This was my first Ultra and my first actual "trail" race; it could also be my last on both counts. I had no particular goals going into this other than to stay on my feet and finish uninjured. So, mission accomplished on that front. I knew it would be much different than a road race, but I had no idea how different.
The course was 3 laps around a 10 mile "loop" all within Point Defiance park on the trails starting at Owens Beach and climbing to some of the highest points in the park. All of the ascents were runable for the most part, as were most of the descents the first time around. After the first loop, the descents were a lot trickier on tired legs and even got a little scary on the last loop. I would say about 30% of the course was very technical (for a road racer) and one section was so steep that there was actually a rope strung down the hillside for us to rapell the descent! Overall, the race was like a 30 mile muddy rollercoaster ride with over 3900 feet of elevation gain.
It was frustrating to go so slow at first, I felt like I wasn't getting anywhere running 8-9 minute miles. After the first loop I knew I needed to keep it slow and easy to finish strong, but it was so hard to pace myself with all the hills and roots, rocks, etc. not to mention my Garmin readout was all over the place due to the tree cover on the trails. Not far into the 2nd loop I caught up with another runner that I knew was a very strong ultra marathoner and figured it was time to back off before I blew up. I decided to hang back and pace behind him even though it felt slow at times. I knew I would need all the energy I could conserve for that last loop. We chatted off and on for a while and the time passed pretty quickly for a few miles. I finished the second loop right behind him, stopped a little too long for a drink of water and that was the last I saw of him.
I was on my own for the entire 3rd loop except for when 2 runners passed me at the 25 mile aid station and booted me back to 12th place. I was cramping and had tons of dirt and little rocks piled up in both shoes so I stopped there for several minutes to relax and empty my shoes. From there I managed to shake off the cramps, but the steep descents hurt my feet and I just wanted it to be over! This is about the point where a regular marathon would be over and I could not figure out what the heck would posess me to pay money for this experience. I was losing the battle. Normally I would recognize this feeling as the mental place where a race actually starts and push harder(in training, the only miles that even count are the ones you run AFTER you want to quit), today I just wanted to quit. Unfortunately, finishing the race was the fastest way back to my car and I was dangerously close to being late for a class I was leading at my church in the afternoon. Quitting, walking, crawling, none of these were options. I had places to be and people to see. It took all I had, but I managed to keep moving and finished my first Ultra and my 10th marathon.
After the race and my class, I went straight to PLU and met Kym at a work event that went until nearly midnight. I have never been so tired!