Sunday, January 16, 2011

Capitol Peak 17 Miler

Well the first semi-organized "Fun Run"/Race has come and gone and I'm fairly certain my legs were expecting a little less vertical and a lot less pace than what I threw their way yesterday. Not that I really care...I decided to thrash them again today and will do so again tomorrow until they fall in line and decide to quit being pansies.

The fun run was located out in Capitol Forest. For those of you unfamiliar with the area it's a little bit south of Olympia and consists of a collection of hiker, horse and ORV trails. If you are out there and listen closely the sweet, calming sounds of a gun club can be found over the annoying traditional wilderness fair. (Babbling brooks, winds, birds...that sort of thing) The area is actually quite nice for trail running as everything is pretty well marked and the area itself is smorgasbord of mileage for those people that live in Tacoma or further south. Unfortunately that means for your truly the day started at 5:00 AM. The drive from Seattle is about an hour and a half a full 45 minutes longer than it takes me to get up into the I90 corridor for my training runs so I probably won't be making myself out to Capitol forest much before my next race there on April 30th.

In any event, woke up, took a slight detour in the Tacoma area to pick up Doug and then head out to the Margaret McKinney campground and found to our surprise that a few hundred people had shown up for the run. We managed to find parking, got geared up (Which didn't consist of much..)grabbed our entrance fees (5 bucks and a roll of toilet paper) and then checked in. No race numbers at these "Fat Ass" events so following the registration we just milled around with other runners and listened to the sounds of hundreds of Garmin Watches booting up in preparation for the next 17 or 34 miles. (Doug and I ran the 17 miler)

The race itself is put on by capitol peak ultras who are also responsible for a couple other races in the Capitol forest area. They did a fantastic job with the event giving us runners enough guidance to get us through the run without getting lost or feeling idiotic but also keeping it low key enough to where it really just felt like a fun run despite the fact that there were water aid stations, a finish line clock, and well marked trails. Super nice volunteers and friendly runners rounded out the day to create a great atmosphere. Oh and what would it be without the infamous Capitol Forest mud of which there was plenty.

In any event, the 17 mile run itself was an out an back with 2500 feet of total elevation gain. It stuck mainly tot he waddle loop and green line trails. The beginning started easy enough...not a whole lot of mud and just an easy pace. Trail runs are interesting in that you are locked into other peoples paces for a vast majority of the first few miles. After about 3 miles everything started to spread out and the mud made its first appearance in spectacular fashion. Most runners seemed to be trying to avoid the nastiness but Doug decided that we should embrace it and hit every puddle on the mountain. This strategy really paid off as we didn't do nearly as much dodging as many of the other racers. That being said we also didn't make too many friends during those early miles as I'm sure we splashed a ton of folks who were trying in vain to stay clean and dry. One instance saw me whooping as we sprinted strait into a giant 15 foot puddle being fed by a temporary creek that happened to be running down the rest of the trail. I splashed through, yelled "On your left" to some ladies that were trying to dodge all the water and proceeded to pass them as they screamed "Don't splash me!". Ah...great stuff.

The rest of the first half was pretty standard. We maintained a pretty fair pace up the 1000+ foot climb and then sped up a bit on the descent. We lost a bit of time at the turnaround as I had to fill up my bottle and empty my near bursting bladder. (Damn you breakfast tea!) I felt pretty good at the turnaround so I decided without consulting Doug that we would actually race the second 8.5 miles. I set a pretty ridiculous pace (for me) up the incline and we almost immediately started picking people off. This just served to fuel my inner speedster and I increased the pace further. We ended up picking up a few additional folks and turned our two person racing machine into a four man freight train. (Freigt train was actually what one of our additions used to describe it.) Once we got to the top we cranked it up to 11 on the descent, splashing our way past several other runners while trying our hardest not to barf.

I seriously started questioning whether or not I would be able to maintain the pace we set (I say we but I'm pretty much to blame here since I was in front) when I took a swig of fizzy Nuun and had a serious bit of nausea almost overwhelm my anti-vommit measures. I immediately backed off the pace and let our two newfound friends pass. (I think Doug was having a similar bout of stomach nastiness so he ended up staying with me) In any event...I tried to pick off a few other people but just couldn't convince my legs to go any faster. The last half a mile came and went without too much difficulty. We were cheered into the finish area by a few crows, a frog and a couple of kids giving us as much cowbell as their tiny arms could muster. Big thanks to everything that cheered us on as this always seems to give me a nice shot of adrenaline during any type of race.

After crossing the finish line we wrote down our official time (Mine was 2:56:00 I believe) and reconvened with the other two members of our freight train. I was told almost immediately that if I hadn't set that pace that none of  them would've run that fast. I mostly felt good about this but a tiny part of me asked the following question...

"You mean I didn't need to run that fast?"

I immediately squashed this girly man thought, doubled over with my hands on my knees and grinned through the near constant micro-cramps that were shooting up my thighs.

We ended up hanging out at the finish line for 10 or 15 minutes congratulating our fellow runners. The director of Evergreen Trail Runs came in and told me that I had set a pretty ridiculous pace on the second half. I thanked him, chatted for a bit, had the same girly man thought I mentioned above, and for the first time felt that I might actually be okay at this running thing. The rest of our time was spent cleaning up (we were pretty filthy after splashing through a hundred or so mud puddles) and partaking in the finish line bonfire and potluck. I crammed my face full of some food, dropped off some homemade guacamole then started the long drive back to Seattle. Pretty awesome day. Big thanks again to Capitol Peak Ultras for putting on the event and Doug for coming out and doing the race with me. (And putting up with the pace that almost made us both barf)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

2011 Race Plans

The 2010 season was a real eye opener for me. I was introduced to trail and ultra running and took to it almost immediately. The idea of cruising through some soft single-track being accompanied by a peaceful, natural soundtrack sounded so fantastic and simple that I couldn't believe I hadn't really given it a shot before. I bought some Brooks Cascadia 5's, found some local trails and shot up them like a three legged tortoise. Sure I was slow...but I felt free when I was on those trails. It's a place where problems like overpopulation, car pollution and work problems are minimized. Needless to say I was hooked. I signed up for a trail half marathon with over 2000 feet of vertical gain and loved every minute of it. Yes it hurt and yes....yes...I was slow. REAL SLOW. But it was the most fun I had at a race up to that point.

I then read Born to Run, subscribed to a fair number of ultra-marathoner blogs for daily inspiration, checked Scott Jurek's twitter on regular intervals and found that I had found new ways to stay motivated. I dropped 30 pounds, shaved over an hour off my Marathon PR, 13 minutes off my half marathon PR and signed up and finished two ultra marathons. (Of the 50K variety)

The point of all this is that my focus has changed. For the past few years I had primarily been focused on the marathon distance. This year I'm going further. I may not even run a traditional marathon. I'm not exactly sure yet. What I do know is that I'm going to focus on the White River 50 Miler in July. I do have races scheduled before then but that will be my focus for the year. I may also try out a 100K in september but my plans to run the Where's Waldo in August have been scrapped. In any event...that's a brief explanation on my thought process this year. My race plan is as follows:

February 5th - Orcas Island 50K
April 30th - Capitol Peak 50 Miler
May 15th - Capital City Half Marathon
July 30th - White River 50 Miler
September - TBD
October 15h - Defiance 50K

So there you have it. No marathon on there though I wouldn't completely rule it out. I need to find a cheap one though because all of these entry fees add up to a fairly significant amount. Running is a deceptively expensive sport...especially as your weekly mileage creeps up to the levels required to run Ultramarathons.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

3...2...1...POO POO!

Poo Poo in this case is not what you think it is. Today my buddy Doug and I went for a trail run in the tiger mountain area. The plan was to hit the three western "summits" and then tack on an out and back to Poo Poo point. The point is actually named for the sound steam whistles used to make when workers called the loggers. That being said the name still causes me to break out into fits of laughter. I guess parts of my brain still functions like a 10 year old.  

We started the run in the traditional lake area and took the West Tiger 3 trail up to...West Tiger 3. We found that many of the trails in the area have the word tiger in them and as such it was quite easy to confuse one with several others. We ended up adding about a mile on the Tiger Mountain Trail (not to be confused with the West Tiger 3 trail) and doubled back to hike slowly up the cable trail. This exceptionally steep section was completely unrunnable and very nearly unhikable. Several times I felt like I would end up sliding or tumbling down the slope doing my best John Cusack "Better off Dead" impression. 

Thankfully the slick footing didn't result in an epic slide and we reached the top without too much difficulty. After reaching the summit we took all of 3 seconds to enjoy the lack of a view and proceeded over to West Tiger 2. There is a bit of a saddle coupled with some more steep uphill sections. This section was uneventful and the view at West Tiger 2 was about as unsinpiring as that on West Tiger 3. The continuation to West Tiger 1 involved a bit of a downhill section coupled again with a fairly steep uphill. At the summit we were greeted with terrific views of mount rainier, the peninsula and downtown Seattle. Too bad neither of us wanted to carry a camera. We also found a hikers hut. We immediately set upon this treasure only to find it devoid of anything interested. I'm not sure what we were hoping to find. A pot of gold maybe. I did however imagine several things that I most definitely did NOT want to see there...

 At this point we linked up with the bypass, poo top and west tiger trails. I took a bit of a spill on a section and immediately checked to see if I had Taco'ed my femur. Thankfully my notorious mountain bike exploits didn't directly carry over to our trail running adventures. After the misstep we linked up with another unmarked trail and made our way to Poo Poo point. This would've been a decent view if we hadn't just descended off West Tiger 1. We spent a few seconds checking out Mt. Baker and then set off the way we came to descend another unmarked trial to the tradition lake plateau. Doug flew down this portion as I was already dragging a bit and struggled to keep up. I almost ate it several times but my intact legs kept me upright through the descent. Once we got down to the fire road we simply followed it back out to the High Point parking area. All in all it was a great day of running. We got less lost than usual and took in some great views. There was enough snow to add some character to the area without negatively impacting our pace.

Final Tally - 12.5 miles, Elevation Gain 3264 Feet, Time 2:54. Great way to kick off the 2011 running season.