Bib #21 – Yakima Skyline 25k
The last thing she does before turning in is pull all the sheets out from under the mattress into a pile in the middle of the bed. I look down at my own sheets, tucked tightly around the queen frame, just how I like them. You learn things when you share a hotel room with someone you’ve only ever spent a couple of days with. But runner days are like dog years; normal people time, multiplied by intensity.I met Nicole around mile 14 of 2016’s Dupont Trail Marathon (now known as “Crazy Man Trail Races“). The race was one of many small trail half and full marathons that dot the Seattle/Tacoma metro area nearly every weekend. I was in the latter weeks of Umstead 100 training; Nicole, in the early stages of training for the White River 50 Mile.
Unlike road races, trail races breed camaraderie. Words of encouragement for fellow runners, whether they are passing you or the other way around, are expected. And it’s not uncommon for runners to stumble upon one another mid-race and, after hours of solo miles, decide to run together until one of you gets tired and wants to slow down, or the other decides to speed up.Fifteen months after that chance race meeting, Nicole and I joke about our Dupont finish. We remained together from mile 14 through the final mile, a demoralizing uphill stretch on crushed gravel, punctuated by a 100 yard slog through knee-deep water to the marathon finish line. “I kept waiting for you to stop,” she laughs. I was doing the same thing. It wasn’t that we were waiting for the other to peter out so one of us could take the lead; it’s that we were both tired and wanted the other to be the excuse to take a break. Neither intended to leave the other behind.
Facilitated by social media, Nicole and I formed a friendship that day. One that has grown through Nicole’s first 50k last summer, a half marathon plus training run (when we decided to finish the race and run a few extra miles), a handful of training hikes, and Sunday’s Yakima Skyline 25k. Her runner friends have become my runner friends.Nicole is sunnier by disposition. A veterinarian, she is often holding handfuls of newborn puppies on her Facebook feed. These photos encapsulate her personality. She’s not as sarcastic as I am, and doesn’t drop F-bombs like I do. On the trail, Nicole is a stronger climber and, despite the inches I have on her, will always leg me out across the finish line. I am steadier, holding us consistent from the first mile to the last. When I finally make it into the Western States, Nicole will be the first person I tell, as she is my first choice for a pacer, and she has promised to oblige. We crossed the finish line of Sunday’s race within 4 seconds of one another; Nicole first. She is just weeks from a Grand Canyon Rim to Rim hike; me, just days from the Badwater Salton Sea. I don’t know when I will see her next, but we’ll both provide words of encouragement via text and social media in the interim.
This is what runner friends do, and I am grateful.