Saturday, December 20, 2008

12/20/08 Pigtails Flat Ass 50K

Put this one on my calendar a few months ago. Seemed like the right time to go a little farther and see how that goes. Race director is none other than Van "Pigtails" Phan. If anyone would know how to put on a low key race it would be her. Cost is minimal, two cans of soup (one to eat post race and one for the food bank).
How far is 50K? I got that question a lot. Sometimes I would say "about 73 miles" just to see peoples reaction. It is in fact 50 kilometers. My running friends who can do some math should know that it is ten times a 5K race, or 31.1 miles. This race has a little bonus mileage and the real distance is closer to 31.6 miles. Course is paved wide trail for 10 miles "upstream" the Cedar River Trail followed by 5.8 miles of gravel trail. Turn around and head back on a very gentle grade downhill.
For weeks I calculated and plotted out a racing strategy that would end with a finish of about 5 hours, a little over would be OK. I will spare you the details of the plan, because the weather threw a wrench into everything. Three small snow events and sub freezing cold in the days before the race. Very icy roads. Email from Pigtails said "no wimping out" but only travel if it is safe to do. Bigger snow Thursday evening made it very hard to get out of my neighborhood. We did get a short break in the weather from Friday till later Saturday when the very big storm is due to hit. I considered not running, but then Jody suggested I go up Friday afternoon and take my time driving, stay in a hotel and not have to stress the very early morning drive on Saturday. With one swipe of the credit card my cheap race became about the price of a big city marathon. Quiet night at the Quality Inn, then I could sleep in till almost 6AM and drive the half mile to the start line with ease. Feeling a little sore throat and some stuffiness, nothing a run of 31 miles in the cold and snow won't cure.
Start - Dark and frigid. 17 degrees F. The race starts and ends under Highway 405 in Renton. I pick up my number and get my gear ready. Three shirts and a jacket, long pants, hat, head band, head band around neck, gloves, cell phone, cereal bars (Odwalla), camera, head lamp, fuel belt with two bottles, 3 GUs, extra bag with polar fleece, second pair of gloves and hat. I wait in my car till five minutes before the start to stay warm. There are about 15 of us taking the early start. Originally there were 93 registered for either the marathon or the 50K, but I think that many could not make it due to the weather. Great to see RW and Mike are here. The plan is to stick with RW longer than usual. They are pinning their numbers on when I hear Pigtails say some number of seconds till the start. Didn't hear the number, but it must be soon. I look forward to moving and generating some heat. And then we are off.
Mile 1 to 31.6 - one to two inches of snow, either packed down some or fluffy on top of either pavement, ice or gravel. Most of the trail has footprints and because it is so cold the footing us uneven. I am not afraid of slipping, but with every step there are minor adjustments. Small slips back hinder the power of forward progress. Not a problem if I was just running a few miles, but not what I was hoping for when I signed up to run five miles farther than I ever have.
Mile 1 - 9:50 or so. I feel like I am running 9:00, but we just are not moving at usual pace. Didn't need that head lamp. I'll stick it in my backpack when I get a chance.
Mile 3 - Day is getting lighter. May see the sun before long. String straps on my back pack keep sliding off my shoulders. I have never run with this bag and it is annoying to have to keep adjusting it. Most runners have Yaktrax or spike/screws in their shoes. I am doing fine with my regular running shoes. I did not want to try something like that for the first time on this long run.
Mile 5 - My face feels tight in some way. The feeling is hard to explain. I touch my beard and realize that I am growing icicles! Other than that I feel good about my clothing choices and how I feel temperature wise.
Mile 8 - Nice sunshine, no wind, just cold. A couple of snow angels on the trail. Also some animal tracks. Little bird tracks. A couple sets of mammal tracks going directly across the trail and down toward the river. Its me, RW, Mike and another Mike. RW says that this may be the craziest thing she has ever done.

Mile 9.1 - Second "self serve" aid station. We stop and fill up and walk a bit. My Odwalla bar is frozen.

Mile 10-12 - Worse footing. Frozen solid bumpy.

Mile 12.5 - Staffed aid station. Thank you volunteers! Drop bag station. I ditch my wretched backpack. I can always grab it on the way back, otherwise, they will drive it to the finish for me.
Mile 13.1 - Marathon turn around. With the two races and three different start times it is impossible to tell what place I am in. Two really fast guys blew past us a few miles back. I was amazed at their speed on this surface. Meanwhile we have hit about a 10:45 average pace what with walk breaks and all.
Mile 15 - I would love to see that 50K turn around. This is getting to be a little trudge. Mike has dropped back some. RW and I are step in step. She was downright chatty (for her) a while ago, but now it is mostly quiet.

Mile 15.8 - There is the turnaround and aid station. Hot chocolate!! Pose for a picture to prove that we made it all the way (well halfway).

Take a close look at RW's hair. The white spots are fine white frost on every strand. I think it looks like feathers, but she says it is gray hair and that this race is aging her. Race? Well really we are not racing. This is the least competitive race I have done, not that I am not working hard. There is so far to go I just want to conserve strength for the end. I have hit the wall at mile 18 before, if that happens today it will be a long 13.5 miles to the end. Hopefully the walking breaks and hot cocoa stop will enable me to finish strong. As we leave the rest stop and start running back I glance at the watch. 2 hours 49 minutes. If I do hit the wall, I may not finish in under six hours! The longest time I have ever been out running was 4:24 and that was eleven years ago.

Mile 18 - Oh so gentle downhill, very slight wind at my back, heading in the right direction. Feeling good and making good progress.
Mile 19.1 - Back at the aid station. They have hot chocolate too!! Linger for a while before resuming the run. Not hard at all getting back in the groove.
Mile 20 - Bob Dolphin sighting.
Mile 22 - Back on the snow covered pavement. 3-4 mile runs with longish walk breaks. Getting cloudy. Seems like the sun is about to set. Still wearing gloves and everything else. Happy with my wardrobe choices. Feet are fine and dry. Being so cold there is no melting or wetness getting to my feet. I'd rather have this than have it be 20 degrees warmer and raining.
Mile 26.2 - 4 hours 40 minutes. My slowest marathon by 16 minutes and a good 40 minutes slower than what I could do this year. Perhaps this slow pace has allowed my energy reserves to be sustained. I have a few points of fatigue and a little right foot discomfort, but overall am in good shape. Only 5.4 miles to go.
Mile 28 - Before the race I figured RW would make her move around here and leave me. But she seems fatigued and in no mood to compete. When I suggest a walk break, she is quick to agree. I could go faster if I really wanted, but there is still a ways to go and I have no need to "beat" her either. Neither of us are really fading, but neither of us have much inner drive. I have been looking at my GPS watch only to learn the distance traveled, not the time. There are very few other runners to give me any incentive to pass or avoid being passed.
Mile 30 - One last short walk break. We start again and if we did not deserve them before, now we are earning our medals. Little bit faster and it is really tough. I can see Highway 405 in the distance. Ah the final stretch to the finish. Very very hard but good effort.
Mile 31.6 - Make the turn across the river and decide to finish together. A little group cheering for us and we cross the line in step. Some day I would like to compete with her and drive each of us to faster times, but not today. Finish feeling fresher than many a marathon. Quick change of clothes and get home just as the big storm starts. I would like to run this course again on a nice day. I think it could be a marathon PR course if the weather is good.
On the way home I reflected about my 2008 running. Best year yet. Most miles (over 1,600) most races (27) most marathons (12 plus an ultra) first ultra, PRs in the 8K, 12K, half marathon and marathon. Also my streak of hundred mile months goes on at 49 months. I'll think of some goals for 2009, but in many ways I do not feel a need to keep outdoing myself. I am so blessed and grateful to be able to run like this.

5 hours 36 minutes 41 seconds
tied for 11th place of 22 finishers
2 minute negative split

Saturday, December 13, 2008

12/13/08 Club Oly Tis the Season for a 5K Race Series #3 at The Evergreen State College

Earlier in the week I was having second thoughts about doing this race. My mind is focused on my first ever ultra marathon to be run next weekend. The weather forecast for today had been calling for rain followed by snow and lots of wind. My good friend Bill encouraged me to come out anyway if just to get a run in and have fun. When last night's storm did not live up to its predicted fury I decided to go ahead and run. I had second thoughts at 7AM as it was raining and 35 degrees. The hardest part sometimes is just getting out the door. The showers stopped by the time I arrived and there is little wind. It is a damp cold, but could be much worse.

Start - Good to see familiar faces and friends new and old. Looks like 12 of us will be running, a few more than the race last month. I feel a little awkward in my new black shoes. They are the same make and model that I have been wearing for years, but the all black color makes them look big and clunky. I finally get to race with Marygay, who has multiple marathon finishes mostly a little faster than mine. Hoping for some good competition. Billy, Marygay and I run a warm up lap and discuss strategy. I tell her that on pavement today I should be about a 7:15 mile, but with this rough terrain all bets are off and maybe I will be at 7:30 but who knows? This cross country course has two long loops, then on the third loop it cuts short to the finish. There is a mix of open fields and short trail sections with crazy hairpin turns through out. Some of the field is a little muddy, some is very muddy. The fields are on different levels, so while there are no major hills, there are numerous steep ups and downs of about 10 feet or so. We decide to stay out of the deep MUD and just warm up for the start. Soon RD Craig calls us to toe the line and we are off. My last minute "strategy" was to run the flat wet but not so muddy fields at an all out sprint, then catch my breath on the hairpin turns, MUD, and any uneven surface where I could not run all out.

Mile 0.05 - Sprinting across the field on the grass. Gosh there are fast runners here. Craig is coach of the Evergreen College cross country team and Rich (who is racing and co-RD) is coach of Tumwater HS Cross country. Each has a few of their runners with them. Us old folks quickly settle in the back.

Mile 0.3 - Off the field, up a hill and around a little tree. There is a young man just in front of me. I could pass him if I want, but maybe later.

Mile 0.4 - The course map had shown a "log jump" and when warming up we did not run this part. Well here it is. Fairly flat (but who knows what is under those leaves?) then a bump of a log with a two foot drop on the other side as the trail jumps down to another field. I manage it OK.

Mile 0.5 - Back on the field and time to sprint. I really should not pass this kid so early, but it seems like the right thing to do. Sprint past him, far enough to break the connection and hope that he will not catch up. I hear Bill yell something behind me, I think he fell or almost fell on that log.

Mile 0.8 - I have been off the field, and around a little trail. Now a sharp turn and up hill on this clumpy, soggy, shoe sucky MUD. Foot size chunks of MUD seem to slide downhill with some of my steps. Craig is there are tells me to lift my knees up higher. I have a lot to learn about cross country and trail racing, but I am loving being here and doing this. I see Bill down below and know that he is OK.

Mile 1.0 - After another sharp turn and a 30 foot section of deep MUD I hit the one mile mark. Craig is yelling out times and encouragement. 7:15. Hey that is great but will never hold. I expect the kid and Marygay to catch me but I press on. Flat grass, time to sprint.

Mile 2.2 - For a short race, this seems to be going on a long time. Second log jump went well. After the hairpin turns I see that I am gaining my lead on those behind me. I have no idea where the next guy in front of me is. Good thing this course is marked so well. I have only turned my ankle twice and neither time was very bad. I am still able to pick up the pace on the grass sections but with no close competition there is a small lack of true desire to run fast. Just do the best I can I remind myself and press on.

Mile 2.5 - Last log jump. Lets take this one with extra care. I slow down and gingerly place my shoe on the log. It slips and I slide a bit. The time I was most careful was the time I almost bit it.

Mile 2.9 - One more bump of a hill, then wet field to the finish. I can see the clock way off. 23:15. This will be one of my worse 5Ks ever, but really that is fine. Can I break 23:30? I run faster, then faster, and then I really kick in all I have. Nice to have some strength left. Cross the line and see the clock change to 23:31. Official timer has me at 23:30:86. Not that it really matters. Another fun low key event. Glad I did it.


8th of 12

Race #152, 5K #46