When I first heard about Deception Pass 50k, it was in the context of being a race that sells out pretty much as soon as registration opens. Clearly if it was that popular, I probably needed to run it! And so on June 29th I was one of the first runners to sign up.
Fast forward 5 months… With Jack & Jill Marathon, Hamster 24hr endurance run, Mountain Lakes 100 mile run and Seattle Marathon all in my legs now… And I’m trying to remember WHY I ever thought running Deception Pass was such a great idea! In all honesty, I hadn’t even been on the trails save for once or twice since Mountain Lakes.
So I decided that I was going to go out there and just run it for fun. Seattle for fun was honestly SO MUCH FUN that I thought it would be no problem. I really did.
It’s 6am and I’m not particularly wanting to get out from under the warm covers. But the part of me that really does want to run this race pulls me out and then I eat, and dress, and braid my hair in a cool french braid sideways down the back of my head and over my shoulder. Later it somehow turns into the messiest matted knotty disaster ever, but right now I’m pretty pleased with it.
Hubby and I jump in the car at 7:15am… We have 45 minutes before the race starts, so we’re kind of cutting it close – but I’m not worried. We pull up to the spot where our GPS says “You have arrived” and there’s only 2 other vehicles there – in the same predicament as us. Lost.
Luckily we quickly get onto the correct track, and at 7:45 we’re pulling up to the actual race start. I jump out of the car – now beginning to panic just a bit… And we boot it over to the check in area… I grab my bib with literally 4 minutes to go before the gun goes off. And when it does go off, I’m still doing up my pack and saying bye to hubby. Off I dash behind everyone else.
We go out along a road and quickly are diverted into a trail. Everyone is close together and I’m following closely behind a guy – maybe too close? But I’m happy to go at this nice easy pace, and be very careful in these beginning bits, which have some slippery parts. I’m running along and I hear cheering – there is hubby with a few other people I know who’ve come out to cheer including Katie who took me on all my night runs when I was training for Mountain Lakes!
And then I just fall into a comfortable pace that’s not pushing too hard, but not necessarily lallygagging along either. Before I know it an hour has passed. I’m doing okay – but not loving the inclines that are not steep enough to walk but steep enough that it takes more work than I’d like to run them. If there’s one thing I can say about this course (other than how beautiful and scenic it is), it’s how runnable it is. And being used to taking hiking breaks on the North Shore, this is something I’m finding quite challenging!
I’m coming around one of the many lollipop loops and all of a sudden I see Hollie and a number of other runners from Vancouver coming towards me! They seem to have gotten off course? We all run by one another, but eventually I hear they’ve turned around, and then are gaining on me. In a few minutes they pass me, one by one. We chat… But eventually I’m left with just Hollie. We’re both not particularly trained for this (although she much better than I as she’s been in the trails at least once if not twice per week consistently the past few months).
Neither have we done a good job of preparing for this race when it comes to carb-loading. In fact yesterday, rather ironically, I stood in front of my sports nutrition class teaching them about how to fuel before, during and after exercise – so yes, instead of actually practicing pre-race nutrition I just talked about it. Knowledge might be power, but only if you utilize it 😉
And so I’m struggling. In fact I’ve been struggling for probably an hour or so now. I think Hollie’s finding it tough too – but overall she’s stronger than I, and later she gets an amazing second wind. Unfortunately I am not to be quite so lucky. My quads and glutes were sore before I even began. I swear my legs are fatigued from just standing on them teaching yesterday. Or maybe I’m just reaching for excuses at this point.
We eventually come out of the trails at about 22km. I am done. I’ve been thinking about dropping for the last few kilometres now. But I run along the road for a few kilometres with Hollie – we are coming around to the second half of the race, which will be 2 loops of a very runnable section of forest (before running back along this road and a few miles in the trails to finish off) – it would have been lovely if only I wasn’t hurting so much!
We begin our first loop, and run along together for maybe a mile… And then the climbing begins. I lose her – she’s somewhere ahead of me. When the climbing bits are out of the way, I start moving – like moving pretty darn well. I pass runner after runner. But still no Hollie. She must by flying. That, or I’m not actually flying as much as I think I am!
Finally I pop out to the main path which brings us to the aid station we hit up 3 times total. I see Hollie there at the aid station! And Katie is with her. They tell me we’ll go out together for the second loop. I didn’t realize we ran that loop one more time. Oh gawd. But at least it was the best trail of the whole course so far, so if I’ve got to do a second lap of something, this is a good one.
We set out together. I’m so happy they waited for me. Although I feel bad they waited for me. What if I’m unable to keep up with them? And right away I know it’s going to be tough. I struggle to hold their pace. They chit chat but I have no air. I begin to fall behind, just a little. And then, boom. I find myself on my knees in mud. I tripped and fell over nothing. Katie and Hollie turn around – and I quickly tell them I totally fine and to please go on without me. My legs just can’t keep up.
Physically, I am fine. Some mud on my knee – a mild bruise will show up later. But emotionally, I just hit my breaking point and begin berating myself viciously. What a terrible trail runner I am. How slow I am. Weak I am. I can feel tears welling up in the back of my eyes. I’m literally gonna start balling. Right here right now.
And then I check myself.
I just spent five minutes feeling extraordinarily sorry for myself. But for what? Why? In all truth, it actually looks like I’ll be finishing between 6hr 30min and 7hrs, when originally I’d guessed I’d come in at 7hr to 7hr 30mins. So I’m actually doing pretty good. I also guess I’m somewhere exactly in the middle of the pack. How dare I call myself inadequate.
I tell myself I’m strong. That I’m amazing. That I’m a strong, amazing woman who’s a hundred miler. And just as I did in my hundred miler, I tell myself a million times over to just keep moving forward. So, with renewed determination, I do. I just keep moving forward.
After the climbing part, I’m able to pick up the pace for the flatish bit, just as I did in the first loop. But not as much or as quickly as the first loop. A guy and gal pass me, and so I decide to try to hang on to them. It works – whether they figured it out or not (I think they did), they pace me through to the aid station. Enroute I pass one of the guys from Vancouver, clearly struggling. I call out to him as I pass, but still a bit lost in my own struggletown and desperate to stay with my pacers, I carry on. He’ll end up finishing mere minutes behind me.
As I come through the last aid station, I’m feeling just wrecked. I slowly jog along the road. Which goes on forever. A girl passes me. Another pulls up beside me. We chat a bit… And eventually drift apart as our strengths on hills put distance between us. And then finally, there are the markings signalling me to jump back into the trails.
The trails to the finish line go on WAY longer than I think they will last. I turn a corner and there is nothing. I hear cheering, but realize I must have imagined it. There is no finish line to be seen. A few runners pass me. I am fading really badly. And then I hear cheering again, really loud – it’s a cheering squad, which is amazing, but I really want to see the finish line! A few more runners pass me. And FINALLY, finally, there is the finish line.
And so I run into the finish area. I don’t actually see a finish line. There are no medals. No finish line memorabilia being handed out. I don’t see anyone I recognize. Someone, who must be the race director, hugs me and tells me I did awesome (I mean, he must be the race director – what other stranger would do that?) – which is so nice. My finish time is 6:34:42 – pretty darn good all things considered, but in the moment I’m emotionless.
I walk towards the tent… I see a lineup for pizza in front of me to my right, but I veer to the left and into the tent. I go to grab my drop bag, but I don’t see it where I left it. I’m exhausted and can’t think straight. One of the girls from Vancouver, Pargol, finds me and is the sweetest – she sits me down in front of the heater and finds my bag for me. I’m still feeling lost though.
And then hubby is beside me. He saw me finish from a distance and followed me into the tent. I’m really happy to see him. Pargol hands me a slice of pizza. It is the best vegan pizza I’ve ever had in my life. Pargol is like my finish line angel. I’m finally beginning to feel human again, and wander up the length of the tent where they have food set up. I take what I’m told is the very last slice of pecan pie. It’s the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten in my entire life. Seriously, it’s amazing how GOOD food tastes after a long run. But I’m cold and really want to just sit down – so hubby takes me back to our hotel.
A days later I finally realize why I was able to successfully run Seattle for fun yet my ‘for fun’ attempt at Deception Pass wasn’t so successful.
I really believe that it honestly made all the difference in the world I had hubby with me the whole way in Seattle – for whatever reason, my pace didn’t matter and my struggle didn’t negatively affect me when I had a partner with me the whole way. But on my own, these two factors nearly took me down in Deception Pass. I thought I’d be totally okay with going it alone out there – but I guess when I realized I couldn’t keep up with my friends, that it was just too much for me.
I’m uber competitive at heart. I always will be. And after initial new distance PB’s have been conquered I’m right back to wanting to be faster. So I learned an important lesson out there in Deception Pass. Never go into a RACE like that untrained – unless I’m doing with someone else and we’ve agreed we’re going to stick together and just enjoy the journey. Clearly when I’m on my own, my competitive side kicks in.
Despite all, I’m still happy I did it. It was one of the most scenic races I’ve ever run. I learned a valuable lesson. And I swear I’ll be back one day – properly trained, to properly conquer that course.
Run happy… Run faster…