On the Trail Again

Matt and I spent the better part of yesterday in 40 degree temps, intermittent rain, and gusty winds, and had a blast (nearly) the entire time. Ourselves and 700 other runners toed the starting line for a trail race about twenty miles outside of Seattle in Issaquah, Washington, the Grand Ridge Trail Run. The racers spanned 4 distances, including 5 miles, a half marathon (13.1 miles), a full marathon (26.2 miles), and a 50k (31.2 miles). Myself and two of our friends ran the half marathon while Matt went for the longest distance, the 50k, since he’s training for another 100 mile race in February.

Training since the trail has been fairly steady. I’ve been focusing on consistently running at least 6 days a week with at least one workout included, while Matt has been focusing much more on at least 2-3 workouts a week, and we’ve both been bumping up the long runs over the last two months. However, the distance of this race course wasn’t a concern for us; it was the hills.

The course consisted of a five mile loop, followed by an 8 mile out and back portion, so kind of like a lollipop. The 5 mile loop alone had 750 feet of elevation gain, while the out and back portion accounted for the remaining 1250 feet of gain. As a half marathoner, I only had to cover all that distance just once, while Matt ran the entire lollipop twice, finishing his miles with a third time on the 5 mile loop, for a total of nearly 5000 feet of elevation gain. On the CDT, that would be a fairly normal day, but on a race course, when we’re trying to move as fast as possible over muddy, rocky, leaf-laden trails, that elevation is quite a challenge.

About 3 miles into the race, just after the first climb on the course. I wasn’t so sure how I felt about 10 more miles of running at this point!

My half marathon went about as well as I could have asked for, given that I rarely train on that hard of hills, and while my time isn’t a great representation of my abilities (2:19.16), I did well relative to the field and placed as the 7th female out of 112 women. I was hurting after the very first climb, which came just a half-mile into the race, but gradually got my legs back and was able to push the flats and downhills, and even caught quite a few people on the last hill in the final miles. It’s been six months since we last raced and it was so fun to be out there on the trails again, pushing myself alongside other runners who also chose to spend their Saturday morning sweating it out on the trails in a misty rainfall.

After finishing my race I saw Matt complete his second loop of the course, leaving just the last 5 mile loop to go. He looked good as he turned around and headed back out for one final 750 foot climb, but I also knew how hard that climb was. I just hoped he could hold on. About fifty minutes later, after I’d changed into warm, dry clothes and had a bowl of hot vegetable soup to warm me up, we all watched Matt run into the finish in a time of 4:27, good for 1st place and the course record. He looked tired and glad to be done, and even had chocolate Gu scattered across his face. It had stuck to his hands while he carried empty Gu wrappers and therefore got smeared all over his face when he wiped the sweat off his face. He was nearly cramping at the end because he failed to drink enough water during the race, but some warm clothes, salty chips, and a free massage at the end revived him.

Matt enjoying himself on the course, which ended up being the hardest trail 50k he’s raced yet.

It’s good to be back on the trails again, only this time because we are running and racing over them. This past weekend’s race was a good reminder of why we love running so much, including trail running, ultras, and racing. We already have a few more races coming up, including the Seattle Marathon in just two weeks, so stay tuned for those race details and results from Matt.

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