Saturday, January 20, 2007

Capitol Peak Trail Run

I don't know where to start. It was really, really hard. It was really, really awesome. It was incredible. I can't believe I can still walk. Steve, Jenny, Matt, Eric and I all drove up in Steve's Expedition - they call it the Yeti. We came to an intersection where the race director and Search and Rescue volunteers were parked - snow all around. They were warning people that the road ahead was snowy and slick and were offering shuttle service to those who needed it. I'm in the backseat thinking uh-oh. Steve flipped into four wheel drive and we continued on. I expected snow, we were warned there'd be snow, but I thought it would be as we climbed to the top, not at the start. We piled out of the car, started getting ready. There was already a fire going, so we wandered over and signed in. We got to see lots of local runners we knew and we got to meet Tom. We chatted a bit, listened to the race director and then gathered for the start. The best thing about it all was that the sun was coming up and we could see clear blue skies through the trees.

Suddenly, everyone was running - we took off too. I started thinking I might be in trouble - we bolted out after the crowd and ran onto snow covered single track - there were runners behind us and I'm thinking I can't possibly keep this pace. Jenny pulled over to the side and said to let them pass - thank goodness! They ran past us and we fell into our own pace. We still had some people behind us, and as they caught up we'd let them pass. We were climbing immediately and already walking in the first few minutes. We climbed and we climbed and we climbed. It was snowy and slick and beautiful - and even though it was wearing me out, it was so much fun! It took us about 1:40 to go the first five miles. We were running through snow, then it'd be mud, then more ice and snow.

We finally made it to the second aid station and had to do a little out and back up a forest service road. At first it was kind of easy - there were crunchy, iced over tire tracks that gave us smoother footing than anything we'd had. It was very cold there and the wind was howling through. I pulled out my mittens and pulled them back over my gloves, I zipped my coat all the way up - oh, and since it was all up hill, and now incredibly slick, we were walking. We had caught up with another group at the aid station and they were running through at the same time. We came to the peak - there were a few small buildings and a whole bunch of radio towers. We had to run around the towers and back down. As we were running past them, large chunks of ice were blowing off and landing all around us. It was kind of eerie up there - there was icy fog all around - and the wind and ice were blowing and howling. We started back down the road, running when we had traction and walking when we didn't. My inner calves were starting to hurt from all the sideways slippage, I was encouraged though because I knew it was going to be a lot of down hill from here. The Garmin shows the highest point at 5.8 miles and 2676 feet.

We re-entered the forest and got some protection from the wind. I think we were running along the ridge at this point. I won't lie to you, these last eleven miles seemed like they were endless. I was feeling pretty tired and my back was tightening up. Every once in a while we'd stop - Jenny would stretch her Achilles and I'd bend over and stretch my back. That would revive me and we'd go on. We hardly used my timer at all because we walked the uphills and ran when we could. Believe me, at this point I felt every inch of uphill we encountered.

We were running through such an amazing diversity of ecology - I can't even begin to describe it. Some looked like heavy forest, there were areas of deciduous trees, and areas of pines with little underbrush. There were mossy rain-forest areas and low-scrub areas. We ran through many places that made me think of cathedrals. Oh, but I haven't told you about the scariest part of the run. We'd been hearing gunfire for a while, when suddenly we heard it right above us. We were on a trail below a high ridge with tall trees all the way down it. We looked ahead and we could see the pieces of trees flying off as the bullets hit them. Not only that, we could smell the gun smoke. We started yelling that there were people on the trail, but they kept firing. I imagine they had ear protection on. We decided to run forward during a lull because we figured if we could get around the bend we'd be fine. Of course, as we were running, they started up again. We kept yelling, and we were running in a crouched position - which is not easy at mile 13! We finally made the bend and slowed to a walk to let the adrenaline settle.

The only part of the run I didn't like was the dirt ditch. Think of a V only wide enough at the bottom for one foot. Think of slick red mud. We walked through here placing one foot directly in front of the other - we were both too sore to tolerate trying to walk or run normally on the slick mud. It made the ankles bend inward and we'd had too much of that in the snow already. This was through a huge clear-cut area. It was here that we caught up with the group from the towers again - the path had widened enough that we could run, so we ran up behind them - they stepped to the side and said "You are running?" It was kind of funny, because we thought that's what we were supposed to be doing!

We finished in 5:23:49. The Garmin caught 16.59 miles of the 17 and gave us an average pace of 19:31. Our slowest mile was 24:58 and our fastest was 16.01. It was wonderful to swing around the corner and see the finish. We had just walked up to the car and Steve came running up from the wrong direction- he had done one loop, ran four miles into the second and decided he'd had enough. He turned around and ran back - he totaled 25 miles for the day. Matt went a little farther - 28 miles. Eric completed the second loop as well for 34 miles.

It was a great day. I'd do it again, and I will do the Orcas Fat Ass. I'm a little worried about doing it alone - only for the mental challenge. Jenny is such a great companion - she's cheerful and funny and encouraging. I'm trying to talk her into skipping the 20 miler she's signed up for and doing Orcas instead (I'm not having a lot of luck). I'm hoping Orcas will be a snow-free experience. The race director today told me that he thinks Orcas is tougher. I'm going with the idea that it'll be about equal to Capitol Peak because of the snow and ice today. A girl can dream can't she?

I'll put up a couple of pictures from the start, and when Jenny emails me hers I'll get them up. Till then, I am going to say "Happy Trails" again because this time I know how it feels!

24 comments:

robtherunner said...

Sounds like quite the adventure and yes I completely wish I could've been there. I am also glad to see that Eric finished up loop #2. Maybe I will see you tomorrow if you are coming out at all.

Jenny said...

It was great! I agree wholeheartedly. And it's not a 20K I'd have to give up, but a 20 miler! We'll see. Still have to check with the fam. I emailed the photos. Did you get tehm? let me know.
Jenny

JustRun said...

Wow, congratulations! What a challenging day, my goodness! You are one tough cookie!

Journey to a Centum said...

Oh yeah, we forgot to tell you guys that part of ultra running involves people shooting in your general direction as you run the event. It adds to the excitement during the run. Dumb Asses!

Nice job on your run today! That's a tough climb with a nice mix of mud and snow.

olga said...

What the heck happened to my comment? I hate bloggings when it does it to me! I put so much heart into a comment - it it went to the other side of the moon?
Shoot me! If it doesn't come up tomorrow, I'll email to you my thoughts:)

Bob Gentile said...

Great Job and what an adventure! Way to Go!

Bapp said...

Snow, mud, mountains, and flying bullets. Holy cow. Glad to hear that you made it out ok and that you enjoyed the run. Nice job.

Darrell said...

That is so great that you enjoyed the trail run. Sounds like you cut your trail running teeth on a pretty tough one.

Thank goodness who ever was shooting was a bad shot. That had to be pretty scary.

PuddyRat said...

Way to gut it out Michelle. You scared me silly when you told me about the gunfire at coffee today. But I'm really impressed that you did this race in those awful conditions. You are an inspiration!

Sarah said...

What an accomplishment, Michelle! Now any old trail run will feel like a walk in the park. The ice and snow definitely makes it more difficult.

That gunfire sounds crazy! Better wear bright orange next time just in case. : )

susie said...

Oh my. That sounds absolutely tiring and invigorating at the same time. You are the best!! The energizer bunny!!

Angela said...

That looks like an amazing run. I haven't had the experience of running in snow yet, the forecast suggests it may come soon though. Are you using special shoes?

E-Speed said...

wow! That sounds tough! Great job! I hope you had fun! I went out for my first snow covered trail run yesterday and had a blast. Granted it wasn't nearly as hill as your run sounds!

Wes said...

I can't even imagine running under those conditions! And to have people shooting while you were on the trail. My god! That's scary. Glad you had a good time. You'll be a trail runnin maniac now :-)

David said...

That was exhilirating and mind boggling both at the same time. What a challenging experience and so foreign to me here in Florida.

Joe Ely said...

Awesome, Michelle. You are becoming one tough runner!! The V-mud section sounded brutal on tired legs.

The whole gunfire thing is really wierd and not a small bit scary. I'm so glad you had nothing further to report...but smelling the gunpowder is way too close!

Take good care of your legs this week!!

WADDLER26.2 said...

Love the photos. Watch an awesome recap. Thanks for sharing. You are on tough runner.

Thomas said...

For all the running I've done, I have never been shot at.

I guess it added a bit of excitement to the day, but I am glad that you're ok.

matt said...

oh my...what an adventure, Michelle. i have never heard of flying bullets in a race...is that all part of the Fat Ass race experience?

Those running conditions sound intense. I think you definitely have the tough make-up to keep doing this. Great job!!

*jeanne* said...

Wow! Awesome pics of an amazing run! I'm such a whimpy-butt runner...
all my safe, warm-weather running!
YOU are the Snow -and Mud- Queen!

Anne said...

Holy moly. First I thought the blowing ice chunks was dangerous enough, and then I find out you're crouching to avoid being shot! I guess maybe blaze orange attire should be mandatory for this one next year! With those obstacles and so much more, I salute your strong finish.

angie's pink fuzzy said...

wow, that's awesome!!!

and gunfire = scary scary scary!

Jack said...

Looks like lots of fun, I love trails!

Dori said...

Wow. I'm just stunned. You really are a tough momma! Congratulations on such a great race.

I saw a comment you left Runner Susan and couldn't believe it was you. I never would have guessed you had weight issues. You're a poster girl for running and vegetarian-ism.