Sunday, October 24, 2010

Dawg Dash and Looking Ahead

Saturday was a good day. I did two loops of the classic West Tiger Mountain/Poo Poo Point loop plus an additional loop down to the railroad grade. All together it's a thirteen mile mountain run that climbs all three West Tiger peaks, does an out and back on the East Tiger Trail, takes the Poo Poo Point trail down from West Tiger #1, and loops through Tradition Lake Plateau. For those looking to get a good amount of elevation gain while still having access to a car for supplies, it's a great deal as it's so close to the Seattle metro. It doesn't require a hydration pack like the Twelve Summits run does (by the way, the reason I'm referring to trail run names is that they are all mapped out in 50 Trail Runs in Washington). In sum, 8000 feet of gain in just 26 miles makes for an incredibly vicious but exhilarating romp through the woods.

The run bypasses the traditional trail up to West Tiger #3, instead choosing to scramble up the Section Line trail. I've done by best to describe this brutal ascent, but I think all I need to mention is that its average grade is over 25%. I treat this like a threshold primer for my run and challenge myself not to walk.

 "Do you expect me to run up this trail?"
"No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die."

Poo Top Trail snakes its way down a ridge, filled with steep root-laden slides and plenty of hair-raising twists and turns. In other words, it's great fun! Poo Poo Point trail was much more subdued, more like the West Tiger #3 trail except without the switchbacks. I did enjoy crossing the bridge over the stream, although my feet could have done without the cobblestones and boulders peppering the trail over the last couple of miles. The Tradition Plateau loop is a nice, soft cool-down after the downhill.

As an atmospheric sciences major at the University of Washington, I of course read Cliff Mass's Weather Blog every chance I get. After the run I saw that he was gearing up to be the official starter and race forecaster for the Dawg Dash on Sunday.

So of course I high-tailed it over to Super Jock 'n' Jill for my last-minute registration. I did this race two years ago and finished fifth, and I must say that the course is just as I remembered it: pretty difficult.

Looping down around the back of the UW stadium, it spends the first half of the race in a gradual ascent - up the bridge to the Burke-Gilman, up the greenway to Drumheller Fountain, around Suzzalo, through the Quad, and finally up Denny Hill. It really wears on you, but you're treated to an extended downhill all the way back to the stadium. Unforunately, it's peppered with sharp turns and stairs, so it isn't all tea and crumpets.

One of my former coaches at Seattle Prep (now head coach) had entered the 5K, too, as well as a former teammate looking to get back into running, so I was glad I showed up on such a rainy, dreary day. There were, literally, thousands of people lining up at the start for both the 5K and 10K. It's always comforting to know that you won't have to deal with the pack, though! 

As usual, there was some shuffling in the first mile, but positions remained rather fixed for the rest of the race. I was in tenth as we ascended the steps to the first bridge and managed to work up to fifth by the time we passed Drumheller for the second time on the descent. I have to admit I was thankful when we hit the gravel because the bricks and asphalt were slick from the torrential rains in the hours before the race. I latched on behind my former coach and made up some ground, but I just couldn't eke out anything else from my already lactated-out legs. I have to say that doing pure base-type work for ultras leaves you with little capacity for these shorter distances. I finished fifth, again. Hey, at least I'm consistent, and it's even more encouraging given that the last time I raced this, I was training specifically for 5K's.

Actually, we're on a quarter system here, so it's 50% more fun!

I've decided not to do the Pinhoti 100. My injury, as you can probably tell, is quite well-healed at this point, but the trip is going to cost more money than I'm willing to spend, and it's occurring on a weekend with several midterms on Thursday and Monday (yeah, Monday after a 100, that's a great time for a test). The North Face Endurance Challenge? The entrance fee and plane tickets are far cheaper and I have family in the area, so it's certainly on my radar. It's too early for me to be certain, but my IT-band performed well after a back-to-back strenuous 26-mile mountain run and a 5K.

You can see a video of the start here. I'm the guy in the blue top with long hair and Moeben sleeves around ~12th place. The Treks? They did well over the slick parts of the course. I feel sorry for the guy I saw at the staring line wearing Sprints, without lugs and grips they were probably sliding all over the place.