After the three of us had failed to qualify to the National meet in the 2011 cross country season, Tom Wilkin, Dusan Vasic and I decided to take a trip down to Great Smokey Mountains National Park as a method of consolation. So on Friday …
The Horseshoe Trail Run 50K was an appealing race to me because it was a drastically different ecosystem and temperature than any race I had done yet this year. Additionally, I thought that the shorter distance would be ideal given the fact that I was …
After the Nueces 50 miler I took my time building my mileage back up and focused the majority of my time and energy on finishing up my fifth and most challenging semester of physical therapy school. I spent three weeks after the race doing some hikes and trail runs with Apryle in both the Olympic Peninsula of Washington and the rocky terrain of central Texas. By week four, I began to up my mileage into the low 70s and added a long run and mile repeats. Once again, my training goals are continuing to shift toward lower weekly mileage, higher intensity and longer long runs. This is due in large part to the time commitment required by school and the improvements I have seen as a result of my altered training habits.
I was unsure of whether or not to sign up for the Capitol Peak 50 miler and finally decided to register during my layover flight at the San Francisco airport. I had booked tickets to fly into Seattle to visit Apryle during my break between the fifth and sixth semester. I thought that even if I did not do the race it would not hurt to do some speed work and long runs so I trained as if I had already registered and tapered the week before the race.
When I arrived in Seattle, Apryle gave me a tour around Ballard and the University of Washington campus. Then two days before the race we went for a run to the locks and then around Discovery Park. The day before the race we perused Pikes Market and took the ferry to Bainbridge Island and spent the day walking around enjoying the weather. After getting home late we awoke early in order to make it to the Capitol Peak Forest for the start of the race.
It was a cloudy but pleasant morning and an ideal temperature for a 50 mile race. I started out the race in second place, I tried to stay within a few strides of the leader but eventually I could not keep pace and lost sight of him on the winding trails. Fortunately it did not appear that anyone was on my heels either though so I settled into a good rhythm. I used a walk/jog routine up the mountainside to conserve energy and it worked quite well. I reached the top of the mountain after about 8 miles and was told that I was 2 minutes off the lead. After a slow trudge up, I was able to let loose down the mountainside and greatly improved my pace.
The course was quite aesthetic; on the ascent it offered picturesque views of the various inlets to the north, Mount Rainer to the northeast and the surrounding fir and spruce blanketed mountainsides. Much of the course was on single track or dirt road and was densely covered with vegetation, making it one of my favorite races in terms of ecosystem thus far. The downhill section was short lived and gave way to an undulating maze of single track. Although I enjoyed the race and terrain, I was overwhelmed by the monotony that always catches up with me during a long race. No matter how spectacular it is, at some point even the most beautiful landscapes become dull and repetitive. Ultimately I felt a since of guilt and regret for running a race instead of going for a hike with Apryle in the short time we had together.
Around mile 16 I was passed up by a man named Oliver from British Columbia, I tried to hold on and pace with him but I fell off after about a mile or two of trying. Between miles 16 to 29 I was feeling extremely down and defeated, I could not find a rhythm and when we ran the out and back portion I saw several people who looked quite energetic that I assumed would pass me up within the next few miles. To add insult to injury, I did not see Apryle at the aid station around mile 27 like I thought I would, which was a major hit to my psyche. However, after finishing up another steady 3 or 4 mile incline, I began to get my legs back under me and I was feeling quite fit again. Around mile 35 I caught a glimpse of Oliver running toward me and in another minute I saw Apryle at the aid station. This meant that I was within two minutes of second place and to make matters even better I my morale boosted even further seeing Apryle.
Around mile 37 I began another climb up the mountainside, the last challenge of the race. As I wound up a set of switchbacks I passed Oliver and he appeared to be in bad shape as he waved me on. I saw a sign that said 2.1 miles to the summit and I was elated, it looked much further than that. I was able to walk/jog all the way to the top despite the steep grade. Somehow my flatland running in Texas was sufficient enough to catapult me to the top of the mountain in decent time. When I arrived at the top with about 9 miles to go Apryle was waiting for me. I was pleasantly surprised to see her and was also grateful to hear that it was all down hill from that point! I refueled the tanks and started barreling down the hillside.
I suppose my pace was fairly pedestrian given my proximity to the finish, because I assumed I had a lock on second and no chance of catching first. However, I was wrong with about four kilometers to go, Oliver caught me. I looked over my shoulder and thought that I was pretty much cooked, he was moving very efficiently and I was sure I had just relinquished second place once again. However, I was able to keep up with him and we clipped off a pretty fast 2.5 miler. The whole time I was debating when to start my kick, however, Oliver turned to me and asked if I wanted to bring it in together and make a lean at the finish to give a good show to which I responded sure. The results might show me in second and Oliver in third but it was definitely a tie; I suppose my track background and leaning capabilities gave me the edge (Coach Behm always said lean for the line… never thought it would apply in 50 mile race).
I was happy with the race and my time of 7:23:46, especially given the 7200 feet of elevation gain throughout the morning. It ended up being my second, second place and the second race this season that included a sprint finish! I consider this race to be one of my best overall performances given the difficulty of the course and my lack of mental preparation. My nutrition was pretty simple, I had a about seven or eight gel packs, some electrolyte/sugar water that the awesome volunteers topped off at each aid station, a banana, a couple handfuls of candy and a few sips of various sodas throughout the race.
22 to 28
1 to 7
8 to 14
15 to 21
22 to 28
29 to 4
5 to 11
12 to 18
19 to 25
26 to 2
The week following the race was quite busy for Apryle and she had several exams, so it allowed me some time to recover. Fortunately I was able to sit in on a couple of classes and learn some ecology material as opposed to the constant barrage of orthopedic and neurological disorders, which was refreshing.
Apryle and I also made a couple of trips to the arboretum via the Marsh Island trail. It was definitely a week of botany which included several lectures on plant families, learning to properly splice graft an apple tree, touring the greenhouse exhibits and creating our own terrarium. We capped off my trip to the great northwest with a climbing excursion at Mount Erie. I was extremely rusty, but Apryle still climbed well and we had a relaxing afternoon with beautiful views of the sound and Lake Erie; which is not quite the same as the lake I had pictured in my mind… I will always have northwest Ohio in my heart.
As always after a race I must dedicate the final paragraph to expressing my gratitude. I would like to think my uniform sponsors: Mary & Walt Szablewski and Jeff and Cindy Craig; really love those green shorts and gray long sleeve shirt that I wear in pretty much every race and on every hike. I would like to think my fiancé Apryle for being in the bleachers wearing my jersey. I would like to thank Carlos Montoya for taking me to the airport and Nancy Green for picking me up from the airport and for their support and friendship. I must express my thanks to Tom & Clarice Hall for their hospitality and for making me feel at home in Seattle. I would be remised to not thank all of the wonderful volunteers at the race and Rainshadow Running for putting on an awesome event!