I have volunteered here three or four times but have never run the race. It is always one week before the Tacoma Marathon and I have wanted to save my legs for that. This year I can not run Tacoma, so I signed up for this. 55K is about 34 miles and I have never actually done a race that is this long. I have gone farther than 34 miles, but on timed events with easy loops. This one will put me way out there. I am a little nervous for the trails I have mostly not run on before and Capitol Forest has so many trails and logging road crossings, I think that it would be easy to take a wrong turn. Since I have not run this before, my main goals are just to not get lost and to have a fun time. I plan to be out here all day and just enjoy it.
10th annual event. Cheap $40 entry fee includes a 10th anniversary bandana with a map of the course. Volunteers include Thurston County Search are Rescue.
6:30AM start is not so bad since I live fairly close. I also know exactly where the start area is and getting there is no problem. It is a little chilly but dry. Chance of rain, but it will hold off and actually be terrific running weather all the time I am out there. 50 mile race is also happening and starting at the same time with most of the runners doing the longer event. Big event for a trail race. Our large group heads out on time.
Start (Margaret Mckinney campground) to Falls Creek - This seven mile section is mostly forested. After crossing the creek it goes uphill for a while, but nothing bad. I get stuck behind quite a line of people. Single track rutted path with no place to pass. I tell myself to just go with the flow. I feel fine, but we are walking any uphill. Then a bit on a logging road where we can sort out. There will still be people close ahead and right behind me, but not as close as before. Very runnable section. Nice long downhill to Falls Creek. I do not look forward to climbing back up this section on the way back, around mile 28-30.
Falls Creek to Capitol Peak - All new territory for me. Other than a few miles out from the start/finish, I have not been on these trails. Lots of cushy dirt and not much mud. A few rocks and roots but nothing too bad. Climbing and opening up into some clear cut areas. Starting to get some nice views. First time that I look at my watch I see that I have been moving for 2 hours 46 minutes. I pass a couple of people, and the switch-backed climb to the top is not bad.
Capitol Peak - Aid station at about mile 13. From here we go out on a road for a mile, turn onto a trail and do a small loop before returning to the aid station. I will be back here in 4 miles. Looks like my hand held water bottle and small bottle in my pocket will easily get me to each station on this cool day. The road is nice because it is so runnable and I get to see fast people coming back toward me. Also some folks who took the early 5:30AM start. Now on to the trail and I have to watch for runners coming toward me, but the trail is fairly wide here and there are no problems. The short loop takes us to the very top of Capitol Peak. This super steep trail is called the "Grunt". I let out a few grunts but really it goes Ok for me.
Nice views but the volcanoes are not out. This is actually my first time at the top of this little mountain. I have wanted to climb up here for a long time. The trail down is not nearly as bad as the grunt but it is very rocky and I pick my way carefully. Gentle downhill on the trail and then up on the road. Very few runners on the out and back now and I wonder how many are behind me in the loop, or way behind me, not at the aid station yet. As I leave Ulrike at the aid station she says that it is 6 miles to the Wedekin aid station.
Capitol Peak to Wedekin - Jen had said that is part was very nice and she sure was right. Gentle downhill and no rocks. I get faster and pass a couple of people. We are very spread out now and I often have long periods where I do not see anyone.
Wedekin to Falls Creek - Just over 20 miles. Bill is at the Wedekin aid station and things have slowed down enough that he offers to run some with me. We go off mostly downhill and pretty fast. Fun to have some company and conversation. The trail opens into a clear cut, then and then a burned out clear cut area. I have never run through anything like this before. At about 22.5 a 50 mile runner comes flying past us, in first place of that race and 16 miles ahead of me (they do an out and back at Wedekin). Bill turns around at mile 23 and I feel a little bad that he has three miles of uphill to get back, but I think he can handle it. On I go, continuing to leapfrog two women from Portland, and passing a couple of runners. Just a little knee pain/ache that goes away after a bit. Otherwise feeling very good.
Falls Creek to finish at Margaret Mckinney - The route now rejoins that trail that we set out on, so for this portion I will be retracing where I was for the first seven miles. Basically, a long uphill that I have been worried about, and then 4 miles of mostly downhill. All runnable and not very steep or rocky. I am behind the Portland women and we walk the first part of the uphill. But I am feeling really good and decide to pass them for now and try jogging up the hills. I am so happy and surprised that I have no nausea and I still have energy and leg strength. My feet are just starting to feel a little beat up, but they have felt much worse after this much time on my feet. I feel way better than I did at Carkeek three weeks ago. I sort of regret not doing the 50 miles today, but who knows how I would handle an extra 16 miles? I should just be happy that this is going so well. The early walking up the hills has paid off and I will have a negative split as my pace per mile has dropped from near 14 to sub 13:30. Of course it is a lot more downhill in the second half. Almost to the top and I reach a major milestone, my 20,000th lifetime mile. I have been keeping a log of all runs since April 1995 and this puts me at 20,000. In January I started to think about when I would reach this goal, and saw that it could happen near this race. I had to step up the mileage. Wanted to make 20,000 be the grunt, but could not quite get there.
Start of my 20,000th mile
A half mile to go and the second 50 miler passes me. I step off the trail and cheer for him. As he flies by he tells me to cheer really loudly for the next runner. At first I think that is so nice, he is concerned for the guy behind him. These ultra trail runners are all so supportive and kind to each other, everyone is so friendly. But then I think some more and I realize that these 50 milers are super fast and are competitive. The second place runner wanted to hear me yell and then he would know how far back his competition was. I should have screamed out right away just to spur him on, but I did not think of that till later.
Across the bridge and now so close. Up a gravel patch and around a big puddle (why get my feet wet now? I can't believe that they have stayed dry all day). Now a runner coming up on me. I am pretty sure that he is the third place 50 miler, but he could be a 55K, in my race, putting on a grand finish. I put on a sprint and run as fast as I can, with somebody on my heels. We work really hard to finish it off, luckily I don't hurt anything. I come in half a second ahead of him. The second place 50 miler is laying on the ground and I confirm that he did want to know where number three was.
Change of clothes, hot soup and sit for a while at the finish area. I would like to wait for Jill, Kim, KP, Monte, and others but they will be out there for another 4 hours. So after a little rest I head home very pleased with the day.
2 Days post race - no blisters, toe nails in good shape and very little quad soreness. Just a few weak spots around my feet/ankles. Still feeling like this went as good as it possibly could. Hope to run it again next year and with more focus on racing, less on picture taking, I should be able to be a little faster.
19th place of 47
Race#325, Marathon or ultra#109