Inaugural event. I have done races including marathons on nice packed gravel trails but this will be my first race with serious elevation gain and what they call "technical" trails. 1,700 foot elevation gain in four miles, then back down the way we came. I am somewhat worried because yesterday I had lingering soreness in the quads from the six hour endurance run of the week prior and I ran the 10K yesterday at top effort. With the loss of an hour due to daylight savings, my legs did not want to get out of bed this morning. But I did manage to get up and take the short drive to the Capitol Forest. Capitol Forest is state property that is managed for multiple uses including logging and hunting. Many of the trails are rocky, steep and tough. There are lots of logging roads and trails that intersect, a great place to get lost and I generally avoid it for the safer, easier trails of Mount Rainier, or the Olympic Mountains. I did climb Rock Candy Mountain with Jody and the boys about ten years ago and I look forward to being able to race here. The cost was $15 including a great looking T-shirt. I was debating whether or not to carry some fluids when I learned that volunteers would be driving one of the roads to the top of the mountain and setting up an aid station. So happy about that. I see a couple of friends including two I have not seen in years. Nice friendly group as I expected. The sun is out but threatening to cloud over. Its chilly and then I notice the snow near the summit. I grab my sweatshirt and will start off wearing it.
Start - Elevation 570 feet. Finish time is meaningless since this is my first run here. Rather than track miles or time, I'll only look at my GPS watch to see what the altitude is. The summit is somewhere around 2,300 feet. I do a half mile halfhearted warm up. Legs are tired, especially the quads, but nothing hurts. Soon we meet for instructions and go.
700ft - Muddy but smooth dirt road at a decent grade up hill. Nothing too bad. I should be going faster here since I know that it will be tougher going soon enough. The event website posted some photos, that I am using here, and that was helpful to have an idea of what to expect.
800ft - Turn onto a decommissioned road. When logging roads are taken out of service the culverts that allow water to pass underneath are removed. As a salmon habitat biologist I think that is a great idea. As a trail racer I am changing my mind. Every two hundred feet or so we have to do a real steeplechase thing, climbing up a mound, then down into the mud and back up again. Its just too big and wide to try to jump over, so its a real time killer. Also I am trying to keep my feet as dry as possible. This is very entertaining, I have never raced on a surface like this before.
1,100ft - Now we enter a real hiking trail. Single track, rocky and steep. Have to walk in places. Pass a couple of guys but none too quickly. I take off my sweatshirt and tie it around my waist. Switchbacks and up up up.
1,900ft - Back onto a logging road. Volunteer there to direct us the right way. Road has baseball sized rocks all over, no way I would drive my little car up here. Opening up to some views but I don't dare look away from my feet. Patches of snow on the side and on the middle of the road. Less steep than the switchbacks, but a couple of tough climbs. Here come the front runners blazing by.
2300 ft - Great to see the aid station and turnaround. Gulp a little Gatorade and head back without enjoying the view. I will need to come back here soon, when I am not racing.
1,900 ft - So great to be heading downhill. Flying down the road, trying to be careful but I feel like I am going so fast after that long uphill slog. I know that I will have to be more careful when I enter the single track switchbacks.
1,600 ft - Now I am picking my way down. I stop to make sure that Ron, who has taken a spill is OK. He is on his feet and moving and seems OK, so I keep working my way down the trail. I am worried that my tired legs might cause me to slip where I otherwise would be sure footed, so I am extra careful, but I feel like I am moving fast. Mike Strong passes me, absolutely flying down the trail, bouncing recklessly from rock to rock. I am amazed at how fast he is going and he is quickly out of sight.
900 ft - Back on the decommissioned road. Don't care about the mud or getting my feet wet anymore. Pick my way over the obstacles, then on to the better road.
700 ft - See two people jogging and I gradually catch them only to find that they have already completed the race and are just cooling down. Nearly there now, I keep up a good effort and finish strong. I wonder how much faster I could have been had I not raced hard yesterday and were not coming off a high mileage week. I guess that I should have been able to make it to the top a minute or two faster than I did, but I doubt that I could have been any faster on the downhill without risking a fall.
Very fun, well organized, low key event that I will plan to run again.
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