Saturday, November 29, 2008

Ghost of Seattle Marathon 2008

A selection of the photos of this year's run from Michael's point of view.
(click to enlarge)

More pictures on Michael's webshots album.
If you want a hi-res original, just ask.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Dumbing Down the Dumb Ass

I'll give Eric credit for the title of this post. His reason for avoiding our Dumb Ass Training runs is that he doesn't want to dumb down his Dumb Ass experience. Fair enough.

Arthur was the one who encouraged me to schedule some "orientation" sessions on the course of the Tiger Dumb Ass 50k fun run. We've scheduled eight Tuesday evening runs leaving the lower lot at 6pm.

Two down, six to go

Last week it was just Scott Krell and I. We didn't expect any other suckers and we decided to do one loop at a cheeky pace. Scott tore up Nook in about 37 minutes and then we settled into a cruise pace for the rest of the loop (we just made sure our night time loop time was better than Roy's PR).

Scott Krell

Roy Seliber

Tonight Scott is out of town and I was lucky enough to find one other victim to join me. Shawn and I did a very respectable two loop session: a mere half marathon with almost 5000 ft of gain in about 3 hours. "Not bad for a school night" according to Shawn. This was supposed to be Arthur's first session with us but he had some lame excuse (broken ribs from an accident or something). Hey Arthur, all you had to do was say "I don't want to run with you guys". No need to go to extremes.

Shawn McTaggart

Join us next week, November 4th 2008 at 6pm:
- condition your hill climbing muscles
- get familiar with the course
- have a good solid weekday workout

Click on the event on the calendar for details and contact info.

Michael Cartwright

PS - In case you hadn't noticed, I decided to add some faces to names. Something we should do more of.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Big Dabrowski - run as a marathon today

We had a bit of trouble with the original version of this run so we adjusted a bit. Bellevue Parks didn't want us running the final stretch through Coal Creek until they have finished their trailwork so we adjusted the length down from 50k to a marathon. DNR didn't want us to have an "event" on Tiger so we went low key and gave up on trail markings and aid stations.
7am at the Highway 18 trailhead saw a group of 5 diehards who ignored the crappy weather and decided to run anyway. The gate to the upper lot was closed so we decided to start from the lowerlot and figure out later how to add some extra credit distance to get our marathon credit.

Yours truly at the bottom of the One View trail. By the time we left Tiger Mountain we had over 15 miles behind us.

We had a vehicle parked at the 15 mile mark on the course where we resupplied with water and other goodies. The coke was good.

There is a short section of street running between Tiger and Squawk.

Dean Kayler cruising on Squawk Mountain.

Van Phan clocking up another back-to-back with a smile: Baker Lake 50k yesterday, Big Dabrowski marathon today. She also kept us honest with a 1.6 mile side trip up to the Bullitt Fireplace to make sure we got the distance. This involved some extra climbing credit (about +600 ft) but Van pointed out that only half of the out-and-back was uphill.

Shawn McTaggart cruising Squawk Mountain. Also a long weekend starting with course marking on Baker Lake on Friday night.

Finishers at Red Town Trailhead - seemed like a long day for a a marathon until you factor in the nature of the trails and the amount of climb:
  • Dean Kayler - 6:39:19
  • Shawn McTaggart - 6:39:19
  • Tony Covarrubias - 6:39:19
  • Michael Cartwright - 6:39:19
  • Van Phan - 6:39:20 (DFL)
Thanks to Tamara for helping with the crewing and to Scott for being there in case we needed you. Sorry we missed you at the start, Craig.

Vital statistics:
  • 27 miles
  • 7150 ft elevation gain
  • 8000 ft elevation loss

Let's Get Sticky and Dirty - make your gaiters stay on your shoes

If you are a trail runner in the US and you haven't discovered Dirty Girl Gaiters then you are missing out on a key piece of running equipment. Once you start using them, you wonder why they have not become as mainstream as socks and sunshades already.

(all images in this blog post can be clicked on for hi-res versions)

One issue I had early on with Dirty Girl Gaiters was affixing the Velcro to the backs of my shoes. You learn very quickly that the sticky surface of the Velcro is not enough. I've spoken to a few other 'users' and they recommend different forms of rubber cement and superglue variants for making the Velcro a permanent fixture.

I discovered the outdoor person's version of duct tape years ago: when on expeditions I usually carry at least one tube of SeamGrip: besides its obvious function of sealing tent seams, I've used it over the years to deal with crampon holes in snow gaiters, tears in Goretex jackets and even emergency ripped tent repair. It needs to dry overnight but after that, it bonds exceptionally well even on dirty surfaces and does not become brittle over time, even if exposed to plenty of UV.

What follows is my method of using SeamGrip to do a clean job of mod-ing your shoes for a permanent Dirty Girl Solution.

The tools required are some form of sharp crafts knife to cut the Velcro and a tube of SeamGrip (which you can get at REI).

Obviously you can cut simple square chunks and slop them on with great gobs of glue. this works if the shoe has a smooth surface on the back of the heel and looks great on black.

More complex surfaces and lighter colors require a bit more finesse.

Sculp your Velcro while still on the backing taking care to keep your fingers away from the business end of the knife.

Try it for size and keep sculpting till it fits in the right spot on the back of the shoe. I try to keep them as low as possible to get more use out of the gaiters.

Make a glob of SeamGrip on a piece of paper. Remove the backing from the Velcro and use it to scoop up some SeamGrip. I find this cleaner than trying to apply the glue to the shoe or to the Velcro directly. Wet your fingers before working with SeamGrip if you don't want the stuff all over your hands.

Place the Velcro and use a piece of paper towel to dab it into place and wipe off any excess glue. Because of the curved surface, the edges will curl up. Let them. Leave for 2-3 hours and then returns and dab again. This time apply plenty of pressure for the final stick.

Leave to dry overnight. Perfect.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Big Dabrowski 50k Trail

NW Ultras, a Washington State based trail running group, has documented Chris Dabrowski's great link-up that winds its way through four distinct wilderness regions located only 30 minutes from downtown Seattle as the "Big Dabrowski 50k Trail". The route crosses three peaks of the Issaquah Alps; Tiger Mountain, Squak Mountain and Cougar Mountain, eventually making its way down Coal Creek Park to finish at Newcastle Beach Park on Lake Washington. With over 95% of the run occurring on trail, this course provides participants a chance to experience the enchanting wilderness green belt called the “Mountains to Sound Greenway”.

Runners are a legitimate group of low impact trail users who can also become conservationists if they aren’t already. A low impact activity such as trail running can provide the opportunity for its participants to experience vast tracks of wilderness trails and lands. This experience most often leads to an appreciation for these wild lands and naturally results in the desire to protect and preserve it for future use and generations. It also in turn creates a growth and strengthening of the community of advocates and conservationists that will provide a voice and the critical support when these important areas come under the threat of development.

Doing The Run

The Big Dabrowski 50K route is a fine point-to-point 50k for experienced trail runners. Consider this a wilderness run and plan accordingly. One benefit of this course is that there is almost 100% cell phone coverage and should something go awry help is not far away. However, runners should still plan on being self-sufficient and have the minimum essentials for the outing. Recommended are the following (weather depending):

  • maps - preview the course and get your own Tiger and Cougar maps (see below)
  • altimeter (helpful for route finding)
  • water bottle/pack
  • food (gels, bars, etc.)
  • communication device (whistle and cell phone)
  • emergency blanket and light jacket


Green Trails is THE authority on trail maps in Washington. In this age of instant internet mapping, we need to continue to support the guys who make high quality and accurate maps specifically targetted at trail users. Green Trails sells the Issaquah Alps, Mt Si and Rattlesnake Lake maps as a Map Pack which you can find here:

If you really do only want Tiger and Cougar, you can buy them individually here:

If possible, please support Green Trails by purchasing directly online from them and avoiding the middlemen.

Route Overview

The Big Dabrowki 50K is a 50 kilometer (31.25 mile) point-to-point course running from the east side of Tiger Mountain and finishing at Newcastle Beach Park on Lake Washington. The route runs through varied terrain of which the majority is narrow dirt trail and involves approximately 4600+ feet of elevation gain and about 6000+ feet of elevation loss. The route can be broken into four distinct sections each linked by a well defined urbanized area. Overall there are 5 major urban road crossings where cautioned needs to be exercised.

Course Overview Map
(Click image for a larger format)

Detailed Course Description

The four sections of the course are described in detail in the
attached file or click on the PDF box below to download a copy. Each section of the course is depicted on an individual topographical map which corresponds to the areas outlined on the overview map above. Due to the large area encompassed by Tiger Mountain, the Section I map has been divided into an East and West Tiger map. The recommended self-support stash locations are indicated by a blue and purple target. They correspond to the start and end locations for each section as described in the distance and elevation summary charts found in the file below.

Safety & Integrity

Nothing is worth getting hurt for so safety comes first. Having a fun day comes second.

Getting lost on any of these mountains on a bad weather day can get serious fast. Common sense rules. Don't do anything dodgy.

Be low key and stay on the trails, absolutely no littering (no gel packets!) and be super-courteous to other trail users - no raucous behavior, slow down to a walk when passing and be friendly!

If thinking whether to being man's best friend on this run please research and conform to the rules and regulations of the various park areas which are governed by the WA DNR, King County Parks, WA State Parks and Bellevue Parks. Most require pets be leashed and that owners pick-up after their dogs. In addition, other trail users and runners should be taken into consideration as they might not feel as comfortable with animals about.


August 10

  • after a quick preview of the route this weekend it has become apparent that Bellevue City Parks is reworking the Coal Creek Park trail section where it crosses Coal Creek Parkway. This section of trail is being rerouted towards Forest Drive to provide a safer alternative to crossing the busy Coal Creek Parkway at a traffic light. Check back for details regarding where the course will be rerouted in this area and an update will be made to the Coal Creek Park map showing the new route. Thanks for your interest.

August 18

  • below is an image of the course reroute where it crosses Coal Creek Parkway and the Course Description file has been updated to show the changes on the Coal Creek Park map. The updated route is shown in blue where it runs along the sidewalk for 0.1 miles and crosses more safely at the traffic light. The dirt trail picks up again directly behind the traffic light post after the crossing but is currently not signed. It eventually leads back in to the Coal Creek Park trail.

August 29

The 2008 running of this event has been changed to a self-supported / self-guided trail run.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Alpental to North Bend 50k Trail

50k trail run from Alpental parking lot to Mt Si trailhead via the Middle Fork valley. Click to enlarge map and profile.

Point to point: 31 miles
Running time: 6-8 hours
Starting elevation: 2350 feet
High point: 3500 feet at 1.5 miles
Elevation gain: 3700 feet (6200 feet descent)
Best time of year: mid-June to late Fall (to avoid snow)
Maps: Green Trails 206, 207, 174, 175 (easily done with no maps - see below)
Permits: self-register at Alpental/Snow Lakes trailhead

Christopher and I hatched this idea when we were running the Middle Fork trail a few months ago. Actually, it is quite an obvious link-up if you study at a topo map of the area for 30 seconds. Another thing we wanted to do was find a great trail run that would leverage the service of Bus-up 90. Unfortunately, we caught the bus on the very last day the service was running just before it got shut down due to idiotic over-regulation by the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC).

Craig Hanela and I started our day in the Mt Si parking lot where we were picked up by the bus. Les, our driver, was super accommodating about pickup and drop-off locations this day because he was running the service for free thanks to their problems with the WUTC. I would love to see a government that actually gives a damn about public transportation solutions in some fairytale future so that we could have a service like this that supports multiple trailheads in the I-90 corridor (please see the response from Sharon Wallace (WUTC) below). In the meantime, you'll have to do your own 25 mile car shuttle.

The start is in the Alpental ski-area parking lot and you head out on trail 1013 toward Snow Lake (This is not to be confused with the Kendall Catwalk PCT trailhead which is closer to I-90). The trail from Alpental to Snow Lake is popular and well maintained. In about 1.5m you reach the high point of the day on the saddle before descending toward Snow Lake. (There is a minor trail heading off left to Source Lake during your climb to the Snow Lake saddle. Ignore it.)

The descent takes you around the North shore of snow lake and after another 1.5 miles you arrive at one of the few trail intersections you'll encounter: Trail 1012 goes left toward "Gem Lake". You take a right, staying on 1013 and heading toward "Middle Fork Road".

The 4 mile section down from Snow Lake to the Middle Fork trail is a well constructed but underused trail. About 1 mile of it is overgrown enough to slow you down to a walk but still not unpleasant. The rest of this section is runnable.

You'll have the trail to yourself for most of the descent and the mossy forest path is much less trampled than the usual busy trails we run. Pristine.

At the bottom of the hill you'll arrive at your 2nd trail intersection of the day. At this point the Middle Fork trail is on an old road bed. This is trail 1003 and you want to turn left to head downstream for the next 10 miles. Points of interest in this section include:
- Dingford Creek Trailhead at 3 miles (you'll see a large bridge crossing the river to your right- ignore it)
- Wildcat Creek at 4.5 miles (good place for lunch and water refilling)
- Gateway Bridge at 10 miles (this is where you cross the Middle Fork)

Turn left on 1003 - head downstream along Middle Fork

Ignore the Dingford Creek turn-off and arrive at Wildcat Creek for lunch

Gateway Bridge signals the end of the Middle Fork Trail

Gateway Bridge is at a popular trailhead for the Middle Fork trail. This trailhead can be reached from Exit 34 off I-90 via the Middle Fork road (Road 56). It involves 9 miles of what is usually a nasty dirt road drive.

When you arrive in the parking lot, head straight through to the road and you'll find a well marked trailhead for the CCC extension trail on the opposite side of the main road at the entrance to the trailhead parking. Follow this trail for 3 miles. It is well constructed and super runnable. It ends abruptly, dumping you out on Road 56 (elevation 960 feet).

Turn right and follow Road 56 for less than 1/10th of a mile to an obvious blocked old road heading off to the right. There is room for a few cars here and you may see signs of ORV activity. This is the start of the CCC road and it will take you all the way to North Bend for the next 10 miles. The first 3 miles are scruffy and not well maintained but it is a road: how hard can it be? After a highpoint of 1500 feet you'll descend back to 1380 feet and exit on to the Bessemer Road.

3 miles of CCC trail to Bessemer Road (click to enlarge)

Run downhill on the road and when you encounter the major left turn in the road at just less than 1/2 a mile, look for a blocked old road off to your right: that is the CCC trail. As the trail starts again, there is a significant creek and it makes a good final water stop. For a more aesthetic water stop, hold out for a mile or two: there are a few more reliable sources ahead in more open locations. This last 5 mile section of the CCC trail is popular and well maintained.

Arriving at a gate signals the end of the CCC trail and the start of residential roads: you now have 2+ miles of road running between you and the Mt Si Trailhead. Half of this is dirt and the rest is blacktop. All of it is downhill. For the dirt, simply follow the downhill option when confronted by an intersection: this will keep you on the correct and larger road. Once on the blacktop, follow your nose.

Splits (approximate):

  • Alpental to intersection below Snow Lake: 3m+
  • Descent to Middle Fork: 4m+
  • Along Middle Fork to Dingford Creek trail: 3m+
  • Along Middle Fork from Dingford Creek trail to Wildcat Creek: 1m
  • Along Middle Fork from Wildcat Creek to Gateway Bridge trailhead: 5m
  • CCC extension trail: 3m+
  • CCC road trail to Bessemer Road 'crossing': 3m
  • CCC road trail to North Bend: 5m
  • Final roads to Mt Si trailhead: 2m+
That's it. My intention was to make it easy to do the run with just this description (even if you have the navigational skills of a dead hamster). Please e-mail me for clarifications, suggestions or if you have any corrections that I should make.

Alternate reference for the Snow Lake trail:

Alternate reference for Middle Fork trail:

Alternate references for CCC trail: