The feeling of lining up to a trail race (specifically those hosted by Rainshadow Running) versus lining up to a road race is so distinctly different it’s worth mentioning for those who’ve never tried out trails. With a race director (who many know by name, hi James!) making joke apologies about bringing us optimal weather and the friendly pizza guys adjacent to the start “line” getting ready to serve delicious food when we’re done, the mood is so cheery and friendly, it makes the suffering of the climbs and the slippery slopes totally bearable.
This was my third Rainshadow Running race, I’d previously done an Orcas Island 25K, and Deception Pass 25K- 2016. So I know that these races are hard and beautiful, they never disappoint. For my first Deception Pass, I went in a little optimistic, somewhat undertrained, but pretty naive to just how hard it would be. I finished in 3:07, when I was sort of hoping to finish in 2:30, ha! This time, I knew there was a HUGE climb (though didn’t exactly remember where, so every time I went up what I deemed a big hill, I’d become disappointed because I’d think to myself, “was that the big one, naw, couldn’t have been…”) and I went in with the expectation of finishing and having fun.
The weather couldn’t have been better.
I started off with Nicola, but quickly realized her pace was not sustainable for me so I dropped off from her and after the first two miles never saw anything in the 8:00s again. The early climbs were manageable, the first 5 miles went by without my checking my watch at all, I decided to pass up the aid station the first time I passed it. I was working with another woman who was wearing Nikes and a red pack, we kept passing each other through different portions of the trail. It was fun to catch her and then she’d tackle a hill more aggressively than I could and I’d catch her on the downhills. That was until mile 7, I stopped for a quick orange slice, and she barely paused. I was ready to let her go at that point. Miles 8 and 9 ended up being a real sufferfest for me. I think I was a little bit energy depleted and was climbing about 350 ft of elevation. I just remember thinking, wow, I didn’t feel this weak last year! My hamstrings specifically were not having it, they were burning and slightly cramping as were my ever crampy calves. Nothing debilitating luckily. But then a nice downhill appeared and you’re back on your way across the bridge and life feels beautiful again, because what is this nonsense that I get to do? I get to run a race across the beautiful Deception Pass Bridge? There is a lot of gratitude in trail racing. That is until mile 12.
And this is the payoff:
So because I wanted to keep moving and not sightsee, I headed back down the hill quickly, so so happy that the worst of it was over.
At mile 13 I felt like I was finishing a marathon. Those last two miles were in reach, but I was going at what felt like a crawling pace, letting people pass me as soon as they caught up with me. I was still potentially going to PR at this point, so I held out hope and did my best to run when I could. It felt like I walked more this time around, but in the end, I ran a 2:56:17, a 10 min PR!
I went into the race with very little expectation and came out with a PR, I’ll take it! The timing of this race, being in early December, works out pretty well in terms of giving me a good kick in the pants. It shows me what my weaknesses are (hello hamstrings) and how much training I’m going to need if I plan for a spring race. This year I went into this race with very little trail experience under my belt, in 2016 I was running trail races at least once a month, so I broke in a new pair of shoes on this race (much to the chagrin to my poor toes!) and if I’m to run it again, I think I’ll try to get better at getting more time long running on trails. Overall it was a great experience and my husband and son got some time to play in the sand on a nice day while I raced. Good times had by all.