As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, I love Seattle Running Company because they do so much to make the Seattle running community a better place to live, train, and race. This weekend, I was faced with a choice between doing the Cougar Mountain 13 mile trail race that SRC puts together or doing the SRC weekend group run at Kendall Katwalk, near Snoqualmie Pass. That’s a great example of why I love SRC – two great runs…one weekend.
If I were in a bit better shape, I’d have done them both. Given that this is not the case, I opted for the Sunday group run. Phil Kochik, SRC employee and (in my opinion) one of the most under-rated trail runners in the Northwest, led the run. The run (map can be found here) was advertised as follows:
It will be approximately a 11 mile run; 5.5 miles and 2700 feet up, 5.5 miles down–all on the Pacific Crest Trail. Very scenic but with a few rough rocky sections.
Being from Pennsylvania, I’d never run 5.5 miles of consecutive uphill. Nor have I gained 2,700 feet of continuous vertical on a run. So, I wasn’t sure quite what to expect. As a result, I started out very conservatively. I was running as the “sweep” – the last runner in line making sure everybody ahead was okay. I stayed content to run at the back of the back for quite a while. I was surprised that, despite running fairly high mileage the last few weeks (including a 10 mile trail race last weekend in 85-degree temps), my legs felt pretty good.
The weather was cool (probably high 50’s/low 60’s at the start), but, I was working up a good sweat, and consumed my first water bottle filled with orange-ginger Nuun by the time we reached the intersection with the Commonwealth Basin trail at about 2.25 miles. This early part of the trail was fairly mild in terms of elevation gain (I would guess we were gaining about 400 feet/mile), and the cool weather kept a foggy-mist hovering above the trees. I was tempted to pick up the pace here when Phil, who had gotten to the back while marking the trail to ensure we all went the correct direction, went by at about 2.5 miles. Despite feeling really good (my heart rate was still in the low 160’s), I decided to hold back a bit longer, knowing that we had a ways to go.
At about 3 miles, the person ahead of me (don’t know his name, but have seen him at the SRC runs before), decided to start passing people, as the pace was starting to slow a bit as the trail got steeper. I decided to follow suit, and next thing I knew I was “breaking away” with this unknown runner in pursuit of Phil & two other runners. Shortly after we separated ourselves, the trail steepened and I found myself running alone in pursuit of Phil. After ½ mile of tough uphill climbing, I could see Phil and started closing the gap. This was a great section of trail, as things started leveling off a bit and the vegetation resembled that you typically see at/near the summit. But, I looking at my Garmin, I knew we were only 4 miles in and had another 1.5 miles to the top.
I hung behind Phil & 2 others for another ½ mile, but they got away from me when the trail started turning a bit more rocky as we neared the summit. Phil has an incredible ability to just “float” over the boulders. I heard him telling another runner that he got really good at running through rocky sections of trail when he lived in Colorado and often ran at Rocky Mountain National Park. After another steep section that included a number of switchbacks, the trail flattened out and was very exposed with a steep drop off to the left. I’ve read that the views from here on a clear day are spectacular, but on this morning, we could only see a deep valley filled with fog. The run ended at the Katwalk, a narrow path blasted into the side of a rock slab.
After spending a few moments at the top waiting for others to catch up, we started back down the mountain. We were running at a pretty good clip, with Phil & Brent (?) gapping me every time the trail became technical, forcing me to pick up the pace after each such section to keep pace. When we hit the intersection with the Commonwealth Basin trail again, Phil & two others decided to check out that trail, and added on another 1.5-2 miles. I waited for the next runner, Brian, and cruised on down the rest of the hill.
Once again, I have SRC to thank for a great run. I was expecting to be sore this AM from the big up & down, but actually felt pretty good on my morning run with our dog, Achilles. He was raring to go, and pulled me along at a pretty good clip. If you’re looking for a great, scenic trail run within an hour of the city, I’d highly recommend Kendall Katwalk.