After doing my trail volunteer work, which I shall not blog about, though it was enjoyable enough, for hot sweaty trail work, I broke and rented a hotel room in the Manning Park Lodge. “The cheapest room you have, innkeeper!” Which was fantastic, because I ended up with a huge room with two queen beds and lovely lamps. After some anxiety about being charged for the extra bed, I fell asleep into a glorious slumber.
I awoke on Monday to a glorious sunny day, at a very reasonable hour. For once I had all day to explore, and no time limits! I wasn’t sure where to go, but ended up back at Cayuse Flats, having decided I would run all the way back to the Heather aid station, and then back down. I mapped this out on Garmin Connect. I said something like “54 km”. I neglected to check the race guide for a more accurate number. I packed some Perpetuem (4 scoops! 540 calories!) and 3 gels (330 calories), some Shot Blocks (200 calories) and a pack of Honey Stingers (delicious calories). And some water.
The starting section from Cayuse is along the “Hope Trail”. It’s an old wagon road, I think. Pretty flat, pretty fast. Somewhat uphill, but I was running moderately harder than usual, with a view to “simulate tired legs” on the way back down. Oh, how I would regret this plan.
After about 7 km and 1000 m of ascent, you turn East onto the Grainger Trail (remember, I was running the course in reverse, now.) For the next 10 km, you climb another 1000 m, to arrive at the fantastic Nicomen Lake. This is where the aid station will be, on race day. Impossible to get lost to this point, so that is nice.
I was running along at a nice clip when I caught my toe on a root. “Riiiiiip.” Now, I’d been debating whether a new pair of shoes would be a good idea on race day: guess fate itself answered that question for me. Tore a massive hole in the top of my shoe, so that toes were pretty much hanging out. These ones were done like dinner, and I was only 10 km into my day! Oh well, at least they were nice and airy.
I saw a mule deer. I saw what I thought was cougar poop. It looked fresh. It had worms in it. It was near the deer. Was I disturbing a mountain lion in the middle of a hunt? Jesus, I hoped he wouldn’t hunt me. I was a long ways away from civilization… I had my knife. I would go down fighting.
After the lake, you head straight up the mountain to the ridge, where the Heather Trail resides. Here, you’re about 19 km from the start, and 2,200 m in the air, and thinking “Jeez, if I turn around now, that’s like a 40 km run.” But you keep going, because you really want to run the whole Heather Trail descent, as on race day.
So now you’re in the beautiful alpine meadows, just frolicking like in The Sound of Music, and loving life. And you keep running. And you keep running. And the sun is beating down on you, like some sort of post-apocalyptic nightmare. And you keep running. And it’s not just uphill (which would be good for later) or downhill (which would be good for now) but it’s up, and down, and up, and down. and you’re looking ahead to the next mountain going “is that it? Is that the one? No, it can’t be. It must be… Please, God, let it be that one.” and you keep running.
And now you’re looking at your watch as you run past 25 km. And you look at your little mini-map on your Garmin and mistakenly measure “ok, just 4 more km” and then you get to 30 km and realize you measured wrong. And you keep running. And finally, finally you recognize the trail, and you think “Praise Jesus!” and you check your watch, and it’s been 4 hours and 58 minutes. You reward yourself with the shot blocks, leaving you with only 2 gels for the entire run home. And when the clock strikes 5:00:00, off you go…
I passed some packs earlier, without people in them. But now on the way home I see this young guy hiking with his huge pack all loaded up, just trudging. And I’m flying down this trail, and I do a little “cough cough” to give him notice, but he must have his headphones on (dumbass), and as I run past him in the grass (remember we are in the middle of nowhere) I scare the living crap out of this guy, and he goes “WOAH!!!” super loud in this hilarious voice. I’ve been fucking laughing out loud remember that, ever since.
Just imagine yourself, on a chill hiking trip, listening to some Radiohead on your iPod, and all of a sudden this fucking 400 lb grizzly bear goes literally charging by you at 30 km, just tearing through the grass. And you go “WOAH!!!” and before you can even blink it’s basically gone. Aaahahahahahah shit, I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if he shit himself. My god it was funny.
I was completely out of water, so I had to fill my bottles from streams, drink from streams. I was out of fuel, so it was going to be a long haul with almost no calories (1 gel per 2 hours, now) and I was hot. And I was really tired. And I was pretty sore. And my left heel was bugging me again. And my shoe was broken. In summary: I was suffering.
Took me almost exactly 2 hours to get to Nicomen Lake, versus 2:34 for Hassan and 3:02 for Nicola on race day. The distance was like 15.5 km on the Garmin, versus I think 14 in the race guide. It wasn’t all downhill, mostly undulating, with a few moderate ups and down. Pretty fast though.
From Nicomen, it was long, long, long way home. I couldn’t believe how goddamn far it was, and how tired I was. Approximately 17.5 km! Took me again pretty much 2 hours, although I was moving pretty quickly. On race day Hassan took 2:06 and Nicola took 2:55, although 5th place finisher William McBride did it in 2:36. It’s pretty much entirely downhill and very runnable, with basically only one meaningful short uphill hike. Really good to make up some time, if you’ve got the legs for it on race day!
This post is called “Release the Kraken!” because this is it. The big one. The last big run before the race. The rest of the week is going to be baby miles, and the week after is going to be a shitty taper week, and the week after that is going to be really baby miles… so this is the final bid for fitness. It went “ok”. I wouldn’t say I felt great, but having finished off two 100 mile weeks in ~ 41 hours of running, I’d say that’s ok. 67 km in 9 hours. It’s a thing.