Monday, April 30, 2012

Soaring Eagle Half-Marathon Race Review

After last week's pacing duties at Lumberjack Endurance 100 miler my right leg had a very sore spot behind the knee. If I straightened the leg too quickly, ouch! If I touched the leg in the right spot, ouch! By Tuesday, I began to begin to write off my ability to race Northwest Trail RunsSoaring Eagle Half-Marathon. I took two days off in a row, which is exactly what I said I don't do, and it seemed to help. Stiff and sore, but not horribly bad. Put in two easy runs (Friday and Saturday), and on Sunday morning the alarm went off and I was up quickly making my pre-race (a.k.a. every morning) meal: instant oatmeal and coffee.
Facebook Comments Picture
I have some great friends. Posted this right before I left and came home
from a not really "Cake"-walk trail race to read these comments. #smile
Northwest Trail Runs' course description is pretty spot on, "...a twisty course that will keep those looking for a more technical course on their toes...The route has rolling hills that are mostly short or moderate in grade, and none of the course is very hilly by trail running standards.", but a few adjectives need to be added to describe this Sunday's course: muddy, wet, muddy, lots of turns, a few roots, and one great mid-course aid station that changed positions mid-race. Confused the hell out of me. It's surreal how tunnel-visioned I get when I'm racing. Probably not a bad thing, but it does paint a pretty picture for the reason why during training you need to slow down and taken in the scenery.
First 1/4 mile
Final turn
Northwest Trail Runs
Take a good look at that first picture. Looks like a promising vision of the trail to come, right? The next two pictures are taken in the same general area (about a 1/4 mile from the starting line). When I pulled up to the start line about an hour before the race, the early starters were getting their final briefing and getting ready to take off. My friend Jamey B., was hauling around a wheelbarrow with aid station supplies and I asked him what the course looked liked. With confidence, "Just like this." I looked down, the matted, compacted gravel looked too dry and hard-pack for trail shoes. "Good thing I brought my trusted Saucony Kinvaras," I thought. After wandering around for a good 15 minutes, Jamey B., had taken off down the trail with supplies, I chatted with a few other folks about the trail. I had seen the course map, but that was the extent of my knowledge. Race Director Herb Head, had this to say about the trail, "It's muddy." Glancing down at the cuffs of his jeans it was easy to believe him. "Uh oh. Guess I should the trail shoes back out." Slid off the Kinvaras and put on the New Balance 101's. No more changes, now, five minutes until the race start. I put in a quick 3/4 mile jog, shook the legs out, lined up and I was off with everyone else in my wake. After the race Jamey B., asked me, "Did you get my text? <Text: It's Muddy> After walking a bit further down the trail I realized it wasn't dry." Good lookin' out, friend.
The start of the free mud bath
A muddy trail race  is a great
way to exfoliate - words of advice
from my mother after the race.
How did I managed a
sub-6 mile?
One word of sound advice, in my opinion, "Run through the mud, not around the mud." Running around the mud will do nothing but extend the erosion, and slow you down. Running straight through is not only fun, but much shorter. Take short quick steps, and at all cost keep moving. Don't stop to enjoy the squishy mud slithering into your shoes. Momentum lost in deep mud is gone forever. If you don't like mud, rain, roots, rocks, hills, or the outdoors trail races may not be for you. There are risk, however. I paid my dues when I felt a wood chip, I believe, became lodged between my little toe and the inside of my left shoe:
A very fresh bloody blister
Soaring Eagle Half-Marathon
After sloshing through the mud at sub-6 minute mile pace, the course took a sharp turn, I slowed down, and the next mile was either a right turn or a left turn with minimal straights. My hips were on fire. The inside of every turn was slick and the outside was usually filled with a puddle. It felt more like an interval workout. After the slalom course, the a short uphill felt so much better than the twisty turns. The back loop of the figure-8 course was much drier and faster. My first lap was good, my second lap was much harder. The fatigue set in, but having a substantial lead, I wasn't worried, so I eased up a bit caving into the pain with confidence. Not too much, but enough that I wasn't digging deep during the back loop. Finishing first never gets old, the joy is always simple, and I'm glad I had the opportunity to get out there with everyone else. Not sure if I'd run this course any different, unless the course was much much drier. Finished up the afternoon by volunteering at the aid station until about 2 PM. Such a good idea. Good people, good racers, and a good Sunday morning. Thanks, Northwest Trail Runs.
Official Results:

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

April 8 - April 14

Weekly Totals, Time: 9:45:56 Distance: 49.89 mi. Vertical: 9,252 ft.
Weekly Averages, Time: 1:23:42 Distance: 7.13 mi. Vertical: 1,322 ft.

After last week's 7-day vertical 'PR' -why do I(we) have such obsession over stats?- I thought I'd take it easy for a few days. Turns out, I only needed one off day, and truthfully, I'm not sure I needed to take the day fully off. I don't know, I'm 50/50 on the idea of not taking any days off. I lean more towards the idea that walking for 20 minutes is far more beneficial than a complete rest day. At the same time, however, I feel great most of the time after a full days rest. After two full days I feel awful. My legs are heavy, my mind is lazy, and my body takes forever to warm-up. Why? Don't know. So, I only allow myself one day off. Got to do what works best for you. No secret equation. Running is simply: experiment, review, repeat.

I've been pondering a few thoughts during my running lately:
1) When is it going to be light after 8 PM? Officially, this happens on April 16 in Seattle, Washington. But I get off at 8 PM most evenings, so the trails are dark by the time I trek the 10 miles from work-to-home-to-playground. Maybe the better question is, "When is it going to be light enough to run the trails sans headlamp after work?" <err, too long of a question> "Why do I concern myself with what I can't change?" <definitely more apropos.> Well, a bit more research reveals, June 4th is my predicted answer. Full moon and official sunset time: 9:01 PM. Who wants to do a 'not so' dark night trail run with me? Seriously, leave me a comment and lets set something up. We can get all Shakespeare and make t-shirts that say, "A Midsummer Night's Dream Run"

Shakespeare had to have been a runner. That guy(s) <controversy> was weird as hell. I wonder what kind of shoes Shakespeare would wear? Do you think he would run barefoot? Would Romeo & Juliet have been something other than a Shakespearean tragedy?

2) Are there really any 'normal' runners? Yeah, yeah everyone is special, but sometimes I feel like my thoughts would be best narrated by Roald Dahl, one of Jack Robert Thompson's sons, and Alice Liddell. The conversation would be fungic drollery. <outside-the-box use of that adjective>

3) <Think Paula Cole> "Where have all the Ariolimax columbianus gone?" Stepping around those little forest floor scavengers make for a great technical footwork on the trail.

I can't explain why I've been having these thoughts lately, but I do know that they fit my self-image of my psyche.

Ugh, I should post some pictures soon. Until then, here's a video I made about the final miles of a trail runner's first 50k. It could not have been scripted any better. Just complete honesty. We've all been there. Big congrats, to Jamey B. for his accomplishment. All music is by Ravin' wolf

April 08, Time: 2:59:15 Distance: 11.45 mi. Vertical: 3,712 ft.
Recovery Run. Double summits of West Peak, single summit of Central Peak. First ascent and descent I ran solo from SR 900 to May Valley TH, by way of West Peak. 53 min., total. Remaining miles, I picked up two great guys that wanted to experience Squak Mtn. We mostly hiked up the steep inclines and jogged the 'flats' and downhill. Always pleasant to slow things down and take-in the sights and sounds of what I usually speed past. 3 hours of running, not too shabby for an 'off day.' My left hip is hurting quite a bit, though, from last Wednesday's Chirico descents. Nothing to worry about, yet.

April 09, Time: 1:00:37 Distance: 6.26 mi. Vertical: 1,983 ft.
Tempo Run. Cruised the ascent in a good effort. 3 summits in 24hrs definitely took some pep out of my motivation when I was hurting...need to work on mid-effort confidence. Not my fastest ascent, but it'll do. 13,700' of climbing in the past 7 days and a good effort, I'm not disappointed. However, the three guys ahead of me crushed me, haha. Congrats to them.

April 10, Time: 0:41:09 Distance: 4.55 mi. Vertical: 37 ft.
Recovery Run. Legs are feeling good. A great group to run with.

April 11, Time: Distance: Vertical:

April 12, Time: 0:59:33 Distance: 8.93 mi. Vertical: 233 ft.
Run #1:Recovery Run. Slowed down to enjoy the amazing weather, this morning. Blue skies above me and a halo of dark storm clouds over the Olympics and over Mount Rainier. Fantastic run into work. Tired of the road, however.

Run #2:Tempo Run. Started the evening planning on an easy 5 mile jaunt and decided that I was feeling great, so I picked up the pace and intensity each mile. Unfortunately, my stomach didn't like the food I ate right before I ran. Running too long under 6:02 min./mi. pace and the bathroom was making alarming calls...weird. Beautiful sunset. The fiery orange of a west coast sunset cascading over the tall silhouette of the Olympic Mountains, perfect. Tired of the road.

April 13, Time: 2:13:56 Distance: 10.00 mi. Vertical: 881 ft.
Recovery Run. The usual lake run was interupted by curious minds. Debbie O. lead us there some unexplored trails that felt more like bushwhacking than running at times, but we found some great trails and will definitely be back to explore more. An odd run into a 'religious' institution that felt more like Silence of the Lambs than hopeful. Definitely will be back to explore more. Hattori's are Saucony's best shoe ever. Love these things.

April 14, Time: 1:51:25 Distance: 8.69 mi. Vertical: 2,406 ft.
Run #1: Commute home from work.
Run #2: Filming/pacing Jamey B.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

March 25 - April 9

March 25 - April 9
Weekly Totals, Time: 17:40:42 Distance: 90.26 mi. Vertical: 21,413 ft.
Weekly Averages, Time: 1:06:18 Distance: 5.64 mi. Vertical:1,338 ft.

Sunday, March 25: Brad D., and I set out to run the Tiger Mountain Trail (TMT), North-to-South, in the dark. 16 miles, one way. Headlamp batteries replaced. Shoes laced. The sun in full sleep mode. Go. In total, we spent almost 5 hours navigating through deep, slushy snow. Winding through dense forest, chatting about life, we managed to get into a three to four mile groove that was silent. No talking, yet we were incredibly vocal. I don't know, it was weird. Stride-for-stride in the middle of Tiger Mountain, the light from our headlamps the only visible ambiance. It felt right. A few miles down the trail, however, we took a wrong turn and wound up spinning around like mice in a maze searching for cheese. After some quick map 'guess' work, we found the TMT, but went the wrong way. after just over a 1/4 mi., we decided that going north was not the right path. U-turning we wound up back on the gravel road. Most of which had been covered in snow. The night sky started to get darker, and as we stood there deciding what to do the shivers set-in. Being in the middle of Tiger Mountain...somewhere...shivering is the last thing we needed. Skirting around a piece of construction equipment we found the TMT, again. This time the path was right. The last few miles were miles of celebration, and miles of relief. We planned on taking just over 3 hours at the most. As we stumbled onto the cold asphalt, our watches displayed, without hesitation, almost 5 hours. Some quick sips of water, some laughs, a big hug and another run was written down in the training log. I didn't really run much more than that for the rest of the. The run was far too long, and felt more like a 'race', in terms of fatigue. I kept things easy to avoid a 'too much, too soon.'

Last week, I set a "PR" for vertical gain in a seven day period. 14,000 ft.+. I know there are a lot of other people that run a lot more than that, but it was a great accomplishment for me. The week started with some solid Hill Repeats on Cougar Mtn. (Wilderness TR); two easy ascents, followed by two quick descents of Tiger Mtn. (Chirico TR) on Wednesday, and ended on April 9. with a 'tempo' up Squak Mtn. (South Access Rd.) Although the time wasn't a PR, the effort felt strong for having run so much vertical that week. I'm getting stronger, and more confident. I do need to work on mid-race confidence, though. It comes in time, but I'm eager for it. Admitting that I struggle with confidence in the middle of hard efforts is tough, but it's true. Acknowledging your weaknesses is the only way to start improving.

Check out my good friend, amazing athlete, and training partner Joe G.'s blog...special treat there, too. (video produced by

Check out the awesome-ness on Garden of Life's Facebook Page:
Joseph Gray and Trey Bailey