First time event put on by the Guerrilla Running Club. Designed to be a very tough trail marathon in the Capitol Forest just south of Olympia. Elevation ranges from 500 to 2,000 feet up there and many times when we are having rain in town, it is snowing up in the hills. Last week we had snow in the lowlands and then days of cold rain, meaning tons of snow on the higher elevations. In fact when Craig went to mark the course the day before the race he found that the upper trail was impassable. He devised an alternate route that will be a double out and back and promises to be tough. This lowers the chance of getting lost, but also takes some of the adventure out of the race. Plus we will have some crowding on the trail with the larger half marathon starting 30 minutes behind us.
Start - Rock Candy Mountain trail head. It is sunny but cold with black ice on the parking lot. Great swag including a truckers hat and shirt. Dog tag medal if I finish. Line up with some Marathon Maniac friends and after a brief speech by the director of the state Department of Natural Resources the race starts on time. We run about 100 yards and there is the first aid station. That was funny, but makes sense based on the new course. We will hit this spot five times during the race, the new course having 4 out and backs leaving from this fork in the road.
Mile 1.5 - At the fork we turn and start up a steep hill. I'll call this section the "lower snow road". It is a logging road with 5-7 inches of snow. Some tire tracks. When it gets real steep we all slow down. Aid station at mile 1. That is as far as any vehicles could get. The footing is worse now. Some of the snow is hard and turns the ankles a little, some is soft and squishy, never quite sure when and how my feet will hit the ground.
Mile 1.5 to Mile 2.5 - Single track trail, switchbacking uphill steeply. Less snow in the forest, but now we have puddles. The puddles are often covered under the snow and very hard to judge. Lots of ankle turning here. Nothing painful, just slipping and stretching foot and ankle muscles that usually do not get stretched. Pass two volunteers who are hiking up with water and cups to make a small aid station.
Mile 2.5 to Mile 4 - "Upper snow road" more snow here. About 8 inches I would guess. Following in tracks is difficult on the feet. Making my own route on the untouched snow (post holing) is easier. Well it gives more consistent footing, but I know that I will not be able to run like that for very long. Eventually our road is more of a trail. It is generally flat and filled with packed snow. I can almost get in a groove, but then every so often there are big puddles lurking below. M761 is the first to go down with a splash.
Mile 4 to Mile 5.5 - Mile 4 is an abrupt turn around on the narrow trail. It took about an hour to get here, doing 16 minute miles. For a while I had three runners right behind me. I let them pass here and plan to stay with them on the way back down. But each of them is better able to handle these conditions. This is getting frustrating. The big muscles in my legs are fine, my breathing is fine, I should be able to run faster. But with most steps I slide sideways and lose my forward motion. I fear the large rocks or deep holes that could lie beneath the snow. I also know that I am working hard and I have such a long way to go. I really should not waste my energy slogging through this mess and risk falling. Sadly I see my friends pull away and more runners passing me. Every so often I slip to the side and pull on some ankle muscles a little bit. If this gets worse I will have to drop out so as to not really injure myself. For now I will monitor it as I run.
Mile 5.5 to Mile 6.5 - Downhill on the single track trail. Now with 150 half marathoners coming up. Trail us muddier now. Jenny Seward sighting. She asks if I am having fun and I say "no". That is so unlike me. Gets me thinking about why and how to turn my attitude around. Get passed but stay with a female runner. She is also a little discouraged at not being able to move quickly, wondering if we are in close to last place. Then she slips into a puddle and I reach out with one hand to steady her on her elbow. Now we are both about to fall over so with the other hand I grab the nearest branch. We manage to stay upright but the branch that I took hold of was a devils club (Oplopanax horridus). Tomorrow I will be picking nine tiny thorns out of my thumb.
Mile 6.5 to Mile 8 - Lower snow road. Downhill. Slushy and impossible to get into a groove. At mile 8 I see the aid station. Flying uphill toward me is the front runner, Jesse Stevick. He is already five miles ahead of me. A little silly looking with his truckers hat on, he comments to me that they are serving cupcakes at the aid station. Amazing athlete. People cheer for me as I enter the aid area and everyone is so encouraging. My mood is improving and only gets better after that.
Mile 8 to Mile 10.5 - Dirt road out and back - Originally I figured that I would run fast on the roads and just be more careful on the trails. At the start we were told that one road had snow, the other one just some mud. Now is my chance to get into a rhythm and maybe even catch up to some people. But no, this road is uphill, then a long steep uphill, then more uphill. Have to take some walk breaks. My feet have dried out though. I do catch a Maniac friend. We run together for a while, neither of us is having the funnest time. He will go on to drop out at about mile 15.
Mile 10.5 to Mile 13 - Back down the dirt road. Lots of halfers coming up and it is easier to cross paths and say hi on the wide road. I try to tell Jenny that I am doing better. Dave, Betsy and Ruhama sightings. Still taking some walk breaks now and then, realizing that I have to do this whole thing again.
Mile 13 to mile 14.5 - Repeating the course now. Lower snow road is slushier. Thank the awesome volunteers. Oh my, I have not been eating or taking any electrolyte other than in my drink. Pop an S!Cap and eat a fig newton. My supply of Gatorade is gone so I switch to the Nuun that is offered to me.
Mile 14.5 to Mile 15.5 - Single track trail. Much muddier now. Just go through some of the puddles. Feet get so cold but it actually feels nice. The water drains away soon enough and I don't think that I am getting any blisters.
Mile 15.5 to Mile 17 - Upper snow road - a super short stride seems to work OK here. It is safer and I move at a steady pace. Lots of baby steps. Getting darker, almost like the day is ending. Just clouds and now a sprinkle of rain. Feet are wet and a little cold, but not too bad.
Mile 17 to Mile 18.5 - At the turn around I was surprised to see a couple of runners close to me. Two are right behind me and two are ahead of me. They are walking and I am able to pass them. Now there is no one else coming up the the trail. I am very close to being in last place!! I intend to keep entering races as long as they will let me and I know that someday I will come in last. Might as well be today and get that over with. One of the guys who was walking catches up to me and we consider whether we might finish last. Then we see one lone guy coming up the trail. He must be a half hour behind us, so we are relieved.
Mile 18.5 to Mile 19.5 - Downhill on the sloppy muddy snowy trail. Pick my way over the fallen tree. Slip and slide down the trail but do not fall.
Mile 19.5 to Mile 21 - On the lower snow road. Linger a bit at the aid station, filling my empty bottles. Trek down wears on me and I am glad to see the bottom of this hill.
Mile 21 to Mile 23.5- On the dirt road and I have hit the wall. Oh well, I have run out of energy plenty of times at mile 21 of marathons. Footing will be OK, I know that I will finish. Just have to shuffle/tough out the last miles. Except that at mile 21 of a marathon I have never had to climb a 500ft hill. Lots of walk breaks and encouraging those coming back get me through. At the turn around aid station I joke that I think they have moved it a half mile back since the last time I was there.
Mile 23.5 to Mile 26.2 - Screaming downhill, expect that now my right ankle is really bugging me. I could run hard and probably cut five to ten minutes off of my finish, but I really do not want to risk further injury. So every time I feel it nag, I take a nice long walk break. This also restores my energy levels. When I do get to the bottom I am able to run strong the last bit to the finish. Thanks to those who waited around for me. This was a crazy crazy event. Not sure that I will do it again, but maybe I should not decide that right now. It was great to try the tough trails and I am glad that I did it, but technical trail running is not my strong suit and I still fear that falling and breaking a bone. Maybe I will volunteer next year. It sure was fun to be a part of.
6:19:11 (slowest marathon by 85 minutes, and that one was pacing Jody)
36th of 42 finishers
Marathon or ultra#60