Touch the Magic: Night running the TSC

This past week was my second week of peaking for WS and it was awesome. Admittedly, after reading a few other Western Staters blogs about their 500 mile months, I feel somewhat of a slacker for only throwing down 388 miles in May. But not really, fact of the matter is a few days before WS will be the 3rd anniversary of my FIRST marathon. This past two weeks I accomplished something I have never done before, running two 100+ mile weeks in a row. I am trying to remember that eventually my body will be able to handle that kind of training load, if I so choose, that I am still very new in this sport and that 100 mile weeks are nothing to shake a stick at. Of course, not comparing is easier said than done. But I for one am proud of myself. The week was filled with excellent runs and many adventures.

Wednesday was notable for a number of reason, my life got spun on it axis and things all changed in a matter of seconds. Cryptic I know, but that's all you get. Filled with emotion and anxiety, all I could do was run and run I did. I took off on my 10.5 mile loop and completed it in 1:12 which was 10 minutes faster than I had done it previously, once again proving what I say, "what doesn't kill you, makes you faster." It was a tough emotional week, but all of the running helped.

Fun Food-Quinoa Salad
I created this salad this past week on the fly and it was absolutely delicious. There is nothing super complicated about it, but the flavor profile is slamming.

1/4 Heirloom Tomato, diced
1/2 avocado, diced
2 slices of red onion, soaked in ice water (to remove some of the bite), then chopped
1 green onion, diced
1/4 english cucumber, diced
1 lime
1/4 jalapeno, minced
1 cup cooked quinoa
2 tbsp green salsa
few cups of greens/red cabbage

Toss quinoa with lime juice and salsa, mixing to incorporate. Mix in remaining ingredients, except the greens. Place mixture over greens and enjoy!

The Real Deal: Touch the Magic, night running the TSC

When Howard sent me my training schedule and indicated I should do a 40 mile training run on Saturday, I consulted my work schedule and found that I had to work all day at the library that day. I got this hair-brained idea that instead of putting it off for a day and doing it Sunday, which wasn't really what I wanted to do, I would instead do a night run in the mountains to practice for WS and I would invite some friends along to make it more fun. I had originally planned to run from Rattlesnake to Cougar, or some such nonsense. And when I heard the snow level was still high on Rattlesnake, we decided to consider 12 peaks, but ultimately decided on creating a new route dubbed the TSC- Tiger, Squak, Cougar. I had three amazing runners all signed up and ready to go with me: Allen, Jonathan and Jove. Unfortunately, on Friday night while I was off guest cheffing for my friend Monica at her wine party, Jove decided to go check out the snow level on Rattlesnake, ended up doing some crazy run which included having to run back to his car via the shoulder of I-90, at night and thus was not able to join us. The field was narrowed to just Allen, Jonathan and I. I worked a full day at the library, spending a great deal of time on my feet, rushing about on the busy reference desk. It rained during the day and I contemplated calling the whole thing off like a sissy if it was raining. As I have said before, I can do dark, I can do cold, I can do rain: I just don't want to do them at the same time.

6pm rolled around and I was off work, and headed off to meet the boys at the High Point Rd access trail near West Tiger 3. As I was putting my bag in my car, I said to myself, oh I should have filled up my nalgene for after the run. This was the start of amateur hour for all of us. Because the fact of the matter was, I hadn't remembered to fill up my water bladder FOR the run, which I realized as I drove down I-90. I text Allen that I was going to be late and headed to the grocery. He text back, we're late too. Our 7pm start time was out the window and that was ok, after all its not like any of us had anywhere to be other than running around in the woods for the next however many hours. I got to the trailhead, got all my stuff ready and waited for them.

The pre-run pretend smile: aka "wtf was I thinking!"

Still waiting and waiting

Finally ready to go at 8pm, all smiles from the boys

The guys arrived sometime after 7:30 and proceeded to get ready. Apparently, all of us were at our most professional, as we forgot things, couldn't decide on which pack to use, couldn't locate things. It took us 30 minutes to finally get out of the gate. It was hilarious. You'd think we'd done this before! Allen had mapped out a route that would take us on a 10 mile loop on the TMT, then drop us down in Issaquah, through Issaquah up the back side of Squak, loop around on the top, down the other side to the drop bag, then around on Cougar for an 8 mile loop and then return back to Tiger via the most direct route. It should great and we set off. We made it the 1/4 mile to the trail head, stopped for the bathroom and then headed up the TMT in the waning evening light. It was a beautiful trail and everyone, despite all of us working hard all day, were in good spirits. The night does funny things inside a person and you bond closely and instantly with those you are running with. Quickly, I could tell that we were going to have a blast. Our motto emerged, "we'll laugh about this later" and rang true throughout the run. We were all very talkative up the TMT and arrived at the top just as the sun was fading. It felt like we had been running forever, but something like 3,000 feet of gain over a short period will do that to you. We stopped for a drink and some pictures and headed down the other side. We made it about 1/4 mile before we realized that headlamps were necessary. Ok, until Allen and I realized it, Jonathan was well on top of it.

Amateur hour: searching their bags for headlamps and other things, with little success a few minutes after the top.

Look a cougar, no a bear, oh wait thats a town...

We carried on down and down and down along the switchbacks, carefully consulting each trail sign to make sure we were going to head off in some ridiculous wrong direction. We finally popped out under the power lines, didn't consult the sign and proceeded in running the wrong direction under the powerlines. It didn't take us long to realize the error, turn around and head down the High School trail, down to the you guessed it, high school. At the high school track there was a 24 hr walk going on and we contemplated jumping the fence and finishing off our mileage in the relative comfort on the track (complete with concessions stand). We were all feeling like we had gone way more than the 14 or so miles we had, or was it 10? We ran down along a foot path past what I dubbed the Monolith into town center and stopped at a gas station to refuel. Sugar Daddy Allen bought us water, caffeinated drinks and various other items since continuing on with our theme, both Jonathan and I had not brought any money with us. I drank a yerba mate and the boys chowed down on some moon pies and potato chips. Allen also drank a Starbucks double shot and so he and I were renewed and we got a little goofy.

Runners are health nuts.
When headed out of town, looking to connect to the backway up Squak Mtn. This part was not on the maps that Allen had carefully routed on run on but he said that he knew where he was going. We ran this way, no that way and finally went running in the right direction...wait, isn't that the Monolith again? We had run in a big circle, but finally had our bearings and were able to connect to the trail quickly there after. We began what Allen said would be the hardest of the three major climbs. The backside of Squak is no joke. Allen was very hyper from the double shot and I was very energized as well and we had a renewed pep to our step. Jonathan quickly realized that he should have had something highly caffeinated just to be in the same cracked out mentality. The uphill felt great for me, which pleased me greatly. Allen was talking about leading runs for people -like a hired trail guide and then he said in the next breathe, "if we are going to get eaten by a cougar or bear, this is where it would happen". Jonathan and I laughed and said that is probably something he wants to avoid telling his potential clients. As we continued to climb, Jonathan indicated that he was having some tendinitis pains.

Glow in the dark fungus...
After climbing for what felt like forever, we were way ahead in mileage from where Allen had anticipated we would be. So we gave him a hard time and said, not only is he going to tell his clients they are going to get eaten, he is going to take them for super epic runs. But the reality of the situation was he was an excellent leader. We made it to a leveled out point and Jonathan said that he didn't think he was going to be able to manage another 4 hours of running as we were at about 20 miles and his leg was really hurting him. We made a quick change to the route due to this as well as because of the fact that we were already ahead of mileage. Jonathan volunteered to stop and wait for us, to run back on the road, etc, but I said that we were sticking together. We were all feeling a bit loopy and humor at that hour is seriously classic. We were all getting a bit creeped out by the thought of being eaten and so Allen pulled out his cell phone and started playing music loudly on the phone. It was hilarious to be running through the woods, hip hop blaring, singing along...."wu tang clan ain't nuthin to f with". Ha. When we would fall into long periods of silence, occasionally someone would just yell, "hey bear". It was pretty funny. We managed the Chimsky loop and headed down off Squak to where the drop bag was. We were all tired and Allen wandered around in the bushes looking for the drop bag, while Jonathan and I sat by the side of the road and huddled together to keep warm. I knew he was in pain, but he is also a trooper and didn't complain about it.

Jonathan smiling despite thinking "please kill me now thanks"
Allen found the bag which had been pillaged by a mouse, coyote or raccoon. The bananas had been munched on and were a loss. I did eat a Powergel and drank some more water. We decided to cut out the Cougar section because were well past the mile 22 point which had been the anticipated distance for the drop bag and adding cougar would have meant the run would have been quite long. Also, since Jonathan's leg was really painful, I knew the best thing was to turn back and take the most direct route back. It was still a good 10-12 miles back, so the run was by no means easy or close to being over. We headed back up Squak, powerhiking up the trail to the top. It was really nice to finally feel like we were headed for home. We got more chatty as we descended down the backside and were particularly careful going down the pretty technical (especially in the dark!) terrain. I managed to trip (again since I had fallen on my face earlier in the run) and the guys thought I almost hit my head on a rock. Thankfully that wasn't actually the case. We made it back to Issaquah and briefly discussed heading back to the gas station, but decided to just head for the car. We did some run/walk combination along the pavement, as Jonathan wasn't even able to put his foot down normally and was hobbling alot. We made it back to the High School and hooted and hollered in support of the all night walkers. It was past 3am by this point and we were all smelling the barn. Allen and I were feeling pretty refreshed, as much as someone can at that point. We headed up the High School Trail and we all rejoiced as we leveled out under the powerlines. We could smell the barn and Allen took off a bit ahead of us.

I just relished in the fact that despite feeling more brutalized and having worked harder than I feel I ever had on a run, mentally and physically, I also felt like I could go on for another 8 hours. We hit pavement at the parking lot for West Tiger and had less than a 1/4 mile to run. We started "laughing about this later" and celebrating a bit. It just felt so damn good to have accomplished what we did. We could see my headlights glinting ahead of us and noticed the gate hadn't been closed. I said we needed to take a we're done picture and grabbed my camera out as we approached the cars. Our lights illuminated our cars and we saw what no one wants to see after such a fantastic, brutal, amazing and fun experience: Jonathan's car had been broken into and both his and Allen's bags, wallets, keys. It was so disappointing. Our joy was suddenly drained and we assessed the damage. My car hadn't been touched mostly because there was absolutely nothing visible in my car and my trunk is really small, so there hadn't been anything enticing or attracting about my car. I thought about saying, "we should take a picture for posterity " and "we'll laugh about this later", but I knew there were two distinct possible reactions to that: lightening the mood dramatically or getting punched in the face. I didn't take the picture and of course now we all wish I had. They called the police to report everything. The thieves had busted in the driver's window and the back window. They had taken their coats as well and Jonathan was saying that he was going to freeze on the drive home, so I literally gave him the shirt and vest off my back. Luckily I had decided to bring the Team USA long sleeve which would fit pretty much anybody. I had other clothing too. We got ourselves together, hugs all around and profuse apologies from me and we headed out, hopefully to sleep. Allen had to work at 8am, which I did not envy. I ate my Flying Apron scone and a banana as I drove home. I got some ice, took my ice bath, and by 6 am was trying to head to bed after a more full breakfast, since I wanted to make sure I got calories in if I was going to be asleep for a lot of the day. I lay down in my really comfy bed and couldn't sleep a wink. I ended up spending about 2 hrs in bed, but then got up and got productive, grocery shopping, planning for the week and running errands.

It was the most fun and challenge I have ever had on a run. It was truly difficult to do that run after a long day at work, after a hard week of training but it was amazing. Allen and Jonathan truly blessed me by participating in my night run. They really made it quite the experience, and I know I couldn't do it without them. I learned so much and I come away from it with a great deal of confidence in how far I have come. We were already planning our next epic adventures before Sunday was even out......What a run!