Thursday, June 17, 2010

Grand Ridge Solstice Trail Run - Race Report

After reading Anton Krupicka's blog yesterday I decided to screw my taper plan and go for a trail run (of course as a couple of my friends and I have been discussing what use is a taper when you're running a marathon one weekend (Seattle Rock 'N' Roll) and a 50k (Grey Rock Trail Run) two weekends after that?). The trail I really like is at Grand Ridge Park which I ran a month ago for the first time. It's very lightly traveled and I learned last night that there is an effort to get more people out to the park. The WTA (WA Trails Assn) has also added a couple of more trails and has plans to add more in the future. It's right in the foothills of the Cascades so you get a bit of elevation and plenty of up and down. This is also the local park where I'm planning a 50k in August (Grand Ridge 50K) so I figure get as many miles in running those trails as possible.

I show up at the trail head and there are people milling about and a tent is set up so clearly something is up. I ask and sure enough there is a trail run tonight. I briefly consider that i'm tapering then sign up for the 10 mile run. I chat it up with a few of the other runners, check out what they're carrying & wearing, etc. Since this is my first trail race (and really first trail run around other people) I'm curious other people's strategies but as expected there is a wide variety of what people do for gear. Lots of Brooks trail running shoes - no surprise given the area. Couple of backpacks. Most like me with shorts, tech shirt, hat, water bottle. I did leave the gaiters in the truck - what's the worse that could happen?

Short raffle, description (overly complicated description as it turns out) of the course (lollipop loop with out and back leg for 10 milers) and then an on-time start. My "no winning things in raffles" streak continues strong. There were probably 100 or so runners at the start. Will see later when they post the results.

I was up near the front when the race started but cleared to the right to let people by. The first mile or so was old converted rail track so it was easy to get 3-4 abreast. This was good - didn't want to be pushing it for the first climb.

Speaking of - you hit the trail head which veers up and to the right pretty good - 450' of climbing in about 3/4 mile. This was my first real test of race etiquette and strategy on the trails. I had a couple of people ahead of me with three (I think) on my tail. I passed one person pretty quickly then caught the heels of a guy who would pace us the next three miles. I felt kind of bad b/c my breathing was not quiet and I was right on "his six" but we chatted and I told him I had no intention of passing. Nor did the others behind it turned out.

We hit the first turn into the lollipop and quickly passed one runner making a bad turn. The course was really well marked - lots of flags and streamers. The signs were a bit low and small writing but for a club race I thought pretty good. This turn takes you back downhill 3/4 mile so we all caught our breath and introduced ourselves and chatted a bit. What goes down must come up and we did to the west edge of the park for another 250' ascent over half a mile. another 3/4 of up and down along the ridge to a turn that does and out-and-back to the north end of the road and adds another 400' of ascent.

We dropped our pacer to a side stitch on this stretch and I took over the duties. The 2nd uphill had hit me good and I spent time along the ridge recovering and felt pretty good by the time he dropped off. At the turn we had an aid station so I grabbed some Clif Bloks, turned, and went back my merry way. There were probably 5-6 guys in front of me but it was hard to tell and I was really not paying attention. I was glad for the aid station since I had only prepared to come out for a training run. At this point I was pacing the top two women in the pack.

The out-and-back was about 3/4 mile each way and gradually downhill on the way back - more recovery. We complete loop 1 with a 1/4 drop and then we turn back down and start loop 2 of the lollipop (after a brief "oops we missed the turn" moment). I was still pacing so I decided to test the "hammer down" part of trail running. Fun! I had a small ankle turn (left ankle all over again dammit) on the first loop so I was watching my step and had no further incidents (ankle feels fine a day later). I could tell that I had overdone it a bit as we started our 2nd ascent of the far west loop and just as we crested I got a sharp pain in my right ITB (yes, the one that I've had issue with). I did a quick couple of walking steps, let the woman that had been on my tail pass, jogged along the flat, walked a couple of more steps, then jogged it out. Fortunately it just seemed to want to squawk at me briefly and I was able to get back up to speed. I was now in between the two women and knew #2 would be catching me soon enough. I kept the tether on #1 best I could through the undulating ridge portion before turning up to the 2nd out-and-back. I was caught before the turn around. I grabbed jelly beans and bloks at the aid station and took off for the final leg.

I caught my stride during this portion and saw several of the other runners (including our earlier pacer) who were still just behind me but none within a mile. This was good - I settled into my own pace to push me just
enough but didn't feel pressure that I would lose a place. I was pretty sure I was not going to hammer enough to catch the women so I did not press it.

The way out was to run down the first hill we ran up to complete the "stick" part of the lollipop. This was not a good downhill to hammer - a little more steep, lots of switchbacks and of course all happening 90 minutes into a race. I came off the trail and had caught up enough to have the two women in my sights but as I got up to speed on the flat I knew there was no way I'd catch them in the final mile. I closed in a bit but wasn't going to kill myself for it.

I finished 1:48:12 which is actually about a minute faster than my (official) half marathon PR. I was at LT for most of the uphills so I knew I really pushed it pretty hard. I did have decent recovery on the flats but really only hammered the one downhill (1/2 hammered the last and I was following on the 1st). It's still amazing to me that I would lose three MILES worth of time on the trails like that. Until I looked at my watch and saw that we had 2000' of ascent on the run (website says 1350' but I think my reading is closer to reality).

Gear seemed good - I splashed through the puddles and some streams and did not get soaked (or even wet) feet. I was wearing my phone in my arm band which I'm not a fan of - may have to find a different option there.

Fueling was my big lesson here - I clearly was not planning on the run and if I had I'd have brought better fuel. I was happy with what they had (I tend to have an iron stomach so I'll eat anything on the run) but it would have been nice to have more options on the route. I was glad I had my Cytomax for sure.

I am glad I did this. First I LOVED it. I can safely say I'm a trail runner now - screw these big road races. Second I was able to test a lot of race conditions on the trails and feel I did pretty well. This race is nearly exactly 1/3 of the Grey Rock in distance and elevation gain (although GR starts at 4000' compared to 400') and I feel at a slower pace I have two more of those in me. I was not last night and am not today totally spent so I don't know that I've adversely affected my taper with proper recovery the next couple of days.

I am now looking forward to Grey Rock. Bring on the 50k!

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