Monday, December 22, 2008

3rd Annual Pigtails Flat Ass Race Report

SATURDAY 12/20/08

Wow! What a week and weekend! The weeks leading up to the race had people signing up and cancelling, some for reasons other than the weather. Of course, the most cancellations came the day before the race and people not showing race day. Without any cancels, I would have had well over 100 people come to run. Nevertheless, we still had 58 runners with 22 braving the 50K and three more runners who did a point to point from Renton to Landsburg for 15.87 miles. Val Beyer, one of the volunteer at the 50K turn around, ran 18.4 miles, ½ before the race and ½ after. So she ran, stopped and volunteered, and ran again! I actually had a few people sign up the night before and a couple show up race day!
About a week before race day, my e-mail crashed and I lost all everyone’s e-mail. I spent 5 hours on the phone with EarthLink but was not able to retrieve any of my contact information. So I then started saving e-mails from then on of whoever sent me one and combed through the maniac site for whoever had their e-mail listed, since most entrants were maniacs. Because of this, when the weather turned south and the forecast was ominous for Saturday, I couldn’t very well cancel or postpone the race since I did not have everyone’s e-mail who signed up. I’m glad I didn’t, because the weather was as good as it could have possibly been given the warnings.
Also, leading up the race, I made my homemade medals, now an anticipated tradition each year. It’s getting harder to come up with new designs, but I’ll keep trying every year. This year, my husband was a big help. He is a woodworker and uses exotic hardwoods for his pieces. He turned European Pear wood on his lathe and the made medal sized slices, beveled the edges, and drilled a hole for the string. Now, this is not your ordinary wood. It is much denser than your typical domestic hardwood like cherry or oak. Believe me, he can make exquisite pieces of furniture with similarly hard woods (see his web site: to see what I mean), so these medals were just child’s play for him. Still, he took time out of his work day to do this. I then put a couple coats of finish on them then drew a pig’s face on the front, glued felt pig ears to it, and wrote on the back race name, distance, and date. At one point when it looked like I had almost 100 runners signed up, I continued making more, for a total of 105. From their responses, people really liked them!
I had to work the day before the race and was not able to check my e-mail during the day. When I got home, I had over 60 e-mails to read. Do you know how long that takes to read and respond? When I got home, Ken and I went out to fill propane tanks and mark a couple spots on the trail. It was dark by then. I ran about a couple miles to mark and got a fairly good idea of the trail conditions, runnable on snow ½-2 inches deep. But even in that short distance, I was using different muscles with slipping and sliding in trail shoes. Also the cold air aggravated my asthma and it was predicted to be colder the next day. Got home, ate, and set about loading up my vehicle with supplies that I had staged for each aid station. Then I read my e-mails and updated the entrants list based on cancellations and add ons. I was in bed by midnight and woke at 4am.
After filling the water jugs with hot water and loading them in my SUV, I got on the icy/snowy roads until I got to the main roads, which were bare and dry. I know those who showed up had the same experience. As soon as they got past the surface streets and onto the freeways, it was fine. But I know some people’s surface streets were steeper and harder to get through and I’m glad those people stayed home instead of jeopardizing getting into trouble. I set up the two self serve aid stations at mile 9.1 and 5.6 with a 5-gallon hot water jug and 5-gallon Gatorade jug, bag of hammer gels, trash bag, and covered the jugs with a blanket to keep the liquids from freezing. Then I had one more area to mark with tape and arrived at the start at 6:10am. One or two people had already arrived. Many came early because the roads were not as bad as they anticipated. I did let some start earlier than what they were signed up for but for the most part, people started at their listed times. I had group start at 7am (50K early starters), 7:30am (marathon early starters and 50K regular starters), and 8am (marathon regular starters which only had about 5 people). Sorry if I was short with anyone wanting to start early, especially after I had sent an e-mail saying it was okay. It turned to be a lot more complicated than I thought. Next year, everyone is starting at the same time: 7am so that I don’t have to keep 3 different watches, in which one was lost yesterday somewhere on my trip back to the finish after checking in on the 12.5 mile aid station. The temps were in the high teens to start and probably crept up to 20. It was not windy and the sun even came out in the first two hours. It became overcast after then and the wind only slightly picked up after 6 hours. So conditions were favorable for just about everyone. Ken helped me set up the propane heater and check people in. People brought canned goods as their entry fee for the food bank and also donated money for supplies. Thanks! It does help a lot!
After sending everyone off, I took down check in and waited ½ hour for any stragglers that might have taken longer to get there due to the roads. As I was leaving, Thomas Tan arrived looking relieved that I was still there. He took off alone saying that he might not run the entire marathon and just do a long training run. He did 26.2. I stopped at mile 5.6 aid station to see if the nozzles had frozen on the jugs. They were still okay after having sat out in the cold for 3 hours at that point. Some runners were arriving and I helped them out. Then I stopped at the 9.1 aid station. It was fine too. I arrived at the 12.5 mile aid station and it was bustling. Shawn McTaggart, *tc, and Jess Mullen were busy unfreezing people’s water bottle tops by dipping them in boiling water. We had fig newtons, chips, M&Ms, gummi bears, hot chocolate, Nuun, salt tabs, and hand warmers as well as encouragement for the runners. Some 50kers decided to cut back to marathon but no marathoner wanted to run a 50K. Gee, I wonder why? A lot of the runners had frost on their caps or hair sticking out. There were frozen eyelashes and eyebrows. Some were cheerful, others more subdued. After leaving the list of confirmed entrants with my three helpers, I headed back to the start to get soup heated up. I didn’t check in on the 50K turn around volunteers, Dean Kayler and Val Beyer, but word is that they were great as well!
I want to thank the people who brought stuff to share. Betsy Rogers, who I heard is a chef, made an incredible Thai Butternut Squash soup. Samuel Pichinini brought another wonderful soup. I asked him what it was called. He called it Pigtails Soup! Isn’t that great? He sounds like quite the cook! It had lentils, collards, kale, and a bunch of other yummy stuff! They both got all eaten up, a lot by me! We also had chicken noodle soup and cream of mushroom. Jill Hudson, did you bring those “healthy” chocolate chip cookies that you said were not so good? They were great and popular. Someone brought really good nutless banana bread. Steve brought me homemade jam. Mary Hanna brought delicious pumpkin bars. If I’ve forgotten anyone, sorry. It was a rather hectic day.
Runners were nice and spread out coming in. No course records, as to be expected on this tough day. Bryce Mercer won the 50K in 3:58, off his 3:41 win in 2006 and Bronwen Williams in 5:24, both getting a stuffed pig and $3.10 for their efforts. In the marathon, Shawna Wilskey ran 3:41, taking $2.62 and a pig for her win. I mistakenly awarded Joe Tompkins the male marathon win expecting no other runner to run faster but had forgotten about David Cole who started at 8am. Joe did ask before leaving if I was sure there was no one else out there faster, and I said yes, yes, I was sure. He proved me wrong. When David came in, I told him I had made a mistake and he was gracious about it and would have donated the money back anyway. Joe came in with Shawna at 3:41 and David ran a fine 3:35. Runners have such great attitudes!
Special note for some accomplishments. Bob Dolphin ran his 439th race. Brian Hampsch, Jerry Thayer, Ashley Kuhlmann, Michael Kuhlmann, Andy Fritz, and Bronwen Williams ran their first 50K. Ryan McKnight ran a one minute 50K PR, which is just wrong, given the conditions! But Ryan, I feel, just has not peaked yet in his running. He ran a great race at Seattle Marathon, finishing 17th overall in 2:54:08. Jessica Williams, BJ Farish, and Lisa Hurley became Maniacs with my race. Linda Walter achieved 5 Maniac stars with my race, having run 26 races in 12 months, starting with this race last year. Bruce Hoff has run all three of my Pigtails Flat Ass 50K and this one was his 100th of marathon or longer. Thanks for choosing my race to accomplish your goals! Jon Yoon came to the end of the race to drop off soup to donate, even if he could not make the run! What a funny guy! Thanks Jon!
Paul Piplani went out for a double marathon after completing his first one in 6:23. He was signed up for the double this weekend with the Christmas Marathon and was disappointed that the latter was cancelled due to weather warnings. I urged him not to go back out because the wind was supposed to pick up and it was supposed to snow as well. I also was going to clean up the aid stations, so he had to be self sufficient for his second marathon. He went anyway and assured me he was going to be okay. He fueled up before leaving.
I stuck around until the last finisher came in and headed out to the self serve aid stations to clean them up. Paul was just leaving the 5.6 mile aid station and I gave him some more food. The weather was still okay at that time, but it was about 2:45. Darkness would come soon. My two blue water jugs were stolen at the 9.1 mile aid station. I just bought those! I was heading home but thought I should go to the store and stock up on food before the storm and possible power outages. Seemed like everyone else had the same idea as me because Safeway was packed and a lot of shelves empty. But I didn’t have to stand in line too long. For once, I picked the right lane!
When I came out, the weather had really gotten bad. It was miserable just getting to my car with wind and snow. I thought about Paul and how terrible it had gotten. I was about to turn onto my road home, but decided I wouldn’t be able to sleep if I didn’t at least try and go out and look for Paul. So now it is dark, the wind is really blowing, and snow is coming down, and I’m trying to drive and look at the trail at the same time. If you have ever done this, it is hard even in good weather. There are some parts where I could not see the trail from the road along Hwy 169, where I expected he was. Judging on how long it took him to get to 5.6 miles, I did not expect him to be at the more secluded gravel part of the trail. I drove all the way down to about where there was less than 2 miles to the finish and didn’t see him. All I could do at that time was hope that he hitchhiked his way back to the start and his car. But he did run a second marathon in less than 6 hours and is safe.
Got home, showered, had dinner at my brother-in-law’s (Cliff Richards) next door, came home, went to bed, and I was OUT! The wind never got really bad, thank goodness. I was planning on running the Dumb Ass on Sunday, but had already been cancelled. A few were planning on running anyway and the weather was actually okay down here in Maple Valley, not sure how bad it was up on Tiger. It was good for me to sleep in and spend the day with Ken. I spend too many weekends away.
So there you are! Long report for an eventful weekend. I’ll see most of you at Last Chance! Remember, I have an event at Lake Youngs in January 2009. It will be on 1/24 or 1/31, depending on my call schedule. Come out to run one loop (9.6mi), 2 loops (19.2mi), or a 50K. I will know before the end of the year on the final date.

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