It probably tells you all you need to know about the Dirty Turtle that my phone can’t believe what I did. It thinks I ran 18.2 miles in four and a half hours. At 25K, I ran (shuffled? Slogged?) 15.5 miles, which took me six hours and 23 minutes.
As near as I could tell, I was moving so slowly at various points that my phone decided I’d stopped.
The first thing you should know is that not only did I train for this race, but I also trained on these very trails. So, I thought I knew what to expect. But, I assure you, I did not.
I should have realized I was in trouble shortly after passing the aid station at about the 13 KM / eight-mile point. I knew the course ran across the Turtle Rock peak of the Green Mountain State Forest, and instead of heading to the peak about a kilometer away, the markings directed me downhill.
“Hmm,” I thought, “Maybe I misread the course briefing.”
I was a bit disappointed at the weather as the mist obscured what I knew were some spectacular views of the Olympics and Hood Canal. It was probably for the best, though; it made the run much less brutal than it could have been.
The trail followed a pleasant path through the forest, paralleling a stream with a waterfall I had not found during my training. Finally, it rounded the bottom of the mountain and followed a wide boulevard that had formerly been the rail line, heading toward the start and finish at the Green Mountain Horse Camp. I was fatigued but had the course well in hand. I even had some fantasy about catching up to some of my competitors… none of whom I’d seen in a long time.
And then, at the 16 K / 10-mile point (12 miles, according to my phone!), the trail markers directed me to a sharp left… up a steep muddy slope.
“Ugh,” I thought. “Why can’t they just loop us through the logging roads to get that last 10K in? I’m already pretty gassed. I sure hope the steep part doesn’t last too long.”
Oh, but it DID last. And last. And last.
According to my phone – and AllTrails, for that matter – about 750 feet. Over a half-mile.
Sure, I’d see the pictures of cheery, smiling people using a rope to scramble up a rock face… But, I don’t know why I didn’t think that was at the end of a steep, slippery, nearly thousand-foot climb.
At one point, I thought, “man, the next section is pretty steep and muddy. I sure hope I don’t slip. But, if I do, I’ll probably fall to the bottom. AND DIE!.”
A bit further on, I thought, “man, I’m sure glad I don’t have a pulse monitor. I’m not sure I want to know how hard I’m working. If I have a heart attack, I’ll fall to the bottom. AND DIE.”
At this point, I realized there was no way I could turn back… because going up was MUCH safer than going down. And because of the whole not wanting to fall to the bottom. And, well, you know.
So, I started looking for somewhere to stop so I could call for a rescue. At this point, I decided that this was NOT an age-appropriate activity for a 60-year-old. I can confidently tell you that the ONLY reason I did not quit at that point was that there was no place to stop. So, I kept going.
I DID appreciate the encouraging signs someone had planted along the way, including some touching remembrances of the local race director, John Straub, to whom the run was dedicated and recently lost a battle with cancer.
At long, long last, I found myself at the bottom of an intimidating cliff of rock, wondering, “well, crap. What do I do now?” That was when I spotted the rope. I was sure there was no way I had enough strength left to do – whatever torture was ahead of me – but what choice did I have?
A mini aid station awaited me as I struggled to the top of Turtle Rock (remember that? It Turns out the trail DID go over the rock!), I must have looked at LEAST as bad as I felt… the two friendly volunteers tried several times to convince me to sit down. I refused, telling them if I sat, there was no way I was getting up again. Although, in retrospect, that may have been what they had in mind. It had taken me AN HOUR to do this climb.
And I only had four or five miles to go…
The course was, mercifully, mostly downhill from this point. The weather cleared to offer some lovely views of Sinclair Inlet, Bremerton, Seattle, and the Cascades, in the distance.
Lunch burritos from Johnny Boy BBQ were waiting for me at the finish line. At first, I was sure I would never be able to get one down… and shortly after that, I was sure I couldn’t eat it fast enough. It was possibly the most amazing thing I’ve ever eaten.
Also awaiting my finish were the coolest hand-painted medals you could ever choose from. Although I wasn’t QUITE the last one in, I am sorry I didn’t get to see the medals that had been collected before I finished, although I’m sure the one I picked was overlooked.
It read “Best time ever.”
And it sure was.
There’s no way I’m doing THAT again!
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Congrats on your first turtle! That climb up to Turtle Rock is the sole reason I do that run. And to lovingly curse the RD’s name for hours… I’d say the universe meant for you to have that medal . :)