Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Squak / Tiger / Cougar trips

I was getting a little nervous that I have not trained hard enough for Primal Quest, so I promised myself that I would do 10,000 vertical feet of exercising this past Saturday, as this is our expected average daily gain and loss for each of the ten days of the event.

I got off to a good start when I volunteered to help with the Northwest Trail Run Squak Mountain half-marathon. Eric assigned me to mark the course, which is incredibly hilly as it goes up, down and around Squak Mountain. I spent more time hiking than running, but with all the course markings and the extra gallon jug of water that I carried to the summit for the aid station, I felt satisfied with my slow pace. 3600 feet already finished! This was actually the first time that I've been to Squak Mountain, and I'm definitely coming back. There are a lot of good trails and hills here.

After I finished the half-marathon course, I headed over to Tiger Mountain and pulled out my mountain bike for a trip up to Poo Poo Point and back. On my way back down, I hit the single track on Iverson Railroad; otherwise I stayed on fire roads. At the parking lot, I met Peteris, who wanted to do it again. Why not? He took me on some side roads and trails that I had not explored before. Then we did a final lap up East Tiger as far as the Preston trailhead. Snow stopped us a hundred yards short of the singletrack; I was in no condition at this point to brave the techincal downhills that it provided, so we headed back down to the parking lot.

Mountain biking is a lot easier on my body than trail running when hills are involved. My body was fatigued, but my legs were still feeling ok, so when Andrew Feucht said he wanted to do a long trail run at Squak the next day, I said "sign me up".

Andrew and I started at Sky Country trailhead on Cougar and started the usual SRC loop. I lagged behind, as my body did not seem to want to kick itself into gear after the big workout the day before, but eventually, Andrew kindly slowed down to my pace. We dropped down the connector trail to Squak, then we struggled up and over Squak, down the other side, and then back up and over again. We both mostly walked back up Wilderness Creek trail coming back up Cougar Mountain, but gained a lot of steam when it flattened out near the finish. We forewent our plan to include DeLeo Wall and Quarry trail, however. Andrew got in a 20+ mile run to prepare him for the North Face Endurance Challenge next week, and I managed to survive the weekend.

I finished a solid weekend. The good news is that I finished 35 miles of running, almost 40 miles of mountain biking, and logged about three vertical miles during the weekend. The bad news is that at Primal Quest, I have to keep doing that for 10 days straight rather than just a day and a half. I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Gorge Winds

Murray, Kimberly and I headed down to Hood River for an orienteering adventure set up by Dave Russell to help us prepare for the Desert Winds race on May 10th.
Forecast was for snow, and we hit a snowstorm on the way down, but it would turn out to be a beautiful sunny weekend.

First I picked up my new mountain bike at Mount View Cycles, who gave me a significant discount (and no sales tax), so I was quite happy. Then we pulled out maps and grids and plotted 30 CPs onto 3 maps, and headed out. After shuttling some cars and gear around, we hit the start about 2pm. Our plan was to do some of the course in the dark - woo hoo!

The initial three CPs were on spits of land separated by a short swim. We decided to skip the swim given the temperaturs and run around, promising ourselves that we would practice the swim later. We transitioned into
the kayaks and headed east down the Columbia River with a 10 knot wind at our back.

Most of the kayak CPs involved stopping at a beach, getting out and trekking to one or two CPs, then going back and getting in the kayaks again.
This was useful to practice our transitions.

After a couple iterations of this, we stopped at a secluded spot near the Syncline, and trekked over to where Dave's friend Clint left the truck containing our mountain bikes. I had not even been on my bike at this point, so I took a minute or two to figure out how to shift the gears and such. Then we were off for some steep climbing up to the top of the inclined mountain. To our left was a spine-chilling drop. After a good workout to the top, we were rewarded with some beautiful descents, including a little off-trail descending action which involved jumping a barbed wire fence back to get back onto the trail again.
One of our CPs was almost forgotten and we cruised the final windy singletrack back down to the road and Dave's truck. Clint joined us for part of our trip and took our bikes back home as we TA'd back to our kayaks and headed further upriver.

A few more kayak/trek transitions followed, including a quick foray into a vineyard and a caving expedition through a very short abandoned tunnel right along the water. Did I mention how beautiful the weather was?
As darkness descended, the winds calmed down as we headed one last time across the Columbia to hit a checkpoint that was in a small lagoon. I almost ran aground on the sandbar surrounding the entrance to the lagoon as I didn't see it until I was in 8 inches of water. One final trip back across the Columbia brought us to the TA for the final trek.

The final trek found us sidehilling up a gully and steep slope to reach
the more gentle ridgeline of the mountain above. We followed the ridgeline
over several knolls and summits, and eventually scrambled back down a very
steep, rocky ridge edge to the finish where a car was waiting for us. We
finished a little after midnight under an almost full moon.

Thanks Dave for hosting a wonderful expedition in Hood River!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Mount Si 50 mile race

It was a beautiful weekend for being outside. The temperatures on Saturday hit almost 80 degrees, but cooled off on Sunday for our run. Everyone is definitely thinking about summer now.

The 50 mile start was at 6am in Snoqualmie, before the sun peaked up over the mountains. I joined 55 other runners as we headed out on the road for a short bit before jumping onto the Snoqualmie Valley Trail that headed up valley to Carnation and Duvall. I was surprised at how slow people started, and found myself running up front with Don MacLane. Jim Kerby, the perennial winner of the event, was injured and was helping at all the aid stations and I didn't really recognize anyone else, so the event was up for grabs.

Don and I kept a similar pace, which we would continue for the next 35 miles or so, as we went out to Carnation, back to Snoqualmie, then out on the trail again to Rattlesnake Lake / Iron Horse Trail and back. He would often get ahead of me going at a respectable clip, then walk for a short bit to give his legs a rest. I would pass him, then he would run by me again. We looked like the tortoise and the hare.

I carried one water bottle of Carbo-pro, which I refilled at aid stations along the way. The Gu2O
seemed to bother my stomach a little, so I switched halfway to plain water, to which I added Nuun tablets. I also took a salt tablet or two during the race for good measure. I'd never done a race this long this fast, and I didn't want to cramp up due to lack of electrolytes.

Eric Sach cruised past Don and me an hour into the race like we were standing still. He looked strong and quickly disappeared ahead of us. I don't know what went wrong with him, but we
caught up with him at mile 29 aid station and left him behind.

At mile 35 of the race on the Iron Horse Trail, we turned around and headed the last 15 miles back to Snoqualmie. I could see Don a minute behind me and Eric not too far behind him. My legs really began to hurt, and I felt I was dragging on the gradual downhill all the way to Rattlesnake Lake and back down to the Snoqualmie Valley Trail. My legs began to cry, saying "too little training!!". At Rattlesnake Lake, Jim Kerby ran out to grab my water bottle and fill it for me - he is extremely energetic both on and off the course - and he encouraged me on for the last 10 miles. Ten very flat yet quad-busting miles to go. I counted off the minutes as I went, not wanting to turn around and see a better runner gaining on me. Eventually, with only about three miles to go, I looked back down the trail to see nobody behind me. Sigh. I kept pushing my legs to go further. Meanwhile, my heart rate was barely pushing 140. What a disparity.
I made it across the finish line in first place in 6:39:05, a new PR by about 2 hours. After chatting with fellow racers for a while and a quick after-race massage, I headed home and soaked my legs in a cold bath for half an hour. I'm still hobbling around.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Moab 12 hour Adventure Race

I went back to Moab, UT to visit my father again and to do the Moab 12 hour Adventure Race.

We woke up early so that we could get to the start at 6:30 am, as my dad was volunteering at the Start/Finish line at Gold Bar campground. Kayaking was the first leg, and then we could access our gear box for the only time during the race, after which we would be doing the mountain biking, running, rappeling and another leg of mountain biking to finish the race. We started in waves that were 15 minutes apart, with 4 person co-ed teams going first, then 4-person open, solos (me!), 2-person co-ed, and finally 2-person teams.
Watching the 4 person teams start was a hoot. They lined up at the starting line with paddles in hand and had to run over to a big stack of inflatable kayaks (piled 5 high) by the boat launch, grab a kayak, carry it down to the launch, and start. There were a lot more teams than space available, so a lot of scrambling was involved, and the slow teams spent at least a couple extra minutes waiting in line to get on the water. There was also a stack of single inflatable kayaks which one team grabbed and headed towards the water before a bystander told them it was a single and they might want to reconsider. They ended up in back of the line for the doubles.
Those of us doing the race solo had to bring our own kayak, or rent inflatable single kayaks. I rented a touring kayak from a local company that delivered and picked up the kayak for me. Several people brought their own racing kayaks and had them strategically placed right near the boat ramp, whereas I had put mine 10 rows back. Oops. I kept careful watch, however, and when the 4 person teams were done, enough space had opened up in front that I got my kayak in a good position right before our wave started. They also announced last minute that friends/family could help carry the kayaks to the water. My dad was ready to help me take advantage of this.
When the whistle blew, I got to my kayak, and my dad and I raced it down the boat ramp, getting me first on the water. I wore my SealSkinz socks, so stepping in the water wasn't a problem. I also had on some tri shorts, nylon waterproof pants, jersey, arm warmers, and polypro hat. I discovered that my sprayskirt did not fit my kayak before the race, so I stowed it ahead of time. We were on flat water so we did not need them anyways.
The kayak leg was 7 miles, and eight people passed me during that time. All of them had racing/sea kayaks and wing paddles (I had brought my Epic wing paddle with me as well). The transition went smooth as I stripped off my socks, pants and hat and threw on my biking shoes. I had my small Salomon pack with 100 oz of Carbo-pro and one extra bike bottle of Perpetuem to last me the whole race, and I carried a small waist pouch with already opened packages of Clif Shots and a couple bars that I could just reach in and grab while I was riding. I was quickly on my bike (borrowed from my dad - a Yeti 525) and was off in almost exactly an hour from my start.
The bike leg went down the road a couple miles, then up Longs Canyon road 2000 vert ft. to Dead Horse Point area. Surprisingly, I passed about six of the eight competitors in front of me at this point. I guess that running hills really helps with mountain biking them - that's promsing. I sped down the road towards the turnoff for Gemini Bridges trailhead, at which point I commited a nullo and missed the turn.
I had asked me father about the trailhead, and he told me that it was quite obvious. Anyways, I went past a dirt road going into a pasture w/no sign and just kept going, as I judged to look for the "obvious" trailhead, and it seemed a little too soon. Several minutes later, I realized I was a couple hundred feet too low, and I turned around and made a slow, sorry climb back up the hill. The checkpoint at the trailhead was an orienteering marker in a bush, and was not obvious even when I got there. All the other checkpoints were obvious and manned, and navigation was not a problem at all. I just got sucked into using the wrong information that was presented to me, rather than paying closer attention to the map.
From Gemini Bridges trailhead, I went down a wide road, dropping 1000 vert ft. to Gemini Bridges proper, then continuing past it for a ways, turning down another road to Bull Canyon (another 600 vert ft.), then back up Bull Canyon on mostly sandy trails to the bottom of a cliff below Gemini Bridges where the Bike->Run TA was. On the way down I passed the runners coming back up, and I could see a whole lot of solo racers had passed me while I was off in the weeds, so to speak, so I had work to do.
I dropped my bike and started running, still in my biking shoes. Most people changed shoes, but for an hour run on sand, I thought I could make do. Back down Bull Canyon and up Gemini Bridges brought us six miles later to the top of Gemini Bridges where the Run->Rappel TA was. I ran (slowly) the whole way and had passed (again) four of the solo racers. The rappel was fast and furious - they had 10 ropes set up so there was no wait. A 275 foot rappel off the cliffs (much of it freehanging) left my bike gloves smoking. Now I was at the bottom of the cliffs again where the Rappel->Bike TA was.
The last leg saw me biking back down Bull Canyon, then back up the Gemini Bridges trail all the way to the TH at the top (remember to punch the CP), down the road, back down the steep descent on Longs Canyon road, and three miles to the finish. I passed (again) a few more solo racers, including a couple on the flats at the top. Some of them looked beat, but I was getting a real second wind. As I descended down Longs Canyon, a flash went by me, and one of the other solo racers had woken up and sped by me like I was standing still. I picked up the pace, but could not keep with him on the downhill, as I was pushing my fear limit on the rocky gravelly road. He was fast. I hammered the last three miles and made up some time, but finished 30 seconds behind him. I was fifth (out of 50 or so solo racers) with a time of 7:13, of which there was an hour kayak, an hour run, and five hours of mountain biking. I felt pretty with this race given that I thought coming in that mountain biking was a weak area for me. I also finished feeling like I could have done more, which makes me more confident as Primal Quest approaches.

Results are here: