June 12, 2016 – A toughie
My run bud, Ethan, roped me in for this race instead of SEARNR this summer. (I’ve been wanting to do the full at SEARNR for a few years, so, my thinking was, “this better be good”). E and I were mulling over which distance to pick since they host a 50k, marathon, half marathon, and 10k. Yeah, right, we both knew early on it would be the marathon. It has become for me, at least, my new standard, or default distance.
One cool thing this Chelan-area race offers is night-before camping at the start line. Echo Valley is a relatively small Chelan winter ski area (I’m used to Stevens Pass), and has a great network of multiuse trails for both winter and summer activities. E and I pitched a tent near the start line with the others, had some laughs, an interesting beer (Old Tankard Ale), (which is not good), and crashed after a deep conversation on mankind and God.
Since E despises it, I put my phone alarm to ring in the early morning with Adele’s “Hello.” Hello! The start was at 8am, and though I was running a little late to the start area (no pun intended), I kinda had to pee but only had literally one minute, which wasn’t really enough time to go over to the portable toilets and get back out in time (no timing chips for this small race). Oh, well, I’ll hold it for a while.
The initial climb into the hills from the lowland start area is gradual and pleasant. The sun was out, and it was comfortable (maybe 50deg). The dry air was a welcome change (compared to Seattle). I think I saw about 20 runners starting with us. Dude, this is a small field!
Ethan and I were about 5th/6th back in the pack for the first mile or so on the gentle climb of single track. Feeling good, though maybe a little undertrained for this particular race, I was optimistic for how the race would go. Ethan and I both had a decent sized bigger-than-personal pizza the night before driving into Chelan. We both inched past a few people and were up to 3rd/4th at the top of the first hill. There were many. Many.
I’ve never seen a course like this before. Nor ran on one. It’s like a who’s who of pictorial child-thrown spaghetti or multi-dimensional amoeba attack. Huh? Well, here, you look at it…
After mile 3, I never saw Ethan again. Well, that’s not true I guess. That’s when he took off down a decline (which he shreds), chasing the guy in 2nd. I was feeling okay, but feeling the elevation a bit and trying to gauge how much energy I had to spend and when, so I tried to hold back a bit. I saw him and dude in 2nd, whom he had caught, again a few times around mile 5 and 6. Then they were gone. And, apparently, I was slacking. Haha. It was around here I remedied the needing to pee issue (wait, am I supposed to write that?).
Up and down many hills, through green forest and clearings, and burned forest (from last year), it was oddly, peaceful, whilst most of the time I ran with no one else in sight. I knew approximately where the female runner was behind me, which kept me motivated to run. About halfway through the race, the wheels started coming off (stomach, dehydration?, just fatigue).
The female behind me caught me on the top of one of the larger hills, as we both came upon a herd of very large cows. Huh? I looked up (must’ve had my head down looking at the trail), and there they were, 20 feet in front of me, less than 10 feet off the trail. Crazy. First time that’s happened in a race. She moved past me here, as I was getting tired (about mile 16). My only comment in my starting to move to medium-dehydrated state, “nice cows, huh?” She looked back, smiled, and said, “Thanks!”
Mulling over in my mind what she could’ve thought I meant, I didn’t really put it together til later, but clarified, “No, those are some COWS back there, huh? That was weird.” Then she turned again, smiled, and replied, “yeah, odd.” Well, whatever she thought I said initially, at least, she took it as a compliment. And if it was the quintessential runner pick-up line, “nice calves,” then, 1) that would be normal I guess, 2) who hits on another runner 16mi into a race, (not this guy), 3) or because I don’t do that maybe I missed my chance, (ha) 4) I don’t know, maybe she did have nice calves. The other thing, I didn’t see her again, either. She was cruising.
The challenging part of the race was flying squirrel, the one over the amoeba (see course map). I referred to it as “mega hill” as I was out there. What you can’t see on the course map is the big incline and long wraparound which is flying suirrel. (I guess the real trail name in that section is Outback). A good thing here was the aid station with Coke and potato chips (awesome!). Same aid station at the start and end of mega hill. Or flying squirrel, if you prefer.
From there, the final 2-3 miles were all downhill to the finish, and besides the first mile, and the c-o-w-s, was my favorite part of the race. I could tell my dehydration levels were up there by 2/3 the way through the race, and the rest was just hanging on. So, any downhill was much easier and totally doable.
Almost ethereal, running (downhill) the last few miles felt fun again. Running was fun again! I didn’t feel like a wimp, and actually felt strong. Cascading down the hills north of Chelan provided great views again of the lake and the rolling valley below. Dry, dusty trails with rock and curves made for a perfect path to blaze.
Cruising in to the finish, Ethan saw me from about 150 feet out when I turned the corner, and started singing “Eye of the Tiger.” Yes, he’s crazy. We high-dived and I crossed the finish. Man, it felt good to be done. Yet, even at the finish line, I guess I had managed well on the course, because though I finished slower than of course I would’ve planned, I wasn’t demolished afterward. Tired, yes. Dehydrated, yes. But not like want-to-pass-out dehydrated – I’ve been there before.
This was by far my slowest marathon, but was a trail marathon (i.e. which are always slower), and my body just didn’t deliver, which happens sometimes. I joked with a few people, “well, now I can say, after eight years of running, I’ve had my ‘bad race.'”
Btw, E, you crushed it! 2nd place!
Next race: Haulin Aspen August 6
Note: If you didn’t put it together, “flying squirrel” is what the last monotonous and mountainous obstacle was before the downhill run to the finish, cause on the map, I think it looks like a squirrel in flight.