I assumed that, at worst, Squak Mountain would be slightly harder than Defiance. Somehow the posted 7800 feet of elevation gain in the marathon didn’t register as hard despite the fact that mile for mile that represents more climbing than is found at Wasatch 100, which is the hardest race I have done to-date.
Needless to say, it was a much longer day than I had anticipated but I still had an awesome time. Being from the desert, running in the Seattle area is always such a treat for me with the deep green, moss covered woods and naturally growing ferns and whatnot. The Squak Mountain trail offers everything you want out of a Pacific Northwest race but it is not really for the uninitiated, though I did meet a guy there who did this as his first marathon and he loved it.
I honestly don’t recall a great deal about this race other than it was both awesome and very hard. It was climb, climb, climb, descend, descend, descend, all day long. We had fog, drizzle, rain and snow during the course of the day and depending on whether you are near the top of the mountain or closer to the bottom. This race also offers a 50K but honestly, I think that is overkill because the 50K adds nothing new to the race other than distance; you simply repeat a particularly gnarly loop up on top of the mountain one more time. As it stands the marathon consists of I think four separate loops that you complete twice though maybe it was only three. If you run either the marathon or the half-marathon you see everything the course has to offer, which is a lot. The only good reason I can see to do the 50K is that you are using it to train for something longer or harder or, of course, if you specifically select this race as an A race for competitive reasons.
In the end the GeekGrl was able to complete the half-marathon but needed to bail on the full because of time constraints. She hadn’t really been training for something with so much climbing and descending. I was able to pull off an age group victory but as I recall I was about in the slowest age group so it’s not like I was out there crushing the course or anything.
The only thing I got from the race by way of extras was a tech-shirt that had the names of all the races this race organization does, so nothing specific to this race and a $99 traffic ticket for not paying the $10 parking fee. I did look around for a place to pay the parking fee, in New Mexico parks the fee areas have a prominent area with a lock box, several pay/receipt envelopes and instructions on how to pay. I didn’t see any such thing at Squak Mountain. However, I could have tried harder to figure out how to pay (like I could have asked someone) but I didn’t do my due diligence and just went racing off into the woods so I had it coming.
Anyway, the only point to that last bit is that you should come to Squak Mountain expecting a tough course, a beautiful course, a well-organized race, some super volunteers, some super friendly runners, some good post-race grub and a ticket if you don’t figure out, or investigate, how to pay the parking fee. You should not expect all kinds of SWAG. Some people are really sensitive about that but I would not pass this race up even if you do love your SWAG, it’s a cool race.