Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Race Recap: Beat the Blerch half marathon

For my first half marathon, I decided to sign up for a race I had heard a lot about. It's called Beat the Blerch, and it's based on this awesome comic about running by The Oatmeal.

Back of the shirt we got

It ended up being the best, most fun race I've ever done. Everything about it was hilarious and awesome. There were people dressed in Blerch costumes. The aid stations had couches and cake. I got more food at this race than any other race I've done.

Sign before the aid stations

This race was also fitting for my first half marathon, because I was in no way prepared to run one! I was supposed to start my training plan in July, but instead spent the next two months hiking instead of running since I had just moved back to Washington. I'd also never run more than 8 miles in my life. My only goal was to successfully complete the race. I had originally decided that I wasn't going to have a time goal, but I looked up the average half marathon time for women, which was around 2 hours 20 minutes, and figured I should at least get under that. And I did - I finished with a time of 2:16:27.

Let there be agony: the IT band issues I had earlier this year flared up around mile 5. I wasn't expecting that, but given I had spent the last two months hiking instead of running and not stretching as much as I should, I wasn't suprised. I ran the last 8 miles with knee and hip pain on the left. The last 3 miles were more of a limp-run than a real run. The "Blerch" part of me said this wasn't going to go well, I'd have to walk, and I wouldn't meet my time goal. The determined part of me said that I'd run an entire 10k with IT band pain right from the start before, so I COULD do this. I never walked, and I met my time goal. Take that, Blerch!

Let there be cake: I ate a piece of cake mid race, because I could. It was awesome and delicious. Best aid station food ever! And then I had 2 more pieces of cake after the race.

The race was well organized. The marathon, half marathon, and 10k all started at different times. Packet pick up was easy and there was plenty to do while waiting for the race to start. The Oatmeal was signing books, there was a contest for who could eat a donut off a string without using their hands the fastest, and there were other booths set up with running gear. After the race, there was a spot to take a photo with a giant jar of Nutella.

Start and finish

The course was pretty and was easy to run on for the most part. It was in Carnation, Washington and started in a park surrounded by farmland. There were a few places where the gravel was a bit rough, but the course was mostly flat with a wide path.

Race photos were free, and we got a good amount of stuff in the race packet. Gummy snacks, a tshirt, a deck of Blerch themed cards, and Blerch stickers. I enjoyed the race so much that I signed up for next year as soon as registration opened the following week.

Race bib and stickers

Finisher's medal

Monday, December 26, 2016

Race Recap: 2016 races (August-December)

I did a great job keeping up with my blog during the first half of the year, but after I moved back to Washington I got too busy either hiking or running almost every day, and I didn't have time to write about my hikes or races. I'm too far behind to write about everything individually, so I'm going to do a recap of my races in the latter half of 2016.

Most of my progress was made in the first half of 2016. I reached the goal times I had set for myself by June, but after that I took a few steps backward in progress. I spent most of July and August hiking instead of running. From September through December, I was stressed out most of the time due to work and a frustrating living situation, and I either didn't have time to run or had other circumstances get in the way. I spent a lot of my time trying to find a new job and a new living situation, and it paid off as I now have a new job and am moving back to downtown Seattle (and most importantly back to my running trail!)

August races 

Cougar Mountain Trail Run Series - 5k
This was a trail race on Cougar Mountain with 5k, 14 mile, and half marathon options. The 5k course was mostly flat so it was easier than other trail races I've done. I got a 31:38, which isn't too bad for trail racing and for not running much lately. I later found out I placed 1st in my female age group. I also got negative splits at this race (11:09, 10:49, 9:14).

5k course

5k results

National Park Service 100th Birthday Virtual 5k
This was a virtual race in honor of the National Park Service's 100th birthday. A portion of the registration fee went to the National Park Foundation, and there was the opportunity to donate extra as well (I did - I love our parks system!) This was my first virtual race and I discovered they're fairly tough - it's hard to run fast without all the excitement of being in a race and having hundreds of other runners around you. It was hot and a bit humid the day I ran, so my time wasn't the best (30:26). I picked a great location though - scenic Gold Creek Pond.

Gold Creek Pond

Participation medal. It's a ranger hat!

Customized running bib

September races 

Beat the Blerch Half Marathon
Since this was my first half marathon, I'm taking the time to write about it in its own post. My time was 2:16:26. I hadn't trained for it at all and I had IT band issues for the last 8 miles, so I was pleased with my time! It's also the most fun race I've ever been in!

Savage Race
I traveled to Georgia to do this race with a good friend. It was my first obstacle course race and I wasn't excited about it, but it ended up being a lot of fun! It was about 6 miles of running and 26 obstacles. We successfully completed 22 of 26 obstacles and I finished with a time of 1:58:55. I placed 16th in my age group, and my friend placed a bit higher and finished a few minutes ahead of me. We made a great team throughout the race!

October races 

Kennesaw Challenge
This actually isn't a race - it's a challenge I made up for myself. I ran 7 miles on the Noonday Creek Trail in Kennesaw, Georgia, from the start of the trail to the end at Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park. Then, I hiked over Kennesaw Mountain and Little Kennesaw and back (6 miles), for a total of 13 miles of running/hiking.

Noonday Creek Trail to Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park

Hike over Kennesaw Mtn. and Little Kennesaw Mtn. and back

Run with the Kokanee 10k trail race
This race supported local Kokanee salmon recovery work. It took place at Lake Sammamish State Park and was half sidewalk half trail. We were supposed to get a big storm that day, but luckily it hadn't arrived yet. It was cold, wet, and muddy with a couple downed branches that we had to go around or jump over. The last half mile was difficult because I had picked up the pace a lot, thinking the finish was near, but the race ended up being slightly longer than a 10k at 6.4 miles instead of 6.2. I believe it was my slowest 10k time yet at 1:03:13.

Magnuson Series volunteering
I didn't race this time at my favorite local race series - I volunteered! I appreciate that the Magnuson Series exists and I was always grateful for all of the volunteers, so I wanted to volunteer myself. There is even more work that goes into it that I thought! I helped register day of participants, set up a water/snack table, set up decorations, run one of the obstacles in their obstacle course race, and then helped pick up cones and obstacle materials after the race was over. It was a fun experience and I recommend that anyone who races volunteer at a race at some point!

Runners lined up at the start line

November races 

Magnuson Series Turkey Trot 10k
Thanksgiving day race. The weather was cold and it rained the entire time, so I regretted not signing up for the 5k, but I had chosen the 10k in order to try to burn off some of my Thanksgiving dinner ahead of time! This ended up also being one of my slower 10k times because my IT band acted up 4.5 miles in. I had to stop to try to stretch it a few times, and I ended up doing the limp-run I've done in previous races when I was having IT band issues. My time was 1:03:10.

After the race - completely soaked!

December races 

Beat the Blerch Holiday Fun Run
This was another race put on by The Oatmeal. It was completely a fun run - everyone dressed up in Christmas outfits and wore lights. The race was untimed and was around Green Lake, which isn't quite 3.14 miles (my GPS watch logged 2.82 miles). My friend and I finished it in 27:38 with a pace of 9:48. The first mile was rough because there were so many people. We went from a 10:55 pace to a 9:03 pace once we broke out from the crowd. Even though it wasn't an official race, it was nice to run that quickly again - I don't think I've reached that pace since July. We got awesome pizza blankets at the end of the race.

Smokies Strong Virtual 5k
This was a virtual 5k for the purpose of raising money for those affected by the fires in the Smoky Mountains. I love the Smokies and had spent a weekend in June hiking there, so I was upset about the fires. I found out that the cabin my family stayed in one Christmas burned to the ground. :( The race proceeds were donated to funds for the Smokies, and we had the option to donate extra to any of the four fundraising organizations for the Smokies. I donated extra to two of the organizations. It was later announced that they had raised at least $11,000 for the Smokies. I went and ran my virtual race on the Lake Sammamish Trail. This race went better than my last virtual race in August (28:34 vs. 30:26).

Lake Sammamish

Monday, August 15, 2016

Trail Report: Melakwa Lake

Round trip distance: 8.5 miles
Highest point: 4,600 feet
Elevation gain: 2,500 feet
Pass: Northwest Forest Pass

WTA page: http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/melakwa-lake

I had never heard of Melakwa Lake until the week that I hiked to it. I was looking for nearby hikes to do that weren't too long, and I discovered this one on the WTA site.

This hike was a lot of fun, had a variety of scenery, and had a TON of wildflowers. I joked that the alternate name for this hike should be "The Flower Tour". It was also on this hike that I realized how awesome it was to be walking completely alone in a valley, surrounded by mountains on either side. As I was doing this, I knew that this was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life, and that I feel happiest when I'm out in the wilderness alone. Some people may not like walking in a remote area where they're the only one around, but I love it.

I did encounter a few other hikers along the way, but the hike definitely was not crowded. I hiked to the lake after work, so I'm not sure how different it is on the weekend. The trail head is off exit 47 and shares with the Denny Creek hike. For the first mile, the trail is the same for both hikes. After crossing Denny Creek, the rest of the trail leads to Melakwa Lake.

Waterfall seen from the trail

About half a mile into the hike, I passed under I-90. Although this is man-made and not something that most people would appreciate having in nature, I thought it was cool because the section I was walking under is my favorite section of I-90 to drive on. The road is very high above the ground and winds its way through the surrounding mountains.

I-90 from below

After crossing Denny Creek, I hiked though a bit more forest and then came to a stream and the beginning of a valley. The majority of the rest of the hike passed through this valley, going across talus fields and between brush filled with wildflowers. The talus fields were fun, and I enjoyed seeing all of the different wildflowers on display. This hike has more varieties of wildflowers than any other hike I've been on.

This was my favorite flower!

Second favorite - these were so vibrant in person.

Once I reached the end of the valley, the trail climbed through some forest and crested over a ridge. I figured the lake would be showing up soon. Eventually I rounded a corner and there it was! It was big enough that I couldn't get the whole thing in one picture (if I was at a higher vantage point it would be possible). To get over to the open part of the shore, I had to cross a log jam.

There were plenty of places to camp, and I saw a tent on the other side of the lake. Maybe one day I will return and camp overnight at the lake!

I would say this hike was moderate in terms of difficulty. There were some steeper inclines at times, but it was mostly the length that wore me out. I would definitely do this one again, as the journey was just as much fun and as pretty as the destination!