Everything about this run was the perfect way to kick off summer. Paige and I had the afternoon off from work and Justin played hooky by ditching school at the lunch hour. When Paige hopped into our Subaru at the Park & Ride it felt like we were venturing to the mountains for a vacation. I suppose that's what it was - an 8 hour vacay on the east side of the cascades.
Our original plan was to run the Cle Elum Ridge. This should have been an easy bulls-eye since there is a website dedicated to a race on the ridge with directions and a detailed map, but three city kids and a stack of printed out maps were hopeless in the hills. That was aside the point anyway since our goal was to get a good sweat with decent elevation gain. When we realized a couple hours into the drive that we couldn't find the trail head we hopped out, laced up, and found the closest single track that went up.
We trotted up trail #1363 - we found out later we were less than a mile from the Cle Elum ridge trail - but it's really all the same with similar views. We started around 1800ft and climbed another 3,000ft in 6 miles. The steepest part was in the beginning and we all were choking out our conversation with cotton mouth until we found peace with the dust. You can see in the above right picture that the soil smoothed out eventually.
Less than three miles into the trail we started catching vistas of the cascade range beyond a sea of green forest. I was practically glowing in the actualization that we were smack in the middle of wilderness on a work day. Conversation between the three of us dwindled and we all reveled in our surroundings.
Justin and Paige took a dip in the river post run, but I was far too wimpy to get in myself. We made a quick stop for ice cream in the town of Roslyn where we met Justin's dad who was on a work project in the same neck of the woods. When we finally hit I-90 to head home we were stopped on the highway in a line of cars for construction. We knew we had about a half hour to kill and it was already past 8pm. Hunger was lurking and we were smart to pack food and our cooking stove. We whipped out the stove on the side of the highway and fired up a bundle of portabello-swiss sausage with some spring vegetable quinoa. Dinner was markedly satisfying on the side of the highway.
I would recommend doing this run in the morning when it's cool. I also recommend checking the traffic cams and construction schedule before you go as well.
Taneum Ridge: Trail #1363
Distance: 16 miles
Elevation Gain: ~3500ft
I was reading an excerpt in iRunFar of an interview with Anton Krupicka. They asked him for the best advice he could give aspiring trail runners, and his response was the following:
"Give up control--the mountains are wild so embrace that and become comfortable in it."
That advice is hard to take when you're racing. His answer is so whimsical in a way that probably strikes non-runners as abstract and annoying. It sounds obvious and easy, because running for most people is a way to stop controlling, let go of stress, and just be. But racing is not the same as going for an afternoon run to blow off steam. I thought I had total control of this race - but the unpredictable nature of the mountains won me over. The last quarter of the race I was ready to curl up in my own burning hell of pain. I'm learning this is actually the standard outcome of most trail races.
The race was hard. Most of my previous training runs have been longer than this race with significantly more elevation gain and felt easy... but this race was still hard.
The Table Rock 27k started at Stinson Beach, part of the Golden Gate Recreation Area north of San Francisco. Mt Tamalapais towers above the shores and merges with rolling hills of scrub habitat. Oak trees and invasive Eucalyptus hover the trails and the unrelenting marine fog hugs the habitat in the morning. We drove down the winding highway 1 Saturday morning and reached the parking lot right before I was about to lose my breakfast. The fog was dense, but we dipped below it as we approached the parking lot.
The elevation chart was an outline of hellish climbing over a short distance. I have found over time that I much prefer the majority of a climb to lay out in one hill, but the elevation of this course was split between two. It honestly didn't look that bad, but now that I'm writing and looking at the chart retrospectively I remember the agony I experienced during the second climb.
Justin and I took a short warm-up and toed the line. We started immediately up a mean climb of 2,000 ft in 2 miles. I found a rhythm pretty fast and probably felt better than ever during a climb like this during a race, thanks to the consistent hill training I've dedicated myself to in the last couple months. The man jogging next to me had quite a few words to sputter out on the hill and looked at me with agony when he said "I had no idea 2,000 ft was this high!" He continued to talk (and drool) as we climbed the hill. "This hill is no joke man! When is this beast over?" He seemed alarmed that I wasn't answering him. I put my head down and chugged up the hill past him.
After cresting the hill the race was a breeze the next 8 miles and I was able to average mid seven minute pace. The fog partially began to clear and the scenery was awesome. After descending Mt. Talapais I cruised into the Deer Park aid station around mile 11.5. There were three elite women ahead of me completely out of reach so I just took the race as my own and held my position. I was by myself nearly the whole race, or at least I thought so since I couldn't see past the winding trail.
I took a few swigs of Pepsi and then made my way to the next climb. Half way up the hill my legs stopped working. I was climbing the well-known Dipsea to the crest of Cardiac Hill and could barely enjoy the history behind the trail. I felt like I was scrambling up a stretch that dragged on forever. That's when the negative voices started. The first half of the race had been so smooth, it's surprising how easily my mentality flipped. My first thought was how the hell was I going to climb 6,000 ft at Angel's Staircase? And how am I ever going to become a better mountain runner if I consistently climb already and mere 3600 ft is hurting this bad? This sport is breaking me. I'm not a mountain runner. And then I finally realized how low I had dipped in my thoughts which was killing my pace. I told myself to shut up and made a final surge to the top. 1800 ft later I reached the end of the climb. There was one last aid station three miles to the finish. I stood there briefly to catch my breath and drink some water. I felt my legs lock and realized I needed to keep moving. I wobbled down the hill with three miles to go, legs still not quite working. I was jogging at a pathetic pace given I was in the middle of a race but I wasn't exactly giving a shit since I was in no-mans land. I reached the famous Dipsea steps around mile 15 thinking I was just going to cruise comfortably to the finish when suddenly a Oiselle runner pulled up right behind me. Passed by another woman the last leg of the race? No way. The fire under my ass was up in flames and I set off in a complete sprint, almost biting it on a few of the steps. There were other hikers on the trail and I nearly lost etiquette, but I gave as much forewarning as I could. "COMING THROUGH!!!" "LEFT!!!!!!" My last mile was recorded as 6:39 on my Garmin which is the fastest for me in a mountain race.
It's funny how that happens, I had no idea I had the energy to kick up my pace. As much as I enjoy the serenity of trail running, I'd rather not be solo during a race. I'm much more apt to run to my potential if I have company. Otherwise I just find myself jogging the trail.
I crossed the finish and found Justin stuffing himself by the food tent. Justin told me he came in second place with a great effort that day to US Mountain Runner David Roche. We later learned that David and Justin are two of three men who have ever broken 2 hours on that course. Nice job to both of them!
We mingled around the finish for a while until we were sick of nutella and PBJ on wonder bread. The sun was finally out so we made a few vista stops along Highway 1. We finished the day by meeting up with an old friend in San Fransisco who took us to a local burger joint and one of the best frozen yogurt shops I've experienced.
Big thank you to La Sportiva for putting on a great race in a historical area! I hope next year I can tack a few new races onto my schedule from the La Sportiva Mountain Cup. Thanks to the volunteers out on the course - they always have the most encouraging words to offer. Big congrats to Megan and David for two new stellar Course Records!
Our friends from Alaska are getting married in Sonoma this weekend and the La Sportiva Table Rock 30k happens to be overlapping so we obviously had to sign up. The race happens kitty corner to Point Reyes, which Justin and I have always known as a birder's paradise from our previous years as field biologists. I'm glad my first experience there will be hand in hand with a trail race. This will also be the longest vacation we've taken since last winter in Morocco. It's a 4-day weekend and I'm pumped to drink some of California's finest vino, watch our friends get hitched and then power up Table Rock come the weekend. I usually look forward to some extra sunshine when I head south, but Seattle has had its fair dose this week and the weather is going to be cooler in California. Here's what I'm taking with me:
1. DoTerra Deep Blue: We've reached that point in our racing season when Justin and I need some extra TLC for our beaten bodies. We have a pretty good massage exchange going at the moment and DoTerra's deep blue has been a great supplement for inflamed areas such as my feet.
2. REI Microfiber towel: The race starts and ends on the beach, so the potential for swimming is high. The only caviat is that I carried this towel with me through Central and South America while camping in the jungle. Hopefully all parasites are dead.
3. Somersaults: If I'm desperate enough to eat plane food I usually end up reaching for the barf bag. Packing my own snacks is necessary, and these are a great hunger quencher for a short flight.
4. The Boys in the Boat: My current reading material. Who hasn't read this already and raved about it? I'm late to jump on the bandwagon, but luckily it was chosen for book club.
5. CLIF Shot Bloks: I went on my first 4+ hour run last weekend. I usually stick to GUs, but they aren't very palatable after three hours and your hunger is kicking. It's nice to have something to chew on and I was surprised how easily I digested the bloks. I won't need much nutrition in this race but I'm finding that I prefer variation rather than sticking to a rhythm for race day. I'll be ditching my routine GU and reaching for shot blocks.
6. Pumpkin Seed Butter: I am a total nut butter addict. I love all kinds and thought I had tried every one out there until I found this gem. This will be part of my pre-race breakfast.
7. Addaday Foot Roller: I already mentioned my feet get a good beating. I usually use a tennis ball when self-massaging my feet, but I tried this one at Fleet Feet and liked the pressure control. This brand is on the rise for good reason.
8. Hula Doll: We have a rental car and we're on vacation, enough said.
9. Zensah Compression Socks: I don't wear these while running and don't feel the need since there is no convincing science showing they aid running performance under marathon distance. However, they feel great when I wear them overnight post-workout for recovery, likely because they are on for 8 hours. I'll be slipping into these Saturday night.
10. Salomon Speedcross 3W: I'm a scared downhill runner and I realized that's mostly because I started trail running with road shoes. I went to the extreme end of the spectrum and bought these so I could let the brakes off and assure myself of a good grip on the trail. I raced in these in Montana and will be wearing them again in California.
I'm looking forward to long weekend away with Justin - you can check back after the weekend for a race recap!
I am an outdoor and travel junkie who is currently completing my doctorate in occupational therapy overseas in rural Fiji. On Sweet World Travels you will find stories of my life with my husband, the communities we serve, and the many adventures we take.