(Still playing catch up, with my very late posts)
This race was not on my 2017 calendar until about 4 weeks before I ran it. Originally, 2017 was all about the Seoul International Marathon (March), Grasslands Marathon (july) and maybe one undetermined fall marathon, with a few half marathon trail runs sprinkled before, after and between those three races. And then they cancelled the Grasslands race, in June. Dang it.
A record dry winter/spring turned the normally knee high ‘grasslands’ into brittle, short grass by early June. In attempt to save the grass, they chopped the race.
Yeah, I was looking forward to this trip to Inner Mongolia to run on the endless, rolling grasslands. Very disappointed. I had trained well, hitting solid monthly totals;
- March 130 miles,
- April 157 and
- May 190!(2nd highest monthly total ever)
How great would it have been to run on soft dirt, across the gentle, rolling hills like this? Cool, crisp morning temps followed by warm, bright sunshine with low AQI (air quality index).
Guess it wasn’t ‘meant to be.
In June I focused on finding my next race, and soon. Didn’t want to wait too long for fear of loosing too much of the fitness I’d earned during the winter and spring in Beijing. I’d already booked a trip back to the PNW (pacific northwest) for September 2017 and one day randomly found the NorthWest Trail Runs site. Well how about that, the Paradise Valley Trail Run (half marathon) was the day after I landed in Seattle. Perfect.
It wasn’t a full marathon but I would go all out and just see what happened. Also, a huge plus about this race was that this ‘trail’ was a real trail. A dirt path with some rocks and occasional root but mostly dirt. Not a path littered with thousands of stones and rock stairs, that you see in China.
(See My first Chinese Trail Race report-
One down side to running this particular race so soon after flying in from China was yes, I would be jet lagged but heading east, (Beijing to Seattle) the jet lag would be to my advantage. Likely, I’d be awake by 4am PST, so just shower, eat a big, leisurely breakfast and head NE from Seattle toward hwy 522 and Monroe, WA.
The shuttle pick up was at a church and I was the first car in the lot. Way early. Within 20 minutes, three other cars arrived and all runners stayed in their cars, due to the fall chill. When the school bus pulled in, about a dozen runners emerged from the car park and climbed on. The first, of several shuttle buses, drove us about 15 minutes to the tiny (few parking spaces) trail head and the start of the race.
An hour before the gun, plenty of time to stretch, walk around a bit. Other runners emerged with each drop off from the shuttle bus. The final bus arrived about 15minutes before the start. Nearly 100 folks lined up to start. Ages mixed from high school cross country team members ready for a long sprint to pensioners looking for a nice walk.
I started in the upper quarter and followed close behind three younger runners for about the first two miles. Few runners passed us but we (slowly) passed a few. The trail was nice, mostly dirt with some roots but didn’t have to be hyper aware and constantly quickly picking your feet up, like when you run over rocks. By half way, I still felt good so kept the speed up. Running through the green everywhere evergreen trees and lush ferns was a real treat after the dry, brown, and arid, HOT Beijing dessert summer.
The route was two loops and as I started into the second loop, I had no idea how many runners were ahead of me. I guessed a dozen, but truthfully it was just three. Held on, trying to run fast but not fast enough to flame out. There was some elevation gain, about 1000 feet total, so that helped slow me down a bit.
The weather was cool but very misty/foggy. And I didn’t realize until late in the race that my garmin watch lost and reconnected several times to the GPS satellite. Therefore, when my watch read i’ve completed 11 miles, I knew i run further but not sure how much further. How much was left? No idea.
After not seeing another runner for 5-10 minutes, a guy passed me, moving at a good clip. There was no way I would catch him so didn’t even try. But sped up a bit, hoping to prevent being passed again.
Making a sharp right turn, found myself just feet from the finish line and crossed it to the sound of a claps from just a small handful of runners. who had already finished. I was number 4! And just 40 seconds from 3rd and my first podium. Oh, well. I was pleased with my result.
Overall, a nice course, with rolling trail surrounded by lush vegetation and tall, so tall evergreen pine trees. Loved it. So nice to be pack in the PNW.