Sunday, April 29, 2018

Capitol Peak 50 Miler, April 28th, 2018

This will be long, and probably provide more details than any reasonable person would
want to know (after finishing writing this it was even longer than I expected). I’m mostly
writing it for my own memory though I’m certain I will get many of the details slightly
incorrect as different sections blend together.

Before getting in to the actual race day I want to thank everyone who ran with me over
the last five months as I worked through my training plan. Brandon, Van, Corey, Chris,
Evan, Matt, Nathan, and Laura made many miles go by much more quickly and enjoyably
than had I been slogging on alone. I thought about runs with them often throughout the
course of the race. Laura not only ran many miles with me she also put up with my constant
need to make sure I got my weekend miles in by keeping our schedule open and flexible
so we could build plans around my long runs. She also picked me up from a number of
point to point runs and often had a can of V8 or Squirt ready for me which I am extremely
grateful for.

Race Morning:
Alarm was set for 3:55 AM but I was up slightly earlier so I wouldn’t wake Laura (her own
alarm was set for 7 AM so she could make it in time for the start of her 25K). Ate a small
bowl of oatmeal with blueberries, peanut butter, protein powder, chia and hemp seeds.
Lubed up all over with Squirrels Nut Butter. Watched a little English Premier League soccer.
Out the door by 5 AM. Arrived at the trailhead by 5:40 to check in.

While standing on line to check in a woman behind the table looked directly at me and says
“If you are here for the 25K we can’t check you in yet.” I quickly tried to figure out what made
me look like I wasn’t prepared to run 50 miles (I was wearing my Patagonia puffy coat
which is nearly required gear at these sorts of events). Luckily the two women in the line in
front of me turned around and asked if I thought that was direct at them as they also felt
slightly concerned that for some reason they might not be prepared.

Just before the start I saw Corey. We exchange a few words about how he beat me to the
trailhead (he is nearly always running late). He ran with the leaders and I was much more in
the middle of the pack so I didn’t see him much after the start.

Mile 0 - 8ish. McKenney trail to Mima Falls
The first two miles were uphill and gained roughly 600 feet. I tried to start near the back and
walk as much as I could. 26 minutes total was still faster than I wanted for those two miles. I
ended up near Ian who works at South Sound Running and Jan who I know from the Club Oly
Road Runners group. Jan is a beast who ran the Boston Marathon two weeks ago and is in
his mid 60s (I also learned he owns a sweet newer VW van that I am envious of). He did this
race so he could qualify for the Cascade Crest 100 later this summer, which will allow him to
enter the Western States 100 lottery for the following year.

We ran comfortably for the next six miles mostly down hill on single track trail. Once we got
close to the Margaret McKenney camp we took a forest road towards Mima Falls. At this
point many people started breaking off from the group for the first bio break of the run. The
first time I raced on trails I found this experience very odd but now it seems completely
normal. I saw some rustling in the bushes, thought it was wildlife and accidentally made
eye contact with a woman squatting in the bushes. Amateur mistake on my part by looking
in the bushes with so many people around.

Mile 9 - 15ish Mima Falls Trail
We took the Campground Trail and made the connection with the Mima Falls trail, taking it
back towards Fall Creek where we started. This is the trail I run by far the most on the
weekends so I pretty much shut my brain off. I knew there is a climb after about 4 miles that
lasts for a mile and gains 400 feet that I mostly walked. I took my first bio break before the
climb (#1, clear, no issues) and was mostly by myself until the aid station. I refilled both flasks
though I mostly was drinking out of the one that was filled with Nuun. The water only flask
was still half full.

Mile 15 - 20 Lost Valley loop
On the way down to the Lost Valley junction I met up with a woman (I never caught her name).
She asked me if I wanted to pass and I said no (I made a pre-race rule that I wouldn’t initially
pass anyone before mile 30 unless they stepped out of the way to keep myself from going
too fast too early). She said she is training for the Bigfoot 200 later in the summer and this is
her first big training run. We chatted occasionally (she owns her own business with her
husband, though I didn’t ask what the business was. I’m not good at small talk in regular life
and even worse while running.

At mile 18 my watched showed a 9:08 mile split. I said that can’t be right but when her watch
hit the next split it said 9:15 so we figured they must be right and that it was from how much
we were descending (looking back at the data shows we lost over 300 feet of elevation in
that mile so it makes more sense now). We caught up or passed a few people on our way
back into Fall Creek. I grabbed a few pretzels, some watermelon, and tried to use the bathroom
without any luck. My biggest fear for the race was that my stomach was going to give out on
me so I thought a proactive stop might help.

Mile 20-28ish Greenline to Capitol Peak
The week leading up to the race a number of people asked me what my time goal was. My
response was that if I was under 10 hours I would have had a really good race, if I was over
12 hours it would have been a rough day and that I would be happy with anything in between.
The nice thing about a 10 hour goal for 50 miles is it is really easy to keep track of pacing
by traveling 5 miles every hour. Leaving Fall Creek I knew I was slightly ahead of that pace
and that I also was going to be losing time over the next 8 miles as I climbed 2000 feet up.

For the first four miles I was running with Mike who was originally from New Hampshire but
now lives on the Kitsap Peninsula and a woman from Maine who now lives in Olympia. The
woman stopped to stretch her IT band on the bridge over Fall Creek and Mike and I continued
on for a bit. As we approached the first set of switchbacks I told Mike what was ahead (the
first set of switchbacks, a mile of relatively flat on a road, and then one more set of switchbacks
before the top) and I went ahead on my own.

Even though this was the steepest section of the course it was the part I was looking forward
to the most. The 25K which started 3 hours later would be coming back down so there would
be a chance that I would see people I knew. I cheered loudly for every 25Ker who was coming
down, so much so I think they were often shocked. It was a lot of “Way to go”, “Looking great”,
and “You are doing awesome.” Honestly I was doing it for me as much as I was for them.
There is a great mental benefit to it which helps improve your mindset and reduce the
suffering you are going through. Just as I finished the first set of switchbacks I saw my Inspire
Physical Therapy Racing teammate Abe coming towards me. I shouted his name and gave
him a big high five as I stepped to the side to let him and another runner pass me in the
opposite direction. Immediately after that I looked up the trail to see Laura, my brother Nate
and another runner up ahead. I waved but could tell they hadn’t seen me yet so I continued
on until I rounded a bend into their line of sight, at which point I jumped and shouted. I got
three quick high fives, told them I was doing great and was on my way to the road section
between the sets of switchbacks. I passed another handful of 25k runners on the road and
second set of switchbacks (one even commented on how big my smile was as I was cheering
her on). By the time I made it to the top I felt like my legs had finally woken up and I was ready
to run.

I skipped the aid station at the top because I knew it would be just 2.5 miles until I saw it again.
I ran on the road where I met up with Ian again and an older guy who seemed to have a strong
French accent but I never caught his name. We chatted a bit on our way around the peak
and then up “The Grunt” which was about a quarter mile trail climbing the last 200 feet of
elevation gain to the top of the peak. Then back down to gravel road back to the aid station.
I refilled my pack with Orchard Bars and F-Bombs from my drop bag, ate a few little boiled
potatoes with salt (I’ve never had those at an aid station but they were excellent), pretzels,
potato chips, ginger ale, and refilled both my soft flasks. Ian had waited for me and then
we took off on the Crestline trail.

Mile 29 - 33 ish Crestline trail
Ian and I ran this whole section together, talking about what we had done to train for this,
other races we had done, future races we were considering, and all things running shoes.
We yoyo-ed with the French guy as well, passing him a number of times only to get passed
back a few minutes later (it was all very friendly, we just couldn’t all get in to the same groove).
At some point Ian mentioned that he thought a sub 10 hour finish was probably no longer
in the cards. I told him I had been doing that math (always dangerous while running) and
that I thought it was still possible. When we made it to the aid station at Wedekind camp
I quickly ate a few potato chips, grabbed a handful of pretzels and told Ian I was ready to go.
He told me he would see me later and I felt bad for a moment after remembering that he
had waited for me at the last aid station but I knew I had to run the next section pretty
hard to have a chance to make it under 10 hours so I was on my way.

Mile 33 - 38.5 Porter trail (out and back section, out)
I almost immediately regretted going out of the aid station as hard as I did. I was trying
to eat pretzels and run at the same time and started to choke on some partially chewed
pretzel. I got some water down and reminded myself that I still had a long ways to go
so I needed to keep breathing. The first two miles of this trail was the only part of the
entire course I hadn’t run before. It was a little steeper than I expected by also very
pretty. It was nice to be able to take in some new scenery to keep my mind distracted.
As I was starting to descend I saw Corey coming back up the trail, presumably leading
the whole race. He had his head down grinding up the hill and I screamed at him before
he saw me, hoping to lift his spirits in case he was struggling. Over the next few minutes
I would pass other leaders but they were all pretty spread out more than 40 miles into
their own races at this point.

The Porter trail spends about a mile on a logging road before reconnecting with the trail.
I stopped for another bio break (#1, color of lemon lime gatorade which isn’t too bad for
35 miles in). Shortly after jumping back on the trail Jeff Wolf passed me going the other
direction. I don’t know him but his brother Jon is the president of the Club Oly Road
Runners and I shouted out Jeff’s name. He smiled and told me Jon was behind him on
bike. A few minutes later Jon came up on his bike and I told him I thought Jeff was just
joking. Jon was going to run the 25K but was dealing with a bum calf so he decided to
follow Jeff for the last 30 miles on his bike. It was a big mental boost to see Jon. I saw the
occasional returning runner on this section coming back but it got pretty lonely. I was
trying to keep my spirits up by cheering on everyone I saw, even a guy who was just
out on a training run. When he told me he was on a training run I told him he needed to
try to chase down the leaders and give them a scare.

This section of the trail drops about 700 feet over 6 miles so I knew it would be a chance
to make up some time if I was going to make it under 10 hours but I also knew I was going
to have to come back up it so I was starting to come to the realization that 10 hours might
not happen. When I made it to the aid station I was stoked to see pickles for the first time
all day. I ate two, dipped a few more little potatoes in salt, drank a little ginger ale, filled up
both my flasks, and took a few swedish fish for the road. Initially when I was looking back
at the race I thought I spent too much time at this aid station but I realized my thinking at
the time was that I knew I was going to skip the last aid station if I had a chance to break
10 hours so I needed to load up on food and water at this one.

Mile 38.5 to 44ish (Porter trail out and back, back)
Almost immediately after leaving the aid station I saw Ian and the French guy again. I was
happy to see they hadn’t fallen back and the French guy told me I’m looking great and
killing it. I responded by saying something about how was I struggling and barely keeping
it together. I regretted saying it immediately. I knew negative thoughts weren’t good for any
of us at that point.

I ran this section on training runs a number of times in the last 5 months which I think really
helped with how efficiently I was able to get through it. Though it is uphill there are also
many flat or nearly flat section which I made sure to keep running. I also kept reminding
myself that the last 7 miles was going to be downhill so if I could get to mile 43 I could
then start doing the math to see if I had a chance at 10 hours still.

When I had arrived at the aid station there was one guy leaving and I was occasionally able
to see him on the flat or straight section. I passed Jan going the opposite direction, gave
him a big shout, and told him Ian was a little ways ahead of him. He told me I was having
a great day and looking strong which was another big mental boost.

On the last longer climb up I looked at my watch and saw that I was at about 8.5 hours
into my run. I knew I had a podcast loaded up that was about 1.5 hours long so it seemed
like the right time to put it in my ears. It was a welcome distraction up the last climb at which
point I finally caught the guy from the last aid station. We yoyo-ed a bit but then got in to a
nice groove where I was running behind him down the descent back in to Wedekind. I
noticed he kept checking his watch every minute or so. I said to him “If we really go for it I
think we can make it under 10 hours,” and he responded “Yeah I was thinking the same thing.”
I was excited to have him with me as he seemed to be moving well.

Mile 44ish to the Finish (Wedekind trail)
I had thought about this decent a lot over the last five months of training. It might be my
favorite section of trail to run in all of Capitol Forest. I know I can run this section at 9 minute
mile pace on a training run but I’m not sure about that with 43 miles already on my legs. By
my math at the time I knew I would have to run just about that to make the ten hour mark.

The guy who I had been running the last mile with stopped at the aid station, I’m assuming
to fill up this handheld water bottle (I learned his name is Shinya and that he is from
Southern California after we finished; there was no time for that kind of small talk at this
point). I yelled out my race bib number to the volunteers at the aid station until one of them
made eye contact with me. He asked me if I’m running through and I say yes as I took off
down the trail (you have to check in at each aid station to account for all the runners to make
sure no one gets lost or cuts the course). For a moment I wondered if it might have been
a mistake but my legs felt strong and I was starting to cruise. After about two miles I heard
someone coming up on me fast. I stepped to the side and Shinya went flying past me while
shouting something like “No don’t stop, come on.” I tried to chase him down but he was
starting to pull away from me. We passed local legend Van Phan, who rumor had it at the
finish line was signed up for another 50 mile race the following day, which probably explains
why we were able to catch and pass her at all.

As the trail started to level off I caught back up with Shinya and we ran a bit together. We
crossed the last bridge which I knew is 1 mile from the trailhead and I told that to Shinya,
though I’m not sure if he knew that I was certain of the distance or just saying it to try to be
motivating. On the next little incline he was clearly starting to fade and I still felt strong so
I popped around him, shouted some encouragement and took off.

At this point I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to blow up but still wasn’t certain I was going to
make 10 hours. There are a few little rises though the trail is mostly downhill. Up each little
hill I yell out loud at myself “Grind it.” I’m not totally sure where that came from or what it
means (I assume something about finding the right gear) but I do it occasionally when I
need extra motivation to get over a little bump and am running hard. I checked my watch
at least every minute and when I made the turn from Wedekend back on to Greenline I was
pretty sure I was safe. A few months earlier on a training run with Laura we had made the
same turn and I told her we had to run hard from that point back to the trailhead if we were
going to make it back under two hours. During that run we had about two minutes and just
barely made it.

I was still not taking anything for granted though and took the corner hard (there were two
people standing at the trail intersection who I think were a little confused why I looked like a
man possessed). I picked up the speed a little bit more and remembered running this same
stretch with Laura and Nate the Saturday before. We had taken a scouting trip up to the Peak
and in general were taking the day pretty easy. Except for the last mile when Laura started to
pick it up and was trying to drop Nate and me. She nearly did on the last little bump up which
is just what I was approaching. I wanted to finish the 50 miles strong and not walk this so I
shouted at myself one more time, this time with some expletives which is where I go when
“Grind it” isn’t going to be enough. Once I crested I heard a cowbell and realized others were
just finishing. I could see cars in the parking lot through the trees. I looked at my watch for the
last time and realized I was going to be make it under the 10 hours. I started to get emotional
and teared up a little but recomposed myself before getting to the finish.

As I came in to the trailhead parking lot I saw Laura sitting on a log near the trail. She was
surprised to see me since I was on the early side of the two hour window I gave her to expect
my arrival. She kept commenting on how good I looked while simultaneously getting me
whatever I needed (slide on sandals, V8, a fresh shirt). I was surprised to find a few blisters
on my toes that must have developed as my feet swelled and I ran downhill to the finish.
Laura drove us home where we both destroyed hamburgers from Egan’s.

What went well
Consistent training: It felt crazy to say to Laura afterwards but I really felt like my legs started to
warm up after 25-30 miles and the major climb of the day. Looking back on my Strava since
the last week of December my weekly mileage was 55, 49, 47, 50, 52, 55, 50, 55, 56, 47, 43,
66, 50, 64, 57, 40, 37, and 70 (including the 50 mile race). I had 4 weekends where I ran a
combined 40 miles or more between Saturday and Sunday. Those long back to back runs
on tired legs the second day really paid off in strength the second half of the race (and
hopefully for the recovery in the weeks after the race).

Nutrition/Hydration: I ate every hour, on the hour. Usually an Orchard Bar, sometimes an F-Bomb,
and the last two hours were GU gels because I knew I was starting to work harder and needed
the immediate boost from pure sugars. I supplemented that with food at most of the aid stations
and never felt behind on food.
I drank more Nuun than I usually do while on training runs and felt like that was helpful. Only in
the last couple of hours did I feel like I was getting sick of it and I thought it helped keep me
hydrated while balancing electrolytes.

Knowing the course: I was surprised how much this helped but it was clearly an advantage. I
had no worries throughout the day about how I would handle the terrain. I knew how long
the climbs would take so I didn’t stress about them and I knew what downhills I could look
forward to afterwards.

What didn’t go well
Pretzel choking: Self explanatory. Taking food on the go out of the aid stations really helped
me keep moving and not burn too much time. One of my goals for the day was not to waste
time in aid stations and be efficient there. That went really well but I should be smarter while
eating and take smaller bites.

Negative thoughts: I don’t take praise well even in everyday situations and when the French
guy was so nice to me I didn’t know how to respond. I think part of it was it was the first time
all day someone praised me before I praised them and may have just caught me off guard,
though probably had a lot to do with how I was feeling in that moment. It was good I recognized
it and was able to get out of that place pretty quickly.

Blisters: I need to buy my trail shoes a half size bigger to deal with the foot swelling on longer
runs I think. This is common ultrarunning advice that I’ve ignored so far. Overall though I was
really pleased with how well my feet held up and was happy with my Salomon Sense Ride shoes.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Home making

LJ and I have been slacking on the blog front but not so much on the home front.

I've spent way too much time perfecting my rain water collection system, which included no less than 4 trips to Home Depot over multiple weekends but I think I've finally got it dialed in the way I want it (for now).  The downspout is also PVC and has an elbow on the end with a threaded cap.  The idea is that when we want to collect water we can close the cap at the bottom, the downspout will fill with water and then the water will be diverted at the black "Y" to go in to the 275 gallon tote (this is a simplified 1st flush system).  It has worked well in the few test runs and I'm hoping to expand the system with a few more totes and maybe tap in to the downspout on the other side of the  house.  The goal is to be able to get most of our irrigation water from the roof.


We got serious about our main garden space and have put in a 16 by 16 (roughly, it isn't quite square and is more like 16 by 17) garden bed.  Our neighbors were extremely helpful in this process.  I went with them and picked up two yards of mushroom compost in their big diesel truck and then they brought their tractor over to make the unloading much easier.  They were super impressed with LJ's tractor driving skills and now have her on-call anytime they need a machine operator.

(Also, from the looks of our neighborhood you would not expect someone to have a tractor parked in their backyard but these are some  pretty awesome neighbors.  They have a front yard garden that is pushing 500 square feet, a plum and pear tree, and soon to be giant pumpkin patch.  Needless to say we were super excited to meet them at a recent block party.)

We are hoping to get some garlic planted in the bed within the next few weeks and then cover the rest with a cover crop for the winter.

Our Buffalo grape plant is in the background and has survived the summer.  We still need to put up the trellis for that and should get around to it in the next few months.  In front of that is what we hope to be our strawberry bed, though I might test out some cabbage and kale in it this fall just to see how it does.

Our herb garden has been the big winner of the summer.  The first picture is the recently planted cilantro patch.  I'm hoping to get it to self seed before the end of the season so next year we will have a huge patch of cilantro ready to go.

The rest of the herb garden has come from transplants that we planted just a few weeks after we moved in.  Some of the herbs have been traveling with us for the last few years and seem very happy to finally be out of pots and in the ground.  We have chives, rosemary, french sorrel, thyme, oregano, sage, mint, and dill.  I'm also hoping the dill self seeds for pickling season next year.  We've already had to hack the mint back once to try to keep it from overtaking the whole space (and also to make mojitos).

The raspberry trellis is up and I finally ran wire on it a few weeks ago now that some of the stalks are getting long enough to need them.  The plants we got from the nursery in May are doing great and are already starting to put up new shoots so we are expecting at least a small raspberry crop next year.  The transplants we got from our parents don't seem to have taken so we'll probably need to replant that section next year.  At the block party we also heard about some neighbors who might have raspberries starts they are willing to part with so we should be all set.

Monday, May 26, 2014


Mirror backsplash before

Frosted mirror backsplash after

It was easy to get yourself locked in the bathroom so we replaced the knob

Hung the 2x4 to hang the bike

A very sorry screen door getting paint

Measuring for new screen on the door

Work space was getting dirty

Sanding for a better fit

Patio cover beam before
Support added for beam

Digging post holes for the raspberry trellis

Constructing the trellis

Finished trellis

Prepping for raspberry planting
Planted half the trellis.  Will use volunteers from our parents' for the other half

Celebrating with homemade pizza and mead