Sunday, May 01, 2005

Cougar Mountain

One of my goals for the summer is to become a seriously badass trail runner. The fact that I couldn't find anyone to go with me this morning put a slight damper on my plans for the day, so I found some trails closer in to civilization to check out (not so keen on the idea of running in really remote areas by myself). Today I head over to Cougar Mountain for the first time ever with the intention of running the Wilderness Peak trail -- Cougar Mountain is off I-90 around Issaquah, so it didn't look hard to find even for me, but my trail running guide stated that the Wilderness Peak trail was relatively untraveled by people and their canines compared to the Tiger summits nearby. Sounded perfect: hilly, remote but not too remote, and really beautiful.

I ran into a hitch before I started running at all: I couldn't find the easy-to-find trailhead for Wilderness Peak (which is seriously three miles off 90 all on one road). Instead I found a secondary minor trailhead for the Connector Trail, which I started up because I saw this other woman do so and its name sounded auspicious. It's one of the roughest hills I've ever run up (or run-walked up!) -- elevation gain of about 1400 feet in the first mile... to start the run. The grade decreases by about half after the first mile (which is still no picnic!), at which point the Connector Trail meets up with several other trails in the network, including the Wilderness Peak Trail. Around this point I caught up to a guy who'd been in front of me for some time, and we ended up running the next four or so miles together, which was kind of nice since he was very familiar with the trail network in the park and since we were close to the same pace. It was interesting to talk to him about trail ultras he'd run in the past; his comments about the trail we were on as compared to tough races he'd done made me feel much more optimistic about my chances of doing okay in such a race. By the time we got to the peak, my calf muscles were screaming, but it was the good kind of calf muscle screaming. Which sentiment may only make sense if you trail run.

After we started descending via the Deceptor Trail we split up, since he planned to run another ten miles (there are about thirty-six miles of trails in the park in all) and I was starting to feel like I needed some water. Which, because I am an idiot and started off intending to run only three or four miles, was back at my car. I followed the Wilderness Trail back to the trailhead, which had been my intended launch point, and then ran down the road a mile or so until I got to my car.

I don't know how I've been living and running in Seattle for three years without having discovered this place before. I'm definitely going back whether or not I can find anyone who's up for it. And I'm going to get new trail shoes. The trails today were well-maintained and only moderately technical, but I was still feeling my shoes as a problem. And next time maybe I'll bring a camera. There's some beautiful stuff on those trails.

All in all much ass was kicked.


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