Since moving to the greater Issy Alps area in 2017 I wanted to complete the Chirico Tenpeat event. The race has developed quite a reputation among my circle of trail running friends and it struck me as something that I needed to do as a …
Tag: Issy Alps
I signed up for the Run for Shoes 50K for the second year in a row. When I ran it in September of 2020, it was shortly after my failed Washington PCT attempt and my legs were fairly tired. Also the air quality was quite poor in the preceding weeks from nearby wildfires. Therefore, I was excited to see how quickly I could run it under favorable conditions and fresh legs. After I ran the course in 5:52:34 last year, I initially hoped to shave an hour off the time this year.
My legs were not completely fresh considering I just completed the Vashon Island 50K on June 5th, however, I still felt in better shape for the run than last year. In addition to the 50K race 5 days prior, Rob Irr and I had a difficult lifting session, which was weighing heavy on my hamstrings. However, I was motivated to put in a challenging effort in the Issy Alps.
The race has always been virtual since its inception during COVID, and has a two-week spread to complete it independently. This year I chose to run it on June 10th. Compared to the hot and dry September version, this year it was a cool and cloudy 51 degrees at the start. Apryle dropped me at the Upper Coal Creek Trail a little before 6AM and Stephane Frion accompanied me for the first 2.5 miles. He kept my pace honest along Coal Creek and I reached Redtown Trailhead 2 minutes ahead (20:37) of my pace from last year.
I ran up the hill from Redtown to Coal Creek Falls and reached Wilderness Summit in 47:42 (7 minute faster) than in 2020. I descended the Wilderness Cliffs to State Route 900 (6.9 miles 1:03:36). Then I crossed the road over to the Margarets Way Trailhead where I met up with Troy Haeseler. Troy and I made it to the top of Margaret’s way in about 33 minutes (mile 9.9 1:36:50). We were pretty excited about the solid ascent and Troy ran back to his car while I continued across Squak Mountain.
I continued to West Peak and eventually Central Peak, which I reached in 1:50:52 (mile 10.9). I continued to shave more time off of my course record from last year and the total was up to 15 minutes on top of Central Peak. At this point I contacted Apryle and Paul Young who were planning to meet me at Issaquah Community Center and told them I would be there sooner than expected. I reached Newport Way in 2:24:12 (mile 14.5) and notified the Run Determined crew via text.
I reached the Community Center in 2:26:38 (mile 14.8) and unfortunately Paul was unable to get there early. However, Apryle was there and she helped me refuel and switch out my hydration pack. When I emptied my pack I saw I had consumed three gels and drank approximately 1.5 L of water with 600 calories of tailwind. I hit the Rainier Trail with my trekking poles and assumed Paul would catch up to me but we were unable to connect. I ascended Section Line up to West Tiger III looking back and yelling for Paul periodically.
I reached West Tiger III summit in 3:16:12 (18.0 miles) and West Tiger I summit in 3:30:46 (19.0 miles), which was 30 minutes faster than 2020. From the summit of West Tiger I, I descended the Bootleg Trail to the junction with East Tiger Trail. This section was somewhat slow because I noticed that my GPS track was going off course. However I realized that this was an error with the GPS track and not my route so I began to pick up the pace again.
The connector Trail between the Bootleg and the Main Tiger Mountain Road was quite overgrown and narrow but I managed to pass through it in a decent pace. I reached the junction with Main Tiger Mountain Road in 3:47:45 (20.6 miles). Then as I was ascending the forest road to East Tiger summit I received a call from Troy stating he had made it to the top of East Tiger and was waiting for me. I was excited that Troy would be able to help push me down the hill. I reached the summit of East Tiger in 4:18:21 (23.6 miles), which was 40 minutes faster than in 2020.
Troy and I descended the forest road with reckless abandon. At some points I looked at my watch and we were pushing 6-minute miles. This was much faster than 2020 and I reached the Northwest Timber Trail in 4:53:46 (mile 28.8). The temperatures were still tolerable, reaching into the 70s under partly sunny skies. However, my pace suffered when I lost my gravity assistance and the trail leveled out. I gutted out the last 2.5 miles to the East Tiger parking area to finish out the race in 5:14:54, which was about 37 minutes faster than 2020.
I was very happy with the big personal best this year. It was an excellent run and my legs actually felt pretty good, which I will attribute to drinking another 1.5 liters with seven hundred calories of tailwind and taking in two more gels on the latter half of the course. Thank you very much to Apryle for crewing me at the midway point and shuttling me from the house to the start and the finish to our house. Thank you so much too Stephane for pacing me the first 2.5 miles along Coal Creek, it was a great way to start the run. Thank you so much to Troy for pacing me up Margaret’s Way and down East Tiger Mountain, these were two very crucial sections and you were invaluable to reaching my personal best time. Also thanks to Paul for trying to meet up, sorry we were unable to connect on the trail. Thank you to Scott Sowle with Run for Shoes for putting on this excellent event, which promotes equity and running. The conditions were nearly perfect to run a quick time and I felt as though my pacing strategy was effective. However, I would like to come back to try to break 5 hours and this 50k which I think is a possibility.
On a partly sunny 32-degree morning on December 12th I headed up to the Bullitt Fireplace Trailhead on Squak Mountain to participate in Chris Gregory’s Best of Squak Mountain Half Marathon. This was the first race style event that I had participated in since the …
This post is intended to highlight the reptiles and amphibians of my beloved Issy Alps, however, I feel I must first dive into herpetofauna more generally. The study of these two classes is referred to as Herpetology. Herpetology as a term is anomalous because 17th …
The Run for Shoes 50K was my first race since COVID19 and it was also unconventional because it was a time trial style race. Typically, I am not interested in virtual races because the competitive aspect that I love about racing is eliminated but with this particular race I was inspired by the cause and by the course layout. Scott Sowle designed the course and created the event to benefit his non profit organization: Redeeming Soles. Redeeming Soles was founded in 2011 and since then they have distributed over 400,000 pairs of shoes throughout the Puget Sound area. They work with local organizations and schools who serve men, women and children who may be experiencing homelessness or financial difficulties. Their mission is to empower those in need through the provision of footwear.
I was still hesitant to sign up for the race though, because of my Washington PCT FKT attempt which was slated for August 30th to September 8th. This would allow only 7 days to recover and actually complete the challenge. However, I ended up bailing on my PCT attempt on September 2nd, which gave me much more time to recover for the rugged 50K course. Then the smoke rolled into Washington and the with the questionable air quality the Run for Shoes 50K was extended until September 30th, which gave me even more opportunity to recover from my 220 mile run a few weeks prior. However, with a trip to Ohio to visit my parents slated for September 24th, I decided that September 21st was the best day to complete the race.
Apryle drove me to the Upper Coal Creek Trailhead (185 ft) where I started the run at 7:17AM under cloudy skies with temperatures in the mid 50s. I used a vest and hydration pack with about 900 calories of tailwind and a handful of gels. I took the opening 2.5 miles very conservative arriving at Redtown Trailhead in Cougar in 22:25 where Apryle was there cheering me on. From there I ran up the Cave Hole Trail and over to the dry Coal Creek Falls and after a series of twists and turns I reached Wilderness Peak (1598 ft) in 52:35 (5.2 miles). After a short out and back to the peak, I descended the steep switchbacking trails of Wilderness Cliffs, arriving at SR 900 in 1:11:56 (6.9 miles). With the first two sections in the books I felt good about my pace and the amount of fluid I had consumed thus far.
After a short stretch along the road I entered Squak Mountain State Park via the Margaret Trailhead and began the long winding ascent up the Margaret’s Way Trail. The sun began to peak through the clouds and the temperatures warmed slightly as I ascended to West Squak Peak. I reached West Squak Peak (1876 ft) in 1:56:32 (10.3 miles) and then passed by the Bullitt Fireplace en route to Central Squak Peak (2028), which I summited in 2:07:22 (11 miles). I tried my best to push myself down the East Ridge Trail, but some injuries were still lingering from the PCT run. For instance, with any steep descent, my left anterior tibialis flares up and shoots an electric pain up my lower leg and if my shoes are too tight the marble sized lump on my right achilles tendon begins to throb. Despite the slight handicap, I managed to reach the East Ridge Trailhead in 2:42:38 (13.8 miles).
With the third section in the books I continued down the Squak Access trail which weaves through apartment complexes and then runs along Issaquah Creek before terminating at Newport Way. Once I reached Newport Way, I called Apryle who was going to bring me a new 2L hydration pack and some additional gels when I reached the stair steps to Arrington Place along the Rainier Trail. I made a quick road crossing over Front and then picked up the pace on the Rainier Trail to my first and only aid station. I reached my aid station at mile 15.1 in 2:53:30, which was right in the neighborhood of time that I was hoping for in my planning stage. I told Apryle that I believed I could run a very similar pace for the 16 miles on Tiger Mountain and that 3 more hours seemed like a accurate estimate.
After a few minutes of chatting and refilling, I was off to the High School Trailhead where I was to begin the hardest climb of the day: Section Line to West Tiger III. Fortunately this is one of my favorite training climbs so I was well prepared for the challenge that lie ahead. It was not my fastest Section Line ascent by a long shot, but I managed to reach the top of West Tiger III (18 miles and 2522 ft) in 3:44:11 or about 51 minutes from the aid station. I continued on the one mile stretch of the West Tiger Ridge traverse, tagging West Tiger II and West Tiger I (4:01:12). I descended the narrow slightly technical (due to roots) Bootleg Trail until I reached the 15 Mile Railroad Grade which was flat and very overgrown. However, I still managed to keep a good pace and maintain the momentum up the stone Main Tiger Mountain Road (Junction: 20.7 miles in 4:20:37).
The temperatures were warming at this point and I was well on my way to finishing my second 2L hydration pack of the day, both of which contained 900 calories of tailwind. Unfortunately, my Garmin was projecting that I would finish the run in about 6:30:00, which was about a half hour slower than I felt I was capable of at the time. I pushed hard to the summit of East Tiger (2940 ft) and reached it in 4:52:12 (23.8 miles), which seemed to put me back on track with my time projections. The remainder of the run was almost exclusively downhill and it was on gravel forest road at that, so I was prepared to hammer the pace. Due to the anterior tibialis pain, I was unable to descend with my typical confidence, but I think it went okay. I had nothing left to save the legs for, so I decided to test the limits of my ankles and push harder than I had all day.
I made a brief error by continuing on the 7000 road as opposed to taking the Northwest Timber Trail, but my watch alerted me and I only lost a few seconds. The single track trail made it more difficult to keep a consistent pace and the trail undulated slightly slowing my speed considerably. However, it was a beautiful stretch of trail, with second growth forest, dense vegetation, and wooden bridges crossing cascading streams. I focused in on the finish and popped out at the Highway 18 parking area in 5:52:34 (31.72 miles with 8,258 vertical feet). I called Apryle to come and pick me up and then soaked in the sun and enjoyed the feeling of a mission accomplished.
Thank you to Apryle for shuttling me and crewing for me! Thank you Scott for designing and organizing this event. I will definitly be back to run it again next year, and I hope to shave another hour off of my time from this year!
|Location||Total Distance||Distance Between||Total Time||Time Between|
|Upper Coal Creek Trailhead||0||0||0:00:00||0|
|West Squak Peak||10.3||3.4||1:56:32||0:44:36|
|Central Squak Peak||11||0.7||2:07:22||0:10:50|
|East Ridge Trail||13.8||2.8||2:42:38||0:35:16|
|Rainier Aid Station||15.1||1.3||2:53:30||0:10:52|
|West Tiger III||18||2.9||3:44:11||0:50:41|
|West Tiger I||19||1||4:01:12||0:17:01|
|15 Mile/Main Tiger Mountain Junction||20.7||1.7||4:20:37||0:19:25|
|East Tiger Mountain||23.8||3.1||4:52:12||0:31:35|
|NW Timber Trail||29.3||5.5||5:31:36||0:39:24|
|Highway 18 Parking Area||31.72||2.42||5:52:34||0:20:58|
Since I was a child I have always been fascinated by animals with shells. I was always on the lookout for box turtles in the woods, painted turtles in ponds, and snails in the garden. Fortunately for our garden, but unfortunately for me, I never …
In addition to the beauty of the landscape, brilliance of the foliage, and the pleasant feeling of fresh air, running also affords me the opportunity of seeing numerous creatures occupying wild areas. I typically get very excited about a bobcat or bear sighting, but there are so many other unique creatures roaming the Pacific Northwest that often get lost under the ferns and salal. Sometimes these creatures may even be crossing the trail right in the open and we don’t even give them a second glance. In this particular post, I am referring specifically to the local terrestrial gastropods – slugs and snails.
Snails and slugs belong to the phylum Mollusca, which has the second largest number of extant invertebrates (85,000). Mollusca contains seven classes, snails and slugs fall under class Gastropoda, which makes up 80% of species in the phylum. Snails are typically characterized by a single, spirally coiled shell, which is large enough for the soft mass to be withdrawn. Whereas Slugs have an internal or reduced shell and are more exposed to predation and desiccation. Both snails and slugs posses a muscular foot which helps them to creep along the forest floor. I have been intrigued by these unique little creatures since I was a child and living in the gastropod-dense Pacific Northwest has only further increased my curiosity.
With so many species of gastropod, it is difficult to reign in the focus, but I will highlight a few key genus that I have seen on a day to day basis in the Issy Alps. I think the most charismatic of the slugs in my backyard are those in the genus: Ariolimax, more commonly referred to as banana slugs.
Banana slugs are a type of terrestrial North American gastropod that comprises the genus Ariolimax. There are four main species consisting of: A. californicus, A. columbianus, A. dolichophallus, and A. costaricensis. The California banana (A. californicus) slug is native to California and Oregon, is light yellow and ranges from 175 to 200 mm. The Slender Banana slug (A. dolichophallus) is native to coastal central California and is also light yellow and grows to lengths of 150 to 180 mm. The Banana slug (A. costaricensis) is native to Costa Rica, but Apryle and I did not see it while we were there. Finally, the Pacific banana slug (A. columbianus) is native to Alaska, British Columbia, Idaho, Oregon, California, and Washington.
On a typical run in Tiger, Squak, or Cougar from February to November I see anywhere between 10 to 25 Pacific banana slugs creeping across the trail. I view them as the quintessential invertebrate that has adapted perfectly to life in the Pacific Northwest and I always try to appreciate their space and allow them to move safely across the forest floor. In addition to their vibrant coloration and novelty size, there are many other interesting characteristics that make the species so interesting.
- Senses: they have two sets of tentacles, the upper two tentacles have two small eye spots that can move independently and scan the area for danger. The lower two tentacles are for feeling and smelling (which are much more honed than their ability to see).
- Locomotion: they produce a slime that emerges as a dry granule, which inflates to 100 times its original size when it contacts water. This provides a gliding surface for the slug to maneuver its way around the forest floor. They move by contracting and relaxing their muscular foot which generates a wave that propels them slowly forward. They top out at speeds of 0.000275 meters per second, which makes them the slowest creature on Earth. Additionally, they have a mucus plug at the end of their tail that allows them to generate a slime cord, which they can use to rappel from high places.
- Feeding: they have a mouth on the bottom of their head with a top jaw for clamping and cleaving. Additionally, like all mollusks they have a radula (which is a sharp-toothed tongue that grinds food). They will eat anything, and they even use their slime to clean the debris off their bodies and in turn eat the debris.
- Respiration: they have a single lung and air is moved in and out via the pneumostome on the right side of the mantle. This gaping hole can be opened or closed depending on the weather, oxygen level, and hydration status. Typically when a slug needs air, the pneumostome is open wide, but when a slug is dehydrated or caught in a heavy storm the pneumostome is closed completely.
- Lifecycle: they lay a few dozen eggs at a time. The eggs hatch after one to two months and they emerge already an inch long. They can live up to seven years, as long as they are not stomped on by a passing runner.
Banana slugs are a native of the Pacific Northwest, and tend to keep to the forested landscape, however, there is a similar looking invasive slug referred to as Arion rufus (Chocolate Arion). Arion rufus was introduced to the Pacific Northwest from Europe in last century. There are researchers currently studying whether the invasive Arion species may outcompete the native Ariolimax and lead to an extirpation of the beloved banana slug. The fear is that perhaps Arion might be more drought resistant and a more generalist feeder. There are several different morphs of Arion, the black morph tends to prefer wooded areas and the brown morph tends to prefer grasslands.
At any rate, if there is a slug in the garden it is more likely a non-native slug because the banana slugs tend to prefer landscapes less impacted by human development. In addition to being outcompeted for resources, banana slugs must also remain vigilant to avoid the fearsome Limax maximus (leopard slug or giant garden slug). This slug will actually chase down and try to bite and kill the more docile banana slugs.
Stay tuned for the second installment about snails of the Issy Alps.