Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Trail Run!

Port Gamble Trail - 4,000 acres with trails!  Four Thousand Acres!  Are you kidding me? 

I've discovered trails this past year as I trained for my first ultramarathon, the Mt. Si 50 mile back in April.  Ever since I bonked at mile 9 at the 2006 Boston Marathon due to complete lack of road mileage (17 miles total, with everything else on the treadmill-a story in itself), I've made it a habit to train most of the time on the surface I will race.

After the 10 mile race on Saturday, Tony, Main Maniac #3, asked if I was running the Roots Rock Run the next day.  It was a 50k and after a lot of thought (2 seconds), I told him I'd check out the website and might see him the next day if it wasn't too late to register.  I need a long run anyway.

I found the website and saw I could still register and/or show up day of race.  All of my race gear sat by the front door as I went to bed.  During the night, I woke up a number of times with an achy back and my shins hurt as I walked to the bathroom.  I realized that my super-awesome-lightweight-speedy-red-racing-shoes didn't provide any cushion and my shins were protesting. 

Sunday morning arrived and I made the long-thought-out decision (1 second) to stay in bed and call it a rest day.  It would have been "fun" - this term is relative to runners - to be on the trail for 31 miles and not on the road for my long run.  Despite the allure of mud, roots, rocks, and the promise of a barbeque after running hours through trails, I knew it would be prudent of me to take it easy today.  I hope being "prudent" doesn't disqualify me from my Maniac status.

Sunday and Monday rolled around with me running 4 and 6 miles consecutively.  Jeff had Tuesday off work and he, being the amazing husband that he is, agreed to ride his bike on the trails while I ran.  Our plan:  leave by 8:00 am and be back in our car by 12:30 pm.  My daughter had a physical therapy appointment at 2:00 and that would give me just enough time to get home and leave again.

What's that about the best laid plans???  My husband's car went into complete meltdown the night before the run and since he needs a sticker on his car to get into the military base where he works, we needed to stop at the security building to obtain one for my vehicle so he can take that to work.  

Passing the Hood Canal Bridge, Jeff and I realized that neither one of us had EVER been beyond that point.  We both have lived in this county our entire lives and have never had any reason to go to Port Gamble; not even for Logging Days!  Actually we were quite surprised at how beautiful the little town was as we drove through the main road, past immaculately maintained lawns, picture-perfect old charm homes, a water tower, picnic area, all nestled against the shores of Hood Canal.  Photo slideshow of Port Gamble

We find Gate 2, one of several entrances to the trails.  It's 9:30 and that gives me about 3 hours to run around in the forest.  My goal had been 20 miles but having run trails this past year, I chuck it and go for time, hoping I can get in 14 since I don't know the terrain.  With Jeff on his bike, loaded down with my camel pack (hooray!), we take off down the trail, map at the ready.  We're slowly cruising along a wide dirt/gravel road.  I've gotten out of breath and realize Jeff's tires are slipping on loose gravel.  We manage to get to the top of the trail and it feels like at least 3 miles but the odometer reads 1.5.  Oh my.

Continuing on this path, we stop when we have to make a decision on which way to turn.  There have been numerous single track paths but we're trying to stay on the wide road with the bike.  Map in hand, we choose to head towards a "lake".  I'm leading the way, head down a hill and start slipping in mud.  I've nearly mastered the art of "almost falling but not quite".  Jeff has maneuvered through the mud nearly skidding out but saves himself.

We stop at a point where we should be able to see a lake, but it's either dried up or is beyond the treeline.  We have encounted a really nice beanie hat with braids and water bottle holder, presumably from Saturday's race.  Inwardly I've been envisioning Orc's running wild through the forest, devouring innocent horses and their riders.  Now I wonder if they like the taste of runners, too.  Really, Orcs don't discriminate against fresh meat.

We head up towards the start of Sunday's race and get a little turned around.  Soon we've chosen a wet grassy trail that dead ends.  Turning around, we think we've found a connector but this is also a dead end.  Finally we arrive at the right trailhead and turn, stopping partway down so I can wring out my socks and put on some Aquaphor so I don't get blisters.  Putting back on my water-laden shoes, we head down a sweet downhill and the terrain is much nicer for Jeff's wheels.  We've been seeing arrows and flour markings throughout the trails, evidence of races past.

Down, down, down and we arrive at Gate1, not Gate 6, the start of Sunday's race.  Down, down, down means we have to go up, up, up!  Gathering up my courage, Jeff and I put our heads down and agree to meet at the next left, which is about 1.5 miles UP the trail.  It's a coin toss on who will arrive first.

Panting, I see Jeff stopped up ahead, ready to give me water.  I have to keep moving because I can't drink while trying to inhale oxygen.  Sweat is dripping off his nose and he's probably wondering why he's not home watching the Psych marathon with our daughters.

This next part of the trail goes down.  And down.  And down.  And then, up.  And up.  And level.  Anyway we FINALLY arrive back at the same trail we began our journey.  We have 30-34 minutes exactly to get the car and leave.  Heading back out the same way we started, we go through little patches of Mordor which I hadn't noticed before.  I've been hearing rustling throughout the run, and nearly jumped out of my skin when a black belt squirrel loudly warned me to get off his front porch.   I've seen piles of horse and bear droppings, and one especially large deposit that must have been from somebody's pet elephant.

We see a pile of bear poop with the most scary, pointy claw imprint and realize it's OVER Jeff's tire mark from our first time around.  Run fast.  Look left, look right.  Please don't eat us, Mr./Mrs. Bear.  We're really lean and not tender at all.  Why did I have to eat popcorn last night?  I look so much puffier today!

After 15-20 minutes going up, we agree to head back the same way instead of trying to make a loop since we didn't know how long it would take us to get around.  I'm pleased not to see a bear whenever we round another corner.  We pass "Derailer Trail" and wonder how it got its name.

All said and done, we were out there for 3 hours 10 minutes and covered 16 miles.  It's all good.  That time included many stops, uphills and general slogging without trying to run fast - except when we thought there were Orcs or bears chasing us.

I'd recommend this trail system to anyone in the area.  I would definitely print a map that you can find on the link above and run with a friend.

Seattle Times article about Port Gamble