Monday, May 15, 2017

2017 Glacier Ridge Trail 30K

It's been a minute since I've posted anything, but I can't not post an actual race recap. 

Real quick backstory: last summer/fall I went through another awesome ultramarathon training cycle only to NOT go to my goal race because my husband was in a horrific cycling accident (Google Grade 5 AC separation and try not to vomit).  I ended my "season" with one last angry long run and threw myself back into what I called maintenance mode until it was time to train again.  Then, just my luck, 2017 started off rocky for me health-wise... I had an strange long lingering virus, then bronchitis, and one of the worst IBS/colitis flare ups I have had in YEARS.   I wasn't able to ramp up my training as planned and just when I thought I was getting somewhere, I mentally said "meh".  So, I opted not to travel across the state to run a poorly trained for 50K and instead decided to register for the GRT 30K.  This was a great decision!!  Go me!

The course:  If you read my recap last year on the 50K, then the 30K is the same course only it turns back around at the 2nd aid station at Route 528 around the 10 mile point.  It's not exactly an out and back because the 30K takes a shortcut trail on the way back to the Start/Finish to cut the additional mileage it would have otherwise.  I still found the course to have been long (about a quarter of a mile), but I am certainly not complaining!  Trail runs are never exact and I love that.  Extra time on the trail for the same price!  3258 feet of elevation gain.

Training:  I've been doing more "listen to your body" and less "my training plan says X so I must X or die".  I think this mentality has served me well because I am over 2 years injury free now and have no nagging aches or pains or anything.  Every now and again my hip will bother me, but I can usually peg that on a slip on the trail or extensive running/sliding in super muddy conditions.  Some foam rolling and maybe a day of recovery and I'm back at it.  As far as a specific plan goes, I'm doing a bastardization of a plan from Relentless Forward Progress the build stamina and mileage for a goal that's still a few weeks out.  I am also big on the MYRTL routine.  I think it is a key to my injury free status.

Race morning: Up before the dawn.  The 30K had to be checked in by 7:45 for an 8:00 start, so we left around 6.  I wanted to get there in time to pick up my packet, hit up the bathroom a time or two, chill out, you know, standard stuff.  Breakfast was my typical Ezekiel toast with peanut butter and a cup of coffee and I ate a banana about half an hour before the race.  I was happy that this year they ditched the ankle strap timing method.  Those things bother me because I'm always afraid it will fall off and I won't know when/where.  They can also be hard to adjust for comfort.

Weather: PERFECT!  Upper 40s to start and mostly cloudy.  It warmed up a bit by the end of the race and the sun made some appearances.  I was fine in just shorts and a T-shirt from start to finish.  I did get really warm when the sun was out and I was pushing during some hard times.  But really, you can't ask for better.  Everyone that was there for last years pouring rain and mudfest commented on how this was a treat.  The trail was in awesome condition.  There were a couple of mushy spots, but they were few and far between.  Like I said - perfect.

Race - First 10 miles: When the race started (which caught me by surprise as I was messing with my pack), I was a bit concerned because it seemed the majority of the field of 96 people just bolted out.  The very front of the pack literally looked like they were sprinting like it was a 5K road race.  It was a bit unsettling for me to find a comfortable spot and pace and my heart rate was jacked up already.  (My "goal" was to run this via effort/heart rate as much as possible since this wasn't a final end of season goal event but more of like a hard trail long run test.  If that makes sense.)  Thankfully, once we got away from the parking area and off the bike path and actually into the woods it was easy to calm down, breathe, enjoy my surroundings and find my place, so to speak.  I ended up in a small pack of people going at a pace that I thought was great and I was in my happy place enjoying the absolutely gorgeous trail.  The hills came - oh did they ever, but this year I was not surprised by them and I was delighted to learn that my fitness has grown leaps and bounds.  This definitely did not feel as rough as the year before.  Where I am most proud of myself is my improvement in the downhills.  Yes, most people walk/power hike up the steepest of hills or even every single hill but where you can lose out on a lot of time (and waste a lot of energy) is on the descents if you are timid about it.  This year, very unlike last, I practiced bravery and bounded down those hills as boldly as I could.  I passed quite a few people on the downhills, and because I have grown stronger in my hiking as well, I did not usually get passed back up the next big hill. At the first "Fluids only" aid station at a road crossing just under 5 miles in, I stopped to slam back a cup of plain water.  Sometimes chugging my Gatorade makes my mouth feel weird and I like to wash it down with plain water at the aid stations.  Around 6 or 7 miles in, I had lost my original group and was now with a new group but still hanging on to a good pace.  I wasn't slogging along, but I wasn't going all out, either.  It was just a nice pace for the day.  Going up the last big hill and rocky part before the oh-so-glorious descent into the aid station/turn around point we lost a couple of people from the group.  Around this point the fastest of the racers were coming back through on their way to the finish.

My family was waiting for me at this aid station just like they were last year when I did the 50K.  I told them I didn't want to linger long, I was feeling good and I liked the group I was with, so I just stole some quick hugs and kisses, grabbed a cup of M&Ms off the table and went on my way.  I managed to start my way back up the hill right behind the same gentleman I came down the hill with, so that was cool.

The last 8.9 miles (according to my Garmin): Well, there's no avoiding the fact that that oh-so-glorious downhill before the aid station is an oh-so-OMG uphill immediately after.  As I said to my trail friend ahead of me "I'm not going to think about it, I'm just going to keep munching my M&Ms and climb".  And that's what I did.  When we finally hit the top and hit that rocky "flat"ish part, we started running again and I still felt pretty good.  Things felt wonderful - for a while.  I realized that I was now well over the halfway point and that gave me a boost.  The sun was coming out more often now and it was warming up a bit. Right now our little group was being lead by the guy I followed up the hill and he made the comment "well, this used to be fun".  And someone behind me asked "When?".  Then I said, "about an hour ago" and we all had a good laugh.  We were slowing down, though, and admittedly we were walking a bit more than before.  I noticed my heart rate had fallen well down into my "easy" range and while I was tempted to ask for the lead to charge ahead, I didn't because I was enjoying the company and honestly I didn't see a point.  I didn't have anything to prove, I was already doing much better than I thought I would on parts of the trail I thought were crazy hard last year, so I just hung in.  Somewhere around 14 miles our kindly leader said "I'm going to let you go ahead, I need to take it easy from here".  And so it was down to just us 3 women.  I lead the way for a bit, increasing our pace until my heart rate got back up and we got to the fluid station.  Again, I stopped and chugged some plain water.  The awesome person at the aid station helped us cross the road and get back onto the trail. This time one of the other girls lead.  We kept up a nice pace, going faster than we had in previous miles.  We passed a few people along the way, which is always a nice morale booster toward the end of a race.  The lead girl fell off pace and let me and the other by.  I let the girl behind me pass because I could tell she was in a much stronger condition than I was.  At this point we only had about 2 miles to go and we passed a couple more people.  I started letting myself push a little bit harder, but I still reigned it in on the last couple of hills.  I kept reminding myself I'm doing this for a greater purpose and I didn't want to be reckless and hurt myself.  I was able to keep the girl in front of me in sight (her bright purple shirt helped) for a while, but eventually she must have kicked into high gear for the finale because I didn't see her again.  I felt really good coming through the last bit of the trail.  Then I hit the bike path and bleh... after miles on my legs gravel does not feel good to me.  I passed another guy during this part, he cheered me on saying "wow, way to hang in!".  My legs felt better once they hit actual pavement.  Now it was my turn to be passed - by the winner of the 50K race.  Amazing!  He made a beeline for the finish and I did the best I could to do the same behind him.  Hey, I got my pace down to 6:33 for that final push, so I'm not feeling bad about it at all! lol

Cruising to the finish! All smiles!  Yay, trail running!

And with that, I finished the 2017 Glacier Ridge Trail 30K.  Great course, great event, great people.  I'd do it again.  So, now I've done the 50K and the 30K.  I guess I'll have to do the 50 miler sometime to have the trifecta of medals.

This medal is huge!  Then again, glaciers are usually huge, huh?


  1. Congratulations, Nicole! Nice that you were able to see great improvements from last year. I'm planning on doing more trail running this summer. I've been scared to do a trail race because I don't know how slow-runner friendly they are.

    1. Hi Jennifer! Thanks! Definitely do some more trail running... it's fun, you never know what you're going to see (in the last couple of days I've had fox and raccoon encounters), it's flat out awesome to be immersed in our gorgeous Earth (yeah I sound like a hippy), and I've found it to be much easier on the body - recovery is a fraction of what it is after I run on pavement. As far as being slow friendly - I think most races are very accommodating to anyone who wants to try just due to the nature of trails being unpredictable. You just have to see if/what the cutoffs are. I know for GRT they left the 30K open for around 8 hours and the 50K for 10. I think you'd really enjoy trails. It's so peaceful and freeing. I know it's going to sound weird but a year of trail running has changed my life!