10th annual event, but my first time here. I have wanted to run this one for a while, but there are so many great races this time of year. There are 5 marathons this weekend that I would like to do. This is my year to check out the Rainier to Ruston. Close to home, cheap price, and on trails and roads that I have not raced before. The 50 mile event goes from Rainier to Ruston/Tacoma, the 50K will end in Orting, so I should have more dirt trail and scenery, and fewer road crossings as we are in the less populated part of the county. The 50K is very small, only 34 will finish (46 were registered) but with the 50 mile race, 50 mile relay (150 six person teams) marathon plus (27.7 miles) and a large half marathon this is quite an event. Two different starting locations and two different finish lines. For me, I just need to be in Orting by 5AM to catch the shuttle bus up to near the Carbon River entrance to Mount Rainier National Park for the 7AM start. I got my number and T-shirt yesterday so I don't have to worry about that. Up at 3:45AM, leave the house at 4AM and I am good to go.
Start - I make it to the shuttle in plenty of time and enjoy riding with Maniacs Rikki, Dan and Gary. We get to the start area and are told that restrooms are a half mile away. But just then a truck shows up with about ten porta potties and that issue is taken care of. It is cloudy and cool and I have decided on a long sleeve shirt over another short sleeve shirt, but no jacket. It may rain but it should not be windy or too cold. I am very relaxed and ready to start running just a few minutes before it is time to go. I am not so sure of my goals, other than to finish happy. I feel like on a good course I should be able to PR (5:09) and maybe go under 5 hours. My 4:15 pacing at CCM was perfect pacing for a 50K PR and I felt great at the end of that race. This 50K though is billed as 31.4 miles, three tenths longer than a 50K. Also I have not run on these trails. If they are at all rocky, rooty or single track I will not be able to hold pace and I am fine with that. I am also trying to just get in lots of miles before I rest up a bit before the next marathon. If I finish today, I will have back to back 50 plus mile weeks and that is a lot for me. At 7AM sharp we line up behind a tiny chip mat and start by running through a little R2R structure with a bell that we can ring if we want.
Leg 1 - Mount Rainier to Fairfax (0-4.8 miles) - There will be a structure like that with bell to ring at the end/start of each relay leg. There are six legs in this 50K and it will be a nice way to divide up the course mentally. Leg 4A looks a bit crazy on the map, so I have printed that out just in case the course is not well marked. I will lose that paper somewhere on that leg, but it won't be a problem. Leg 1 is all paved road and mostly gentle downhill with a couple of ups here and there. Along the Carbon River. By mile 3 I am feeling very good. The extra mileage had taken a bit of a toll and I was running on tired legs earlier this week. Even an easy 4 miler was not so easy. I took off an extra day, but will still get that 50 miles for the week, and today I am feeling fine. Rikki has taken off and I run with Maniac Dan. This leg would be very nice except all of the relay vehicles are heading past us. And there is another relay start at 8AM, so more vehicles are coming up the road. All of the drivers are careful and respectful of course. Race related vehicles are the only ones here in this remote area, so it is OK, but we have to stay well on the side of the road. At about 4.6 miles we turn off to a road I have not been on before, with a secret bridge over the Carbon River. My pace is about 9/mile which is way too fast I know.
Leg 2 - Fairfax to Carbonado (4.8 to 11.1 miles) - Aid station, ring the bell and now on to an isolated rough trail. The trail is very narrow and twisty. No big hills, but lots of 2-4 foot climbs and dips. Scramble down to little creek crossings. Twist and turn some more. Now some mud that I can mostly dodge. Any time a runner approaches behind me, I step off the trail to let them by. I am an no hurry here. I let Dan go by and Pigtails. Then some packs of runners. Two groups of ten or so trot by as I step out of the way. The 50 mile race started after us and with fresh relay runners joining in, I will be passed by folks going very quickly quite often. Late in the race I will know that they are relay runners by their speed, but with so many different events going on it is tough to know who is in my race. Now the trail is getting muddier. I have been stepping around puddles and my right foot is dry, but here there is no real choice but to get wet. Once I am thoroughly wet and muddy it is easier to just plow through the mud instead of picking a way around it. If I have known for sure that it would be so muddy, I would have just slogged through it from the start. I have been staying a good 50 feet behind Pigtails and have no intention of passing her. She did run 200 miles last weekend, but she always gets me later in the race and I wish that I paced myself better. Now she slows for a break and I pass her and Maniac Dan. I did not want to be in front of either of them and now I will worry about getting passed later on. In the mean time, this leg seems really long. My right sock is scrunching up at my toes and I can feel a little tug on one toenail with each step. I will feel that tug every step for the next nine miles, then it will work itself out. I think about taking off my shoe but don't do it. Its just a little nag, and just a toenail. Eventually it is on to leg three but the GPS is reading a half mile long.
Leg 3 - Carbonado to Wilkeson (11.1 to 15.0 miles) - After a short bit on the road it is ring the bell time. Aid station and off for the next leg. Very nice trail here. Wider with a gentle downgrade. No roots or rocks, just easy running. So nice after the previous stretch.
Leg 4A Wilkeson to South Prairie via Buckley (15.0 to 24.1 miles) - On to the road, highway 165, and soon we split off from the other racers. Here the 50K does a longer bit, while all the other distances take a shorter route to South Prairie. It is raining very lightly. For quite a ways we are on the open road. Nice bridge over South Prairie Creek. Not too many cars but with the rain, now a little harder and the wet roads, it is loud when a vehicle goes by. I slowly catch one guy and then another. Bit of a grind out to mile 19 or so where we finally turn around. The map makes it look like an out and back , but really we will run back on a trail that is parallel to the road. Mini aid station for us here and I thank the kind volunteers out in the rain. The rain turns to mist and lets up. Nice paved trail, then grassy, then mud. At mile 21 we hit massive mud. The trail is wide but completely filled with ankle deep mud. Just as my shoes had sort of dried out, they become a total mess again. It is so ridiculously muddy that I have to laugh. One guy just behind me is a little grumpy about it, but since I have given up on any time goal, I don't care. Younger guy in front of me falls down in the sloppy mess. He is fine, but filthy. I had thought that we would have paved trail from here to the end, but was I wrong about that. Eventually the trail get a little better, then much more runnable. We merge with the other racers and hit pavement down to South Prairie. Suzie sighting.
Leg 5 - South Prairie to Crocker (24.1 to 28.7 miles) - Now it will be paved trail the rest of the way. Weather is nice and I wrap my long sleeved shirt around my waist. Couple of bridges over scenic waters. At about mile 26.2 on my watch, I start to tire. No aches or pains, just out of energy. So I will take walk breaks as needed and push through as I can. I can find a nice slow gear, feel good enough and start speeding up. Then I speed up too much and feel so out of it that I have to walk a bit.
Leg 6 - Crocker to Orting and the finish line (28.7 to 31.4 miles) - The last leg is 2.7 miles. I have slowed enough that I am fearful of Dan or Pigtails catching me. Often I look back at the end of a long straight section just to make sure they are not catching me. Not that there is much I could do if they were. I am in good spirits knowing that I will finish OK and it was a good race for me. With about a half mile to go, I look back and can see Dan. He is far enough back that he will not catch me. I give it a good final effort and cross the finish line in Orting, about 100 feet from where I parked my car. GPS reads 32.2 miles. Nice medal. I have family things to do so I do not stick around.
I am surprised when I see the results the next day. Usually I do not place so well in ultras. I guess that all the fast people did the 50 miler, or are at all the other races this weekend. I enjoyed this event and would like to come back, but may do one of the other ones next year. I am going to lose two toenails because of this race, but everything else seems good.
Marathon or ultra #85
10th of 34 finishers