Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Oops...we ran an Ultra

So what happens when you take two runners, both known for being stubborn explorers with a knack for getting lost, put them in the Rainier area on a long weekend and ask them to run 20 miles? You get a 31 mile excursion. Unintended of course. Before recapping the run in it's entirety I would first like to point out some lessons learned from this little trip.

1) Following somebodies footsteps on a snow covered portion of an unfamiliar trail is a good way to get lost in the woods.

2) Pack more gels then you think you need if your route isn't set in stone. Gels help keep up your blood sugar, which in turn prevents you from turning into an exhausted zombie.

3) Phone batteries drain fast when your in an area with a weak cell signal. I probably would've realized this sooner if I had fully appreciated lesson two listed above.

4) Don't ever let Doug or I lead you on a run unless you want to go further than originally planned.

5) Don't be intimidated by bad weather...just get out there and go for a run...or a hike...or anything.

Snow can be fun
Woefully unprepared for 8+ hours in the woods we set off with good intentions, a nice 4-5 hour, 20 mile run around the white river area of Mount Rainier. The weather was pretty decent (For Seattle) and neither of us had any afternoon plans. We should have known what we were in for when we got lost within 2 miles of the start. Our attempt to locate the Sun Top trail was ultimately successful, however we ended up adding an unexciting loop through a campground during our search. We knew full well that we wouldn't really be able to get to Sun Top this time of year but decided that it would be fun to see how far up we could get before running into impassable snow. (Note...what we thought was impassable in the beginning of the run was in sharp contrast to what we felt was impassable during the latter stages of our adventure)

Stream crossings are more fun
Before long we were running through mountain streams, post holing in snow drifts and enjoying the many views afforded by the trail while making our way up the ridge line. At about 3700 feet we decided the snow on the trail was only going to get worse and made our way back down to the buck creek area. We managed to find our way back to the parking lot without getting lost in another campground though we did run into a fun couple that were out Geo caching and stopped to chat with them for a bit. They showed us some crazy pictures of the snow up at paradise.

After making a quick stop at aid station 1 (my car) we made our way out onto the Skookum flats trail.

Aid station number 1 was a big hit

Both Doug and I had mountain biked this trail several times in the past and were pretty stoked to see how quickly we could run it. Excellent conditions and a nice 8 mile warm up set the stage for a pretty quick jaunt down the rolling single-track. Approximately a mile in we ran into a WTA trail work party. Big thanks to those guys as it turns out they have their work cut out for them. About 2/3 of the way into the trail we ran into a ridiculous amount of dead fall. Not normal dead-fall...these were giant old growth trees that blanketed a fairly large portion of the trail. Doug and I ended up doing a fair bit of tree climbing, which though fun, drastically increased the amount of time it took for us to get to the end of the trail.

It was decision time after reaching the end of the skookum flats. Would we hit highway 410, with it's miserable pavement and slight uphill? Head to snoquera falls? Hit the white river trail and run through camp Sheppard? Or perhaps we would try to link the palisades trail up with the white river trail despite the fact that it would be most certainly buried in snow? Doug and are pretty notorious in our own minds for picking what could be described by some as the stupidest path so unsurprisingly we chose to run up above the snow line, follow a bunch of footprints that may or may not have been on the actual trail and eventually turned around about 3 hours after we had run out of gels and Doug had run out of water. 

There is a bridge under there somewhere
Note that at sun top we barely got over 3700 feet but we ended up topping out at over 5000 on this portion of the run. And yes...we ran into what we should have

Here are a few more pictures of the run. Wish I would've brought a better camera. Phone camera's are just awful for these types of pictures. Oh and here is a link to the garmin if anybody is interested:

Skookum falls from 410
Snoquera Falls from the Palisades trail

Doug heading up the staircase

One of the many views of the valley from the trail. Looking forward to running this on a clear day.

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