Monthly Archives: October 2014

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

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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.