Sunday, March 23, 2014

Terrapin Mountain 50k 2014

Horton shares his wisdom to his engrossed followers
This being my third Terrapin Mountain combined with the fact that I actually brought a camera along for the ride, I decided to do a race report for the first time!  I really did intend to do one for Holiday Lake (because that was…epic) but I never got around to it.  So I’ll just make my favorite race my debut at race reporting.
If anyone asks me, Terrapin Mountain is my favorite race.  Period.  Hands down.  No questions about it.  Personally, I feel it’s the perfect mix of challenge, variability, and views.  Additionally, my first Promise Land was the year with the sleet (y’all remember that?) so it left a bad taste in my mouth.  Plus…coffee mug.  C’mon.  How awesome is that?  So needless to say, I’ve been looking forward to Terrapin for some time now. 
Did I mention the coffee mug???

Our home for the weekend, oh memories
I knew the race was going to be great when my cross country travel fared so much better than for Holiday Lake.  Last month, I had booked my flight from Seattle to Richmond on apparently the day of horrid weather which had set that race up for its “unique” conditions (snow, mud, cold, etc).  All told I had spent about a day and a half traveling, requiring an airplane, bus, and Amtrak.  This time I ran into no issues aside from scheduling my flight out of Seattle rather close to the end of my work shift.  So, good omens for the coming weekend!
Oh how I heart my REI tent

Eventually Emily took off into flight

The mere beginnings of camp Richmond 

Camp Richmond has come together!
This year we decided to camp out before the race, given our excellent experience at Promise Land last year and the seemingly wonderful forecast.  And indeed, our plans went of spectacularly.  The always wonderful Martha Wright gave us a ride to the race where she would be camping in her van and we would be in my new tent.  Arriving at the campsite we were greeted by beautiful weather with very little wind, setting up the tent was a breeze.  The rest of the evening consisted of chatting, pizza, and very little sleep in preparation of the race.
We found the Coopers! Sean would eventually become our on and off companion for the journey.

Hanging out around the "campfire".
Ceremoniously awoken at some uncivilized hour by who I can only assume was Dr. Horton marked the start of the day.  The previous day had a recurrent discussion of what we would be wearing and bringing.  I always prefer to go as light as possible so long as I’m not absolutely freezing; this years excellent weather seemed perfect for my preference.  All in all my equipment list consisted of: last years Terrapin Finisher’s singlet, Mountain Hardwear shorts, Wright socks, Altra Superior 1.5 shoes, and my trusty Ultraspire Hand Carrier (the best hydration equipment, hands down).  After choosing all our gear and having a stop or two at the port-a-john (got to be as light as possible) we assembled at our normal starting position at the back of the pack.  Our running friends included Sean and Helen Cooper from Roanoke, the Richmond Camp (Mark, Martha, Brian, Annie, Nigel, Chris, Hurley, Tim, and a number of other people I can’t remember off the top of my head), and Emily, the greatest running partner anyone could hope for.
Pre-race rituals...
The grand gathering begins...

Tim, Nigel, and maybe Hurley?

At our normal spot near the back

If there's any question about the excitement of ultra running, just look here for proof

Just more milling about...
The race starts in the wee hours of the morning, with the sun just beginning to make its appearance.  Dark enough that you know you’re starting in the morning but no need for headlamps for slow pokes like us.  As the race begins, we settle into an easy trot for the first few minutes on the moderately flat road.  This is one of the best times of these races, when everyone is still full of energy, excited for the prospect of the day, and catching up with race friends.  Terrapin more than any other races cements in my mind that trail running is really just a fun hike in the woods with a couple hundred of future friends.
And a bit more...
As the easy road gradually starts to become more rough, as does it begin oscillating between flat and uphill.  Eventually we hit some trails, running the flats and climbing the hills.  At this point everyone is still packed in tight that we are more or less at each other’s pace, a fact that I have no qualms about given that there are still several hours of running ahead of us.  Aside from the fact that it’s a nice climb and prelude to the day, there isn’t much more to say about this section.  Straightforward, not too stressful, and a good way to warm up for the race ahead.

Old lady back...

Ahhhh, the Horton makes his appearance 

Summiting this little climbing section leads to the main aid station, Camping Gap, which we would come to a total of three times if I’m counting correctly.  There is a lot to love about the Horton/Zealand races, but without a doubt one of the best are the volunteers.  They are amazing for being out at nice weather races like this year’s Terrapin, but their commitment was probably the only reason I was able to finish Hellgate in December (Annie at mile 42!).  So, restocked and snacked up by the volunteers, we are prepared to go downhill.
Thanks volunteers!

We found Sean Cooper...

And Mark! Martha is probably somewhere ahead or behind us.

Yay hills!

More hills!

Hey there Aid Station!
For me, the defining feature of Terrapin is the variety of terrain we cover.  After doing several miles of uphill road/trails, we are rewarded by straight downhill roads.  Its fun for a bit, then slightly tedious as we are yearning for trails again, then you realize that those minimalist shoes you love so much aren’t protecting jack.  But its ok, because on either side of the road are lovely views to look at (streams, cute houses, people camping, some guy in the woods doing his business, whatever…).  At the bottom of this hill is the sweet relief of an aid station (with great volunteers!) and a gentle stroll uphill.  We met up with Sean Cooper for a while here and talked as we did our walking up the hill.  Interspersed here and there are meetings with Martha who inexplicably passed us about fifteen times then was suddenly behind us twenty minutes later.  Really, the only hope for us to finish anywhere near her is for her to have an off day.
So, after some uphill climbing and some excellent singletrack we meet up with Guzzi and begin the climb back up to Camping Gap.  Although this section isn’t hard, it can be kind of dull without proper entertainment.  For instance, Guzzi taking pictures of Martha’s skirt, then him taking pictures of both of their shorts to promote Lululemon, or at least that was his excuse.  Expect to see a plethora of Mark’s legs on his facebook page.  At some point this long climb ends and we’re greeted by Camping Gap yet again.
Starting in on the loop

As expected, its gotten a bit warm

Action shot!

Action! Speed! Fury!
Pulling into Camping Gap, there’s a sense of relief simply because that part is done, no more straight downhill and no more climb back up.  Not that it was overly difficult, but there’s an “are we there yet?” feel to it.  Next up is the keyhole loop or lollipop whatever you want to call it.  Basically a straight out and back with a relatively nice uphill loop at the middle.  After walking uphill for the past few miles, its nice to get back into relative flat ground, but sadly this makes way for rolling uphill until the loop section (just means that on the way back it’s an easy downhill slope).  The loop consists of grassed ground with a few uphill slants, but is otherwise quite runable.  Emily was feeling a lack of hydration/food at that point, so we just made it our point to finish this off and return to Camping Gap.  Of course, setting a goal like that makes the current section stretch on for a while prior to the return.
Finishing off the Keyhole loop and back to the Aid Station
At our last stop at the aid station we made sure to load up on fluids and snacks for the climb ahead, as I can’t imagine being able to simply run up it.  I’m sure there are plenty of guys at the front of the pack with no problem, but its just not in the card for us.  We had met up with Sean Cooper at some point on the way back from the previous section but Martha and Mark had sped off some time earlier.  So our new three person team made the uphill scramble that leads to a summit and fantastic view.  Running in the mountains of Seattle for the past few months made the climb a bit easier, but regardless the view at the top is worth every moment.  We even went so far as to get a three person selfie.  Crazy people we are!

Coming off of the summit leads to the most unique part of this race, Fat Man’s Misery!  I’ve done it for the past couple years and have no problem with tight places or drops, but Emily is not so much a fan.  Luckily, having gotten over it at last years race and a hike up Old Rag had dulled her concerns and she powered right on through it.  With the Fat Man out of the way, the rest of the race is pretty much downhill through (precarious) rock gardens.  Due to the loose stones and gravel the going was a bit tough and painful on the feet, but we’re rewarded by a simple rolling downhill jog to the road, the one mile to go marker, and the finish!

Someone broke the hole punch!!!!
I have no clue what our final time was and I rarely do as long as I finish under the limit.  Honsetly, on a beautiful day like this, with such a great course, and getting to spend seven plus hours with Emily and company, I’d gladly stretch it out to a minute under the cut.  With the race behind us, we stopped off at the food table, were chastised for being vegetarian and not wanting BBQ, and headed back to the tent to change.

She's so happy!!!

Still being a great day, the tent came down in moments and was packed away in preparation of Promise Land for next month.  We once again all piled into Martha’s van for the journey back to Richmond.  The next morning I boarded my flight back to Seattle with growing excitement for Promise Land and all its festivities.
A very tired post run Emily

The one picture of me all day

Bye Camp Richmond!!!

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