When the Bridge is Out
Every big run has a “moment”. That’s often why we do them. What we learn in those moments, we carry with us forever as guiding principles.
During my solo Chuckanut 50k time trial, it only took two miles to find it. A sign nailed to a tree said the Arroyo Park Bridge was out and I didn’t know of a reasonable detour. I weighed my options as I ran east along the edge of Chuckanut Creek. Bail? U-turn back to the road? Is it only a little broken? It was way broken. How deep? I didn’t go through a thousand miles of training, two scouting runs, cancelled race-travel plans, promises to friends, and a pound of m&m’s® (mostly the night before) to quit easily.
So I went for it. Carefully, at first, and then with amphibious full-power once I realized the deepest water would stay just below my waist. I high-stepped to the far bank, back into the lightly falling snowflakes, and hoped that running 11 mph for the rest of the bike path would be enough to dry my shoes before starting the first big climb.
The rest was a classic Chuckanut experience. Four seasons of weather, a mind-numbing Cleator Rd uphill, footwork focus on the ridge, deep mud in the valley, CHINSCRAPER, downhill dirt-skiing, and the final 10k flat march back home.
Around mile 29 I crossed the creek again in a dozen huge strides. Maybe I was a little too confident, because a few seconds later an annoying side-stitch became a crippling cramp. I did my best (very poor) yoga stretch moves and hobbled up to the road crossing. Was I going to have to walk this in? Max Ferguson’s, fastest Washingtonian, 3:47 was in-reach.
I saw a familiar face in the distance. Josh Kaplan – Champion of the Sunrise Tempo Tuesday, former Seattle running buddy, Scientist, Dad, Superstar – had showed up, pushing a stroller, to cheer me into the finish! I buckled up, kicked hard, and ran a 3:47:41. Did that beat Max?! No. Lose?! No. We tied, to the second.
Our “bridges” may still be out this year, but when I can ford a creek to strengthen my community, I will. And when the current is a river, I’ll build a boat. The fatigue-conquering physical response that comes from human connection is an amazing phenomenon – it can be as simple as hearing somebody say your name.
Thank you Josh! Thank you Max! Thank you friends and family.
This whole to-do has another chapter ahead. I figured, if I can’t beat Max, why not ask him to join me for the 2021 Patrol Race? Team Anti Lope will now have two equally fast Washington trail runners shuffling tiny skis through a 19 mile traverse on the PCT in March*. We’ll let you know how that goes.
*Note: Even in a non-pandemic year, the Patrol Race is very small and only one team starts at a time. More info here: https://www.mountaineers.org/locations-lodges/meany-lodge/event-details/patrol-race