Friday, August 24, 2012

After the Stormy

Here’s a little pearl for anyone researching a trail run. If the description of the course reminds you of reading Anna Karenina ;”Alexandrovna Oblonskaya , the second cousin of the wife of Serius Ivanovich Keznyshev, who is the brother in law of the niece named Ekaterina Alexandrovna Shcherbatskaya”…(confused yet?) and the paths you will follow have names like “Tracks From Hell”, “Entrails”, and “Powerhouse Plunge”, and the creator of the event is the HURT 100 course record holder- then you should be prepared for one very wild ride!
Good luck trying to catch them guys, most of you just cannot.
So starts the adventure of the Arc’ Teryx Squamish 50mile run- the creative reinvention of the Stormy run in Squamish , BC. When Linda Barton suggested I come run Squamish as a good training run before the Run Rabbit Run, I mistakenly had the impression that it would be: 1. smooth single track winding around the water, and 2. a nice beer garden at the finish
The run starts in town right on the water – so you are looking at fishing boats with The Chief loomin’ large in the background. It did not take me long to realize that anything 1mile from where I was looking , was straight UP. Then Linda says “oh, you should probably add about an hour to your time from whatever you do at White River”- more like 2 hours, but I’m glad I had a reality check before I started so I knew to pace myself at the beginning. Not an easy task because Gary said “go” and people took off- fast. I kept thinking that Canadians were just really way faster than Americans- which admittedly quite a few of them are, but what it took me awhile to realize is a lot of the runners were participating in a relay! A ha! Note to self, let them go, it’s a long day.

The rolling single track along the river, in the cool morning was a great way to warm things up before you were abruptly heading straight up. The first of many climbs for the day. I had given up on trying to understand the course description because there were so many “go left first time, left second time, right this time, left if it’s 2o’clock, straight if your name ends in S kind of descriptions”. One really did not have to have prior knowledge because the course, as confusing as it was on paper, was super easy to follow because the course markings were perfect.

Within the first 13miles of the run we had encountered steep scree climbs followed by steep loose dirt descents complete with slatted wooden bridges, rocks, roots, drop offs that had me clinging to a tree, peering over the edge, wondering how the hell am I suppose to go down THAT? And of course views…this course is beautiful, but I would not recommend soaking in any of the glaciated peaks, water, or territorial views without firmly stopping for a good 20seconds to make sure another root is not there to grab your ankle.

After the halfway mark there is a section that is one of those left,left,straight areas. You never really repeated loops, but just found yourself at the same decision point. The water stop where you would come 3 times would be the only less than perfect event of the day. The awesome , helpful volunteer who was helping fill my bladder said I would be right back there in 4k. This was welcome news because we were doing a lot of going  up on a sunny road, and I did not relish the idea of carrying a heavy pack, so I just took about 20ounces. Well, I must have been looking fresh, because I think he mistook me for a 21k runner who would be back in 4k.  I actually had quite a bit further to go, and a visit back at the halfway now 36mile mark before I would see him again. An hour into what I thought was a 4k loop , I was feeling pretty demoralized at how incredibly slow I must be moving and trying to figure out the kilometer –mile conversion , wondering just how bad can my math get! My water ran out, but it was not that big of a deal because in about 15minutes I was back at the fully supplied aid station, and grateful that I had covered a lot more distance than I thought. So back to fateful water stop, through the 4k loop that now felt easy, back to the water stop and panicking at how late in the day it was.

Before I had talked to Linda, I had thought the run would take me 9-10 hours. So Corinne and our dog Ivy were waiting at the finish line- and being the awesome , reliable crew, they got there 2 hours ahead of time. This meant they were waiting from 1:00 . My watch at this point was saying something like 3:00. I had felt great all day, ran really well, and still had something in me for a push to the finish. So I did something that I very rarely do, I ran hard for the last 10 miles. Usually, I slow down and crawl up inclines because I perceive myself to be too tired to move any faster. What I learned is , that the slow down at the end is hugely mental. With the self inflicted pressure of not wanting them to wait too much longer, and definitely not wanting Corinne to worry, I kept running- actually running- and another rare thing happened. I passed people in the last 10 miles! The final stretch of single track was the anticipated smooth, wide , shadey trail I had imagined, with a perfectly gentle downhill grade. Apparently , Gary did not want that section to be there because he thought we would be bored! I guarantee you there is nothing about this run that will bore you- there is a bit of something for everyone, but definitely a course for someone who likes technical and hills- I’m pretty sure I was in a minority at crossing the finish line sans blood!

After a good days work
Speaking of finish line- this is where the festivities really picked up. You were given a puzzle piece to use as a token at any one of the food vendors set up at the Farmers’ Market (great idea, no waste), and the generous sponsors had donated a lot of schwag for prizes. Instead of doing the routine of pulling numbers from a hat, Gary made it more like a game show where people had to earn their gift by doing things like grabbing a stranger and sprinting to the beer garden fence and back, or my particular favorite , a capella kareokee. Gary assigned the artist- Jon Bon Jovi! The woman stood frozen for a minute , and you could see her brain saying Jon a Bon a what? When suddenly she burst out in my favorite Def Leppard tune. When a young woman in a skort, who just ran 50 knarley miles, jumps up on stage and starts bumpin-grindin to “Pour Some Sugar on Me” no one in the audience is complaining.

There are so many aspects to this run that I could just gush about, but bottom line is:  this is a really well thought out , organized, welcoming, challenging, Fun event. When I go next year, I plan on taking more time off from work because once you are in Squamish / Whistler area there is so much to do, it’s really hard to leave!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Grey Rock 50K

When it’s Junuary in Seattle and you are hankerin’ for some heat and a yellow orb in the sky, head east! Just outside of Yakima is a great , low key run called Grey Rock. The website claims it to be Washington’s most difficult- I don’t know if that is still true in the age of Rainshadow, but it did offer up over 6,000feet of hurt, and it can definitely claim to be one of the more beautiful runs out there.

This run was special because I was running it with Corinne- to celebrate life! It is one year since the pulmonary emboli scare, so what better way to punctuate health than doing something that sometimes makes you feel like you are going to die? We were joined by training partner and pacer extrordinaire , Jennie Mao- who was doing her very first race! She has paced me at CCC and Bighorn, but has never wanted to put that number on her shorts. Our friend Kate McClean ran until she turned around since her intent was the 24k event.

Van shared a hotel room with us on Friday night, drove us to the start, and that would be the last we would see of her since she shot up the trail and never looked back!  We did get to see her blazing down from the turn around, looking strong, relaxed, and fast!

The run is almost entirely single track. You start around 4,000 feet so it is nice and cool. The first 3 miles or so is up. As a matter of fact , the easiest way to describe the course is to say you go up-down-up turn around go down-up-down! The trail winds through wildflowers, old fire areas with the bleached white and the charred black skeletons of trees which provide homes to birds that seemed to growl at us during the early morning, then laugh at us in the afternoon. You are inundated with spectacular views – Mt Rainier, Mt Adams, even Mt Hood! The upper section opens up into green, lush meadows where snow has only recently melted. This meant plenty of creeks to revitalize as the day heated up as you worked your way back down, by going up, to the finish.

When I convinced Corinne and Jennie to do this run, I promised we would take our time and enjoy. I think we did a pretty good job of that- spending lots of time at the aid stations sampling the homemade (completely homemade- like roast your own peanuts homemade) peanut butter, assortment of salty chips, and icey drinks. Every aspect of the run was like this- homey, friendly, well organized, etc...

You will see from the finish line photo, the Liberty water bottle you get- very cool – with the greentrails map of the course you just explored. Ms. Dee supplied the very authentic BBQ at the finish line, and the Ahtanum creek (I think) helped with the cold soak.

The other advantage to heading to Yakima is the promise of good Mexican food for dinner! Unfortunately, all the family run places were closed due to the 4th holiday, but the good news is the Yakima Farmers’ market happens Sunday morning and Antijitos was there to make fresh tortillas to go with your fresh peaches and cherries. Then just a few blocks away, you can get yourself an ice cold blended coffee treat for the road at the Northtown Coffee house. I’d say the trip to Yakima was well worth it, and pretty sure should become an annual event! g

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Bighorn 100

At the beginning of May,  I feared my Bighorn run was not going to become a reality. During an Issaquah Alps run I rolled my ankle which resulted in a tib-fib ligament tear , also known as a "high ankle sprain". So,  while most people talk about weekly mileage, I can give you my monthly mileage- in all of May, it was a good 80miles (Lost Lake 50K and SunMountain 50 mile). What I did to supplement my training were some long bike rides- anywhere from 40 to 65miles with as many hills as possible. So for any of you out there unable to run, or needing to cut back on mileage, I am a firm believer that we can become better trail runners with "tits - time in the saddle"!
We arrived in Wyoming on Wednesday. We always stay at our good friend, Bev's, amazing home in Story. Story is about 45minutes from Dayton, the start of the run, and sits at somewhere around 5,000 feet.  Altitude is always a serious challenge for me, headaches, weakness, nausea, you name it. So 5,000 was good enough to bring on the symptoms and hopefully get them out of the way prior to the Friday morning start. Thursday everyone heads to Sheridan for the "medical check”, schwag pick up, and drop bag deposit. This year the goody bag was full of fun surprises- a Bighorn 100 running hat, I love Bighorn socks, tech t-shirt, Hammer gels, Pro Bar, stickers, etc. As if that was not enough Bighorn fashion, the finishers all received a snuggly fleece blanket and a really nice Asics jacket- I am unable to leave my home without some sort of Bighorn label on my body!

 The run starts at 11:00 am on Friday near the Tongue River Trail head, but everyone is required to go Scott Park in Dayton at 9:00am for the race briefing. The race briefing this year was much more calming than last. Snow levels were really low this year, so we would be running the true course with minimal patches of snow, and bridges were over all the major creek crossings. Once the briefing ends, people find their way 5miles down the dirt road to the trailhead. Jen Edwards from Olympia (Cap Peaks 50 winner) hitched a ride with us and we all waited for what seemed like an eternity for the run to begin.

 Since I knew my training was less than ideal I had no intention of 'racing'. This is a strategy I always try to incorporate, but usually get too competitive and end up running someone else's run - which usually means an implosion at some point. This year, it was much easier to relax and take the zen approach-there were quite a few really strong women who showed up this year so even if I had trained, I don't think I could have hung with them.

 The temps were really pleasant and the sky was really blue so the beginning of the run on the road for 1.5miles , then up the Tongue River Canyon was super-hot. I think quite a few people pushed too hard on this section. It is a really long, relentless climb, and you can see up forever, so you can see where everyone else is. I thought I was doing a really good job of keeping the effort easy- well, as easy as running at 5,000 to 9,000feet can be. I asked some of the guys I was running with what their goal time was, and all of them said 24hours- whoops- so maybe I was going faster than I should. I was running with my hydration pack so I did not need to stop at all of the aid stations, but was happy to pull into the Dry Fork- the first major stop and the first time to see Corinne. I spent more time here than intended, waiting for the porta potty to open up! During this time, four women passed I did run a little harder to catch up...then realized I would never be able to keep up, and I needed to chill. Much to my surprise, I did! I eased into my pace and watched Missy Gosney and Suzanne Lewis take off (Darcy was probably already at Porcupine)!  I would play cat and mouse with Jody Aslett and Emily Brackelsberg for a few more miles, but then I think we all just settled in.

 The course takes a muddy turn between Bear Camp (which we had to divert away from this year since there were truly bear hunters using the camp) and the FootBridge. Not this year. The course was dry! Not just void of mud, but actually dry! It made for much easier running, and I came into the Footbridge feeling wonderful. This was my second time to see Corinne and she deftly took my pack - filled it with GUs, water, and forced me to take all of my warm clothes (never going to make that mistake again)! I also took half of a toasted cheese sandwich- something new for me- to actually eat real food- I like it and I think it was key in not getting nauseous during the run.  It was still light out and warm leaving the Footbridge so it was hard to figure out how to carry my 2 headlamps, jacket, hat, gloves, long sleeved, but worth it. Once the sun went down, the wind picked up, and as you climb up Little Bighorn Canyon towards Porcupine, it gets windy, wet, and some patches of snow.  

The progress here always seems to take more effort than it seems it should. I fell in behind a power hiker which helped significantly. I made it up to Porcupine by 11:00pm- an hour earlier than 2 years ago when I was 'racing'...whoops again! Corinne was here , too, ushered me into the warm cabin where there was a flurry of activity. Runners in various states of despair wrapped in blankets trying to motivate back out the door, music, Sheridan track team, some medical personal checking peoples' O2 sats with a defective pulse oximeter that had my O2 sats at 91%! Fortunately, I was not loopy and feeling good, so they did not think I needed any attention. I was out of the cabin much faster than 2 years ago, and back out onto the road leading back to the snowy marsh land. I ran into Jen here. She was moving well, but feeling the altitude and seemed a little shaken. I tried to encourage her and let her know her pace was really good. Then I headed back down the mountain.  

My impression was that I was moving really well through the night. The footing is difficult and the trail hard to follow so I know I was slow, but I was not doing the death march and I was not looking for logs to sleep on like in the past. I was feeling really good!! This was new for me, and I like it! At the Elk camp aid station there was a beautiful fire so I sat on a log, sipping my Folgers, and soaked in how awesome this all is. One of the volunteers sensed that I might be getting a bit too comfortable and informed me he was setting his watch and I was not allowed any more than 5 minutes- he was so right- as hard as it was to leave, it was the right thing to do- the night was getting cold and I needed to keep moving.

I made it into the Footbridge at sunrise so I was able to leave my headlamps and some of my clothes. Maybe left too many clothes, but thought the sun would warm things up quickly. The wind really picked up at this point, and it was still pretty chilly so it started to become difficult to move my legs, but I still had plenty of energy and wasn't worried because I knew once it warmed up, I would be fine.

 Through Cow camp with their 60pounds of bacon! Back along the jeep road to the DryFork- a section that is brutal! You can see the cars of the aid station for miles- and it's deceptively uphill! Corinne ran down into the valley to hike out with me, and I did have my first hallucination, but it was all good.

At the DryFork the plan was to change my shoes and socks. I had run the first 80miles in the Montrail Rogue Racers and they were great, except the mud up top had left my feet pretty trashed, so putting on the fresh Rogue Flys with clean socks after a foot soak felt like I had new feet and legs! Once again my timing was off, and I started out shortly after the 30K runners, so there would be no more privacy or alone time on the trail. For a brief stint I was running downhill with the 2 lead 50K women, when it occurred to me that this might not be the smartest thing to do, I backed off my pace and knew to save something for the road.

The road was HOT, dry and the most challenging part of the run for me- this is where I struggled to keep moving. I am so thankful that Corinne ran out to meet me at the trailhead and push me to the finish- I might still be out there. Reached Scott park shortly before 2pm- so accomplished my goal of "somewhere between 26-27hours" . The reality is, I was only 40minutes slower than 2 years ago when I was well trained and pushed hard...go figure- maybe I am getting smarter.

As always the soak in the river led to a speedy recovery. Between the sunburn and the cold water, it was great to have the fleece blanket to nap in.

Sunday morning we had the pancake breakfast. I had not checked results, and knew that 5 women had finished ahead of me so I figured I would not be coming home with a rock this year (top 3 in age groups get a rock from the Tongue River), so it was a wonderful surprise when Wendall read my name for 3rd in my age group!  

The race directors and the community of Sheridan and Dayton always put on an incredible event. The mountains are spectacular, the trail challenging, the experience unique - definitely a run I hope to return to year after year.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Yeah, I did the half.

Photo: Takao Suzuki
I have to get my little write-up on the Pigtails Challenge before Van does so my sounds like a little bit of an effort. I have started a few 100's before, but this felt like the first one for a lot of reasons. I feel like I trained for it, I feel like I had some respect for the distance this time and I feel like I wanted the finish. The race was a little south of Renton, around a lake that is fenced in and surrounded by vegetation. You can only see the lake for about 3 seconds as you run by a little break in the trees. It kinda feels like a prison yard, or, how I would imagine running around a large prison yard would feel. On the flip side Van had so many awesome volunteers that the lack of scenery didn't matter. everyone was super cool and she had you run clockwise, then counter clockwise and so on, so that you saw everyone in the race. One thing I like about loop races is you get mental markers, this one had a few. Lets see there was the green frisbee thing, the street light, the dead fish in the grass, the 5 mile aid station, the bench, the Circle J horse trailer, the horse poo smelling area, the 100 mile turnaround point (3 miles to go for the lap, or 7), the gatorade water bucket, the wooden drainage pipe, the house that smelled like pot and had a lot of "stuff" in the yard and the junk yard that you were really happy to see going counter clockwise.
Photo: Takao Suzuki
I had a lot of friends out there. My friend John came up from Portland, Jim came to run some laps as well as Kevin, Brendon, Chris, Adam and my wife Tonya. I was running with an entourage, I felt special (special by both meanings). I did have a pretty major low point around mile 70 something, my calf cramped and I could barley walk on it. Kevin was with me and had a bit of a worried look on his face because I was making some funny noises, but I hobbled into the aid station. I sat for what to me felt like half an hour (I was told that it was about an hour) drank 7 cups of chicken noodle soup, ate some more food, then put on my Montrail Bajadas and came back to life around 12am. At that point I had 3 laps to go. My wife Tonya, Adam and my friend Chris all came out with me for a lap. The last two was just Adam and I, doing are usual, talking about nothing and laughing a lot. It was a great experience, and although I don't think I will run at Lake Youngs again soon. I will for sure run this event again. I definitely learned the lesson that it never doesn't get better (yes it sounds weird, and it works while your running). A big thanks to my friends that came out to support me especially my wife who was there to make sure I was going finish and my friend Adam who made the last 20 feel like the first.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Capitol Peak 55 K

The grunt (it's the hill)
Photo: Glenn Tachiyama

Capitol Peak 50M/55K was not in the plans this year. After a lot of racing last year and a really rough go at Western States in June, I took a break from racing—a 10 month break. To be clear, I ran during this break, but no racing, and running was inconsistent. After the close of last year’s racing season, my focus shifted from running as the pendulum swung to a new balance. Effort was placed in other facets of my life, and I embraced it. It was restorative.

My focus switched back to running about 5 weeks ago. I wasn’t off the couch, and enough work was put in during this time to notice improvements, but not enough to feel sharp or especially fit. The quality was good though: 3 days in Zion with UltrAspire teammates, a few moderately high mileage weeks in between, all capped off by 3 solid days in the Columbia River Gorge in the week leading up to this event. When Glenn Tachiyama pitched the race only a few days before start time, I waffled, but then signed up. My goals were simple: 1) gauge your fitness, 2) have fun.

The race took place in Capitol State Forest, Olympia, WA. The course is generally rolling in between two major climbs and descents, with some small portions of steep rocky and muddy conditions— a true Pacific Northwest trail running experience. The weather was in the low 60s, foggy and at times breezy-- typical for this time of year.

The start involved a few hugs and the usual pre race chatter.RainCityUltraRunning teammate and Fleet Feet Seattle Owner Brian Morrison, as well as Dan Paquette and Eric Barnes were all lined up and ready to go.  UltrAspire teammates Nick Triolo and Rod Bien also toed the line and went on to take the 50M and 55K respective wins, with Rod Bien setting a new 55K course record.

The race
Kathleen and Jennie
Photo: Evrett Billingslea
The race between the 2nd woman and I was on from the start. The first 10 miles went by quickly. I was in front and she wasn’t far behind. At mile 11 she caught me, asked if I was running the 55K (50 M & 55K run together for this portion of the course), I gave her a nod, and shortly after she took off. She looked strong. The thought of chasing occurred, but it was too early, so I was hoping to hold on to 2nd and, if possible, close in later. The next 14 miles involved a lot of ups and a lot of downs. I caught her on the ups and she disappeared on the downs. It was pretty consistent and predictable. Then at Falls Creek Aid Station (mile 25) I asked volunteer, Matt Hagen, how far back I was. He said, “4 minutes”. I felt really good at that point, so I picked up the pace. I knew that unless her pace increased considerably, that I could probably catch her. As I approached the last Aid Station (mile 29), I checked again. The volunteer said, “She’s not far, if you go NOW, you can get her!!”, so I ran straight through that Aid Station, took the pace up another notch and, suddenly, there she was! With about 2 miles to go I caught her, finishing 1st place with less than 2 minutes to spare. I didn’t feel my fittest during this one, but I'm happy with my race, and it felt good to be back after a 10 month hiatus.

Special thanks to John Pearch, of Capitol Peak Ultras and to all of the volunteers who made it happen! Another year, another great event!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Lumberjack 100

I returned for the 3rd straight year to defend my title at the Lumberjack 100 Mile Endurance Run. I wasn't sure how my legs would feel after pushing the pace the week before at the very hilly Squak Mountain Marathon, where I set a course record. Two things were in my favor at LJ. First, the course was in great condition. Except for the now infamous initial early Bobcat Trail (where a spring runs into and is never dry), the rest of the course was runnable. The race directors had placed some pallets down in that boggy section and we only sank ankle deep instead of knee deep if we happened to slip off the boards. Second, different running muscles were needed for LJ. Rather than steep climbs and quad busting downhills at Squak, this was a twisty, undulating trail. It was very difficult to get a rhythm going and quite challenging at night, where lap splits rightly slowed. Without crew or pacer, I had to force myself to continue fueling and moving but was rewarded with breaking my previous record by over 2 1/2 hours with a time of 21:16. To help with my 200 mile race training, I followed this a week later with another course record at the Soaring Eagle 50K. The amazing thing is that I wore the same pair of shoes for all of those races, my now brown instead of red Montrail Flys!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Lake Sonoma 50

“It's fine.”  Those were the words spoken to me by an unknown runner not long after the gun went off at the 2012 Lake Sonoma 50 Miler.  The sun had just started to rise on what would be a gorgeous, sunny California day.  We were within the first few miles of the 2.4 mile road section at the start,  allowing the field to spread out before we hit the single track. A group of 15 or so had formed a pack at the front and created a gap between them and the rest of field.  I was deliberately hanging back, attempting to execute my race strategy to maintain the same pace from start to finish.   While my pace was conservative, it was fast enough to put me at the front of the group behind the peloton. I was intimidated by the 500 meter gap that separated me from a gaggle of talented runners I had no business chasing including such ultrarunning royalty as Nick Clark, Dave Mackey, Dakota Jones, and Hal Koerner.  Upon rounding a turn that allowed me to see clearly who was in the group ahead, I commented to the unknown runner next to me, “Sure is an intimidating gap,” intending to express my anxiety about how little separated us from running with the Big Guns. The stranger calmly said, “It's fine, we are not running with them. We have our own pace. Two, maybe three, runners in the group ahead are setting that pace and the rest are going to pay for it and fall off. We have our own pace. It's fine.” He sounded like Tom Cruise. He looked like Tom Cruise. And he was right.  I had my pace, it was a fine pace and I was determined to keep it that way. Moreover, I decided to make his wise words my mantra for the race.  When I was initially passed by the leading female runner, for example, I told myself, “It's fine, keep my steady pace and I'll finished strong.”  When I passed her later, “It's fine – I'm not pushing too hard, just keeping it steady.”  Whenever I felt hungry, “It's fine, just eat something.”  Whenever I felt really good, “It's fine, don't get too ahead of myself. Keep it steady.” When passed by the leading female runner again, “It's fine, no need to chase, just maintain the easy pace.” And it worked.  I felt good all day. Never had any big highs or big lows just felt steady the whole time. No matter what came at me – hunger, heat, climbs, energy surges, descents, fatigue I approached it all with the same mental attitude of keeping everything Even Steven. It was all fine.   

"Tom Cruise", The Sage
Photo Glenn Tachiyama
It was a gorgeous day and the course was beautiful.  An out and back in the shape of a horseshoe around scenic lake Sonoma in the heart of California wine country.   The race is described as, “One rugged run,” but it's safe to assume this is tongue-in-cheek, as the course description also accurately  informs, “Trail quality is generally good; there are very few rocks and almost no roots. However, much of the trail is seldom used and so you can expect a lot of leaves and sticks on the trail.”  Coming from the Northwest, I did not mind some sticks and leaves on the trail and I'm sure the welcome solar shot of vitamin D gave me an added boost of energy.  In addition, the advertised 10,500 of climbing was  clocked at 9,500 on my altimiter and given the nature of the climbs, mostly soft and rolling, it was a great course to keep the motor running throughout the entirety of the race.  Joelle Vaught and I shared the trail for much of the first 35 miles together before she slowed to battle some heat issues. She was great company as the miles clicked by, discussing the pretty course and the usual long run banter  There were 12 so-called creek crossings, many of which were at least calf deep.  I hit the turnaround in 18th place or so, about half an hour earlier than anticipated, in three hours and thirty minutes, still feeling fresh.   I managed to get through the middle climbs during the hottest part of the day without any issues; then was able to pick up the pace the last 7 miles or so to I catch up to some  Big Guns to put the hammer down.    I finished in 7:29, good enough for a fifty mile PR and 12th place in a stacked field.
Enjoying the rugged terrain
Photo: Glenn Tachiyama

Thanks to Tropical John Medinger of Ultrarunning Magazine and all the hardworking, energetic volunteers for putting on a terrific event.  It was well organized with fantastically stocked aid stations, a well marked course, yummy food at the finish line for runners and crew, and wine tasting the day after!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Umstead 100

Early on and Smiling

Umstead 100 takes place in N. C. Umstead State Park.  The Course consists of eight. 12 mile loops, with just over 8000 ft of gain and loss. There were around 285 entrants. The race was highly organized with friendly people and two main aid stations, which provided accurate time splits and all the good food and support you expect from a well run event. Allison"s parents live in  the area, so it was nice to have family support and a great crew. Thanks Tim and Joan!  We started the day with heavy rain but warm temps, and as the day continued the rain stopped and the heat hit us hard for about six hrs. Allison and I came in to mile fifty in 8 hrs 45 minutes, faster than we had planned for. We were feeling ok, so we kept the pace steady and hit the 100k mark at 11 hrs 10 minutes. Still faster than we had hoped for. Allison did the math and told me that even if we ran a bit slower we would have a good chance at going under 20 hrs. 
Working hard for that sub 20
My goals were to run under 24 hours, with hopes that if all went well on race day I could get close to 20. We pushed on in the heat and hoped for the best. Now the idea of running under 20 seemed real, but as I have learned in past 100 mile runs ... it's not over till you cross that finish line, and there are no givens till you get there!  Mile 75 and Allison and I were still running together. She got that look in her eye as it became dark and the temp cooled off. I knew I would not be able to keep her pace. All of her cross training was about to pay off big time.  We said a quick good bye and I told her to go get it! I knew she was close to the 2nd place women and that she would give it all she had in the last two laps . As we finished the last lap we were met by a epic lighting storm in the park which lit up the sky and shook the ground, A killer way to end a race in the middle of the night!  Allison finished 2nd woman with 18:45 and I was thrilled to get in at 19:18.  We were both very happy/exhausted  at going under 20 hrs.  
Thanks to the race directors and all the friendly people who put on a great race in N. C.
Thank you from Owen

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Dizzy Daze, For My Mom

Photo: Takao Suzuki
My mom, Cynthia at my childhood
home in the Michigan countryside.
When I told a friend that I finished the 100k at Greenlake called Dizzy Daze he said "I wish I could say that I'm proud of you". We laughed, I thought it was a good response, then I said "It's fine, Im proud of myself".  I'm not proud because I did the mind numbing loops, I'm proud because three years ago during the first running I dropped out of the 50k. I did 15 miles and called it quits. You see, I had just flown back into Seattle the night before (10pm) after saying goodbye to my mother, she was dying. I had flown back to my birth state of Michigan 4 days before after finding out that my mom was in the hospital. I booked a flight with the return on Friday so I could get back to work and cover my sisters job also. Flying out to Michigan we thought that my mom was going to get better, it was a day after we arrived and the doctor pulled me aside to let me know that she wasn't going to live much longer. I stayed with her for the next 2 days at the hospital and the night before I flew back home I said my goodbyes. I was signed up for the race already and I figured a run would do me good. When I was in Michigan I kept my chin up, if I had any British friends they would have been proud. But when I started running the emotions poured out, that day I didn't have the heart to run, any race, let alone circles around Greenlake. So on a Saturday in 2012, I saw the lights go by me whilst sitting in my car, I made the decision that I was going to finish the 100k. I ran out, crossed the starting line and started my counter-clockwise march. I took my dog Mabel for some laps, I walked a whole lap with the new 50k course record holder Adam Hewey (3:34ish I think), I ran with Takao Suzuki who has taken my photo many times but this was the first time I got to meet him (he's pretty awesome). Matt Hagen and Betsy Rogers put on a stellar event. I was even lucky enough to have my friends Kevin and Kari come and keep me company for a couple of laps. I will admit, I had a pretty fun day, Laura Houston asked me a couple of times after I did the 50k distance if I was done. I just kept saying no.
Mabel, on her 3rd lap me on my 17th.
When I came out to do the last lap I thought to myself "well, everything hurts, so I might as well hurt while I'm running fast" I think I did sub sevens for the last 4 miles. I gave the leader a high five on the out-n-back (I was told that I scared him because I came flying out of nowhere) I didn't care about place or time I only cared about finishing and I finished the 100k around Greenlake, I did it for my mom. April 1st was the three year anniversary of her death. I wanted to wait until after that day to write this. I did fly back to Michigan the day after I dropped, I took my then 5 year old daughter to see her grandma for the 2nd and last time. She sung her the ABC's, I was proud of her and today I'm also proud of myself.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Chuckanut Un-Race Report

If you want to read exciting accounts of what went down during the race go to the 500 or so other blogs about what happened. This one is all about the behind the scenes. I would like to do a Wizard of Ozz kind of theme for the update. Mainly because Krissy Moehl and Ellen Parker pull together such a great event, but it was saint patricks day. Apparently it's a big deal. So as you may notice from the pictures of the aid station we worked at, we celebrated the holiday with great american tackiness. 
Allen Skytta and Tonya Hoffman started off the RainCity volunteering on Thursday before the race by driving up to Fairhaven, getting some breakfast (the food was good but Allen's water had a dead spider in it) and heading out to Mt. Chuckanut to mark the middle section of the race. As what happened on both days of course marking the weather looked dire but within 10 minutes of starting it cleared for enjoyable sunny days. The trail conditions were pretty good and marking went well, They were even treated to a ride up Cleator road with stops to tie ribbons. Their dog Mabel was also along for the ride and while they were riding up the forest road she decided to jump out of the back of the truck while it was moving. In classic cattle dog fashion she just shrugged off the rolling landing she made and continued up the hill. To the serious relief of Tonya Miss Mabel was ok. 
Later Allen found a burned stick and used the charcoal end to write a little RainCity encouragement to his teammates, unfortunately on race day it was covered in snow. the day wrapped up after about 6 hours of course marking. Day 2 again cleared up and became the most uneventful course marking ever. It's the interurban trail, not much else to say. Allen and Mabel tackled this on their own. If anything could be said about the marking it would probably be "over-marked". 
Come race day and you have some of the best ultrarunners standing in the rain waiting run 12 miles of gravel path, 4 miles of forest road and 15 miles of mud and snow. When the first wave started race officials saw a person who was supposed to start in the second wave heading out. Allen chased him down like a cheetah on a gazelle. He was brought back to the start line, naughty, naughty. 
The Cleator aid station #2 or the leprechauns on acid as someone called them was a great hit. Runners popped out of the serenity of Fragrance Lake to an onslaught of green. People thought they were going to hit an aid station but instead started looking for pots of gold. As Patrick Niemeyer said "it was surreal". Speaking of Patrick he took some time to help Glenn Tachiyama get his forester out of the drainage ditch. The runners were moving so fast that Glenn was risking his life trying to get to the next photo spot. He got out as you can tell from the Little Chinscraper photos. Thank you Glenn and Thank you Patrick. 
The biggest mishap was a course marshall not getting to the turn on Cleator in the second half of the race on time. This led to Max King running to far down the road and losing his lead. Someone made it down their and directed 99% of the runners in the right direction. Daniel Probst headed up aid station #4 and fueled runners with a bottle of Bushmills, it was gone by the end of the race. At the finish line Al Coyle was announcing people coming in but only after scrambling to get power to the speakers when the generator decided it wasn't going to stay running. 

So their you go, a little account of what else happened when some of the worlds top ultrarunners were battling it out on St. Patty's Day.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Post Day on the Trails

Despite the weather looking like it was going to discourage the populace we had a wonderful day. Montrail came out for runners to try out shoes and the Bajada is nice one. I would say it's like a pacific northwest favorite, but it's not. It's just way better. It has cushioning, but doesn't feel blocky, a breathable upper and weighing 10.3 ounces it runs incredibly well. It's not as light as the Rouge Fly, but for the longer hauls I feel it's going to be a "marvelous" (insert Billie Crystal voice) shoe. I will note that it seems to run a half size big so if your trying them on ask for the size you normally wear and for a half size smaller, compare, and tad-ah new shoes. I know that Fleet Feet Seattle should have Montrail's in this week.
As for the trail working part that also went pretty well. Scott Semans, with the Issaquah Alps Trails Club hooked us up with a WTA group to do a little trail maintenance. Like I said the weather wasn't the greatest for trail work but our volunteers are made of pretty stern stuff. Even young Theo Huggins hiked in to help level out some sections of trail. The snow that day looked and felt like bean bag stuffing. It was as if a plane flew from the 70's into the future and dropped it's cargo over Tiger Mtn. That or I haven't seen bean bag chairs anymore so maybe they are being used as artificial snow. Maybe I don't see them anymore because I'm into my middle age and I don't play video games. Hmm I feel that I digress a bit. Anyways, it was pretty cool snow. Fortunately we had soup made by Globespun Gourmet for the runners and volunteers. The organic carrot, potato, and ginger soup was tasty and helped keep everyone warm. We want to thank everyone who participated, it was fun to see people enjoying themselves outside. We are also excited to do this again when the weather is a little better and we can access some more remote trails.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Day on the Trails Feb. 26th

Do you love trail running?  Maybe you've never even run trails, but you thought it sounded like fun.  We've got just the event for you.  Whether you are brand new to the sport or a seasoned veteran, we'd love for you to join our Day on the Trails.

We are going to meet at Tiger Mountain (Highpoint Trailhead)  Sunday morning February 26th at 8am.  We'll offer a carpool from the store as well at 7am.  The plan is to offer a variety of run distances led by the Rain City Ultra Running team members. Whether you are just starting out or a more savvy trail runner, we'll have options to suit you. There will be short (2-3 mile), medium (5-6mile), and long distance (8-10mile) run options.  Montrail<> will be providing demo shoes to try out.

We encourage everyone to stick around after the run to take part in some volunteer trail work.  You can come for just the run.  You can come for just the trail work.  And, of course, you can come for the whole shebang.  Kids are welcome too!  Sounds pretty awesome, right?