2013 Trail Factor Half-Marathon Race Report

The wife, puppy, and I headed to PDX for the long Memorial weekend and I packed my running gear in anticipation of doing my usual long runs through Forest Park.  However, after hopping on the inter-web I found out there was race happening on Monday (5/27) in Forest Park- the Trail Factor 50k/Half-Marathon/5-miler.  I decided to rest up for a few days and give the Half a go as I wasn’t ready to tackle another 50k just yet.

I’ve run in Forest Park numerous times, so I was fairly familiar with the Wildwood Trail that runs through the majority of the park.  I knew this would be a relatively fast Trail Race with compact dirt single track and about 2,000ft of elevation gain over the 13.44 miles.  Mother nature through a bit of a curve ball and decided to turn on the flood gates and add a nice layer of mud to the trails.  I had just splurged on some fancy new ruby red shoes (Salomon Sense Ultra) and was stoked to give them a whirl in these conditions.  Quick side note: these shoes are freaking ridiculous.  Great fit, protection, ground-feel, and traction.  Worth the hefty price for sure.


Courtesy Long Run Picture Company

As for the race,  I showed up about 15mins before the start and chatted with some fellow runners as we enjoyed the very wet rain.  I had a feeling this would be a great event when we started off with the National Anthem.  It was the first time I had heard the Star Spangled Banner sung at a Trail Race and what made it more emotional was the crowd joining in, all signing together.  Was truly a touching moment.  After the anthem, the countdown was set and we took off out of the gate to a couple of sweet bottlenecks.  This was probably the only thing I would have changed: should have started further up in the line.  As such, the first mile was a little rough with bottlenecks and trying to pass runners on a single track trail.  After the first mile, things seem to settle in and I was able to run my own race.  I blasted through the first 6miles feeling great and hit the Aid Station much earlier than I anticipated; my GPS was off so I was expecting another mile or so before the AS.  I dropped my only Gel of the Race and then took off to do the lollipop portion of the race.  Steep descent, flat and wide double track, single track back up to the AS.  My one goal for this race was to run every step of the 13.44 miles and 2,000ft of climbing.  I was tested most on the big climb back up to the AS but was able to make it feeling good.

After refilling my bottle with some electrolytes, I was ready to attack the 2nd half of the course.  The first 6miles were mostly uphill which meant the last 6miles were mostly down.  I put my trust in my Salomon’s and just let’er rip.  I ended up catching quite a few folks and making up tons of time.  Was cranking with a great smile on my face.  I had thought initially that I would finish in about 2:15 but realized with about 3 miles to go I could go Sub-2hrs.  I pushed myself more and came rolling into the finish line at 1:55!  Needless to say, I was/am super stoked with my performance.  Considering my first Road Half took 2:20 and my Personal Best is 1:42, cranking out 1:55 on the trails over elevation felt awesome.  This was good enough for 33rd place out of 167 runners (Full Results).

Overall, great event that I recommend to all runners.  The organization was fantastic, lots of schwag, post-race BBQ, free pint of beer, and super fun course!  Can’t wait to go back next year!

Courtesy Long Run Picture Company

Courtesy Long Run Picture Company

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2013 Yakima Skyline Rim 50k Race Report

Since I learned about Rainshadow Running events about a year ago, I’ve had my sights set on completing the Yakima Skyline Rim (YSR) 50k.  Located in the Yakima River Canyon about 20mins south of Ellensburg, the YSR50k is a great way to escape the soggy Seattle weather and indulge yourself in open vistas, blue skies, and 10,000ft of climbing.  Yep, you read that right.  With four (4) monstrous climbs, the YSR50k is known to be one of the hardest 50ks in the PNW and possibly in the country.

YSR 50k Elevation Profile

Coming off of Chuckanut 50k in March, I had 1 week to recover, and only 3 weeks to get in as much climbing as I could to prepare specifically for this race.  First thing I decided was that I was going to try doing this with Poles.  I read various reviews on the internet and decided to put my REI gift card and dividend to good use and picked up some Black Diamond Ultra Distance Z-Poles.  Since I was still not too confident on the health of my left knee, I wanted the extra support for the steep descents.  The Z-Poles  are ridiculously light weighing in at 10oz for the pair!  I originally started training with the 120cm length as this fits me perfect for my height – 5’11”; this length gave me a perfect 90 degree angle in my arm bend on flat land.  However, after doing a few runs with these, I found that they were too long for my stride and reach when ascending steep grades.  I exchanged them for the 110cm length which is on the small side but were much more comfortable on steep ascents.

With Z-Poles in tow, I spent my 3 to 4 midweek runs doing hill repeats in the little known West Seattle parks: Schmitz and Me Kwa Mooks.  On the weekends, I aimed to get as much vert as I could in (while still being cautious of not overdoing it) and ended up doing  3,729ft, 8,494ft, and 8,953 ft of climbing in each of the respective weeks prior to the race.  This was not optimal but a heck of a lot more than I have ever done in the past.

Come race day, I was pretty antsy.  Eventhough I had done a couple of 50ks in the past, nothing really compared to climbing 10,000ft over 31 miles.  I filled up my pack with water, a handful of gus, 10oz of Perpetuem, and a Running Playlist from Spotify.  I was ready to roll.

Start to AS1 – 5.5miles

The course begins with a gently climb for about .25 – .5 miles and then quickly changes to a  steep pitch that elevates the HR even at a moderate pace.  The course ascend a ridiculous 2,200 ft in the first 2.2 miles and then heads out onto the ridge for 3 miles of ridge running.  When I arrived onto the ridge and took a moment to look around, it was amazing to have 360 degree views.  The Stuart Range in particular looked spectacular.  I had chatted with other folks on the grueling ascent, but on the ridge I popped in my earphones and pressed play on my Spotify playlist.  I cruised on the ridge down to the first Aid Station feeling fantastic.

AS1 – AS2 – 5.5m to 10.5m

After departing the first Aid Station, you descend all the way back to the valley floor in-line with the Yakima River.  After a rolling mile or so, I came upon the next monstrous climb.  Using my trusted poles, I began a nice power hike up finding a great rhythm and feeling pretty good.  About halfway up this climb, however, I started feeling really nauseous.   I had been consuming GU’s every 30mins or so and also sipping on water and my Perpetuem bottle.  For some reason, I felt really awful and would have to take a break every few minutes.  I soon realized that my HR strap was actually riding a little low and was compressing on my abdomen.  I decided to pull it off and stash it in my pack; besides, I already knew what my HR was- f#$%ing high.  After only a few minutes, I began to feel much better and was able to push through to the summit of the second big climb to AS2.  Although it was only 5 miles from AS1 to AS2, this took my about an hour and a half to make the trek.  At AS2, I took a GU, filled up on electrolytes, chatted with the volunteers and then setup for the next leg to AS3 which is the turnaround point for the 50k.

AS2- AS3 – 10.5m to 15.5m

YSR 50k 4

Photo Courtesy Glenn Tachiyama

This is a great part of the course as you get to fly downhill, hit another uphill, and then fly down a long descent to the turnaround point where my drop bag was waiting for me.  It was on this section around mile 12 or so, that the leader and eventual winner, Maxwell Ferguson, passed me on the way back.  I said a few words to Max and he muttered back to me something like, “even us guys need to hike on the race”.   It was amazing to see how fast he was able to climb the hill at his “hiking” pace.  He went on to win the race in a ridiculous fast time of 4:55 shattering the course records by around 35 mins.  Anyways, I rolled into AS3 feeling good, a little tired in my quads but overall very happy with the way things were going.  I replaced my Perpetuem bottle with a spare from my drop bag, lathered on some sunscreen, and ate some magical Blood Oranges.  Seriously, I could have eaten a whole bowl at this point. Tasted better than my Mom’s famous Wicky Wacky Chocolate Cake at the time (and that is saying a lot!).

AS3 – AS4 – 15.5m to 20.5m

Well, being an out and back course, you pretty much know exactly what is awaiting you on the return trip.  I had completed the first half in 3:50 and felt pretty good.  My original goal was sub-8hrs and I was well under this pace.  However, the return trip on this course is harder than the first time out.  The reason is the climbs on the first half are steep and the descents are relatively flatter.  This allows you to power hike the climbs and fly down the descents.  However on the return trip, the climbs are now long and drawn out and still hard to run. The descents are steeper and slower.  So I expected to be slower but I was still feeling good.  I climbed out of AS3 utilizing my trusted poles feeling somewhat energized (part of that was from seeing a Rattlesnake on the side of the trail which always gets the blood flowing).  I tried to just focus on keeping my head down and a good rhythm as the open vistas made the summit seem like an eternity away. I was falling off my pace and feeling a big sluggish.  I didn’t seem to have my climbing legs in me anymore.  Being alone for a lot of this time gave me a chance to reflect on my training and how it prepared me.  What I realized is that I really hadn’t training for anything longer than 2-3 hours and now approaching my 5th hour on the course, my legs were really starting to feel it.  I hunkered down and kept doing what you do in an ultra: relentless forward progress.

AS4 – AS5 – 20.5m to 25.5m

The last climb, er, sort of.  Looking at the profile map, this is the bulk of the last climb.  After descending down from AS4 (which was same as AS2), the quads were on fire and my toes were screaming from hitting the front of my shoes.  I had to stop a couple of times on the descent to give my toes and quads a break.  I was feeling pretty much like crap at this point.  I was ready to be done.  After the descent, I crossed the valley floor in more of a shuffle than a run, and then started up the worlds longest climb (or so it seemed at the time).  This last climbed sucked.  I mean, it really sucked.  It was windy, steep, cold, and even had a few rain drops.  I mean, raindrops, really? WTF???  I stuck to my guns and continued just pushing forward just hoping to get to the last Aid Station.  I moved slower and slower and got passed by a few people.  I stumbled into AS5, ready to just be done with this whole thing.  I took an S-cap, some Gu’s and whatever else I decided to consume. My memory is a bit foggy at this point.  After the Aid, you think its all ridge running but, nope, its not.  Its all freaking uphill.  I mean, where the hell did all this elevation come from? Plus, to make things more pleasant, the wind picked up to what felt like Hurricane Force gales.  I will be blunt: this freaking sucked.  Big time.  Like really sucked.

AS5 – Finish – 25.5m to 31m

YSR 50k 2

Photo Courtesy – Glenn Tachiyama

After pushing through the ridge running, er, stumbling, I finally made it to the last descent: 2.2 miles and 2,200ft back to the start.  According to the webpage, they dub this as “The Plunge”.  This is a great description.  I have never felt such a burning in my quads as I did when I was descending the steep pitch back to the start.  I pushed through these final 2.2 miles and finally saw the heavenly sight of the Umtanum Campground and the Finish Line. I came across the pedestrian bridge, saw my lovely lady, and felt a rush of emotion.  Seeing Amy and the end of a race is always an emotional event.  After pushing my body beyond its limits, it is always comforting to see my lady there eagerly waiting my arrival.  I jogged to the finish line in elation and ran through my cramping legs to finish this beast in 8:06.  6 mins off of my goal but I was happy nonetheless.

Overall, I had a fantastic time.  This is a classic Washington race and needs to be experienced by every Ultra Runner looking to truly test themselves over the 50k distance.  I will be back in 2014 looking to go Sub-8 baby!

Next Up: White River 50

Click here to see my GPS tracsk: Suunto Ambit – Movescount – Yakima Skyline Rim 50k

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2013 Chuckanut 50k Race Report

The obvious thing to do after you suffer a femoral stress fracture, followed by a puncture wound in the calf, and topped off with a nice dose of chondromalcea is to run the Chuckanut 50k.  After the aforementioned series of unfortunate events in the latter of 2012, I found myself a bit torn on how to begin the 2013 season.  I decided I really had three main goals:  1. Stay Healthy  2. Enjoy the woods 3. White River 50.  With these main goals in mind, I was a bit unsure if it was wise to still complete Chuckanut.  My running over the last 6 months pretty much took a big back seat to rest and recovery and I knew that if I did end up doing Chuckanut, I would have to take it easy or risk inflaming my knee and/or completely blowing up.  I chose the former.

Approaching this race as a training run turned out to be a great thing.  I ended up having a great time, stayed injury free, and was able to experience some of the finest single track (the infamous “ridge”) that exist in the PNW.  Here is how it went down:


Bros ready to Go
Photo Courtesy of C

Start to AS1: Interurban Trail

This section consists primarily of 6.75 flat miles on the interurban.  I started out feeling a bit sluggish as I was not use to running in a fully loaded pack and I was having some chest congestion from the blossoming flower buds that induce my allergies.  I settled in to a nice little jog and just focused on keeping an even pace till AS1.

Nutrition for this section consisted of water when thirsty, 1 Gu halfway, another at AS1, and a quarter banana.

AS1 – AS2: Fragrance Lake

After departing the first aid station, you begin the first real climb of the day up the fragrance lake trail.  I jogged up the first bit then settled into a nice power hike trying to keep my breath at an even pace.  My longest training run prior to this was about 18 miles and I was a bit worried about not having enough for the last 10k of the Interurban.  I chatted with a few folks but was mostly just enjoying the trail to myself.  This was a big difference to 2012 when I was stuck in a long Conga line for most of this climb.  It was nice to have some folks around but was also nice to just hike to my own rhythm.

Nutrition: water to thirst, 2 GUs

AS2 – AS3: Cleator Road

After enjoying the sweetness of Fragrance lake, you hit up AS2 and then start a 3 mile uphill climb to AS3 along Cleator Road.  I was not looking forward to this section as these fire roads can seem like you are perpetually chasing the horizon.  I started at a nicely controlled jog up the hill and was feeling good when I looked up and saw a fellow runner power hiking roughly the same speed.  At that moment, I realized that at the grade I was on, it was much more efficient to hike and wait for the road to flatten out a bit.  I chatted with some of the folks as we hiked along and then as the grades varied we would break into jogs now and then and before I knew it there was AS3 at the top of the climb.  Cleator Road- not really a big deal.  Note: goal for next year: run this sucker. the whole thing.

Nutrition: more water to thirst, Gu, and the 1 Package of Perpeteum.  This was the first time I used Perpeteum on a race day and I must say: I’m not a huge fan usually, but man, this shit tasted goooood!  I guzzled it down and felt like a new man ready to take on the Ridge.

AS3 – AS4:  The Ridge, Lost Lake Trail

This is why you do this race.  Its technical, rooty, rocky, mossy, muddy, wet, green, undulating, and just badass.  I challenge anyone to run this without a smile.  Pure bliss.  I was having a great time and mostly had this to myself except for a few folks here in there.  It was about halfway on the ridge that I ran into C (Sister-in-law) who had previously jetted out of the gate with Todd (broski).  It was nice to see a familiar face and have someone to chat with for a bit.  After the Ridge, you drop down to the Lost Lake Trail which for me was the mental barrier that was on my mind for the last year.  In 2012 this is where I bonked.  According to the elevation map this is a relatively flat section but when you are on it, it’s mostly slightly uphill.  This is also the longest section between Aid at about 7miles.  I paced with C and we kept a schedule for Gu’n up about every 30 minutes.  We took our time and finally made it to AS4 which is at the base of Little Chinscraper

Nutrition: 10oz electrolyte, 3 GUs, water to thirst

AS4 – AS5: Chinscraper, Cleator, Fragrance Lake

Good old Chinscraper.  Yep, doesn’t really need more explanation then that.  Its 1.1miles of solid uphill climbing.  Despite its harsh reputation, this is actually a fun part of the course.  Its relentless and beautiful at the same time.  We power hiked up this and were pleasantly surprised on how fast the climb seemed to pass.  Once you reach the top, you head down Cleator just for a half-mile or so then you make a turn to head back down Fragrance Lake Trail.  This was a change from previous years and man, was it an improvement.  Usually you have to run down 4 miles of boring fire road.  Nope, not this year.  We were treated to sweet downhill single track that you could just fly down.  The rain really started to come on and the mud was pretty sloppy.  This made it all the better.  I arrived at AS5 (same as AS1) a soaking, cold, wet mess with a grin and some lame jokes for the volunteers.


Photo Courtesy of Glenn Tachiyama

Nutrition: 10oz Electrolytes, 4-5 GUs, 3 Blokshots, 1 Small Bite of Salted Potato, and the rest of my water (cumulative consumed water was 2 Liters at this point).

AS5 – Finish Line: Interurban

Now most people think, the hard climbs are out of the way and the technical ridge is in the rear view mirror so just let’er rip on the easy flat Interurban.  I beg to differ.  I believe this is the crux of the course.  At this point, your legs are toasted from all the climbing and ascent and your mind is a bit sluggish.  You leave the aid station, and look down the path: I honestly felt like I could see the border crossing.  That damn trail looked like the Oregon trail.  So to tackle it, we broke it into 2x2x2: run 2 miles: Gu. run 2 more: Gu.  run 2 more: Finish Line.  Se we set off in a nice jog kep to plan, stopped to pee, Gu’d up, felt like crap and then realized that we could still break 6:30 if we hustled the last 2 miles.  So C and I dug deep and went from 10min pace to 8 and sub-8 for the last 2 miles hoping to break 6:30 (which i admit is not significant but at the time felt like Roger Bannister going for the first sub-4 min mile in history).  We dug deep and felt trashed but in the end made it to the finish line in 6:31:xx.  It wasn’t a record, I didn’t make the podium, and didn’t win any prize money.  I did however stay healthy, enjoy the woods, and have a great training experience for WR50.

Nutrition: 2 GUs, 10oz electrolytes, water to thirst.

Next Up: Yakima Skyline Rim 50k, April 21st


Crossing the Finish Line!
Photo Courtesy of Broski

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2011 Seattle Half-Marathon Race Report

With the beginning of another holiday season also comes what has become an annual tradition: the Seattle Half-Marathon.  The SHM takes place every year on the Sunday following Turkey Day.  This race has come to hold a little bit of a special  meaning as it was the first Half-Marathon I have ever completed.  Back then it was Hitch, WCB, and myself who thought it would be a good idea to do the HM despite our limited training and forecast that called for snow.  Our goal was to just finish and have a great time doing so.  We ended up somewhere around 2:20 something which we were pretty happy with.

I skipped the race the next 2 years and made my triumphant return last year.  Hitch and WCB both moved to Spokane which meant I was riding solo this go around.  I was running more and had the goal of breaking 2 hours.  Coming off a couple of long nights of indulging myself in adult beverages, I wasn’t exactly on a performance enhancing nutrition plan.  But, what better way to burn off the Kals than running 13.1 miles?  I ended up beating my goal and finished in 1:53.

So, for 2011, I set two time goals for this race: Low Goal of beating 1:53 and a High Goal of Sub 1:45.  I have been running more than ever over the last few weeks avg between 30-40miles per week with lots of hours in the Cascade Mtns.  I have been feeling strong and felt confident I could beat last years goal but was a bit unsure on Sub 1:45.  I was once again riding solo on this which is all right with me; after all, I was in no condition to really talk to anyone.  After the Marathon Walkers were sent off at 7am, I jumped the barrier to line up for the 7:15 start.  I found my self at the very front alongside some pretty badass looking runners.  Realizing I was a bit out of place, I moved back just a bit so as not to get trampled by the gazelles.  I nervously awaited the gun going off doing some calf/quad stretches that probably dont really do anything while I wondered if the pre-race GU was a good or bad idea.  I had decided to try a 2 GU plan: 1 15mins before the gun and 1 half-way through.  I also managed to do about a 1 mile warmup jog to help loosen me up.  Usually, I end up at the starting line cold and tight; figured that there must be something to warming up.

Anyways, back to the start: the gun goes off at 7:15 sharp and we take off.  Realizing that my Garmin always runs long due to weaving, I set a goal of holding a 7:45 pace.  I burst out of the gates and hit 2 pretty fast splits: 7:21 and then 6:59.  When the latter popped up on my watch I was a bit surprised as I was not intending to head out this quick.  I quickly learned this was not a good idea as I started getting cramps in my lower outer shins; lower legs were extremely tight and I had some bad thoughts about even being able to finish.  I decided to just try and mentally block it out and run till I drop- Sub 1:45 or Bust!  As we cruised down the I90 expressed lanes to Lake Washington I found my body starting to loosen up and I found a nice groove to settle into.  I was avg about 7:30 at this point which was a little ahead of where I needed to be; I felt great so I stuck with it.

One thing about this race that I seem to forget every year is that amount of rolling hills and especially the 2nd half of the course.  From about mile 6 to 12, you climb from Lake Washington up Madison, thru the Arboretum, and up thru Interlaken park.  This was brutal.  I took my 2nd gel around 6miles just in time for the slog up the hills.  I’ve run these hills before but for some reason they sure felt harder.  Those were some of the longest miles I think that I have run ever.  I still managed to hold pace avg between 7:40 and 8:10 which put my average for the race right around the 7:45 I was shooting for.

As you crest the last hill around 12miles, the last 1.1 of the course is a nice fast, downhill section.  I checked my watch and realized I was in great position to break 1:45.  All I needed was to hold a sub-8min pace for the downhill section.  Well, I let her rip and clocked a 7:05 for the last mile crossing the finish line at 1:43:26 (Chip Time).  I was more stoked than I have ever been for two reasons: I crushed my goal and literally had nothing left in the tank.  I crossed the finish line and just bent over to catch my breath- I was gassed! This was really the first time where I felt like I gave it my all from both a muscular and cardiovascular stand point.  This was my max my body was going to give me this day.  I am cool with that.

So, guess its never to early to think about Sub-1:43 next year, eh?

Notes: Had a Honey Bucket break around mile 6 which I probably lost about 45sec to a minute.  Need to figure out my water intake better to prevent this.  I think that 2 GUs helped tremendously.  Not sure if it was mental or if they really did something.  I will definitely keep this in the game plan in the future.


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