The Short: 3710 feet of elevation, Did only one loop plus extra (18 miles) in 4:23:06. Was hoping to do a 50k (two loops), but didn't have enough time.
The Long: Although I was desiring to do the 50k option, work time constraints prevented me from doing this. So I ended up doing a single loop...plus some extra credit due to getting lost on the course. So even with only doing one loop and not being able to add this to my Marathon Maniacs totals, I am still very happy with the distance I did and the experience that I took from it.
- Day before Run -
Since I work odd hours, I had about 4 hours sleep before I had to leave to tackle this monster of a "fun run". But 4 hours of sleep seemed to be sufficient this time. After my experience in Bellingham, I decided to wear long, loose-fitting pants (not tights) that I wear for running. I wanted to make sure my legs stayed warmer than last time since the weather called for scattered showers and strong winds. I also had the chance to wear my Injinji socks for the first time. I hoped they would do a better job with keeping my feet blister free compared to my bad experience with Smartwool socks.
- Pre-Run -
Although the actual run starts at 8am, I showed up at the 6:30am early start. The early starters (4 folks total, including myself) were trying to re-mark some of the course. Seems that the trouble with marking Tiger Mountain with trail markers (in this case Christmas ribbon and ornaments), people who aren't runners will remove them. This happens every year, although it doesn't bother the veterans who know the trails like the back of their hand though. The RD was kind enough to provide me and everyone else a ziploc bag that had the course route described from trail to trail, showing approximate mileage.
- The Run -
Once I got my gear on (Two 20oz Ultimate Direction Fastdraw handheld bottles w/Gatorade, one 24oz bottle of Gatorade in my waistpack bottle holder, 8 Espresso Love & Vanilla Bean flavored GU's tucked in various pockets, a small container of S!Caps for electrolytes, two headlamps [yeah two, you'll find out why], a packet of Hot Hands instant hand warmers if it got TOO cold, a bandana around my neck to use as a nose-drip rag, and a small container of Aleve if things get too painful), I headed off with the early starters in the darkness.
Running in the dark got easier with the dual headlamps. I took a queue from Western States 100 trail pioneer Gordy Ainsleigh who said that he wears a headlamp around his waist in addition to the one on his head. The light at waist-level allows him to see things on the ground more clearly and he doesn't get tunnel-vision from doing this. It worked great! I'm really happy about this with the upcoming Bridle Trails 50k Twilight Run that is held in the dark.
Before the light-level started to increase with daybreak, I was able to see the town of Issaquah from a lookout point. It looked really nice. The view looked like it would work on a postcard or tourism guide with the calm view above the town.
As I ran with the early starter group, we did our best to find those trail markers and replaced those that disappeared. Thankfully, most of the trail markers that were removed were from the beginning part of the trail, the part that was the lowest in elevation and not deeper into the forest. The best was yet to come.
Along the trail, I did my best to move large branches and downed trees out of the trail path. I was able to move all but two downed trees due to size. (Note to self: Remember to take a chainsaw next year.) Throughout the whole time, I was soaking everything up and trying to make a mental note of everything I saw. After all, if I'm going to use the course as apart of my training for my 2008 races/runs, I should know which way I'm going.
After the first mile, the course was almost all power-climbing with a few runnable spots here and there. Unless you were a really good trail runner, running up some of those steep inclines would prove to be a difficult challenge. As I continued my ascent, the rain came back. But this time it was different. When I looked at my sleeves, I realized it wasn't just rain. Rain + Ice + Snow! I was so shocked! That's when I knew I was high enough in elevation to where I'd eventually encounter snow as I continued on the course. As I kept moving, I started hearing creaking noises. I looked up as I was moving and saw some scary stuff. The trees were swaying to the wind. I prayed that I wouldn't have to play "dodge the falling log".
About two hours into the course, one of the semi-early starters who got going at 7am caught us around mile 7. It was a familiar face, Marathon Maniac #11 (better known as tc*). tc* is a really strong ultrarunner and will often go on a long trail run alone. I've often tried to pick his brain on his ability to be all zen-like when it comes to ultras. With what seemed like zero effort, he continued the ascent with strong and nimble strides while I trailed behind him like a child learning how to walk. Seems my legs have alot of learning to do when it comes to running along uneven terrain with serious switchbacks.
I reached the Paw Print Rest Station (about 9+ miles) and from here, this is where the 8am starters who are practically the elite of ultrarunning passed me quickly. As soon as I blinked, they were gone and the only sign of them were their footprints in the trail (this will pay off later for a newbie like me). But to be passed by these folks, I'm very humbled by it. Guys like Scott Jurek, Uli Steidl, Brian Morrison sharing the same trail as I am, it totally blows your mind.
Going through miles 10 and 11, the course was covered with snow and it was difficult to find the trail under normal conditions. Thankfully, with all the elite runners ahead, they created a path that was easy to identify (although the Christmas tree decorated the previous week on the trail was really easy to spot too). However, since they plowed through the snow, I ran along the slush that was generated by them. More clumsy power-hiking and running as things only increased in elevation and got slicker as time went on. However, I was in for a treat after mile 11 that made all this struggle worth it.
After the last switchback, I went past a big fern and suddenly I was King of the Mountain! I reached the top of Tiger 1! I finally saw the place called the Hiker's Hut up-close and even though there was snow kicking up from the wind, the view was amazing. I ate another GU and popped another S!Cap and set off towards one mother of a screaming downhill (Tiger Mountain Road) I had ever ran on before hitting an even higher and steeper mountain top, Tiger 2.
Unfortunately, this is where I gained some extra credit. Once I got to a leveled portion of the trail, there was a closed gate ahead and a turnoff onto the left that continued with Tiger Mountain Road. Since I didn't see any kind of marking anywhere, I assumed that I would turn left and continue on Tiger Mountain Road. Roughly a mile into it, I noticed something odd. The snow was fresh. There were no footprints on the ground. Uh-oh. No footprints = WRONG WAY!!!!! I trudged back up where the gate was and the people who started early with me marked the gate with a ribbon. Damn. I'll have to remember that for next time.
This climb up to Tiger 2 was a very wide road, but also very steep one. Once I got to the top of Tiger 2 (the highest point near 3000 feet), it was a fast downhill and then a short uphill to the last summit, Tiger 3.
When I got to Tiger 3, I had no idea how much downhill my body would have to endure. I love downhill running, I really do. But there is a difference between straight downhill running and downhill running on snow/slush/muddy-covered switchbacks that periodically have several sudden drops due to being designed like tall stair steps. I did my best to stay with the momentum, but it was also draining me of my energy and I tried to pull back and control my speed a bit more. I think with a few more practices on those trails, I'll get better at downhill running on those types of trails.
Approaching the end, I looked at my watch and saw that I was well over the 4 hour mark. There would be no way I could do a second loop and be done before 3pm. I decided that a 25k+ w/some extra credit (18 miles total) is okay, even without being able to add another finished ultra to my Maniacs race list. When I got to the finish, my time was 4:23:06. Not bad for a first time on that mountain. If I wasn't working later on today, I would have totally have done a second loop and got my 50k in. I had the energy and wasn't feeling the typical fatigue that I usually do at the end of some marathons and ultras. Oh well, there's always next year or even next month if I setup a 50k there for the Yours Truly 50k global fun run for the last Sunday of February. I'm sure the weather will be better by then. *crossing fingers*
- Post-Run -
I was able to catch alot of Maniacs who were gearing up for their second loop and others that decided that one loop was enough. It was a fun run after all. I also had a serious fan-boy moment when I talked to Uli Steidl and Scott Jurek. They were so cool! I'm hoping that shaking hands with them will rub off some of their abilities onto me. Now I have to find Paul Tergat & Haile Gebrselassie and shake hands with them to steal some of their running mojo. :-)
When I got home, I checked my feet. Oh happy day! No new blisters! The socks worked and did exactly what they said they would do! Legs: Not sore! Although I didn't get my chance to do the 50k today, I'm confident of what my performance will be for Bridle Trails next Saturday thanks to how I did today. Expect a PR!