A funny mantra for a middle-of-the-pack runner, maybe, but it's what I felt at Angel's Staircase.
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Race day. 12:20am.
It's almost like there are multiple strobe lights outside. I can't hear the thunder yet, but the flashes are so intense I think it can't be much longer until it moves closer. Suddenly, the wind starts howling, forcing me to close all the windows, and the rain and thunder arrive.
2:30am. The power goes out....this will make for an interesting race prep quickly approaching at 4am.
I get up, use my phone flashlight to get my headlamp out of the car and start doing my normal pre-race routine. Except this time, it's cold coffee and a cold shower. I think I'll stick with both hot in the future...added bonus of seeing a few Perseid meteors while I'm outside.
|Foreboding clouds at sunset on August 10; Twisp, WA.|
Greg, Richard and I cruise up the first 3.5 miles of dirt road that leads to the 50k of singletrack. Richard takes off, and Greg and I hike-run for a couple more miles.
After the first aid station, about 8.4m, the trees open up to rocky outcroppings and then the meadows of Merchant Basin. Angel’s Staircase looms above, next to Martin Peak.
I love steep hiking. This is my race.
I make it up to the top along with Rhea, briefly take in the views earned by our 6,000' climb and start the descent.
|After cresting the top of Angel's Staircase. Thanks for being out there Glenn (and I hope your ankle gets better soon!).|
Steep and technical, with these views, it's perfect.
Mile 13: beautiful meadows on the west side of Martin Peak. Still mildly-technical trails, I catch up to Kyle.
|Alpine trail on the west side of Martin Peak on the way to Boiling Lake.|
Soon enough it’s time for the second climb of the day above Boiling Lake to Horsehead Pass. Not as steep as the staircase, but it’s still full-on hiking.
Descending begins; semi-technical near the top leading into smoother forest trails all the way down to mile 21.
The heat of the day before hasn't arrived. It’s warm, but not hot. Coming into the aid station, though, there’s a young boy (12ish?) with a bucket and two huge car sponges.
I don’t care what you say. I let him sponge me down, soaking my head, shirt and shorts. It’s fantastic and feels like a wake-up shock; my cold shower at 5am earlier in the day.
After my stomach woes at White River, I go simple for today: water only to drink, gels, Fruitsource bars, one small PB&J square and some M&Ms. No fruit, stay away from Gu brew.
Just a quarter mile down from the station there is a wide stream, 15 yards, ankle deep. Splashing through cools the socks, and reminds me of all the miles running with sopping feet during this summer’s mountain outings. I've come to enjoy (at least more than tolerate) having wet and cold feet, and the water doesn't bother me.
This last climb (5.5 miles, ~2,000’) is right in between running and hiking. It meanders: up left, back to the right, further right, I don’t know where it’s going. I can see the pass up to the left that we’ll crest and drop into Merchant’s Basin to rejoin the Foggy Dew trail back to the start/finish, but the trail continues to wander. It's not steep or tough, just long. Starting to get a little tired, I have a gel and make it over, about mile 27; 10 miles of downhill await.
My stomach feels decent; I’m not dehydrated (or at least not noticeably); legs are feeling it a little, but not sharply.
This is my race.
Good technical trails again lead to the last aid station at 29m. Water refill (thanks Brandon!), M&Ms and I’m out quick. Ran and I yo-yoed all day after Kyle and I caught up to him around mile 16, and he let me pass and enjoy flying down the five miles of trail to the road. I made good time, kicked a few big rocks and somehow didn't fall, scared a couple 35k runners, passed one 60k runner who looked really beat and popped out onto the road.
With just over three miles to go, and all downhill dirt road, I’m content to just cruise it in at a comfortable pace. I thought I’d finish in 8:30, and here I am with a couple miles left and am at 7:15. I let up, not pushing it. Ran comes back and passes me with about ¾ of a mile left, saying he’s hurting and just wants to finish ASAP.
I feel differently.
Regardless of what place I get, I know I've run a great race. I managed my body well, embraced the technical and tough terrain this course is known for and really pushed myself. Most of all, I enjoyed all of it. It was a wonderful day in the mountains. With the exception of the closing miles that I feel aren't worth completely thrashing my legs on, I've left it all out there.
James greets me at the line and I blurt out, through an enormous smile, “Now THAT’S a trail race!”
Richard, just back from his 450-mile crossing of Iowa (in only seven days), threw down a crazy time of 6:58.
I get some recovery drink down, but it's too early for my stomach to handle real food.
Greg comes in at 8:20, greeted by his wife and girls (the last time they’ll see him run before he heads off to Wasatch for some well-earned redemption).
Some relaxing and a soak in the creek makes me feel better about all the pizza being baked, and I eat quite a few pieces before I help James, Candice and crew pack everything up. East 20 brought their wood-fired oven: my favorite slice has local peaches and blueberries on it. Cleanup includes lots of talking with Matt and fiancé Carrie (Kerry?), Project Talaria's Dave Melanson and of course the Rainshadow duo.
Driving back to Twisp at 9pm, it’s been a long, but great day.
Thank you to James and Candice for putting on such a great race and all the volunteers who had to hike in the aid station supplies. Glenn took great photos, as usual, and I can’t wait to see the Project Talaria video.
Being the first Rainshadow event with prize money it did bring in some big names, as you can see from the full results, HERE. Those are very fast times.
(note: my GPS cut out on the road for two miles; most recordings I've seen have it at about 37.5 miles)