I first heard of this race many years ago and seemed insane. Only a crazy hardcore trail runner could and or want to run to the top of Capitol Peak in January. The full race does it twice!! There is a once up and down option (26K or about 17 miles) but that still seemed way out of my ability all those years ago. Then I did run the Capitol Peak ultra in April (twice) and the Mountain Marathon (twice) and have done more trail running in the Capitol Forest. With no other plans for the weekend my racing choice is the Steilacoom ten miler (boring) or an adventure in the forest.
I signed up for the 26K, with no real time goal. Legs felt OK this week, better than usual after a marathon last weekend. $10 entry fee for this no frills event. All volunteers. Nice to have the Thurston Search and Rescue out here, to practice their thing and be able to help if needed. The trails will be very well marked. There is no reason that anyone could take a wrong turn. I have run all of these trails before, so maybe that is just my bias, but throughout the race I will see many trail markers and paint arrows and never have any concern about where to go. I will not hear of anyone having navigation trouble.
After lots of rain this week, it was supposed to clear up and maybe have a passing shower, but the forecast just changed to rain all day. Not stormy, but light rain the whole day.
Though I have run these trails, I have never driven to the Falls Creek Trailhead and driving in Capitol Forest is as much an adventure as running there. I looked at the road map more than the trail map this week. So I leave home early and get into the forest in utter darkness. Eventually I come upon a lone vehicle stopped in the road. I pull next and the driver thinks that we are supposed to make a turn but she is not even sure if that is a road to our left. She checks it out, it is not a road, and I go ahead with her following me. Finally a sign to the trail head, then some crazy in the dark up and downhill on potholed dirt roads. So happy to see the lights of the start line area.
6:45AM - Wait in the car until 7AM, then walk over to the sign in tent. But they are not ready to give out numbers. Back at 7:30 and they still are not ready. They have the numbers but not the info on who gets what number. Meanwhile more and more runners showing up. Its wet and getting light out and I wish I could get started. About 7:45 the info arrives and we all get in line. No way we will start at 8AM
Start - 8:32 AM - I am wet and cold and ready to run. Good thing I did not sign up for the longer race. They have a cut off time, where if you can not complete the first loop by 12:30PM, they won't let you start the second loop. This is understandable, but starting 30 minutes late is going to make some folks near the cut off time not even be close and will be unable to get the long race done today. We do get running and it is single track from the start and very crowded. Lots more participants than I expected. Great to see some familiar faces though.
Greenline to Capitol Peak road (5.5 miles) - Up some, then flattish, then up some more. Second clear cut is the fun one, with the real steep trail. Three miles in and I can look ahead and up and see many runners all climbing up. Gain some altitude, then look back and see just as many behind me. Lots of passing and being passed, too crowded for my tastes. No view in the clouds. Then into the woods and another steep up with switchbacks. Work hard and push it up to the road.
Road to the Peak and back (5.5 to 7.0) - The road to the actual peak is longer and steeper than I remember. Really I thought it was much closer. I walk up much of it, envious of the runners heading back down. Pigtails sighting. Just a little snow in places. Stop to tie my shoe, then around the cell towers. Now able to run on down the road. Mike Mahany catches me. We run together for a short way before he goes on ahead.
Crestline Trail (7-11) - Oh the beautiful Crestline Trail! I was so happy to see that we would run here today. I have such pleasant memories of running here in previous races. After all that up hill, this will be flat and easy. Except that it is not. Rockier and more up and down that I remember. With small branches down everywhere. The flat sections are so muddy. With my hat and jacket hood on, I can't hear much. With so many obstacles on the ground, I just can't afford to look around. Eyes on the mud puddles, every step I have to think about. Get passed by a couple of people. A real let down, but it is not so bad. Keep moving along at what seems like a safe and decent pace. Happy to reach Wedekin though, it takes longer than expected.
Wedekin Trail (11-17) - This trail is in much better shape for the most part. A few small streams to run through. Happy with my trail shoes. I can get them soaking wet and they do not cause any problems. Back to normal in time for the next soaker. Gorgeous huge waterfall. Need to bring Jody here instead of the Crestline trail. Couple more bridges and waterfalls, then the part through the clear cut. A little back and forth with one guy who keeps stopping to take pictures, then gets ahead of me. I run faster trying to not let him catch me again. Running really as fast as I dare, footing has been great, but I really do not want to fall. Tell myself that the finish time does not matter so much, just relax and have fun. I feel like I should have been faster, since I am doing the short race. I am barely going to be under 4 hours, if I had tried the 52K, it would have been misery. Instead I plow on through the flat section to the end, on tired but functioning legs, with little walk breaks.
Finish - 16.72 on the GPS. Hot soup is nice ( we all donated a can). But it is still raining lightly and now I am getting cold. Go to change clothes and then decide to head right out. Glad I ran it today, but I don't feel like I need to come back for a race at this time of year.
64th of 112, 46th of 53 men, 15th of 15 in age group