My first time here, though I ran part of this course at the Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon almost two years ago. The name is misleading in that we do not climb up Mt Si, but rather go part way around it. There will be a very long gradual ascent, but after the turn around there will be about ten miles of gentle downhill. Rails to trails course, a few rocky places here and there but overall very good for running. 50 mile race started at 6AM. I'll do the 50K that starts at 8:30AM. Also a 57 mile relay race and the event is sold out. Good parking, restrooms and warm area to wait at the Snoqualamie Elementary School. Nice fleece vest instead of a T-Shirt. Its cool and cloudy but we expect sun and warmer temperatures later in the day. I see a few Maniac friends but there are many people I do not recognize. The relay crowd looks young and fast. I feel good and relaxed as we get ready to go.
Start - I want to keep it around a ten minute per mile pace. Its hard to run that slowly in a efficient manner so I will go a little faster than that but take nice long walk breaks every 2.5 miles or so. This seems to work well for me on the ultras. This will be my 4th ultra in the last five months, with two marathons in there as well. We start out on a road, take a bridge over the river and go down a little hill, still on the road. In less than a mile we turn onto the trail and have to climb up steps to a foot bridge over the river.
Mile 1 - Now it is a very flat and straight wide trail for the next 4 miles. Some headwind. We are spreading out and I run alone. I do leapfrog one guy a couple of times as he passes me on my walk breaks, then I pass him while I'm running.
Mile 5 - Across a road, with police to guide us, pass by the self serve aid station, then under Interstate 90. Now the trail starts to go uphill. It will be gradual uphill for the next ten miles. I recognize this as the end of the Tunnel Marathon. That race was point to point downhill and as I work my way up, I realize that it was no wonder that I had a fast time there. Beautiful scenery along the river.
Mile 10 - Staffed aid station and relay exchange point. Lots of people here. I show my number to the check in person and fill my bottles with something red. Move out of the area quickly but soon the trail parallels another road. There is a crosswalk with maybe a trail on the other side, but the trail I am on looks like it continues along the road, though maybe it looks like it peters out. I think I should cross, but there is no volunteer here and I am just unsure and do not want to go the wrong way. So I wait for the next runner to come up, maybe 20 seconds and he is sure that we stay on the trail. I go ahead of him and soon see that it is the correct route.
Mile 13 - Fast runners are coming back toward me, so the turnaround is getting closer. It has been a long uphill trip but I have held the pace OK. A little bit of snow on the sides of the trail. I still have my long sleeve shirt on and am comfortable.
Mile 15 - Looking forward to that turn around and aid station. It will be all downhill and its always nice to be heading back. Not around this bend......not around the next one. What is this? The trail forks with the main trail continuing up, but a sign directs us to a steep downhill. Sharp angular rocks and the steepest hill of the course; down, down, down for a quarter of a mile.
Mile 15.55 - Finally at the bottom and I am not looking forward to going back up. Fill with more red fluid. Try a potato slice dipped in salt; really tasty. Walk up most of the hill, then jog to the top. Now finally I can take advantage of the gentle down slope. Fun to see fellow Maniacs. Very easy to run at 9:30/mile pace. Some of the 50 mile racers are heading up the hill, not that far behind me. Try to keep holding back while letting gravity help me move along.
Mile 21 - Aid station. Lots of people milling about including relay runners. I try some Pepsi that is on the table and it is horrible, I can not finish the small cup. Strange because after a long race I like to guzzle a large cola. I stick with the red liquid, and continue eating from my stash of fig newtons and Gu gels as I can. The next few miles go well as relay runners are coming toward me but few are passing me. Most of them offer encouragement. It has warmed up a lot and my long sleeves come off.
Mile 26 - Self serve aid station. I fill a cup of water and douse my head. Energy level is good but I am warming and my stomach seems to be cramping. Not the more common nausea, this is new, a mild clamping or something down there that feels pretty lousy. Now I am on the flat and straight section and not a whole lot farther to go.
Mile 27 - OK, now I am low on energy and having stomach issues. More frequent walk breaks. Earlier I told myself that I would give it a good two miles push through the wall, then ease up and not allow myself to suffer much after that. So I put my head down and try to pick up the pace and it is a lousy time, no fun at all. I think of something different to try. Instead of focusing and pushing hard, I will try to zone out, yoga style. I "look to my third eye" and "center my drishti" on a white post that is at least a half mile away. "Hands in mudra" I try to think only on my breathing. The legs have been on autopilot for four and half hours I don't need to think about them, or anything. Pace does not matter, as long as I can keep running I'll be doing great. The meditative running actually works. Its a little tough to ignore the relay runners coming toward me every now and then, and as I realize that I am doing well I lose focus, but this is worth trying again. After the post, I sight on another object as far away as I can see and do it again.
Mile 29 - Yoga is over, now it is math time, thinking that I have a shot at a PR. If it were not for the mild stomach cramps, this would be a terrific race day. More frequent walk breaks.
Mile 30 - Finally to that bridge, then I have to climb down those stairs, but I know I am close. I remember the downhill on the way out, on this road, but as I approach it and start going up, it does not seem so bad. Real short walk break to say hi as I pass a fellow Maniac, then turn onto the other bridge. Legs are moving good now. Onto the last bit of road. Its actually funny how easy I am running now that I can see the school and know that the finish is so close. I just flow down the road so much easier than I had been shuffling a half hour ago. I will get that PR and that sure helps my mood.
Mile 31.1 - Finish with a 3 minute best time. Stand in the shade with a friend while I drink two cups of ice cold water that is so refreshing. Nice glass finisher's medal. Soon I am chugging that cola. Next is a cup of grapes that taste delicious. As I am finishing the grapes I think about how I usually have an orange after a race and I did not see any at the table. I reach for a grape and find half a small orange at the bottom of the cup. Perfect.
Another really well put on event and race that I hope to do again.
34th of 64
race #192, marathon or ultra#46, 50K#4