Sunday, December 15, 2013

Deception Pass 25k

I ran this race in 2011 in it's first year.
Then I was so blown away by the trails and scenery that I stopped and took a fair number of photos during the race and just marveled over the variety of trails and the stunning scenery. I wouldn't say I dawdled during the race but I was more concerned with staying upright on the technical trails and staying strong all the way through to the finish.  In 2011 I finished the race in 3:28 and I knew I'd have to come back.

In July, registration opened for this race and I signed up immediately. For further fun, a few other friends signed up for the 25k and a couple friends signed up for the 50k which is the next day. I think 8 of us total were signed up and I was looking forward to a very fun weekend. Life got in the way however, and on race day just two of us lined up to start. It still ended up being a fun weekend but I would've been even happier had all race plans happened but such is running. 

K and I drove up to Oak Harbor the evening before the race after work. It is doable driving up the morning for this race but much more pleasant and relaxing to sleep overnight closer to the race start. Oak Harbor is ten minutes away from Deception Pass State Park. I knew I wouldn't sleep well at home either so I might as well be in a hotel!

This became more of an issue though as I had some sort of reaction and developed some lung irritation which left me coughing and makes my lungs feel itchy. This happened before a race before when staying at a hotel. Something must trigger the reaction and I knew I'd have to stay on top of inhalers. I typically do not like taking allergy medication as it dries me out and makes getting in enough liquids challenging (and I struggle with this anyway). I might experiment with OTC allergy medicines and see if one would be better if I had to take something and run.  Breathing is better than not! 

I slept poorly but that was not unexpected. We were up promptly and I was happy to get going. Race weather promised to be perfect. Although there was a chance of showers, it never rained. The temps were mid to high 40s with only a bit of a breeze in certain sections.  Certain trails on this course can be very exposed so I was most concerned with the wind but there was only a few times where I felt chilled because of that.  What a relief considering the cold temps and serious winds we'd had just a week earlier.
There is that bridge.

I met up with running friend and her family. Everyone was excited and enjoyed the happy anticipatory atmosphere. We listened to the usual warnings of not falling off cliff trails and bridges and were off only a bit late. As my coach and friend, we run together once or twice a week but even with some chronic injury issues which limit her running, she will always be faster and stronger runner than I am. I vowed at the start to run my own race especially early on the uphills and did not expect to stay together. It was fun to be lined up at the start ready to go and ready for the challenge. 

Deception Pass Bridge from below.
The race start takes off uphill on a road which is always a bit torturous.  With 200+ runners, this is the only way to get people strung out a bit before we hit single track.  It was still quite a traffic jam when we first turned onto a trail at almost mile 1. This was fine with me. My lungs were itchy, i was still coughing and I knew it would take a few miles to feel warmed up.  By mile 2, i was already lagging behind friend a bit on the uphills and at 3 after a climb up to Deception Pass Bridge, running friend was waiting for me.  I made sure to tell her that I didn't expect us to stay together. She, however, wanted to run across the bridge together and then would keep to her own pace. Perfect.

Deception Pass Bridge is spectacular, of course.  It's a narrow span over a steep pass with swirling water below. I've run across this bridge twice before in the dark during Ragnar Northwest Passage Relay and it's always a thrill. It's a little more scary in the light when you can see just how far up you are and how narrow the pedestrian walkway is!

We crossed the bridge, hopped over the highway railing and were back onto technical trails for the next series of "lollipops" which is how this course is conceived.  There are 6 out and back sections in all. The course is well marked but it helps to remember which lollipop you are on so you can follow signage to the next lollipop.  However as each section of the race is a lollipop with a portion that is out and back, you are always crossing paths with runners coming towards you. Faster runners (those ahead of you on the course) have the right of way but it is just prudence to slow down and be mindful of allowing enough room for passing especially on rocky, slippery sections. 

There was another guy running who I knew through a mutual friend. This would be his longest run ever but he had done a trail running series over the summer so was experienced on trails.  Newbie Runner and I chatted the first few miles until he was ready to move ahead of my cautious pace. I figured I'd not see him again but once we hit the only aid station at mile 5.5 and then again at 7.5, I'd move ahead of him again and he'd catch back up to me.  I was following my nutrition plan which was basically 1 gel every 30 minutes with a supplemental rice muffin. I carried all my food and water and had no need to stop. I did stop at the aid station at 7.5 for a couple ounces of coca cola as a treat (I'm not a soda drinker normally). I ended up having 5 gels, 3 rice muffins (about 50 calories each), 1 electrolyte capsule and a couple ounces of coke and 35 ounces of water during the course of the race.

We started on lollipop number 5 and I was looking forward to this 4 mile loop. I remembered it as being fairly peaceful without a lot of other runners and good trails. Newbie runner was behind me with a chatty canadian runner. Chatty Canada runner had run this race the year before in 4 hours and was hoping to PR as well.  I offered to let her go ahead of me (she was really chatty) but she liked my pace.  So much for peaceful but at the same time it was companionable chatting a bit with newbie runner and chatty canada.  newbie runner once ahead moved passed me and I wished him well and secretly wondered if he'd be able to hold pace as he got tired at the end of the race.

We were gradually climbing to the high point of the course. I started to feel the lungs in here again and got out the rescue inhaler to help. I ate and drank and just kept a steady pace and wondered if I'd really had enough training to hold this race until the end. I comfortably have been running about 30 miles a week and had wanted to run more per week. It just didn't happen. I had the trail miles but no run longer than 13 miles.  The thing that scares me about these longer trail races is pushing too hard in the beginning and taking a severe tumble later in the race when your legs (and mind) are tired. This is where the doubts I have about long distance running (marathon distance on roads) come into play as I don't have a good sense of effort for pace. I do know trails though. Oh well. Best laid plans and all and such is running. It never pays to feed those doubts and I just focused on staying to plan and moving forward. 

At mile 9, we hit the high point and turned onto a new rocked logging access road. Uck! I hate it when a trail goes over these sorts of roads. The rocks they put down to stabilize the mucky road are large and sharp and almost impossible to run over especially when covered with slick leaves, slick mud and one section of ice left over from the cold we'd had last week.  Then we hit the short section which had been logged.  It's a working forest but it still makes me sad to see the wreck left over when logging happens to a beautiful, peaceful forest.  This was a shock to Chatty Canada too as this logging was recent.

Once past this, we were back onto lovely running trails with a gradual downhill. YES! This is my strength and I picked up the pace eventually catching and passing Newbie Runner. Chatty Canada felt inspired by my pace still and kept up with me.  It was fun running in here and lungs, legs and mind were happy. Shoelace!  Dangit. I had to stop and tie shoes again at the end of the loop and got passed by a lot of people including Chatty Canada.

We crossed the Deception Pass Bridge a second time and I pushed the pace on this flat bit until i was right behind a gal who let me go ahead as soon as we hit the stairs down to the trail.  Oh this was Chatty Canada! I hadn't really seen what she looked like as she had always been running behind me but she recognized my bright orange shirt.  I thought maybe she'd stay with me on this next easier trail but she never did. I did look up her results at the finish and was happy to see she'd come out with a 30 minute + PR.  Good for her! 

We were approaching the last tough climb of the race. We'd climb to almost the same height as the previous climb but instead of taking 1.5 miles, we'd go straight up in under a mile. I'd remembered this climb as being a total calf burner and passing a lot of people with my fast(ish) hike.  It went on and on and my calves burned and I kept on climbing and made it to the top with just under 3 miles to go. 

At mile 12.7, the race was beginning. It's slick on top of Goose Rock so I was very careful picking my way over strange sloping rocks. The downhill was steep and brutal and I passed a gal who was obviously dealing with severe calf cramps.  I offered electrolytes and she took me up on the offer. I gave her 2 and took one myself.  Oh yeah. I'd realized my fingers were swelling a bit the last couple miles and thought I probably needed more electrolytes.

I was running by myself here and gradually picking people off. There was a large log down across teh trail at just the height where it was tough to go under and tough to go over. I chose to clamber over it and as I prepared to jump the foot or so to get off the log, my calf cramped on the right. Uh oh. i just flexed the foot and started running meaning to take in more water and food. And then i realized i was out of water.  I'd carried 35 ounces in my pack and couldn't believe i'd drank it all.

We hit an easier slightly downhill trail and my left calf cramped hard enough so that I could see my foot pull in of it's own volition. I was really shocked by this and as I watched my foot roll in I took a little half step realizing I'd land on my ankle and go down. I stopped to stand and flex the foot and calf a bit and got going again gingerly. It didn't particularly hurt but i was not in control of my leg anymore and knew the last mile was on technical trails where I'd need good control.  I'd hit the top of the last hill in 2:45 at mile 12.75 (the first time I'd looked at my watch at all for pace) and thought maybe I could come in between 3 and 3:15 as I was pretty sure i had 3 miles to go still. That number went down the cliff as I just carefully walked a bit to make sure I could run without falling.

Finally we hit the trail which goes under the main highway and I knew that while my watch read 14 miles, i was less than 2 miles from the finish. Again it was technical and rooty with lots of little ups and downs. I ran when i could and hiked fast when needed up hills and through rocky sections. I passed a few more people in here including one guy who was limping very, very badly.  I hit the beach, yelled cheers at K waiting for me and managed a sub 9 pace to the finish.  I thought overall that 3:15 was a reasonable goal and i worked to finish at 3:14:54.

Running friend finished about 10 minutes ahead of me. Newbie Runner finished 4 minutes behind. I'd be 4th in AG if they did the smaller age groupings and that is just about typical for me and a good indicator that I ran well and smartly. My lungs felt irritated and worked the whole day and I was thankful they hadn't been any more of a bother!

This event really has trails of every variety. There steep climbs, difficult descents, sand, algae beach running (really), rocks and roots and lush forests as well as just fine running. The vistas demand quick peeks when you aren't keeping your attention strictly on the trail in an effort to stay upright.  I'd do this one again at any time.

K and went for a short hike in another state park to the south of Deception Pass.  A hike? After that? It was really just short walk along some flat trails but we were impressed by the dense forest and well signed trail system in Ft Ebey. We'll have to go back.

And then K had never been across Deception Pass in daylight so we drove back that way and stopped to get out to look around.  I found stairs!  The bridge and environs are impressive and I've never had the leisure to stop. (Day 120)

No comments: