Monday, October 27, 2014

Race 3 of October Race Trifecta: Autumn Leaves 50k

Following the Wilson River 50k hike-fest I felt incredibly good.  I had no soreness in my calves, quads, etc.  Not even the dreaded delayed onset kind of soreness ever manifested.  It was weird.  In some ways, I wanted to be in more pain to give myself a good excuse to go out and "Prancercise" the Autumn Leaves 50k the following weekend.  You know, just jog it and have fun with friends on all those loops and out and backs.  But I was left without an excuse...

All signs indicated that the running gods actually thought I could pull off not only my goal of a podium spot on the NW Mountain Trail Series but also check off a sub 3:30 50k (the very next weekend).

I had a very light week of running between the 2 events.  The plan pretty much centered around recovery and one good hammering (hill repeats) tucked in the middle just to keep things primed.  Come Friday I felt ready to rip--as good as any other night before a race.

Saturday morning came (along with the promise of downpours and high winds) and I could also feel just a touch of fatigue in the legs.  "Nothing that couldn't be warmed up and shaken out," I thought to myself.  Dennis and Pam pulled into the parking lot about the same time I did and we divulged our race plans.  Dennis was doing some 12 hr. pace work for as long as he could take it (4 laps).  Pam was doing some 100k pace stuff for as long as she could take it--and as long as no other female (even phantom ones-ha!) tried to take the lead.  As for me...  I just told them I was going to try my best and see what happened.  What I meant was I was going to go out with a 42 minute 10k loop then ratchet down a bit to do 4 more at 40 min. pace.

We set off into the dark blustery morning at 7:00 sharp and I pulled away from the crowd in the tracks of leader Joe Uhan.  The pace was spot on with where I needed to be.  I cruised in his shadow for the first 10k.  It was going smooth and weather was even starting to cooperate, sort of.  Less rain, but perhaps more wind.  Joe seemed to be slowing or wanting to draft a bit so I assumed the lead for most of 10k number 2.  All was going awesome.

Completing another 10k loop.  I think I was still in the game here.  Photo: Cool dude, name?
Then someplace along in lap 3 Joe passed me (which I pretty much wanted to happen as I can get carried away with leading) and minutes later... "wham!"  Just that suddenly, it felt like I had finished last weekend's 50k the day before: or, like I was on mile 30 instead of 15 or so.  It seemed like Joe was speeding away but I quickly realized my pace was falling off big time.  I had been faking awesome that first 25-30k and it was time to get back to reality.  I fought hard with my typical mental battle routine, "come on. focus.  don't you want this?  how bad do you want this?  turn it back on.  let's do it.  today's the day.... etc."  But the legs said no.  No way, Jose.

So I threw down my pride there on the side of the path and consciously decided not to get upset or anything (it's just running!) and just do my best to slog it out.  I tried to be extra positive to passing runners giving them smiles and thumbs up to break up my wincing from running on painful sluggish legs.  It made a big difference having that attitude and just kind of going with the theme of "total meltdown" like it was a big joke or a training run gone awry.

Done!  Photo: Cool dude

And DONE!  Photo: Cool Dude

The miles came slowly (literally and figuratively) but they came and I finished the race in 3:47.  It was a huge relief to have completed the race instead of ducking out early which crossed my mind as I neared the end of lap 4.  It was cool to cheer on friends, eat tons of food, and watch the windstorm pick up even more.  3 trees fell on or near the course.  Yikes!

Mighty Salemites!  Dennis, Pam, and yours truly hanging out post race.  Go team!  Photo: Dennis' really cool mom, Allie

The race is sort of a "season" ending finale for me as I take a break for a week or so.  I'd like to put down some thoughts re-capping how things went but I think I'll save it for a later post.  For now, I'll just focus on recovering, home repairs, dog walks, and Barre 3 videos with Kattie.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Race 2 of October Race Trifecta: Wilson River 50k

Around mile 8 came a shrill voice not unlike that of kids screaming from the backseat on the family road trip, "Are we there YET?!"  My mind begged my legs and lungs for an explanation:  where were we and why was this taking so long?

Early on in the dark, crossing another creek.  Photo: Paul Nelson!

My legs/lungs replied, "Chillax mind, it's too early for you to be asking questions.  We're still driving.  Probably will be for a while at this rate."  The mind then reluctantly went back to looking out the window at the soaking wet Coast Range rainforest that was the setting.  While satisfied with the beauty of the views it had a different vision regarding the pace of this whole excursion.

Some hours and miles later (around mile 22? or 24? I don't know where, some damn place high upon a ridgeline) the mind and legs/lungs did a quick Chinese fire drill and the legs/lungs found themselves in the back seat while the mind was now driving. 

The legs and lungs were now furiously asking the mind, "Dude, have you lost your grip?  You said we'd be nearly done by now and we haven't even reached the turn-around yet meaning we still have to come back over all this crap.  You sick sonofabitch."  The mind had no response really just kind of shrugged it off and said "Enough back there.  We aren't going to turn around now.  Besides when we do get to the turn around they'll probably have some Coke there and we'll all be happy for a little bit.  High as a kite with wind on our sails."

When I did get to the AS I noticed that I never passed the guy who was out in front of me.  I asked the friendly volunteers, "Uh, where's the dude who was in front?" 

"What dude?"  They answered, "You're the dude in front."

I hadn't seen him since someplace around mile 16 and we ran past our cars at mile 18.  "Maybe he just got in his car and split..."  I wouldn't blame him.  This was torture and it had been raining pretty damn hard for awhile. 

"Well, at any rate that just made this a whole lot easier," I exclaimed as I drank my second cup of Coke and turned back to the giant climb I had just descended.

It wasn't a quarter mile later and I got a glimpse of a man in his element and hot on my tracks.  I was in running shorts and a soaking tee shirt and this guy had on sleek tights and carried poles.  He had the look of a well-crafted machine designed to kill joggers like me on late race climbs where hiking was certainly faster than running.  "Jesus, help me," I thought.  I put my head forward, leaned into the hill and... walked.  I ran wherever I could but the miles came slowly until I finally descended into mile 30's AS.  I should have just ran through it but I couldn't pass up the chance to have another couple cups of Coke.  "Weeee!"  The mind, legs and lungs were temporarily pleased/teased again.

The finish came at last and I felt surprisingly good.  Just really relieved and really hungry.

Awesome bridge finish.  Photo: Paul Nelson.

As I changed into dry clothes the guy BBQing (the RDs of Go Beyond put on an awesome post-race party as they always do) asks if I want a burger or hot dog.

I replied simply, "Yes, please."
"Chili on the dog?  Bacon on the burger?" he asked.
"YES!"  I replied.  Dearest angel of God, thank you.  Yum.

Just like that, race #2 and 32 more miles of racing (of 79.5 planned for October) had come to a very happy ending nearly 5 and a half hours and 7500'+ uphill movement later.

Sharing the NW Mtn. Trail Series podium with Christof and Jeff.  Couple cool dudes.  Christof (in the middle) is the "jogger killer" referenced in my crappy race recap.  Photo: Paul "this guy's everywhere all at once" Nelson

Monday, October 13, 2014

Condor 25k: Quick Report on A Down Home Little Race


Last Sunday I went down to the Mac Forest on the north side of Corvallis and ran a 25k over the hills and through the woods with some friends.  It was the same course as it was 2 years ago when I finished in a hair over 2 hrs, a time and effort I was ecstatic about back then.  It seemed much warmer out there than in years past with 70ish degree temps by 10:30-11:00 (9:00 start time).

It's a pretty local event (by local I mean mostly Corvallis-ites and half of these folks practically live right there in the forest: they are always there).  Salem had a decent contingent there as well just as it did in 2012 when I first met my winter time running buddies (Pam, Dan, Shawn, Dennis, etc.).

Start line.  Dude front and center wins.  Mike and I are jabbing off to the right.  Sort of felt like they took a break in the family reunion to run 25k then we all got back together for cookies afterwards.  Photo: Taryn Hand

It's a fast(er) yet challenging course.  I haven't ever really studied the elevation profile but it feels like it is always going up at an ever so slightly grade.  Now, I know that is impossible because it ends right back where it starts but that is just the way it feels.  Perhaps the ups are in general long and drawn out and the downs are somewhat quick and steeper.  I don't know, run it and see for yourself.

It cruises the buttery trails that the Mac is locally famous for and there are some longer stretches of gravel logging roads in there as well.  So, it's not too tricky and generally you can really open up and soar.  This makes sense given the race is dedicated to a local runner, David Bateham, who was more of a runner type than some kind of technical hiker type that we see at lots of MUT stuff from my understanding of the guy.

My race went pretty well.  I felt good and relaxed on the climbs (most of the biggins being earlier on in the race) and preceded with caution on the descents because my toe was still healing from an early accident.  I ran most of the race in 3rd place with a couple stints in 2nd.  I really enjoyed running with Mike Rosling.  It always seems like we aren't even racing one another when we get to chatting mid-race (this has happened twice now down in the Mac).  I'd catch him on the climbs and he'd leave me in the dust on the downhills and at the aid stations where I was in "ultra mode" each time.  You know drinking cups of water, checking out different gel flavors, carefully placing trash in the receptacle, and saying my thank yous to each volunteer.

Some folks hate loggin roads.  I dig em.  Photo: Taryn Hand

I finished within my goal time of 1:50, but barely with a 1:49:36.  For that I pushed the last 1/2-3/4 mile of flatter course pretty hard.  I had plenty of energy.  I know I can go back and do better than that someday.  Maybe next year.  It'd be hard to not want to come back to such a down home event on a uniquely quick and challenging course.

I had a weekend off from racing and now I am looking at 2 weekends of consecutive 50ks.  I am feeling pretty ready but boy that is a lot of racing mileage for me.  I like to push races pretty hard but I am going to try and do well at both which means I'll need to be reasonable with my efforts.  The good news is they are very different than one another, one being quite hilly up and over ridges in the woods and the other being flatter loops in a park.

Photo: Taryn Hand

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Rocky Mtn. Recon: Hardly a Running Related Post

We talked about going to Panama then decided on the closest alternative we could think of: the Rockies?  Our accomodations search went from VRBO sites featuring cabanas on stilts with glass coffee tables that looked directly into the ocean below to DIY truck camper sleeping platform ideas.  We went from palm trees to stunted pines of the alpine wonderworld.

It was KT's dad, Rick's, 60th b-day and so we needed to go back to McCall to celebrate.  We did up a nice road tour from there.  It went like this:

Day 1 - Drive from Salem to McCall.  Stopping in Weiser on the way to visit Gramps at the "Concentration Camp".  Our late start meant that we missed Manhattans at Happy Hour, a tradition he has celebrated daily at 5 or 6 for 50+ years.  He's 96 and he learned how to make them from a neighbor that was in her 90s way back when.  He figured she must be on to something with the daily ritual being so old and healthy.  So far I'd say it's served him well.

Day 2-3 - In McCall.  I got a nice run in at Jug Mtn Ranch.  I really don't know where I ended up but it was a little further north than I was hoping to be.  So it turned into a nice out and back with a few little variations/shortcuts as I was running late for a tee time with Rick, Nate and KT.  That night we binged on Mexican food and beer for the b-day party that featured a mellow crowd of old construction dudes.

The next day I mulled about until late morning and drove north of town to Chinook C.G.  I was to sweep a 10 mile loop of the 100 mile IMTUF course.  The way I choose to sweep it it would be a 14ish mile loop as I wanted to get a little distance and get to an important intersection where I could verify that everyone was done with this portion.  It was my first time as a sweeper and it was pretty fun: nice to be out on a run that was in a new place, super clearly marked, stopping a lot to remove markings and gaze around.  The not so fun part was falling 3 times.  I am not a faller typically so this was surely to be blamed on the looking around or lack of focus that came with removing hundreds of markings...  I guess.  Anyway on the 2nd fall I stubbed my toe and it was bad.  On the 3rd I smashed it again.  I could feel blood in my sock and throbbing pain but I tried my best to cruise along a clip that would get me out of the last 7-8 miles.  The scenery was nice but I couldn't enjoy it as much as I should of.  Day 2 of what was to be an epic running spree in epic mountains and I had a problem with my big toe.

The following day I was supposed to run a 5 mile race at Ponderosa.  I tried on different running shoes trying to find one that wouldn't hurt my toe which was split wide open on the end and the nail full of blood and whatever ooze.  No avail.  The race was not happening.  We chilled around town and went to the beach with the dog.

Day 4 - Left McCall heading through Riggins and onto to Grangeville where we followed Clear Creek up Lolo Pass into Missoula.  We stopped there for a walk and some groceries.  I got a campsite rec from a friendly dude at the local outdoor store.  We left town on the freeway and turned on Rock Creek Rd where we meandered down Rock Creek on a gravel road for miles before setting up camp at Dalles C.G.  We were now in bear country so we had to deal with all the precautions that became a nightly routine on this trip.  Our site was beautiful and relaxing.  We passed a million trailheads but I was just here to chill with the toe not showing much in the way of improvement.

Day 5 - Drove the entire length of this gravel road along Rock Creek.  We came out in Phillipsburg which seemed to be an important town historically and for fly-fishers.  From there we highway-ed through Anaconda (where that song actually came on the radio!) and Butte, over Homestead Pass to Bozeman.  In Bozeman we stopped for a late lunch and walked around a bit.  In a similar, and admittedly short, amount of time spent in both places I like Boz better than Miz.  I always pictured it the other way around for some reason.  From Boz we headed south towards Big Sky where we drove around a bit before picking Red Cliffs C.G. as our sleeping grounds.  We did a little hiking up a trail that left the campground and looked like a promising place to run.  My toe hurt and KT said I wasn't going off alone early in the AM with any bear spray.

Day 6 - Running wasn't in the cards again.  We hit the road for Yellowstone's West Entrance and drove down to Old Faithful.  We had to hang way back as dog's aren't allowed anywhere in National Parks much to our dismay.  I get it people and dogs both do stupid shit and the park probably had to put the kabash on the dogs because they don't speak up for themselves or pay taxes.  We saw the old bugga blow and made a dash for the car.  We had a lot of driving to do as the road was closed and we had to do a huge tour of the park to get out of it on the South end.  We made a few stops to see geothermal wonders, wildlife including lots of buffalo and an elk.  We pinicked on the Yellowstone River and Pete the dog got in a nice bandit swim.  From there we headed South and entered Teton National Park.  It was a magical site as we drove by those incredible mtns.  I was in heaven just looking at them.  We needed to keep the pace up so we could get to our rented cabin outside Jackson and enjoy it a bit.  We arrived, showered and went to town to get a good dinner and celebrate 3 years together!

Day 7 - Up from the comfortable bed and back into Teton N. P.  I was determined to run (I even got bear spray at KT's wishes).  The toe hurt as I set off from Jenny Lake towards Lupine Meadows TH where I went up a few thousand feet to Surprise/Ampitheater Lakes area.  It was midday and kind of hot but the toe felt good going up.  Then I decided it was time to turn things around.  The descent killed my toe but I made it back to the boat launch where KT bandited Pete in for a couple hours of swimming and relaxing on the shore.  We pinicked there and packed up for another few nights of car living.  We aimed South again on a hwy that eventually swung East.  We passed a lot of seasonally closed campsites and began to get concerned as we came up on Alpine, WY.  From there followed the 20 along Palisades Res. until we got to an apparently open site called Blowout C.G.  We had a nice sunset from the bluff we perched the truck on high above the lake.  That night KT got out of the truck for a midnight bathroom break and quickly jumped all the way back in.  She was scared by something in the brush but we never caught glimpse of it.

Day 8 - We went East again through some sagebrush country and the lovely town of Idaho Falls, past the Craters of the Moon National Mon. to the 75 where we headed North for the last wing of out of the way (slow road) exploration.  We stopped in Ketchum/Sun Valley for lunch and then continued into the Sawtooth Wilderness (a national Recreation Area).  A quick store stop in Stanley before heading back towards Redfish Lake.  The scenery was awesome there.  The lake is surrounded by Alps/Dolomite-ish peaks and it begs to be explored, climbed, canoed, whatever...  We hiked along the side of the lake with the dog and came back in time for dinner and smores.  We hunkered into our truck bed camper one last night and it began to pour.  There was thunder and lightening too.  Pretty awesome timing as we had so much good luck with the weather the rest of the trip.

Day 9 - We got a hotel room in Boise.  I was ready to push the toe a bit and see where things were at so I went for a jog.  I grabbed the Greenbelt path along the river and noticed the pace felt relatively easy eve though it was faster than planned.  Ended up doing exactly a half marathon and the toe was only slightly painful.  We then walked around town and ate before going to a birthday party with some HS friends of KT.

Day 10 - Back from Boise.  Very blaw drive all the way home.

So there was little running but we both felt like we were sampling places to go back to later.  We saw some amazing country and relaxed a lot.  It was a great time and I can't wait to go back for more exploring.