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We are the greatest trail runners in the WORLD. Also, this is not my hat.

I mentioned yesterday that iWill is training for his first trail race, The Bridger Ridge Run, which is actually really difficult to say out loud. Or, you know, difficult if you are me. Which I am. And saying Bridger Ridge Run usually involves me choking on my tongue and then dissolving into giggles while also trying to say Rural Juror over and over again and who can get any work done when that is happening so we usually just call it the BRR. For short.

The BRR is ridiculous, so it makes sense iWill would enter the registration lottery because iWill is probably insane, as are all who hold the Ironman name. Let me break it down for you. The BRR start line is at around 7500 feet. Within the first 2.25 miles, it climbs over 1,800 feet more. Total elevation gain during the 20 mile run? 6,800 feet (with a loss of 9,500 feet). Insanity. And also it’s going to be crazy hot.

To train for this race, iWill is doing as much trail running as possible. And I’m tagging along whenever possible because apparently I freaking LOVE trail running, even though it kind of might be killing my feet. We hit Discovery Park on the morning of the 4th of July and had a great run on the 2.8 mile loop. (One of us did the loop twice. The other of us did it once and then went to the car and read a magazine in the sunshine and tried to tan her legs.) This was my first real trail run and I was immediately addicted. There’s something so freeing about running a trail, jumping over rocks and sticks and roots, moving my feet as quickly and efficiently as possible while I force myself to keep running up steep inclines, just so I can enjoy the sensation of opening up my stride and FLYING on the downhills. It was one of the most fun runs I’ve ever had in my life.

So when iWill mentioned he’d be taking weekly trips up to Mr. Rainier to start trail running at a higher elevation, I jumped at the chance to tag along because my new plan is to become the greatest trail runner in the history of the sport. I’m already revolutionizing it, y’all. When I run on the downhills, my arms fly out to the sides of my body, like airplane wings. And I kind of look like an airplane as I navigate my way down, as fast as I can go, giggling the whole time because IT IS SO MUCH FUN.

I was excited to try trail running on a real mountain. iWill has fancy trail running shoes because he’s serious and also because they are very necessary for the BRR. I figured my normal running shoes would work just fine. (Um, not so much.) On Sunday morning, we packed up my car and made the two hour trip to Rainier, heading as high as we could up to Sunrise at 6400 feet (still 1,100 feet below the start line of the BRR).

Heading up the mountain

Mountain driving makes me twitchy and also I start singing “Jesus Take the Wheel” and so iWill drove the hard parts/the entire time.

SO MUCH PRETTY

We parked at the trailhead and I was immediately very and extremely happy to see there were bathrooms with actual plumbing because my badass mountaineering self is always at war with my prissiness and, when it comes to bathrooms, my prissiness always wins. I have nightmares about having to use the bathroom in the woods, y’all.

For the first training day, iWill and I each had a map of the area. We highlighted each other’s planned routes and agreed to meet back at the car in two hours. His goal was 10 miles (I think). Mine was 4 miles. Our routes started at the same spot so we headed off together, ready to high five at the split and take off in opposite directions.

30 seconds later, we ran into a little snowy snafu.

The FAAAAAAABULOUS trail runner conquers all the snow. Faaaaabulously.

Yeah, so our trails were completely covered in snow. iWill and his fancy trail shoes began bounding like a gazelle over the snow bank. I slipped once and was all, “Peace out, brotha man, I’m off to find a different way!” So we high-fived and split, as planned but also not.

I turned down the first trail I could find not covered in snow and started to run. The high altitude didn’t seem to be messing with my breathing and I was having a great time.

Muddy trail running deliciousness

Alida to Alida: I love trail running! I am fast and sure and light on my feet! Sure, my trail is a little muddy but I can run through mud! I am a great and talented trail runner! ALL OTHER RUNNERS WILL BOW BEFORE ME OH CRAP PUDDLE. Shit. I now have mud and water in my shoe.

Alida to Alida: Shake it off! Keep running! Fresh air! Good music! Sploshy shoes! SHIT. Where did the trail go?

Dodgeballs.

Well. Yes. Okay. I AM THE GREATEST SNOW WALKER IN THE WORLD.

My beautiful running trail went and got all disappeared under the snow. But I was having too much fun to stop, so I asked Jesus to take the wheel one more time and prayed there would be more, less snowy trail ahead and kept moving. Slowly, but still. SO FUN.

Soon enough I encountered a man and woman on their way back down the trail. They had ski poles and fancy hiking boots and backpacks. I had a fuel belt, Asics, and a super high ponytail.

Our Actual Conversation

Me: Great day for a trail run!

Serious Hiking Couple (SHC): Clearly! Are you sure you know where you are going?

Me: Not at all! Trail running is an ADVENTURE! Do you know if the snow ever goes away though?

SHC: It does! Keep going, maybe about a 1/3 of a mile ahead, and you can head up to Fremont. The trail is clear!

What They Should Have Said

Me: Great day for a trail run!

SCH: YOU ARE CRAZY WHAT ARE YOU DOING YOU ARE GOING TO FALL OFF THE MOUNTAIN.

Me: Not at all! Trail running is an ADVENTURE! Do you know if the snow ever goes away though?

SHC: YOU ARE SERIOUSLY INSANE BUT IF YOU INSIST ON GOING FORWARD, KEEP SLIDING IN THE SNOW UNTIL YOU COME TO A WALL OF SNOW AND THEN YOU MUST CLIMB VERTICALLY FOR 8 MILES UNTIL YOU REACH DIRT, WHICH WILL ACTUALLY ONLY LAST FOR 3 MINUTES UNTIL THERE IS ANOTHER VERTICAL 5 MILE HIGH WALL OF SNOW YOU MUST CLIMB BEFORE YOU FIND ANY DIRT AT ALL EVER AGAIN HAVE A NICE DAY AND ALSO WE REALLY LIKE YOUR PONYTAIL THOUGH.

Freaking WALL #1

Brief break from the snowy climbing

Freaking WALL #2

See the top of that ridge? That’s where I was heading. And I totally made it.

I had to stop and rest a couple of times during Freaking WALL #2. But the crazy part is that I didn’t mind at all. The scenery around me was gorgeous and I couldn’t open my eyes wide enough to see everything I wanted to see. Also, this whole time I had the same song playing on repeat on my iPhone because it was perfect for the mountain and the day and everything else.

After I reached the top of the ridge, I was super happy to see the SHC had not lied to me. There was very little snow to be seen on the Fremont trail. Just a couple patches here or there but it was mostly easy dirt running. At least, until it started to climb.

The trail! It exists!

I ran all the way up those steps, passing a couple as I went. I think I was able to run for about a 1/2 mile up the incline before my body remembered that it isn’t Ann Trason and I am actually not a gazelle and so I slowed my roll. 30 seconds later, the couple passed me, laughing. I admitted I might have been a bit ambitious and they applauded my effort anyway. Later, as we got higher on the trail, we kept passing each other taking pictures.

Because I mean REALLY look at this.

So worth it.

Flowers growing on the trail

Hello gorgeous. You’re a handsome devil. Let’s make out.

I climbed higher and higher, running when I could, and generally having a fantastic time. Finally, when I was about a half mile from the top of Fremont, I looked at my watch and realized I needed to turn around immediately if I was going to make our two hour rendezvous time. I was fairly certain iWill would understand if I were a little late because I wanted to reach the end of my hike and see the final pretty, but I had no way to let him know I was okay, so I decided to turn around so that he wouldn’t worry.

About 2 minutes later, as I was running down the trail, I glanced up and saw a good looking Ironman heading my way. We’d both ended up on the same trail, which was not at all on the list of trails we’d even talked about. We stopped to chat for a minute, which basically went like this:

Me: THIS IS SO PRETTY.

iWill: OMG I KNOW ALL THE RUNNING SO PRETTY!

Me: SNOW!

iWill: SO MUCH SNOW BUT SO PRETTY!

Me: LET’S TRAIL RUN FOREVER AND EVER!

iWill: OKAY SEE YOU BACK AT THE CAR HIGH FIVE!

Me: SLAP! BUT LOOK AT ALL THE PRETTY!

Both in unison: DON’T FALL ON YOUR FACE!

Randomly seeing iWill totally made my afternoon and, with a permagrin on my face, I started to run back down the rocky trail. Like, seriously rocky.

ROCKIER THAN ROCKY IV

This was the view straight down on the side of the trail. If I’d fallen (which almost happened once), I’d have gone crashing down there. ADVENTURES!

Still, I didn’t care. I FLEW down the trail, arms out like an airplane, giggling and singing along with my music and having the greatest time in the world. Then I got to the bottom and stopped to rest for a second. There was a man who was paranoid about avalanches and he was all, “What, are you showing off running down the mountain?” and I was all, “Dude, look for the crazy man running UP the mountain. He’s the showoff.”

When I got the the midpoint, I talked to the ranger about which way to go to get back to the car. The way I’d come was steep and snowy but the other option was even more treacherous. I explained how clumsy I am and he begged me to take the way I’d come, as the other path would probably kill me. I thanked him and took his advice because we’ve all met me and I’m probably going to die by falling off a mountain anyway but I would really like it to be in a few years and not right now.

To get down, I had to sort of slip skate down the inclines. I planted my feet sideways and slid my right foot, followed by my left. I picked up some crazy speed and looked like a snowboarder with no snowboard (and also zero coordination). I had so much fun heading back down the mountain AND I was awkward with nearly every person I met! I had some variation of this conversation eleventy times:

Random Person: You really should just slide down on your backside.

Me: Are you kidding? Going down is the best thing! (COLLAPSING INTO GIGGLES) I love to go down! (AGAIN WITH THE IMMATURITY) HAHAHAHAHAHAHA GOING DOWN.

Finally, I made it back to the mud and started to run again, blasting my song of the day and smiling wide and huge and feeling a thousand happy feelings all at once. Before I knew it, I was almost to the car, where iWill was mixing up a recovery shake for me. (He beat me because he went the treacherous, certain death way. Is anybody actually surprised?)

We stretched and shouted at each other about how much fun we’d had and how we couldn’t wait to come back and do it all again. The ranger told us both the snow would be gone within the next couple weeks, so I’m excited to do more actual running next time. AND I’m going to have better shoes because my toes kept slamming into the front of my shoes and now I’m a little limpy but still so worth it.

Here’s the best part, y’all. I used to HATE hiking. Slim loved it so I would go for him and then complain the whole time (again, BEST GIRLFRIEND EVER). Alida 2 years ago never would have done this. She would have hit the first snow bank and said, “Fuck this noise, I’m going back to the car to eat Doritos.” I barely recognize myself. Every obstacle felt like a new adventure and there wasn’t a single moment during the entire day where I was not having ALL THE FUN.

So yes. Trail running. Come visit me and let’s go do more of it.

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