Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Capitol Peak FAT ASS 34M

Ugh. Getting up at four in the morning is brutal. More so when you have a head cold. But, it was necessary to get up here to Capitol Peak National Forest just outside of Olympia, Washington. I'm actually early. Like, way early, arriving with all the Search and Rescue folks who are putting on this FAT ASS 17/34 Miler, as a fundraiser for their group, Friends of Capitol Peak. Being Search and Rescue dudes (and they're mostly dudes) they've all got their personal vehicles tricked out with extra lights and winches and tires. But heck, I'm glad they're out here. If I get lost, they'll be right here to find me.

They seem to be running this FAT ASS run as some kind of training day—a good idea I think, meaning that there will be smaller groups of them spread out along the course, with radios and water and First Aid kits. This is going to be WAY more organized than the FAT ASS I did last week. I feel in capable hands.

I check in at the main tent, and they even have bib numbers for us. Classy! The main organzier dude asks me if I want to do the early start at 7. I think about it, tempted, but then realize I can't, I didn't bring my headlamp. It's 6:30, and still dark, because 1. Dense fog, and 2. Dense fog in a dense forest. Instead, I head back to my rental car and crank up the classic rock station and watch more cars come in. At seven, a group of early starters start, maybe about ten of them, with headlamps and looks like backpacks, or maybe Camelpacks, though they look big. I just haven't ever gotten into lugging a bunch of stuff on long runs, IF I know there will be water stations, and actually, here, on a mountain, there maybe be some lovely mountain streams to drink from.

Finally 8 o'clock rolls around, and light is filtering through the trees and fog, though the fog doesn't look like it's going to lift anytime soon. Still, enough light to run by. Temperature is maybe just above freezing. I'm wearing my Merrill Trail Gloves—the best tool for this job, mainly to keep the feets warm. I do see some other minimalist shoes here and there, and actually saw a bunch last week too, so, at least for trail running, minimalist shoes are becoming almost normal. Maybe. There's also one crazy guy in some kind of huaraches I've never seen before, and he's also just wearing short shorts and a 'barely there' sleeveless shirt. He looks like a cross country star somehow. I bet he's fast, but brr, looking at him makes me colder.

The Organizer Dude gathers us all up at the Start line to go over directions, though many people don't seem to be paying attention, more concerned with saying hello to old friends. After last week's fiasco, I want to hear everything, so I get right in front of him. And yes, he is way more dialed in. He shows us a bit of orang and red flagging that they've used out there, and says they've also marked all turns with orange spray paint. The 17 Miles is an out and back, from the first aid station, which, do I hear this correctly?, will also be a Tequila Station? Wtf?

As for the 34 Milers, we will run up a mountain, run around the top of it, and back down. No problem. There was some worry about snow, but he says it's packed down and not that bad. Sounds cold, but ok.

And, with the typical FAT ASS 'not much ado', he says go, and we go!

I'd say there's maybe 50 of us? Or maybe up to 75? I'm terrible with judging numbers (and mileage)(and time), but anyways, I let the faster folks go on ahead. We get a little dirt road to filter us out, but then we're all on trails, going uphill switchbacks like the 75 Dwarves. Many people seem to know each other, or else it's my luck (such as it is) to be around them. I can tell I'm tired, because I'm grumpy, and annoyed already that a woman right behind me is yelling back her end of a conversation with someone else five places back. Call me crazy, but in the situation, I'd just drop back five spots to talk to the person. But ok, breathe John, breathe. Relax. This is a wonderful day, the sunlight filtering through the icy trees and fog. And you're running! And the cold isn't really that back. I feel a little congested, but I'm not draining, or sneezing, or coughing. I just feel like, with a cold, I feel better when I get out and stay busy, rather than moping back in my apartment, so this is gonna be pretty active. We'll see. I could very well overdo things and send myself into pneumonia by the end of this! Ha! But no, I have faith in running! Running makes us feel good. Running heals. That plus a tequila shot or two.

But there are occasional bumpings out onto dirt roads and wider trails, so people can pass as is their wont. And I wont. I'm barreling down the downhill sections—Part of my new running style, trying to run a little faster. When I get in long-distance mode, I tend to lock into one rate for up and downhills, so I'm trying to use the downhills more, to use gravity, to speed me up. So right now I'm zipping along, passing lots o' folks, but I may regret it later, since, despite trying to use gravity while maintaining a light 'lifting the feet' mode, versus a 'slamming the feet down' mode, my quads do still seem to take a beating.

In overhearing more (sometimes loud) convos, most people seem to be doing the 17 Miler, and in fact, the fast ones (including crazy half-naked dude in huaraches) now are heading back on the same (sometimes narrow) trail. The thought strikes me that maybe the 34 Milers should all have started an hour earlier? Just to clear us out, and to get us all back sooner, so everyone can head home sooner? Might make for a lonelier run though. Having all these people around makes this seem like a 'real' race, meaning that our competitive natures kick in and we all are running faster than if we just went for a run on our own. That's one of the reasons I decided to do this race, as part of my training for the upcoming Badger Mountain 100 Miler Challenge.

I get to the first aid-station/turn around and yep, some guys have set up a tent, with some tables, and some bottle of tequila, along with some Mexican decorations. Wow. And yet, I know I'm going to have to take a shot on my way back. Just because. But I have many miles to go before I drink.

I continue on and up. And yes, without the 17 Milers, the pack was been widdled (? whittled?) down significantly. I'm now alone. How sad. But, I break out into a old clear cut area and voilĂ , the sun! The fog has lifted! No, actually, once I get way out into the clearing I see that in fact, I've just gained enough elevation to be above the fog, because now I can see out for miles and miles, all the way out to Mt. Rainier! And below, just a white fluffy sea of cloud/fog. The whole valley is socked in, but up here, glorious sunshine. In fact, it's now warmer, and with snow on the ground, brighter.

The snow is either fairly packed down, or melted off, so that running isn't bad. But, the trail is now a bunch of switchbacks going up another clearcut. So, not running anymore. This has become a hike. I see some radio towers way up on the top of a mountain and wonder, Hm, Am I going all the way up there?

The trails have been well-marked, no doubt I'm on the correct route. Still, nice to see some other runners out here, even if it's two guys passing me. I could probably be hiking faster, but I keep getting distracted by the view: The higher I get, the more I can see of this huge fog-sea, with occasional hilltops peaking out, looking like islands. What a beautiful day. Minus one little thing: someone has come out to the State Park to shoot their guns. Damn. Doesn't seem fair that one or two people can disrupt the serenity of a whole valley of people. But, who knows, they probably feel the same way about a bunch of crazy runners hogging the trails. Hopefully though they're get tired of shooting their guns. I mean, how much fan can it be?

Onward. Upward. The water from the aid station is nasty, so I opt for something much better: Creek water. Snowmelt from right off the mountain. Nothing better. And plentiful along this route.

Organizer Dudes instructions come back to me when I get to a fork on a high dirt road, with orange paint arrows pointing both ways. This is where we'll basically run around the top of the mountain and come back. The snow up here is thicker, though still packed down, at least on this logging road. I feel a little like Legolas from The Fellowship of the Ring, running over the top of snow. It's the kind of snow that, if just a little better warmer, I might crash through up to my knee or thigh and really tweak something badly, so I'm trying to be careful, and with the icy crust I'm still slipping a lot. I pass one woman who has stopped to adjust her Camelpack or something. I figure she'll catch me soon, but I don't see her again. Still, again, good to see another runner. I just don't want to be last, to have everyone waiting for me back at Base Camp.

The route goes in a large circle around the top of the mountain, and on the backside I come on some Search & Rescue guys at their truck. There's also a woman, who's asking where the bag drop is, and they're trying to explain that is was back at the first aid station, at the Tequila Station, but she seems kind of out of it. Man, she's like eleven or twelve miles off. I wonder if she's going to just quit. Something doesn't seem right about how she's acting, though maybe it's just frustration/anger at not knowing where the bagdrop was. Yikes. Still, I do maybe see her point: why have the bag drop 8.5 miles in, and not further up, more at the halfway point?

I don't know. I keep going. More up, on an old old steep steep road/path. Just hiking best I can, slipping on the ice and snow. But this road takes me up to the very top of Capitol Peak, and man, the view is just....amazing. Mt. Rainier on one side, and Mt. St. Helens on the other. Surrounded by the sea of fog below, in all directions. This may get my vote for most scenic race/run I've ever down. Makes me really appreciate having moved out here to the Pacific Northwest.

In fact, I have a new worry: with all the snow, and sun, I may be in danger of getting sunburned! Who'd've thunk?

I bail down the other side, almost falling on my ass a few times, on this ice-covered dirt road. In fact, there's a State vehicle off to the side: Looks like it actually slid off and almost turned over. I check inside. No one there. Must have happened earlier. I guess they're just going to leave it until the snow melts down. Seems like the Search & Rescue guys could winch it out, though maybe even they can't get their trucks up in this snow.

Back to that original fork. Ok, I've looped around the mountain. I'm now over half-way. And: it's all downhill (mostly) from here! Man, if I could slam down those switchbacks I could really make up for time. Check my watch: 4:20. Hm. Not sure if that's good. With that massive hill, I think so. My average time for a 50K is six hours, but this is a little more. I think I may be out here for more than six hours. Ok, well, I hope I'm not last.

I'm now running again, though as I feared, I'm tired, and my quads are stiff, so although I'm getting a little boost from gravity, I'm not zooming down. Still, a great day to be out running, and I'm not super exhausted. I'm not sure I'd be up for running a full Hundo, which gets me mildly worried about Badger Mountain: I have two months to be ready for it, and I don't think I'm ready for it. But oh well, stay in the moment John. Enjoy this.

On the way down, there are more Search & Rescue teams at the road crossings. Part of their training day more than anything, doing a little traffic control, which isn't really necessary. But still good to see them, and they assure me that I'm not last. Ok. Whew. I don't see anybody coming up though: Everyone must at least be running around the top of the mountain by now, which gives me a little boost to maintain speed. Would be a little disheartening to be passed by someone now. But I don't see any runners at all.

There's still guys shooting guns though. In fact, I end up getting a wee bit misplaced, going down a main dirt road that doesn't look familiar, but which takes me right to the shooter dudes, who, to give them credit, are friendly, and confirm that they haven't seen any other runners come by. Oops. So I turn around and run back up the road, and yep, I ran right by some big orange paint arrows. Not paying attention. Zoned out and tired. This is my big fear about a Hundo: getting majorly lost due to my own delirium. This is why I need pacers.

But yeah, having guys shooting right by me is a little unnerving. And, they were firing pistols as paper targets twenty feet off the road. And they've been doing that for hours. That just doesn't seem fun. I guess they want to get as much practice in as they can before Obama takes away their guns. And, ha, now there seems to be some other groups of target practicers, one of them with what sounds like an automatic rifle. “The hills are alive / with the sound of gunfire....”

I am tired. The cold isn't helping. I fear I'm on the edge of getting chilled. I just feel congested, like my ears have been popped. Plus my stomach is rumbling, alien chest-burster style. But lo! Looks like a Tequila Station!

It is. There's a bunch of what looks like mountain biker dudes, and one dudette, huddled around a fire, with the table full of tequila bottles. Wow. But strangely, the thought of tequila doesn't make me want to vomit. In fact, in some way, I feel like it might feel good. I'm not a big drinker at all, but I feel like my sinuses might get cleaned out. And/or maybe it'll kill the alien in my stomach. So ok, I order one up.

The guy behind the table pours me a shot, along with one for him and a friend who comes over. I ask, “How many shots have you had today?”

He smiles. “Oh, only one for every runner that's come by.”

That can't be possible. He wouldn't be standing. But anyways, it's good to actually talk to this folks, to see people in general, and they seem genuinely enthused to see me. They confirm again that I'm not last. Whew.

Onward. The tequila feels ok actually. I feared suddenly having to vomit, but it, plus the lime (nice touch!) take actually good. Again, who'd've thunk?

Ok, well, 8.5 miles to go. Or, maybe a little less, since they said something about the route back being slightly shorter (I'm still not clear why). I'm at 6:20. Wow. Ok, well, I wanted a long run, and I'm getting it. I feel super slow though.

I'm off the mountain though. The route is back to short ups and downs. Still no one. I'm on my own. Ugh. Slog mode. Mentally tough more than anything: I feel the twinges of “I just want this to be over.” Yeah, if I'm feeling this, then the Hundo is gonna be tough.

The route IS slight different, rerouted. Maybe not a full 8.5, and most glorious is seeing a State Park sign with the name of the campground where I started on it, and a big '.5' next to it. Almost there!

Without a lot of fanfare, I come into the Finish, almost taking the volunteers by surprise, but they give me a cheer, which is nice. Time: 8 hours almost on the dot. Wow. Whew. Man. I'm sixth from last, with only 30 people signed up for the 34 Miler, though that doesn't take into account the early starters, so I'm actually more in the middle of the pack, which makes me feel a bit more respectable.

I thank the Organizer Dude for a good race, and head to the food. I'm going to go into hypothermia soon now that I've stopped, but wee bit o' hot soup helps, along with some salty potato chips, and why not, a bite-size Snickers bar. Or two.

One other runner is there, a woman who came in like fifteen minutes before me, though she's one of the late-starters (time 8:30ish). We chat for a while. She seems as eager as I to actually finally talk to someone. We also chat with an older gentleman ladling out the soup, who is friendly up until I let slip a comment about all the people out shooting guns. He immediately makes a face and walks away. Wow. People must really like their guns out here.

But yes, body cooling down fast. Must. Change. Clothes. To talk at. Normal. Speed. I thank all the crew once again and head to my car, so I can sit down for the two hour drive back home, and my legs can tighten up nicely. Tonight, a big bowl of guacamole and chips and a hot bath, and tomorrow a nice yoga class! Wonderful run. Wonderful day.

Results: 18th out of 25 finishers. Not last!