Runner: Elizabeth Carey
Location: Squak Mountain State Park, Issaquah, Washington
Results: 5:06:54, 1st Female and 4th Overall
Strava Activity Link: https://www.strava.com/activities/1495205433
3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?
- Low-key, fun, community-feeling race. Evergreen Trail Runs did a great job.
- Climbing — lots and lots of climbing on every type of trail from a gravel fire road to winding single track!
- Beautiful forest and scenery.
Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you
Nothing was disappointing.
Our weather was very Pacific Northwesty — aka mostly rainy, which made for muddy trails that became increasingly slick/deep as the races went on but that’s to be expected in this region! I was absolutely soaked and muddy by the end, naturally.
Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?
If you haven’t run Squak before it can be a bit disorienting figuring out where you are in relation to the peaks/park itself (but the course markings were stellar). The weirdest thing was that the sun came out for a few minutes!
Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?
I paced myself on climbs, doing considerable hiking, but also used some wonderful flowy sections of trail to make ground and open up on the downhills. I ran most of the race by myself so tried to enjoy the scenery (read: greenery) as much as possible. I was using this as a long training run in leadup to a 50k so the mental challenge aspect was good practice.
Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner
If it’s raining, prepare mentally and with gear choices for mud! (I wore HOKA Speedgoat 2s for traction and managed to not fall.)
Throw a shell and/or sleeves or gloves in your pack just in case. Weather is variable in the Issy Alps and can change quickly.
Pace yourself on the hills. You do two “laps” of the same connected loops with tough climbs to get to 50k.
Lessons you learned that will help you next time around
This course includes both technical and flowy downhills following the big climbs — which can be a struggle or a relief depending on how your quads are feeling and what your skill level on downhills are and/or your fear factor when it comes to slipping in muck! I’d hope to conquer the downhills faster next time.
Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race
After hitting the last aid station on the two “laps” and running over the summit/near the towers at the top of Squak, it’s easy to assume it’s all down hill from there to the start/finish area. Technically, it is; but realistically there are some rolling hills!
Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?
This course is pretty! Very typical of Issy Alp terrain and scenery.
Difficulty – Is it a tough course?
Yes, with nearly 8k of elevation gain in 26 miles, I’d say the toughest part about this course is the climbing. But that’s why I signed up — great training!!
Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?
Competition – Is there a strong field?
Nope — this was a small group of dedicated and/or crazy people out on an early Saturday morning during torrential downpours.
Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.
Logistics had a very low barrier to entry. I signed up day-of at the start/finish area. It was great!
The aid stations were well-stocked and run by people who knew what they were doing and seemed like they were enjoying themselves.
Weather and typical race conditions
As I mentioned, we had lots of rain leading up to and during the race. The sun came out for a few minutes, and we also had periods of overcast, fog/mist, and lighter rain.
Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next guy?
I was happy I packed arm sleeves for the 50-degree start — which were helpful after I got cold from rain — but just be prepared depending on that day’s forecast. The start/finish area is also the half-way point and you can leave a drop bag (or dropped gear) there.
Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?
If your friends like waiting to see you at halfway, yes!! They likely could hike or maybe drive to another spot to cheer you on, but there were few spectators this April. There were, however, several hikers on the trails.
How’s the Swag?
NA — post-race food was good though!
The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?
5 stars! As a low-key event, this was a great training opportunity that offered a fun atmosphere and good support, with challenging course!