April 30, 2012

Capitol Peak 50 Mile: Face Down in Mud and Tequila

I signed up for this race looking for something new. A new course. A new state. A whole new experience. When I crossed the finish line covered in mud, dazed and light headed, I realized l got my wish.

The Capitol Peak 50 mile ultra run takes place in Capitol State Forest, a 90,000 acre state-run park located on Washington state’s Olympic Peninsula. It is a multi-use forest with active logging operations and hunting. That’s right, logging and hunting. I heard the some weird noises out there. Loud noises. Now I know why.

Being a So Cal runner I pride myself on running through the elements. You know, heat and dehydration. Some mountains, a rattlesnake or two. I knew Capitol Peak 50 would be a little different. Cool, wet and far from home.

One of the things I noticed right away about this forest was the green. Green leaves, green tree trunks. Green tree branches. Green ground. Everything green. It was surreal. Like running in a ginormous terrarium.

The race started under a typical gloomy northwest sky and meandered beneath thick forest canopies, along several high ridges and through some open meadows. With a total elevation gain of over 7,000 feet, this was a gorgeous course. Chalk full of scenery you will only find in the Pacific rain forest. But beneath the beauty lurked one deviant beast...the mud.

To summarize here, one moment I was laughing out loud, another moment I was screaming expletives. Arms flailing and out of control, then on all fours groveling over wet brown grime. Getting traction was easy, until you lost it. Run…walk…slide…flail…contort. Run again. It was fun, frustrating and at times frightening. All rolled into one ball of something new. It must be why I perked up when someone yelled tequila shots! at the mile 42 aid station. I looked over at some party girls standing next to a make shift mariachi bar. I’m pretty sure I said not for me and what the hell in the same breath! Have you ever had a tequila shot when your heart rate has been 150 bpm or higher for over 7 hours? It’s a whole different kind of buzz. Cringe! Then back to the slippery slope.

Despite many slips, stumbles and mud hugging slides, I still hadn’t gone down hard. In fact I was feeling a little victorious around mile 48. And it was right about then that I recall a loud screech and the air rapidly exiting my lungs. Blink. I’m face down in the mud gasping for air.

To my body's regret, my mission to find a whole new experience was accomplished. But my conversation with local runner Gavin Woody after the finish said it all. Gavin and I ran together for much of the couse. I mentioned out of the blue I was training for UTMB in France this August. Turns out he's running UTMB too. Still recovering from my face plant, I asked Gavin what he thought about all the mud on the course. "Oh that was mild, he says. "You should come up here when we get some real mud." 

No Thanks.  

Time: 8:48:02. Place: 16th  overall. Third age group. 


Jukka Kukkonen said...

That was fun to read, but being actually there probably wasn't all fun. Anyway excellent writing and running, as always.

lauren said...

I need your help! I am in the running to win a ticket to mudmanx and I need likes on my photo. visit www.facebook.com/mudmanx and vote for lauren park Hughes (girls in tutus)

Anonymous said...

What a great race! I was there running the 55km, I'm from WA and it was muddy, but FUN! The course is so beautiful! I loved your write up....I passed on the tequila. Happy trails, Kristal

Will Cooper said...

Thanks Kristal...it was fun but painful.

One thing I left out of the write up was how great the volunteers were. I thought they did a great job at the aid stations.

Anonymous said...

Coop, Being a fella raised in the Pacific Northwest I thrive in the mud and gloom you describe but I CHOOSE not to experience it anymore after so many years...but your account sounded fun...maybe it is time for a revisit...great job brother, let's get together on the SD trail.


Will Cooper said...

Brotha Joe, your choice is a wise one. you would like this course though...my back is out of wack since my fall. Oh well, I guess that's the risk we take as old men on these marry-go-rounds....

EricG said...

Sounds like fun and still a hell of time with all the mud and elevation. Nice job! Peace E