Monthly Archives: June 2013

mud can eat shoes–a taylor mountain marathon story

We’d had all kinds of weather last year, and my training base was a bit iffy this time.  I didn’t really know what to expect when I lined up at the start for Evergreen’s Taylor Mountain event this year.  So perhaps in a strange way, things went exactly as planned.

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around mile 11, heading downhill through the mud.  photo by steve sanders

My recent running has been just okay.  I’m not getting enough sleep, and it’s shown in my training.  Also – we’ve got a heat wave here in Seattle.  It’s a bit odd to see “excessive heat warnings” when the temps are hitting 85 – but we tend to be spoiled here.  So my plan on Taylor this time was  to play things by ear.

We hit the trail at eight sharp, and settled into a steady pace while the pack sorted itself out.  We wound through some thick brush with a very gentle climb for just over a half mile before coming to a water crossing.  Last year the water had been higher and the current had been a bit trickier – this time I only had my own clumsiness to blame for my stumbles.

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crossing the creek – photo by uphill running

Then we began a steeper climb and hit some rather epic mud along the way (more on this in a while).  I mostly walked the climb, figuring we had a ways to go yet, and I knew that there were two significant climbs per loop, so I thought it best to take it easy the first time around.

I settled into a steady walk, figuring I could pick things up more when we hit the downhill.  I was running solo most of the way, letting my mind wander as I covered the miles.  I felt pretty good for the first loop, and did pick it up on the downhills – maybe even too much judging by the splits.  I paid for the quad pounding later during the next set of climbs.

I completed the first loop in about 2:30.  Not great, but I was still feeling pretty good.  I lingered for a while, drinking a bunch, because it was already getting pretty warm.  When I started the second loop, I knew that this time around would be harder.

The water crossing was uneventful, but when I came to the epic pool of mud, there was a runner standing in the middle sort of looking around.  Nikola had apparently lost a shoe on his way through the mud.  He’d looked for a while, and we tried for several minutes – to no avail.  He made it back to the start, hopping and limping over roots, rocks, and nettles before calling it a day.  The Evergreen crew gave him credit for finishing the half, or this would have been the oddest DNF I’ve seen.

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nikola following his mile-long trek after the mud ate his shoe – photo by evergreen trail runs.

When I hit the long climb, I knew that this loop would not be as quick as the first.  It was getting warmer and muggy too – we had a few minutes of rain while I plodded up the hill.  I was careful to take in more fluids, and took it easier both up and down.  When I got to mile 22, the day had grown warmer still, and I was ready to be done.  I tried to divert my mind from doing the mileage countdown (just makes it feel longer), and was happy when we hit the final downhill stretch. 

I crossed the finish in 5:49, probably more slowly than I’d covered the first 26.2 last year (I’d done 50k), but good enough.  I hung out at the finish for a while, getting my bearings and enjoying the energy.  By now it was pushing 80 degrees.  Apparently it’s summer here now.

charts and graphs for running geeks

Splits don’t mean much in a mountain trail event – some are uphill, some downhill.  The trend towards slower is clear though, as are some lengthier stops at the aid stations.

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2013 green river marathon

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that final push for the finish near Alki Point – photo by Neil Dial

The first weekend in June is a great time to do a marathon in Seattle.  The weather’s not too hot, and usually the days of horizontal spring rain are behind us.  This year was the fourth time I marked the day by doing the Green River Marathon.

The course is okay – especially the nice stretch along Alki with its views of the Seattle skyline.  But the draw for this event isn’t the course.  It’s the energy.  The small dedicated army of volunteers and the group of 200+ runners you share the experience with.  That’s what makes it fun.

I registered for this year’s GRM a bit over a week before we ran.  Two weeks from a 50k slog in the Redmond Watershed, I wanted to do something different.  A mostly flat fast course would challenge me to run strong and steady.  The last road marathon I’d done had been a PR, why not try again?

I coaxed that bit of false confidence to head out to the Interurban Trail on the first of June.

I arrived about 45 minutes before the start, just enough time to talk with some friends and to find my happy place.  I set off from the start with Mark, a friend from Eastside Runners.  It was a casual start – I was still awaiting a GPS signal, so my watch didn’t actually start until we’d been running for over half a mile.

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mark and I around mile 5 (not sure what we were talking about) – picture taken by larissa uchiyama

The smart way to run a marathon is to start with a steady pace you’re sure you can sustain, and then speed up a bit at a time from there.  I got the first part right, but around mile 2 or 3, I sped up by 30 seconds per mile.  Now I had been training for this, it would have been fine.  I had not.  And I knew at the time it was a bit brisk a pace for me.  Mark and I loped along together for the first 10 or so.  I approached this sort of like a hungry overly optimistic college student might use their first credit card – buy now, pay later.

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middle miles  – photo by Neil Dial

We fell in with Jim Anderson around mile 9 or so.  Jim and Steve Barrick were co-race-directors for a number of years.  He gave us a bit of the backstory for the fresh pavement we were running on.  Apparently the path was torn up and un-runnable just days before.  Steve had considered re-routing the course around the construction, but that would have meant losing the certified course (so the event would not be a Boston Qualifier).  On the other hand, an impassible route isn’t much of a BQ possibility either.  So – on Friday Steve had gone out to check out the progress, and found the path still torn up.  He asked the crew how things were going, and to his surprise they said “just about to wrap things up”.  And they did.  Certified course intact, there we were running on fresh pavement.

Not long after, I pressed ahead, maintaining my faster than sensible pace.  I could feel the fatigue setting in, it was really a matter of just how long I’d be able to hold this pace.  My splits for the first 19 or so were surprisingly consistent for how I felt.  Winding up along 99, then along the Duwamish, I could feel my wheels starting to fall off.

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winding towards the water in West Seattle  – photo by Neil Dial

By the time I hit the nice stretch along the Sound, I was mixing in a bit of walking.  Just as I’d abruptly sped up, I slowed down to the tune of about 30 seconds per mile, and then more for the final three miles.  I pushed as hard as I could to get in just under 3:47.

charts and graphs for running geeks

Not a great strategy – going out fast, and then just trying to hang on.  In looking at the splits, I’d been on pace for about a 3:43 – not PR territory.  I’m convinced that my poor pacing probably cost me about 3 minutes.  Have to wonder whether it was worthwhile though, since I wasn’t as close to PR territory as I’d imagined.  Food for thought.

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