to push a little more on the flatter and less technical sections, knowing I was going slow on the uphills and technical spots.
-I kept it together mentally. I never wanted to quit but I certainly had moments where I thought, “I really wish this were my last lap.” With 6 laps, that’s a lot to mentally wrap your head around, so I tried to come up with a treat that I gave myself after every lap, like putting on music, or getting coke, or eating a gu at a particular time…I tried to play all the mental games I knew in order to get through it.
-My gear. I felt like I packed my Salomon pack well so that I could get to everything without taking off the vest. I put my headlamp in a side pocket, gu up front, and water bottle in the back. I was also warm the whole time but never felt overheated, though my hands did get cold after getting so much snot on them and then having it get really cold. I need better gloves.
Lessons for others – share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner
-It’s going to be colder than you think at the race, during the race, and especially after the race if you are going to wait around at all. I brought a change of clothes with several layers and was still freezing. Thankfully they had space heaters.
-Bring warm food and other snacks for afterwards if you can, especially if you plan on waiting around for other finishers.
Lessons you learned that will help you next time around
-I should have had my earbuds in my ears, even though I didn’t plan on turning on my music until lap 4. I spent about a minute putting my earbuds in and eventually had to step off the trail and just stop to do it, which was annoying. I wanted to give myself the treat of music after the halfway point, but should have had the earbuds in first.
Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race
-The first half of the loop was slower for me than the second half. On the very first loop I got a little worried that it was going to take me a lot longer than planned, but then it flattened out, there was a nice smooth, wide section, and the second half went faster.
-The race goes to single track and an uphill very quickly, so if you are speedy, get out ahead of people, even though you’ll be battling 5 and 10 milers.
-The first uphill was the hardest and slowest for me and then there were two other little hills that slowed me down a bit, but there were some flat and faster sections where I was able to make up time and stretch my legs out a bit.
Aesthetics – is it a pretty course
-It’s fairly wooded, so there’s not a whole lot to see. It was actually quite peaceful in the dark with so few of us out there and yet not scary because it was only 7:30pm when I finished.
Difficulty – is it a tough course
-Not especially if you’re used to hills or technical terrain. If you’re normally a road runner, then yes, but if you’re a road runner looking for a good first 50k or a first trail race, this would be a great one because of the loop course, minimal elevation change, fairly friendly terrain, and aid every 5.2 miles.
Organized and well run – did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?
-It felt well organized and course markings were great.
Competition – is there a strong field?
-Not especially. There’s usually a few fast people in each race and then a lot of people out there to just enjoy the race, the company, and the fun aspect of running in the dark with lots of other people.
Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.
-Nope, just signup on ultrasignup, and I believe all the races sold out about a week beforehand.
-Just one every 5.2 miles. Pretty minimal with water, coke, chips, pb&j, and gu.
Weather and typical race conditions
-I’ve been to this race 3 times, twice to run and once to spectate. Every time it’s been cold, and once it’s been rainy and windy. Bring lots of layers, bring rain gear, and expect to be chilly before and after the race.
Gear – did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next guy?
-Nothing special. I wore a vest because I didn’t want to have to stop at aid much and waste the time and I wish I hadn’t had to stop the one time I did. I wore Nike Wildhorse trail runners and was really happy I did, not so much because it was technical, but because the ground was really hard because it was so cold.
Spectators – is this a friendly course for your friends
-Sort of, as they see you at the start, every 5.2 miles, and the finish. Make sure they bring warm clothes, blankets, chairs, and warm food/drink.
-A horseshoe for every finisher.
The Overall Score – how many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it
-4 out of 5. It’s a great training run, it’s cheap, lots of locals do it so it feels like a big friendly running party, and it’s a challenging course because of the darkness and the mental aspect of loops, but certainly on the easier side of 50k courses.