Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Capitol Peak 50-Mile Race (and some catch up)

I would like to extend my sincere apologies to my many followers for not writing a blog entry in almost 2 years. I have been meaning to write one for a while, and lately my brother-in-law Beno has been haranguing me so that combined with me having done something worthwhile this past weekend has resulted in me sitting at a table, drinking whiskey, and writing a blog post. The dearth of posts over the past two years is due to having had a second daughter (Cleo Rose) in the summer of 2014, and the following reduction in free time that has resulted in fewer adventures and no time to write about them.

Here is a short listing of the adventures that I would have written about over the past two years if I had the time:

February, 2014: Skied the Birkie (50km Nordic ski race in Wisconsin) for the second time with my brother Trev and a good crew from work and other connections. Bing and I started in the 4th wave and we managed to finish in almost the exact same time of 3:27 (though that fit little stinker sprinted away from me in the finishing straight). This was good enough to qualify for the first wave for 2015, so I was locked into skiing it again the following year.

August, 2014: Cleo was born in June, and in late July Roanne and I took advantage of our respective maternity/paternity leave policies to spend 1 week in the UK visiting her family and then 3 weeks in Chamonix (the most amazing place on earth). Chamonix is like a magical fantasy land for anyone who has not been there, I won't even attempt to describe it since it is too good for words. Anyone who hasn't been there should go as soon as they can. While we were there I did a bunch of trail running, culminating in a great 45 mile day that took me into Switzerland and back into France (I meant to write a blog post about it but I don't think it will happen now). So. Awesome.
February, 2015: I skied the Birkie again with the same crew, and took advantage of much better conditions and being seeded in the first wave to knock my time down under 3 hours to 2:57. Here is a photo of Trev and myself with our ski beards on the bus ride back from the finish. Trev knocked almost 1:15 off from his time the year before, which resulted in Bing sculpting his likeness out of a large block of butter.

 Okay, give or take a few notable adventures that I may have forgotten about that brings us right up to the present. I have two summer projects for this year, one is to ride my bike from Seattle to Mazama in a day (more details to follow in a subsequent post, hopefully before 2017) and the second is to complete a 100 mile trail running race. I selected the Cascade Crest 100 as the event of choice and joined the entrant lottery back in February but unfortunately was not selected (there are more people than you would think who want to do these races, almost all of the more prominent ones have lottery-based entry). I did get waitlisted for it, and apparently if you complete the mandatory pre-requisites (finish a 50 mile+ race before August and do 8 hours of volunteer trail work) you have a very good chance of getting in, so that is what I am banking on.
My longest trail race before this year was the Bellingham Trail Marathon that I did last fall (great course), so back in February I registered for a 50 mile trail race on April 26th, the Capitol Peak 50-mile that is the subject of this blog post (if I ever get to describing the race itself). I had wanted to register for one a month or two later in order to have more time to build more fitness, but apparently other people had the same idea since they were all full. No self-respecting skier would switch to running while there was still snow on the ground, so I knew that I would be faced with a pretty short preparation time from mid-March until the race in late April.
My training program consisted of getting out for 1 or 2 runs of 5-6 miles midweek (usually on my lunch hour from work), and then one longer run each weekend that built from 10 miles up to 30 miles over the course of 5 weeks. My fairly unstructured training program went well, and after completing the final long run (30 miles) I was pleasantly surprised to find myself still not injured and moderately well equipped to take on my first 50 mile race. My goal was to finish in under 10 hours since I wasn't quite sure how the course would be (it had 7200 feet of elevation gain but I wasn't sure how steep the climbs would be) and I had never run a race that long before.
I managed to get to bed by 9:30pm the night before the race, so that I fit in over 6 hours of sleep before my alarm went off at 3:45am the next morning to start the drive down to Olympia. I arrived at the trailhead at 5:30am, at which time it was still completely dark and pretty cold. I picked up my race bib and went back to the car to get changed and wait for the start at 6:00am. At around 5:50am I headed over to the start line to hear the pre-race briefing with the 74 other hardy souls who had managed to get up that early, and at 6:00am the gun went off (actually the race director just yelled "go!") and we headed up the trail.
I knew I wanted to start off at a conservative pace so I tried not to be too excited and just stayed in amongst others who seemed to be going about the same speed I was. Everyone at the start seemed really skinny and fit, so it was hard to tell visually who the fast people would be. The race started with a long climb of about 2000 feet or so, topping out on what I am guessing was Capitol Peak since it seemed to be the highest thing around. I walked all of the steep parts of the ascent which was definitely a good call especially since I passed a number of people who were "running", expending way more energy to go at a slower pace than I was walking at. Of course, I did pick up my pace when I saw a photographer near the top:
We hit the first real aid station at about 9 miles in, and I stopped to drink some electrolyte stuff and grab some peanut butter sandwiches and an oreo that I ate as I headed off down the trail. By this point I was solo with no one else in sight, so it became more like a long run until each successive aid station. I felt pretty good until around mile 30 at which point I started to feel not so great, and began thinking that a 100 mile race was a very bad idea. At around mile 35 I was re-caught by a runner that I had passed around mile 30, and fortunately this served to light a fire under me and I started to go faster and feel better (and pull away from him again in the process). Here I am with him just having caught back up to me, starting to get my second wind:

From this point on I felt really good (with a few aches that came and went), and had no more issues with motivation. It also helped that by this time I was starting to catch runners from the 55km race who had started after us and were doing a slightly different course, it is always a good boost to pass people even if you technically aren't racing against them. The last part of the course was predominately downhill, and I managed to finish feeling pretty decent in a time of 8:51 which was good enough for 11th place overall (10th for the men, as my friend Aussie Ben would say I did get "chicked" by one woman who finished in 8th). At the finish they had really good food and I managed to eat three slices of pizza, two slices of pie, a bowl of soup, and two cookies.

So, step 1 of my two-step plan to get into the Cascade Crest 100 was a great success and in the books. Now I just need to find time for 8 hours of trail work (I am hoping that I can work on mountain bike trails instead of hiking trails since that is a much better cause) and hope that enough people drop off the wait/entry list that I can get in.