I have run the SCOTT Cougar Mountain 20 Mile race three times. The first time was in 2011 and it was the first year they had this distance. No one knew who the heck I was so when I went out a bit too fast they let me go and in spite of dying big time I barely hung on for the win. The second time was in 2012 and some faster runners showed up. I still won my age group but got 5th overall. Last year I was injured so could not participate.
This year I'm still ramping up my fitness and am also dealing with some nagging issues (read: a very inflamed left hip flexor). In fact, my doctor just told me to take two weeks off last Friday. I - very democratically - decided that those two weeks would start after this race.
Did you know that it's pretty dark at 7:00 AM this time of year? It seems like each year Daylight Saving Time gets pushed back further and further so it was freaking night when I pulled into the parking lot. Around 7:20 I was finally able to take this dim picture.
The forecast was for dry(?) until around 9:00 AM and then the rains were supposed to hit again. It wasn't super cold out but I opted for an undershirt, hat and gloves so I would not freeze when I got soaked. I also stayed in the car until about 7:45. Then I did some light stretches and leg swings (I didn't want to run any extra steps on account of my hip), stripped off all my warm clothes and hit the head on my way to the start line.
Today I started right at the front. I guess I had some aspirations and didn't want to get stuck behind too much traffic. I had zero plans of running faster than I was capable of sustaining but just wanted to be able to see the leaders for a bit.
That 'bit' didn't last long.
As usual, about 20 guys were hauling ass from the gun and that is roughly the position I was in when we hit the single track.
I kept it mellow but I ran all the hills. So far my hip was doing fine. I passed a few people here and there but did not really keep track. Around mile six this woman came flying past me. She said, "Are you Martin? I think we've met before!" and then she proceeded to leave me in her dust. I sort of felt like telling her she was not doing anything to increase the odds of us ever meeting again at that pace.
This course has a short out-and-back around mile nine so I knew I would be able to see what place I was in at the second aid station which is the turn-around at the bottom of a long descent. I like descending and today I passed some more people on this downhill and surprisingly, I passed this woman back as well.
As I got close to the bottom there was Glenn Tachiyama in his usual spot. How cool that he shows up to race after race and takes pictures. I was looking ahead, looking ahead and finally I realized that NO ONE WAS COMING UP THE TRAIL BACK AT ME. I was in 1st freaking place. Yikes, it was too early for me to race so I took a relatively leisurely stop at the second aid. I had drained my bottle so filled that all the way up, grabbed a gel and the ubiquitous 1/4 of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that you find at trail races. As I was shoving the last of the sandwich in my face who should show up but that same woman and the last man I had passed on the descent. With crumbs spilling out of my mouth I grabbed my shit and headed back up the hill. Racing or not, no need to waste time standing around when you can eat and drink while walking.
And that is exactly what I was doing in very short order. This climb is a bit of a burner and unless you are training to run hills or just uber fit, you walk. Sure enough, 1st and 2nd place were running and quickly opened up a gap. Oh well. Nothing I could do other than maintain my pace.
As we climbed people who were descending kept cheering us on, that was really cool. This one woman I had met on some Sunday club runs yelled at me, "You better catch Steen!" At the time I had no idea what she had actually said, the word "Steen" did not ring any bells, only later did l figure out it must have been one of the people in front of me.
After about one mile of climbing I started to see the woman that had pulled away from me. Twice.I got within about 10' and then hung there for a bit. There is a spot on the climb up the Shy Bear Trail where it looks like the trail goes straight but if you do go straight you run into a rock wall. The trail really turns left. I had my head down and turned left only to realize that Steen had gone straight. I said something like, "The trail goes this way..." and she replied, "Thanks." At the time I was not sure if she meant it or if she was peeved that I had not seen her go the wrong way and told her to turn. :( After passing Steen I slowly pulled away.
2nd place. Not too shabby! If I could just hold on and not blow.
After cresting this climb there is a longish descent and knowing I was faster going down than the guy in front of me I opened it up. Just a hair. And sure enough, about half a mile or so later, there he was. And when I caught him he graciously stepped aside! That was really nice.
So of course I tried to keep the pace up while going down. I was not trashing my quads so figured any kind of time I had in hand by the bottom was time in the bank for the next climb.
I never even heard him catch me but at the top of De Leo Wall there he was just 20' behind me. I'd be lying if I said it didn't bum me out just a little bit. :)
Right after De Leo Wall is the last aid station. I still had about a quarter of my water bottle left and one gel and I had been staying on top of my nutrition/hydration so figured I would just grab a quick cup of Coke and jam. I saw the table with loads of goodies on it... but no people. And no cups! I started to open a two liter bottle of Coke when I realized I would also have to open my water bottle and pour it in. And then Addy Davis - the guy who was chasing me - showed up. Forget the Coke, I was out of there. Addy must have thought likewise because he was right on my heels.
Luckily there is a bit of descending here so I twisted the grip again and managed to put a few seconds between us by the time we hit the 'flats'. I used single quotes because there is very little true flat running Cougar but you get the idea.
I will freely admit that I suck at flat running. It is so hard for me to push myself! On a steep climb I swear it's easier to go hard. Maybe because climbing is hard in the first place? And I happen to like going down so that's no problem. But push I did, as best as I could. And incredibly I started to ease away from Addy. Turns out I was not just a better descender, I was also a little faster in the technical sections. So you know that every time the trail went down or got tricky (or ideally both!) I tried to press on the gas pedal just a little.
After passing Red Town there is a short climb and then more flat. ARGH. I was running out of steam. Plus the long, straight sections of dirt road made me nervous. I wanted to be out of sight big time.
As I turned left up the last big hill I could not see Addy. Whew. Half a mile later I could see him but he was three switchbacks below me. Hang on Martin...! I was going hard for sure but was not in the red, just barely below.
It's funny what you think about at times like these. My mind started wandering back to the Wednesday night Seattle Running Club Cross Country workouts I have been participating in recently and I started to imagine the last half mile of this course and where I could pick up the pace should it come down to a sprint. I know, me sprint?! Hahaha...
At the top of the hill I was probably no more than 1.5 miles from the finish. There was some flat, some descending and then a tiny bit of flat to the line. At the bottom of the last climb I felt like I had at least a one minute gap on Addy so I tried to talk myself through the flat section and turn it up again on the last descent. As I started the last descent I looked back one final time. I had just run a long section of fairly straight doubletrack and as I turned downhill I could not see Addy so finally relaxed just a little.
I gave it a little kick when I knew I had less than 200 m to go (the finish line is not visible until you are right THERE) and crossed with a big smile on my face. Addy did great, he was just 45 seconds behind me. And Steen was just 10 minutes behind me, nice!
Oh man did my left hip hurt... After high fiving my teammates Eric Sach said, "Martin, you're limping." I sure was. But, mission accomplished! Hopefully the price I paid is not too steep.
It was so cool to see my teammates around the course. Joe Creighton was at mile six directing traffic and then handing out prizes at the finish, Keith Laverty had just finished sweeping, Erik Barkhaus was congratulating folks as they crossed the line and Evan Williams was serving hot soup. Of which I had three cups. And of course Eric Sach and The Balanced Athlete do so much for this series, not even sure where to begin...
The only bummer was my GPS lost its connection to the satellites. Again! :( Why is my watch so fickle? It should not be, I paid too much for this kind of reliability. Grumble, grumble... Anyway, that is why my route is a bit short. And it's also why I could not upload my run to Strava, because something went 'wrong' with my FIT file. Sigh.
I had a small scare this morning. I had set my alarm for 5 so I would have time for a real breakfast with time to digest. I woke up and felt super rested but my alarm did not go off. I say there and lay there waiting until finally I just grabbed my phone to check the time. It was 6:05. Turns out I had set my alarm for Saturday. D'oh...! I just had a smaller breakfast.
The rain held off until after I finished, that was VERY nice. But the horrific winds from last night had put more debris and full on trees in the trails than I have ever seen on Cougar Mt. We not only had to climb over several logs but under some and through some more because of all the branches that were still attached. Kind of fun actually. And it makes me even happier about my PR.
Here are all the pictures.
|Breakfast||6:15 AM - 2 bananas, apple sauce, 1 scoop protein powder, Udo's Oil|
|Workout Food||bottle w/2 scoops Perpetuem and 2 Endurolytes, 1.5 bottles of some PowerBar drink, 3 PowerBar Energy Gels, 1/4 of a peanut butter & jelly sandwich|
|Time of Day||8:00 AM|
|Weather||upper 40s at the start, 50 at the finish, dry, not so windy in the woods|
|Results||1st - Overall|
PR by one minute
|Distance||20 miles? I suspect the course was a bit short...|
|Equipment||Brooks PureGrit 3, Garmin Fenix 2, Ultimate Direction Fastdraw Plus|
|Clothing||Injinji Run Original Weight Mini-Crew, Brooks Infinity 3" Split Short, Craft Active Extreme Short Sleeve Baselayer, Brooks long sleeve top, Brooks Pulse Lite Glove II, Udo's Oil knit hat|