Posted by: pointlenana | September 15, 2017

Plain 100 Tracking

Capture

Plain 100 is a different kind of ultra – no course markings, no crew or pacers, and one aid station/drop bag about 60 miles into the race.  Here is tracking info for me this weekend:

  • The race starts at 5am PDT this Saturday (Sep 16).
  • Live tracking for the race (demo this year, with a subset of runners hopefully including me.  As of this moment there’s a small glitch in the tracking course – we actually start at the 3-way intersection just above the flag, do an out-and-back to the flag, and then finish much later at the 3-way intersection.  I’m not sure how this will appear during tracking, but we have an extra 1 1/2 mile to run at the beginning, and will finish 1 1/2 miles early relative to the tracker.  Perhaps this will get fixed before we start.  But if not, for the 1000’s of you who will be up before dawn to watch us start, we’re not actually running in the wrong direction at the beginning.  At least, I hope not.)
  • Link for my personal tracking device (in case I don’t manage to get myself into the demo)
  • ~105 miles, 30000 feet of climbing, 36 hour time limit, 30 runners signed up
  • Guesstimated finish time: 33 hours +/- 3 hours
  • Videos of the course below.

Lots more info:

I was intimidated when I signed up many months ago, and I’ve “studied” harder for this race than any other ultra I’ve done – running the Issy Alps 100 solo this spring, 3 days scouting the Plain course in July, 40 miles solo and unsupported down at Rainier a couple weeks ago, and various other misadventures in the mountains this summer.  I even found myself mentally walking through all the trail junctions/turns yesterday to see if I had them memorized.  All that “studying” has paid off though – I expect it to be a challenging 100 mile race but the minimal support doesn’t seem so daunting now.

As I mentioned above, they are experimenting with live tracking this year for people who have their own gps trackers.  I submitted mine but as of now there are only 4 of us in the list.  Still, the page shows the course and corresponding spot in the elevation profile so even if there aren’t a lot of us you can figure out where I am, where I am heading, and how likely it is that I am suffering right at the moment.

Conditions look to be decent – relatively cool but not cold, some chance of smoke in the air but no fires really close by, and little to no rain during the race.  It will be dusty though – the race director included this comment in a note a couple weeks ago:  “I feel this year will be an awesome year for Plain dust! We’ve had several years of late where we actually had rain ahead of race day and, unfortunately, that really knocks down the dust. I don’t think there is a threat of that this year!”  Aside from dust in the air at the beginning when the massive mob of 30 runners starts out, the main challenge from the dust will be keeping our feet somewhat intact despite grit in our shoes.

I’m guessing I’ll finish in 33 hours or so.  It’s hard to read too much into results, but last year the finishing times ranged from 29:22 to 35:36.  That is an unusually narrow spread for a 100 mile race – and the winner was on this year’s US 24 hour team at the World Championships so he’s not slow over long distances.  After running much of the course, I think the narrow spread reflects that there are a bunch of sections where you are limited by the trail conditions not fitness.  E.g. it doesn’t really matter how fast you are if you are pushing through bushes, picking your way through a very rocky section of trail, or climbing over blowdowns.  We’ll see though – the top 10 performances in the 20 years of the race include times ranging from ~23 to 26 hours.  Maybe the trail has gotten harder as trees have fallen and bushes have grown, or maybe last year was slow for a specific 2016-only reason.

I scouted ~98 miles of the course over 3 days in July.  In about 30 hours on the course, I did not see another person on the trails.  No hikers, no runners, no off-road motorcycles.  Just me and a lot of open space.  Ironically, I did run into someone at the trailhead/race start/finish – it turned out to be a guy named Scott Weber who has finished Badwater 13 times and was the first person to do a “Triple Badwater” (going back and forth on the course 3 times – close to 500 miles – continuously in Death Valley in the heat of summer.  Sounds fun!).  So, lots of open space, one seriously badass/deranged person, and me. While I was out there, I took some video.  The course is basically two big loops/lollipops – I did the first loop one day, part of the connector/sticks of the lollipops the second day, and the second loop the third day.

Here’s the video tour…  Sorry about the breathing – rather than add music, I figured I’d show how quiet it is out there.

Day 1/Loop 1:  The first 9 or so miles are on a dirt road, gradually climbing up to Maverick Saddle.  I parked about 6 miles into the course, and left the car at 6:20am.  I couldn’t see anything for a while, but eventually Lake Wenatchee and Fish Lake and distant mountains came into view.

From Maverick Saddle, I dropped down to the Mad River and got on the trail proper.  It was about 13 miles of singletrack up to the summit of Klone Peak, rolling a little bit but gradually gaining 2500 feet up to the high point of the course.  The trails are apparently maintained more by an off-road motorcycle club than anyone else, and in some places were reinforced with concrete lattice I’ve never seen before.  The downside of the maintenance/motorcycle use is that the trail had small “moguls” in spots – 1-2 foot rises and dips that made running a little funky.  Route-finding was mostly straightforward – it was mostly following the directions and signs.  A couple of the turns were a little more tricky than they had seemed from the directions and/or the online maps/gps and I had to pull out the paper map at least once to figure out what was going on.  That was the point of scouting though, to figure out where the turns were when I wasn’t worried about cutoffs.  It was quiet – a few birds, running water when I was near some, a little wind, my footsteps and breathing, and not much else.

Great views all day, whether it was the wildflowers up close or the mountains in the distance.  I don’t know that area well though so except for a few big landmarks (Glacier Peak, Mt. Stuart) it was all nameless to me.

A few miles on from Klone Peak, I ran through an area that had burned in recent years, and there were lots of blowdowns to contend with.

After rolling for a bit, the trail finally headed downhill, losing about 3500 feet in 10 miles.  Some nice single track with turns carved by motorcycles, 3 miles of pavement which was kind of nice after the blowdowns, and a final drop along Tommy Creek almost to the Entiat River.  The crux climb lay just ahead so I filled my bladder (70 ounces of water) and two flasks (another 30-40 ounces) at Tommy Creek before heading up.  That’s about 7 pounds of water.

The next 6 miles from Tommy Creek are hard.  There’s a quote on the Plain website:
“The Signal Peak climb is possibly the hardest single climb in ultra running that nobody knows about.”

4000 feet of climbing in 4 miles to a false summit, a short downhill reprieve, and then another 750 feet almost to the top of Signal Peak.  This climb is also at the start of a 14 mile section with no water.  And, as will happen for me in the race, the climb happened during the warmest part of the day.  A heavy, hot, slow grind for 4 miles and then it somehow manages to keep going up for a few miles more.  As I started the climb (around 2:30), with somewhere around 20 miles left to go, I texted Janet (using my InReach – no cell service for my phone) that I’d probably arrive at our friend’s house in Plain for dinner at 8:30.

After the climb, just as I turned downhill, I updated my ETA to 9:15 although I still hoped the downhill would go quickly and I’d arrive earlier.  It was not to be.  The downhill was slow due to rocky trails, brush overgrowth, and a couple really steep open sections where it would have been bad to trip (the GoPro shows one section but doesn’t do justice to the steep hillside).  My water held out though – hopefully race day won’t be any warmer.  On the other hand, the “short section” along the Mad River turned out to be 3-4 miles of overgrown trails, ending with the wettest water crossing I did all day just as the sun was going down.  Arriving back at Maverick Saddle I pulled out my flashlight – glad that I carried it for the first ~50 miles of daylight – and trotted the last few miles to my car.  I unlocked the car from a distance and tried to open the door/climb in/close the door quickly, but still had to spend a couple minutes hunting mosquitoes that entered with me.  And instead of arriving early, I rolled up to our friend’s house at 10:30pm.  My watch died near the end, but the day was roughly 53 miles in a bit less than 16 hours.

Day 2: Connector from Start/Finish to Loop 2

The second loop/lollipop of the race starts with a 7 mile “stick” – run out to get to the 2nd loop and then back afterwards to get to the finish.  After my long first day and an upcoming long-ish 3rd day on the 2nd loop, I wanted to keep the day short so I decided to do the trail connection between the start and 2nd loop.  I had envisioned this being a flat dusty dirt trail 15 feet away from the Upper Chiwawa road, but in reality it was rarely close to the road and rolled up and down for most of the 7 miles from the start up to the beginning of the 2nd loop.  It was dusty though, and there were more motorcycle moguls in the trail here than on most of the other trails.  Oddly, people tend to get lost in this section due to the many trails and roads that cross the route.  I didn’t understand this before running it, but after passing through a couple intersections where you could follow a trail straight ahead but should instead turn more sharply to the right or left, I can see how a tired runner at night could make mistakes.  Another benefit of scouting this route in advance is that now I’ve been on the correct trails and should be able to create a more accurate route for me to follow on my Inreach.

Day 3: Loop 2

On the third day I parked at the Alder Ridge trailhead to do the 2nd loop.  The trail continues on the Lower Chiwawa trail for a few miles, climbs up a bit on the Chikamin Trail before doing a long relatively-flat traverse to Chikamin Tie.

From the Chikamin Tie junction, the trail goes up 3000 more feet on the way to Marble Meadow.  In fact, from the start/finish/~62 mile aid station the race travels mostly uphill for about 30 miles before the sustained downhill back to the finish.  Some of it is pretty gradual, but still – a 30 mile uphill?  I had to pull out some deet spray in a hurry in this section – picaridin worked fine the first two days but this 3rd day it wasn’t nearly enough.

After the long hill, the route travels along fairly flat trails among high meadows, climbs one last hill to a great view out over the Chiwawa valley, and drops back down to the trailhead where I parked.

The second loop took me about 10 hours, and somehow I stole a Strava segment record from James Varner while I was out there (which of course has been taken away from me since then – I’m not someone who sets Strava records).

Depending upon smoke from fires this weekend, I may have to go back to these videos to remind myself what I ran through.  Oh, that reminds me.  There was an interesting discussion recently in the Plain Facebook group about the best respirators to wear while running a 100 mile race in smoke.  As a friend once said, “everything about that sentence is wrong”.  Or maybe it captures ultrarunning accurately.

Posted by: pointlenana | September 13, 2017

Running The Lopez Island Walkabout – 9/9/17

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Approximate Walkabout route

Gotta have a movie…

Janet and I have spent a fair amount of time up on Lopez Island over the years.  In February some friends mentioned an event where people walk from one end of the island to the other, partly on public roads/trails but also on private lands with permission of the owners.  “That sounds like fun – I wonder if we could run that?”  Fast forward to this past Saturday – Janet and I set off at 7am as the pioneer/guinea pig runners at this year’s Walkabout.  Because we are lazy and couldn’t be bothered to arrange a ride back down the island, we decided to run from the south end to the northern tip and then back down – about 38 miles round trip.

The Walkabout is organized each year by the Lopez Community Trails Network, a group of people on Lopez who are working to create and promote a network of trails on the island.  This year’s Walkabout had 4 groups – one starting at the south end and walking to the northern tip/ferry landing in a day, two starting at either end and walking halfway on Saturday and then the rest of the way on Sunday, and the running group.  The walking groups all had leaders that knew the route.  The running group – just Janet and me – had no leader, and this was probably the biggest challenge beforehand in making our attempt workable.  Normally they do a little course marking but not like a typical trail race, and for our benefit they had to put out more markings (including some running shoes dangling from trees).  A few other people had asked about running this year – none were able to follow through – and since we were willing, they wanted to try it out to see if it made sense to offer in the future.

After 3 (or maybe 53) straight months of sunny, dry, warm weather, we woke to cloudy skies on Saturday and a forecast of chance of a small amount of rain.  15 minutes into our journey, it started spitting, and not much later it turned into a steady, mostly-light rain that lasted until 15 minutes before we finished.  The rain itself wasn’t so bad, but we traveled through some wet grassy fields/paths that soaked our shoes.  There was also that thrash through wet salal – but I’ll get to that in a bit.

The route starts at our friends’ property at the south end (one of the most beautiful runs in the northwest, in my humble opinion), heads north past MacKaye Harbor, winds through private property, roads and powerline easements to the trails on Lopez Hill, and then back on private and public roads to the school in the center of the island.  (The school is the start/end point for people traveling halfway each day.)  Beyond the school, the route goes back onto private property and small roads most of the way to Lopez Village, back onto the main roads for a bit, then on private property up to trails in Odlin South and Odlin Park at the north end.  From there it’s a short bit on roads and then onto the trail in the Land Bank property (next to the ferry) to the tip of the island.   Although we were never very far from places I had been/driven, we spent a lot of time on the other side of barns, hedges, woods, etc., that I’d seen from roads.  Between the new places, the distance, and the weather, it definitely felt like we were out on an adventure.

The route marking wasn’t classic trail race marking but they did a good job – between the marking and the map/gps combo on my Inreach we mostly stayed on course.  We missed turns a few times and corrected quickly without incident, all but one time.  The one time – in the middle of the island a bit north of the school – we ran pretty close past a house (“that’s odd – we haven’t gone that close to houses before”), realized we were off course, and then instead of backtracking decided to push forward because the Inreach showed the trail being about 100 feet ahead of us on the other side of some salal.  A little bushwhacking seemed more responsible than running through someone’s yard again.  We spent the next 30 minutes traveling probably 400 feet total in head-high, wet salal mixed with spider webs, briars and some viney plant that would occasionally lasso us.  I quickly realized the limitations of the Inreach – I was aiming for a “trail” that I had drawn by hand on a map, the gps is only so accurate, and we were close to a jog in the trail and could fairly easily miss both the east-west section and the section heading north from the turn.  After an enjoyable time getting wet and scratched up, we came across a very small path – not much larger than a game trail – and set off first the wrong way and then the correct way.  We were happy to run across a trail marker a bit further on.

In addition to the quality salal time, other highlights included:

  • the trails on Lopez Hill.  They were surprisingly long (especially on the way back when we were tired – go figure) and it seems like a great place to go running.  Like other parts of the route, we’ve been by but never in.
  • the section just north of the salal – a nice single track trail for a while, a great view out over Fish Bay to the other islands west of Lopez, and then a nice long (private?) road/driveway past a huge set of prayer flags.  That was fun after the salal, but it was even fun on the way back when we weren’t recovering from the salal.
  • the trails in South Odlin and Odlin Park.  Before this adventure I thought of Odlin as a parking lot with picnic tables.  It turns out there are really nice trails there.  I’m told that South Odlin is closed for part of the year during raptor breeding season.
  • the cookies from Holly B’s bakery.  Janet bought 3 cookies the day before, and along with a little fake food (gels, bars, etc.) the cookies provided a lot of our fuel for the day (and they were much better than the fake food).
  • we survived our encounter with a very evil Walkabout walking participant who repeatedly offered us a ride back south when we crossed paths about 28 miles into our trip.

We were slightly time constrained – our old dog was waiting back at the house and we wanted to attend the 5pm Walkabout potluck.  We reached the northern tip of Lopez about 5 3/4 hours after we started.  Subtracting some time out for salal, a surprising number of bathroom stops, and doing a small part of the southbound portion at the beginning before we reached the southern end and started north, it was going to be a bit tight getting back in time.  There were a few sections heading north that were essentially very rough mowed fields that were not-so-easy to travel through, so to save some time on the way back we decided to stick roads in those areas and take a couple small shortcuts.  The return trip took a bit less than 4 hours – our dog was happy to see us, and we were only a little late to the potluck.

About 9 hours 40 minutes door to door, almost 38 miles.  The entire running group returned safely and in good moods.

We want to thank a bunch of people – Kirm Taylor for entertaining the idea of runners at the Walkabout and ultimately making it work, the people who marked the course (basically just for us, since everyone else had leaders who knew the course), Lopez Community Trails Network, our friends who hosted the potluck afterwards, the property owners who allowed us all to pass through over the weekend, the friendly Lopezians we encountered who seemed to know what we were doing, and those people in the house near the salal who must have wondered what we were doing (sorry!).  Thanks also to Janet – for someone who “isn’t in shape” and hasn’t run more than 13 miles in a while, she had no trouble keeping up and keeping me company.

Posted by: pointlenana | September 4, 2017

UPWC – Owyhigh Lakes 9/1/17

“The fifth annual UltraPedestrian Wilderness Challenge is a multi-faceted multi-media adventure blogging contest open to Trailrunners, Fastpackers, Backpackers, and bipeds of all stripes. Entrants may attempt any or all routes on offer. There are no aid stations, no course markings, no start/finish, no lemming lines, no cut offs, no set date; in fact, it’s all up to you.” – from the UPWC website.

I’ve been looking at the UPWC routes for a couple years, but between races, significant travel to a few of the routes, and general intimidation about doing things self/un-supported, I just never committed.  There’s no time limit with UPWC – you can do it as a backpack, like I used to do.  But at some point I decided that I don’t really enjoy trying to sleep on the ground, i.e. it’s easier and more pleasant to run through the night than to camp.  In my humble opinion.

After committing to Plain (100 miles, largely unsupported) and then doing the Issy Alps 100 (solo and unsupported), the UPWC routes didn’t seem quite as daunting.  I still am doing too many races this summer, but I saw a little window last Friday where I could fit one last training run in for Plain, and headed down to Mt. Rainier to do the Owyhigh Lakes Loop.

Capture

On the east flank of the mountain, the loop covers about 40 miles, maybe 1/3 in high alpine basins, 1/3 down low in the valley along rivers, and a 1/3 climbing/descending between the two.

I’ve been going to Mt. Rainier on and off for more than 30 years, and it still surprises me every time I go.  It’s huge!  Everything about it – the glaciated summit, the high basins/meadows, the epic elevation changes as you descend or climb, the creeks and rivers and waterfalls.  You could do any 8 mile section of this route and think “wow, that was really amazing!”  Doing 40 miles over 12 hours was like going to Disneyland, except without the Disneyland part and better.

Like most/all of the people who’ve done it previously, I did the route counter-clockwise – head south down the Wonderland trail, fall down into the valley on the Cowlitz Divide Trail, head north on the Eastside Trail, and then return via the Owyhigh Lakes Trail.

I was certain I was going to see a bear while I was out – my friend Charlie sees them every time he goes, other people on Facebook have seen lots of bears there recently, someone who did the route the day after me saw a bear.  So of course I didn’t see any.

Bear

This is not an actual bear, but a furry someone had a nap here not too long ago.

Bear 2

This is not a bear either, but a furry someone has been eating purple berries.  And golden beargrass.  This was the technicolor… um, reverse yawn?

The alpine basins were definitely the best part.  The spectacular river/creek crossings were definitely the best part.  Seeing maybe 10 people the whole time I was out (except for the small city at Grove Of The Patriarchs – the tourists who see the park by walking 1/4 mile from the road) was definitely the best part.  Seeing exactly 1 person in the last 19 miles was definitely the best part.  Visiting Summerland – one of my favorite books ever, especially when someone does the voices as Janet did when we (meaning she) read this to our boys – was definitely the best part.  Immersing myself almost completely in one of the many creeks during the warm part of the afternoon was definitely the best part.  Crossing the White River shortly after sunrise and again shortly before sunset was definitely the best part.  Skipping the long wait at the Grove Of The Patriarchs bridge and simply marching through the river was definitely the best part.  Crossing Panhandle Gap, from one epic alpine basin to another huge alpine basin, was definitely the best part.  I might be forgetting 20 or 30 other things.

Other memorable things:

  • shortly before Panhandle Gap, I met a hiker on the trail who was on his own and worried about the snow travel ahead.  He was waiting for a guinea pig to come along and see how it went.  And along I came – I did my best Cavia Porcellus imitation (wildlife sighting!) and had zero problems with the ~5 minutes of snow travel.  It did get a bit steep with some non-trivial runout into rocks, but I didn’t need to pull my poles out and previous hikers had ground a nice highway into the snow so it wasn’t scary at all.
  • running along the Eastside Trail, I noticed something ahead of me – perhaps an insect.  About 4 milliseconds before impact I realized I was about to run through a spider web, with the spider directly in front of my nose (wildlife sighting!).  As I was clawing the web and spider off my face, I tripped over a rock – trying to stay upright bought me some time and I eventually pitched myself into the soft vegetation by the trail.  I came up unscathed, but it definitely disrupted my rhythm and I didn’t run as enthusiastically after that.
  • I had to go back and read Arya’s report of his Owyhigh Lakes trip to confirm this, but I spent some time marveling that he did this loop on ONE SINGLE BOTTLE OF WATER.  I drank about 15 flasks worth of water during my outing.  Although UPWC isn’t really competitive, you get bonus points for things like wildlife sightings, going quickly, and style.  (Along with $5, you can redeem those bonus points for a coffee at Denny’s.)  Forget bonus points – he should just rename his blog to The Ascetic Trail Runner.
  • The conventional wisdom is that the wildflowers are done, but I still saw a few including one awesome lupine field where all I could hear was bees buzzing (wildlife sighting!).

This was a spectacular, incredible day.  About 40 miles, 8000-10000 feet of climbing depending upon which thing I believe, a bit less than 12 hours for me.

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/1163710696

Some photos and videos…

 

Summerland

Summerland

 

Ohanapecosh

Looking down Ohanapecosh

 

 

Owyhigh Lakes

Owyhigh Lakes

 

Posted by: pointlenana | August 22, 2017

Tunnel Vision Marathon – 8/20/17

I guess I have to write about this one.  There are four main features to this course:

  • A 2 1/2 mile train tunnel shortly after the start.  You enter, curve slightly and then, if no one is in front of you, you see a very small dot of light way in the distance.  Then you run for 15-20 minutes before the spot of light gets any larger.  (If you are running this race these days when it’s popular, then you only see the headlamps/flashlights of people in front of you.)
  • After you exit the tunnel, around mile 3, the course drops 2000 feet gradually over the remaining 23 miles.  This about a 2% grade, which is significant enough to make the running a bit easier, but not significant enough to feel steep or challenging.  As a result, this course is somewhat famous/infamous as a place people go to run a qualifier for the Boston Marathon.  And where there used to be one race on the course each year about 7 years ago, now there are 8 different races each year on the course because everyone wants their Boston qualifier.
  • Capture

    Red is heart rate, blue is pace, gray is elevation.  All those ups/downs in elevation are bogus – there is a 15 foot uphill at mile 8 but otherwise it is downhill or flat.

  • Most of the course is a rail-trail – packed dirt/gravel in the woods among big mountains and the Snoqualmie River.  The race director saw a bear on the course the day before the race, a mile from the finish.  Another friend saw a cougar on the trail within a few miles from the finish.  There are worse places to run, and people who come from elsewhere usually mention the beauty.
  • Capture

    From the race website – the race goes on the obvious path, and the tunnel is in the mountain on the left.  The race starts near a lake that you can just barely see in the top left.

  • The only real negative (for me) is that the route is pretty close to I-90 for about 13 miles – you don’t see it much but you definitely hear it.  This is one race where I have no qualms about listening to music while I’m running, since it drowns out the traffic noise.

The course is deceptive – people think that running fast here is a given.  It is a favorable course if you have trained your legs to handle a very long downhill and you’ve run enough on uneven surfaces that the slightly-irregular rail trail surface isn’t a problem.  I’ve done plenty of both this year so I hoped to run fast and possibly approach or beat my Personal Record (a pr of 3:19:46 at CIM last December).   That said, I went into the race not really sure why I had signed up – some kind of kneejerk reaction after Boston was hot this year and I didn’t have a real chance to run a good fast race.  When I signed up, I was already signed up for the White River 50 (two weeks ago).  And after White River, I did a few days of hard physical labor fixing a deck.  The race/deckwork combo left me sore, physically fatigued, and very sleepy until about 3 days before this marathon.  You are supposed to take it easy going into a race – totally nailed that this time!

Race day came and I drove up with my friends Ken, Laura, and Tracy.  The weather forecast was very good (for an August race here) – ~49 degrees at the start, 50 in the tunnel (it’s always 50 in the tunnel), and low-mid 60s at the finish depending upon goal time.  (The actual weather might have been even better – some cloud cover for part of the race and a slight cooling breeze near the end where it usually gets warmer.)  We got our bibs, stood around, got a little shivery, did a very small amount of warmup, and set off.

The race did not start well for me.  There is a very short out-and-back at the beginning to add in a needed 0.2 miles – you run east away from the tunnel, do a 180 degree turn around an orange cone and head west to the tunnel.  Based on looking at June results, I lined up about 75 people back from the start line.  The leaders ran straight up the “-and-back” section of dirt road, instead of staying left in the “out” part.  Suddenly the leaders were running straight back at us, and we had to swerve left to avoid them, and then even more left to get around the cone.  I walked around the cone – too much traffic to run – and headed west into the crowd (maybe 400 runners total?).  Since they were taking up all the flatter road, I stayed to the left and ended up in the rough – in those baseball-sized rocks you see along railroad tracks.  People in front of me slowed due to the terrain, so I headed deeper into the rough to get around them.  As we approached the tunnel, my heart rate was much higher than I wanted it to be (goal – 131 beats per minute, actual – ~143).

Pacing in this race is hard.  There is no gps signal in the tunnel.  Once you exit the tunnel, the grade runs down a valley between two high mountain ridges and the gps signal is flaky.  You can never completely trust what running watches say about pace, but in this race the gps watches are usually way off.  In many races, you can also use mile markers to validate/assess pace.  In this race though, the mile markers are not dependable due to the same gps problems and the fact that the trail runs for miles and miles with very few significant landmarks.  I think someone must ride a bike down the course and put the mile markers roughly where they should go.  I knew going in that I couldn’t trust my watch or the markers, and decided to run based on heart rate, using my “131 beats per minute + 1bpm/mile run” formula that worked at CIM and Napa before that.  E.g. 131 bpm at the start, 141bpm after 10 miles, etc..

So, with a goal of entering the tunnel with my heart rate around 131, I entered around 143.  Ok, not good, but no need to panic because we’d only gone half a mile.  I turned my flashlight on, went into the darkness, and focused on finding a pace that felt right.  Gradually my heart rate dropped to something reasonable – mid 130s, maybe a little high but close enough.

To beat my old pr, I had to run each mile in about 7:37 or better.  When I ran past the first mile marker in the tunnel, my watch said the race had been going for more than 10 minutes.  I panicked for about half a second, and then reminded myself that the markers weren’t accurate.  The second mile marker came about 19 minutes into the race – 9:30 pace or something like a 4:15 marathon.  “Yep, that one’s not accurate either.  Just keep running.”

As we neared the tunnel exit, I turned off the flashlight and put it in the plastic “drop bag” they’d given us.  Running past the aid station, I tossed the bag towards the drop bag drop cloth, and was pleased when I saw that my very solid metal flashlight did not hit a volunteer in the forehead.

The tunnel is pretty flat.  After dealing with the flashlights/headlamps when you exit the tunnel, you get to look ahead at the course and you see this wonderful gentle downhill grade stretching out in front of you.  The trail winds around and you can never see more than about 1/2 mile ahead on the course, but you leave the tunnel and you know it’s mostly downhill like that until you finish.  You still feel good at this point, and after being in the dark for 20+ minutes, suddenly you see big mountains all around.  It’s pretty nice.

Not long after the tunnel – more than 27 minutes into the race according to my watch – we passed the marker for mile 3.  9 minutes per mile, about a 4 hour marathon.  Heading in the right direction at least, but not confidence-inspiring.  I had to remind myself that my plan was to run by heart rate, my heart rate was ok, and I felt ok.  If that was all true and I was really going that slowly, then it wasn’t my day and there was nothing I could do.  Otherwise, ignore the mile markers and stick to my plan.

At the second aid station (mile 5 or 6), I got a momentary burst of energy from my decision to carry a handheld water bottle (20oz) instead of drinking at the aid stations.  They had warned us they were a bit light on volunteers, so I guessed that aid stations would be cups of water/gatorade sitting on tables (vs. Boston-style “lotsa people holding cups out so you don’t have to slow much”).  I watched the guy in front of me slow and then stop to pick up a cup, and as he did that I flew by at full speed.  I thanked the volunteers for being out there at most or all of the aid stations, but I don’t think I ever got anything from an aid station.  To be fair, I did see at least a couple aid stations with ~4 volunteers where they were holding cups out for us.  But over and over, not slowing even slightly at aid stations made me feel like things were going really well.

From mile 3 – just after the tunnel – to mile 21, very little happens.  You run straight ahead, the trail winds around, you pass trees and see mountains above you on either side, you pass an aid station every 2-3 miles, you see crowds (20 people!) two or three times when the trail crosses a dirt road.  Time passes.  I ran, listened to music, watched my footing, and tried to ease back/go a little harder as needed to keep my heart rate about right.

Around mile 10 my legs felt tired but otherwise I felt pretty good and my heart rate was running a little below what I expected.  I figured it was a combo of being well-trained but with some residual fatigue from my recent race.  It wasn’t great to feel tired legs already, but I decided that tired legs was much better than elevated heart rate from working too hard. If I was working too hard then I’d probably fall apart and slow a lot later in the race (been there, done that several times and at least once on the Tunnel course).  With tired legs I’d have a mental challenge – “my legs hurt but I’m going to ignore it” – and I thought I could handle that.  I did accelerate 4 or 5 times after that, every few miles for about 30 seconds, trying to wake up some fast twitch muscle fibers that maybe weren’t so tired.

According to the mile markers, I hit the halfway point (13.1 miles) right around 1:40 – which is 3:20 pace and just slightly off my PR pace.  Again, I didn’t know what my real progress was but I still felt decent and now the mile markers weren’t nearly so pessimistic.  Shortly after passing the mile 16 marker, I realized I was at the turnaround point of an out-and-back 20 mile training run Janet and I had done a couple years ago ago when she and I did the race.  (Park at the finish, run 10 miles up the course, turn around, run 10 miles back down.)  Mile 16 marker, run for 1-2 minutes, I know I have 10 miles left to go – “I actually know where I am right now!!!”.  Mental math time.  “Exactly 2 hours elapsed, 10 miles to go.  At 7:30/mile that’s about 75 minutes.  Maybe I fade, maybe it’s more than 10 miles, maybe I’m running a bit slower than 7:30/mile – ok, maybe 80 minutes at the high end.  That puts me at the finish between 3:15 and 3:20, so if I keep going I have a good chance at a PR.  Keep going.”

The only legit turns on the course are around mile 21 – you turn off the rail trail onto another trail, wind through a few quick turns, pass Rattlesnake Lake, and then follow a trail through southeast North Bend (a few houses, but still mostly trees).  My hips went “yikes!” on the turns after running straight head for 21 miles, and I briefly wondered if my body would crack and break.  I passed a few runners by running aggressively in the turns and on a couple short steeper downhills.  And then we were back on the flat, straightahead trail.

The last 5 miles are hard because they alternate between slightly downhill and flat sections.  You have to slow a little on the flat sections to avoid working too hard, and those sections feel slow and hard after the long downhill.  Then, if you don’t pay attention, you don’t speed up on the downhill parts after slowing slightly on the flats.  I ran on.  Miles passed.  At some point I realized I would almost certain set a new PR, as long as I avoided a disaster (cramping and/or lightheadedness I’ve felt once or twice when I pushed too hard).  My heart rate was a little low and I wondered if I should push harder, but my legs felt beat and a couple times I had pre-cramp spasms in my calves.  So I held off on trying to speed up and hoped that I was either on pace or not slowing too badly.

At mile 25 I saw the 3:15 pacer about a minute ahead of me.  I might have seen his orange banner a couple times before, but several people wore orange hats and I was never sure.  But at mile 25 I could tell it was the pacer, and it was great to be a minute back from someone who was aiming to finish around 3:15 (assuming he had paced well).  I crossed the bridge over the Snoqualmie River, ran through the underpass under I-90, looked at the finish line 0.2 miles ahead, and tried to speed up.  The clock said 3:15:2x as I crossed the line.  I did not feel good just as I finished, and was a little worried about fainting if I stopped, so I slowly walked out of the finish area, through all the recovery food/drinks, past the drop bags and past the last of the people hanging around.  Then I turned around and walked back.

By the time I returned I felt ok and started drinking – a lot.  I probably had a least a half gallon of fluids in the first 30 minutes after the race.  I ate too, but I was much more interested in liquids than food.  Gatorade, chocolate milk, water, gatorade, coke (aka Nectar Of The Race Gods), more gatorade, grape juice, another chocolate milk, more coke, more gatorade.  Yum!  I’m lucky there wasn’t an explosive chemical reaction in my gut.

I kept walking back towards the finish to look for Tracy, Laura, and Ken, but every time I went to look for someone I’d find them in the finish area, already done – they all had great days.  I’ll call out Ken in particular for running a 4:01+ at the age of 71, winning his old guys age group, and beating 2nd place by … 58 minutes.  That’s a sub-3 on an age-graded basis.  I saw a few other friends and they all had a great day.

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I did see this woman finish.  Her legs gave out maybe 30 yards from the finish line.  She struggled to get up but couldn’t, so she started crawling.  It’s deep gravel there though so it must have hurt a lot (her knees and elbows were bloodied afterwards) and finally she just rolled herself the last 20 yards.  She qualified for Boston by 58 seconds – let’s hope there’s no cutoff this year.

If the race was light on volunteers, I couldn’t tell.  The finish was really well stocked with food, drinks, and volunteers.  The aid stations looked great.  The fire department even came by as we were leaving and built a big ice bath.  Thank you to the organizers and the volunteers!

My official time was 3:15:22 (7:27/mile), good for 4th out of 37 in the mens 50-59 age group and 66th out of 343 overall.  That’s a PR by about 4 1/2 minutes.  And as I’ve said before, every year that I get older and don’t slow down is a good year.

 

 

 

 

Posted by: pointlenana | August 6, 2017

White River 50 – August 5, 2017

I ran White River for the 5th time yesterday, and this is the 3rd or 4th time I’ve written about it.  So I’ll cut to the chase.

This was a B race for me – mostly train through it on the way to a couple A races this fall, but still try for a good day.  My best time there is 9:27:42 from 2014.  I’m in pretty good shape right now and up until recently thought I might get close to that again.  The weather was supposed to be warm (80s-90s) until a day or two before and then cool, but at the last minute it seemed to change and be warm on race day still.  Also, there are fires burning up in BC and the wind patterns are bringing the smoke down here.  Between the weather, the smoke, and some residual fatigue from a lot of mountain runs recently, I decided I’d be happy with anything under 10 hours but that I’d try to start out on course PR pace and see what happens.  (When has anything bad ever happened from starting too fast?  The worst that could happen is I would fall apart, hate the race, have a tantrum, swear off running forever, and question the choices I’ve made in life.  Could be worse.)  I also wanted to test out a recent theory that you can run flats and uphills at marathon effort in an ultra, because you get to recover on the downhills – or at least I do because I’m not capable of going really fast on anything the least bit technical.

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The night before the race.  The moon and the mountains in the distance on the right are hazy due to smoke in the air.

For the first half of the race I was clocking splits that were just a bit slower than my PR day.  In fact, I ran the first ~4 mile leg in about 30 minutes vs. 32 minutes on my PR day.  After that I seemed to lose 1-4 minutes on each of the uphill legs, and pick up a little on the downhills.  I left the aid station at mile 27 at 5:02 elapsed, only a couple minutes past my PR split, mostly because I didn’t have to stop in the portapotty like every other time I’ve run this race.

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Looking north from the start at the first climb.  The high point on that ridge in the picture is about 1/3 of the way up the 4000 foot climb.

And from there, my race gradually degraded.  There’s an exposed section on the next leg up to Fawn Ridge but it didn’t seem that hot in the sun around 11:30am.  I still lost ~5 minutes on the way up and had to spend a little time at the aid station drinking ice water.  On the way from Fawn Ridge to Sun Top, the running gods turned on a convection oven and I got really hot.  My stomach started threatening me with mild nausea – “put anything else in here and you’ll regret it”.  At the Sun Top aid station (15 minutes behind “schedule” now) I cooled off again and then headed down the road.  I ran hard down the 3000 foot 6 mile descent and passed a few people, and got myself nice and hot again.  I knew that a 10 hour finish was at risk and I hoped to create a little buffer for my Skookum Flats slog by doing the fast recovery downhill.  When I pulled into the Skookum Flats aid station, Adam Hewey looked at me and asked “a little hot out there maybe?”

The ~6.5 mile Skookum Flats leg lived up (down?) to my expectation – not flat, lots of tripping hazards, and endless.  But there were a couple good things along the way.  For most of the second half of the race, I leapfrogged with a woman who ended up being the masters winner.  I had passed her coming down the road, but she left the last aid station just ahead of me.  I was not motivated but I challenged myself to follow her.  It was a beautiful thing to see – she didn’t look tired, she ran cleanly over the trippy roots, and she didn’t stop to walk at all.  I was able to hang with her for a mile or two and then suddenly my body balked at jumping past roots and rocks.  (I talked to her afterwards and she said the same thing happened to her eventually – she tripped a couple times and then suddenly couldn’t run aggressively anymore.)

After miles of shuffling, trying to convince myself to run the obviously-runnable sections, and moving slowly, I started giving up on a 10 hour finish.  “10:05 is pretty close to 10.  It doesn’t matter anyway.  Who cares about finish time?”  Just then Ben G came up behind me.  I was surprised to pass him early in the day coming down from Corral Pass – he’s faster than me – but we chatted briefly and he told me his stomach had gone off.  When he reappeared behind me in Skookum Flats about 30 miles later, his stomach had returned and he was hating the race and wanted to be done.  I mentioned my dwindling chances at my goal.  He did some quick math, decided 10 hours was still achievable, and basically told me to run with him.  Which I did for maybe 10 minutes until I suddenly felt very gross.  At that point it felt like we were close to the final 1/4 mile dirt road and either I had a couple minutes buffer or I had no chance.  I walked for a minute or so to settle myself and then focused on the now receding BenG in the distance in front of me.  The dirt road appeared a little later, I ran steadily to the finish, and then sat in the medical tent for a bit while they poured ice water on my head and rubbed it to cool me.  Finish time was 9:58:06.  Given the heat, the smoke (stuff is coming out of my lungs this morning) and the dust on the Sun Top road from a few cars (blinding dust clouds whenever they’d pass) I’m pleased with that.  46th out of 210 overall, 6th out of 27 in my age group.  It’s a tough age group, with a really fast guy who just turned 50, another guy my age who pretty much wins the age group in every race, and a former White River winner.

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Thanks Ben, for helping me find a little motivation at the end.

Highlights:

  • The best thing about White River is that “everybody” shows up.  I hung around for a while after the race and got to meet some people in person that I know from Facebook, say hi to good friends, talk to acquaintances I see at races, etc..  That was really fun.
  • My friend JeffK had a great day – finishing somewhere around 8:41, 14th overall, and 3rd in his age group.  It’s really cool to see how much he’s improved in the past year or so.  And not to take anything away from Jeff, but that also says good things about his coach Matt U.

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    Jeff showing off some of his hardware.  Except for a short while at the beginning of the race, this was the only time we saw Mt. Rainier during the day.  The smoke obscured it after that.

  • I got to meet my online friend Margaret in person at packet pickup.  According to another online friend (that I’ve also met at a race) online friends are one step up from imaginary friends.

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    Margaret isn’t so imaginary anymore.

  • As for my marathon effort theory, I think there’s some truth to it.  I definitely felt like I was running too hard in the beginning and reached Corral Pass wondering how badly I’d fall apart.  But even though I did the next descent at a decent pace I felt myself recovering.  The fast start is probably partly responsible for my fade, but I think the smoke and heat account for most of that.
  • I talked a bit with David Horton, an ultra legend.  To pick just a few highlights from a very long list, he was one of the first 100 mile finishers at Barkley and has set speed records on both the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail.  Before my first-ever ultra (White River 2012) when I was in a portapotty the morning of the race, very nervous and struggling to take care of business, he was outside not helping anything by harassing all of us.  “You are taking too long.  There’s a long line.  The race will start soon.  You have 20 seconds before I come over and start shaking the cans.”  I mentioned that, and 5 years later he’s remorseless about totally freaking out a newbie.

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    David Horton and I being photobombed by the woman (Stephanie?) who was working the finish line with David.

  • By far, the best part of yesterday was watching my friend Cassie finish her first ultra on that course and in those conditions.  One of the things I really like about ultra running is that people appreciate the effort everyone puts in.  Yes, we ooh and aah about some of the fast people, but we also know that the people finishing late in the race are out there for a LOT longer than the winners and very likely suffer more.  Kudos to Cassie for getting it done.  (And when Cassie and another woman finished shortly before the 14 hour cutoff, David Horton called over “You ladies cut it pretty close” – she can be proud of being personally harassed by an ultra legend.)

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    Cassie, shortly after she finally got to stop running.  Jodee Adams-Moore, who won the race one year, made those finishers medals.  And I have a nice “tan line” where my gaiters stopped and the dirt begins.

 

 

Posted by: pointlenana | June 2, 2017

Issy Alps 100M – May 20 and 21, 2017

The short version:  Janet dropped me off early at the Mailbox Peak trailhead one morning.  Then I ran (at times) and walked and moved forward and eventually ended up at High Point 100+ miles and 38 1/2 hours later.  Van Phan gave me a mango smoothie and then Janet drove me home again.  There’s a link to the world’s least-exciting movie at the bottom of this post.

The long version:  Before I did the Issy Alps 100M, it felt like a really big thing – 100 miles, just me, carrying everything on my back, cougars.  Afterwards, to be honest, it’s not a lot more interesting than the short version – there were no spectacular near-disasters and I spent a lot of the time moving forward fairly steadily.  But here are the details anyway for the masochists (aka other ultra runners).

I already posted about what the Issy Alps 100 is.  I didn’t really explain how I got onto this path though.  It all started with signing up for Plain 100 this coming September – 100 miles, no course markings, no aid stations, no pacers, one drop bag about 62 miles through the race.  I signed up and figured I should practice being self-sufficient.  I looked at the UltraPedestrian Wilderness Challenges and at some point became aware of the Issy Alps runs.  I’d seen those before but it was back when I was still sane, and at the time thought “only crazy people do that”.  Anyway, to cut to the chase, I figured the best way to practice for something intimidating was to try something even bigger and more intimidating – out of the frying pan and into the fire.

The decision process was a very steep slope for me – I’m sure I didn’t pay much attention to the Issy Alps until after Canyons 100k (April 29) and I was already pretty serious about it by Lost Lake 50k (May 13).  During that time I decided to scout every piece of the route, practice all the self-sufficiency stuff (filtering water, carrying lots of food in my pack, fighting off cougars with a pen knife, etc.), and recover from 3 races in a month (Boston on April 17, Canyons April 29, Lost Lake May 13).  I figured I’d make my attempt in early to mid June while there probably would still be a fair number of creeks running, so I could carry less water.  Janet and I scouted Mt. Teneriffe before Lost Lake.  The day after Lost Lake I did my first “run” up Mailbox Peak and up the trails to the CCC road.  The day after that (Monday) I scouted the connector between Rattlesnake Ridge and Tiger Mountain.  When I got home I noticed a good weather forecast for the coming weekend and pondered making an attempt earlier than expected.  Sure, I had filtered water exactly once to make sure the filter worked, I hadn’t run with a stuffed pack, I didn’t know all the route, and I hadn’t recovered from my previous races.  Otherwise everything was lining up perfectly – yeah, that’s it.

It also felt (and still feels) that this route is somewhat fragile.  Richard Kresser found out mid-attempt a few weeks ago that a trailhead was closed due to construction.  Rattlesnake Ridge was logged sometime in the past 18 months and a section of nice trail turned into a logging road through a clearcut.  Timber sale signs have been posted at Tiger Mountain and somewhere else late in the route (Cougar Mountain?).  Waiting might improve some aspects but make other things worse.

So I told Janet what I was thinking.  “That would be great!!!!”, she said, being sick of me talking about Issy Alps non-stop for the previous week.  So it was decided.  I gathered my things between Tuesday and Friday, for an early start Saturday.  My one lingering concern was a slightly messed-up toenail on my right foot – it probably got dirty in the previous week, didn’t get cleaned well enough, stayed wet and dirty through 3 straight days of Lost Lake and scouting runs, and got a little infected.  I soaked the foot in epsom salts 2-3 times each day through Friday and ran the toe under hot water – by Friday I was pretty sure the toe would hold up at least until the second day, when everything else would be hurting anyway.

After sleeping 2-3 hours Friday night, I got up, mixed up Tailwind in my hydration bladder, and weighed my pack for the first time (~13 pounds with the bladder half-full).  Because the forecast was benign, I was able to leave out some things I would/should have carried – rain pants, an extra warm shirt.  Janet had me at the Mailbox Peak trailhead by 4:05am, with twilight still ~40 minutes away.  I fished out my flashlight, turned my tracker on, started my watch, and set off past the gate.  After Janet and the car headlights were gone, it was pretty dark.  I figured it would be light enough soon, but with the deep forest, steep hillside, rooty trail, and western slope, it was a good hour before I could see well enough to travel without the light.

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The climb to Mailbox (in daylight, when I was scouting).  It’s actually steeper than it looks.

Mailbox is steep – about 4000 feet of climbing in about 2.7 miles.  By the time it was light I was about halfway up, and soon afterwards I hit the turn onto the new trail.  The last mile or so is a rocky trail above tree line but, just like my recon the week before, I couldn’t see much more than the clouds swirling around.  I reached the top about 1 hour 48 minutes (1:48) into the journey, took a quick video and headed down.

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Up high on Mailbox – the week before when I was scouting.

The heavier pack didn’t seem to affect me going up but something – the heavy pack or my poles – slowed me a bit heading down.  Also, my foot slipped off a dangling root at one point and I sat down hard.  My pack hit the root and saved my rear end, but my upper arm slammed down hard on another root – I had a very large knot there after a few minutes and felt a bit lucky that the fulcrum of the impact was closer to my elbow than my armpit so nothing broke.  The rest of trip down was uneventful.  By 6:45am on a Sunday morning, lots of training climbers – big boots, heavy packs – were already headed up.  I filtered water near the bottom, made a detour to the outhouse in the parking lot, and headed up the road towards the Granite Creek trail around 3:10 (elapsed time, not time of day).

To get to the Teneriffe trailhead from Mailbox, we take a long detour up one side of the Middle Fork (Snoqualmie River) valley, across the valley via two unofficial trails, and then back down the valley on a lightly-travelled dirt road.  I had scouted all but the dirt road the previous week.  This time it went smoothly – up the Granite Creek trail for 2.5 miles, 1+ miles down the (not-yet-opened) connector trail to the road, through the parking lot construction that had stymied Richard Kresser a couple weeks before (surveyors were out when I scouted, it was empty this time), across the river on the road, and then a sharp turn onto the Sitka Spruce trail.

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Crossing the Middle Fork, just before turning onto Sitka Spruce.  Mailbox Peak is up to the right I think.

There’s a half mile of swampy trail at the beginning of Sitka Spruce that crosses a few creeks before finally turning up onto drier trail.  My feet got pretty wet and muddy during scouting but somehow I hit everything right this time and I got up to the dirt road with just one somewhat-wet foot.  I was pleased to discover the road was empty, pretty runnable, and mostly downhill.  I arrived at the base of Teneriffe at about 5:30 into the run, almost 30 minutes ahead of my guesstimate.

Teneriffe packs a similar bang to Mailbox Peak – 4000 feet to the top in about 4 miles but the first 1.5 miles are relatively flat, the next 1.5 are steep, and the last mile climbs 2000 feet (close to a 40% grade).  It was prime hiking time at this point (10am on a Saturday morning) so I passed a lot of people hiking to the Teneriffe/Kamikaze Falls.  These falls are amazing – dropping 200-300 feet straight down far above the trail.  Once I got to the falls I turned off the main trail and headed up – basically straight up – to the narrow ridge looking over the Middle Fork/Snoqualmie Valley and heading up towards the summit.  I started hitting snow somewhere around 4000 feet (the summit is at ~4800 feet) but it was fairly consolidated and there were usually tracks to follow.

The snow did cause my second weird accident of the journey – my foot slipped backwards and I leaned forward to plant my poles.  As I did, my armpit landed right on top of a sharp stick pointing straight out of the snow.  It kind of hurt so I pushed hard on the pole to take pressure off but with the tiny basket the pole just postholed deeper.  The harder I pushed the deeper the pole went and the deeper the point of the stick pushed into my armpit.  This process took about 3 seconds, long enough for me to wonder if I’d see the stick suddenly poke out through the top of my shoulder.  Thankfully, I was able to pick myself up before that happened.  I didn’t even want to look at the hole in my armpit – it hurt a fair amount but I didn’t see blood gushing down the arm so I decided to ignore it.  Between the fall on the root (same arm) and the near-impalement, it hurt to lift my arm above my shoulder for the rest of the journey but fortunately 100 mile runs don’t require much of that.

Shortly after that accident, I was at the top, again in clouds.  There was a hiker up there waiting for the clouds to clear – I talked to him for a bit and he was one of the few people who looked at my running shoes and stuffed pack and figured out that something unusual was up.  He wondered why I didn’t throw Green Mountain (NE of Teneriffe) into the mix while I was at it.

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Janet at the top of Teneriffe, from a hike a couple weeks before.  The dark pyramid on the left is Mailbox Peak.

After I couple minutes I said farewell and dropped down to find the trail over towards Mt. Si.  It was pretty easy to find by looking for the footprints in the snow that headed west instead of down.  Although the snow was compact, it was still tiring sliding around and occasionally having to look for footprints again when I confused tree drip spots with footprints.  That’s pretty much how this snow section went, even once I found the road heading down – pretty straightforward but slow and more tiring than I wanted.  With a snowstorm a few days previously, the snowline was further down than when Janet and I had done this 10 days before.  Eventually I hit my first dirt, then more snow, and finally done with snow for good (I thought).  Yay.  Down down down the Teneriffe road.  Eventually I found the connector to the Talus loop trail on Si..

As I refilled my water in the little stream I lamented how tired I already felt just one quarter of the way into the run – 10000 feet of climbing so far, leftover fatigue from races, something else?  Not much I could do about it though.

I should talk briefly about how I handled water.  I carried a 70oz hydration bladder in my pack.  Depending upon how sure I was about finding creeks, I usually only filled it partway.  Most of the time I’d pour 3-5 scoops of Tailwind (premeasured into small plastic bags) into the bladder before filling it so that I’d get a little nutrition with the water.  I used a Sawyer filter (full size) and got the adapter so I could swap my mouthpiece off the bladder tube and attach the filter.  I thought this would help me go faster – instead of sitting by the creek squeezing water into the top of the bladder, I could fill the filter bag and squeeze it into the bladder through the tube while I walked.  This worked as planned (I never tested this before I started – there’d be no adventure if I wasn’t trying new things during my 100 mile unsupported solo run).  I’m not sure it really saved me much time – it was a little awkward and at times I had to walk when I could have run with no bag in my hand.  Also, holding the bag in front of me and squeezing with both hands got tiring, so I ended up holding/squeezing the bag against my head with one hand.  It looked totally dorky I’m sure, but it worked and I don’t remember passing anyone when I was in mid-filter.

It’d been a couple years since Janet, Wyatt, Moani and I went up Mt. Si.  The trail passed quickly enough and then I was out with the Saturday crowds at the landing before the Haystack (scramble, not part of the Issy Alps route) at the top of Mt. Si.  I pulled out my Garmin Inreach to decide if I’d gone far enough – it would suck to do 99.9% of the route but miss a few feet of “summit” when it was ambiguous.  I seemed to be ok, so after looking around for a minute I headed down.  The Inreach/nav device was invaluable in finding the turnoff to the old Si trail – an unmarked turn to the right a couple hundred feet down the hill, probably obvious if you know it but easy to miss if you’re like me and haven’t used it before.  I picked my way downhill, finally got to the Boulder Garden trail (which I loved) and ended up with the crowds on the Little Si trail.  I was fairly dispirited at this point – moving slowly, doing a long fishhook out-and-back past the climbers, families and hikers wandering around on the Little Si trail, me not moving much faster than little kids.  Hours later – it felt like – I’d worked my around to the summit and then back down to the Little Si trailhead.  About 13 hours in at this point.  In my dreams I had hoped for 12, in part so I’d get to the Rattlesnake/Tiger connector in daylight and in part because Yitka Winn had made it here in 12 1/2 hours – after taking some breaks.  I had taken no breaks, was running behind her time and felt tired.  Oh well, lots of “race” left ahead of me and finishing at all was really my goal.  I took 5-10 minutes to regroup at the trailhead – consolidating food trash in a bag, unpacking the “second 1/3” foodbag into more convenient pockets, and thinking about the path ahead of me.

I managed to run most of the ~2 miles from the trailhead up the Snoqualmie Valley trail to the river.  I then semi-wasted 5-10 minutes trying to filter water (it turns out my filter bag fills up best if there’s a rivulet I can direct into the opening, not so well in a broad river that puts as much pressure on the bag as it does on the opening).  I also taped a hot spot on the bottom of my left foot, using some of the Leukotape I’d wrapped on a lipbalm container and the tiny Leatherman knife Janet gave me for the run (cougar protection, since I refused to carry the bear spray she got me).  Then it was up the last ~4 miles of Tunnel Marathon course to Rattlesnake Lake.  I ran off and on, and at some point trod slowly past a guy who was walking his dog up the hill.  He noticed my pack and said “It looks like you’ve been out for a while – how far have you run?”  “Maybe 40 miles at this point.”  “That’s awesome!” “Or maybe dumb…”  “No, you’re awesome!”

I certainly didn’t feel awesome.  I was gradually accepting that I’d have to find my way through the Rattlesnake/Tiger connector in the dark.  Around this time I realized I’d meant to charge my watch on the rail-to-trail grade, so I got my portable charger and watch cord out, clipped the cord to the watch, and (running with the charger in my hand and the cord flapping around my arm) was happy to see the watch battery climb slowly from 45% back up to 80+%.

Rattlesnake Lake came and went, and I climbed up towards Rattlesnake Ledge as many many people were coming down at 8 in the evening.  After the Ledge, I stopped seeing people.  Just me, the trail, and eventually some more snow on the trail – not tons, but enough to make me pay attention and slide around some more.  Then I hit a mess on the trail – downed trees that I had to climb over and under.  “Ah, the reroute!”, as a result of logging.  I got up on a downed tree and looked around – it wasn’t clear where to go but the clearcut seemed to be to my left, so I scrambled through logging mess for 30-40 feet and found myself on a logging road.  I looked around and saw “Reroute” signs.  Again, it wasn’t 100% clear where to go, but I headed down the logging road for a mile or two and was happy to see another sign directing me back through the mess onto the trail.  I might have turned too early because it was difficult for another 5-10 minutes, but eventually the mess cleared and I continued on nice trail.

The light was fading, so I stopped at an overlook, got my headlamp out and taped another hot spot, this time on my right foot.  With some sadness I watched the daylight disappear and then the world shrunk to the small space I could see in the cone of my headlamp.  After a few more miles and several gates/stiles (to keep mountain bikes out?), I got to the powerline which connects Rattlesnake to Tiger.

I’d scouted this a few days previously, and when I showed a picture and described it to someone, they said “what, is this like the Barkley?”  No, but there is some routefinding in this section and it really helps to scout first.  From the trail, you hit the clearing and turn left down the powerline.  A game trail gets helps you get through the scrub quickly, and then you turn left down a service road.  There’s nothing tricky about the road – except that this felt like a place where I could run into bears and cougars, so I moved to the other side of the road when I heard noise in the woods ahead of me.  I trotted along, occasionally looking over my shoulder to see if there was a herd of cougars following me in the darkness.  After a mile or so, the powerline bends left and shortly after there’s a tricky switchback off the road to the right that leads you onto a path into the woods – I hit that but then went in circles for a bit finding the path to the exit further down the powerline.  After a few tries, I finally found it and exited just past a steep slope.  As I came back out into the scrub I called out “hi bears, just passing through.  I’m friendly, nothing to worry about.”  Then it was a steep descent down the rutted service road (all in darkness, by headlamp) and out onto the flats on the way towards the Raging River.

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The Rattlesnake/Tiger crossing (in daylight).  You can see the end where it bends in the distance.  It looks straightforward, and parts are, but there are lots of opportunities to get into trouble here.

I could hear cars on the road (on the bridge above the Raging River) somewhere ahead.  You can’t see the road (in my case, the headlights of the cars on the road) until the very last moment when you come over a rise – the bridge is ahead and the Raging River is somewhere in the darkness underneath it.  The service road got swampy, then turned into a stream, and then narrowed into a little creek/path with blackberry brambles grabbing at me.  I worked my way down and found the final stream to the river.  Needless to say, my feet were soaking at this point – no matter though because I was about to be in water up to at least my thighs.

When I’d scouted the Raging River a few days previously, I’d had to cross it with one pole (I’d dropped the other somewhere, and didn’t find it until about 3 hours after I’d dropped it, on my way back – which tells you how few people go there).  The water was crotch deep and moving along pretty well, and the rocks on the river floor were round and slippery.  The crux wasn’t more than 8 feet wide but it was still a bit hairy with just one pole.  This time, with two poles and knowing what was coming, it didn’t seem bad even in the dark.   I crossed, filtered water, and headed towards Deep Creek.

Deep Creek isn’t that deep, but the banks on either side are 12-15 feet sheer drops and unless you hit the right spot it’s very difficult to get down to the creek or up the other side.  I’d spent 20-30 minutes hunting for the right spot during my recon, and after I found it I spent a few more minutes “practicing” getting to the right spot.  That paid off during this run – as soon as the trail got swampy and started dropping towards the creek, I took the right turn onto the little path, and then dropped over the edge into bushes part way down, picked my way through more bushes, and found myself at the creek exactly where the green ribbon was hanging (George Orozco aka Mr. Issy Alps put this up).  I crossed, worked my way up through the stream/swamp/path and eventually reached the service road taking me to Tiger.

Excited to put on dry socks at last, I stopped and reached into my pack.  I pulled the socks out and noticed they were… wet.  “That’s odd – I haven’t fallen into any creeks.  Oh.  Doh.  18 hours of sweat soaking into my pack.”  For a moment I considered putting them on anyway (“I was going to change socks.  It would be good to change socks even if they are wet.  Right???”) and then pushed them back in my pack and continued.

I really liked the service road/NW Timber Trail segment.  I’m not sure why – I think it was new, I was past the dreaded connector and probably halfway, and the NW Timber trail just felt fun to move on in the middle of the night.  I felt really alone but basically safe and the trail passed quickly.  Then I turned up the East Tiger road and… fell asleep.  I kept moving forward but every minute or so I’d find myself lurching to one side or the other, as if I’d dropped off and caught myself just before faceplanting.  The 4 miles to the top seemed to take forever.  Sitting down/napping didn’t seem like a great idea with all the cougars waiting to pounce on me, so I continued.  I passed a road on the right and decided that would be the road I’d take after coming down from the summit.  Eternity (ok, maybe 0.7 miles) passed and I found myself at picnic tables on what seemed to be the summit looking down at town lights below.  I looked around – fenced service areas, communications towers – and decided I could lie down without being eaten.  I lay on the picnic bench for about 2 minutes, closing my eyes and getting cold in the breeze.

When I opened my eyes I was awake again.  I ran easily down the hill back to the road I’d seen.  “This must be the Preston grade.”  I started along the road and checked the nav device to make sure.  “Huh?”  My brain still wasn’t working great but after a while I realized it was NOT the right road, and I’d run down past the right path several minutes before.  I looked at the nav device again, and it seemed to be telling me that I hadn’t actually made it to the summit either.  “Crap.  Oh well.”  I turned around and hiked with purpose back up the hill, past the trail I would take once I’d really summited, and back up to the picnic tables.  When I got there, I looked around for something higher, didn’t see anything, and pulled out the nav device again.  At this point I realized what had happened – the device thought I was further back on the trail and hadn’t done the summit portion yet and told me to go up there.  So, all told, moving and making decisions while I was asleep cost me a good 1.5 miles/30+ minutes.  At least I was awake again.

I dropped back down – only partway this time – poked around, and eventually found the correct path.  I scuffled along, sort of running, sort of walking, mostly interested in staying upright with daylight 1-2 hours away.  I don’t really remember when the sun came up – I think I was close to the Bootleg trail connection but this was all new to me and I just remember traveling what seemed like a very long distance to get from the East Tiger summit down to High Point.  I knew I’d have to pass through the homeless Tent City at High Point – I didn’t know what to expect – but at 6 am on a Sunday morning it turns out that the 40 tents lined up are pretty quiet.  At ~26 hours in, I’d reached the 100k mark.  “2/3 done.”  (Yeah, about that.  100k is about 62 miles.  2/3 of ~103 miles is about 68 miles.  I don’t know the real distance to High Point but if it’s actually 62 miles, I was about 6 miles short of 2/3 done, which is 1 1/2 to 2 extra hours at ultra pace – a non-trivial difference.)

From High Point I had ~4 pretty good hours.  I know West Tiger really well, and the hike to the summits of West Tiger 3/2/1 went quickly.  There were already weekend hikers out and a few passed me as I unpacked my “last 1/3” foodbag into my pockets.  I called Janet near the #1 summit and gave her a quick update.  I told her I was going to try to do this last segment in about 10 hours.  As I was saying goodbye, I reached a fork in the trail and managed to make a wrong turn while I was talking to her.  5 minutes later, I figured it out and got myself back on track.  I also thought about my 10 hour math, and realized I’d done it wrong – I’d forgotten the 3 miles at the end.  10 hours wasn’t completely impossible but very optimistic.

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Looking south from the Hiker’s Hut near the top of West Tiger #1, from an earlier trip.

I flew down the back side of Tiger – I think I covered 5 miles (of the ~32 remaining) in about an hour.  I felt great, and thought that if I could do the downhills at that pace, 36 hours to finish wasn’t completely crazy.  I reached the Issaquah High School, crossed the road, and then started on the Squak/Cougar/Squak section that was all new to me.  Then the climb up the east side of Squak crushed my soul.

I’m not sure what happened – not eating enough (I was pretty tired of all the food I was carrying by this point), running too fast down Tiger, the relentless steep climb, the fact that the “level” East Side trail was slightly uphill the whole way?  Probably all of those things.  But after feeling great coming down the previous hill, I hated life going up this one.  My right foot was also really starting to hurt on the bottom – maybe a blister or maybe maceration from being wet, but something wasn’t right.  I didn’t think I could do much for it, and I was “almost done”, so I ignored it as much as I could and continued.  Miles crawled by.  I filled my bladder and managed to spill a bunch of Tailwind on the ground in the process.  I looked at it, puzzled, and did nothing to clean up the pile of white powder – I just continued on. (I did realized this though a bit later, and cleaned it up as much as I could on my return trip several hours later).  I got a little lost at the jog from the East Side trail to the West Side trail.  And then finally the West Side trail headed down – genuinely down – to the road.

Crossing the road wasn’t fun.  How far do I travel down the road?  Why is the shoulder so uneven?  Why are those cars going so fast past me?  Am I even headed in the correct direction?  Eventually I found the Squak/Cougar connector trail and turn up that.  It went up and up and up some more.  Then the Wilderness Creek trail – more up.  Then winding around on the Deceiver and Shy Bear trails, where I’d run a half mile just to make 0.1 mile of forward progress towards the west side of the park.  “People run at Cougar all the time and I’ve never been here before.  Stupid.”  I was relieved to turn onto the Indian Trail – straight, wide, not trippy.  I called Janet and told her “10 hours was delusional.  I think I’ll be down about 3 hours after I start back up Squak.  Maybe 6:15pm/38 hours.  But figure 3 hours from the start of Squak.”  I hiked up the Quarry Trail, then Shy Bear, and then made a detour up to Wilderness Peak after missing a turn due to 6 people standing in the intersection where I was supposed to turn.  (Wilderness Peak is about 25 feet above and 0.1 miles from the correct path – so not a big deal.)  Back down to the correct turn, then an endless descent down the Wilderness Cliffs trail and down the connector.  I collected water for the last time and headed down towards the road, filter bag pressed to my head.

Back up Squak – the climb from the west side was much easier than the east side climb.  The East Side trail really had been all uphill because it was slighly downhill most of the way in this direction.  My foot hurt a lot walking or landing on roots, but it gradually dulled whenever I ran for a bit.  I had my favorite hallucination during this point – a red “No vehicle traffic beyond this point” sign nailed to a tree in the middle of nowhere turned into some weird contraption with two guys dangling from it in climbing harnesses.  When I got closer the two guys turned out to be moss dangling in the breeze.  Down the East Ridge trail, back on the pavement, across to the High School, about one hour left.  Looking at about 38 1/2 hours to finish.

It was hot down there at ~5:30pm.  It was a warm day and whenever I was lower down I felt it.  Thankfully, up high it was cooler and there was usually a nice breeze to keep me comfortable.

I ran the flat path past the high school, managed not to get shot by people shooting what sounded like shoulder cannons at the rifle range, and then got a little confused on the short hill up to the Tiger trails.  I had scouted this a couple weeks before because it seemed to confuse people, and I still didn’t remember exactly where to turn.  After a couple more wasted minutes, I was on the Tradition plateau and turning onto the Brinks trail.  I had no interest in running this – my foot hurt, I didn’t want to land on or trip over the roots, and I’d be done soon enough.  I shuffled along as quickly as I could, passed through the powerline sections, hit the boardwalks on the Swamp Trail, and reached the road from the High Point upper parking lot to the lower lot.  I didn’t really know where the end was but I knew I had about 1/2 mile left.  I ran down one hill, walked up a slight grade (saving myself so I could finish running for all the fans – meaning Janet – waiting at the finish) and trotted the last bit.  In the distance I could see a couple people waving.  “Are they waving for me?  That doesn’t make sense.”  As I got to the gate I saw Janet – I hadn’t recognized her – and Van Phan (first Issy 100 finisher and ultra legend – “what’s she doing here?”) and my friend Sam from out of town who had just landed about 2 hours before.  As I passed the gate, I asked Van “Where’s the end?” “Right here.”  Oh, good, I’m done.  Whoopee.  Pffft.  I spent a minute or two understanding why there were so many people waiting for me, and then Van reminded me to stop my watch.  38 hours 26 minutes.  Van offered me a lot of food – most didn’t sound good but the mango smoothie hit the spot.  I got dizzy – like I did when I fainted after UTMB – so I sat down.  Eventually I got in the car with Janet and our friend Sam, and we drove home.  The end…

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Crossing the finish line, from Van Phan”s video.

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No, I didn’t really travel 122 miles.  Strava claims it was 106 miles.

Upon Further Review

This went pretty well.  On some level I had no business doing 100 miles unsupported and solo – there were just too many new things (trails, water filter, food choices, nav device, cougars, etc.).  But I had enough pieces in place that it didn’t seem stupid to try, and I knew I had exit points along the way if things went south.  I’m pretty happy with how it went given how many things could have gone wrong.  And Plain is not as intimidating now.

On a good day, I can see finishing maybe a couple hours faster (I don’t like to think about this because it would only happen if I ran it again, and I’m not ready to think about that):

  • routefinding – I’m sure I lost 45-60 minutes due to wrong turns and bonus miles.  I had few problems on the trails I knew already.
  • running on fresh legs – doing this right after my races wasn’t my best-ever idea (but far from my worst also).
  • food choices – I got really sick of the food I had after about 24 hours and should have put some new/different stuff in the 3rd bag for the last 1/3 of the course.
  • foot problems – This is ironic, but I think the epsom salts soaks in the days before my journey did in my right foot (the painful one).  When I took my (foul-smelling) shoe and sock off, I had a big blister on the sole of my foot, two on my heel, and another on my toe.  I don’t usually get blisters and certainly not to that extent.  I’ve had wet feet for a long time before without blisters, and my left foot was blister-free this time in the same conditions.  The one thing different about the right foot this time was all the epsom salts soaks in the preceding days for the toenail problem.

Kudos to George Orozco for figuring this route out.  It’s long, it’s hard (about 30000 feet of climbing along the way, like climbing Mt. Everest from sealevel), and even though it’s close to Seattle it feels pretty wild and empty.

And kudos to Jeff Wright, who finished his unsupported solo run this past weekend, stealing away my “oldest finisher” title after I’d held it for just a week.

Gear (huge thanks to Yitka Winn and Van Phan for documenting the stuff they took on their unsupported attempts – I basically copied their lists and then tweaked them a bit):

Stuff I used:

  • Altra Olympus shoes
  • Feetures elite socks
  • A thick coat of TrailToes on both feet (works great if you don’t soften feet with epsom salts first)
  • Dirty Girl gaiters (the Hyponatremia pattern – you wanted to know, right?)
  • Nike dry fit compression shorts (I don’t like Nike but these shorts don’t chafe)
  • Merino wool short sleeve shirt
  • Band-Aid brand “nip guards” (aka bandaids to prevent bloody spots on my chest)
  • Body glide on every possible chafing spot
  • Seven Hills hat
  • Ultimate Directions PB v3 pack
  • Black Diamond Z-poles
  • Platypus 70oz bladder
  • Sawyer water filter, 64 oz bag, and hydration tube attachment
  • Petzl Nao headlamp
  • Fenix flashlight and spare batteries
  • Arm sleeves
  • Running gloves
  • Phone with photos of all the maps + charging cord
  • Garmin Inreach nav/tracking device + charging cord
  • Suunto Ambit Peak watch + charging cord
  • Ankor 3500mah portable charger
  • Warm hat
  • Small Leatherman knife
  • North Face light raincoat
  • GoPro camera

Spares/Just In Case – carried but mostly didn’t use:

  • Ultimate Direction body bottle
  • Mini first aid (pepto bismol, that long bandage I had to carry for UTMB, money, large and small bandages, Squirrels Nut Butter sample, hand sanitizer, a couple tiny toothbrush things, Leukotape wrapped on lipbalm, and that piece of paper with my name and phone number that Janet wrote for me in the car on the way to the trailhead when she asked if I had id and I said “no”, tp, sunscreen)
  • That SOL emergency bivy sack I had to carry for UTMB
  • That wet pair of spare socks

What I’d change:

  • Put things I want to keep dry inside of a waterproof bag – doh.

Food (carried ~8500 calories, ate about 7000):

  • ~25 servings of Tailwind (some with caffeine for the night) – 2500 calories
  • 3 Rxbars – 600 cals
  • 12 gels (some with caffeine) – 1200 cals
  • 6 Gu and HoneyStinger waffles – 900 cals
  • 3 bags of TrailButter – 2400 cals
  • Crushed potato chips (Thank you Yitka Winn!  Great idea.) – 450 cals
  • Trader Joes pretzel slims (good but too dry) – 450 cals

I should have carried one less TrailButter (unappealing after 24 hours), less Tailwind (I like getting the nutrition with the water but at times I just needed plain water) and one or two fun/yummy things for the end (baby food pouches, dried fruit, different bars?).

Documentation:

Movescount: http://www.movescount.com/moves/move157690894

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/1000315452

Van’s video of me finishing

My GoPro footage (you’ll notice that I took less and less as the run went on – I wonder why?)

Posted by: pointlenana | May 19, 2017

Issy Alps 100M Attempt

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The Quick Version

  • 100 mile point-to-point (mostly) run from Mailbox Peak near North Bend to High Point/Tiger Mountain
  • Unsupported solo – carry everything from start to finish, refill water from streams, no one with me
  • Starting Saturday May 20 around 4am Seattle time, live tracking here
  • Goals: 1) Finish 2) Finish in daylight the second day 3) Fast time

If you want more:

Local ultra runner George Orozco figured out the Issy Alps 100 course a few years back and tracks finishers for 50k, 100k, and 100 mile versions.  Since this became A Thing, 8 different people have completed the 100 mile course. (There are more than 8 finishes, since some people – and in particular Van Phan – have done it more than once).

George tracks finishes in different styles:

  • Supported – friends meet you along the way with supplies and/or run portions of the course with you.  This means lighter packs and help with stuff like route-finding when your brain tires after being awake for too long.
  • Self-supported – no company but you can stash supplies along the course so you don’t have to carry as much in your pack.
  • Unsupported – no company and you carry everything from start to finish except for water, which you get out of streams.  Van Phan and John Barrickman ran together but each supported themselves, so there are also Solo and Team variations on unsupported.

I am going to do this unsupported and solo.

As of now, only 2 people have officially finished Unsupported Solo – one is the only person to have crossed the Grand Canyon 6 times in a continuous push, and the other has climbed Mt. Everest.  Another person, Yitka Winn, made it 99 miles but her attempt ended abruptly at 3am, one mile from the finish, due to a couple creepy encounters.  A 4th person, Richard Kresser, recently did the route backwards but had to skip a hill near the end due to some construction – it’s not clear if that will get counted.  (Richard – who won the Bigfoot 200 mile race in 2016 – does hold the Fastest Known Time for Supported  from an earlier finish.)  The guy finishers intimidate me, but Yitka’s near-finish is the most impressive to me – I’m a little skittish about being out there alone in Twin Peaks land and I’m a guy, presumably with fewer things to worry about.  Yitka is also the one that makes me think this is reasonable for me to try – she and I ran similar times at UTMB which might be comparable.

I will start with a heavier pack with lots of food, and it will gradually get lighter as I eat the contents.  Janet will drop me off at Mailbox Peak early Saturday morning, she’ll pick me up sometime later at High Point, and I’ll be on my own in-between.  It will be the weekend, so I’ll see a fair number of hikers along the way but, for example, it will probably be me alone in the woods Saturday night.

My main goal is to finish.  Beyond that, here are some interesting times (full results here) to know about:

  • 53 hours 26 minutes – the current official Fastest Known Time (FKT) for Unsupported Solo, run by Seth Wolpin last fall.
  • ~42 hours – when it gets dark my second day out.  I’d really rather not be out there a second night.
  • ~40 hours – estimated finish time for Yitka, if she’d been able to run that last mile.
  • 35 hours 41 minutes – the time it took Richard Kresser recently to do most of the course backwards, unsupported and solo.
  • 31 hours 17 minutes – Richard’s Supported FKT.

At some point, someone very fast will do this – Gary Robbins lives up the road – but at the moment there are no insanely fast times.  (Well, maybe I’ll change my mind on that after I’ve tried this.)

36-40 hours seems reasonable for me based on other things I’ve done, but there are lots of unknowns.  How much time will a heavier pack cost me?  Will the two big climbs right at the beginning wreck me for later?  How much time will I spend filtering water?  Can I stay on course, especially in the trickier section coming off of Rattlesnake Ridge?  Will Yitka Winn’s “friends” visit me also?  Will I experience life-threatening crotch chafing?  Etc., etc., etc..

I’ll be carrying a Garmin Inreach partly for my own safety (it has satellite SOS and texting capabilities) but also because it enables people to track me.  Starting Saturday morning, go to my page on the Garmin site and you’ll be able to see my progress.

This is happening faster than I expected.  I got interested about 3 weeks ago – mostly in the context of training for Plain 100 later this summer.  I figured I’d do a lot of recon and pack experiments, and do this in June sometime.  But there’s a recent trailhead closure on the route that makes weekends better, our weekend schedule is complicated for a while, and the weather (after being pretty horrible for many months) looks promising for this weekend.  I think I’ve done adequate recon and prep so I’m going take advantage of the weather.  Snow up high will slow me down a little bit, but that seems better than waiting an unknown time for things to line up again.  I do want to thank Janet for being patient about “all Issy Alps, all the time” the past week or two – getting this done earlier will be good for her too.

One last thing – as near as I can tell, the oldest finisher in any style so far was 47 years old.  I’m 55.  I may lack youth and natural speed but I’m trying to make up for that through bad judgment.  And I’ll be inspired by some other “wise” people I’ve been fortunate to cross paths with in the running world – Bob H, Scott M, Ken T, Gunhild S, Bev A, George S, Roxanne W, Jim E, and Bruce L to name a few.

Posted by: pointlenana | May 2, 2017

Canyons 100k – April 29, 2017

My friend Jeff and I made a quick trip to the Sierra foothills this weekend to run the Canyons 100k – about 31 miles of the Western States course covered as two out-and-backs from Foresthill.  We started by running up the course through Volcano Canyon, Eldorado Canyon, and then into Deadwood Canyon.  Just before Swinging Bridge we turned around, ran ~16 miles back down to Foresthill and continued on towards Rucky Chucky (where Western States runners have to wade the American River).  Then we turned around and ran back to the finish at Foresthill. There’s a total of about 15000 feet of climbing during the day so it’s a fairly challenging 100k.

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It was fun showing Jeff around before the race.  We picked up our bibs at Auburn Running Company, which has a lot of Western States history on its walls.  We stopped by the Placer High track, where Western States runners finish their 100 mile journey.  We drove out to Robie Point, where runners exit the Western States trail to run the last 1+ mile of pavement to the finish.  As we were leaving Robie Point and heading back to town, I said “I think Ann Trason lives somewhere around here”.  Just then a car came towards us – I had to pull to the side because the road was narrow.  We looked at the driver of the car as it passed and I said “oh, that’s Ann Trason right there.”

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Jeff at the Placer High track, looking forward to his future finish.

One great thing about doing this race was leaving the crummy Seattle weather for a couple days.  The weather for race day was great – sunny, low 40’s in the morning, highs maybe in the upper 70s.  I was a little worried about sunburn since I remembered the course being pretty exposed, especially towards Rucky Chucky, but there was more tree cover than I remembered and the coat of sunscreen I put on in the morning lasted all day.

I didn’t wear a headlamp at the beginning.  We started at 5:30am, just before it got light, but we ran north on paved road for about 1 1/2 miles and by the time we hit trails I could see well enough.  As we dropped into Volcano Canyon, we hit some wet patches in the trail.  I had read that there was lots of water on the course and our feet would be wet for 63 miles.  Postponing the inevitable, I steered around mud and puddles, and was really glad I did when I watched a guy plant his foot in mud only to have his leg disappear up to his knee in the mud.  He climbed out and said “I’m glad it didn’t suck my shoe off – that would have been a disaster.”  He was unlucky – there really wasn’t much mud after that.

There were plenty of creek crossings though – big ones at the bottom of the canyons and smaller ones along the way, especially on the trail from Foresthill to Rucky Chucky.  The creek in Volcano Canyon was moving along pretty well, so the organizers had strung up a couple safety lines that we clung to as we crossed at mile 3 or so – the water was at knee height and my feet were in fact wet for the 60 miles after that.

I started the race worried about inadequate pre-race bathrooming, and my fears were confirmed as I climbed out of Volcano Canyon towards Michigan Bluff.  I tried to put the discomfort out of mind – presumably there would be portapotties at Michigan Bluff – and tried to pick up time on the downhill fireroads where I could.  Thankfully the single portapotty at Michigan Bluff was empty when I arrived and I left soon after feeling much better.

The ~10 mile run from Michigan Bluff out to the turnaround in Deadwood Canyon all went smoothly.  3 miles downhill to Eldorado Creek – where my friend Charlie took my favorite ultra “running” picture of me during Western States – then a long uphill to the plateau before Devil’s Thumb, and then the steep descent into Deadwood Canyon.  The faster runners started coming back shortly before I started the descent into Deadwood Canyon.  That’s one of the good things about out-and-backs – you see all the other runners.  I counted only 15 runners ahead of Jeff – he was almost out of the canyon as I started to drop in.  Although I remembered the trail having lots of rocks and roots, it seemed pretty smooth and the descent went quickly.  I counted about 85 people ahead of me when I reached the turnaround.  I grabbed my wristband – confirmation I didn’t turn around early – and started back up.

The climb to Devil’s Thumb didn’t seem that bad in the training runs, but it was wretched during Western States.  100+ degrees (not joking), I had already run 48 miles, and it’s very steep – something like 1700 feet of climbing in 1.4 miles.  It wasn’t hot this time though and I wasn’t very tired, so it passed quickly.  Similarly, I remembered the drop into Eldorado Canyon as being tough during Western States – I was still hot from the Devil’s Thumb climb, the rocks and roots seemed really bad, and it took forever for the creek to arrive.  Again, this time it went smoothly and quickly.  That’s kind of how the whole day went – my memory of the trail was that it was hard, and reality generally was easier than I remembered.

When I got back to the Volcano Creek crossing, the day had warmed up and I felt a little hot so I crossed and then plunked my butt in the creek and lay backwards.  That was the first of about 20 creek dunkings for me.  People would see me do that and smile, and some would dunk their hat but for the most part they wouldn’t get themselves really wet.

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Charlie’s picture of me in Eldorado Creek during Western States.

I made it back to Foresthill after about 7 hours, and 31 miles of running – ahead of schedule relative to an estimate I made before the race.  After a quick stop at the aid station – I usually filled my bottle with the Gu Roctane drink, had some oranges, and then left with pb&j or stroopwaffles in my hand – I set off down the road towards “Cal Street”.  We actually ran on California Street for a block as we left the little town of Foresthill, but that whole ~16 mile section of Western States trail from Foresthill to Rucky Chuck is known as Cal Street.  That’s the fastest part of the Western States course – mostly flat/slightly downhill with a few bigger downhills and a few short steep uphills, all on very runnable trails.  (Here’s a video Sage Canaday did of that section – with lots of Pixie Ninja sightings.)

I moved along pretty well, ticking off miles and being diligent about taking 20 seconds at every creek to cool off.  One creek was deep enough that I was able to wade in, squat down and get my shoulders in the water.  There was also a great spot just before Rucky Chucky – a semi-paved wash with 8 inches of water running across it – where I was able to convince another runner to do full immersion after she mentioned dunking herself in a creek.

I only carried one handheld bottle.  I knew that I’d be fine in the morning when it wasn’t hot.  There were two 7+ mile legs during the hot part of the day – to and from Rucky Chuck – but I figured I could tank up my belly in the aid stations and then ration the bottle.  I never actually arrived at an aid station with a dry bottle – close but always a couple sips left.  The only problem with this plan was a) I was counting on calories from the Roctane drink mix and b) the Roctane mix had caffeine in it.  I probably drank 15 bottles of Roctane through the day, and (assuming they mixed the Roctane as directed) that meant I had something like 500 mg of caffeine.  That’s a lot of caffeine, along the lines of Rory Bosio’s UTMB race where she drank enough caffeine “to kill a horse”.  It didn’t surprise me that I had trouble sleeping the night after the race – hotel bed, post-race soreness, and a horse-killing load of caffeine in me.

When I saw Jeff again on his way to the finish, he had moved up a couple slots.  He told me I was in 23rd place.  “Not possible” I thought to myself, and yes by the time I got to Rucky Chuck I had counted 50-something people ahead of me.  (“Just messing with you”, Jeff explained later.  Thanks!)  I turned around and headed back towards Foresthill.

I still felt pretty good – tired of course, and with some tightness in one hamstring – but not hot, no stomach issues, and able to run most of the time even on the gradual uphills.  I wasn’t gaining time relative to my estimate anymore, but I wasn’t losing time either and I wasn’t worried about finishing in darkness.  I caught up to a runner who turned out to be Karl Hoagland – publisher of UltraRunning magazine – and had a nice chat with him.

I was mostly running by myself but occasionally I’d catch a glimpse of someone ahead and then gradually work my way up to and then past them.  At this point I was thinking “pass, don’t get passed” and I was a little surprised to have two people come into the final aid station just behind me.  “Where did they come from?  I haven’t passed anyone for a little while”.  I left pretty quickly – one guy followed me out so I tried running faster and was happy to find out that my hamstring didn’t seem so tight anymore.  The guy stayed with me on the flat but after a mile we hit the final climb (1000 feet in about 2.5 miles) and after powerhiking for a bit I had dropped him.

Near the end of the climb, just before we arrived at Foresthill, I saw another runner ahead.  I was wondering about my age group placing at this point – I had to be doing ok but some of those young-looking people ahead of me probably were in my 50-59 age group.  I worked hard for a mile trying to close the gap – making some progress but not like I had with other racers.  As we got off the trail and onto the pavement, I realized the person ahead was a woman (“not in my age group!”).  I debated whether to be That Guy and pass her in the home stretch.  Someone ran with her for a couple blocks and then dropped off – as I passed him I asked “do you see anyone behind me?”  When he said no I decided to just maintain the gap.  I followed her across the line and congratulated her on a strong finish.

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The finish area was fun – it was a nice evening and with a dry shirt and hat I felt comfortable hanging out.   Jeff was there – he had a GREAT race, finishing in 12:34, 14th out of 326 starters.  Bruce Labelle was there – it was great talking to him again and he told me that when he finished Western States again last summer he had issues and ran the last 70 miles without eating anything (!) by being smart about running slowly enough and burning fat.  Jeff and I talked some more to Karl Hoagland and his wife Erika (who finished in the top 10 at Western States the past couple years).

My official time was 14:09:46, roughly the midpoint of my most optimistic and most conservative projections.  50th out of 326 starters and 5th out of 52 guys in my age group.  I’m pretty happy with this race – no really bad moments, steady progress (pace through the first half: 13:15, pace for the whole race: 13:21), enjoying the creeks, and running all the flats/downhills/gradual uphills.   The event was also great – well organized, great volunteers, well marked, trails that had recently been cleared of downed trees, the safety lines at Volcano Creek, etc..  It’s not surprising given that it’s Western States-world, but it still takes a huge amount of effort and care from a lot of people so thank you.

There were some very strong women out there, e.g. Suzanna Bon (who won Tahoe 200 a couple years ago) is 52 and Jackie Clark (59) both finished more than an hour ahead of me, not to mention the women’s winner Cat Bradley who beat Jeff by more than an hour.

One final note:  Later that evening, I learned that shoes and socks that have been wet with creek water for 16 hours smell really really foul.

Posted by: pointlenana | April 19, 2017

Boston Marathon – 4/17/17

We just returned from the annual pilgrimage to Running Mecca, where I made my annual attempt to have a great Boston Marathon race.  0 for 8 now (although some of those years I approached it as a fun run and wasn’t racing).  I’ve already spewed a gazillion bytes (blog posts and videos) about this race so I’ll just focus on what worked and what didn’t.  Before I start though, most or all of the reason I didn’t have a great race this year is that the day was too warm to run a good marathon for the vast majority of the people running.

Things That Worked (to varying degrees):

  • My orange shorts.  My friend Nick (who is from Tennessee) says there is research showing that wearing the color orange in a race speeds you up by several seconds per mile.  For good measure, my socks were also orange.
  • My speed holes.  These were Jim Walmsley-style speed holes, not Galen Rupp-style holes.  The Walmsley ones work standalone (I hope), but (I suspect) the Rupp ones need to be activated by the medical professionals at the Nike Oregon Project to be really effective.  The idea is to get more airflow under the shirt so you stay cooler.  I thought I would finish the day with a polka dot sunburn, but Janet was right – the angle of the sun and the fluttering shirt worked together and no sunburn.
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    Modeling both the orange shorts (with BAA unicorn logo!) and speed holes.

     

  • My cotton singlet:  Pam Smith won a very hot Western States in part by wearing a cotton shirt and keeping it wet.  I cut a t-shirt down into singlet (and then lightened it further for speed holes).  It kind of worked – whenever I got it really wet I felt good for a bit, but it was hard to keep wet enough.  I also haven’t figured out whether more material is better than less.  E.g. would a wet long sleeve feel cooler than a holey no sleeve?  I don’t think I’m enough of a scientist and/or masochist to do the experimentation on that, so I’ll probably still go with no sleeves in the future.  (Now, if there were a way to get ice reliably while running at marathon pace…)
  • Cold water: I felt hot at mile 5, and someone handed me a bottle of refrigerated water.  I poured all of it on me – wet shirt, wet shorts, and soaked feet that felt cold seconds later.  I felt great for about 10 minutes.  Same for the couple times when I ran through sprayer hoses for more than .25 seconds – getting really wet worked.
  • Trail Toes:  26.2 miles of wet feet can end badly, but as usual, no problems.  Thanks Trail Toes!
  • Running somewhat by feel and heart rate: I had a pacing plan that I mostly stuck to through the half, but I also paid attention to heart rate and how I felt.  I knew I was a little hot in the early miles but then things seemed to even out.  If I had actually run by feel I would have slowed down a little.  This is a convoluted way of saying I could probably trust feel more than I do.

Things that did not work:

  • The Official Weather Provider To The Boston Marathon:  Those folks have really botched it these past two years – warm/hot on race day and perfect running weather the day afterwards.  I hope their contract is up soon and the BAA chooses to get weather from someone else.
  • The weather forecasters:  Even on the morning of the race, I saw forecasts saying it would by mid-high 60s.  NOAA (as usual) was closest to reality with a high temp forecast of ~72, although their forecast discussion on race morning said “temps will easily get into the 70s” which should have been a warning.  Not only were they all wrong at the last minute, but they treated us like boiling frogs in the week before the race.  Decent forecast about a week out, and then each day the forecast temps would rise slightly.  Supposedly it hit 79 in Natick – much higher than the high 60s to low 70s we all were thinking as we rode out to Hopkinton on race morning.  Even in Hopkinton there was a breeze and I was hopeful.  If we all knew “high 70s” we would have adjusted our goals.  But for a week we’d been thinking “might be decent” and then SLAM.  Like last year, most people missed their goals and many by a lot.
  • My second experiment trying to do enough to stay cool and run fast in spite of warm weather.  The weather was similar last year – I tried and failed then too.  This year I did still more stuff (e.g. the speed holes, and getting cold almost to the point of shivering before the race in Athlete’s Village) and it wasn’t enough to make a difference.  In the future, I’m going to add 5 minutes (maybe more) to my goal time for every 10 degrees of temps above 60.  3:25 seemed a lot less interesting to me than 3:20, after running ~3:20 in December.  But maybe I could have made 3:25 if I aimed at that from the start, and it would have been a personal course record at Boston.  It’s just not worth it to try to force an ambitious goal in heat – it’s not going to happen unless you are the 1 in 500 who gets lucky.  Better to cruise a bit and enjoy things.  I feel ok about doing the experiment the second time – one time could be an anecdote – but now I have a huge data set (two races) and can draw statistically-valid conclusions.
  • That woman who clipped my heels:  Coming off of Heartbreak, I grabbed a cup of water at an aid station.  As I tossed it in, someone clipped my heels.  Ok, that happens sometimes in races.  Then it happened again a second later.  I turned and gave my nastiest look to a woman behind me who was maybe drinking out of a bottle .  She said sorry and finally separated.  Unfortunately, she separated forward from me and probably finished way ahead of me.  I am secretly hoping that at some point further down the course she drank from the bottle again and disappeared forever down a storm drain she didn’t bother to look for.
  • Scheduling another hard race right after this one:  At mile 23 or so, when I was tired and clearly going to miss the only goal I really cared about, a voice started shouting in my head, “YOU HAVE A TOUGH 100K IN 12 DAYS!!!  NOW THAT YOUR GOAL IS NOT ACHIEVABLE IT WOULD BE REALLY SMART TO WALK THE REST OF THE WAY”.  I walked a little bit.  I mostly finished with some dignity but the voice was actually right.  I knew a good race here would affect the next one and I was ok with that, but I hadn’t prepped myself for the likelihood that I’d have to keep going in this one when it was hopeless.

My splits:

Miles 1-5 (Garmin/Strava auto-splits): 7:35, 25, 27, 26, 37.  These look fast (my goal was 7:37) but this is downhill and adjusted based on grade, these were fine.  Also, I was copying my successful CIM plan of trying to pick up a few seconds on the downhills.

Miles 6-10: 7:35, 33, 43, 39, 37.  Settled into goal pace.  Heart rate about what I wanted even with the heat.

Miles 11-15: 7:37, 40, 32, 37, 45.  Right on pace through the half.

Miles 16-20: 7:35, 55, 52, 48, 59.  Most of the Newton Hills, where I knew I’d lose time.  I was starting to feel things at this point and it felt like I was losing more time than I wanted to.  But I hadn’t given up, and hoped for a miracle, e.g. a cool breeze, after I finished the hills.

Miles 21-26.2: 8:23, 8:02, 8:22, 8:39, 9:39, 9:11, 8:08.  The 8:23 on Heartbreak worried me, but I knew it was downhill from there.  Unfortunately, even on the downhill I only got an 8:02 so I knew the sub-3:20 goal was done.  From there it degraded and I ended up taking 3 walk breaks for a total of 2-3 minutes.  “Hey, another race in two weeks – the SMART THING is to take it easy now…”

One thing hidden in the split info above is that I was losing at least 5 seconds in every aid station (one every mile) trying to get two cups of water – at least one to wear and some to drink.  Everyone else was doing that too so it was a mess with lots of slowing and near collisions.  So, to stay largely on pace I was actually running too fast in between aid stations.  I didn’t figure that out until after the race.  This is partly why it’s probably pointless to stick to an ambitious goal in a hot big race – if you do the work to stay cool you lose time, and if you don’t you lose time.

Numbers: Official time: 3:28:59, 6774th out of 26000+ finishers, and 189th out of 1537 in my old man’s age group.  Strava

Even though it wasn’t a great race, it was still fairly fun (Boston always is) and the weekend was great as usual – seeing lots of friends and seeing the city turn out for the race.  Already looking forward to the next one.

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My Runners World friends, after our brunch.  I had forgotten this, but while I was running around Lake Tahoe for 78 hours last October, someone decided they should get a foam roller and all sign it.  They surprised me with that at brunch.

Posted by: pointlenana | March 20, 2017

Chuckanut Japandroids 3/18/17

Yesterday started at 4:20am and finished around 12:30am Sunday morning.

I got up early, got ready and headed up to Bellingham for the 25th anniversary of the Chuckanut 50k.  I didn’t really have expectations or high hopes for my race, but that was true last year also and I ended up finishing (last year) in 5:24 which was good for 3rd place in my age group.  This year however, the forecast was for lots of rain in the day before the race and during the race so I knew it would be sloppy and my main goal was staying upright.

The elite competition was strong this year – Sage Canaday, Hayden Hawks, David Laney, Max King (course record holder) and a bunch of near-elite runners showed up on the men’s side, and the women’s race included YiOu Wang and Camille Herron, among others.

I’ve written about Chuckanut several already times, so I’ll just hit the highlights:

  • Max King broke his own course record, finishing in 3:33:11 in sloppy conditions, beating Hayden “The New Jim Walmsley” Hawks by just 31 seconds (3:33:42).  Someone at the finish line told me Hayden was closing quickly but just ran out of real estate.  Must have been fun to watch them fly across the finish line.  Sage took 3rd.  A local unknown (to me at least) Ladia Alberston-Junkins took first in the women’s race (in her first 50k), YiOu Wang took second, another relative unknown from Spokane – Rachel Jaten – took 3rd (and 1st masters) also in her first 50k.
  • Some friends had fantastic days.  My friend Jeff K – who had never had a good race at Chuckanut – ran 4:41 and took 3rd in his age group while beating some very good runners.  Masazumi took 1st masters on a recently-sprained ankle.  Dave L won our age group (as usual).  Roger L placed 22nd overall.
  • It wasn’t the worst day ever for me, but it wasn’t the best either.  I finished in 5:53:10, about 30 minutes slower than last year – 7th in my AG.  I had some regrets looking at the results – 6 minutes faster would have moved me to 4th, and 15 minutes faster would have gotten me 2nd.  But I stayed upright and got a good workout for Boston and Canyons 100k next month.
  • I’m not sure exactly where the time went for me, but I think it breaks down something like this:
    • ~5 minutes for gear issues.  I’ve always run Chuckanut with just a handheld bottle and no extra clothes.  With the weather though, and my recent experience getting really cold at Black Canyon, I decided to err on the side of caution and wore an ultra vest to carry a raincoat, warm hat and gloves.  With hindsight, I would have been better skipping the vest, starting the race in gloves and putting the warm hat in a small SpiBelt.  As it was, the vest caused my iPod shuffle to come off my shorts and in trying to get it back on I managed to drop it in the mud.  I had to work upstream through runners to pick it up.  Once I did, the iPod didn’t work great anymore and I lost another minute or two fiddling with it as I ran before finally taking it off and sticking it in the vest.  I also waited too long to put on my gloves, and by the time I did my hands didn’t work very well so I again had to pull aside and work the gloves on.  I never wore the hat or the rain coat – once I got the gloves on my arm warmers, wool shirt and baseball cap were enough.
    • 5-10 minutes because it looks like the course was a little longer this year.  After running a slightly different course the past few years, they reverted to the original course this year for the anniversary.  This didn’t stop Max King from running it faster, but other people took a little longer and my Garmin track is 1.2 miles longer than last year.
    • That leaves ~15 minutes for a combo of mud, getting old, and giving up.  I had to pull aside 3 or 4 times in the first 15 miles to deal with stuff, and each time I did, lots of runners passed me.  I thought it would even out – if I had a good day in me I’d pass them back later in the race.  But I didn’t realize that each one of those people would chew up the trail a little more in front of me.  It looks like I lost most of my time in the more technical, muddy sections.  So in a sense, the slower I went, the slower I got because the trail degraded a little more.  Part of the problem is that it was rainy, foggy, and kind of dark, and my old man eyes don’t see quite as well in those conditions – wanting to stay upright I went a little more cautiously than I might have.  At some point, it was clear I wouldn’t be close to last year’s time and I didn’t seem to be having a great day, so I reset my goal to finishing under six hours which seemed possible but not a sure thing.
  • On the plus side, I did go pretty fast for the last 10 miles down Fragrance Lake Road and on flat final 10k.  Probably not quite as fast as at the Lost Lake 50k or Chuckanut last year, but definitely not in give-up mode, and I passed most of the other racers I encountered.  My watching was showing ~7 minute pace over the last mile or so.
  • The best part by far was seeing lots of friends at least briefly throughout the day.  Counting racers, volunteers, and spectators, I probably saw 30 people from around the NW that I tend to only see at races.  Thanks to all the people who volunteered.
  • I got a kiss from my friend Yvonne at the Kissing Booth at the Chuckanut Ridge aid station.  Yvonne just ran 131 miles in 24 hours, qualifying for the Irish National 24 hour team – and will represent the home team at the World Championships in Belfast in July.
  • There were also plenty of elite sightings, e.g. Ellie Greenwood was out cheering for us, David Laney recognized me from seeing each other at Greenlake, Sage was walking around with his mom at the finish, and Max King was next to me as we dropped off our finish line bags.
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Yvonne at the Kissing Booth.

Laney

Just a couple of guys who run around Greenlake.

I left fairly quickly after the race, drove home, cleaned up, ate, and took a short nap.  Right around the time that I’d normally think about bed, Janet and I dragged ourselves out of the house to see Japandroids at the Neptune.  (If you live west of the Rockies, you might have heard the show.) We’d never heard of the opening act (The Uptown Controllers?) but feared that we’d go to sleep if we waited so we were there in time for the start of the show.  The crowd had the usual northwest mix of college students, lumbersexuals, and people older than 30.  It’s possible we weren’t the oldest people there.

It turned out the opener was Craig Finn (of The Hold Steady) and his solo band (The Uptown Controllers) – that was fun.  After he played, we pushed our way towards the stage, trying to avoid the usual situation where very tall people push right in front of our formerly-awesome spots on the floor.  We ended up 3 feet from the stage, about where the Japandroids drummer plays, with no tall people in front of us and a clear view.

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The calm before the storm.

Japandroids opened up with Near To The Wild Heart Of Life.  About 20 seconds into the song, someone in the audience crawled onto the stage and then fell backwards onto the people to the left of us.  “Huh – haven’t been to a show like this for a while”.  A moment later I was almost knocked over as a mosh pit broke out just to the left of us.  Janet eased away and I pushed to the stage to brace myself.  A few minutes later – maybe during Adrenaline Nightshift – another guy near me pushed onto the stage, somehow using his face for leverage.  He stood there for a moment and then suddenly flew his 200+ pound body into the crowd at high speed and a flat angle.  There was a commotion where he landed – I guess everyone ducked – and security helped him off the floor.  After that, the drummer said something like “It look liked that was self-inflicted, but take care of each other out there.”

Things settled down a tiny bit after that, but we watched the rest of the show with half an eye on the chaos to our left.  Japandroids played for at least a couple hours, all at Fire’s Highway energy level.  It was their last show in the US before they return home to Vancouver, and they liked the crowd energy.  A lot of sound from just two people – it felt like my body throbbed for about an hour after the show from the Continuous Thunder.

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