February 3, 2007
The 2nd annual Pigtails Run was a great success! Last year, 26 runners showed up for the last minute substitute when Lord Hill needed to cancel due to a windstorm. As Lord Hill did not happen this year again, a void appeared in the early February race calendar for many. But running in the winter rather than hibernating seems to be the case for Washingtonians (and one from BC), as 101 people ran Saturday morning!
When I first posted the race info at the beginning of the year (still recovering from my RD duties at the Cedar River Run and my 53 marathon/ultras in a year), I was guessing that there would be 40 runners, maybe 50 tops. And it appeared that way early on as people here and there registered. But in the 2 weeks before race day, many more e-mails arrived. The two days before the race, 20 people registered. My neck started to tense up a lot. That coupled with not sleeping well, sitting in a conference room for 5 days, and worrying what I should do about a bathroom made me feel for the many race directors out there who certainly have put on much more logistically difficult races.
The weather forecast seemed to keep changing. But by Friday, they were forecasting rain later in the day. They were actually right! I went to bed at 10pm Friday night, trying to get everything ready and worrying that I had forgotten something. Ken, my husband, had loaded up our Explorer with most of the supplies, shelter, chairs, tables, propane heater, etc. during the day. I woke up Saturday at 4:30 after another restless night and met Tony Covarrubias at the trailhead at 5:20. We ran one loop before the race to mark the trail and to allow me to be done before all the 3 loops or 50K runners. I’d have to run 2 loops before the start to see the 2 loopers finish. When we got back, people were starting to show up and Ken had most of the stuff set up. I put on some warm clothes, but the wetness of my running clothes underneath kept me cold. Tony sat in his car freezing, waiting to get started again. The night before, I had a total of 99 pre-registered runners. Twelve did not show, but 13 more registered on race day. We even counted a guy who was just finishing his run of two loops, Pat Bates, and included him in the mix to make it 101 total.
The start time was rapidly approaching as I tried to get everyone checked in. The Honey Bucket had a long line. Although it was cold, we were very lucky with the weather. I stood up on a chair to be heard and seen better, but when I try to yell, my voice sounds even squeakier. Plus I had to yell over the barking dogs. A ten-second countdown sent an insane number of people down the narrow trail. I wish I had been there to see everyone trying to make it down that first steep hill. Unfortunately, I heard that Tim Englund rolled his ankle 5 minutes into the race and stepped off to the side to grab it in agony. He continued and finished one loop. Tim’s a tough runner, having finished the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning by completing four 100 milers in the summer of 2006, including the very hot Western States. (Note to self: have ice or a frozen bag of peas in case someone injures his or herself.)
My running did not go so well. I didn’t have any major problems. I just didn’t have the energy that I usually do. I kept thinking to myself, “This is it! This is what it really feels like to be totally burned out. No one to blame but myself for all that racing last year.” (Actually, I did an 18-mile recovery run with Mary Hanna on Monday and felt great again.) I think all the organizing sapped my energy in the last week before the race. I ran hard Tuesday and Wednesday but thought that taking Thursday and Friday off would help. The first loop was run in the dark with Tony and was good because the darkness allowed us to keep a slower pace. We finished in 1:27, despite slowing down to mark the trail. The second loop did not go so well since I forgot to eat while checking everyone in. My legs felt heavy and my stomach was empty. I tried to replenish my calories, but it took a while for it to kick in. I had problems with the shoe tongue digging into my ankle, which caused severe pain. I adjusted this by loosening the laces, but that allowed my foot to shift too much and really fatigued the tendons in my feet. Somehow, that loop still was about 1:27. The last loop was about 1:29. I had marked the 50K turn around in my 3rd loop and was looking forward to finishing that last 2.2 miles. But that seemed to drag on forever as well. Many people jokingly said that it was cruel of me to have that big hill right at the end. I figured it would make an exciting final stretch. Finally, I finished and was able to do what I had been looking forward to all morning-seeing everyone else finish.
It wasn’t long before the first guys ran in and headed out for the last out and back. Brandon Sybrowsky showed up first but was almost immediately followed by Alex Swenson. Everyone’s heard of Brandon and his history of top finishes. Less people know about Alex, who won the 2006 National 24-hour Championship with 146.4 miles against a highly competitive field. Alex did catch Brandon and finished with a margin of 43 seconds. Alex went home with some bacon for the overall and first masters win and Brandon went home with sausage as first open male finisher. On the women’s side, Jen Yogi arrived first for the out and back, but had planned on stopping and still getting her credit for an ultra with 28.8 miles. But when we told her that she was the first girl and could win sausages, bacon, or eggs, she was almost disappointed to be in the lead. I know how she feels. Sometimes, I wished that there were a girl far ahead of me to take the pressure off of winning and allow me to have a relaxing final few miles. She went on to win the 50K and had chosen eggs as her prize but was persuaded by her dad Guy Yogi to go for the bacon. Less than 5 minutes behind, Merita took 2nd female overall and first masters for the prize of eggs. All the meat and egg are raised right here in Maple Valley on our mini-farm.
A few runners opted for the three loop option even though they were haggled by fellow runners. But they were in good company as 9 decided to take this chance to stop, change, get warm, and have some hot soup. Rich Nelly had a speedy 2 loop win, finishing in 2:16:39, 6 minutes ahead of the next runner. Annie showed us that she’s still got it with a time of 2:32, an average pace of 1:16 per loop, which I know is bookin’ it. Finally, we had fast finishes for the 1 loop race. Matt Morrison was unchallenged with a time of 1:04:09! The second place finisher was Amy Grable, who won the women’s race in 1:14:36, only 19 seconds ahead of Karen Leahy and Molly Kline. You go girls! Women took places 2-4 in the 1 loop race on this tough course.
There were so many other memorable stories out there. Mel Preedy at the age of 73 finished my 50K in December at the Cedar River Run and again here at Lake Youngs. He thought that running ultras was over for him, but I think he’s making a comeback! There were several first time ultras, including Melissa Martin, Jenny Appel, Michelle Barnes, May Cheng, and Ruben Contreras. Jon Yoon qualified for the Bronze level of the Maniacs with three ultras! Lynn Yarnall had the best smile at the finish. Lynn, as many of you may know, was frequently a top finisher at many ultras when she was at her peak. Now slowed by arthritis in her feet, she still comes out and endures the pain for the glow that she feels after finishing. Max Welker told me that he has not run this long in the last 2 years. I had brought eggs in case the winners did not eat meat and thus had six prizes to hand out. I had brought extra prizes not knowing which item the winners would want. What were left were a dozen eggs and sausage links. I decided to award them to the last female and male. Max walked away with the sausage and Michelle Barnes got the eggs. Although Melissa Martin finished with Michelle, I only had one dozen left and had told Eric that Michelle could have them. Luckily, Gilles Barbeau of BC had brought some stuff that he got at other races that he didn’t need. I had already given out a Nathan water bottle, Hammer Gel, and a gel flask. Melissa received the last booty-a lightweight beanie.
Thank you everyone for contributing the soup. It really hit the spot! Plus, I now have three full boxes to donate to the food bank. Also the extra goodies were very popular and went fast if you didn’t pay attention. Thanks also for your donations. It will help cover the cost of the supplies, which continued to mount as the number of runners went up.
Thank you Cliff Richards of Maple Valley Physical Therapy for the Honey Bucket. Many found it a lifesaver and just knowing it was available eased everyone’s minds.
Thank you Eric Sach of The Balanced Athlete for providing the shelter among other things. It allowed runners to have a place to sit and eat their soup without worrying about getting wet. Plus it meant that people hung around longer rather than getting in their cars and driving home. This provided a large cheering section for many of the finishers.
Last but most important, I’d like to thank my husband for putting up with my crazy running addiction. Without him I would not be able to run my own races. He does it without any complaints and enjoys being around quality people.
Happy trails and see you next year!