2 Fridays of experimental and sleepless car camping – checked.
2 Saturdays of exhilarating mountain trail
running hiking – checked.
2 Weekends of therapeutic bliss and inner peace – checked.
Breakneck Point Marathon.
The pessimist in me: A marathon 1 hour slower than my 50k.
Hyner View Challenge 50k.
The optimist in me: A 50k 1 hour faster than my marathon.
April 15 – Breakneck Point Marathon.
Friday. My first car camping experience. Sleepless, but I still would have preferred this rather than waking up very early Saturday morning and driving ~2hrs to get to the event. Dinner was Chinese take-out. Philip, also doing the marathon, did car camping as well. His car setup was much better than mine, though. We had beer before settling in for the night.
“It was a sleepless night not in Seattle, and I was thinking of Meg Ryan. Tossing and turning all night, I wish I could have what she’s having.”
Saturday. I woke up at 5:15AM. Participants started to arrive for the 6:30AM start. Did my morning ritual, ate my muffin breakfast cold, and prepared for the event. Oh how I missed my morning coffee.
There were 2 events today, the marathon, with 9k+ of elevation gain, and the half-marathon, with 5k+ of elevation gain. With these elevation gains for these distances, you’d get the idea that this is not your typical trail marathon, and half-marathon. Indeed, it was a roller coaster of ups and downs – on very rocky terrain. The ascents were steep, and the descents felt steeper, where confidence and focus were important. Both included the signature climb to Breakneck Ridge Trail, rated as one of the best destination day hikes in the country by Trails.com.
There were 4 aid stations for the marathon, the 1st at the base of Breakneck Ridge Trail, the 2nd at the base of Washburn Trail, the 3rd and 4th somewhere at the Mt Beacon area.
The first 5+ miles from start to the 1st aid station were runnable ups and downs (on trail running standards). The next 4+ miles from the 1st to the 2nd aid station started with the steep ascent to Breakneck Ridge Trail followed by a long descent to the base of Washburn Trail. I had no problem reaching the 1st and 2nd aid stations. I filled up my 2 bottles with Tailwind at the 2nd aid station and continued the run/jog/walk to the 3rd aid station, which was 6+ miles. Even with 2 full bottles, I still ran out and had to get some water from the stream before reaching the 3rd aid station. Again, I filled up my 2 bottles upon reaching the 3rd station. From the course guide, the distance from the 3rd to the 4th aid station was ~8 miles. However, one of the volunteers said that it was actually just 6 miles. It was a relief hearing this. However, this would turn out to be totally inaccurate. With more climbs on this leg, I ran out of water 4 miles out. Without any streams nearby, I said I’d survived the next 2 miles from my reserves thinking it was just 6 miles. Beep, my watch sounded, indicating a mile. And then another beep – another mile. And then another climb, and another. Where the heck is the aid station??? A fellow runner mentioned that it was actually 8+ miles between the 3rd-4th aid stations. What??? But the volunteer said it was just 6 miles??? After hearing this, I sensed problem. I needed water. Luckily, there was a family of hikers who offered some water. It wasn’t just me who really needed water. I split the bottle of water with the runner behind me. Big, big thanks to these hikers. When I finally reached the 4th aid station, the volunteer confirmed it was closer to 9 miles from the 3rd to the 4th aid station! ***** At the end of the race, runners said they ran out of water between aid stations 3 and 4.
The last 3+ mile would be a gradual descent to the finish. Finally, no more climbs! It was the final push to the finish with trashed legs and hurting feet. Beer awaits at the finish.
April 22 – Hyner View Challenge 50k.
Friday. Another car camping experience. This time, someone decided to join me in my car to keep me company. With constant buzzing to my ear, I was not able to stop and smash this lone mosquito that kept me awake all night!
Saturday. The event started at 8AM, with a little shower blessing. The course offers steep climbs with rewarding views at the top (if you have time to take pictures). The course was not as technical and rocky as the Breakneck Marathon. But it does not mean easier either. The climbs were really steep. Some of the climbs were really steep and slippery, which at times forces you to grab onto whatever support you could to avoid sliding back. The 2 really steep climbs were at the start and at the end, the Hyner View and the SOB climbs. With the steep climbs come the steep downhills. I enjoyed my time on the downhills, just letting gravity take control not thinking about falls and face-plants. Thank you, Mt Tammany Blue Trail!
There was also this stream crossing part on the course that I find unusual. Unusual in the sense that you are crossing the same stream going from left to right only to cross again and come back to the left side after just a few steps. And you have to do this many times. Why not just make the trail on one side of the stream?
The thing I remember the most about the event was at the end. The big crowd at the finish. It was a party! With lots of food – pizza, donuts, chicken bbq cooked on the spot (really!), home-made pastries, and beer. And everyone is welcome! Anyone can get food – not just the runners – free. No bands, no tickets, no stubs, to show. This is perhaps the reason why this event sells out quickly. It’s worth doing this event again because of this kind of support from the people.
And it’s hard not to mention the generous swag – hat, shirt, and socks. And the cold shower at the finish, if you decide to have one.