Sports

Taking a 100-mile run on the wild side in Port Gamble

Debbee and John Straub take a jog in Kingston on Wednesday. The Straubs are helping to organize Kitsap
Debbee and John Straub take a jog in Kingston on Wednesday. The Straubs are helping to organize Kitsap's first 100-mile ultramarathon, in Port Gamble.
— image credit: Brad Camp/For the Herald

KINGSTON — Imagine running a 26.2-mile marathon. Now do it three more times without stopping. Could you do it in less than 30 hours? Could you do it at all?

That’s the challenge 27 runners will face when they converge on Port Gamble April 10 for a 100-mile trail run. The Lumberjack Endurance Run is not the first ultramarathon to wind through Olympic Resource Management’s forest property, but it is the first 100-miler. Organizer John Straub is eager to see how the trails — and the runners — hold up.

“Anybody, I really think, can do these,” Straub said. “It’s just getting the mileage up and being able to tell yourself, ‘Keep moving forward.’”

The race consists of eight, 12.5-mile loops through the woods. Straub and others, including Poulsbo Running owner Chris Hammett, have cut new, single-track trails through the brush to build the course.

Hammett and his wife, Brooke, have hosted 50-kilometer trail runs in Port Gamble since 2007, including last month’s Fishline 50K, which asked runners to bring canned goods to donate to the North Kitsap Fishline food bank.

The Lumberjack Run gives runners the option of going 100 miles, 62 miles or 50 miles. The cost to enter is $50, which provides each runner with a shirt and helps stock the course’s three aid stations with water, energy gels, sandwiches and other snacks. Proceeds from the race go to Bainbridge Island’s West Sound Wildlife Shelter.

“We wanted to donate to some local charity,” said Straub’s wife, Debbee, who volunteers at the shelter. “The education program (at the shelter) is pretty neat, because we have all this wildlife here, and we’re interacting with them and finding these injured little creatures everywhere. At any given time, we have anything from raccoons to little spotted owls, to eagles and blue heron.”

John Straub said he, Debbee and the Hammetts have witnessed the growing popularity of 100-milers throughout the country, and wanted to bring one to Kitsap. Washington state has just three 100-mile ultramarathons, including the Lumberjack Run. The state’s other two ultramarathons — the Cascade Crest in Easton and the Plain 100 in Plain — each have elevation gains of more than 20,000 feet. The Lumberjack’s total elevation gain is about 12,000 feet.

“There’s not a lot of terrain out here for people to get their feet wet in the ultras, especially the 100-milers,” Straub said. “Although this is technically an easier course, there’s still no such thing as an easy 100-miler.”

Straub should know. He has started 12 of the races and finished eight, including the Plain 100 and the Cascade Crest. Both of those races take runners on a trail through varied terrain, while athletes at the Lumberjack will see the same sights eight times. Straub said that can be a good thing, because the course’s three aid stations serve runners every few miles.

“Every hour to two hours you’ll come across people. So that’s kind of nice,” Straub said. “Realistically, on this run, you could almost do it without having to carry anything with you at all.”

But the short loop also has its drawbacks.

“The bad thing about a loop run is, every time you come by the start/finish line, you could just call it quits.”

The race’s popularity was a little bit of a surprise to Straub, who expected just 10-15 runners to sign up. A total of 34 people will run the course, with 27 doing the 100-miler. Straub said most people who run ultramarathons do so to push their limits, enjoy the wilderness and just be around like-minded folks.

“You start seeing the same people over and over again at the runs. It is a fairly small community,” Straub said. “The level of camaraderie is probably the biggest thing. Even the people that are winning the race half the time are sticking around cheering on the people finishing later, like 10, 15, 20 hours later than them. You don’t see that at a lot of the big road runs.”

For most of the die-hard athletes who compete in ultramarathons, the rewards outweigh the pain and hardships. The Straubs say it only takes a few miles to get hooked.

“Emotionally, when you finish, it’s kind of like just sheer joy,” Straub said. “A lot of people think you’re crazy for doing it. You get out there and you really do get that endorphin high. Yeah, you hallucinate, you see things on the trail, there’s all sorts of different things like that. But it’s fun.”

If you’re crazy enough ...

The Lumberjack Endurance Runs start at 7 a.m. April 10.

Runners can also do the Sasquatch Loop, a single jaunt around the 12.5-mile course for free, without using the aid station supplies.

Visit www.rootsrockrun.com or Poulsbo Running for more information.

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