A Moment

This evening I was out on a little walk in the Fremont neighborhood. I couldn’t help but admire the gorgeous fall colors – crimson, bronze, and golden leaves, all against a brilliant blue sky. Not a sky that promises warmth and leisure, but a sky that’s crisp and reminds you that daylight is to be cherished this time of year.

Our leaves seem to change like everything in Seattle – independently and at their own pace. We’re so lucky here because autumn seems to stretch endlessly until suddenly everything is grey and misty, sometime in November. Then it’s time to find your cozy sweater, a hot beverage, a good book, and some kitties to snuggle.

On this particular lovely evening walk, I was delighted by more than just the bright splashes of color that I saw. I also enjoyed the delectable scent of Theo Chocolate wafting by on a light breeze. (Nevermind that the factory happened to be my destination due to some chocolate-y desires. What a wonderful happenstance!) 🙂

Until the winter grey descends, though, I will strive to take a few moments to ignore the daily clamor so I can appreciate the bright reds, oranges, and yellows against the pale azure sky. Wherever you are, I hope you too can appreciate the autumnal palette. (Chocolate optional, but encouraged.) 🙂

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Let the Off-Season Begin!

This past weekend was my first in a very long time that didn’t include training or prepping for the next race. Such a wonderful break! My thought was to take at least two weeks to just be totally lazy and enjoy everything that I’ve missed over training. Mainly, doing things other than training every night and weekend. <waves to friends>

And so, this weekend was filled with good friends, good food, and good whisky. 🙂

These are a few of my favorite things…

I tried two new whiskies this weekend: Lagavulin 16 and Ardbeg 10. I’m continuing my exploration of the Islay whiskies!

Lagavulin 16 Year Old

Single Malt Scotch (Islay) 43% ABV

Nose: Smoky, little medicinal, but rounded with some sweetness. Almost a fruity freshness cuts through the spicy smoke.

Palate: Smoky, but approachable. Rich, spicy, sweetness.

Notes: Spicy finish. I was very pleasantly surprised at this one and will order it again!

Ardbeg 10 Year Old

Single Malt Scotch (Islay) 46% ABV

Nose: Smoky, briny, with a hint of freshness that I can’t place. Almost minty, but not quite.

Palate: Smoky, citrusy, and very long finish.

Notes: Not bad! I wouldn’t seek it out, per se, but Ardbeg is growing on me.

Loving our fall colors!

Oh, and there was a tiny bit of running, but just for fun. It was my first run since the 50K, and it felt okay… although I’ll admit I enjoyed being out for less than two hours. No pack to manage, water to refill, or route to worry over. Just running for fun.

Nothing like the crisp fall air, and crunchy leaves underfoot to be inspiring in its own way. We’ll see how long it takes before I get really itchy for another adventure… 🙂

Baker Lake 50K Race Report

We had an absolutely perfect fall day for the Baker Lake 50K.

When we got to the race start, it was chilly and foggy, but perfect running weather. We also spotted a few of my friends from the High Heel Running Group. Always nice to have familiar faces out on the trail with you!

 

Ready for a great day!

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Listening to the trail briefing…

The actual start to the race was rather low-key. There was a short trail briefing to give us a lay of the land, although with an out-and-back course like this one, it’s fairly straightforward. After that, we all grouped up and headed out – there was no official looking start line or anything. Very casual.

The first part of the race is on a paved road that then goes over a dam. In the morning fog it wasn’t anything interesting, but it was much more visually appealing at the end of the race. Then we continued up on a gravel road, with a sizeable incline. Many people (including ourselves) started walking the hill. No need to burn out right away, but we knew the descent on the return would be welcome.

Next, we hopped onto the Baker Lake Trail. The beginning is lovely. Classic Pacific Northwest with moss and ferns everywhere, and with the added bonus of some colorful fallen leaves. The first few miles were wonderfully runnable, and felt great. After not too long we came across the 5.5 mile “aid station”, which was really just a water drop. We were supplied for the full 15 miles until the turnaround, so we pushed on.

 

The best view all day!

At this point we started to see Mount Baker through the trees, and eventually caught some great views. Wow. Baker Lake was calm, and the mountain was reflecting beautifully. To me, this is a huge reason why we run these crazy distances – just so we can see gorgeous scenes like this one.

The trail was mostly singletrack, with rolling hills and scattered with ankle-rolling roots and rocks. There were also countless little moss and leaf covered wooden bridges over creeks and little waterfalls. Rather slippery, but really quaint in this idyllic setting.

It also was mostly green everywhere until one little section we came to – the morning sun shone through the autumn-kissed trees and made it a sea of golden light. Beautiful, but I wasn’t able to capture it on camera.

This race was special for a number of reasons, one being that it was Adam’s 32nd birthday. A charming coincidence of 31 miles to celebrate the previous 31 years! I teased him about adding an extra mile to make it 32, but oddly enough, he didn’t seem too receptive to the idea… To mark the day, though, when his watch would beep a mile, we exchanged memories of that year of life. We started it around mile 7, “what’s a standout memory from 2nd grade?” It was a fun way to celebrate his birthday and learn new little stories about each other.

 

The birthday boy!

 
There was one other exchange that sticks out in my mind, and still makes me giggle. Adam is a wonderfully even-keeled type of guy – it takes a lot to ruffle him. He’s also fairly optimistic, which is at odds with my more pessimistic (I say ‘realistic’) attitude. As we were going along, he was saying how we were handling the trail really well and how he thought we’d finish with no problems. I mimed knocking on wood, “I don’t want to jinx it!” I said that I agreed with him, but didn’t want to tempt fate by getting cocky. He laughed and said, “your optimism is fully equipped with an Anti-Lock Brake System, huh?” Lol, YES!!!

The plus of an out-and-back race like this one is that you get a chance to see everyone. By now we had been seeing many of the faster folk already coming back towards us, and we knew the turnaround wasn’t too far. We crossed a big suspension bridge, and came to a nice, flat, wide-open trail. At the end of it was the aid station – hallelujah! We had decided not to utilize the drop-bag option, but still enjoyed some food and beverages there. Adam had some Coke – a drink he’s always craving at the end of a long run, and an ultramarathon classic.

Very near the turnaround!

Very near the turnaround!

 

“The way back is always quicker (in your mind) than the way out, right?” Adam jokingly asked me, as it seems to work that way hiking. “Umm… yup. Sure.” NOPE was my actual thought, but he didn’t need to know that. Since all the racers were extremely spread out by this point, we put on a favorite podcast (Stuff You Missed in History Class) to occupy our minds. After finishing one, I noticed our energy was starting to flag a bit, so I switched to my trashy pop playlist – it always helps! We were able to keep steadily moving forward, with only occasional stops to stretch out a bit. Nothing terribly remarkable until…

 

A mad momma…

The grouse incident. On our way out, we saw this grouse on the trail. She looked like a camouflaged chicken – only a little more football-shaped. She was a bit perturbed by our presence the first time. However, by this point in the day, she was clearly FED UP with all these people lumbering by, far too close to her nest (I’m guessing by her protective attitude). Adam walked by her just fine, and she only puffed up a bit and made noises at him. I paused and he said, “Oh, c’mon, just walk on by her. What’s she going to do?” She was right in the middle of the trail, so I hugged the far side of the tree-lined trail and tried to walk by. However, she lowered her head and charged me. I thought she was bluffing but I moved a bit quicker. She kept chasing me down the trail. She chased me about 10 feet and was about an inch away from pecking me, but I managed to get away unscathed. Note to self, don’t piss off a momma grouse – she means business!

 

One of the many waterfulls we saw.

 

Shortly after our wildlife encounter we came upon the water drop and knew we only had about 5 miles to go! We knew the trail would be more runnable so we were able to move right along and get some miles beneath our feet. I hesitate to say “running” at this point because it was more like a drunken shuffle, but we were still moving forward. We hit the gravel road and knew we had less than 2 miles to go! We crossed the dam (this time displaying a commanding view of Mt. Baker), and could hear the faint sounds of cheering from the finish.

We crossed the finish line holding hands. A bit romantic for us, but we ran the whole thing together so it seemed very fitting. 🙂 AND we got medals! A rarity in the ultra world (at least in the US), so hooray for some hardware for our accomplishment.

 

Love the medal!

Some quick numbers:

Finishing time: 8:03:59

Elevation gain: 3,400 feet

Calories consumed: ~900 (7 Glutino Oreos, 2 small red potatoes, 2 bags Welches fruit snacks, 1 onigiri, 3 Portable pumpkin cakes, 1/2 Portable sweet cream grits)

Post-race Adam consumed a cheeseburger and I had the Hawaiian pizza we brought. Sooooo good. Then we topped it off with cupcakes from Cupcake Royale to celebrate his birthday and his first 50K finish!

 

Our favorite cupcakes to finish off a wonderful day!

It was a great day, and could not have been better. The weather was perfect and we finished strong and injury-free. While I was definitely feeling the 50K I did two weeks ago (oops?), I was pleased I could still keep up with Adam and finish well. He enjoyed being out there and said he would do this race again. Hmmm… 🙂

Race Prep…this time with Adam!

Before my Mt. Hood 50 miler this year, I wrote a post about my race prep. While it likely is not the most riveting read (plot twists seem to only happen while out on the trails, oddly enough), I enjoy the planning and organizing of it all. I can’t always control what happens during a race, but at least I gather some comfort in controlling what’s in my pack. I’m not a minimalist by any stretch of the imagination, and I also have no delusions of grandeur about my speed. I favor the Girl Scout mindset of preparedness, and have come to terms with the fact that I’m not a future Olympian. 😉

While prepping for an ultra isn’t anything particularly new for me, the difference for this race (Baker Lake 50K) is that Adam is running it instead of crewing! I’m so excited for him – his first 50K.

It doesn’t change things a whole lot, but there’s really only one aid station (with a drop bag option), so I’m thinking of it more like a self-supported run than a supported one.


My trusty Nathan pack (it looks a bit worse for wear in person) is now packed and ready to go. Stuff packed for this race:

  • 2 liter water reservoir
  • Small first aid kit (pink bag)
  • Kleenex, TP, baby wipes (you never know when these items might come in handy)
  • Extra socks (the one time I didn’t bring them, I really could have used them)
  • Bandana (another just-in-case item, which has come in handy in the past)
  • Seat Saver by Hammer (probably one of the most key items in my bag, seriously)
  • Photo ID, pocket knife, extra hair tie, hand sanitizer, eye drops, chapstick
  • Endurolytes
  • Handwarmers
  • Gloves
  • Glutino Oreos
  • Fruit snacks
  • Boiled red potatoes w/salt
  • Onigiri
  • Feed Zone Portable pumpkin cakes
  • Feed Zone Portable sweet cream grits


This will be the maiden race for Adam’s pack, an UltraAspire. His accouterments are almost identical to mine (shocking, I know) with the exception of his food. His fuel choices:

  • Oreos
  • Haribo gummy bears
  • Boiled red potatoes w/salt
  • Trail mix
  • Goldfish
  • Feed Zone Portable pumpkin cakes
  • Kind bars

We’ve also got a post-race bag full of things to bring a smile to any weary runner’s face:

  • Flip flops (Toes say – “Freeeeeeeeedom!”)
  • Baby wipes (A way to feel more human in moments – at least by removing the first layer of salt and grime)
  • Change of clothes (Ditto above)
  • Hawaiian pizza (Sweet, salty, fatty, carby food of the gods)
  • Lemonade (Just helping replenish our glycogen stores… 😉 )
  • Cupcake Royale Cupcakes! (It’s Adam’s birthday tomorrow!)


One more sleep until the race! 🙂