Mind over matter: Issy Alps 50k June 2017

Mind over matter: Issy Alps 50k June 2017

“If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter”

My friend Roger and I set out on the Issy Alps course on Friday afternoon 2 June 2017.  My goal was to complete the 50k course while Roger was attempting the much more challenging 100 mile course. We started out from the Mailbox Peak trail head at 5:48 PM. In the picture below, I’m on the left wearing a blue shirt; Roger is on the right.


We were pretty familiar with the route, this was our fourth time up this year. We followed the new Mailbox Peak trail, as we had done before. This is a deviation from the standard Issy Alps course, it does add about 4 miles more. (Just realized this may disqualify me from official completion, may have to do this another time). We took a little less than three hours to head up, wanted to conserve energy for Mount Teneriffe, our next peak. We reached Mailbox Peak at 8:40 PM. Had a great view of Mount Rainier at sunset. I looked through the mailbox and had some lemon GU that had been left there.


We donned our headlamps and ran back down to the Mailbox trail head.  We were feeling pretty good. We did resupply our water from the vehicle; thus, our attempt can’t be called unsupported (but we were pretty close).  It was about 10:30 PM when we left; heading down Middle Fork road and up the Granite Creek trail.  Along this area, we heard gunshots and twice saw vehicles cruising slowly with spotlights. Perhaps some midnight hunting? We went up Granite Creek and found trail and then found the turn back down. (We had missed this on a previous attempt… don’t do that). Headed down and hit the road and went across the bridge. There is construction going on, but it was no hassle to get through.

We crossed the creek with no issues, thanks to whoever added some stepping stones, this is now a lot easier to cross. Headed through some unofficial trail; they were NETTLE-some (there were some stinging nettles that we couldn’t avoid.) Headed upward and hit the CCC road at 1:40 AM. Felt pretty good here, we were able to run the roads down to the Mount Tenerriffe trail head. I felt much stronger than previous attempts. One lesson I learned was to really keep up with nutrition and hydration. I was using Perpeteum and eating my usual baby food and other soft snacks. (I have achalasia – one symptom is difficulty swallowing. )

Reached the Mount Teneriffe trail head at 2:40 AM.  Headed up and did water refill near the base of the falls. We were both using Katadyn Befree water filters. Above the falls, it is a tough climb to Mount Teneriffe.  There was a little bit of snow on the last summit section. We hit the summit at 6:35 AM after a slow, steady slog up. There were two other people up there. Rested a while here. It was foggy, not much of a view. I did see some neat wildflowers, including Indian paintbrush at the summit.


There was still plenty of snow as we navigated down from Mount Teneriffe towards the Talus trail that would take us over to Mount Si.  The snow crust was hard, so no postholing on this trip (unlike a previous attempt when we were travelling on the snow in late afternoon.) Did another water refill along the way. We reached crowded Mount Si at 11:10 AM. My energy was flagging at this point but I knew I needed to rest a bit and get ready for Little Si.


We headed down the old Mount Si trail towards Little Si. I hit a tree root wrong and fell. Ended up with a bruised elbow. I was definitely slowing down but was pretty determined. I wasn’t running any more but still putting one foot in front of another. After all, how hard could it be to go up Little Si…. well, a five year old passed me at one point but I made it up to Little Si summit at 1:55 PM. It was our fourth summit of the day.


We made it to the Little Si trail head at 3:11 PM. Thus, I think I can lay claim to the Slowest Known Time (SKT) for the Issy Alps 50k  at 21 hours and 23 minutes. Roger kept going while I headed home for a shower and a meal. I felt pretty good after the run. The next morning, I joined Roger and ran another 11 mile section of the Issy Alps 100 mile course through Tiger Mountain as he continued his much more challenging adventure.


I learned several important lessons while completing this run (on my fourth attempt).

  1. Do adequate training that includes elevation gain. I was unprepared for the elevation gain on my first attempt and had to bail out on Mount Teneriffe.
  2. Keep up with nutrition and hydration. This was really an issue on my third attempt, I got behind heading up Mount Teneriffe, and it was an issue.
  3. Pay attention to route finding all the way. This isn’t like a race course where you just need to follow trail markers.
  4. Slow and steady works for me. OK, maybe I went too slow this time but I had some margin of energy left. I felt great the next day running with Roger on Tiger.
  5. I need to carry some type of GPS tracking device. I have a SPOT beacon but did not pay for tracking, I’ll need to get that option.

Thanks to Jeff Wright who got me started on trail running last summer. Roger Johnson got me out on some great runs in the last year. Both Roger and Jeff have been my mentors, you don’t learn trail running from a book!  To George Orozco, who laid out this challenging course, thanks – you did a great job.

Finally, I realize I probably need to do the Issy Alps another time because I didn’t follow the exact route. We used the longer (less steep) new Mailbox trail when we started. Also, I don’t have a GPS track for this run because I don’t have a GPS tracker.   Still, I had a great time and this is a course I would like to do again. As I build my skills, I want to work my way up to the 100k and maybe one day the 100 mile course.


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