On Saturday I ran the Capitol Peak 55k for the first time. I've known about this race about as long as I've known about ultras but for some reason this is the first time I've considered running it. I signed up just a few weeks ago after a vague realization that I needed some more solid trail miles before McDonald Forest 50k in two weeks. Then I really looked back on my schedule and discovered that my last trail race was the Mt Hood 50 mile way back last July! Aside from my 30 mile length of Wildwood run back in February, my trail runs lately have not been that great. Come to think of it, that run was a major exception since I felt amazing the whole time and it actually felt, dare I say, easy. But other than that, I've felt like I've lost my trail mojo. That's okay, because my focus the rest of the year is on trails. I'm working myself back to were I feel like I should be and hopefully, beyond.
|Finishing up the GRUNT! --- almost to the top of Capitol Peak|
photo by Glenn Tachiyama
Since in my mind this was a training run, I decided to take the early 5:30am start which would give me plenty of time with no pressure. I drove up Friday evening after work with plans to sleep in my van at the start, where they offered free camping. I drove into the campsite and the first person I saw was an old friend Eric Barnes. He was doing the same thing, sleeping in his car, and I ended up parking near him. I was in bed by 9pm when it was mostly dark and slept pretty well until the alarm went off at 4am. 7 hours of sleep - not bad for the night before an ultra! I was up in plenty of time to eat and get dressed before check-in at 5am. After some contemplation I decided to wear my heart rate monitor strap, but unfortunately, when I turned on my Garmin just before the pre-start meeting I got the wacky screen. My attempts to reset were unsuccessful and I just had time to dump my Garmin back in the van, but not take off the strap. Fortunately, I had lubed well and didn't have any chafing. But there would be no data for this run.
The weather was misty but pretty warm. Still, I wore a very light shell just in case. I had decided to carry a handheld but wear my hydration pack without a reservoir to hold my extra gels and gear. We would need a headlamp and I didn't want to have to leave it in a drop bag. This system worked really well and I might use it again in the future. The pack didn't feel heavy and I had room to stash my jacket and gloves.
|photo by Glenn Tachiyama|
I saw a lot of familiar faces at the early start. My plan was to take it easy and not push too hard, and have fun too. I settled in with old friend Monte P. and we ended up spending most of the race together. I loved the course.....a lot of single track trail and just a few miles of gravel fire road. I didn't mind the clear cut either. It gave us a little view, although it was too overcast to get a really great view of the Cascades.
The course is essentially an out and back with a 5 mile loop added on up to Capitol Peak. (The 50 milers also do a separate 16 mile loop.) At the 2nd aid station, 9 miles in, I noticed there was a tequila bar. Too early in the race to consider but I kept it in mind for the way back. I had gels and stinger waffles with me, plus an emergency lara bar and planned to eat real food at the aid stations. I literally stuffed my face with potatoes and pbj sandwiches at each aid station. I've realized in the past some of my stomach issues have been due to not eating enough, early enough. Once my stomach feels empty I start to feel sick. Gels are good energy but they don't take up any room in the stomach so I'm practicing ingesting a steady amount of solid food. Hammer was the sponsor but Hammer gels and Heed are not my favorite so I stuck to nuun tablets in my bottle and carried my own powergels. Plus I took an S-cap at each aid station.
At the 3/4 aid station, Monte zipped through but I was still grazing and taking care of business (getting rid of trash, filling my bottle, etc.) so I told him to go on. I caught him on the gravel road and was a little faster so eventually pulled ahead. But then it was up the steep grunt hill and Monte ended up beating me by a good 50 feet. I caught him again on the downhill road. After we hit the aid station again we had a lot of downhill ahead of us. Monte and I were still mostly together, but separated a few times when one or the other need to water a tree. Back at the final full aid station, I took a greater interest in the tequila bar. They had quite a few different kinds but when I found out there was no Patron I decided to pass. Over by the food I had one of the best pancakes I've ever eaten, at a race or otherwise. While chatting with volunteer Matt Hagen, we discovered we only had 7 miles to go instead of 9, due to a cutoff trail we'd take to the finish. With that news I reconsidered the tequila and took a nice shot of Cazadores, which I was assured was similar to Patron. My motto at races is, when offered a drink (booze), always take it within reason. I knew at that point I was home free and really, one shot isn't that much. Now we just needed to climb the last big hill and then it would be mostly downhill or rollers for the last 4-5 miles.
On the hill, I lost Monte for the last time and ended up finishing before him by about 15 minutes. After the shot wore off I started to feel a little low so took my one caffeinated gel. The energy kicked in and once I had crested the hill, I pretty much ran the rest of the way. After feeling a little pokey the whole race it felt great to push the pace. I'd say I ran straight for 4 miles and only walked a few short, steep hills. Back at the finish, I enjoyed two bowls of yummy creamy corn chowder with bread. Monte came in and feigned anger at me for leaving him behind. I meekly apologized. Thanks for sharing most of the course with me Monte! I had a lot of fun hanging around talking with other finishers. One 55k finisher was out from Georgia, visiting a friend who was running the 50 miler. Interesting to find out about the different races in the southeast and how they differ from ours here in the west. I finally decided to find out my time. I had a vague idea but really didn't know for sure. Going into the race I thought I'd probably finish around 8 hours, but it felt slower than that. Official time was 8:15:17. It's my only 55k so you can say that's a personal worst and a personal best all wrapped into one. The pace was slower than my pace at the Mt Hood 50m last summer. Oops. Well, it was supposed to be a training run. I'd like to come back when I'm more in racing mode.
I finally decided it was time to clean up and get out of there. I wanted to drive into Olympia to see Sharon and her NEW BABY BOY!! I caught her and her family just in time before they went out and got to hold little Levi, just under 1 month old. What a cutie. The race was fun, but that was the highlight of my weekend!
Sunday I was tired but after sleeping in went on an easy 4 mile recovery run. Later my calves were screaming at me and today (Tuesday) they are still a little tight and sore, along with my quads (just a little). My hamstrings and glutes feel fine, which is odd to me considering that my right glute was tight and painful the last half of the race. I've never experienced such tight calves after a race and I'm wondering if it's due to the hills. Experienced trail and ultra runners feel free to chime in! I skipped this morning's run in exchange for more sleep, but hope to feel more back to normal tomorrow. I definitely don't feel like I'm recovering like I used to. I'm hoping it's not just age, but also part of the training process.
The McDonald Forest 50k is in less than two weeks and my focus now is on recovery and being ready for that race. I'm really glad I got my trail race feet wet at Capitol Peak and hope some of that training and experience will carry over to the Mac!