Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Capitol Peak 50 - A sweet victory!

The 2012 racing season is officially underway!  This weekend I had the pleasure of racing the Capitol Peak 50.  My legs and my mind were strong and I took first place in the women’s race with a time of 8:55. 
                        Josh, Jenny and yours truly the morning of the race!

The race is held in the Capitol Forest outside of Olympia, Washington. https://capitolpeakultras.com/Race_Info.html  Lucky for me this is my training ground and I am intimately familiar with the course – I even helped mark 16 miles of the course the weekend prior to the race!  John Pearch is a fabulous race director for the event and receives ample support from the OlyTrailRunners group that I train with regularly.  I train at the forest just about every weekend and there is one climb in particular I love running in the forest.  So much so that I’ve acquired a bit of a “reputation” on this climb that no one can actually stay with me.  I laugh at comments made by my training partners, but as you will see – this climb became the race for me last weekend.

My first main goal race for the year is the Bighorn 100 on June 15th.   This 50 was a stepping stone of sorts, I wanted to run strong and gauge my fitness for the 100 but I didn’t have any time goals per se.  The weekend approached with my attention focused elsewhere.  I hosted 5 runners at my house for race weekend so I spent the week of “rest” cleaning my house and preparing to feed hungry runners!  I wasn’t sure which would be more exciting – all the friends under one roof or the race itself!  In hindsight it was probably a blessing to have something else to focus on during the week and keep my thoughts away from the race.  It kept my mind fresh and engaged the day of the race.

The morning of the race felt like a big reunion.  I saw so many people I knew and spent so much time chatting with people that I didn’t have time to even think about the race.  I got to the starting line about 3 minutes before “go” time.  As we all headed off, I started moving up the pack as I knew we had about 400 yards before we hit the singletrack.  I settled into a rhythm pretty quickly and was well-absorbed in each moment without much thought about where we were going.  Since I train in this forest I know this course very well.  I didn’t even think about the course – I know it better than I know anything else.  Looking back, I see how much stress that removed from my mind.  I didn’t have to think about where we were going or what was coming up.  I know virtually every undulation in this course and never gave it a second thought on race day. 

The race started easily and without incident.  I was in my groove and feeling strong.  I got tripped up by a stick about 4 miles into the race and almost went down on my face.  I had my wits about me, though, and was able to catch myself.  Several guys behind me remarked that it would have been a spectacular fall.  Good thing I avoided it!  I breezed through the first aid station and saw a few people I knew – shedding my gloves as I’d gotten pretty warm.  My average speed was about 9:57 up to this point.  I was looking forward to the climb to the peak and left the aid station quickly.  The next 5 miles are almost entirely uphill.  I love going up hills and powered up the climb easily.  My pace slowed a bit but I felt strong and passed several people on the climb.  The first time through the Peak I saw several of the local trail runners who gave me great encouragement.  The course then does a 5 mile loop and comes back through this same point and I again took off quickly to tackle this section.  The loop section begins with a downhill and a rolling part, which passed quickly.  I ran into a friend I met last year at Capitol Peak and he is great company.  He proved to be a great encouragement throughout this race and I’m glad to have run into him again.  The section ends with a hellacious climb up what is affectionately known as “The Grunt”.  It is steep and about a half mile long.  The trail is riddled with large rock boulders which make the footing difficult.  I hiked this section, and for the most part that was the only time I walked during the entire race. 

At the peak for the second time, I learned I was In 2nd place.  The competitive fire had been lit.  I didn’t know how far ahead of me she was, but I set off in earnest.  At the Wedekind aid station 5 miles later (mile 24), I saw the leader as she was leaving the aid station.  I swapped hydration packs at this aid station – switching to another that was pre-filled with food and drink.  I set off on the out and back section a minute or two after the leader.  This out and back section was my low point.  My stomach wasn’t handling the gels or waffles too well and it seemed worst during this section.  I knew I needed to get more calories and originally planned to eat a sandwich here but I just couldn’t stomach it.  I began taking in more electrolyte tablets in an effort to balance my lack of food and hoped the feeling would pass quickly. 

At the turnaround point (mile 29) and Club Oly aid station I picked up my friend, Bill, who was going to run with me back to Wedekind.  This was a great distraction for those 6 miles and he did a great job encouraging me.  He definitely caught me at the worst and I wasn’t very talkative.  I saw the leader at the turnaround and I knew I wasn’t gaining on her but I wasn’t losing ground either.  At every sighting my desire to win grew stronger.  Bill kept telling me to just let it go and enjoy the race whatever the outcome.  Great advice and very positive – but it just made me realize how much I wanted the win.  I got back to Wedekind (mile 35) and knew the next section was all downhill.  I took some chews with me and hoped I could get them down before the final climb.  I gained some ground on the leader on this downhill and at this point I decided to wait to try and catch her until the last climb.  I ate my chews and rolled into the Falls Creek aid station (mile 43) feeling confident.  The FOCF volunteers told me she was just a “few minutes” ahead of me.  I knew the climb ahead and was ready to make my attack.  After all, this is “my” climb – the one I’d earned a reputation for climbing well! 

I caught the leader about half way up the 3-mile climb.  After the pass, I put my head down and ran my heart out.  I knew there was a possibility she’d catch me again but I vowed to just run as hard as I could and hope for the best.  I never looked back until I was about a half mile from the finish and I knew I had it.  I came up to the finish with a huge grin on my face and shared the finish with all my friends who were there to watch.  Even my husband was there, which was a complete surprise.  It was a glorious moment to win in front of so many people I knew. 

Last year the Capitol Peak 50 was my first ultramarathon and my second trail run.  I finished in 10:08 last year.  I’ve certainly come a long way.  Now I know these trails and I PR’d by almost 75 minutes.  My 8:55 is the 9th fastest time by a woman on that course in the history of the race.  I’m very excited about not only the year ahead but beyond!  After all, going after it is the only way to get it!  

Special thanks go out to John Pearch for putting on a top-notch race.  Also to all my peeps in the OlyTrailRunning group - especially Herb, Dave, Melissa and Dave, you really helped me along the course!  To the Club Oly runners at the C2000 aid station - Andy, Cherry and Bill... you made me smile.  To Bill for running with me when times were tough.  To Jason and Jenn at Wedekind (and for the weekend), you two rock!  And to Tasha, the woman I passed on the hill - thanks for pushing me to run faster.  


  1. Wonderful read. I almost feel like I was there - and I wish I had been. Congratulations again on your amazing accomplishment! You rock!

  2. Oh I really do think this is the happiest RR I've read in a long time! Just makes me smile