Short: 5:05:26, first woman, 7th overall.
After running my 50mile/marathon double last weekend, my legs were spent. These last few weeks of racing seemed to be catching up with me. I was not recovering as well as I had earlier in the year. I was not able to run on Monday or Tuesday. I ran on my treadmill on Wednesday and Thursday, two miles each and at a 9-minute pace. I was sweating profusely and working harder than I thought I should have that late in the week.
By Thursday, there had been talk that Ron Herzog/Tanks A Lot 50K was not going to happen due to all of the recent rain and flooding. Tony Covarrubias and I were discussing putting together a last minute option. I had spoken to Roger Michel, the race director Thursday night about checking out the Redmond Watershed trail as a possible location He mentioned that there had been some work on the pipeline and parts of the trails were closed off earlier in the year. Not wanting to hold a race where trails could be closed, I needed to check it out on Friday. Roger was planning on marking the Ron Herzog trail on Friday also and letting everyone know if the race was to happen by the afternoon.
I worked half a day Friday and picked up Mary Hanna, who was good enough to accompany me to the watershed trail. I never like running alone, especially in the woods. We arrived at the watershed a little after three and started our run. The trails were mostly in good condition. There were a lot of leaves down, making the possibility of slipping on a wet, covered rock very likely. There were puddles, some spanning the trail, but all of them could be run around. None of the trails that we ran in were closed off. We got soaking wet running a large loop of 5.5 miles and small loop of 0.7 miles. In all, it took us 54 minutes to run about a 6.2 mile course or 10K. Multiply that by 5 and you have a 50K. So now I had a course, but I really didn’t look forward to putting on a race with only two days notice. I still needed to buy some survey tape, make copies of the trail to put in zip-lock bags to hand out, and mark the trail early in the morning. Then I would also have to sweep it after the race.
Mary and I changed into dry clothes to head home. It took us 2 ½ hours to drive from Redmond to Maple Valley. We sat on 520 most of the time. We were stuck in Friday night traffic in the city! I called my husband to check my e-mail. He told me the Ron Herzog race was on. What a relief! Now all I needed to do was to get home so that I could pack for the race.
I met Tony C, King Arthur, and Shawn Lawson at a park and ride for our trip to Granite Falls. We arrived an hour before the start and saw the early starters take off. Our race started at 8AM. There were a total of 35 runners including the early starters. It was a good mixture of runners, from fast guys to first ultras. Fortunately, it was not raining when we started. I was dressed to stay warm since it had snowed at the higher elevations yesterday. Plus, we knew we were going to get wet even if it didn’t rain.
We started on forest service roads, which went on for about 11 miles. The first 1.5 miles was mostly flat with a few ups and downs. Then there were some steep ups to about 7 miles. I walked those hills and ran the flats and downs. I could feel the fatigue in my legs. They just did not have that “get up and go” feeling. Ellen, a young and fast looking girl flew by me. Wendy, a strong running buddy of mine, said that she was going to take it easy and run with another guy. But Wendy is strong on the hills, and I could not keep up with them. Finally, the road descended for about 2-3 miles and I was able to pick up my pace. It took that first 7 miles for me to loosen up. It also started to rain by then. Actually, it was raining and snowing because I got white flakes stuck to my black shirt and gloves. I put my fleece hat back on and zipped up my Patagonia shirt (the one I won at Baker Lake). It was nice because it covered my neck. I was getting cold! I caught up with Wendy and 4 other guys and ran ahead. I actually wanted to get to the tank traps before they did so that I would not get caught behind a train of people.
I was partway into the traps when Wendy called out to me that the trail markers went another way. I yelled back and said I was looking right at a flag. I knew I was on the correct trail since I was familiar with the surroundings. I stayed in front of them, but a couple of times when the trail dipped down into a trench, they would be there. The traps were the best I had seen them in the four years that I have run this race. There was a lot of standing water on the ground, but it was not as overgrown. Tony C and the past race directors agreed. I didn’t run it as fast as I have in the past because last year I nearly got my eye poked out. I think that if I had some kind of safety glasses on, I would have plowed through there despite branches jabbing you in the neck, chest, ribs, arms, and legs. I couldn’t tell if it was raining, but I was soaked through to the skin anyway. I had collected all of the moisture off of the surrounding brush. My hands got so cold that I felt that they were going through the freeze-thaw cycle several times. My feet got so wet and cold that my Superfeet inserts actually froze! It felt like I was running on wood planks. There was one knee deep stream crossing. The rest were ankle deep in melted snow.
We finally emerged from the tank traps after running through it for about 2-3 miles. Then, there was about a 2-3 mile stretch back on the one lane road that was covered in slush. Some parts were slightly uphill. I had passed several people at this point, some of them early starters. I picked up the pace hoping to see the first girl or Tony. I arrived at the one and only aid station for the course at the halfway point. I didn’t want to stop very long at all, knowing that I would get too cold if I stood around. So I reached into my drop bag and exchanged my soaking fleece hat and gloves for dry ones. Then, I took off. As I was leaving the aid station, I saw that Ellen was still there. I looked back and Wendy and her group were just coming into the aid station. I thought I had lost them in that last stretch, but they were sticking close by.
I hammered that first part of the second half, hoping to distance myself from Ellen and Wendy. The road descended for about 2-3 miles. I caught up with Tony about 5 minutes after leaving the aid station. He was standing there adjusting his gloves. He said his hands were frozen. I was glad I had some dry ones on. I had learned a lot in my previous races here of what to wear. I don’t carry hand-helds at this race because you’re hands get too frozen and cannot hold onto the bottles. Dry hat and gloves are essential, but changing into a dry shirt or socks is not necessary. The time it takes to do that kind of stuff only allows your body temp to drop. Any changes in clothing have to be short and quick. But an addition of a shell would probably help and is quick. I had a shell jacket strapped to my hydration pack, but I didn’t think I needed it as long as I was moving. I was cruising along feeling pretty good until I reached the section that I always forget about. Actually, this was only the second time I have run the Ron Herzog. The other times I ran the out and back through the tanks in the Tanks A Lot version. At this point in the Ron Herzog, the road ascends gradually over the next 4, maybe five miles. It’s not steep enough to walk, but it definitely slows you down and wears you out. Still, I did not walk any of the second half, worried that if I did, Wendy would catch me with her strong uphill running.
I ran the second half all by myself. I did not see another soul after I passed Tony. The trail finally started to descend with about 4 miles to go on the forest service road. It descended steeply with some switchbacks. A car was coming down, and I was tempted to ask the driver where the next girl was. But I didn’t and continued my pace. I talked to him later. He was checking on his wife who was running her first 50K. She finished in 6:59:59! He said I looked like I was screaming down the hill. He could have also told me that the next girl was way back. With about three miles to go, the dirt road turned into asphalt. It traveled through the woods still with two gradual but descent ups that I could have totally seen myself walking, but I dug deep and ran them. As soon as I hit the asphalt, my left knee gave out like it had at Autumn Leaves. It’s amazing how that happened but it only did it once. Finally, with two miles to go, you emerge onto Mountain Loop Highway, the road that we drove in on. I knew that there was a steep downhill at the very end that you could see from the start/finish area. But I didn’t know how far away that was. I kept looking for the yellow road sign that shows a picture of a truck going down a steep grade. I looked at my watch and thought that maybe I could break 5 hours. I started sprinting and saw that sign. But 5 hours had come and gone and that hill was longer than I thought. Even at the bottom of the hill, there is a ¼ mile stretch of flat. Still, I was happy with my time, especially since it was 20 minutes faster than my Ron Herzog time last year that I struggled in and after all the racing that I have done this year. Maybe I am getting faster after all.
Tony finished 5 minutes after me, Wendy 11 minutes, and Ellen 19 minutes. I immediately changed into dry clothes and hung around eating soup with all the other finishers. It was great visiting with them. Shawn and Arthur finished within seconds of each other, both having run an extra mile looking for each other and thinking the other one was lost in the tank traps. What good people we have in the trail running community! Our drive home was uneventful as the Everett traffic was the best I had seen in a long time. We joked and laughed on the ride home, already looking forward to the next time we would meet again. I picked up some pad thai, planted myself down in front of the TV, and waited for my husband to come home. He told me about his climbing day and I told him about my run. What a great day it was! I feel great today (Sunday), and probably could have run a better marathon today than the one I had run last weekend. That just shows how much my legs like trails more. But at least now I can feel better knowing that my body is back to recovering like it had earlier in the year.