Frölicking trails since 2010

Frölicking trails since 2010
Frölicking trails since 2010

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Capitol Peak 50 mile - Olympia, WA - April 30th, 2011

"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

April Race #3, Capitol Peak 50 miler.

Shackleton once said (and Charlie Engle often quotes), that 'Optimism is the True Moral Courage'. That may be a stretch for what I'm trying to say, but the situation I had somehow created for myself surely stemmed from an optimistic Jason lying on his bed months ago with his computer registering for races saying "Yeah, I can probably do that".

After running the Peterson Ridge Rumble 20 miler and the Boston Marathon in back to back weekends, I still had one more race to complete my very own 'Triple Crown' of April, the Capitol Peak 50 miler. The question wasn't whether or not I had the mental fortitude to finish this final race, but in what condition. Never having run 50 miles before, I was curious to see how I would perform physically, mentally, and stomach-ly. Let alone, discover if 12 days was enough time to recover from a PR at the Boston Marathon (after only a week of recovery from the Peterson Ridge 20 miler).


The race had a 6:00 AM start...*Yawn*. I woke up around 4:00 AM feeling a little stiff, with some slight pain in my achilles/heel. I had been feeling this 'discomfort' for a month or so whenever I woke up, but it always went away after I would walk around for a bit. Is this the beginning of Plantar Fasciitis? Meh. I drove to the start, checked in, ate breakfast, tied my shoes, hydrated, used the bathroom, did a warm up jig (not jog), stretched, organized my GUs, and was ready to go.


Every race should start like this
The race started at a good pace, with the front runners pushing a 7:00 min/mile pace. I stayed with them for a mile before dropping back into my Forever Pace. For a while I was running by myself, which was kind of nice. The course was both beautiful and grim, running in and out of logged sections of the Forest. Regardless, the weather was overcast and cool, and I was having a good time. There was a runner I nicknamed the jolly green giant who passed me somewhere along the way (tall man, green shirt). We played cat and mouse for most the race. I was the mouse.

Photo by Glenn Tachiyama,
'The Grunt' section
The trail winds through Capitol Forest on gorgeous single track dirt paths. The course starts by gradually ascending to the top of Capitol Peak over the first 15 miles (Elevation 2,582'). The ascent was kind of nice, and everything was runnable. At the top of Capitol Peak there was a very enthusiastic crowd of people at Aid Station 3/4 who were OH so friendly! After a quick refill of water/heed, M&Ms, and GU, I sped off down a dirt road and kept a very comfortable downhill pace. At this point the course does a 5 mile loop back to the top of Capitol Peak, but it takes an alternate route up a very steep rocky section called 'The Grunt'. This was a short section of trail worth power hiking (for most), given the fact that there were still 30 more miles to run. Didn't want to tire my legs out too early! On the way up the grunt there was an old upside down car off the side of the trail from the late 90s, or early 2000s legs are my favorite all-terrain vehicle, because they're not prone to exploding when they crash. Run run run run *trip*....ka-BOOOOOMMMM!

Photo by Damien Murphy
Ah, after the grunt section, the course went over the top of Capitol Peak and back to the Aid Station 3/4. Runners were still coming and going in 4 different directions, so I made sure I franticly asked every non-jogger if I was headed in the right direction. Again, I threw some M&Ms and pretzels in my  mouth while someone filled my bottle with H2O and took off holding half a banana. It was all downhill from here, so I kept an almost hasty downhill pace while enjoying some alone time on the trails. The trail markers were spaced reasonably far apart on this portion of the trail, and I was freaking out a couple times when I caught myself daydreaming (I almost took 3 wrong turns in the Peterson Ridge Rumble because I tend to zen out on the downhill). It was about this time that Taylor Swift got stuck in my head (damn you, Chris Peck!).

After reaching Aid Station 5/7, I refueled and dashed onward for an out and back section. The whole time I was eagerly expecting to see the leaders running in the opposite direction, indicating what place I was in and how far away the next aid station was. This turned out to be one of the seemingly longer sections of the race, and it was almost ALL downhill to the aid station...which means nearly ALL uphill on the way back…F. When I arrived at the Aid Station I was in 5th place at the aid station, with at least a mile gap between me and 4th place. I sure as hell wasn't going to catch up to them, but I was 1st in my age group as far as I could tell (baby to 29 years old). If I kept a good pace, I could perhaps clinch my division and win a hand-made ceramic mug! Go Jason, Go! Shit, that guy looks young and he’s only a half mile behind me...GET ON YOUR HORSE!!

Photo by Glenn Tachiyama
Mile 34-ish
Going up that gradual uphill back to the Aid Station 5/7 was a pain in the hammy, but it was nice seeing all the other runners going the opposite direction. Arriving back at Aid Station 5/7, I was pumped for the downhill! There was about 15 miles of downhill back to the finish, the perfect way to end a race. After starting the downhill, I took inventory on how my muscles were feeling. The hamstrings were tight/achy (since around mile 15-20) and my feet/ankles were getting a little worn, but my calves and quads were hardly aching…which surprised me a little bit. I didn’t expect to feel this good down the homestretch of a 50 mile race, and maybe it’s a sign that I did the right amount of training for this race…except for the hamstrings (which were maybe still sore from Boston). Either way, I was tromping downhill as quickly and efficiently as I could, knowing that there was a home cooked meal waiting for me at the finish line. I was getting hungry!

Coming to the last aid station, I was passed by the Jolly Green Giant. That surprised me, because I thought I was gaining some ground with all the downhill (but apparently so was this 51 year old ultra veteran). He passed me with 7 miles to go, and I was feeling pretty gassed at that point. There were some small climbs that I decided to power hike, but the transition from hiking back to running was like shifting gears on an old rusty wasn't a smooth one. So I ran the rest of the short little uphills, because hiking wasn't gaining me a whole lot at this point. There's a time to run and a time to walk, and I'm only beginning to figure out which pain I should run through and which pain I need to walk through for the sake of efficiency and endurance. It'll probably take a few more 50+ milers before I figure that out. Eventually I rounded the homestretch and found myself sprinting the last hundred feet. When I finished, the volunteers asked me 'where did THAT come from?'...'Down Under', I replied.

Results:     7:52:01 - 6th out of 82 Finishers.

Pace: 9:26 min/mile

After the Finish line, I met up with my Cambodian sister LumOr and grabbed 3 rounds of soup, some soda, and some other stuff I think. As I sat down, my IT bands started to tighten up. My quads and calves still felt good, and my stomach never had an issue the entire 50 miles (I was combining solid food with GU Roctane throughout the race). It was nice to be done! I even scored an awesome mug for winning the 0-29 age group!


Tea at work
For my first 50 miler, I expected it to be more painful. I'm not saying that it wasn't painful, I just expected more muscle groups to fail (my first marathon was a much more painful experience). That may be a testament to my training, or maybe an indication that I could have run it faster. It's hard to gauge how fast I should run for 50 miles when I'm trying to maintain constant energy at the same time, and that's the next lesson I need to learn. There's a difference between the pace I feel like running, and the pace I'm capable of running. Most people run with a watch to keep track of their pace, but I'd rather not be ruled by the clock. I started running races without a watch to focus less on my pace and more on how my body is feeling...but at the same time, I need to make sure I know how to push myself beyond how I feel (especially if I ever want to get competitive).

Finishing the 50 miler didn't change my life, but my dreams have simply gotten bigger. The beauty of this race is that it officially qualifies me for the Cascade Crest 100 mile run on August 27-28. Given the 20,000+ feet of total elevation change, I have my summer cut out for me. To help me during the race, I've recruited Matt Carrell to pace me the last 50 miles of the race. We've got some preparing to do!


- 1 week after the 50 miler, my legs are back to normal but my ankles still feel a little weak.
- 2 weeks after the 50 miler, I'm ready for another long run.
- I think my metabolism has gone up, because I've been really hungry lately. At least, more than usual. Seemingly.

*Thanks to LumOr and her sister for giving me a place to stay in Olympia, despite the trains and frogs!