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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