25 April 2018

Chirico Tenpeat

I attempted the Chirico Tenpeat once way back in 2014 and wasn't able to finish it that year. It's pretty tough. This year I did finish and to my surprise, it was in 2nd place!

Here is the glory shot.

[Photo credit to Ben Luedke.]

For an "event" this one is super low key. It's officially not official with no permit, aid or timing. People just agree to show up, be respectful of other trail users, and support each other. That said, the aid station here rivaled the best I have ever experienced. Everyone who was here is a trail runner and they understand what other trail runners like! The event is only advertised on the Seattle Mountain Running Group Facebook Group. It's usually the last Wednesday in April, a weekday avoids some of the hiker traffic on this popular trail and the time of year hopefully does not conflict with most people's "A" races.

The premise is to complete 10 laps of the Chirico Trail from the trailhead parking lot up to Poo Poo Point and back down. Each lap is about 3.6 miles and a little over 1,600' of elevation gain. It's entirely "challenge by choice" so the number of laps you do is totally up to you. Some people just do one, some a few, and a handful always try to complete all 10. Folks that want to go for all 10 need to start at 7:00 AM, those that don't can start any time they like. Back in 2014 I started out too fast and lasted for eight laps. And lap number seven and eight were very tough. My first lap in 2014 was about 50 minutes and my last one was about 60 minutes. This time, for reasons I'll go into shortly, my first lap was about 55 minutes and although I did slow down a tad on lap 9, my last lap was also about 55 minutes. For me, that is awesome consistency and means I metered my effort pretty darn well.

I started out slower this year for two reasons.

  1. I'm smarter. I have made that classic mistake of starting too fast oh so many times and this year I wanted to give myself a chance at finishing. It took a few years to learn this lesson but I'm slowly catching on.
  2. I was tired. Just four days ago I ran the Yakima Skyline Rim 50k and pushed pretty hard for most of that race. This Chirico run was an opportunity for a super training block because no way would I have done this many miles or vertical feet on my own.
Here are the 10-lap hopefuls at the 7:00 AM start. I'm in the back row with the blue shirt and white hat.

[Photo credit to Ben Luedke.]

Note that several people in the above picture are holding trekking poles. I am not. I love poles but was conflicted for this event as I also wanted to travel light and since the weather was supposed to turn fabulous (it did), I knew I also wanted to take my shirt off later. My dilemma was how do I use poles and only carry a hand-held bottle? The answer eluded me so I opted for light and hoped my back would last all 10 laps.

This trail frequently consists of stone steps. Even a couple of the flat sections are paved with stones. It's really fun until it's not. All that bounding down steps annihilates your quads and in my opinion, it's all the descending that makes this event as tough as it is. Most people can go uphill, some are faster than others but most can pace themselves and keep going. But after this event, everyone is sore in a way that climbing never affects you.


I was carrying one 24 oz. bottle with me and drained it each lap. As the weather got warmer I had to supplement my bottle with extra fluids each time I arrived at the aid station.

Another thing I did better this time around is I never stopped moving. After all this pounding my legs want to lock up when I stop so I would make my pauses at the aid station as short as possible. I literally just filled my bottle, grabbed a bite, flipped a yu-ee and got the heck out of Dodge. It sure helped.

ASIDE - I think some famous runner once said, "Don't walk when you can run, don't stop when you can walk." Or maybe not. But I see variations of this quote bandied about pretty frequently. Whatever.

It was an AMAZING DAY. Not too hot, not windy, just what I needed. And the views from this trail are nuts for being so close to the city. Close to the top, there is a field and across the filed Mt Rainier is staring you in the face. At the top, all the paragliders were taking off and it was pretty tough not to hang out and watch. A couple of times I saw two Bald Eagles riding the thermals just like the paragliders, so beautiful.

Poo Poo Point is the most popular local takeoff spot for paragliders. There is an astroturf "runway" and you literally deploy your sail and run off of the edge of Tiger Mt...


My nutrition has been way better this year than even last year. I'm finally consuming the right amount AND the right stuff to keep me going. Lately, the only limiter seems to be my fitness as I have not bonked or had any gut issues. Planning this out also makes me much more efficient at aid stations. Here's to that trend continuing!

I wasn't looking at my watch much as my main goals was just to finish all 10 laps. But it's good to have multiple goals sometimes and my other one was to finish in under 10 hours. When I did look down after lap number eight, and knowing how much I slowed down in 2014, I figured 10 hours was out of reach and actually slowed down on lap nine.

And then my watch went into low battery mode which means the display goes black.

As I got to the bottom after lap nine I pressed a button on my watch and to my chagrin, saw that I had 1:02:00 left to still make it under 10 hours... Ouch. This meant I had to push on this last lap. And I tried.

I know I went up a tiny bit faster and I know I came down more than a tiny bit faster.

There is only one intersection in this trail and both options take you to the same place but one is more direct/shorter/steeper. If you look at my GPS data below, you will see that I took both pretty equally. I started with the steep route, then switched to the flatter option after a few laps. On my last lap, I went back to the steep option as I know it would save about 30 seconds in each direction.

Believe you me, when there are hikers blocking the trail and you need to come to a full stop while descending quickly on wasted legs, it is hard to do it!

My watch had gone black again so I didn't look at it until I was perhaps 100m from the finish. I pressed a button and saw that my elapsed time was 9:54. Holy cow... I was going to make sub 10!

I'm always impressed by how much "smelling the barn" or knowing that you are going to achieve your goal does to alleviate discomfort. When I saw that number on my watch my face totally relaxed, I smiled and I almost forgot about my legs. Okay, not so much that last one, but I did feel better.

I finished, stopped my watch, wrote down my time (everyone tracks their own time on the honor system) and sat down on a cooler. Which I promptly fell off of. Wow, my legs were weak!

For the first time since last summer, I had salt crystals on my skin. Man did it feel good not to move.

Here is a shot of the "podium", the guy in the funny tiger hat (remember this event takes place on Tiger Mt) is Nikolay Nachev, the winner, and the guy in the plaid shirt is George Orozco.

What did I learn today (because you can always learn something)?
  • Stick to the pacing plan. As usual, some folks went out hard at the start and they all ran away from me. You can only do what you can do and if you don't blow yourself up, some of those people usually come back.
  • Pacing yourself doesn't mean coasting. There were times I had to remind myself to go faster. If you use heart rate or power, you won't overdo it and you won't slow down too much.
  • Know your strengths and weaknesses. I knew that stopping too long at the aid station would lock up my legs so I chose to just grab stuff and sort it out while walking back up the trail.
  • Focus on what works. I usually hate loops. Heck, I still do, but this time I was able to either just focus on the lap I was currently running or stop thinking about the number of laps to go and just enjoy the view. All the encouragement from everyone on the trail really boosted me too.
  • When something works or doesn't work, write it down (like I do on this blog) so you don't forget and then adjust accordingly. I used to put slightly more fuel in my bottles than I do now. I am learning that's it's better to "under fuel" (as long as you don't do it too much and bonk) because it's easier to add calories than come back from stomach issues when you have had too much. Plus, this way my bottles also hydrate me better.
  • You don't always need a "trail" shoe for a trail run. Back in 2014, I wore some relatively thin shoes, for me that was a bad idea. This time I used some cushy road shoes and it was awesome. And why not? It was a dry day, traction was not an issue and the Ultrafly is comfort city.
Lastly, thanks to Jess Mullen who has organized this event each year. On this day (and the previous day) she was Everesting and did 18 laps. Nice.

Here are all my pictures.

  • I finished all 10 laps!
  • 2nd - Overall
Nutrition (before)
  • 2 shots of Hammer Gel about 5 minutes before the start
Nutrition (during)
Nutrition (after)

21 April 2018

Yakima Skyline Rim 50k

Oh man, this course is legit. I've been wanting to run the Yakima Skyline Rim 50k for five(?) years but something would always come up be it a last-minute time conflict or an injury. Not this year. In fact, this year I felt pretty good! Bring it! Well, this event delivers. My (overly optimistic?) time goal going in was six hours. I didn't make it. I had no good idea what I was getting myself into.

Here I am before the start.

And here I am after the finish.

The weather forecast for today was pretty perfect. I have heard that it can get pretty hot up on the ridge in April (which honestly was part of the appeal for me...) but the expected high was just 65 degrees and the only issue was some strongish wind that might crop up. Hanging around the parking lot I was initially bundled up but as the start got closer it became obvious that I could start in the same outfit that would finish in. It's nice not having to carry clothing.

I arrived relatively early and got a good/not so good parking spot if you catch my drift.

I've been using trekking poles a LOT lately and loving them. When they're carbon, they weigh nothing and you just don't feel a penalty for carrying them around. It's been a game changer for my back and now my legs and cardio are the weak links instead, which is how it should be really. It was always so frustrating (and uncomfortable!) when my back would blow up before I got to the finish.

So imagine my disappointment when I broke a pole halfway into this race. I tried to repair it with duct tape but no dice. I really needed a dowel or something to stick inside the pole and with the break being right next to the spot where it collapses, that wasn't possible. Here is a shot of the damage after I got home. #landfill

Another thing that I've been loving is the fact that I have not fallen down while trail running in ages. Well, that changed today. I fell three times. Early on the first descent, maybe 100m from the halfway point, and then on the FLAT approaching the last descent. I don't think I was being especially careless and I wasn't that exhausted, this is just a very rocky course and I needed to pay more attention. I broke my pole in my second fall. After taping my pole up I took off but the first time I planted it, it folded. Damn, two big climbs still to go.

I ended up stowing the broken pole and just using my good on with both hands in turn, 30 seconds in the right hand, 30 seconds in the left, repeat. It made me realize how much I need poles! If I want to go fast anyway. I felt like my wing was clipped.

I saw a lot of people I knew today. Which is always so cool. Mitchell Burbick and Meredeth Heestand showed up with about 15 minutes to spare. Out on the course, I saw Brad Hefta-Gaub, Van Phan, Yassine Diboun, Phil Kochik, and Maxwell Ferguson who put in a super effort which was rewarded with a great result in this high caliber field.

I also saw lots of people that knew me but I did not remember them... :( The volunteer at the intersection near aid station #2/6 kept shouting encouragement at me and I must have looked like a deer in the headlights. It was kind of funny really, as I ran past the first time he was like, "Right on Martin! Way to go! OH...!" That was when he saw the blood running down my right shin.

At least a half dozen people shouted greetings to me on the trail and mentioned me by name. I'm the worst.

When I got to the halfway point, this aid station volunteer practically runs up to me and shouts, "I read your blog all the time! What can I get you?" What a surprise, it made me smile. After he filled my bottle he grabbed some wet wipes and offered to clean my knee and shin. He kept saying, "This going to hurt..." but it never did. And I didn't have time to hang around and let him do a thorough job. :( But thanks so much Mr. Aid StationVolunteer! I left looking better than when I arrived and that did a lot to buoy my spirits just minutes after my second tumble.

On the bright side, each time I fell, one person would pause and see if I was okay. That's trail running community.

The views from up on the ridge were spectacular! Descending to the halfway point I saw Mt Adams and Mt Rainier. So beautiful. In fact, the views were amazing all day! I had to keep reminding myself to look down.

My power was a bit lower than at the Chuckanut 50k. I attribute that to the following.
  • On the first climb, I was frequently stuck behind people.
  • Most of the descending was not as fast as I thought it would be, there were lots of twists, turns, and rocks that had to hop over/around. It slowed me down a little.
  • I fell three times.
  • Using just one trekking pole for half of the race slowed me down.
  • I ran the last 10 ish miles with Meredeth, at that point I had abandoned my original time goal and just wanted the company. Thanks for the company, Meredeth. And congratulations on your 3rd place!
After getting 2nd place in my age group at the Badger Mountain Challange 50-mile race, I wanted to win here. So for the first time ever, I checked Ultrasignup to see who was registered and what their expected finishing times were. Turns out John Fiore, the person that beat me by five minutes at The Rut 50k was signed up. Our expected finish times were about 10 minutes apart (his was faster). This was going to be hard. In the end, he beat me by 13 minutes. If not for some of the items on the above list it would have been a great race! But kudos to John, he didn't fall, and he's two years older than I am.

The wind did pick up around mile 20. Across the top of the last hill, it was right in our face. On the last descent, it was blowing so hard that I got moved sideways just a little when both of my feet were off the ground. Impressive.

Other than my scrapes (which are not very bad luckily), my only "injury" was a badly stubbed toe. I think it was the cause of my first fall. Ever since switching to Topo shoes my toenails have been in great shape but I'm going to lose one after this race.

After finishing and (not really) getting cleaned up I headed back to the start/finish for some of the great food that Rainshadow Running always provides.

That bottle used to contain my other recovery drink.

This course is hard but it's also amazing. Assuming you don't run in these conditions every day already. So glad I finally made it! I might have to come back and see if I can go faster with no mishaps. Or try some new event. :)

Here are all my pictures.

Nutrition (before)
  • banana at 4:45 AM
  • water
Nutrition (during)
Nutrition (after)
Here is my power analysis for this run.

Popular Posts