Saturday, June 30, 2007

Tiger Mt. ~15.75 miles

Current Mile total: 785 miles

Today's run was out at Tiger Mountain. It was my second trail run with the SRC training program and I think I was in much better shape than my first. It wasn't nearly as hard. Or was it that I was just more prepared to walk/hike this time. And my pin in my ass didn't show up as badly although it still was a factor. We met up again at 9 am at the High point Trail head and were given maps by Byran. Another experienced ultra runner who ran out and marked the course for us. I started with Kathleen from the 50k and Kathleen, a friend from the Redmond Footzone club. We immediately hit the bathrooms on the way out so the majority of the party went on ahead. So with one other guy(I can't remember his name) and the two K's I headed out at a leisurely pace. This course started with a few minutes of flat warm up, which was a nice contrast from last week. But then we hit "Poo Poo Trail" and it was nothing but climbing for the next few miles. Man, it was tough. We just took it slow, run, hike, run hike, until eventually after what seemed eternity we started our decent.

OK, call me a bit dork, but this type of running reminds me of the chapter in the Lord of the Rings where Stryder, Gimli and Legolas track the Orcs in attempts to rescue Merry and Pippin. NAY!!, I am not a dork, I am a geek for knowing the actual names. At any rate. There's something primal about traversing miles of mountainous landscape at a break-neck speed. Almost as if you're life depended on it. I absolutely love trail running. I'm finding that I'm a bit of a dare-devil on the down hills. I think growing up on skis taught me how to read the right lines and fly down hills. When we got to them, I would put a lot of distance between me and the other runners. And I swear, just for Karma's sake, I'm trying to go at a conservative speed. After about 3-4 miles our group of 4 actually split and it was 50k Kathleen and I running as a team. I can't express enough how good of a runner she is. She really is tough and keeps a great pace. And she's willing to tackle anything just for the challenge. Here's a very badly taken picture of her taken at around 9-ish miles, maybe?

The trail changes constantly and you're faced with many different types of terrain. From wide open trails covered with a soft bed of pine needles, heavy with tree cover and eerily quiet; to the thick overgrowth of vines and weeds that rip across your legs and hide the dangerously muddy rocks and roots below. Sometimes you're hiking painfully slow uphill as your heart pounds deeply in your chest and you pray for mercy and an end to the suffering; then moments later you're flying downhill like a crazy stallion fiercely calculating every step and screaming to yourself, "YES!! NOW THIS IS RUNNING!!" It's like mountain biking for the sane. Still able to get the rush of timber by your ears, still able to accidentally check an unforgiving tree but a speed that has fewer consequences. And the workout. It's a great one. My legs are wonderfully exhausted after this run. Not painful, but rather glowing weariness that hints toward future strength.

At any rate, we finished the loop and decided to run for a little more so we could get the 16 miles needed. We just ran around the base trails for about 25 mins. Overall it was a great day for running. I felt tired at the end but still strong. Hmm, only 34 miles more

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Redmond Hill Sprints 6 miles

Current Mile total: 769.25 miles

Did I ever mention I hate hill sprints? No really. I mean I HATE hill sprints. Tonight we ran out along the Sammamish River trail and turned a new way to get to our 3 hills. There's a community in Redmond where the group has picked three different hills starting with long and not so steep to short and very steep. We run 4 sprints per hill for a total of 12 sprints. By the 12th one I'm hyper-ventilating and practically in tears. Its sprinting and of course that means going as fast as you can. But I think I take it as a personal challenge to be up front every time. So I give it every last bit I have. Maybe not the smartest thing to do. Cause I think optimal training says you go fast but not 100%. But I don't know how to do that. Just not capable in a sprinting format to hold back. I don't know, maybe next time we do them I'll try to be more sensible. Nobody else is practically puking or hyper-ventilating when we do these. It was also emotionally tough today because the last time I ran a hill sprint Cody was out there with me. MAN, he loved hill sprints!! He absolutely loved chasing everyone and trying to, as a team, get to the front of the pack. And of course now he may never get to do that again. He's hopping around on three legs now and doing much better from his accident but it will be quite some time before he gets use of his leg, if he ever does. So there was a cloud of sadness over me while I struggled with the hills. Next run is out at Tiger Mountain. 16 miles of very steep trail. Look out legs its time to hurt.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Capitol Hill 6.25 miles

Current Mile total: 763.25 miles

Tonights run. Well, it was pretty uneventful. Went out, actually managed to run conservatively and not hurt myself. I started out chatting with Alison a little about last Saturday's Squak Mt. Run but eventually she pulled away from me, my lungs too exhausted from that run. It was just the same old run, but I did manage to bring my camera with me so I could capture a picture of the infamous Staircase. It doesn't look very intimidating in the pic, I'll agree with that assessment, but running full speed down it can get crazy. Also, what you're seeing is not the full staircase but only a fraction of it, it starts up around the top of the pic and continues well below with varying grades of descent. I managed to get to the last step seen here before I did my wonderful dive into the dirt.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Squak Mountain 12.25 miles

Current Mile total: 757 miles

I've done a lot of running, but today's run was especially awesome!! It was my first run in the 16 week training program hosted by SRC to prepare me for my 50 miler that I signed up for on Oct 6th. We ran just over 12 miles which in itself is not very difficult but given the terrain it was pretty tough. It ran along the actual course of the race so its ideal training.

I get there and meet the other runners. The majority of which are doing the 50k race and not the full 50 miler. There are just 4 of us doing the full. We're given maps by Scott and some light warm up excercises by Alison. Scott is the owner of SRC and an accomplished ultra runner. Alison is also an ultra runner and just so happens to be the person I had my grand fall in front of just a week and a half ago.

So enough of the briefing. Its been a week since I last ran. Life finally caught up with me and told me to slow down. My body just couldn't handle what I've been putting it through. Running, working, drinking, socializing, and very little sleep. It all finally caught up and I got a cold. But I was due for a good break and I think a good cold was the only way I could see fit to stop running. It gave me a chance to spend time with my new girlfriend Jenn. She just sort of came out of nowhere. And she's fantastic. But my rest week wasn't all fun. Life has a way of balancing out all the good and bad. So to balance out the sunshine that Jenn has brought to my life, it seems that something really startling was in order. On wednesday Cody and Penny escaped the confines of the Condo and ran out in to the busy Lake City Way. Penny managed to avoid incident but Cody was hit and needed to be rushed to the emergency clinic. He's home now and doing fine. Bruised and battered but still the same happy dog he's always been. He did loose control of his left front leg due to radial nerve damage but hopefully within 4 months it shall return and he'll be right as rain. If not, then we'll amputate the leg but he'll still be Cody. So after a very eventful week full of highs and lows, I was very ready to get out and do some running.

It was just what I needed. In single file running through the woods on single track that reminded me very much of my Mt. biking days, we slowly ran around the Squak Mountain Park. It started with nearly 3 miles of accent and then balanced off with the reverse side. Going out was tough but manageable. Coming back was brutal. The hills added up and my legs grew tired. I ended up walking a lot of the uphills but it was good practice. Chances are i'll be hiking a bit of the race. Some of the course is just too steep to run. The real struggle was something I've not experienced in a long time. It was a heavy ache in my ass. That's right. My ass hurt, and badly. I broke my leg over 8 years ago and I still have the rod and two pins. Climbing such steep hills was applying pressure on the pin in my hip joint more than usual and the muscle was doing its best to adapt. I think it was also still a little sore from my Cannon Ball Dumb fall in Volunteer park. At any rate, it hurt and may continue to hurt until I build up some tolerance to it.

Coming back down the last side of the course we encountered a portion of trail that was very overgrown. So much so that you could barely see what you were stepping on and I nearly tripped and fell once. We were also lashed by the growth on either side and by the end my legs were thoroughly scratched up. It would continue to sting well into the next day. But it was so worth it. Running through the thicket was exhilarating. It took a level of trust in your ability to keep your balance and find your line. I really love the adrenaline rush you get when you throw caution to the wind and fly down the hills. Unlike urban running your mind is constantly calculating. Once again I feel like I've narrowed in on my passion, finding a way to make it far more enjoyable. Trail running combines my love of nature and my love of running. Now if Cody can just get better, maybe he can come out there with me and the pass time would be perfect.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Lake Washington Blvd. 10 miles

Current Mile total: 744.75 miles

I hadn't planned on running today. Not really. On Tuesday I said I was going to take the rest of the week off. I just felt that I've been running myself down. I took Wednesday off but by Friday I was missing it. So when John from SRC sent out a email asking people to run, I decided I'd join in. It should have been a really easy run. Just 10 miles. But I was out really late Friday night and didn't get much sleep so 10 miles seemed a lot further. And we kept a really fast pace of 7:45. Not exactly a long slow run. It was myself, Forest, Mel, John and a guy who's name I can't remember(sorry guy). We started at Madison Park on the east side of Seattle and worked our way down Lake Washington Blvd. We didn't quite make it to Seaward park(about 2 miles from I think) before we turned back around. It's the same route used during the Seattle marathon that I did back in November of last year. After running 4 of us headed over to this cool little breakfast bistro called the Hi-Spot on Union and 34th.

On a side note. Yesterday I signed up for my first 50 miler. I got an email from Kathleen yesterday about the Northface Endurance Challenge. She said she was really interested in doing the race and that we should both sign up. I had been thinking the same thing as I had seen the promotion for it earlier in the week at the SRC store. So we both signed up for it and the 17 week training program hosted by SRC to help us get there. I'M SCARED!! Its great. What an amazing accomplishment it will be when I've finished. Its going to be the hardest thing I've ever done and no doubt I'll hate myself during a good portion of the second half but as soon as I cross that finish line it will all go away. And I'll have company throughout it all. So it's going to be great. Oct 6th. Can't wait.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Cannonball Dumb / Capitol Hill 6.25 miles

Current Mile total: 734.75 miles

Sometimes when I'm feeling especially proud of myself and my ego starts to show, karma just has a way of taking me by the shoulders, shaking me real good and obvious, then throws me to the ground like a rag doll.

Tuesday was a very humbling running day. There were a lot of runners that night and I started out easy letting all the faster runners pass me. I was feeling ok but i could tell that the general pace of the group was faster tonight. Sean must have been feeling better cause he was out there in front. When we got to the downhill portion of the run I decided to pick up the pace as I usually do. I don't know, maybe it was passing all the people that got me going but I went crazy when we got to the staircase. I let gravity take me, I let sensibility leave me and there was only one place to end up. I flew by almost all the runners and ripped off my sunglasses as I needed to focus on the ground before me. Each stride getting longer and faster as the stairs flew by. There was a voice inside screaming at me to slow down but there was another voice that was proud that I was this great agile runner that could navigate each step so magnificently until the right corner coming up just, wait, damn, can't, SHIT, THUD!!!

Fortunately I had just passed my last wooded stair so all I crashed into was good solid earth. And I suppose even more fortunately I'm very experienced in falling and have an uncanny ability to roll out of just about any fall. However, by that point I honestly must have reached close to 12-15 mph and hitting the ground at that speed, regardless of being in a roll or not, is bound to hurt a little. I was holding my sunglasses in the hand that took the fall and they snapped into 3 pieces, shattered in my hand leaving a few cuts. At the moment I was able to just pop right up grab my glasses parts(or some of them) and continue running without holding up any of the other runners. I ran on thinking the only thing I had hurt was my pride.

Or so I thought. My breathing started to deteriorate and I slowed down considerably. All the runners that I had so foolishly passed were now joyfully bounding by me with the "that's what you get" jump in their steps. I eventually had to sit down and catch my breath. I'm still not sure if it was the wind getting knocked out of me? Was it I wore my legs out going so fast downhill? Was it the ultra and not recovering that had finally catch up? Was it all these thoughts that were filling my head and making me pity myself. At any rate, I eventually caught my breath and ended up taking it very slow all the way back. Going back up the stairs I found the remains of my glasses and walked the stairs without any effort to try to run them.

I made it back with the majority of the runners all done. And I then began eating humble pie. Lots of good nature laughs and I was at the head of the pack with the jokes.

This is typical for me I find. I was being a jackass, consciously knew this and karma came around and showed me my way. I guess you could be more practical and down to earth about it all but I like to think that anytime I am a jerk, life has a way of showing me which way to run.

I don't know, maybe I'm just clumsy?

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Alki Beach to Lincoln Park 12 miles

Current Mile total: 728.5 miles

Oh me Oh my, what a lucky guy am I. Today I headed out to meet a few runners at Alki beach for a long slow run. I didn't really know who was going to show up aside from my new friend Kathleen whom I met at the 50k race last week. I coordinated with Mel from the SRC to meet at the Alki Tavern at 9. I get there and its just Mel, Hanna Kathleen and me. So if you ever see one guy hanging out with 3 pretty ladies and you think, "what's his special power?", it's called luck.

So anyways, it was a nice run even though it was lightly raining. Most of the time I ran side by side with Kathleen and we talked about running in general. Why we like it, what our families think about it and all the usual comradaries. I really didn't get to talk to Mel and Hanna much even though they were right behind us. Just too deaf to hear anybody unless they're right next to me. And I would like to have talked with them both because lets face it, they're two single attractive girls. I'm the dolt chatting it up with the only taken girl in the bunch. But Kathleen is super cool, extremely good runner and it will be great to have someone who likes to do ultras as a training partner. And that's what we agreed to try to do, meet up on the weekends for long runs(20+miles) .

This was a really cool run. Because of the rain we couldn't really see the Olympic Range but its usually a gorgeous view from Alki Beach. We turned around at Lincoln Park which was this great natural beach as seen to the left. All in all it was a great morning spent running with friends. Why do I do this running thing one might say? I'll give you three reasons. ;-)

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Sammamish River Trail 6 miles

Current Mile total: 716.5 miles

I headed over to the Footzone club and most everyone was there tonight with some new additions. We were even joined by Brandon. Brandon was the original club coordinator when I first started and one hell of a fast runner. He works for Asics now and is very busy so we only see him every so often. Its workout night so the group split up after about a half mile. One group went to run hill repeats(no thanks) and the other half stayed on the trail to do intervals(still no thanks) . At two miles everyone but Brandon and I started with intervals. We just continued at our comfortable pace and turned around at 3 miles. We talked about him not being able to run as much as he'd like because of work and he was just maintaining a certain level of fitness. Coming back I noticed Brandon lagging just a bit. I wasn't sure if he was just holding back or if he actually was having a hard time keeping up. Around two miles left I picked it up just a bit and we separated. He caught me at about 3/4 miles remaining and commented that I had picked up the pace but we weren't really going that fast. But then I did really pick up the pace and laid the hammer down so to speak. I don't know why I felt compelled to do this. It was a pretty rude thing to do when running with just another person. I think the thought of racing against and beating someone who is clearly a better runner seemed at the time a good idea but its not like I think in those terms when running. Its something in the gut that wants you to be challenged. I think I was trying to instigate a race out of him and either he didn't bite or couldn't. For whatever reason I finished first and felt like a real jerk for it. Anyways, a few of us headed over to Whole Foods and got dinner. Malia sparked my interest in a Half iron man triathlon on July 8th. I haven't yet decided. It would mean buying or renting a wet suit and putting in a lot of swimming in the next month. I could do it, but it seems like a lot of work.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Capitol Hill 6.25 miles

Current Mile total: 710.5 miles

Tonight's run was a tough start. My lungs couldn't keep up for the first couple miles. My legs felt a little stiff but not too bad. I decided to take it a slow as I could tonight and turn around before I got to the stair case. I ended up feeling good and keep going when that time arrived. I didn't try to keep up with the fast group nor did I feel compelled to stay with the slower runners. So like usual I ran my by myself. Overall it was an uneventful run. I eventually felt good and when I got back to the stair case I managed to not stop. The hill afterward was brutal but no more brutal than any other week. I'll have to remember to snap a picture of this stair case next week. Afterwards I had planned on just going to get pizza and no drinks but when the good times started I couldn't pass them up. We ended up staying at the bar until 1 am(yikes).

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Rainier to Ruston Rail Trail Relay and Ultra 32.5 miles

Current Mile total: 704.25 miles

I'm Hooked!!
That was the best race I've ever been a part of. It was so unlike the races I've been a part of where the only focus was to get to the finish as fast as possible. At each aid station I would chat it up with the volunteers, eat food(grapes, oranges, bread). The volunteers would refill my water bottle and tend to me to be sure I was completely taken care of. The really made you feel like the star of the show. The race director was out there himself personally helping us at each of the earlier stages then driving by with his blow horn with words of encouragement. I probably ran 14 miles of this race completely alone but it never felt that way. Each aid station was an oasis of cheer that made this race spectacular. So let me give you a run down of my very long day.

My pups got me up at the ungodly hour of 4:30. This summer daylight is killing me. So I have them walked by 5 am thinking I now have 5 hours before I actually run. SO naturally I'm thinking "what do I do for nutrition?" I've always started races no later than 8 am so a bagel is usually good. I opted to do just that and then have a 3bar when I got close to the starting time. So I drive down to the South Prairie Fire Station where my start is and there's a briefing going on by the race director Markus. He's a really personable guy who was thoroughly involved with making sure the race went smoothly. He was briefing the relay teams who where about to head out to their starting points. I had shown up two hours early because I had nothing better to do. I spend my time chatting with the race crew who are waiting to head out after my start. And what a start it was. There were 3 of us! Our start was just for the 50k ultras. There was an 18 year old who was running his first ultra like me but he planned on running 6:30 miles. He shows up in a cotton shirt and Markus says"cotton is rotten!" and gives him a proper running shirt. The other runner was Kathleen, a stud of an athlete who set the new course record for the women. Now I suppose it wasn't that hard to do considering there was no prior record but she had an awesome race. So without too much pomp and circumstance we start to running. The kid is out of site in a matter of minutes and me and Kathleen end of running together. My legs felt really stiff and I decided best to let her go on ahead of me. I did this by pulling out the trusty camera and snap a shot of this guy on the side of the trail. I then decided that because it was going to be a lonely run, I'd turn on the Ipod. Turns out that when I decided to charge my ipod on my desktop the night before it wipped out all the songs. I won't go into detail because this blog is already too long but the result, NO IPOD. It was the running gods telling me that it is never acceptable in a race format to have music helping you along. I'd have to really earn this first ultra. So I ran on. A few minutes later a biker come up beside me on the trail and says, "did you lose your car key?", and he pulls out my key. Apparently I dropped it when getting my camera out. That could have been bad. My guardian angle was really looking out for me there. OK, so really exciting start. That was all in the first two miles, the next 30.5 were a little less eventful. It turned out Kathleen ended up slowing things down a bit once she settled down so I caught up to her and we ended up running half the race together. She was great company and made the first half fly by. But unfortunately the heat really affected me and I had to eventually let her go. Did I not mention the heat? with a average temperature of 83 the tarmac that we were running on read 91. 91 in WA where in the mornings its not usually over 55-60. It was a brutally hot day. Anyway, another 50k Ultra(late starter), Mike, ended up catching us by around 15 miles and they went on ahead. So there I was with half the race left and feeling a little tired but with a great view. So I snapped this one off and slowly went on. Running, walking, and so on. The heat was really tough on me, my legs always felt great but my stomach was in terrible condition. At around mile 18 I hit a stretch of course that was just not enjoyable. The course turned to a sandy road and because its been so dry lately it was like running on a beach. And to top it off, I didn't know if I was going the right way. Why would they choose this for the course? It was tough to run on and my sneakers filled with sand. Eventually I saw in the distance a bright yellow volunteer shirt sitting in a beach chair. It was laughable. Here's this volunteer all alone on this deserted sandy road with his cooler of water and snacks waiting for the runners. he really looked like he belonged on the beach. Fortunately this was the turn off point and that was it for the sand. Good Riddance! At about 27 miles a relay runner caught up to me. At this point all the relay runners should have passed me but apparently the heat was tough on everyone that day and she was the fourth and last person to pass me during this race. I had been walking about 50% of the time when she reached me but having someone to run with brought me back to life. It might have also been the fact that she was really pretty. But from there on out for the last 5 miles or so I did very little walking. I ran with her for about a mile until we reach the final aid station. And then it was alone again. I started to go the wrong way and another relay runner who was already done ran after me and pointed me in the right direction. So that's it. Another 4 and a half miles to the finish. I felt good. It was mostly shade by then and with the cooler temperatures(or was it the girl) I was able to run the rest of the race. I was of course tired but it I was slightly motivated knowing that I had never ran this far before. I reached the finish line with all the teams waiting for their last runner to come in. Everyone cheered for me and it was just so personal. I rang the bell signaling my finish and all was good(If you look in the picture of me ringing the bell you can see Mt. Rainier in the background. What a great view at the finish). By default I came in third of the men wining me my first ever award. It was a railroad spike from the actual trails converted from the old railroad lines. So there you have it.
The atmosphere at this race, and undoubtedly all Ultras, was one of family. Everyone was congratulating everyone else and Kathleen and I exchanged emails and plan on doing some training together. I stayed until 6:30 when I was finally given a ride back to my truck. But it was enjoyable to hang around and see everyone come in. Actually there were still quite a few 50 milers still out running when I left. SO all in all it was a great experience and yes I will be doing another one of these, just not in the summer! Oh, my time, it was 5:40 something, I forgot to stop my watch so I'll update it when the results come in. It was an embarrassing hour more than I thought it would be. I reached the marathon marker around 4:30 I think. It was definitely hot out there. And one last thing. I don't have an answer for but this was suppose to be a 50k(31 miles) but for whatever reason the course actually ended up being 32.5 so that's my new long distance.