Fantastic week of training! The goal for the week was to do high mileage of
running during the week and some endurance type hiking/climbing during the
weekend. All went according to plan, sort of.
I have been running most of my miles on trails for a number of reasons. For
one, trails are just much more fun with twists, turns, changing scenery,
stuff to jump over, green trees, and a softer running surface. Secondly,
most ultramarathons are primarily trail based, so hence need to train on
this surface type. But since RAGBRAI will be all pavement running, I’m
starting to integrate more hard surface running back into my workouts.
I ended up with a Monday through Friday total of 53 miles, even with taking
Thursday off to cross train and do muscle work. Monday and Tuesday were
around 11 miles each, and Wednesday was a longer 15 miler in the morning
followed by some intense Ultimate Frisbee in Seattle in the evening. First
time I have played some Ultimate Frisbee since our weekly Sunday afternoon
games on the Helicopter Landing Zone in Afghanistan, and I’ve sure missed
it. Friday was 14 miles of hill repeats with my good buddy Jason.
Seattle and the Pacific Northwest has been having an exceptional period of
terrific weather, so I took advantage of it and traveled to the Olympic
National Forest for some mountaineering adventures. The Olympics are a
beautiful area, but more rugged than any other wilderness I have stepped
foot in. They see much less traffic than the nearby Cascades, and hence the
“trails” are often anything but. Remote, overgrown, and incredibly steep,
the Olympics will gnaw on you for awhile before spitting you back out at
your car a broken man. What might look like a simple three mile traverse on
a map turns into an hour and a half wet snow slog with no landmarks to gauge
My intended plan was to park at the Big Quilcene Trailhead and summit as
many mountains as I could on Saturday. Since there really aren’t many
trails, especially with the snow, route finding involves looking at a map
and figuring out where to climb. The weather was beautiful and the climbing
was great. I’ve missed the crunch of crampons on snow. The first mountain,
Buckhorn Mountain, was really two separate but closely situated mountains.
After Buckhorn, Iron Mountain lay just a ridge over, but required
downclimbing a few thousand feet and a few mile traverse to achieve an
acceptable path over. Mount Worthington rose a saddle away from Iron
Mountain, so was also fairly easy to navigate too. Most Olympic Mountains
have similar features which include steep slopes that end in a summit block.
The summit block entails a hands and feet rock scramble to get to the top,
which tends to be a tad tricky when you have a thousand feet beneath you.
Definitely adds some excitement and satisfaction to the climb! To get back
to the car, I could choose the standard eight mile route with snow slogs and
re-climbing hills I had already climbed, or dropping straight down a
hillside to break bush through only three miles of dense forest. Of course
I chose the shortcut. Thankfully my compass skills were on point, and ended
up back at the trailhead looking like a herd of cats had a go at any exposed
Sunday had Mount Washington and nearby Mount Ellinor planned. I had done
both of these a few years ago, so figured I could scoot up them fairly
quickly even on highly fatigued legs. Unfortunately bad weather had rolled
in overnight and I was fairly soaked by the time I hit the summit block.
With 40 mph gusts and wet rocks, I decided the summit wasn’t worth the risk
to go solo. Observing some bad rock falls from the recent warm weather on
the way down, I decided it wasn’t worth it to attempt Ellinor as well. This
was cemented in discovering my crampons had fallen off my pack on the
descent and I would have to re-climb 800 feet to find them.
Overall the weekend included four summits, 22 miles, 12,600′ of elevation
gain, over 16 hours of constant activity. This, combined with the big week
of running, was a huge confidence booster. Although each day I could tell
my legs were fatigued, I was able to get up and continue going for it. By
the end of the week, climbing had turned into a slow death march but the
important thing is I was able to continue at a decent steady pace. This is
the most important piece for running RAGBRAI. All is looking well thus far!