by Steve Tidd
There is, sometimes, a fine line between fun and scary. Scare someone or watch a scary movie on Halloween and you will see what I mean. But I have also crossed this line many times during my 45 year running career. “It’s going to rain”, they said. “It’s going to be muddy”, they said. “You guys are crazy!” my running buddy’s wife said. “But it’ll be fun!” we responded.
It was in that vein that my buddy Brent and I, along with 48 other people, took off at the start of the Octoberfest 10 mile trail run. We were either heading straight into impending doom, or we were going to have a really good time. With rain in the forecast and overcast skies, I was leaning toward impending doom, but I was open to the opportunity for adventure.
We ran on undulating hills that had the feel of a roller coaster ride as we headed away from the ski area. The twists and turns of the soft, pine needle covered trail required constant attention to the placement of our feet. But the changing colors of the trees enticed us forward to see what lay ahead. Like a movie reel playing out, the scenery and curves in the trail kept us entertained.
As we got further into the hills and the trail got steeper, runners started to spread out and became farther apart. I knew Brent wasn’t far behind me, but it was so steep that I couldn’t see him over the edge of the trail. I suddenly felt my eardrums pop as we climbed 2,000 feet in elevation. It was foggy but there was still a beautiful view of the valley far below.
The rain had so far held off, but it was obvious that this steep section of the trail was going to be extremely hard to negotiate if it got muddy, and I was anxious to get to the top. Finally, I crested the hill and a lone course marshal suddenly appeared to inform me that I was at the top and only had four miles left to go. At this point the trail leveled out, and the biggest challenge was skipping over mud puddles without getting my feet wet.
I made my way along the ridge of Freund Canyon and felt great relief when I began the descent back down to the finish. I could smell smoke in the air, and realized that the Forest Service had ignited a controlled burn, causing smoke to rise up from the canyon below. It created a surreal backdrop on the edge of the trail, like looking through a waterfall, with images dancing on the other side.
It was here that the footing was the most challenging of the entire race. Water trickled down the trail and made it muddy as the trail swooped through banked turns from side to side. Afraid that I might slip in the mud and fall, I carefully picked my way through the worst sections.
It was an hour into the race, and the combination of fatigue, smoke, and constantly changing ground level made me feel the euphoria I was seeking by signing up for this race. This was the whole reason for daring to cross that line from fear to exhilaration. I wasn’t certain that I wouldn’t slip on some mud and fling myself over the edge of the canyon into the burning abyss, but it sure gave me a rush to think that it could happen as I raced down the muddy trail.
Then, like a game of whack-a-mole at the carnival, another course marshal appeared to make sure I made the turn at an intersection of the trail. Brent caught up with me then and we ran the last two miles to the finish line.
As we enjoyed some local libations in the historic Leavenworth Ski Hill Lodge after the race, I made sure that I thanked Run Wenatchee race organizers Joel and Michele Rhyner, and Steve Maher for putting on such a great event. I thought the course marshals were especially heroic given the inclement conditions and the difficulty getting to those hard-to-get-to spots.
We had listened to the gloom and doom predictions of the race and started out with a little bit of fear and foreboding, not knowing for sure what we were getting into. But in the end, it turned out to be one of the best trail runs I have ever done, and it definitely contained numerous occasions for fun and exhilaration. Like Halloween, it was scary but fun, and totally worth it!
Steve Tidd has been a long time supporter of WenatcheeOutdoors.org and works to provide accounting and bookkeeping services, including personal and business tax returns at Tidd Tax & Accounting.