Tiger Mountain Trail Run was created by Northwest Trail Runs and offered many distances, including a 5K, 12K, half-marathon, and, for the truly ambitious, a 50K. The half-marathon course was one big loop that kept runners primarily on mountain biking trails. The first part of the race was a grueling 4- or 5-mile climb with multiple switchbacks on a brand new trail. The estimated elevation climb for the half marathon course was a whopping 2200 feet! The first aid station was located after the climb and from there runners had a short length of gravel roads to run on. It was there that the first downhill plunge ensued. Once the course went back into the wooded trails, there was still more downhill to go but also several periods of rolling trails and switchbacks. In general, the course was tough, well-marked, and absolutely beautiful. The weather was perfect: warm in the sunshine but cool and shady in the forest.
This was by far the toughest trail run I have ever done (I haven’t done many races, but I have run on a few trails in my career). It was so tactically different than anything I have experienced. It wasn’t hard in the sense that I was running fast, because believe me, I wasn’t. It was hard in that my legs felt pretty good and I wanted to go fast but I just couldn’t. The elevation change was way more than I was used to and the terrain was difficult to maneuver in some places – large and small rocks, tree roots, puddles, slick areas of mud – not to mention that a majority of the course took place in a shady, wooded area which made it a challenge to see (part of my problem is that I don’t wear contacts but also don’t run in my glasses).
I might have been the only participant who did better on the beginning uphill than on the subsequent downhill. I’m certainly not an expert at running uphill, but I really stink at running downhill. I’ll take that as a lesson learned and confirmed from this run. I found that I truly want to get better at trail running in general but also at running downhill. From speaking with others after the race, I have gathered some advice on how to get better at downhill running.
- Be fearless (I was gingerly hopping down the trails, across rocks and tree roots, while others were confidently gliding, leaping, and bounding like gazelles).
- Shorten your stride (Adam, Shoes-N-Feet’s Director of Running, informed me that most people want to lengthen their stride on the downhill, when you should actually shorten it).
For the first part of the race (the climb) I was sitting in a solid third or fourth place overall and was leading for the women. I passed several people on the uphill (including mountain bikers, who were extremely kind when sharing the trail. People in the forest are so nice!) but got completely crushed when it came to the downhill. I got passed by so many people. I caught one of them by the end of the race and was closing in on two more, but didn’t quite do it.
Thanks for the great photo, Adam!
One of my favorite parts of the course – besides the beginning uphill – was in the final third of the race, past the second aid station. I remember coming up a hill and around a corner to a break in the trees. I looked to my left and caught a glimpse of the highway. Aside from that, all I could see was trees and mountains. It was the most incredible view and I felt truly blessed to be able to enjoy the gift of running. Running takes you places. I journeyed through the trails of Tiger Mountain for the first, but definitely not the last, time with a great community of people who were there for the same reasons as myself: to be completely consumed in the run, the trails, the adventure, and the fresh mountain air.
This was the first event by Northwest Trail Runs hosted at Tiger Mountain and in my opinion it was a wild success. I can’t begin to write a review that describes how remarkable this race was – my only suggestion is to go out and try it for yourself. All of the runners that I saw seemed really pleased with the experience. As always, there was a great finish area with snacks, awards, and raffle prizes. The folks at Northwest Trail Runs know how to put on events and I am looking forward to the next one!