Monday, May 06, 2013

Capitol Peak 50 Mile Race Report

photo by Glenn Tachiyama

 Last year I ran the Capitol Peak 55k race, somewhat on the spur of the moment. Despite being out of shape, I thoroughly enjoyed myself and thought I'd like to come back and run the 50 mile some day.  This year I'd registered for the Peterson Ridge Rumble 40M and then the McDonald Forest 50k four weeks later (Capitol Peak is smack dab in the middle of those two).  I still hope to PR at Mac Forest.  With that goal, I didn't think running a 40 miler and then a 50 miler two weeks later, and two weeks before a goal race would necessarily be a smart move.  But you know how it is, a thought gets in my head and I can't let it go.  I decided if the Rumble went well and I was recovering well I'd go for it.  I was feeling great by the Wednesday after the Rumble so I decided to go for it.

Like last year, I decided to drive up the night before and sleep in my van at the campground where the race starts.  I didn't need a whole camping spot so parked in the same parking spot I did last year, convenient to one of the outhouses.  Not long afterward, Eric Barnes, my camp mate from last year pulled up next to me - he was going to do the same - sleep in his Subaru again.  I think we may have a tradition started here!  It was fun to catch up and also chat with other friends old and new who passed by.  I was recovering from a head cold and my throat was getting scratchy from the talking so I declined an offer for more socializing at a nearby campsite and relaxed in the van, eating my pre-race dinner of quinoa, tempeh and avocado.  By 9pm it was dark enough to go to sleep and I got a fairly restful night until the alarm went off at 4am.

Photo by Glenn Tachiyma

Race day weather was mixed.  Just cool enough to start out with arm sleeves and gloves, but I dropped them in my first bag at 9 miles.  As we started to climb I regretted not having the sleeves a few times as the wind whipped across us in the clear cut areas.  But it wasn't really too bad and I knew it would get better once we were in the trees.  As my usual lately, I turned off the mileage and pace screens on my Garmin and had it alert me every 30 minutes to eat. This is working so well for me!  The consistent  fueling (I'm ingesting about 200-250 calories per hour) has really made a difference in my energy levels, with the added bonus of no nausea or stomach issues.

I ran pretty much by myself though the first 20 miles, the hilliest part of the race.  I was heartened to discover that it took much longer this year for the faster regular starters to pass me.  And on the grunt I only saw one other person, a fellow early starter who I passed halfway up.  My newish motto on hills is it's okay to walk if I need to, but I must run some of it, and once I walk I have to resume running again.  No walking/hiking all the way to the top! So I ran some of the middle part of the grunt where it flattens slightly.  And then I vowed to run as soon as I saw Glenn.  And I did!  In the clearing I saw him and I yelled out, "Glenn, I've been practicing all year to run the grunt!" and I ran the 50 or so yards to him and a bit past.  By then I was nearly to the top!  The clouds were starting to roll in, but it wasn't nearly as foggy as last year.  I bought all three of these pictures from Glenn.  They are my new favorites and many thanks to Glenn for being out on the course and capturing images of us doing what we love.

Photo by Glenn Tachiyama

I was really excited to finish the Grunt and proceed onto the new to me section of the course just for 50 milers. I hadn't looked too closely at this part of the course map/elevation, so I was glad to have talked to some veterans the night before who gave me an idea of what to expect. I honestly can't imagine ever doing the 55k here again - parts of the 50 mile loop are the prettiest and most fun to run.  I started to get passed by more people I knew, plus others I didn't know but knew me or at least the Animal Athletics shirt.  I must have looked good because I got a lot of kudos and shout outs.  Near the turnaround, Tom Riley came up and I kept up with him for awhile until I stopped to eat a gel.  After the turnaround the course climbs back steadily  to the previous aid station.  I was feeling very good and kept running as much as possible.  Eventually I caught up to Tom.  I passed him and then caught up to another regular starter, Suzanne from Vancouver BC.  I passed her, but then she stuck with me and we ran together with Tom eventually joining us.   I was leading and figured I better keep up a good pace if I wanted to stick with these regular starters! 

Speaking of pace, at the outset, I really didn't have a good handle on my time for this race.  I think it's more difficult than Mt Hood 50M, where I've run 11:30 and 11:50, approximately.  So I figured, sub 12 hours would probably be a good day.  It wasn't until this point, around 35 miles that I saw 12 hours was pretty much a given and I started to set my sights on sub 11:30 - which would be a trail 50 mile PR for me.  At the 35 mile aid station, it was now raining and getting a bit chilly.  I'm glad I decided to put a light shell in my drop.  I put that on as well as a cap and left just ahead of Tom...Suzanne had left ahead of us and I didn't see her again until near the end. 

Soon Tom was right behind me and that motivated me to push the pace again. It was mostly downhill on clear trail so we just cruised on down.  I loved it and was pretty psyched to be feeling so good so late in the race.  This was a good 6 mile stretch and we ran most of it.  At the aid station, I headed straight to the outhouse to take care of business (yes it was that time of the month - sorry guys), which took some time.  By the time I got some fuel out of my bag, refilled my bottle and grabbed some chips and rice krispie treats (I lived off those this day!) from the table it was 9:37 into the race.  I asked the volunteer how far to the finish and the answer was 7 miles.  Yikes!  Could I do that in 1:23?  Maybe? Perhaps?  There was a chance and I was going for it!  We were in a valley of sorts so I still had to climb out of that for a few miles, then  knew it would be rolling with a good downhill the last mile.

I pushed up the hill as fast as I could, running as much as possible and walking/hiking as fast as possible when I had to walk.  I tried not to look at my watch because it really didn't matter until I was close to the finish.  Tom had left the AS before me and I wondered if I'd see him again.  Finally I caught up to him near the final water only AS.  I still had water and knew there were only a few miles left so I blew right though, yelling my number at the lone volunteer sitting in his truck to stay out of the rain.  Tom ran behind and like before we just pushed on.  It was mostly downhill and we were able to keep up a steady pace.  Just a mile or so before the finish, Tom's friend Debbie appeared at a road crossing and he stopped to talk with her.  I kept moving along.  

Finally after turning on the cutoff that takes a shorter route to the finish than at the beginning of the race I looked at my watch.  10:50ish.  It was going to be close. I may or may not make it and I wasn't sure exactly how far left to go.  Finally, I recognized a short steep uphill before the course cuts down to a creek with bridge crossing. Then it would be mostly uphill to the end.  Less than a mile but still mostly uphill.  Ugh.  I pushed and could see Suzanne ahead of me.  I had to walk and looked at my watch ----  10:58.xx --- dejected.  But then I saw the paved road of the campground just ahead.  I turned the corner and the finish was right there!  Just 25 yards away!  I was beaming....face and I sprinted to the finish...10:59:32!!  I did it!  That was a HARD FOUGHT sub-11 hour finish and huge PR!  John, the RD, was right there and after confirming my time, the first thing I said was, 'I love this race!!" And I do.  I really, really do.  I highly recommend this race.  It has an old school ultra feel but is very well organized, well marked and the volunteers are top notch.  There are a few gravel road sections, but it's mostly glorious single track trail through the forest with views of Mt. Rainier if you're lucky.  And at the finish line you'll find the best corn chowder you've ever tasted.

I had a pretty good recovery/taper week, managing 40 miles for the week including a hilly 6 mile trail race at 9:45 pace on Wednesday.  Now I'm looking ahead to McDonald Forest 50k this Saturday. Still hoping for a PR and specifically, finishing sub 7 hours.  It may be a hot day and I may be a bit more tired than if I hadn't done Cap Peak. But I'll give it all I've I got!


Joe said...

Sarah, such a good report on a terrific race...good for you!! Really enjoy how, with all your experience, you continue to refine and improve your approach. The "eat on the 30s" is a terrific plan. So glad that is setting the nausea question aside.

Isn't it cool to get below those round numbers??? So happy for you!!!

And, yes, Glenn's pix are awesome...very neat!

Great report!

Olga King said...

Sarah, this is unbelievably awesome! You have come SO far!!! This is a race report, girl! So proud of you, of your sticking with it through the year and some of your hip thing, for doing little things that aided you to become who you are today - smart, passionate and fast runner. Cap Peak is a total blast! It was my first race once I moved to Portland, it was put in October then and didn't have 50M version, but the trails and the grunt are in my memories:) Congrats!