Because Seattle has such a huge outdoors community, there are lots of opportunities for small races and intimate groups doing amazing and fun things. Last night, Melissa and I participated in one such event, hosted by Northwest Trail Runs. It’s part of their Tuesday Night Trail to Grill series. It was a 5k and 10k held in Carkeek Park, which is a woodland park in northwest Seattle.
The course was nice, a 5k loop that those of us running the 10k did twice. About three quarters of a mile of flat, followed by a steep up and down, on an easy packed-sand/gravel surface. And then a rise through some slightly more technical dirt single track for another mile and a half, including several sets of wooden stairs both up and down for additional challenge.
It totaled about 800′ of gain. My goal going in was to beat 15 min/mi, which is the pace I’ll have to keep up for the 50k if I expect to finish prior to the cutoff. On roads, 15 min/mi isn’t a challenge, even if there is some pretty steep terrain. But trails are an entirely different world. They require agility, balance, and have much more complex footwork. They are often steeper both up and down than even the steepest paved surfaces.
As is our usual practice for shorter races, Melissa and I didn’t try to stay together. There were about 100 people running, it felt like, and on a short course and a lot of single track, staying together would have been more effort than the support that company provides. We’ll stick together on the ultra, no question. But for this, we ran separately, by mutual agreement prior to the race.
The course was well marked and easy to follow. I am afraid of losing my way on trail races. I was glad to see that the course was super easy to follow. NW Trail Runs (twitter here!) is a co-sponsor (along with the Seattle Running Club) of the Cougar Mountain 50k ultramarathon we’re training for, and so I’m quite relieved that they seem to put the effort in to mark the trail carefully.
I pushed out hard and spent most of the race near my redline. I wanted to work really hard and see where my fitness was for a 10k trail race with a decent amount of gain. This really was sort of 1/5th of what our ultra will be. So there’s no question I won’t be able to maintain the effort I put out for such a shorter distance, but this did give me an idea as to where I stand.
I’m really pleased. I finished in 1:02:00. That’s exactly 10 min/mi. And my hip and foot were both bugging me, though my knee felt great. Melissa had a little shin trouble, but gutted through and finished in 65 minutes. This is a huge confidence booster for me. I’m worried about the cutoff times for the big race, but I am really really eager to put “ultramarathoner” on my resume. After this race, I think my desire is a little more realistic than I feared it was.