Sunday August 7th, I woke up to the sounds of fog horns warning the local ferries and boaters to slow down on the water, it's also a great way to wake local residents out of their sound sleep. For me it was the perfect sound to hear 1st thing in the morning before my epic 50k here in the ACFL (Anacortes Community Forest Lands). When there's heavy fog in the Puget Sound there's no wind, and it's going to be a sunny cool day, after the fog lifts, exactly what I was hoping for.
I arrived at Heart Lake parking about at 7:45 to find a group of eagerly awaiting runners ready to embark on a TOUGH and long trail run. Our plan for the day was to run 3 different loops for a total of 32 miles minimum. ACFL has over 50 miles of trails within it's 2800 acre park. The trails are almost all single track with roots, rocks, steep inclines and declines just the perfect type of trails for long distance ultrarunning training. Running these trails are not for the weak or easily intimidated.
I was pleased to see the following runners, Rusty Bachman, Miranda Bachman, Kevin Douglas, Tim Stroh, Jason Hynd, Matt Hagen, & Betsy Rogers. Perfect we had 8 starters, with me included. Rusty was nursing achy knees, Matt twisted his ankle during White River 50 mile the weekend prior, and Betsy was sore from White River, her 1st 50 mile run. Their plan was to just run the 1st and possible the 2nd loop depending on how they felt. Matt had to drop out of White River last weekend due to an ankle sprain, this run was a perfect mental boost in his training plan for Cascade Crest 100 Mile Endurance Run, his 1st 100 mile run on 8/27/2011. I was pleased he stayed with us for the 1st 2 loops, a total of 20 miles. Rusty ran the 1st loop, close to 13 miles, then stayed back and waited for his wife to finish. Betsy ran the 1st loop and decided it was much better to sun bathe and drink beer (Lush) while the rest of us continued.
We returned after our 2nd loop around 2pm and my good friend Eric Barnes joined us for the 3rd and final loop. I 1st met Eric in Boston while riding the bus taking us to Hopkinton Massachusetts for the start of the 2004 Boston Marathon. Since that date we have ran numerous races together, the most memorable was the 2008 Canadian Death Race. He's the one that taught me how to pace myself in ultras. One of the hardest things for a marathon runner to do when entering their 1st long race is "slow" down. My 1st 50 mile race and 1st 100 mile race were both a disaster due to this problem. He paced me the 1st 30-40 miles of the Canadian Death Race, we were going so slow I thought I was going to lose it. After all the reason for running a race is to get to the finish line as fast as possible, right! That works fine when you are running 26 miles on the road for a mere 3 -4 hours, but when you add another 74 miles and 18 hours the dynamics change. It is all about preserving so you can still run late in the race without feeling like you'de rather have a backhoe run you over and cover you up. You want to still feel alive at the end of a long race. It sucks to do a death walk for miles and miles, it's much better to run!
Our journey started off running around the north end of the Heart Lake Trails, then south next to Heart Lake, crossing the Heart Lake Road to run a STEEP hill up the side of Sugarloaf Mountain between the saddle of Sugarloaf and Mount Erie, then to Whistle Lake. By the time we arrived at Whistle Lake the fog had lifted and everyone in the group was warmed up and having a great time. I asked the group if they wanted to jump in for a quick swim, it was just too cold. We continued around the lake to the south side of Mount Erie, to the Campbell Lake Overlook, and then across Heart Lake Road to the far south end of Heart Lake Trail to Lake Erie Overlook. This loop ended back at our cars in the Heart Lake Parking Lot.
We paused, ate, drank fluids, and replenished our stores for the shortest and hardest loop in the 50k, up and over Sugar Cube, around the north end of Whistle Lake, up to Sharpes Corner Overlook, to Whistle Lake Parking area, back up a couple of tough hills, and return to our cars. This loop is really tough, the uphill climbs, and downhill descends are either straight up or straight down. This section is where we find out who the REAL trail runners are!
Of course we save the best loop for last! We take off from Heart lake again and traverse the northwest Heart Lake Trails, cross “A” ave to the Cranberry Lake Trail system. This trail system is fairly small with very nice hills that never seem too long, the descends are just the right grade to get your wind back. Our loop around Cranberry Lake takes us around the outside perimeter trail system, so we run all the toughest trails. We finished back at Heart Lake with a makeshift barbeque, fruits, an assortment of salads, a smorgasbord of fine tailgate food and fun.
The trails are very well groomed thanks to all the hikers and mountain bikers that recreate this area daily, the City of Anacortes maintaining trails, Ranger Dave maintaining trails and organizing trail work parties, Friends of the Forest dedication to maintaining open spaces, and trail workers constant upkeep of the trails. Thanks to all this hard work and dedication we are able to play year around on excellent single track and double track trails.
If you are interested in running with us, my running group Skagit Runners, holds a run every Thursday night at 6pm. We meet at Heart lake Parking Lot. When Fall arrives we don headlights and continue our weekly runs, light or dark we are running!
Finish time 9:06:05
Here are a few links for maps in the ACFL;
Thanks to everyone that joined us for part or all of 2nd Annual God's Country 50k, it was a BLAST!