Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Tale of Six Summits

I started feeling nervous about running Six Summits last night. I was thinking to myself that I hadn't done a real trail run since Orcas last February, and that was hard, hard work. What if I couldn't do it? What if I wasn't tough enough? Eric was off running in Cle Elum and wasn't home to help calm my fears. In fact, he didn't roll in till after 9:00 last night - pretty late considering the others would be at our house at 6:30 am. I packed up all my stuff, dithered a little about what I might need for warmth, prepped some peanut butter multi-grain tortillas and tried to think positive.

The house felt cold this morning when we got up. I checked the outside temp - 57 and from what I could see through the skylight we had cloudy skies. The forecast called for rain starting about 3 pm - I thought we'd be done by then. I pulled on shorts and a short-sleeve. A few minutes later Eric pointed out I had my shirt on backwards. Whoops. Fixed that, gathered the last minute stuff and pulled a long-sleeve over the top. Eric told me he was taking his big pack and could carry stuff if I wanted him to, so at the last minute I added my goretex jacket to his load. Fixed a cup of tea, loaded the car and we left. Jenny and Linda were in the back seat. Jamal drove his own car so we could set up a shuttle - he said he'd ride alone so he could blast his music and wake up. We had a fun ride up - driving straight to the main trail head. Once there, we shifted stuff to Jamal's car and used the restrooms. That is when I noticed I had my long-sleeve on backwards! Jenny had noticed, but wasn't really sure, so she didn't say anything. I must of been really sleepy this morning. We crammed all five of us into our car with four seats and drove back to where we wanted to start.

As we started down the trail at a slow jog, Eric told us not to get too excited about running, because we were about to start climbing. He suggested we might want to save our energy. It was beautiful and green. There was a slight drizzle, but it wasn't making it through the tree canopy to us. I warmed up quick and pulled off the long-sleeve. We were having great conversations and cruising along - sometimes walking, sometimes running. Jamal, the youngest and the fastest, wanted to get 20 miles today, so Eric would send him down the trail, Jamal would reach a point, then turn around and run back to us. The woods were dark and foggy and kind of spooky and twice I startled when I looked up to see Jamal standing above me.



The climb to our first summit.

I was excited when Eric told us we'd reached the trail that takes us out and back to South Tiger - because there was the stump with the face, the one I'd seen in Eric's pictures. The path was a little overgrown - ferns and blackberries and devils club. Not too bad, except everything was wet so pushing through them soaked the legs, and eventually the feet. Since this trail run was set up at my request and with the announcement that it would be done at my pokey pace, I got to lead all day. It was fun, but I don't know how a person finds their way on to some of those trails - there were points where Eric would tell us to take a left and I swear, there was just the barest trace of a trail to follow.



The stump with the face.



We were told that there was a ritual at each summit - something we had to touch each time. At this first summit, there is a box with a sign-in and we all signed. On the run back to the main trail, the others ran ahead, while I took my time coming down. I'm not very sure footed on rocky, rooty downhills. We met at the stump and had our first snack break. Then it was down the trail again.

I'm not going to write about the climb to each summit. I will say that there were some very steep sections on the climb to Middle Tiger - our second summit. It was somewhere in here where we started laughing every time Eric gave Jamal directions. One time he sent him off, then as soon as Jamal was out of sight, Eric says "Uh-oh. I just sent Jamal on a really tough mission." He'd suddenly realized we weren't quite where he thought we were and he'd sent Jamal the wrong way. Fortunately, (and also something we found hilarious) Jamal's imagination was in overdrive and each time he ran out alone, he'd start looking at the fog through the forest, would get a little spooked and would run back to us, so he made it back before he took Eric's wrong turn. The funny part was, Eric did this several times. Jamal got smart though and never went quite as far as Eric suggested. The other funny part was walking in single file, then we'd hear Jamal's voice from the back, bringing up yet another scary movie or show he'd seen, or commenting on the fog in the forest again.

We came to a green, green clearing on one section of trail, leaving the woods for just a few minutes. It was amazing to look ahead and see how dark it was in there under the trees, and to see the fog blowing through.





Touching the rock at Middle Tiger

The weather was getting progressively worse. Look at the progression of clothing in the photos - from short sleeve, to long sleeve, to wind shell, to goretex and hat. We were thoroughly and completely soaked by the end. We enjoyed another snack break sitting in the hikers hut on the fourth summit - outside the rain was coming down and the wind was blowing. We walked out, then Eric and I turned around and went back inside to don the goretex jackets. Much better. The toughest part of the course came at the end, when we had three miles of downhill on tired quads, and for me, on beat up and blistered toes. I rolled my left ankle at least five times today - twice on that three mile section down. No worries though, it doesn't hurt at all. Now that we are home, the only thing I'm feeling is the throb and tingle of a nettle sting.




Jamal on the trail with the giant devils club. Do you see a trail?



At the Christmas Tree on the way to East Tiger

Here is what I learned. I learned that this run today that took us 6:09:11, others have done in three hours. I think Eric said his best time was around 3.5 hours. The garmin reports 15 miles, but Eric says it loses some in the trees, and it is a 17 mile run. So, my pokey pace is pretty pokey. Doesn't matter though, because I did it and I'm happy. I wonder about trying a trail marathon or 50k though, because it would take me an awful long time. I learned, or re-learned that I'm not at my best running down trails - I don't do steep well, and though I can see obstacles (rocks and roots) ahead, it takes too long for my brain to process where to step - at least when I'm tired. I see it, but my foot is often down before I realize where I should have planted. Oh, well, I never fell, though I did a few hops and twists. I also learned what a "tc switchback turn" is - and that they make me dizzy. Best of all, I learned I am tough enough and I am in way better shape than last February. Though my feet hurt (think pounding on toes and a couple blisters) I could have kept going. I could even think about turning around and going back to get 12 Summits. Amazing! I also learned that I should look carefully at what I pack. Once we got to Jamal's car, I sat down to put my Birkenstocks on. Imagine my surprise when I pulled out a brown one and a blue one and discovered they were both for the left foot! I had dry socks, but had to put them back in wet shoes. Bummer. Two shirts on backwards and two left shoes...




Thank you to Eric, for agreeing to take me on a Six Summits adventure, so I could experience the trail I hear so much about. Running a 50k yesterday turned out to be a good idea for him, he was just tired enough to find hanging out at my pace a good deal. It was a great trail day and I am looking forward to doing it again!


Touching the rock at Tiger Three

28 comments:

Sunshine said...

Yes!! Congratulations on "Better shape than last year".
Good job. Fun, too.
Thanks for sharing pictues.

robtherunner said...

Sounds like a great time was had by all. I wish I could have joined you today. Next time you'll have to do the normal summits routine and get up at 4:30 so we could start at the normal trail time of 6 a.m. :)

olga said...

Hey, this was a good outing! I don't care how much time anything takes me as long as I am in lush forest with single track...much better than even running super-fast on flat roads! Rather 17M in 6 hrs than 26 boring miles in 4:) Yeehaa!

Wes said...

Sounds like a blast! You can so do trails for fun and marathons for, well, fun too :-) but more serious! Great report and great pics!! Loved it all!

Michelle Sarabia said...

Job well done. I wish I could have been there.

Steve said...

Hmm, Tiger 6 barely done and you are already talking about 12 Summits. Beware of your growing habit.

Nice run and the time is good for over 5,000 feet of climb. Keep at it and you will get more comfortable on the downhills. Too bad about the weather, although the fog has its's mytery, the views from the the summits can be wonderful.

Sarah Elaine said...

Sounds like you had a great time! I have a runner friend here who keeps threatening to convert me into a trail runner. Sounds like fun!

wendy said...

Way to go, Michelle!

I think it's awesome you went out and did this run - you guys look like you had a great time. =)

Maybe in the next few months, I'll be in good enough shape to try the summits, and we can go at MY pokey pace. I'll have to make sure everyone does a fifty miler the day before so it won't seem quite so slow then. ;-)

Anyhow, I'm so proud of you - you're always raising the bar for yourself, it's so inspirational!

Randy said...

What a great report. Sounds like you did have a wonderful time. It also sounds pretty rugged for us city folks.

Good news to report tho from Oklahoma...I finished my "first" marathon yesterday!!!! Short report on my blog for now and a longer race report to follow later today.

Jenny, Maniac #401 said...

The photos are great! It looks like the middle of the night while we were under the Christmas tree!
I'll bgo back anytime!
Jenny

E-Speed said...

sounds like a fun run! Glad you got your trail feet wet again :)

scott keeps running said...

It is SO green! Looks like everyone had a great time and you did great with the big six. Twelve should be no problem. :) I need to make it that way to tackle these legendary routes.

And that face in the stump is pretty trippy. How can you turn your back to it with it looking at you like that?

King Arthur said...

You should try running it in the winter. All the trails seem like they are 4 feet wide. Glad you liked it. I'll send Jenn with you next time.

Joe said...

what a fun run and a way to share that well-known trail Eric enjoyed.

Great pix, too...and am so glad you brought Jamal back with you!

psbowe said...

I'm out of it, I swore I left you a comment last night. Haha, I'm with you on not being sure footed, that was my biggest problem in Cle Elum. Sounds like an awesome time out there. I agree, I love the trails a little more than the plain roads...but kind of hard to do for me...don't really like running alone, still searching for another trail runner in my neighborhood.

See you in Portland!

Anonymous said...

What a great recapturing of all the details of the adventure in the woods yesterday...well all that we want made public anyway! If I start to forget someday, I can come back here and vividly relive the experience by reading the account and looking at the pictures again (thanks, Eric!). For now though I think a few little muscles will remind me of the day.

You finished strong and with a smile on your face...bigger than the smile on that weird stump on the way up to the first summit. Thanks for helping to organize this nutty notion into a reality!
Linda

Journey to a Centum said...

Hey and you only complained... I mean commented, on the steep trail once! Now you know what tomfoolery we are up to when we venture out to Tiger Mt.

You ran well and we made our predicted time w/o any problem! Time to focus on Portland now!

Trail Scat

Sarah said...

You are tough enough! I re-learned how hard trails are this weekend too. But tons of fun. Sounds like you had a great time! And I know those devils club well...ouch!

Meghan said...

Hello Tough Girl! This sounds like a super-fun run! I'm glad you all had good clothing for what appears to be some nasty weather.

Everytime I read about this area of the world from someone who is out there playing, I get all excited and think I want to do the summits run some day. You inspire me.

Take care of those blistered toesies!

shawn said...

You definitely picked a "good" day for a 6 summits run. What could be better than being dripping wet and covered in scratches from Devil's Club? Not much by the looks of your pictures - lots of smiling going on. By the way, I don't think I should ever run with Jamal - we'd probably both scare the bejeezus out of each other thinking up scary movies. :)

Mother of Martineau Tribe said...

okay - so, next time you can be my tour guide!

Thomas said...

Hurling is a gaelic team sport played with big sticks. It used to be popular in the 19th century, because the sticks could also be used to whack the English around the head (though they tended to reply with guns).

The jam, on the other hand, was made by Niamh. On Saturday, after my run, I went back out on the road with a big box and started picking the blackberries that had been tempting me for at least one week. And the scones are Niamh's speciality. Good stuff, but not quite so good for my waistline.

Sunshine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JustRun said...

That looks like so much fun! Good job on getting those 6 summits done!
And that fog in those trees- how awesome!

Anne said...

Not only was the run cold, but all of your photos are just so cooool. I'm not good on downhills either, and for the same reason -- brain and feet rarely are in synch. I'm glad you did this one -- and had energy to spare. I love the Christmas tree.

Annette said...

Amazing! You are just on one adventure after another. That's so great! Good for you for trying something new. I hope the blisters are recovering quickly! :) By the way, it sounds like you're getting the itch for something BIG! ;)

Jon said...

Congrats on your first 6 Summits up there! I've never had the chance to partake in any of the Tiger Mountain Trails yet. You're one step ahead of me! :-)

Makita said...

I love train runs - wish I could do them more often but they aren't easy with a double joggger. :)

My kiddos don't seem to mind wearing their shoes on the wrong feet... :)