what’s a wattle between friends?

There’s a tradition here in the northwest marathoning community.  On Thanksgiving weekend, some crazy people run four marathons in four days.  The most socially-acceptable name for this is the “Quadzilla”.  I’m not completely sure of the origin, but it’s since expanded to numerous other places as well.  Marathon Maniacs do this for at least two reasons : it’s fun, and you get to earn six maniac ‘stars’ by completing this feat.

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back in the time when I thought 3:40 was possible – photo by ross comer

I, on the other hand am not quite so ambitious.  I’ve done a “bi-zilla” before (just made that one up), but not four of ‘em.  But spending Thanksgiving morning running with several hundred friends is a great way to celebrate the holiday.

My race plan was simple – try to come in under 4 hours, and keep it fun.  So I was a bit puzzled when I started clicking off mile splits that were a good 30-45 seconds faster than I should have.  Each time, I’d take it back a notch but find myself speeding up again.  After a while I decided to see what would happen.  I briefly entertained the idea of hitting another sub 3:40 marathon.  That would have been something to celebrate.

 

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finishing – photo by ross comer

Over time the splits got slower.  Gradually reality set in.  By the time I passed through Gasworks Park again, heading out towards Ballard, it was looking more like a sub 3:50 was more reasonable.  I came in at 3:47:04, and was pretty happy with it.

Big thanks go to Matt and Betsy for putting this nice event on – it’s a great way to start Thanksgiving.


just a run in the park : point defiance 50k

The past couple of months had been kind of a whirlwind of running events.  I’d gotten a new marathon PR at Tunnel Lite, been done Blerch’d, followed by a nice jaunt along Baker Lake.  Legs were tired, but doing these had been a great way to step back from some work and life stuff that had been weighing on me.

That’s the way it’s supposed to work, right?  We do this for fun after all.

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When I arrived at the start of the Point Defiance 50k this early October morning, I didn’t really have a race plan.  I simply wanted to have some fun.  I’d run out there just once before, on my way back from a memorial service, another time I’d used these trails to sooth my soul (we still miss you Pastor Ron).

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Today I’d line up with some good friends, including two doing their first 50ks.  That’s pretty great.  At the start we took some fun group pictures, and talked through some nerves.  Just after eight, we were off.

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I hung with the faster kids from ESR for about two minutes, before taking it down a notch.  It would be well over twenty miles before I saw them again.  I lumbered up the steps, and then picked up the pace a bit heading up towards the point, where I caught up with a couple of friends and spent a few miles talking about life, and our teenage kids.  I was running solo by the time we came round to White Rock and Ellis Alley, then took a few minutes to replenish at Fort Nisqually.

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I hung out with my friend Robert for a while as we headed up Achilles Hill, and then back to the point.  I got some good tips about a race I’m considering doing in Hawaii and then we swapped stories about concerts from our distant pasts.

I recalled that we’d met each other while running the Tacoma City Marathon about five and a half years ago.  We’d met during the early miles when someone running with us observed that many of us had things that brought us out here, and motivated us.  I shared my story, and Robert shared his.  It’s amazing hearing about the twists and turns in someone else’s life, and then seeing what they do with it.  That day Robert was running a mile with a pace group, then speeding up to catch the next faster one.  That takes lots of focus and determine – fueled in part by things that had told him “you can’t”.  Right.

So this was the theme of the day for me.  I spent some miles with different friends, each with their own story that had brought them to the trail that morning.  And each of us surprised ourselves, at least in some small way.  Some of us did something we never thought we’d do. 

Along the way, there was some pain, doubt, and some turned ankles.  But we kept moving. 

As I started my final loop, I ran with my friend Gunnar, who’d finished the 30k, and was heading back to his car.  We know each other from work – and so talked about how easy it is to get caught up in things that steal time away from stuff that really matters.  As I headed up the steps for that last time, we told each other we should get together to run at work sometime – I really hope we do.

I completed my three loops with a very surprising consistency – each had taken within a minute of all of the others.  These were 10.375 mile loops – so it’s nearly unheard of – it means I’d varied less than 5 seconds per mile over the whole 31.25 miles on average.

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I’d be lying if I said I planned it.  I’d love to claim that I ran that smart a race, but all I did was to run according to how I felt.  Towards the end, I pushed a bit trying to get close to a 5:45 finish, but that’s the only time I paid any real attention to my watch.

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After that final trip down Nelly’s Gnarly Descent, Don and Amy cheered as I came in just a shade over 5:50.  I visited with Rikki, who had come in a bit ahead of me.  Shortly afterwards, Larissa came in for her first 50k finish, followed shortly afterwards by Bob.  We rested, relaxed and then saw Carol come in for her first 50k finish, smiling ear to ear.  One week off of a hard marathon, Sue had a tough last six miles, but she came across the line as well, with Kirk spending that last bit with her.

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That’s what it’s about, isn’t it?  You go out there to challenge yourself, but to have enough fun that you’ll do it again.  And again.

This wasn’t my fastest race, nor my hardest.  But I’ll remember this one for a long time. 

pictures by me, Larissa and Don Uchiyama, Ken O’Neill, and the Defiance 50k team


rolling through the north cascades–baker lake 50k

I’d had lots going on this month. 

There had been some unpleasant stuff going on with work, and I was feeling like I was at a crossroads.  Real life was busy too, looking at colleges with our eldest daughter.  Lots to think about.  The good news was that I had plans to run the Baker Lake 50k.  This event put on by Terry Sentinella had been on my list for several years.  The course rolled through the the woods along the lake, in the shadow of its namesake Mount Baker.

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coming back across the river, photo by takao suzuki

Stirred up by some of the stress I’d been carrying, I didn’t sleep well the night before.  Morning came earlier than usual – after a simple breakfast, I started the hour-long drive to the start.  Thankful that the race was a small, low-key event – I relaxed a bit on the way.  I was confident about covering the distance, although this would be my longest run since late July’s White River 50 miler.  The day’s run would mostly be a retreat of sorts, a chance to step back and get some needed perspective on things.

We started on time under an overcast sky.  We wended our way up over the dam, and embarked on the trail that would take us out 14 miles to the turnaround.  Three miles in, we crossed a creek along a big log put in by the forest service.  We were about ten to twelve feet above the creekbed.  It was kind of fun on the way out, but much more interesting on the way back when my balance didn’t feel quite as sure.

The first of only two aid stations was at mile 5.5.  Simple, but functional – it was self-serve, water-only.  I took a minute to top off my bottle before continuing on.  As we rolled through hills, we sometimes ran along a steep dropoff of several hundred feet into the lake. 

The roots and rocks kept me paying careful attention to the trail in front of me.  But around mile 10, my mind had drifted a bit, and I took a hard spill, bruising my ribs and right quad.  Along the way, I managed to turn both ankles a bit too – making any lateral movement on these joints painful.  I’d feel this the rest of the way, but plodded on.

I reached the turnaround at Hidden Creek almost exactly three hours in.  I was pretty sure that the trip back would be slower, so didn’t feel pressure to work under the six hour mark.  This was the second of the two aid stations, and it would be ten miles before I got back to the other one.  I drank a bunch of fluids, and ate a bit before headed back.

I wasn’t going fast, but I felt pretty good.  I felt more calm than I had in a while, and just took it in.  This was the goal for today – relax and enjoy the miles.

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photo by takao suzuki

Right around mile 22, a group of three overtook me.  The young woman running in front apparently felt pretty intense about the run.  Each time we’d approach a climb, she’d grunt out loud.  On the downhills she’d growl.  It was interesting.  I was okay with it when they passed me at the aid station with 5.5 miles to go.   While there, she picked up one of the gallon water jugs and chugged directly from it.  I didn’t see whether she finished all of it, or simply put it back for others to share.  You don’t see that happen too often. 

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photo by takao suzuki

The final two miles were tough.  I’d reached the point of counting down, and was ready to be done.  As we exited the trail with about a mile and a half to go, I fell into a nice conversation with a woman named Simone, who shared a story about her grandchild, and how she finishes each race with a cartwheel (yes she does).  It was a nice pick-me-up as we crossed over the dam, and headed back towards the finish.

I crossed the line just under six and a half hours.  I rested for a short time at the finish, then changed into some dry clothes and headed back to Burlington for some crab shooters and brisket.

I’ve been running distance for years now, and still haven’t quite figured out how to carry over lessons learned on the trail into real life.  Can’t stress about things we don’t control, just work on making the things we do control or influence better.


blerched and proud

My pattern in recent years has been towards smaller events, low overhead, and low key.  So back in March when The Oatmeal announced that he was going to put on the inaugural Beat the Blerch Marathon (along with the Half and 10k events), I wasn’t sure I wanted to brave the crowds to register.

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early miles – photo by ross comer

It was Kris’ fault that I did.  Five minutes before registration started she texted me saying “could you register me for the Blerch thing too?”.  After twenty five minutes of refreshing non-responsive web pages, and retrying I thought I’d gotten both of us in.  Turned out they bumped her, and then I was left with a registration that I felt sort of ‘meh’ about.  Sunk cost.  Damn.

When race week rolled around, I was one week off of a new PR.  I was still soaking that one in – a new PR at age 49.  Made me wonder what kind of self-imposed ceiling I’d been working under in the sixteen years I’d been doing marathons.  Think about it.  How often do we assume a perceived limitation is real?

So legs tired, and spirit still reveling in that new PR, I lined up with the costumed crew at the start on a foggy morning in Carnation.  It had been a very tough week at work, which made it even more of a grind.

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the start – photo by ross comer

Aside – I never ever thought we’d see people flying in from all over the country to run on the Snoqualmie Valley Trail.  But there we were.  Matthew Inman sprinted to the front of the pack in his inflatable suit to send us off (he would run the half, as he did the day before).  And off we went …

I kept a steady sub 8:40 pace for the first 9 or so miles.  I was unaware of the slight uphill grade on the way out, so didn’t plan accordingly.  The smart thing to do, especially given the fatigue I still felt from the week before would have been to go out verry easily.  By the time I hit the halfway point, it was too late.  I was clicking off consistent sub 9 splits, but didn’t feel good about being able to keep that up in the second half.

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mustering  a smile, but feeling the miles – photo by ross comer

By the time I came back through mile 15 and 17, I pretty well toasted.  This stretch passes by a firing range in the distance – so the sound effects were an apt metaphor for how I felt – like I was being assassinated – albeit slowly.

At mile 22, I began walking more.  My sub-four goal went out the window.  But along the way, despite me feeling done, I appreciated the silly vibe the race had going.  Not my best day running, but a fun event nonetheless.  I came in just under 4:15, just under my time for my first marathon, sixteen years ago.

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Having had some time to reflect on the race now, I’m not sure I would do this one again.  It’s too big, and the hassle factor was a bit much for me.  On the other hand, race day was fun – it was great seeing many first timers out there taking on the Blerch.


it’s all downhill from here–the tunnel lite marathon

 

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I’ve run all of my events on trails this year.  And seven of eight of them had been ultras.  But when my wife Kris qualified for Boston several months back, I got the itch to try doing a fast marathon again, just to see whether I could qualify, or even get close.

Another reason to shake things up is that I’ve struggled a bit with motivation in recent months.  This is why when we were at a birthday party for a friend last month, I excused myself to register for the Tunnel Lite Marathon.  When all the other guests were enjoying cocktails and food, Kris and I were huddled to the side with our smartphones entering our info.

This event starts just east of the Snoqualmie Tunnel, near the pass.  We run downhill into North Bend, most of the way on a nice railroad grade, through the mountains.  It’s quite beautiful, and it’s an excellent route to attempt a Boston Qualifier (BQ) as well.

I was confident that I could cover the distance.  I’d done adequate weekly mileage, and some good long runs.  But it would have been better to actually do some intervals, mile repeats, and tempo work to prepare.  You know, actually train?  But as is often the case, things got busy.

One downside of being on the marathon or ultra per month plan, as I’ve been for nearly three years, is that it’s a veritable treadmill.  Other than the White River 50 miler, I’m usually pretty well trained to cover the distance, so I tend to get lazy about strength and speedwork.

Back before I started doing these marathons and ultras so often, I’d focus on One Race for months.  I’d do more structured workouts, knowing each day whether I was doing long slow distance, speedwork, or recovery pace. 

So when I lined up at the start, I had no idea what I’d get.  I’d fly a bit blind too, since the band on my GPS watch had broken – I wouldn’t have a way to check my pace easily.  Turned out that there weren’t mile markers until mile 14 here, so I really had no idea how I was doing.

When we ran those two early miles in the dark through the Snoqualmie Tunnel, it really was a fitting metaphor for my race plan.  I kept my eyes straight ahead towards the light, and tried to keep a steady turnover.

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Exiting the tunnel, I doffed my headlamp and began the trek downhill.  We were on a steady (railroad grade) descent for most of the course, with the bulk of this happening over the first 21 miles.  It’s kind of like running with the wind at your back, until your legs get trashed from the pounding.  I paid more attention to form than I usually do – low glide, slight forward lean, and engaging my core as best I could not having done any actual core work in forever.  It helped.

I started feeling the wear in my legs around mile 8 or 9.  At the same time, I wanted to see what I might have in me.  This course can do that to you.

I glanced at my watch when I reached halfway.  I’d run a respectable road half marathon pace.  If I could maintain the pace, I’d PR or maybe even BQ.  Now things got harder.

We wound through the trees, over the beautiful bridges.  I’d run this part several times before.  I remembered coming around the corner near Rattlesnake Lake, feeling like I could fly.  I also remembered my wheels coming off after taking this part too hard several years back, and having to walk most of mile 25-26.

When we leveled out a bit by Rattlesnake Lake, I gave myself permission to ease up a bit.  By now we had mile markers, so I was taking my splits.  I was hovering around 8 min/mile, sometimes less, not often too much more.  I’d need to keep under about 9 min/mile in order to PR.  Some quick math told me that a BQ would require pushing under 8’s for the duration.

And this is where things get interesting.  I sort of told myself “I can’t”, lacking confidence in my training.  It might not have been realistic, but I have to wonder what would have happened if I’d not been doing the math.  I might have pushed myself so hard I had to walk.  By now my hamstrings had spasms, and I was worried about that.  On the other hand, maybe I checked out a bit too soon, thinking that the BQ was out of reach.

Ultimately I missed the BQ by about 5 seconds per mile.  Realistically, I could have made this up by slowing down a tad in the early miles, so that I had enough left to push a negative split.  I lost about five minutes in the second half.  I’ll never know, but it’s good food for thought.

Those final five miles were tough ones.  I held together pretty well until mile 25, when I walked a bit.  My hamstrings were starting to cramp, it was getting warm.  I crossed the finish in 3:31:54, over seven minutes faster than my previous PR.

This was one of those days I went out and surprised myself.  I got better than the race I’d trained for.  Next time I run down from the Tunnel, I might prepare more for it – would be interesting to see what that gets me.

photos by ross comer

charts and graphs for running geeks

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This is the pace chart, taken from my Suunto Ambit.  I don’t place much faith in it telling me that my peak was a 4:41, nor that my fastest mile was a 5:04.  I think it more likely that I peaked just under 7, and my fastest mile may have been around 7-ish.  Given that the late miles were all over 8 min/mile according to my watch (slowest was 10), I must have done a goodly number of sub-8 miles early on.

First half was about 1:43:26.  That means the second was about 1:48:28, a positive split of five minutes.  Strength and speed work are the best way to address that.  It’ll be interesting to see whether being sooo close to a BQ motivates me to actually do that.


start together, finish together–the white river 50 miler

 

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Team Red Shirt – photo by Amy Wismer

The night before the White River 50 Miler, I fidgeted in my room at Crystal, wondering why I was there. I’d not trained for the 9000+ feet of ascent, let alone the distance. Work and other part of everyday life had impeded my grand plans to train. Those three repeats up and down Mount Si? Nope. Those trips up to the pass to get in some long work? Nope. Those back-to-back twenties? Nope. My first DNF (did not finish) in seventy marathons and ultras was a real possibility – and part of me was afraid of that.

Kris, my wife encouraged me to try it. “You should go do this – what do you have to lose?” she said. This was her polite way of saying “Can you please stop moping, just go out and do this thing?”. The more I thought about it, the more I saw her point. Also, it had been too late to cancel my room at the Alpine Inn – meaning I would have been out about $100 in addition to the race fees.

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Bob and I before the start, with no idea what we were in for – photo by Amy Wismer

At the start the next day, I hung out with two ESR friends Justin Carpenito and Bob Wismer at the start. An injury had dashed Bob’s wife Amy’s plans to join us, so she was providing logistic and moral support. Amy reminded me that I needed to represent those of us entering a new age group this year. Now there was some more motivation not to drop out. As we started shortly after six AM, I was thinking that I really had no idea what I was in for.

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Off and running – photo by Glenn Tachiyama

Start to Ranger Creek (mile 0 to 11.7)

The first several miles were pretty mellow. I was so focused on moving that I ran past the first aid station at Camp Sheppard without stopping. It was a really good thing I was carrying two bottles and lots of fuel, because the big climb started within a mile.

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Near Camp Sheppard , very early miles – photo by Ross Comer

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Things get steep fast – photographer unknown

The steep switchbacks spread the field out quickly. By now, I’d fallen back from my friends and was soon running solo in the woods. By the time I reached the Ranger Creek aid station, I really wasn’t sure there were 38 more miles in my legs. Doubt lurked in my head.

Ranger Creek, out and back (mile 11.7 to 22.1)

At Ranger Creek, I topped off my bottle, ate a bit, and then set out for the last part of the climb before we’d drop towards Corral Pass. This was really nice – we’d run along cliff’s edge with amazing views down to the start, and out to mighty Rainier.

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Looking down towards the start – photo by Eric Sach

Falling in with Bob and Justin around then was a good boost for me. I confessed that I wasn’t feeling good about my training, or my mindset. Bob turned and looked at me, then pointed out to the amazing panorama of Rainer off to our left, saying “Where else would you rather be than here?”.

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Justin near Corral Pass – photo by Ross Comer

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Bob near Corral Pass – photo by Ross Comer

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Your author near Corral Pass – photo by Ross Comer

Bob and I first met about ten years ago while doing the Nookachamps Half in Mount Vernon. Since then, we’ve logged miles during a number of marathons and ultras together. I’ve long admired the way he and his wife Amy pursue things like this as a team. Even when one of them is injured, they’re actively supporting and cheering on the other (like today). And they’ve accomplished some pretty amazing things along the way. Always positive, always thoughtful.

I dropped back from the group as we headed back towards Ranger Creek, but I thought lots about Bob’s words. I never thought I’d be running the Cascades as I approached age 50. When reflecting on what brought him to the starting line of his record-setting 24 hour run in Brive-la-Guillard France, Scott Jurek talks about how when his discomfort and fatigue become unbearable “I will run because I can”. He tells us that when he struggles to hold a pose, his yoga instructor reminds him that “this is what you came for”.

Today I had the opportunity to go farther than I had before. I’d been consumed by all of the things I’d not done to prepare, almost planning excuses to fail. The thing to do was to lean into this difficult pose, and just run – “because I can”.

Ranger Creek to Buck Creek (mile 22.1 to 27.2)

The trip down from Ranger Creek was pretty smooth. I tried to take the downhill from Ranger Creek back to Buck Creek easy, saving my quads for later. I ran mostly solo, taking care not to turn an ankle on the roots and rocks arrayed on the trail.

I rolled back into Buck Creek, just past mile 27 at about 6:19. Bob had come in a bit ahead and Amy was making sure he had everything he needed. I took my fuel out of my drop bag, ate some PBJ, and downed a bunch of liquid along with some electrolyte tabs. We were in for a tough climb, so it was time to fuel up. Amy came over and gave me some sunscreen, and dumped water on my visor – it was getting warm, and this got me into the habit of stopping to drench my head and neck at each opportunity. Then it was time to go, before I had too much time to think about it. We had 23 miles ahead of us.

Buck Creek to Sun Top (mile 27.2 to 37)

The four and a half miles to Fawn Ridge started out easy, but quickly got steep and tough. Some negative mind-fog had rolled in again, and thought to myself “just keep moving”. When I saw the aid station up ahead at mile 31.7, I’d already been on the course for over seven hours. There I quaffed down more fluids and fuel, and then set out again.

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Slogging out that last half mile to Sun Top – photo by Glenn Tachiyama

The trip from Fawn Ridge to Sun Top was the hardest part of the day for me. The climbing was relentless. We hit a false summit around mile 34 or 35. Then just after coasting downhill a bit, we had to slog up to Sun Top on trail that was both steep and exposed. Just keep moving, I told myself, even as my confidence waned more. As I climbed that last half mile in the sun, my steps got small, but my feet didn’t stop.

Sun Top to Skookum Flats (mile 37 to 43.4)

At Sun Top, I met Bob and Justin again. We sucked down lots of fluid and fuel. I gingerly lowered myself into a chair, wanting to rest my legs a little. Knowing what the problems gravity presents after 37 miles and nearly 9000 feet of climbing my friends warned me to “beware the chair”. I lingered a bit longer there, catching up with them just down the road. That first turn on Sun Top gives possibly the nicest view of Rainier on the course – a great way to start down the hill.

This is where things turned around for me in a big way. We were all tired, our bodies hurting as we ambled down the road. There’s something about running as a team that shifted our focus away from those inner voices telling us negative stuff. It’s hard to describe how that emotional veil lifted as we swapped stories about life.

And we kept moving. One of us would set a new pace, and the other two would follow. Now we knew we’d finish this thing. “Start together, finish together” became the motto. We were a team, pulling each other along. Justin and I celebrated milestones marking new longest runs, and Justin got us to celebrate by running into the Skookum Flats aid station.

Skookum Flats to the Finish (mile 43.4 to 50)

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Recharging for the last 6.6 – photo by Amy Wismer

When we were recharging, Amy complemented our ability to speak in complete sentences that mostly made sense. I caught up with my friend Wendy, who was working the aid station – she’d been there when I’d completed my first marathon in Anchorage, sixteen years ago. Back then, I never would have imagined I’d do something like this. But here we were.

Team “Red Shirt” set out on the Skookum Flats trail with 6.6 miles to go. Quick math told us that getting in between 12 ½ and 13 hours was within reach. The problem was that the “Flats” really wasn’t so flat, and there were roots and rocks to contend with. We’d run a bit, then would walk a while. Eventually the trail narrowed and climbed until we were a couple of hundred feet above. Good thing most of my blood was flowing to my legs, otherwise I might have been more conscious of the steep drop-off on my left – not much to grab onto on the way down.

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Team Red Shirt running along Skookum Flats – photo by Ross Comer

With a bit under a mile to go, Bob started to run. No one said much, we just kept moving. As we got close to the finish, things leveled out and it got a bit easier.

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Bringing it in – photo by Amy Wismer

Winding out that last little section as we entered the airport, we could see the turn to the finish up ahead. We turned it up a notch as we got closer. We crossed the finish together in 12:59:28. “Start together, finish together” had worked. Amazing feeling.

I’ve completed 70 marathons and ultras in my life – roads, trails, flat, and not. Some were harder than others, but I’d never experienced anything quite like this. Next time around, I’ll prepare – more hill training, and more quality miles – build my spirit and body up a bit more.

But two weeks later, I’m still taking in the experience. It was a great reminder to trust ourselves to dig deep when we need to. To just keep moving, and focus forward. And the team feeling to finishing with Justin and Bob was amazing. Working together kept things positive, and brought us in smiling.

Start together, finish together – it works.

Some favorite moments

  • Believing Kris when she said “You should do this, what do you have to lose?”.
  • Conversation with Tom the night before at the Alpine Inn about races old (fast ones for him) and new. Tom also finished his first 50 miler the next day.
  • That moment just after starting that it really sunk in that I had no idea what I was in for, or what it would be like.
  • Bob’s pep talk as we headed back to Ranger Creek.
  • Amy’s smile and her help getting me focus forward for the second half.
  • Digging deeper on that last half mile up Sun Top. Wouldn’t have believed I’d be able to do it.
  • Falling in with the “Red Shirt Team” after Sun Top.
  • Learning that it’s easier to run level than downhill after 37 miles.
  • Bob running into someone he’d met at the Kettle Moraine 100 in Wisconsin several years back – mile 40 was best small world story of the day.
  • Getting passed by Jess on the Skookum Flats Trail – she was running the course for the second time.
  • Internalizing Scott Jurek’s message that “this is what we came for”.

six years past …

On July 7, 2008 I woke up in Harborview Hospital in Seattle.  I’d been in an induced coma for six days, after being in a bad bicycle accident

I reflect on this each July, marking the anniversary of the accident itself on the first by riding my bike into work.  I take the same route I took that morning six years ago.  The first time I visited the site after it happened, you could still see my bike’s outline painted on the road.  That’s long since faded.  

Each time I ride towards the site, I hold my breath a bit, like I’m diving into water.  When I pass, it’s relief.  Strange ritual –but I do this each year to show myself that I can. 

When the accident comes up in conversation now, I’m struck by a sense of distance from it.  That’s good.  Over time our scars fade – even if they never quite completely disappear.

When I reflect on those days in 2008, I feel appreciation for the love and support from my family and friends that pulled me through this.  My strange ritual is a reminder to appreciate these things every day.

I wouldn’t have chosen this particular adventure, but I’ve been given a great opportunity with it.

Reflect, hold your breath, then dive in. 


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