15.5 miles on Tiger! Actually, this wasn't so much of a race as a fun-run for Seattle-area trail runners who are in-the-know. When I first signed up (actually there was no sign up, so maybe I should just say 'committed') for this race (fun run), my Tough Mudder team from CrossFit was all in. Some of our group weren't runners at all, so it was going to be quite a challenge for them, going from zero to 15 miles in a few months. Needless to say, there only ended up being 3 of the original 6 or 7 who had set out to train. Due to injuries, families, etc. most of our team dropped out. I even dropped down from the 50k to the 25k. Apparently we are all slackers or we are all over-training. Probably the latter for the majority of us!
Anyways, after deciding to do the 25k instead of the 50 early last week, I felt a huge relief. I had run the Tiger Mountain loop before, so I knew what I was getting myself into. After my less than stellar first 50k experience, I think I made the right decision in saying no to 9 hours on a mountain without any facilities. 4 hours I knew I could handle!
|Good morning! It's early and dark, but I'm ready |
and roaring to run up a mountain!
We started out as a five-some: Jess, Jim, Van, Matt and I. Van, Jess and, I think, Jim are all seasoned ultra marathon and trail runners, so I was slightly intimidated. I knew, however, that Jess would never have put me in a situation that I couldn't handle, so I wasn't too worried.
Being the amazingly smart person I am, I totally forgot to bring my headlamp. Actually, it didn't even cross my mind. I foolishly assumed it would be light when we started.
It started getting light, luckily, soon after we started. Whew!
I wish I could tell you what trails we took, but I honestly can't remember for the life of me. I have the WORST sense of direction. And it only gets worse when I'm on a mountain. The only trail I remember taking was called the Poo Poo Point Trail, but I can't remember which part it was for the life of me.
What was great about this run was that runners had come out to "mark" it earlier in the week with holiday decorations including bows, ornaments and ribbons. It was a fun little surprise to see what we would find next. Sometimes the markers would be hanging on trees or branches, or just draped over a bush. Pretty original idea, that made the run that much more fun!
|Purple ribbon! We're going the right way!|
|Van taking the lead!|
|Some neat arching branches. Gorgeous!|
|Snow! (And Jess's elbow)|
Little did I know, because we saw snow almost the rest of the run. At this point, the snow was just along the side of the trail and we didn't have to run through any at all.
When you are running a trail, it is pretty imperative that you look where you are going. Even glancing up for a second can mean disaster. I made sure during this loop, though, to take my time and enjoy what was going on around me. I have the pleasure of living in such a beautiful part of the country and runs like this make me feel so grateful!
I remember thinking during the run how big the world is and how beautiful! I get caught up so much in day to day life and running on the trails helps me put my life in perspective. Your problems become so small and it's easy to escape your thoughts while you are out there. I feel like I can relate it to a yoga class where you are surrendering to and moving with your breath. Well, I always feel like my goal when I go to yoga is to get out of my head, but maybe that's just me! Anyway, while I was running on Saturday, I found myself able to let go a little and just be. T'was nice and just what I needed!
One thing I love about running on Tiger Mountain, this loop especially, is the diversity along the way. Seriously, every side of the mountain is different, so it's impossible to get bored.
Several miles after we first saw snow, it became apparent that it was only going to get worse. By worse, I mean the snow started covering the trail and we had to run (I say the term "run" loosely here) through 6-inch snow drifts.
|Following Matt through the snow banks.|
|Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree!|
|Up and up and up. Just the way I like it!|
|Jess and I. All smiles!|
Below is a picture from one of my favorite parts of the trail. At this point, you are getting close to one of the summits and you have been traversing slightly up for awhile. You can look up and see sunlight streaming in through the trees while, if you look down, it looks like a dark abyss. It's almost like daylight and darkness in one place. Very cool. If only I could run with my DSLR so I could get a better picture of it!
We finally stepped out to one of the summits to find several feet deep of snow. At this point, we started heading downhill, and I was SO scared! If only I'd known how much worse it was going to get! I took it really slow (again, feeling like I was slowing down the crew). I was amazed as some of the guys started bounding (yes, literally bounding!) down the hill. What took them 30 seconds probably took me 10 minutes at least!
By this time, my feet were a sloppy mess! Luckily it wasn't cold at all, but stepping in all the snow had left my ankles a little chilly!
|Jess is wearing a t-shirt and shorts. |
I was wearing 3 layers and long pants. Haha!
We headed even farther down the mountain in the snow, which had become almost a solid sheet of ice. I was walking at this point, just trying not to break my neck while others were skillfully sliding down the hill next to me. Several people tried to give me advice on running down the ice: leaning slightly forward, and using small, quick steps.
Nothing helped, though. I am already a slow downhill runner, but the ice made it impossible for me. I was just getting more and more frustrated at this point. Mostly at myself because I think it was my inability to lose control (life lesson, obviously) that I couldn't get down the stupid mountain.
The farther we went, the less icy it got, thank goodness. I was finally able to keep up a bit better. It was around this time that my stomach started cramping again. I was expecting this after my 50k several weekends ago, so I guess I was grateful it held out for this long.
|3:48 FTW! Garmin looses signal in the forest, |
so it only caught 13.5 miles instead of the full 15.5
|Matt and I. Matt rocked his first long race!|
|The group! Matt, me, Jess and Jim.|