Monday, March 26, 2012

3/25/12 Gorge Waterfall 50K

This was supposed to be my big adventure race for the season.  Then I got invited to run the Boston Marathon.  Now my goal here is to finish without hurting myself. No time goal.  A few weeks before the race, the course was changed from a point to point to an out and back.  Since I am staying with my parents the night before, this change saves me about two hours of driving and shuttling, so I am fine with that.  Then in the days just before the race, the course was changed again.  Here are some quotes from the race website:

"The 2012 race due to a construction project on the Gorge Trail in an area with no alternate routes the course is now going to be an "out and back" from the west end of the route Don't worry the race will still go past almost all of the waterfalls that the 2011 route went past including Wahkenna, Fairy, Ocola, Weisendanger, Multnomah, Oneonta, Ponytail and Elowah. And since it is now an "out and back" you'll actually go past them all twice!

The course has been changed again, yes again! This is the 4th time the course has been changed this month! Sorry. This has not been fun for me either I promise. Latest change is due to 2-3 feet of brand new snow up at Devils Rest. We ran up there Tuesday and it was fine(2-3 inches of packed firm snow) went back up there today to mark the course and it was hip deep and soft. Half of the course we had planned to run is under snow right now and more than a quarter of the course is under very deep snow. There might be more snow coming Saturday night so we made the decision to play it safe and change the course again. The area covered in snow has no road access for ten miles and the only aid was a water only aid station-- I hope y'all understand.

The course will now be a simple "out and back" from Benson State Recreation Area to Elowah Falls via the following trails 442, 420, 419, 441, and 400. No more Devils Rest. No more Angels Rest. No more Horsetail Falls. There will now be 2 full aid stations that you will visit on both the "out" and the "back" at miles 7.1, 14.3, 16.1, 23.3. There will be no water only aid stations. Elevation gain will now be more like 5800-6000ft. There will be 5 miles of paved road. The distance is as close to 50k(the map says it'll be 49k which is close enough in my book to still call it a 50k) as we can get under all these circumstances(trail closures due to construction and washed out bridges, tons of snow, and a route hemmed in by wilderness to the south and a river, railroad tracks and interstate highway to the north)."

For me, these changes are for the better.  I really was not sure if I would be able to handle the full course as originally planned.  I had been fretting over the elevation gains.  Now it looks much more doable and I have confidence that I will be able to run this OK.

I arrive at the start an hour before start time, but the RD is not here yet. Turns out he had a flat tire on the way in and did not make it until 7:40AM.  200 plus runners need to get their numbers so we do not start until after 8:30, more than thirty minutes late.  Its cool but dry.

Start - Flat section on a dirt road with deep ruts.  After about a mile we turn, at Multnomah Falls and start heading uphill.   Series of switchbacks on a paved trail takes us up 800 feet. Now the first waterfalls.  Somewhat muddy trail now and continued assent. I pass quite a few people on the way up, but I feel like I am not working very hard. One small creek crossing with no bridge.  Both feet get soaked and will take some time to dry out.  Watching the elevation on my GPS and when we reach 1,500 feet I know that the first uphill is done.

Mile 3-7 - Just a bit of snow here.  Runnable somewhat level trail.  But now we start going downhill, along the river that feeds Multnomah Falls.  I really try to be careful here and many of the people I had passed are now passing me on the downhill.  We cross the river on a bridge and hit pavement again.  A sign says that this is switchback number 11 of 11.  Switchbacking downhill we eventually veer off the main path and onto a rough trail. It is somewhat level but rocky and tough to run at many places.  Some side trails go off, but our course is well marked with pink flagging as needed.  Eventually I reach the first aid station.  My GPS reads 6.4 miles, but the aid station is supposedly at 7.4 miles.  Really not sure how accurate the course is, but I know that my GPS is off.  Later in the race my Garmin GPS will read 20 miles, while a fellow runner's will read 25 miles.

Mile 7-14 - Fairly level but rough trail. Still lots of up and downs and sharp turns.  More amazing waterfalls.  For one of them the trail goes behind the waterfall.   Gorgeous.  I have to stop and take pictures even though this is the most runnable part of this section.  Now it goes up and then hits some very rocky trail.  Big sharp rocks sticking up.  A new obstacle is that the lead runners are blazing towards me now.  How can they be running so fast?  I am in no hurry so when I see them coming I get well off the trail so they can fly by.  Eventually I get off of this slow section and onto some road.  I was looking forward to the five miles of pavement, but with my trail shoes it is not ideal running.  Of course I can go much faster here, but it is sort of a slog, and not great fun.  I long to see the aid station at about mile 14 and finally there it is.

Mile 14.5-16.5 - I thought that we would continue on the road, but at this aid station we go back onto the trail and uphill.  Downhill and a beautiful waterfall.  This is the turnaround.  I am halfway done, just have to go back the way I came.  Time on watch is 3 hours 30 minutes.  I predict a major meltdown at some point, but I should be able to beat 8 hours no problem.  If I could somehow run back at the same pace, I will finish in 7 hours, but that seems so unlikely.  Up the hill, down the hill and stock up at the aid station.

Mile 16.5 to 23 - About 2.5 miles on the road.  I pass a couple of runners.  Then on to that rough trail.  Pass a few more people and I am feeling good.  I am sure that I am running more and going faster than I did on the way out.  I stop less frequently to take pictures, just feel like I should keep on moving. My body is feeling fine.  With the rocky trail I expected my feet to hurt at some point, but so far so good.  It is nice to have landmarks to run to, knowing what to expect on the route.  Soon I am back at that first aid station, stocking up for the lat 7.4 miles.

Mile 23-30.4 -  Pass Jackie who ran 51 miles last Saturday and a couple of other runners on this rough trail.  Finally reach the pavement and the 11 switchbacks.  Steep uphill I am walking most of the way but I feel like I have decent energy.  Passing many tourists on this busy part of the trail.  Watching the elevation on my GPS.  600ft, 800ft, and off the pavement and onto the rocky wet trail.  Up, up up, still feeling OK.  Pass a couple more runners.  No one has passed me in the second half.  I realize that I have a very decent chance at a negative split.  I start to believe that I can finish in under 7 hours.  If only this trail would quit going uphill.  Meet Maniac Vivian very near the top.  At the snow level now and finally we start to go downhill.  The trail is much muddier than in the morning, with all the runners who have come and gone.  I pick my way around the rocky parts but do not fear the mud or worry about my feet getting soaked when I have to cross the creek.  Three runners, now a fourth pass me on the way down.  The same people I had just passed a while back.  I am being extra careful so as to not fall.  Plus I am now getting very confident that I will beat seven hours and I will be thrilled to have a negative split.  The walking up many hills, the stopping to take pictures and the having to pick my way around rocks has given my body time to parcel out the energy and have some in reserves.  Down the paved switchbacks.  I wonder if there are 11 on this side too, so I count them.  Get to13 and by then I can feel the pounding in my knees/quads.  But now I am at the bottom with just about a mile of flat to go.  I had been a little fearful, not that it matters, that some of my Maniac friends who I had passed earlier on, would catch me.  But I do not see that happening now.  Then I hear someone behind me and there is Jackie saying something.  I thought that I had left her way back there as she seemed to be slowing , but she really kept going well.  Now we are on the flats and I will sprint so that she does not beat me.  On to the dirt road/ruts and I have enough energy to run pretty quickly.  Great feeling to run the second half 14 minutes faster than the first half.  Beautiful course and a great experience for my first tough course ultra marathon.

165th of 211 finishers
Marathon or Ultra #81

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

3/11/12 Redmond Watershed Preserve Trail Marathon

I feel like over the past two years I have found a reasonable level of marathon insanity, at least what is working for me.  That is to run a marathon about once every three weeks.  I get a week to take it easy and recover, a week and a half to run harder in training and race shorter distances, and then a couple of easy or rest days before the next marathon.  With a marathon ever three weeks I do not have to do any long training runs, each marathon experience is training or maintaining endurance for the next one.  I will still run marathons on back to back weekends if I really want to do both races but the 2-4 week spacing has been more sustainable and I have been injury free for a while.  Seven plus years of over 100 miles each month.  Race times seem stable too.  A few months back I was planning my schedule and had a long gap between the Wooley Trail Marathon and the Gorge Waterfall 50K in late March so I needed to find something to race, otherwise I may have to go for a long training run.  The Watershed Preserve race was the easiest and cheapest option to fill that gap.  I have raced here three times previously and I know that I will enjoy the trails and low key mostly Marathon Maniac crowd.  Any time between 4:20 and 4:40 will be fine, previously my times here have been between 4:25 and 4:38.  I am not going to push hard, just get in the miles and a good long workout.

This race is actually now called the North West Trail Runs Spring Run for Fun, but for now I will go with the old name.  The course is different with four loops instead of three.  It is a lollipop with two out and backs that the half and full will do.  The five mile and ten mile racers run the lollipop without the out and backs.  Two aid stations on the course so I do not need to carry my fuel belt.  I do take one small bottle of fluids and stuff it in my jacket pocket.  It is about 40 degrees and gray.  The rain will hold off until we are done and the weather will not be bad, just cool with dampness in the air.

Loop 1 (1:04)
I think that 19 of the 21 marathoners take the early start.  8:30AM is not so early, and is better than starting at 9:30AM.  We did lose an hour sleep with daylight savings starting today.   I try to get in the back but most people insist on starting behind me.  After the traditional speech about the course, the confidence ribbons and the horses we go off at 8:32AM.  Small crowd and nobody is super excited, so with the mostly double wide trail it is easy to get into the desired pace.  The trail gets real muddy in bits, then hits some hills that are steeper than I remember.  After mile 1 there is the first out and back with a hill in the middle.  Now a flatter part but this section is rocky and hard in places.  I am still warming up and don't feel so good but pass Maniac Robert anyway.  I have been struggling with cold symptoms in the past couple of days and now can only hope that it does not affect my running.  Pigtails is next in line and if passing Robert was foolish, passing Pigtails would be an exceptionally idiotic move.  I stay a good 20-30 feet behind her, watch which side of the trail she runs on and follow suit.  The middle section of the loop is very runnable and includes a long gentle downhill.  The last two miles are more the the first, muddier and somewhat hilly.  With 58 minutes on my watch I realize that the 9:30 AM start is happening right now.  I am on the return part of the course, so I expect a horde of runners to come crashing towards me soon.  Eventually they come, about 100 strong.  Most stay single file on my left but a few have to duck out of the way as I come along.  A few minutes later I have completed the first lap.

Loop 2  (1:06)
Pigtails is gradually pulling away and that is fine.  At about mile 1.5 I reach the turn around of the first out and back and see that Robert is right behind me.  From looking at the list of entrants prior to the race I knew that he and I were the only two in our 40-49 age group.  In my previous two marathons I have come in 7 out of 7 and 3 out of 3 in my age group.  He passes me and it looks like I will be 2 of 2 this time.  At least he passed me early and really I was expecting it.  Now I am feeling well and enjoying the day.  Heading back to the end of the loop, at what seems like the most narrow part of the trail, I am suddenly stopped by seven horses and riders approaching.  They are all friendly and tell me I can keep moving but I do so cautiously.  Two more riders are a little farther back and also cause me to stop and then walk past, giving them as wide a berth as possible.  I figure that it cost me a minute, but it was a nice diversion.

Loop 3 (1:08)
Trail is muddier from all the runners, horses and multiple loops.  First section hills are getting steeper and longer.  Rocky section is rockier.  Flat and fast part is still nice.  The final two miles are a drag up, and down, but not so bad.  The sun almost makes and appearance.

 Loop 4  (1:13)
I check in after finishing the third loop and try to fill my fluid bottle.  I can not get the top of the juice pitcher to turn and have to ask for help.  I also hesitate about what food to grab, finally settling on some M&Ms and some sort of squishy candy gel thing.  At the middle aid station I also fumble with the fluids.  I pour from two paper cups some liquid that looks like Heed but I soon learn is Mountain Dew.  I don't want to waste it, but I also really do not want to drink this stuff at this point in the race.  The aid station volunteer encourages me to dump it and fill up with the right fluids.  I do so and thankfully my stomach cooperates for the whole race today.  The two aid station delays are minor but make my final loop time look worse that it was.  I slow for sure, but never hit the wall.  A few longer walk breaks on the uphills, but I can push and run strong if I want to.  There is no one behind me who can pass me, so I just ease on to the finish getting in the long run that I needed.

After the race I changed into dry clothes and grabbed a little food.  Hot chocolate was nice.  Talk a bit with Van, Robert, Jill and Leslie.  After I left it dawned on me that I was in some amazing company.  I just had to check the stats and in fact the five of us have a combined 1,006 marathons or ultras completed.  I was the rookie by far in that group.

6th of 21
Marathon or Ultra #80, Watershed Preserve Marathon #4

Sunday, March 4, 2012

3/3/12 Donut Dash 5K

First time event put on by Club Oly.  This was supposed to coincide with the opening of the new Children's Museum and we would be able to use the facilities there, however the building is still under construction, so we were outside for all activities.  Good thing the weather was nice.  Just a little breeze, but no rain.  Another little 5K close to home, no big deal, until it was announced that Olympic Marathoner Ryan Hall would be there.  Asics and South Sound Running set him up in an area where he could greet fans.  He also had some words for the kids and started the kids race.  I was hoping that he would race the 5K so that I could see him in action, but it was cool anyway to meet him and wish him well in London this Summer.  I expect that I will be between 22:00 and 23:00 today.

Start - Nice big crowd.  I set in about 3 rows back, behind people that I know are faster than me.  We start on the wide road and there is plenty of room to set off at a good pace.  A turn and over some railroad tracks that I do not like but do not cause trouble.

Mile 0.5 - Running alongside a very small kid.  Later I will learn that he is 9 years old.  I think that he is going too fast, but he will go on to finish not too far behind me.  I catch up to Martinho and we run together a bit.  It is funny with all these people here and yet again I am right with Martino and there is Erick Lindburgh just ahead of us. 

Mile 1 - 7 minutes flat.  Now on Eastbay road and heading uphill.  The other times I have raced here it has been early in the marathon and I am at an easy conversational pace.  Working hard here today.  I feel pretty good though and move past Martinho and Erick.  Knowing that they are behind me will give me more incentive to not let up one bit.

Mile 2ish - Cross Eastbay and head back downhill.  Jody volunteering here and snapping a photo.  Now I feel the head wind.  It is not so bad but I wish that I could draft off someone.  I keep passing and then get passed by two guys about my age.  Feel good and keeping a steady pace, but every time my mind wanders a little one of these guys catches me.  Need to just focus on maintaining the speed.

Mile 2.64 - Just happen to look at the watch here and see the distance.  Half mile to go, just keep running strong.  Right turn and then we are really getting close to the finish.  Still with these two guys but no sign of Martinho or Erick.  Push on and wonder if I could get in under 22 minutes.

Mile 3 - Almost there.  Make the final turn and I can see the clock at 21:52 but it is not so close.  Last big sprint and I see the clock flip to 22:00 as I cross the line.  I did not quite get under 22:00 but I was right at the best of my predicted time.  3.12 miles on the GPS.  I grab a donut and head off to the other race in Oly today, the Mountain Marathon.  I do my cool down by running the first/last mile or so of that course a couple of times and cheer on the finishers.

27th of 298    3rd of 14 in age group
Race # 264
 5K# 69