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Run with Doug

This is the post excerpt.

This is a series of running stories, ideas, and training tips brought to you by Doug Beyerlein of Mill Creek, Washington.  While I have no real natural talent for running, I have 35 years of experience and have raced just about every distance from 100 meters to 100 miles. My goal is to entertain and inform. I will let you be the judge.

 

FOURmidable 50K becomes FourMUDable

I know mud.  I have run the trails of the Pacific Northwest for more than 30 years and have splashed my way through many a mud puddle.  I have even competed in trail races known for their mud.  I have run the Bridle Trails 50K in Kirkland, Washington: a loop trail through Bridle Trails State Park famous for its horse manure-filled never-ending supply of mud (at the finish my running shoes went straight into the garbage can).  I have run Chuckanut 50K near Bellingham, Washington, with its infamous “Little Chinscraper” trail (a mud-covered slip-n-slide of a trail that the runners must climb).  And I have even run March Mudness (50K, Forest Park, Portland, Oregon) where just staying upright was a challenge.  But these races pale in comparison to the mud found at the Fourmidable 50K in the Sierra foothills just outside of Auburn, California.

Now, most years I would not have had anything to complain about.  That is not to say that the Fourmidable 50K is an easy race.  In fact, as the name implies, it is just the opposite.  This race is famous for its four difficult climbs (hence the name FOURmidable 50K).  (Actually there are five difficult climbs on the course, but that kind of ruins the name of the race.)

The course starts with a steep descent into the canyons of the American River and then a relentless climb averaging 20%, with the steepest section at 25%, to regain the canyon rim.  And that is just in the first 3 miles.  From there a long descent brings the runner to No Hands Bridge (a famous landmark in the Western States 100-mile race) and the start of the second major climb (1.3 miles average 15%).  That is followed by a third descent and climb (2.3 miles at 8%).  At mile 26 the course returns to No Hands Bridge and the final climb to the finish.  Or, so they want you to think.  A 1.7-mile climb averaging 5% leads the runner to almost the top of the canyon rim when the course takes a devilish downhill turn and then it is straight up for the last mile climaxing in a 17% scramble to the finish line.

In any typical California February the Fourmidable 50K race on a dry course would be difficult enough.   But February 2017 was not a typical February – at least not in California.  After four years of drought California was inundated by one major rain storm after another.  One week before the race the Yuba River, 100 miles to the north, was threatening to overtop the Oroville Dam and flood the cities and towns downstream.  California had not seen rain like this in decades.

I wasn’t here for the rain.  I was here to compete in the USATF 50K Trail National Championships, held as part of the Fourmidable 50K.  I was competing in the 65-69 age division and I wasn’t going to let a little rain and mud stop me from trying to win an age division national championship.

The day before the race it rained cats and dogs, cows and horses.  Everything and everyone was wet, but day-of-race the rain stopped literally 15 minutes before the starting gun sounded.  The rain may have stopped, but the mud didn’t.

I knew that the mud was going to be bad when, on the downhills, the mud was so thick and wide that I was forced to walk down rather than run and risk my life with a spectacular slide off the side of a cliff into the canyon below.  So I took my time descending the steep sections while younger, fearless runners plummeted out of sight down the trail ahead.

I figured that I would make up time when, after the third climb, we reached and ran along a relatively flat plateau.  Here the trail was smooth and flat.  Here I thought that I could run fast.  Here I found mud.

The general rule of thumb when trail running is to go straight through the mud as quickly as possible.  You are going to get muddy, but it is all part of the game.  That strategy works until the mud reaches sinkhole-depths.  At sinkhole-depth your shoe, your ankle, and possibly lower parts of your body disappear into the black goo.  It is exciting never knowing whether or not the upcoming mud crossing will result in victory or defeat.  Ten yards of this suspense is enough to make any trail runner question the meaning of life, but try ten miles with hardly a dry spot in-between the sinkholes.

The only alternative, other than a quick helicopter ride back to civilization, was to try to run around the mud-camouflaged death traps.  This alternative merely added mileage to an already too-long run.  Hidden under what looked to be grassy meadows was more mud – just as deep and mean as the trail mud – but just a little less obvious.

To determine the best possible course of action to take at the approach to each sinkhole, I watched the runners ahead of me as they attempted to negotiate the impossible.  At one major sinkhole I saw a short, female runner cross what most people would call a pond (it was the trail).  She was in water and mud mid-thigh deep when she slipped and just managed to keep her head above water.  She was able to wade to shallower water and exit the sinkhole before I reached her near-drowning.  I decided to try something different and detoured downstream to where the mud was only mid-calf deep.

Beyerlein white socks turned brown

And so it went for hour after hour until I struggled up that last hill to the finish line, some 7 hours and 19 minutes after I started.  I won my national championship, but my mud-infused running socks did not survive the journey.  They went straight into the garbage.  Such is the price of victory.

 

Grand Teton 100

I ran this race in September 2006.  This story was originally published in the December 2006 issue of Northwest Runner magazine.

 

“Which is worse: the long-term pain of not finishing or the short-term pain of completing the last 20 miles of the race?”  This was the key question that my wife, Joan, asked me as I buried my head in my hands in near complete exhaustion at the 80-mile mark of the Grand Teton 100.  Could I finish this race or should I quit?

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The Grand Teton 100 is a trail ultra race in the Grand Teton mountains of Wyoming.  With the start and finish at the Grand Targhee Ski Resort, the 100-mile course consists of four laps of 25 miles each.   Each lap includes a climb of Fred’s Mountain (elevation 9840 feet) and then a drop down to Teton Canyon Road (elevation 6680’) prior to a climb back up to the resort at an elevation of 8000 feet.  With a few other ups and downs the total climb per lap is over 4000 feet.  Do this four times and the 100 miles is like running from the Tacoma waterfront to the top of Mt. Rainier and back.

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Twenty-three of us started the race with the first climb up Fred’s Mountain at 6 AM, Saturday, September 2, 2006 (Labor Day weekend).  The 2.6-mile climb goes up a rough, rocky ski tram service road that averages a 13% slope with steep sections in excess of 20%.  As I took my first steps up the mountain I wondered where this journey would take me.

This journey actually started years ago.  In some sense it started when I started running at the age of 32 in 1982, but more immediately it started when I ran the Western States Endurance Run in 2000.  At Western States I hit the wall at mile 70 and missed by 8 minutes the cut-off time at the 72-mile Peachstone aid station.  That experience left a bad taste in my mouth and the need to complete what had not been completed.

Fast forward six years and much had changed in my life: I divorced, remarried, started my own company, had two major surgeries, and had just recovered from a foot injury by the start of 2006.  My new wife Joan, also an ultra runner, suggested that I try Western States again.  When I failed to make it through the Western States lottery we went looking for another 100-mile race.  Grand Teton 100 looked interesting and then it was just a matter of getting into shape to run 100 miles.

I have a rule of thumb when it comes to race distances: double the distance and triple the effort.  That means a 10K is twice as far as a 5K but three times as hard.  Correspond-ingly, a half marathon is three times harder than a 10K, and a marathon is three times harder than a half marathon.  Extend this out to a 100-mile race and a 100-miler is 9 times harder than a marathon and 243 times harder than a 5K.  This means that training has to take on a new dimension.  Just running around Green Lake three times a week isn’t going to do it.

Training is both physical and mental.  The physical consists of miles: trail miles, road miles, track miles.  I did all three.  I ran the Everett track with Steve Hamilton’s Port Gardner Bay Runners.  I ran the roads around my home in Mill Creek.  Joan and I ran on the weekends on the Cougar Mountain trails east of Bellevue.  I competed in Scott McCoubrey’s Cougar Mountain trail race series and after finishing each race immediately returned to the trail for more mileage.  I selected ultra races to build up my mileage.  I ran the March Mudness 50K in Portland in March and the Mt Si 50K in April.  And then in three consecutive weekends in July I completed the Siskiyou Out Back 50K in Oregon, the 7-hour Seattle Night and Day Challenge, and the White River 50-mile trail race near Mt Rainier.  I was physically ready.

Mental focus is as important as physical strength.  I improved my body awareness by taking Bridget Thompson’s Feldenkrais classes at M’illumino in Seattle.  Joan and I received Pose running instruction from Graham Fletcher of Vancouver, British Columbia, to improve running efficiency.  And, finally, during the two-day drive to Wyoming we listened to Dr. Wayne Dwyer and Dr. Deepak Chopra’s CD: How to Get What You Really, Really, Really, Really Want.  They discussed how one can achieve one’s goals through the positive focus of intent.

Everything was in place for success.

My plan for the Grand Teton 100 was to run the first 25-mile lap in 6 hours, the second in 8 hours, and then walk the third during the night.  The night lap should take about 12 hours.  I then figured that I would be able to complete the last lap in 10 hours and finish in about 36 hours total.  Little did I know that I would get lost in the middle of the night and waste an hour by walking an extra two miles.

And then it was time to put my plan into motion.  I felt strong and relaxed as I completed the first 25-mile lap in 6 hours, 23 minutes.  The second felt a bit tougher, taking 8:15; the third lap was tiring and lasted 11:29 (including the lost hour).  I had now been on the move for over 26 hours.  One last 25-mile lap to go.

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I started up Fred’s Mountain one last time.  This 1840-foot climb suddenly took on new dimensions.  According to my body, I was headed up the North Face of Mt Everest.  Take a step; take a breathe; take a step; take a breathe.  An ice ax would have aided my progress.  Foot by foot I willed my body up the mountain.  Every step was a struggle; every breathe hard fought.  Finally I saw the aid tent at the summit.  Now I could run down and complete the lap.  Only I couldn’t run.  I could barely stumble down the steep incline.  Round trip on this 5.2-mile up and back section would take 2 hours, 44 minutes; over an hour longer than my first visit to Fred’s Mountain, some 27 hours earlier.

Following the completion of the Fred’s Mountain up-and-back I arrived at the 80-mile aid station physically and mentally exhausted.  The remaining 20 miles looked like 200.  I wasn’t going to make it.  Then Joan came to the rescue.  She asked the question that I didn’t want to answer.  She saw a flicker of energy left in my body and fed it with food, water, and ideas.  She gave me a change of clothes.  Soon I was back on my feet with renewed energy and confidence.  I still had some 2000 feet of climbing in the last 20 miles, but more importantly I had the idea that I could do this.

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I started again with a single goal in mind.  Finally, 37 hours, 55 minutes, and 35 seconds after I started the Grand Teton 100 I crossed the finish line.  It was a long and painful journey.  I finished last of the 21 finishers, but finishing the Grand Teton 100 is my greatest victory.

doug-crossing-gt100-finish-lineI could not have accomplished my goal without the hard work and support of Joan, Joel Guay (my night pacer), and encouragement of the race directors, Lisa & Jay Batchen and Zach Barnett.  Thank you all.

 

Footsteps

This story was originally published in the March 2001 issue of Northwest Runner magazine.

I hear footsteps and…

I better run faster.  I have only three miles left to the finish line of the Lake Samish Half Marathon near Bellingham, Washington, but I can hear another runner behind me.  The sound is faint but it is unmistakable as I run up the slight incline on the road on the east side of the lake.  Just a half a mile earlier I saw a runner entering the short out-and-back stretch just as I was exiting it.  I had maybe a 30-second lead and now it is shrinking.

I push hard without looking back to see how close he really is.  My race strategy is “Never look back.  The race is in front of you, not behind.”  This was my successful strategy from my bicycle racing days of 20 years ago and it is still good today.

The footsteps are louder now, gaining with every step.  But I am still ahead with less than a mile to go.  I fly down the short, steep drop to the lakeshore.  Now there is only a half mile left.  Along the lake I run flat out.  The footsteps are right behind me, shrieking in my ears.  It is going to be a sprint to the finish.

Finally I see the finish line and kick it into high gear.  Let’s see him pass me now!

I cross the finish line ahead of this unseen opponent and think “Boy, that was close.”  I turn around to greet my competition.

There is no one there.  There is not another runner in sight.  My opponent is my own fear.  I was hearing my own footsteps.  The next runner is over a minute behind me.

It is now two weeks later at the Nookachamps Half Marathon near Mount Vernon, Washington.  I tell my Lake Samish story to Woody Harris, my running partner, before we start the race.  Three miles into the race Woody says “I hear footsteps.  Don’t you think it is a little early?”  Thinking back to Lake Samish, I am about to shout to Woody, “You’re running low on oxygen,” when I hear them too.

Nookachamps horse

But they are not footsteps.  They sound more like hoof beats.  Woody, ignoring my never-look-back rule, looks over his shoulder and says, “There is a horse 100 yards behind us and a runner in between.”

We crank up the pace a notch.  A half-mile farther the hoof beats are louder, much louder.  Woody looks again.  “The horse is only 50 yards back and there is no longer a runner between us and the horse.”

Suddenly Woody, who has been a half-step behind me and running between me and the center of the road, sprints past me onto the road’s shoulder.  I peek over my shoulder at the spot that Woody just vacated and see a very large brown nose.  We are now running with a horse beside us – a big horse, a VERY BIG horse.

Like a dog wanting to play, the horse nudges over in our direction and Woody and I find ourselves running on the road’s dirt shoulder.  What do we do?  Slow down?  Speed up?  Call for a cowboy?

Woody yells to the horse “Chase those guys!” pointing to the two runners another 100 yards ahead of us.  Almost as if the horse understands, it sees the runners ahead and gallops off to join them.  Problem solved – almost.

We watch the horse chase up to the runners ahead.  They stop in an attempt to get rid of the horse.  The horse stops.  Woody and I are about to catch them all.  Suddenly everyone starts again, including the horse.  We can now see ahead the flashing lights of the county sheriff’s car at the intersection with State Highway 9.  Sheriffs know how to rope horses, don’t they?

Apparently the horse thinks so because it abruptly makes a right turn and runs into a field to avoid the sheriff.  We go straight, cross the highway, and run into the small community of Clear Lake.  No more horse?  No such luck.

Quickly our horse (why can’t it be someone else’s horse?) rejoins us and then sprints ahead.  A course marshal at the next intersection yells “Follow the horse!”  We do.  We are now back on Highway 9 and our horse is stopping traffic.  It follows the course and veers onto a side street to follow another runner.  Ahead is an out-and-back leg where runners are going both ways.  This is going to be chaos.

In the out-and-back we see runners scatter to both shoulders of the road when our horse runs up to join them.  I don’t want to think about what is going to happen when we get to the turn around.  But with only 200 yards until we reverse direction our horse sees a herd of horses in an adjacent field and runs off to join them.

Finally we are free of our horse.  We turn around and there ahead, waiting for us, is our horse with four other like-minded four-legged friends.  Almost as if to greet us they race up to the side of the road as we approach.

I immediately flash back to the 1985 Skyline 50K in the San Francisco East Bay hills when I saw a runner get knocked down by a herd of stampeding horses.  It was a frightening sight.  But this time a barbed wire fence at the edge of the road stops the horses’ charge and we pass safely.  The excitement is now gone and we gamely set about finishing the race.

But from now on the sound of footsteps will take on a whole new meaning.

 

RUNNING WITH SCISSORS

Running with scissors is dangerous – or at least so we were warned by our parents when we were kids.  Running in foreign lands can also be dangerous or at least exciting and/or confusing.  There is always a language issue and then there is the chance of getting lost.  And sometimes you have to watch out for man-eating crocodiles (notice that you never hear about woman-eating crocodiles; women are smart enough to keep their distance while guys’ last words are “Watch this!” before being consumed).

When I was working in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in the mid-1980s (Riyadh is croc-free, by the way) I ran early one morning from my villa to the city’s hippodrome (horse racing track and stadium).  The hippodrome was circled by a ring road.  I wore long running pants so as to not draw the attention of the religion police (shorts were not allowed in public).  At the hippodrome entrance I continued to run the ring road circling the stadium.  Only after circling the hippodrome once did I realize that I didn’t know from which road I had entered the ring road from and which road to take back to my villa.  All the roads came into the ring road at right angles like spokes on a wheel entering a hub and they all looked the same.  I had to run a second loop before I could identify what looked to be the correct road for the return trip home.  Apparently I made the right choice as I didn’t end up lost in the Arabian Desert and I did eventually return to the United States.

So in the summer of 2015 when my wife Joan and I journeyed to Dover, England, we knew that we were in for an adventure.  Actually the real adventure was Joan’s swimming of the English Channel as a member of a six-person international relay team (more on that later).  But while we waited for the right weather and tide conditions for the swim we explored Dover and the surrounding countryside by running everywhere.

Dover is a surprisingly small town.  Located in the southeast corner of England, it has gained its fame from the fact that it where one can take the car ferry to France (the entrance to the tunnel to France is in the nearby city of Folkestone).  From the center (or as the British say “centre”) of town I am confident that I could run to any Dover neighborhood in 15 minutes or less, traffic willing.

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Traffic in England is always confusing and a source for danger since they believe in driving on the “wrong” side of the road.  In Dover before we crossed streets we would look right and then left and then just to make doubly sure it was safe to cross we would look right and left again.  Seeing no traffic we would venture out into the roadway only to have a man-eating crocodile appear out of nowhere and attempt to run us down.  Sometimes the man-eating crocodiles were disguised as small automobiles but you could tell from their hungry eyes that they were really man-eating crocodiles.

It didn’t take long to explore Dover on foot.  And, as we didn’t rent a car, traveling by foot was our only option.  With Dover now thoroughly mapped in our heads we were ready to see what lay beyond.

We first ventured west of town along the coast.  Adjacent to the A20 Motorway ran a narrow asphalt ribbon of a trail along the top of the bluff overlooking the English Channel.  Overgrowth vegetation along the paved trail gave the impression that the trail is not heavily used – if used at all.  I kept my eyes open for man-eating crocodiles even though they are rarely seen in this part of Britain (other than when crossing streets).

Joan looking out at the channel

We eventually came to a stairway that led down to Shakespeare Beach.  It would be near this spot on the coast that the relay team would, a week later, start its swim to France.   It is not quite clear why this beach is named for William Shakespeare.  There is the story that he attempted a swim to France from this beach.  But he quickly returned to the English shore when confronted by a great white shark (the English Channel equivalent of a man-eating crocodile).  It has been said that this encounter with a shark was the idea for Shakespeare’s little known and ill-conceived play “The Swimmer of Dover” (critics called the play a failure when the mechanical shark performed poorly and the audience got wet in the initial performance at the Globe Theater in London – but I digress).  Seeing no great white sharks from the beach, we concluded that swim would be safe to attempt.

Dover Castle

With Shakespeare Beach in our rear view mirror, we explored other parts of the coast line.  Just on the eastern edge of Dover is Dover Castle.  Set on a hill above the town, Dover Castle has seen better days.  We explored the insides and outsides of the castle, but frankly it was a bit disappointing.  Inside there were no great works of art or plunder from distant lands.  In fact there wasn’t much of anything except ruins and tourists.  The dungeon was empty (an empty dungeon is just a cellar).  Outside the grounds were well kept and the World War II battlements and underground bunkers could be toured, but the visitors’ cafeteria with its over-priced pastries was probably the high point of the visit.

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Ponies

Just beyond the castle to the east are the White Cliffs of Dover.  Today they are National Trust land and are open to the public (you have to pay to enter by car, but it is free to sneak in by foot).  A pathway leads up out of town past grazing Exmoor ponies to the trails of the White Cliffs.  From the top of the cliffs there are miles of running trails to explore.

White trail

The White Cliffs are white and so are the rocks.  Imagine white-on-white camouflage.  One minute I was running on a smooth white trail and the next I hit the ground like a clumsy sack of potatoes.  White rock poking up from the ground: 1; Doug 0 (or nil, as they say in England).  Fortunately, other than for massive bruising of my thigh and ego, nothing was hurt.  (A few months later I received a survey form from Medicare – yes I am old enough for Medicare – asking among other health-related questions how many times I have fallen in the past 12 months.  I had to truthfully answer: 4 times – all while running.  Now I get ads for mobility scooters.)

Western Heights

After barely surviving the White Cliffs (at least I didn’t fall off of them) the last opportunity for cheating danger was the trails of the Western Heights on the west edge of Dover.  These were fortifications built to repel a feared French invasion of England during the Napoleonic Wars.  We ran around the edges in an attempt to prevent adding to my accumulating fall total.

Grimsey Team in Dover Harbor

And the English Channel swim?  Glad you asked.  After ten days of waiting and two false starts we loaded up the support boat with supplies, swimmers, and support staff and ventured out into deep waters.   The relay team consisted of (in swim order): Pete Gillis (Carnation, WA), Mick Bullen (Brisbane, Australia), Andy Plackett (Brisbane, Australia), Joan, Ben Freeman (Canberra, Australia), and Trent Grimsey (Brisbane, Australia).  The relay team completed what ended up to be a 32-mile swim (due to currents and tides) from England to France in 11 hours, 31 minutes, arriving in the dark on the rocky shores of the French coast at 1:37 in the morning.  They swam in cold 62 degree water without wetsuits through stinging jellyfish while dodging giant freighters bound for America.  They kept an eye out for sharks and other monsters of the deep.  By comparison, that sort of potential danger makes running with scissors child’s play.

 

R2R: FUN IN THE SUN

A 52-mile ultra in the heat in western Washington.

I am not a hot weather runner.  I can run in the heat, but I don’t like it and I don’t do well.  So I was not happy to see the weather forecast for Saturday, June 4, 2016: HOT, HOT, HOT.  Standing at the starting line of the Rainier to Ruston (R2R) race in the shadow of Mt Rainier at 7 AM, I knew that it was going to be a long, hot day.

R2R is a 51.9-mile relay and ultra.  The race starts at the Carbon River entrance to Mt Rainier National Park and heads in a northwesterly direction to its ultimate destination on Ruston Way on the Tacoma waterfront.  Much of the course is on the Foothills Trail, as it winds its way through the Puyallup Valley; a beautiful place to spend a lovely June day.Doug at start small

The course consists of 12 legs for the relay runners.  The exchange points were also refueling locations for us ultra runners.  During the race each exchange point would become an eagerly awaited oasis for those of us crazy enough to attempt the entire 51.9-mile distance solo.

And so when the starting gun sounded off that Saturday morning we started our journey into the unknown.  The relay team runners led the way.  They only had 4.9 miles to go to the first exchange point.  We ultra runners followed behind a bit more cautiously.  It was already getting warm. Carbon River Trail 2

Leg 2 quickly led us onto a dirt trail along the Carbon River.  We would follow this trail all the way into the town of Carbonado.  Carbonado, once a booming coal mining town in the shadows of Mt Rainier, is today only visited by tourists and runners on their way to somewhere else.

The first few legs of the race went easily and after a quick stop in Wilkeson (Leg 3) we arrived in South Prairie (Leg 4).  At this point I had completed 20.9 miles in just over 4 hours.  I was right on schedule.  At this aid station my drop box was waiting for me. Doug Drop Box at So Prairie

In anticipation of what was to come I had stocked it with new shoes (switching from trail shoes to road shoes), socks, and a shirt.  I also had more gels and electrolyte pills for the journey ahead and sunscreen to protect me from the ever-present sun.  I also used this opportunity to refuel.  Before the race started I drank a mix of Darigold Refuel chocolate milk and UCAN Cran-Raz powdered drink mix.  The night before the race I mixed two extra bottles of this ultra fuel and placed them in an insulated bag with ice in my drop box.  At the South Prairie aid station my drop box was toasty hot from sitting in the sun, but my drinks were still nice and cold.  After changing shoes and consuming the drinks it was time for me to venture back out into the sun.Foothills Trail small

In running races it is not a sin to walk (I always get asked by non-runners: “Are you allowed to walk?” The answer is “YES!”).  Over the next 14 miles I ran a little and walked a little.  The trail was paved now.  Sometimes I had company and sometimes I walked alone through the relentless heat.  Finally I found the energy to run to the Leg 8 aid station at Meeker (East Puyallup).  I had now finished 35.2 miles and had 16.7 to go.  This was not going to be pretty.

At 35.2 miles my ability to run was gone.  Anyone other than an ultra runner would have said “Enough.  Time for a cold beer.”   Instead, I filled my water bottle and packed my running hat with ice and started walking.  For the next three hours, in 85 degree heat, I walked down farm roads, I walked through residential neighborhoods, and finally I walked the dreaded sand trail into Fife. Puyallup R sand trail small

I had heard from other R2R runners about this “sand trail” along the Puyallup River.  The trail, on the north side of the river between Meridian Avenue and Frank Albert Road, parallels North Levee Road for some 4 miles.  And at least on this Saturday these 4 miles were the worst 4 miles anywhere in western Washington.

This sand isn’t sand; it is glacial flour (rock grounded up by the glaciers on Mt Rainier), washed down the Puyallup River and deposited on the river banks during flood events.  The sand is so fine (extremely small particle sizes) that traction is impossible.  The sand infiltrated every shoe seam and opening and filled my shoes from within.  Going slow was my only option.  Mile after mile it was like trudging over the sand dunes of the Sahara – heat included.  Finally the Leg 10 oasis aid station appeared.  I thought that I was finished with this Hell on the Puyallup but, no, I still had another mile to go to reach pavement.

When I finally exited this torture trail I stopped and emptied my shoes of the accumulated sand.  I poured enough sand out of my shoes to build a sand castle; maybe not a large one, but at least a small sand castle with a turret.  I was glad to be back on pavement.

One of the surprising effects of walking for three hours was that I was ready and able to run again.  And so I did.  It was slow at first, but then I began to see and pass runners ahead.  I crossed the Puyallup River and headed into the big city of Tacoma.Museum of Glass 1

At Dock Street I entered the Tacoma waterfront esplanade.  This was a pleasant surprise.  The esplanade (official name: “Thea Foss Waterway Public Esplanade”) is a wide pedestrian sidewalk joining waterfront activities and businesses with the Foss Waterway.  I ran past the Museum of Glass and viewed it from a side I had never seen before.  It was now Saturday evening and people were dining in fancy waterfront restaurants and cafes while sweaty, over-heated runners like me slowly shuffled by.  Beautiful.Leg 12 Ruston small

As others enjoyed dinner and a drink I continued on to Old Town and eventually to the finish line at Marine Park on Ruston Way.  Twelve hours, 25 minutes, and 34 seconds after I left the shady forest of Mt Rainier I was standing on the sunny shores of Puget Sound.  It had been a very long, hot day.  One that I will not soon forget.