The Squak Mountain race that Evergreen Trail Runs puts on every April is one of my favorites.
It has a beautiful hilly mostly-single-track course with a few fast flats and some flowy downhills. It has a wonderful technical section where you can barely see the trail on account of its being overgrown with ferns and moss that hide slippery rocks and bundles of roots with feet-sized holes between them. There are fallen tree trunks that you have to climb over, and tree trunks that you should probably duck under. And the view! Well, this is Seattle, and so there really isn’t any view. But that’s because it’s blocked by a forest of beautiful big fir trees.
The organization and the volunteers are stellar. If you’re reasonable about it, Roger Michel still lets you run his races with your dog. So even if, on race day, you don’t have your dog with you, chances are you’ll encounter someone else’s dog during the race. Running is always better with a dog.
Squak is one of the best trail/mountain races around, and I encourage everyone to try it sometime. There is a 12K, half, full marathon, and 50K, so pick your distance and try not to break your ankle or dislocate anything.
This year I did the half marathon for the second time and finished an unofficial (as of race-day afternoon) 15th. I believe I may have gotten third in my age group. It was a competitive year with 3 or 4 guys running under the old course record (and some guy named Justin Houck did an insane 1:32), so place-wise I’m pretty happy with where I ended up. I felt pretty strong for most of the race. I didn’t fall on my face once. It was, in general, a rousing success. But as after every race, there were a few things I wanted to have done better. My arbitrary goal beforehand was to finish in less than 2 hours, and I finished in 2:04:55.2 which is arbitrarily 4:55.2 too slow. I did the first big climb and all the descents really well, but the climbs near the end had me a bit strung out. You know that feeling you get when your heart rate goes above 200 and you shift over to anaerobic metabolism? It was like that.
For most of the race I was by myself, except for a spell during the middle when I was running with a guy named Josh. He probably has a bunch of natural talent, because I got the impression he hadn’t been doing a lot of focused training and hadn’t done a trail race since the late George H.W. Bush administration. Anyway, he was great and I hope he continues to race because he’ll probably kick a lot of ass.
Squak was my first race of the year, and I thought it went well. I think I’m a better mountain runner than when I did this race two years ago, and I think the changes I’m making this year in my training are making me faster. Those changes are primarily 1) greater variety in intensity and distance of my training runs, and 2) occasional group runs with the Rocky Mountain Runners in Boulder (a dog-friendly group of fast motherfuckers). I’m trying to adhere to Matt Carpenter’s advice this season: make your hard days hard and your easy days easy. I think it’s working.
Check back later for some pictures. Until then, my race per the Suunto.