Kal-lut-chin, Issaquah Alps, Eschrichtius robustus and the Lead-Up to Gorge Waterfalls
Continuing on with the theme of 2016, Apryle and I ventured to a new and different destination each weekend in the month of March. Additionally, my training hit its peak and also its valley in the form of a taper for Gorge Waterfalls 100 kilometer race. We traveled to the islands of the north, the beginning of the Cascades to the east and to the Olympic Peninsula to the west.
March 6th to March 12th
This was a relatively mild week of running until the latter portion, which consisted of 13, 25, and 18 mile days. Because my left knee was still acting up, I decided to take the early week very easy in order to rest up for my planned back-to-back long runs on Friday/Saturday. On Thursday night, Adam and I decided to run an out and back on the road from Mukilteo to Everett, and finish up the run with a hard push up the mile long hill on Mukilteo Speedway. The run went quite well and I put in a fair amount of effort on final hill push.
For my 25 miler on Friday, I decided to run over to Warren G. Magnuson Park from University of Washington. My plan was to do half the run solo and half the run with Apryle to break up the monotony. This road run was more scenic than I anticipated, despite consisting almost exclusively of residential neighborhoods. This was due in large part to the rolling hills and the unique landscaping of the homes in both Laurelhurst and Windermere. I ran thirteen solo and met up with Apryle and we finished up the last twelve around the Arboretum. Apryle kept up an impressive pace, especially considering it was her longest run of the year thus far.
For the 18 miler, we made a trip over to Camano Island to continue our quest to visit all of the Washington State Parks. Although rain was in the forecast, it ended up being a beautiful day and the trails offered a chance to explore the island. We started at Cama Beach State Park and took the connector trail to Camano Island State Park. Between the two locations I was able to scrape together a long run, although the two parks were not nearly as stunning as Deception Pass or Fort Ebey, they were still worthwhile to explore.
March 13th to March 19th
This week was a bit of a down slope in mileage volume with an upslope in vertical feet. Early on in the week, I met a coworker and fitness enthusiast, Brandon Dean who grew up in the Shoreline area. I learned he had an impressive high school running career and is now training for Spartan races. After some coordinating we worked out an early morning running schedule. Though I enjoy the solitude of my weekly runs, I also find it helpful to run with someone that shares the same passion for running and life. Additionally, Brandon hammers out an impressively fast pace, especially for an early morning run.
Also for the first time since my knee pain started up, I took to undulating trail once again with a hilly run through Carkeek early on in the week and an even hillier run through Japanese Gulch with Adam later in the week. Despite my initial apprehension, I felt like my body stood up to the challenge of the uneven terrain.
However, concern over my lack of preparedness for Gorge Waterfalls began to creep in just two weeks before the race. The month of January was quite ideal, with high mileage, fast pace, plenty of time on the trail and consistent weekly vertical training. However, I feel that I pushed a little too hard, and thus my training quality decreased after the Fort Ebey Trail Marathon.
At any rate, I was on the downswing of the training block anyway, so I continued to press on. During my one day weekend, Apryle and I headed to Rattlesnake Mountain outside of North Bend. When Apryle and I run it is typically understood that we will jog the flats and down-hills together, but when there is any form of up-slope, we tackle it at our own pace, and this run was no exception. I went all out to the ridge, dodging hundreds of hikers (I will never return to this location on a weekend), waited for Apryle then we continued on to the summit.
Not only did the numbers of people on trail plummet to near zero but the ground was covered in eight to twelve inches of snow. I reminisced back to my days of alpine running at Rocky Mountain National Park and then Apryle and I headed back to the trailhead. After a quick picnic lunch we hit the John Wayne Trail into Iron Horse State Park for a quick out and back, putting our mileage at just over fifteen for the day.
March 20th to March 26th
Two weeks out from the big race, I held on to a decrease in mileage, and also decreased my vertical training. The early week was low key and uneventful, some Shoreline/Woodway road miles and some Boeing Creek trail miles, both solo and with the company of Apryle or Brandon. Then on Thursday evening Apryle and I were excited to finally coordinate a Japanese Gulch trail run double date with Adam and Josie. The conditions were perfect for the quintessential Pacific Northwest trail run, with a light mist and mud-filled trail.
The week was capped off with an unforgettable adventure to the Olympic Peninsula. Apryle and I caught the Edmonds/Kingston Ferry around ten in the morning on Friday and made our way over to the Spruce Railroad Trail. The trail was eight miles around the northeast side of Crescent Lake. The run was easy and the focus was on soaking in the scenery not setting a blistering pace. The water was an impressive shade of blue highlighted with a picturesque backdrop of tree-covered mountains. It was not the best of Olympic National Park, but still a beautiful and worthwhile run nonetheless.
After the hike we headed back to Port Angeles to get a pizza, and while waiting I noticed an interesting zigzag boardwalk that seemed oddly positioned in the middle of town. Of course I decided that I needed to do a few laps on this before we headed over to the beach for dinner. As the sun began its decent into the Pacific we decided to look for a place to camp. We were lucky enough to choose the Lyre River Campground to spend the evening. This was a perfect spot, flat, soft, tree-covered and we fell asleep to the sound of the river rushing toward the Strait. It was quite cold in the morning and dew lined the tent, so we quickly packed and made our way west toward the Shi Shi Beach Trailhead.
We stopped at some pullouts along the way and observed some harbor seals and gray whales spouting in the distance. We hit the trail about the same time we boarded the ferry a day earlier and anticipated the high point of the trip. The trail started similar to the Cape Alava Loop, with boardwalk planks but it quickly turned to shin deep mud. The understory and forest was not nearly as impressive as that found surrounding the Ozette Triangle in my opinion, but it was well worth the trip once we got to the beach. The final stretch of the wooded trail was a steep descent with ropes attached to the tree roots dropping down to the water.
Once we hit the beach it was sunny and quite balmy with an almost palpable haze in the air. We immediately noticed Gray Whales spouting in the distance and once we got closer realized they were breeching just off shore. We were captivated by the spectacle for hours and almost forgot about the main point of the hike, which was to explore Point of Arches at low tide. We took a bit more time to wander around the arches and then finished out the run/hike of 9 miles and hopped back on the ferry. The surprise Gray Whale slighting makes this hike one of my all time favorites.
March 27th to April 2nd
The final week before Gorge Waterfalls was tough one, I felt tired, ill-prepared, sore and generally negative about my chances of performing well. For a Physical Therapist, I made an embarrassing ergonomic mistake at work leading to somewhat debilitating back pain. The back pain in addition to the left knee pain was making me question whether my body could hold up over the course of 62.5 miles.
Then I began thinking of negative consequences that stemmed from my training efforts for the race in addition to all of the sacrifices Apryle had to make in order to help me train for the race. I felt an overwhelming cloud of negativity for most of the week and began to assess the situation in a less dreamlike perspective. Instead of fantasizing of crossing the line in the top two, gaining a Western States 100 golden ticket, I was having nightmares of dropping out at mile 41 due to overwhelming knee pain. But ultimately with some inspiring words from my amazing fiancé and some confidence boost from my good friend and Texas training partner Anthony Jacobs, my prerace attitude improved.
If you are somehow still reading this post, you might be wondering how Gorge Waterfalls 100K race actually panned out. Unfortunately, I am out of energy to include that in this post, but stay tuned for the next Harriers to Chadron installment, aptly name “Gorge Waterfalls 100K Race Report”.