Mt Blanchard Ultra

Finn and I participated in a dog-friendly trail race called the Mt Blanchard Ultra. It's a small affair, directed by my friends Tamara and Michael Cartwright. The race is run on an 11 mile loop; three loops making just over 50K (50K = 31 miles). I'd never been to this particular area, although I've run many an ultra on Chuckanut Mountain, nearby. Both trail systems are just off I-5, between Mt Vernon and Bellingham. They're awesome!

Many runners started at 6:00 am, a few more 7:00 am; Finn and I started at official 8:00 with the main albeit small group. With such gorgeous sunny and warming weather, I understood why those planning on doing the full three loops opted to start early. My plan was to run one loop, and maybe a second, depending on how Finn and I felt. Having not run this course before, I didn't want to set a goal I wouldn't keep.

Finn and I ran our first loop in just over two hours. It was lovely, mostly single track trail through thick forest like you see in these photos. That's Roy and Tom heading out on their second loop. Challenging trails, too; some very steep climbs and descents, including one climb referred to as Kill Bill Hill, the name paying homage to Bill Ball, the originator of this event and route. I cursed him as I struggled up the climb. Finn hardly noticed the hill.

I didn't take my camera on our first loop. After completing those first 11 miles, I decided it was going to be too warm - for me, anyway - for a full second loop. I wasn't ready to stop, however; it was just too much fun. I grabbed my camera, and Finn and I set out for some "extra credit," running from the start/finish area out to a view point and back. Just before popping out of the forest onto the open hillside and view, Tamara and Michael had set up a self-serve aid station. Finn was very appreciative of the dog bowl and treats that were thoughtfully provided here! (The second half of the route had lots of stream crossings and plenty of water for Finn to drink and cool his feet in. Taking a page from Finn's book and learning yet another good lesson from my dogs, I, too, drank from and cooled myself in those streams, tossing refreshingly cool water on my neck, face, and shoulders. I don't enjoy running in the heat; even temperatures over 60F are pushing my comfort zone, and by the time I drove home, it was in the upper 70s.)

Finn enjoying the view.

Finn coming back for me. While I covered about 17 miles this day, I suspect Finn covered more like 25, with all his out and back, out and back, always making sure I was keeping up, herding me down the trail (or, actually, leading me; he rarely runs behind me unless I ask him to)! He just wants us to keep moving.

Looking southwest.

Finn posing, San Juan Islands in the background. This is looking northwest. What a stunning backdrop, eh? I'm surprised I got him to pose, providing a full profile as if on cue. I'd prefer he look at me (at the camera) but he almost always refuses to do so. Michael liked this shot so much I won't be surprised if it shows up on the race web site.

Heidi, from Olympia, on her second loop. Her dog Charlie stayed with their friend John back at the start/finish area. Heidi said Charlie loves to run but doesn't do well on warm days.

Not far from the start/finish area was this bridge over a small waterfall. On our first loop, Finn was too excited to explore the waterfall; he just wanted to keep up with the other runners. When we did our extra credit out and back, we were alone on the trail. On the way back, nearly done with our run, I encouraged Finn to go into the stream. Once he did, I had to coax him out! Just as he did with the waves of Puget Sound in Silverdale, he started biting the white water, jumping to different areas of the falls, playing in the water.

Finn knows how to finish a great morning run - cooling off in a beautiful waterfall.

This is Kyro, a Saluki belonging to my friend Chris. You can't see Zena, her other Saluki. They are such elegant, gorgeous dogs. Lean running machines. The two of them didn't care much Finn, however - there was a bit of barking and growling at him at the start - but we all quickly spread out on the trail so it wasn't a problem. Salukis are Beduin dogs - amazingly fast and incredible desert hunters. Good running companions as long as they don't see a deer; if so - goodbye! Maybe they thought Finn was a critter they needed to hunt?

Friend Mark (see him and his dog Bruce in New Recruits post, April 26 2009), knowing of the breed's origins, insists on referring to Kyro as Egypt.