Monday, July 28, 2014

Double Dog (Mountain) Dare You

Rain Gods had grass seed harvest delayed and there was a small window of opportunity to race in a busy time of year so I went for it.  Gather around, here is the story: 

I made a final decision Friday afternoon to get up early and head for the Columbia Gorge for a couple laps on the infamously steep and scenic Dog Mountain Trail.  Each lap was billed as a 10k though they seemed to be 6.8 miles according to others' GPSs so I'd be doing 20k (or 13+ miles).  Each lap also involved roughly 3000' of up and DOWN.  There were other badasses out there doing 3 laps for a 30k while others opted for the challenge of a single 10k loop.

It's a short ways to the top if you want to rock and roll!  Photo: Paul Nelson

The effort was to be moderate vs. full intensity as training cycles don't need more interruption than they already get from life's daily offerings of uninspiring weather, busy workdays, travel, etc.  Training especially didn't need interruption from last minute race decisions involving courses that I haven't been specifically training for... at all.

Anyway the first 10k was a hoot.  I took it easy on the way up as I knew I'd have to come back and do it once more.  After tagging the top, with the friendly Aid Crew up there I began to mosey back down.  The trail was a bit technical with rocks and roots and even a canopy of dense greenery that hid it entirely in some spots.  It'd been awhile since I had had so much fun cruising through the woods and I think I got a little carried away with the fun and really started opening things up, bounding off of roots and scampering across rockslides.  I knew that the extra speed taken on the descent was going to shine on lap 2 but it was too fun to quit.

Freakin' Gorge, just gorgeous.  Photo: Paul Nelson

Sure enough I was power hiking, that's ultrarunner code-talk for walking, much more on the 2nd trip to the top.  It felt as fast as my attempts to run so I went with it.  The effort was definitely moderate now!  At the top the friendly Aid Crew was eager to serve and ask what I needed.  I jokingly mentioned in my Billy Madison janitor voice, "I'd rather have a beer."  Just like that a can of beer shows up, gets cracked open, and I am too blown away to turn down a cup of this hoppy delight though in my heart I know it's not what I need.  Down it went and down I went after soaking in the view a bit.  My legs were there but not powerful.  I managed to catch up to the dudes in front of me and just sort of rode down in their shadows as a polite pass would have taken a good surge on the narrow single track to make room for everyone to run safely apart from one another.  And surging was not something I felt like doing. 

The finish came soon enough and I realized immediately that I was starving.  I ate my brains out and drank a ton of water.

I unofficially took second in the 10k and officially took 1st in the 20k (the race I had registered for).  For the record however, there were two 30kers in front of me at the 20k mark.  They were climbing like bosses.  I waited around for them to come through but the last lap seemed to take them quite a while as I think their wheels were falling off by then.  Still super impressive performances with gutsy starts.

Weather was awesome and the view impressive.  The Go Beyond Racing machine is well oiled and put on a really good time.  They even backed up the race fun with a tab over at Double Mountain Brewery in nearby Hood River.  I couldn't turn down a free Kolsch on such a beautiful summer day so I dropped in for that on the way home.

Dearest readers: be careful what you ask for when you sign up for a hard hilly course twice or a beer in the middle of a race...  you might just get it!

Post race: I am sorer than shit.  Haven't been this sore since Kings-Elk Traverse run months ago...  definitely looking like a relaxing running week, or at least a few days, just hit my schedule (again).

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Road Racing on America's Birthday

Friday, July 4th, Kattie and I went out to Stayton, about 15 miles east of here, to celebrate America and run our little hearts out before we commenced drinking and eating our way through the long weekend.  It was the annual, old fashioned Stayton Forth of July Run.  Kattie was there for a fun 5k, I wanted to see if I could post a decent 10k time.  I'd never run a road 10k (or even a kind of flat one for that matter) but I had a rough goal in mind based primarily on training runs.  I wanted to run 5:35-40ish miles for a sub 35:00 finish.

We arrived early and walked the dog, stretched a bit then I warmed up with Dan M. and Bill.  The race was very old-timey with just a couple of cones and a clock in the start/finish area.  There were Boy Scouts decked out in uniform all over the course as this was their gig.  It was simple and perfect for getting that old fashioned American pride stoked up on her big day.

The start was fun with 10k-ers, 5k-ers and 3k-ers all blitzing out of the parking lot and onto the roads at the same time.  We began to split up very soon and I could see who all was in the lead pack of 10k-ers.  I cruised through the first mile or so in 3rd as the pace was quicker than I needed to be moving and it was early.  And hot.  By the 9:00 start it was already in the 70s.

Caught up to 2nd place guy and moved right past him as he seemed to be getting a reality check on the 5:15-20ish pace and adjusting a bit too.  First place dude seemed out of reach and moving strong.  By a turnaround on an out and back portion of the course around maybe mile 2.75 he seemed to be faltering a bit.  Should I stick to my plan or go for it?  Guts.  Glory.  'Merica.

I past him just past the 5k mark.  It was short lived as he made a quick move to not let me get away.  He got right in front of me and tucked in for a draft down a hill and starting an uphill (the course had 200-250' of elevation gain according to course description).  He began to slow so I went around him again.  He didn't take well to this and went around me and got right in front of me again.  And slowed a bit.  This happened probably 3-4 times over the first half of mile 4.  This sort of game never really happens in trail races I've done and I began to feel like a move needed to be made.  I passed him and hit things a bit harder after I saw (I had to scroll through the watch as I hadn't felt a buzz, indicating mile laps, the entire race so far) that we were with a mile and a half of the finish.  I thought it was early to make a move but after deliberating mentally I decided I wanted this.

I was able to secure a good lead by mile 5 but he was definitely still a threat so I pushed and pushed through the long, straight, and hot stretch back towards the finish.  Rounding a couple of corners I knew I had it and pushed for the finish in a controlled pace wondering if this course was short or if we were going to have to do a little .2mile loop there in the parking lot.  It was short and I ended up crossing the line in 32:49.  I had pushed hard but felt very good at the finish.  I hadn't out-done myself by any means and I think there is some more potential in there.  Results:

Kattie had done well in her 5k despite being very hot.  The morning run behind us we cooled off and were ready to celebrate the holiday.

Superfans, if you want it--go for it.  It can and will be yours!