Thursday, August 4, 2011

My first 50 - Part I

I don't know when the idea first took root in my head that I might be able to run 50 miles. I like to blame the facebook Chicks running group that I was added to earlier this year. Through that group I have met, both virtually and physically, so many amazing and inspiring runners that it helped to convince me that I could go farther than I ever thought possible.

After Hagg Lake in February I immediately signed up for the Gorge 50k. I wanted to improve my time (still a laughable goal after I realized the difficulty level of the Gorge course) and try a point to point course. After the Gorge I think was when I heard rumblings amidst the running group that people were signing up for a 50-miler. I checked out the website. The run was called the Mt. Hood 50 and it was held up by Mt. Hood - starting from the Clackamas Ranger station. It was a double out-and-back course which appealed to me. You ran back by the start/finish at the 28.4 mile mark so if you just weren't having a good day you could stop there. I hemmed and hawed for a month or more before I saw the registration starting to fill up. I took the plunge and registered.

Then the training began. How does one train for a 50-miler? I had no idea so I just made it up as I went along. I tackled a hard 50k (Beacon Rock) in June thinking that would help prep my legs for the difficulty of running 50-miles on trail. I ran hard in the Vancouver Marathon in June to work on speed. Then in late June/early July I did 30-miles on trail, 35 miles on road/trail, and 40 miles on trail. I followed up the 40-mile trail training with a hilly half-marathon in wine country - wanting to stress my legs two days in a row in preparation. I was pleasantly surprised that my legs seemed to handle the miles pretty well. I was sore, but not overly so post-long runs.

However, as the race got closer, I continue having second thoughts. Was I really capable of going that far? Would my legs hold up? Would I get hit with severe cramps? Could I make the time limit? It was the time limit that really stressed me out. I had several communications with the race director trying to get some advice on whether or not I should take the early start. The early starters would set out at 5:30, giving them 13 hours instead of 12 to complete the course. He took into consideration the races I had done and convinced me to take the regular start. He felt confident I would be able to make the cutoff without any trouble. I still wasn't convinced so I talked to a few other friends, but they also assured me that the regular start should be fine. So with great trepidation I did not sign up for the early start.

My friend Lynn was volunteering at the race and she offered to give me a ride. She picked me up at 4 AM and we made our way up the mountain. It was pretty light by 5 AM and we got a great view of Mt. Hood as we drove by on highway 26. As we passed the Frog Lake parking lot we could see Lynn's aid station table had already been delivered. Once off the highway the driving was a little slow, but we still arrived at 5:45 just as planned.

It was a very chilly morning and volunteers were wearing puffy jackets and long pants. I had prepped my drop bags the night before and clearly marked them so I just need to find the right place to drop them off. I headed to the registration table to check in while Lynn met with the race director to discuss her volunteering duties. I then found the 3 tarps that were set out for drop bags. The first drop bag would be at the first turnaround point at mile 14.2 (the aid station that Lynn was manning). In this bag I had 2 8oz bottles of gatorade, and one 8 oz bottle of chia seed coconut water, along with some snacks and a stick of bodyglide. The next drop bag wouldn't move, it would stay at the start/finish line. We would come back through this spot at the 28.4 mile mark. This drop bag contained real food - crackers & bars - along with more 8 oz bottles of gatorade and drinking vinegar. In addition I had a change of shoes and socks, icy hot, ben gay patches, bodyglide, more S-caps and Endurloyte pills, and an extra skirt in case I was super sweaty.. The last drop bag was pretty simple with more 8 oz bottles, shot blocks, gu, and a pair of Crocs in case my feet were done with shoes.

It was almost 6:15 by the time I was feeling settled. I stripped my wind pants and fleece and gave them to Lynn to take back to the car. I was wearing my white Sparkle Hearts skirt, a blue tank top, white arm warmers and compression socks, a navy blue long sleeve shirt, my amphipod belt with 3 full 8 oz bottles, shot blocks, and gu, and my New Balance 101 trail shoes. I looked around at the other runners and felt intimidated. The usual sinking feeling of "you don't belong here" crept up on me as I looked at their lean and sinewy thighs and calves. "What am I doing here?" "I should have taken the early start," and "you are going to get left in the dust" where the thoughts that were raging through my head. Thankfully I didn't have too long to think before Todd, the race director, got us together and readied us for the start.

The course would be marked with small green flags and some green tape at confusing intersections. He informed us that the trail should be very easy to follow and that it would be hard to go off course. Then there was a quick countdown and we were off!

Since I knew my GPS watch wouldn't have enough battery life to get me through this race I decided to use it as a glorified stop watch instead. I disabled the GPS and planned to hit the lap button at each aid station. That should give me a good idea of pace. I then figured it would make sense to run by heart rate since I wouldn't have instant feedback on pace. The goal was to do the flats with a heart rate between 140 - 150. I would give myself a little leeway on the uphills to go up to 155, and I wouldn't worry about my downhill pace unless it dropped below 125 (then I would try to pick up the pace a bit). I was going to try to take in 200 calories per hour, along with 1 S-cap (essentially a salt tablet) and 1 Endurolyte cap (mostly magnesium and potassium). Along the first out and back the aid stations would be at mile 6, 9.1, 14.2, 19.3, 22.4, and 28.4. My goal was to make my bottles last between drop bags and to supplement with water at the aid stations.

The first 6 miles seemed quick. It took a couple of miles for the group of runners to think out so we weren't running in pack. After the first two miles I found myself alone for the majority of the day. I was not in the back of the pack as I had feared, instead I was probably somewhere in the middle. It didn't take long for me to warm up enough to shed my long sleeve shirt. My goal was to make it to the first aid station between 66 and 72 minutes. The main goal for the day was to finish, but the secondary goal was to finish in 11 hours, which mean running 13 - 14 minute  miles. While I know you can't bank time for later in the run, I felt that if I was running comfortably, I might as well move through the early miles faster.

I cruised along with a heart rate between 140 and 145 - a very comfortable pace for me. I could have chatted with someone if anyone had been around. Instead I enjoyed the silence and the beauty of the terrain. I felt incredibly happy and peaceful. At that moment there was no place I would have rather been. I was determined to not only survive this race but to enjoy as much of it as possible. There were a decent amount of rocks and roots, but overall the terrain was very runnable. Before I knew it we were at the first aid station. I passed it up b/c I had already eaten several shot blocks and had 4 oz of fluid off my belt. I was surprised to see my split time of 57:12 - that meant I was on a sub 10 pace. I hadn't intended to be moving that quickly, but since I was feeling good and running by heart rate I decided not to worry about it too much. I also factored in the adrenaline rush from the first few miles and figured I would slow down a bit when that wore off.

It was just a short 3.1 to the next aid station - 36:47 - a much better pace. There was some rolling terrain through here and a bit of climbing as we worked our way to Highway 50. It didn't seem any time at all till we arrived at the next aid station. There were wonderful volunteers offering to fill bottles and fetch you anything you might need. I took advantage of the porta-pottie, drank a couple of cups of water, and headed back out.

This next stretch was incredible. A decent amount of climbing but not overly steep - just a gradual incline. There were a few inclines that I walked to save my legs, but the majority was still runnable. Around the 11 mile mark we got several amazing views of Mt. Hood - so strikingly beautiful that I watched the woman in front of me trip b/c she was looking at the view and go down hard on her arm and face. But she picked herself up and dusted herself off and seemed good as new. Along this stretch was where we were being passed by the early starters and the front runners. I saw my friend Sarah D. around mile 11.5 ish. She was looking super strong and had a big smile on her face. I saw another friend Jodi around mile 12.5. She was also looking strong and happy with a big grin on her face. It was fun to see the front runners - they were cruising! Moving faster than I could ever hope to on rough terrain.

And then we were done with the leg - 53:07 (5 miles) - I saw the aid station, the drop bags, and lots of people. I reloaded my belt with three full bottles, grabbed another pack of cliff shot blocks, drank several cups of water, and downed a packet of Gu. I got to say a quick hi to Lynn and then I turned around and headed back.

For a couple of miles along this stretch I talked with a 52-year old woman who had run a 3:30 marathon in Eugene last year. It's so great to realize that running is for all ages, shapes, and sizes - I am always reminded of that at events like this. We may not all be the same speed but we can all be out there. I find it inspiring and I hope I am still running in my 50s, 60s and 70s. We chatted a bit about speed work and she told me she had just run a 6:40 mile a couple of weeks prior, and she had a friend who was a couple of years older who could do 6 minutes miles. Impressive stuff.

I passed her and then spent some time on my own before a guy who was from Napa caught up to me. He kept me entertained for a couple of miles chatting about Napa, his girlfriend, and the fact that his friend who had talked him into signing up for this race had bailed on him. He eventually passed me up. I was disappointed to hear later that he had taken a fall and didn't end up completing the course.

More to come soon. Off to CLR!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

My first 50 - Part II

It seemed like a pretty quick trip back to the Start after the turnaround. People in the campground we ran past on the way out were waking up and were curiously watching us as all these runners with numbers went running past their campsites. The coffee in the air smelled delicious and I was wishing I had been able to start my day with a cup.

I knew that when I hit the start/finish area that I wanted to get in and out without spending much time. I started running through what I needed to do about a mile out. I was surprised to hit the start/finish just under 5 hours. I had planned to be back at this point between 5:30 - 5:40 so this was a positive sign. Instead I made it in 4:59:31. My friend Rose came up and asked if I needed anything. I didn't know she would be here (she was going to pace a friend on the second half) so it was a nice surprise. I stopped and grabbed my bag, changed out my three empty bottles for three full ones, grabbed a new pack of shot blocks and set back out.

The next "half" of the race was only 21.8 miles. I knew the second half would have a lot more climbing and would be more exposed to the sun. It was beginning to get hot, so I wasn't looking forward to being in direct sunlight. The first mile or so rolled by pretty quick. I caught up to Sarah and Desiree, both of whom were looking strong, talked for a few minutes and then continued on. The next aid station was supposed to be 3.8 miles from the start, so I felt like I would get there relatively quickly. The climbing had already begun, but it didn't feel overly steep and was quite runnable. I still tried to take walk breaks though as I didn't want to burn myself out and chance cramping. 30 minutes went by, then 40, then 50. Where was the aid station? I started asking people that I passed if I had missed it, and they assured me that I hadn't. One hour and 7 minutes after leaving the start area I arrived at the aid station. Psychologically I was struggling at this point. There was no way that was 3.8 miles. If it was it was the slowest 3.8 miles I had ever run. I asked the aid station volunteer if he thought the mileage was accurate. He assured me that it wasn't and this it was closer to 5.3. I was a lot happier to hear that, but it still felt like I had taken too long to get there. Emotionally I was hitting a low point.

But I filled up my bottles, tried to shut out the negative thoughts, and continued on. The next stretch was a long downhill to a creek, and then a seemingly interminable climb up to the next aid station. Miles were seeming much longer than in the early stages of the race. By the time I arrived at the aid station I was cursing under my breath. It had taken me an hour and fifteen minutes to cover that stretch (less the time that I spent at the aid station; my strategy for laps was to hit my lap button as soon as I arrived at an aid station, thus the aid station time was built into the following lap). If the first aid station was at the 5.3 mile mark, then I had just run 5.5 miles in appx and hour and 10 minutes. Granted, I had descended 1000 ft, and then climbed 600 ft, and it was hot, but it still felt like I was taking too long. When I had pulled into the start/finish under 5 hours, I had allowed myself to dream that I might finish in under 10 hours since the second half was only 21.8 miles. Having spent 2 hours and 28 minutes making it to the farthest point of the course diminished that hope. With all the climbing left to do and my legs starting to fade, how could I reverse course in less time than it had taken me on the way out.

I spent very little time at this aid station. I grabbed my full bottles from my drop bag along with a packet of blocks, I stuffed a pb & j square in my mouth and set off again. I had been continually taking S-caps every hour along the way to prevent cramping and although I wasn't cramping I was starting to feel a little heavy. I now needed to descend a relatively steep (for efficient running) 600 ft to the creek before climbing back up 1000 feet to the Red Wolf aid station. Not ten steps out of the aid station I knew I might be in trouble. My IT Band on my left leg was starting to make itself known. Descending with a cranky IT Band is a bad combination. I tried to focus on anything but pain and just kept on trucking. The creek came and went and then I was on the long climb back up to the pass. I talked with a few folks along this stretch and just tried to stay focused on the end goal. I desperately wanted water and couldn't wait to get to the aid station. When I pulled in a greedily drank 3  8 oz bottles full without stopping. I was clearly getting dehydrated in the hot conditions. I filled up one bottle with just water to add to my belt and set back out.

It had taken me an hour and 23 minutes to get back to Red Wolf Pass. I had exactly one hour and 9 minutes to get myself back to the finish in under 10 hours. The last 5.3 miles were a very long, gradual downhill. My IT Band and knees were protesting strongly at this point. I had to stop and walk every 5 minutes or so just to give my knees a break. I got passed up by 4 or 5 people along this last stretch. At the 35 minute mark I had a woman tell me with extreme confidence that I was only 2 miles from the finish. I asked her twice to confirm and she said yes, less than 2 miles. I gave it everything I had at this point. I could do another 2 miles and make it under 10 hours. But 20 minutes went by and I knew I wasn't that close to the start. At that point I saw a woman who told me I had 3 miles to go. How was that possible? I knew that couldn't be true but in my depleted state I believed her and it just sucked all the energy right out of me. My knees were killing me. I knew I couldn't make another 3 miles and be under 10. Thankfully not 5 minutes later I recognized a landmark and knew I was really close. There was a short hill (which felt delightful on my knees after all the descending), a turn on to road and then I was there.

I saw Lynn and Jodie cheering for me as I got close to the finish. I think they could see the pain on my face b/c they asked if I was OK. I responded "No" and felt the tears start to spring up. I tried to find some speed and kicked it in to the finish. And then it was over. I had made it - 9:54:15 was my official time. It had taken me 1:03:20 to do the final 5.3 miles. Lynn was right there as was Todd (the race director). They both asked if I was ok. I think I was crying and swearing at the same time. I felt more emotional at this finish than I ever have. I'm not sure if it was because of the pain or the fact that I achieved my goal but the emotion was a bit overwhelming. Lynn & Jodi kept me moving to prevent me from cramping up, and got me some cold water. We got to watch more finishers come in, and were lucky enough to see several of my daily mile friends cross the line.

Overall a good first 50. I had my seriously low moments, but I had really high moments as well. I look forward to my next one.

Overall: 55/138
Gender: 7/41
Division: 3/11

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Fueled by Fine Wine Half Marathon

My friend Alice had the idea to sign up for this race. It was a half-marathon in wine country, starting in Dundee, OR, about 45 minutes from Portland. It was a spendy race, $85, but included wine-tasting after the event and a donation to several organizations (including a Newfoundland Rescue organization). Since Alice had gone along with me on several of my plans I thought I should go along with this one. Lee and Celeste also signed up so there were 4 of us on race day.

We headed down early, arriving in Dundee at 6:20 am. The race started at 7. This was perfect as it gave us a bit of time to use the facilities and relax for a minute or two before the race started. At 7 am the gun went off and we immediately set off up a steep hill. This would set the tone for the course. It was up one hill, then down, then up another hill. Right off the bat I got my heart rate up really high and felt cold and tingly until it went back down to a normal rate.

At the beginning I tried to stick with Alice, Lee, and Celeste but my legs were tired from the previous day's run so I dropped back a bit. In short order we went from pavement to gravel to dirt road. We ran through a vineyard, up and down some more hills, more gravel roads. I was cursing Alice's name with every step. Gravel is my least favorite surface to run on. I had worn my racing flats today but they didn't seem to be any more comfortable the Crocs. There were times when the road surface felt like spiky shards of glass.

About the 6 mile mark I pulled back up to the group. Alice and I ran together for a bit before she got ahead of me. Celeste and Lee dropped back as Lee's knee began to give him trouble. I was happy to see each mile tick off as I was just not feeling the race today. I could see Alice bobbing along ahead of me but didn't have the energy to try to reel her in. We passed the 12 mile mark and I was happy to be heading for the finish. There was a good hill right at the end, a tight turn, and then a downhill to the finish. I passed by Janet and Jazzy who cheered me on. I turned a last corner and realized I had just finished the race - it was a bit of a strange ending.

Post-race: Janet, Jazzy, Lee, Celeste, Alice and me.
I was happy to be done. I found Alice and we met up with Janet & Jazzy. Five minutes or so later Celeste and Lee finished. We grabbed our wine glasses and headed to the food tent. They did have quite the spread of food - strawberries, bananas, brie, brownies, almonds, croissants, and bread. Then there were at least 20 wineries there pouring tastes of wine. I only sampled two - I felt my body really needed water more than wine at this point.

Overall an OK race but probably not one I would do again. The event organizer's truly did an excellent job and put together a good race, but I just didn't overly enjoy the course.

Official time - 1:57:24
Stats: Overall - 150/1096; Gender - 46/772; Division - 8/130

Training Run - 40 miles

I wanted to get a longer run in prior to the race at the end of the month. Mentally I felt I needed to achieve the 40 mile mark. I planned a long and complicate route through Forest Park that would enable me to tick a bunch of trails and firelanes off my All-Trails Challenge list. I tried to enlist a few people to join me - one for the first 20 and one for the second 20, but I didn't end up having any success. After much consideration I decided to simplify my route and do some out and backs on Wildwood. I felt this would be safer if anything were to go wrong with me physically, and I didn't want to push deep into the park solo.

I had to do an early morning airport run which had me pulling in to the Germantown parking lot at 5:50 am. It was very quiet, I was the only car in the lot, and although it was fully light out it still felt a bit dark in the park. I gathered my things (hydration pack with 1.5 liters of water and 1 liter of Gatorade, 2 packs of clif shot blocks, 2 packets of Gu, and 1 cliff bar), and hit the trail at 6 am.I strapped my pepper spray to my hand just in case I ran into anything unsafe. I took 5 steps on the trail and thought "what the heck am I wearing on my feet?" Somehow I had failed to put on my running shoes that morning or to throw them in the car. This was especially ironic since I had looked at the shoes the night before and I thought that I should put them by my other running items. Then I figured how stupid would I have to be to forget my running shoes and discarded that idea. Well it was an early morning state and in my tired stupor it hadn't occurred to me to change shoes after going to the airport. I hadn't tackled hills in my Crocs before and these were not even my running Crocs. They were super loose and didn't fit my feet all that well. After almost stepping out of them 4 or 5 times I stopped and girth hitched an elastic hair band to the back strap of the Croc and then slipped my foot through the hair band. This wasn't super comfortable (eventually the bands started to dig into my skin) but it worked.

It was 5.6 miles heading west on Wildwood to its end at Newberry Road. It was super quiet and I only saw one other couple during this entire stretch. I saw some friends at the Newberry Trailhead. They were about to begin the full Wildwood run which would end at Oregon Zoo. We chatted for a few minutes before I headed back to Germantown. It was 5.6 miles back. I arrived back at the car - it had taken me 2 hours and 4 minutes for 11.2 miles. I dropped off my gloves and arm warmers in the car and then headed east on Wildwood.

I kept changing my mind as to how far on Wildwood I wanted to go. The Germantown trailhead is at milepost 24.6. I ended up running to milepost 13. Along this stretch I tried to find an easy, effortless pace that I could just maintain for miles without thinking about it. I was happy to find a cruising pace that seemed to fit the bill. There were actually several stretches where I lost site of the mile markers for a couple of miles at a time. Things were feeling pretty good.

At milepost 13 I turned around and walked for a bit and ate the clif bar I had with me. Got back into my cruising pace and was back at mile 15 when I ran into my friends again. They were making good progress on their end-end goal. It was nice to see some people I knew and chat a bit. I was getting a bit lonely and bored out by myself. I started playing some mental tricks with myself along this stretch to keep me going. I knew I was going to have a hard time not stopping when I got back to the car so I prepared for that by running through it in my head.

Once back at the car (34.5 miles in) I stopped and ate a veggie sushi roll, got some water and Gatorade in, reloaded my hydration pack, and headed west again on Wildwood. I didn't have to run this entire stretch again, just had to make it to mile post 27.5 before turning around. This stretch felt really slow. I would run 1 mile and walk for a minute - just kept repeating this and counting down those last few miles.

Total distance 40 miles, total running time 8 hrs. This felt really slow. In the end I think that the Crocs slowed me down a bit. I had to be much more careful with each step and the gravel sections of the trail were quite painful so I had to tip toe through them.

Training Run - 35 miles

Saturday July 2nd I wanted to tackle my longest run to date. Adam was off on a Mt. Hood climb so I had the majority of the day to work with. I planned out a long loop from my house over the Sellwood Bridge, along the Waterfront, up Thurman hill to Forest Park's Leif Erickson drive, down Ridge trail to the St. John's Bridge, along Willamette back to the Waterfront and home.

I had wanted to get going early but when my alarm went of at 5:30 I was too tired to get out of bed. I slept for another 2 hours, and didn't start running until 8 a.m. I was carrying a liter of water, a liter of gatorade, veggie sushi rolls, 2 packs of margarita shot blocks, and a couple of gu's. I was hoping these supplies would get me through the full distance. The first 10 miles of the route was in full sunshine and I was lamenting that I had failed to think of wearing sunscreen. I was pretty warm and sweaty during this stretch. It was a relief to arrive at the entrance to Forest Park - it was much cooler as it was almost completely shaded.

I had worn my Crocs for this run as the majority of it would be on roads. However the stretch up Leif was all gravel - and super painful in the Crocs. At times it was as though I was running on glass. I could feel every little rock. There were times when I hit a big piece of gravel so hard that I just swore out load. Painful stuff! Thankfully I finally hit Ridge Trail and it was a relief to be on a softer surface. A quick trip down Ridge brought me to the St. John's Bridge. I was starting to run low on fluids at this point so I was starting to think of a resupply. Just after crossing the bridge I spotted a Safeway and ducked in for a bathroom break and a liter of Gatorade and water. I reloaded my hydration bladders and set out along Willamette.

This was the unfamiliar part of the route to me. I had never run in this area before but wanted to check it out since my office was moving over to this area. I ran right by University of Portland and my new office location. The stretch along Willamette is quite pretty - you get to look out over the city from a distance. The best way to get from Willamette back to the waterfront was a mystery to me. I took a right turn on a nice sidewalk down Greeley thinking that was the best option. It was great for about a mile until the sidewalk disappeared. I found myself running in the bike lane for a mile and a half until the sidewalk suddenly reappeared on the other side of the road. A bunch of strange crossing of Interstate finally brought me to the sidewalk down to the Esplanade.

It was very warm at this point with no shade in sight. The last 6 miles were mentally tough, my body was ready to be done. I had to play lots of tricks with myself to keep me going. I was happy to make it home with 35 miles under my belt. Total running time - 5:38:34.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Middle Sister

Finally a climb to post! I have been focusing so much on running that there hasn't been a lot of climbing in the last 7 or 8 months. However, that all changed last weekend when I got to attempt a one day ascent of Middle Sister. Typically, we do MS as a two day climb. From the trailhead at Pole Creek it is approximately 5000 ft of climbing (when there is no snow on the approach) and 14 miles roundtrip. We usually leave Portland around 7 am on Saturday morning, drive to the trailhead (5300 ft), and begin the hike around 11 am or noon. This allows us a leisurely 5-mile hike with overnight packs to camp at 7100 ft. The hike tends to be pretty easy, albeit a bit dusty. The first two miles are relatively good trail - although there has been a lot of blow down in the last few years that has made it a bit more challenging (needing to go around and over lots of logs). You climb very gently for two miles and then descend several hundred feet to Soap Creek. From Soap Creek it is another 1.5 miles to a climber's trail that takes you up above tree line.

This year we decided to change things up a bit. There was a Mazama provisional climb leader who wanted an evaluation of a climb and we both thought Middle Sister would be a good choice. Unfortunately for him the Mazamas have a strict rule of only one Mazama party per route per day. The Hayden Glacier route on MS was booked solid from the end of June though August for Sunday climbs (Saturday approach, Sunday climb). Thus we decided to give a one day ascent a try.

Steve picked his climb team and made sure the participants understood the rigors of our intended plan. Steve and I drove down together, leaving Portland around 4 PM on Friday afternoon. After a quick stop at a grocery store in Sisters we made it to the trailhead around 8 PM, just ahead of Steve's 8:30 pre-climb meeting. The remainder of the team arrived and we quickly discussed our intended plan for the next day. Everyone seemed very excited about the adventure on which we were about to embark. I got my tent set up, threw in my sleeping bag and pillows (the best part about car camping is pillows!), and snuggled in to bed around 9:15. Sleep didn't come until after 10, but once it did I slept really well for a few hours.

The alarm went off at 1 AM and the preparation for the day began by headlamp. The thermometer in my tent read 38 degrees so it wasn't overly cold. I got layered up, had my breakfast sandwich, and took down my tent. Once out of the tent the temperature quickly dropped to a brisk 32 degrees. The team was very organized and we hit the trail at 1:59:30 - 30 seconds before our intended leaving time.

The trail was much more interesting in the dark by headlamp. We had no moon to work with so we were completely dependent on the little beams of light our headlamps pumped out. The blowdowns made things tricky at times. Once off the trail it could be hard to find your way back. Thankfully I had a GPS track from the year prior so whenever we veered off course I was able to get us back on track pretty easily.

We found ourselves at the Soap Creek crossing in just about an hour. It was much spookier in the dark and we had to find the bridge that would lead us across the creek. The water was running high so the first few steps were on rocks instead of bridge which made it more interesting. Within about 1/4 mile of the creek we found ourselves in solid snow without a boot track to follow. The GPS track came in very handy at this point as navigating through the trees, in the snow, and in the dark is not easy. We did a lot more up and down on the snow than we would typically need to do if we were following trail. The going wasn't easy but it wasn't as hard as it could have been either. About 4.5 miles in we stopped to put on crampons as the snow was pretty firm and we were hitting some steeper sections of snow. This meant I had to take off my trail running shoes and switch over to my boots that I had carried for the first miles. It may have added weight to my pack but it was totally worth it for the ease of movement and lack of pain in my feet. Unfortunately one girl was having some severe trouble with blisters on her heels - she had rented boots and they were not agreeing with her feet. Also on an unfortunate note, I didn't carry my med kit as we were going light and Steve carried his kit instead. He had moleskin (not overly useful) while I carry a comprehensive blister kit as I have struggled with terrible blisters in the past. He did however get her patched up and we were moving again in relatively short order.

Not a clue what I am doing in this photo
We just missed getting above tree line for sunrise. But we were still making good time and arrived at my typical campsite at 7100 ft at 5:30 AM. We took a bit of a breather here and ate some snacks as we evaluated our route. The ridge that leads up to Prouty Pinnacle was pretty flattened out this year due to the higher than normal snow pack. This would make our ascent up to the saddle straightforward and pretty mild on our calves.

As we climbed to 8000 ft Steve decided it was time to rope up. This was also the time where we had to do a check in with the girl who was struggling with her blisters. She had slowed down quite a bit and it didn't look like she was feeling overly good. After talking with her Steve decided that she and her boyfriend should go back down to "camp" at 7100 and wait for us there. The rest of the party roped up and continued to the saddle. We made short work of this stretch and pushed on up the North Ridge route. About 9400 we encountered the steep section of the climb. The snow was not good this year - quite icy and non-uniform. This made forward progress harder than it really needed to be as sometimes a foothold would break out as you weighted it, dropping you forward slightly - burning more energy.

Steve protected the steep section, opting for a rising traverse up this 150 foot pitch. I typically do this part as a fixed line which I much prefer. For the first time in recent memory I found myself tied to a climber who was completely uncomfortable and unskilled - his crampon an ax technique were questionable at best. I was pretty convinced he was going to fall and take me with him. Not a fun stretch of climbing for me. As we made our way to 9800 we took off the ropes and climbed untethered the final 2050 feet to the summit. The views were spectacular! It was a bit windy and as we had two climbers waiting for us below we didn't stay long.

On the way down we switched up the rope teams with Steve taking the nervous guy this time around. On our way back through the protected stretch I pulled one picket that had been placed on relatively benign ground and replaced it on the sketchier traverse as I passed through. This would enable the team behind me to be more protected on that stretch with two pickets on the traverse instead of one.

Once we were back at 9400 we coiled up the ropes and continued back to "camp" without them. It had been almost 5 hours since we left our other two climbers and it was now approaching noon. We stopped for a long break (45 minutes), melted some snow as several people had run out of water, rested and had some lunch. It was also time to strip clothing as it was getting pretty warm in the sunshine. I went from long johns, climbing pants, long bra-tank top, top base layer, softshell jacket, hat and gloves to shorts, tank top, and arm warmers. Quite the change in a very short period of time!

After our long break we reversed course and followed the GPS track back to Soap Creek where we filtered more water and then began the 2 mile trek to the cars. The last 2 miles of this hike always seem extremely long somehow - much longer than 2 miles. We made it to the cars just after 3 PM. Enjoyed a few snacks, changed clothes, and then headed for a late lunch/early dinner at a Mexican place in Sisters. Then made the 3 hour drive home. I walked in the door just before 8 PM on Saturday night. All in all a great climb - very enjoyable as a 1 day adventure!

15 miles
6000 ft of elevation gain - appx.
35 lb pack
4 miles with trail shoes; 11 miles with mountaineering boots.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Vancouver Marathon

I signed up to run this race in May of 2010 when I first heard about it. I figured it would be fun to run an inaugural event and it wouldn't be too far to drive from my house. They were also offering a super early bird special of $45, so I thought that even if something came up and I couldn't run it I wouldn't have lost a lot of money.

Well, that was all way before I decided to sign up for the Beacon Rock 50k. And before I decided to sign up for a Memorial Day trail marathon. Adam and I did end up deciding to stay in town this past weekend - the weather forecast wasn't great and I had work I needed to do - so that opened up the possibility that I could run the event. I went and picked up my packet Saturday morning just to keep the option open as there wouldn't be any day of race packet pickup.

I worked all day on Saturday. I have been dealing with some stomach problems over the last few weeks and was feeling quite lousy all day Saturday. I did a short 4-mile run and felt like I was going to puke for the last 2. We had plans to go out with friends that night to a Peruvian restaurant. I didn't think Peruvian would be great fueling for a marathon but didn't want to cancel at the last minute. We got to eat some very interesting and tasty food -  a marlin cembiche was particularly tasty. However it wasn't quite the carb fest you usually have pre-marathon. I finished off the evening with a bowl of Rice Chex for some carbs just in case I decided to run in the morning.

My plan was to wake up at 4:45 am and see how I felt. If my stomach had settled I would give it a go and if not I would go back to sleep. The alarm went off and since I didn't feel terrible I got out of bed and started to get ready. Didn't take long to get showered, dressed, fed and out the door. I tend to get pretty stressed about parking for events so I wanted to get there early to make sure I didn't have any trouble. A friend was also going to bring me some S-Caps to help with cramping so I needed to meet up with her. I left the house at 5:30 and had slid into a parking place by 5:45. Walked the .2 miles to the Vancouver Hilton which was across the street from the park where the race was starting. Met up with my friend Sarah for the S-Caps and she and I wandered over to the starting area. The race didn't start until 7 so we had plenty of time. They did a great job with the organization. There were plenty of porta-potties (a great sign) and easy gear check.

Sarah and I pre-race.
The race started right on time at 7 a.m. My plan going in to the race was to run it as a training run. My legs were still tired from beacon and I hadn't run a long run on roads in over month. I lined up around the 4 hr pacer. I started off and decided to ignore my watch and run by how my breathing and heart rate felt for the first five miles. Right off the bat I could tell my legs weren't going to be happy. My calves hurt and my inner thigh was still very tender where it had cramped last week.

The course was a bit challenging in that we started off on the road and in less than a mile made a very abrupt 90 degree turn onto sidewalk. This required not only turning but stepping up onto the sidewalk. Naturally this was a constriction point and I spent the next mile trying to find a comfortable pace while working my way around people. We continued this on and off sidewalk pattern for the entire race. There were probably 15 or more 90 degree turns (these are notable as they tend to really slow you down). In addition many of the curbs were tiled with brick. So you would have 4 or 5 steps on brick. It was lightly raining so the brick was slick, and my Crocs don't handle slick well. So I had to slow and lightly walk across these sections.

We started off heading north west towards Vancouver Lake. I don't know Vancouver at all so everything about this course would be new to me. I also didn't look at the course pre-race. Since I was considering this as a training run I figured it didn't really matter - just take it as it comes. The run out to the lake was somewhat boring. For awhile we were on sidewalk and then we were running in the bike lane of the road. After 4 or 5 miles we turned off and ran around a park, and then came back the way we had run out. I was staying pretty close to a group of folks that were running a similar pace, but every time I stopped for a walk break they would get ahead of me and I would try to catch up. As we made the turn back in to town we turned directly into a headwind. I tried to catch the group as I wanted a wind break but I couldn't reel them in. I figured I would expend more energy trying to catch them than simply dealing with the head wind so I stopped trying to catch up. Just after this turnaround there is a short section where you come around a corner so you can see the people that are behind you. It was then that I realized I was ahead of the 3:40 pacer by a few minutes. I had no idea I was on that pace. We were around mile 8 and I checked my watch and noticed I was on an 8:08 pace.

Now that I knew I was running faster I figured I should try to maintain that pace. My goal shifted from training run, to holding the pace until my legs imploded. I ran with another woman between mile 10 and 11.5 and we talked about how neither of us had been training for this pace and we weren't sure what was going to happen. She dropped off the pace at 11.5 for a walk break. I figured I would see her again and I continued with my walk breaks but I didn't. I hit the half in 1:46. Got a bit of an infusion of energy here as we ran back through town. Then right around mile 15 we merged with the half-marathon route. The half-marathon had started at 8:30 so what we were running into was a lot of the people walking the half-marathon. I hit 15 at 2:01 so these half-marathoner were at mile 2 and appx 31 minutes into their race. What this meant was a lot of people dodging without a lot of road to do it in. We were still going between road and sidwalk. There were people walking 4 and 5 abreast and it was very challenging to maneuver your way around them.

We made our way through town and then ran through Ft. Vancouver which was quite pretty. My legs were tired but I figured this was an exercise in pushing through when your legs don't feel like trying to push hard. I knew I could slow down, but I really didn't want to. I was encouraged when I got to mile 16.2 as I knew we were down to the single digits. The next couple of miles I focused on running one mile and then walking for 30 seconds. There was a big hill at mile 19 that took slowed me down (only mile split in the 9's of the race). I realized I was getting crabby so I shoved down and Gu and some water which seemed to perk me up a little bit. I hit 22 in just over 3 hours and I knew if I could just hold even 9 minutes miles I could get a PR. So many of the tight turns came between 20 and 22. They had been forced to reroute the course at the last minute as a couple of miles of it were underwater. I think this is what created a lot of the turning.

I almost ran directly into the most beautiful Bernese Mountain Dog around mile 23 - he was huge! I had to stop to pat him on his ginormous head. Around mile 24 I had a guy pass by me. He said I had been a great pace setter and had been pulling him along for the entire race. He then went ahead of me. I tried to keep up but didn't have a whole lot of speed left. My left foot started to cramp pretty badly at this point. I didn't want to stop so I tried the best I could to spread out my toes and give it some flex. It continued to cramp all the way to the end.

Since mile 8 my watch had been consistently a tenth of a mile off of the mile markers. So I would hit the mile marker and a tenth of a mile later my watch would register that mile.We hit 25 and I tried to find a bit of speed to bring it in to the finish. Then we hit a soul-sucking mini-hill at 25.5. Soon enough I was passing 26 mile marker. My watch was consistent and showing 25.9. So I assumed it was .2 to the finish and started to kick. Something went a bit wonky with their signage at this point b/c according to my Garmin it was another .39 to the finish. I hit their 26 mile marker at 3:33 so I knew I could do .2 in under 2 minutes which would put me under 3:35. Since I crossed in 3:35:25 this stretch was definitely long. I think the .39 is probably pretty close to accurate as I kicked hard for the finish.

Bart Yasso announced my name as I crossed the line which was pretty cool. Someone handed me water and tied a space blanket on me and handed me a medal. I chilled down pretty quickly and started to shiver. I had wanted to hang out at the finish, find some people who probably already had finished and wait for others to finish but I was really cold and my stomach was starting to rebel again. I grabbed my bag from the bag check and headed home.

Overall I'm very happy with the time but the run wasn't a good one for me. It just never felt good. I couldn't get my hydration or nutrition right. I was either thirsty or sloshy, and either hungry or bloated. I never found the running groove that day and frankly I was bored during chunks of it. My iPod did really help pass the time.  My splits were pretty consistent and I was good about taking my walk breaks. I think if I pick a course with less turns, don't do a hard run the week before, and dial in my hydration/nutrition I could meet my goal of 3:30.

Results: 111/798 overall; 21/390 gender; 5/67 division   Overall pace: 8:13

Monday, June 13, 2011

Beacon Rock Recap

I was nervous going in to this race. The elevation profile was just scary. I had hiked the Hamilton Mountain trail enough to know just how steep that section of the course was going to be. 7500 feet of climbing and descending in 31 miles, running up and over two "mountains" along the way. Was I really up for the challenge?

The weekend before Adam joined me for some hill training in Forest Park. We started at Germantown Road and instead of sticking to the main Wildwood trail, we took every side/hilly trail that we could. We climbed up Firelane 10, went up Saltzman, then up and down Trillium, up and down the full length of Ridge Trail, and up Hardesty. It amounted to 3400 feet of climbing in 15.5 miles. I was whipped at the end. I didn't know how I was going to run another 4100 feet of elevation and double the miles the following week.

Climbing up one of the steeper portions of the trail.
Sunday dawned sunny and bright. The alarm was set for 5:10, but I woke a few minutes before it went off. The nice thing about waking up at 5 am for a run in the summer is that it is already light out. Makes it much easier to actually get yourself out of bed. I did the usual pre-race routine, and before long I was heading out the door. Left the house at 5:50 and arrived at the race site at 6:45 - which gave me a solid hour and fifteen minutes before the race.

I met up with a fellow Portland "Running Chick" and we chatted for a bit. We got to watch the early starters head out (you could take an hour early start if you didn't think you could complete the course in the 9 hour time limit). I had previewed the entrant list the night before and had counted 14 women registered for the 50k race. I scanned the early starters - there were probably 15 or so and 10 of them were women. Uh-oh. This concerned me. Should I be taking the early start? I was really thinking worse case scenario would be an 8 to 8 1/2 hour finish. The race director's really don't want you to take the early start unless you actually need it (i.e. they don't want you starting early so you can finish earlier). I had a few moments of panic about there only being 4 women starting the 50k at the regular start time. Would I be last?

I picked up my bib and readied my drop bag. The 50k runners were doing 2 loops, so we would return to the starting location at the halfway point. We could have a drop bag here, and at the aid station that was out on the course. I was trying to be as self-sufficient as possible, so I just had the one drop bag at the start. I was going to try out my hydration pack for this run. Instead of using one 2-liter bladder in it I instead loaded it up with 2, 1 liter bladders - filling one with grape drinking vinegar and the other with Gatorade. I had 3 gu's and two packets of Margarita shot blocks in my front pack pockets, along with my inhaler. I was hoping the pack would prove to be comfortable for 31 miles. Just in case it was bothering me at the halfway point I put my amphipod belt in my drop bag.

I met up with TrailMike from Daily Mile before the race. This was his second 50k and he was also daunted by the hill climbing we were going to face. He had decided to go light for the race and was going to carry just one handheld bottle. We would hit aid stations at 5.5, 11.8, 15.5, 21, and 27.3 so it isn't as though we had too much time between any one station.

Soon enough race director, James Varner, was giving the race instructions. In his words there were several "confusing intersections." Having gotten lost during a marathon two weeks ago I paid close attention. He had put arrows attached to garden stakes at all intersections, but at those two particular intersections he had also included written notes - first time through go left, second time through go straight - as we would be hitting those intersections twice during each lap. Seemed straightforward enough. He also assured us that there was flagging tape or an arrow appx every 1/4 mile. And without much further ado we were off!

We crossed the starting line and ran down the gravel road the group campsite was located on for 1/10 of a mile, then made a hard right turn onto pavement, went down 150 feet in .3 miles (damn that was going to hurt having to come back up that!) then a hard left onto gravel. From there it was trail or dirt road the rest of the way. The climbing began with a relatively gentle grade for the next mile 1.8 miles as were still on a "road." I ran this section knowing that we had much worse climbing to come. At the 2.2 mile mark we hung a left and had a bit more gentle climbing before hanging a right onto a STEEP trail. This is where everyone started to walk. It was up, up, up for at least a mile and a half before we topped out at 2500 feet on Hardy Ridge. Then it was down, down, down on steep, rocky, technical trail for another mile and a half to the aid station. I got passed by more than a few runners on this downhill as I am not a good descender. TrailMike caught up to me, then blew by me on his way to the aid station.

I passed up the first aid station feeling as though I was pretty well stocked. The next mile was more downhill, and then we hit the first of the confusing intersections. It was very well marked and there was even a volunteer pointing people in the right direction! TrailMike caught up to me again and we ran together for a bit before he passed on by me. This next part of the course was my favorite with a little bit of rolling terrain and several pretty bridges. But before long the joy ended as we made the turn up to Hamilton Mountain. We were probably at about 900 feet and had to climb up to 2350. I "ran" for the first 1/4 mile or so, passing TrailMike on the way, then started power walking. I figured I was wasting more energy in attempting to run than to just walk it. I passed a few people on the uphill.

Having done this trail numerous times I knew when I was closing in on the top. As soon as I hit the saddle I took off running. This section was still pretty technical but relatively runnable. Some steep downhill, some gentle downhill, a beautiful crossing of a wide open saddle to a dirt road - one of my favorite stretches on the course. Then on to a cutoff trail that had a few obstacles in the way - downed logs to hop - along with lots of rocks and roots. TrailMike caught back up to me and we chatted for a few minutes before he continued on. There was a pretty new bridge had been put in and there was some work going on along the trail.

The trail husky - happy as can be!
Then I was back at the aid station - mile 11.8. There were several people running the race with their dogs. There was a husky with his owner at the aid station and she was just having the time of her life. He fed her a peanut butter sandwich and she was just all wiggly and full of energy. I had 1/2 a peanut butter and jelly sandwich along with several cups of water and continued on. I wanted to make it back to the 15.5 miles before the 3 1/2 hour mark if I possibly could. It wasn't long before the pup and her owner passed me. The next stretch of the course was a bit of a steep hill on the road before returning to the confusing intersection. This time we went straight and the volunteer was still there to direct us. This part felt a bit like a cross country course - lots of running over grass that had taken over the old road. The temperature was starting to climb and it felt a bit steamy. This stretch ended at another intersection that I hadn't even noticed on the way up. We were at mile 13.7 and it was down the gravel/dirt road we had climbed up at the beginning of the race. I started to see runners who were heading back up the road on their second lap for the 50k. I cheered them on as they passed me - impressed with their ability. It didn't take too long before I was back to the pavement and got to climb that 150 feet back up to the start.

Trail puppy! Doesn't she look like she is having fun?
The air felt hot and my temperature was rising a bit. I pulled in to the aid station at the halfway mark at 3:17:05, hitting the time goal I had set for myself. I greedily sucked down two watermelon pieces. It was cold, wet, and delicious! Had another 1/4 of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich as well. TrailMike had pulled into the aid station just before me, so we set out together for lap 2. I have to admit there was a part of me that really just wanted to call it a day. It was getting warm, and the runners who had completed the 25k were lounging on the lawn enjoying cold beer and hamburgers and hot dogs. Looked like a nice way to relax. But I had signed up for the 50k so I wasn't going to quit now.

TrailMike and I stayed together for the first mile and then I continued running up the hill while he decided to walk. This second lap was much lonelier. I was on my own for the majority of this trip. I passed 4 or 5 people on my way up to Hardy Ridge. Knowing what I was facing made the second trip up Hardy Ridge a bit easier. A guy caught up to me on the descent from Hardy and we ran into the aid station together. Another 1/4 of a peanut butter sandwhich and more water. The air was warm and the sun was beating down. My clothing was soaked and I could feel the salt on my skin. I wanted to make sure I kept getting enough fluid and salt in to prevent cramping. I was about 3/4 finished with my Gatorade and was probably 1/2 way through my grape vinegar at this point. I had been take a margarita shot block just about every 3 miles since the beginning of the race as well.

I let my legs loose out of the aid station and went through the next section pretty quickly as the terrain was the easiest of the entire course. Not much time later I found myself back at the climb up to Hamilton Mountain. This time the climb felt harder and I walked all but a very short rising traverse section in the middle. I got to the top and set out to run again. Then a quiver, a spasm, and I stopped. What was that? Something felt very strange in my upper thigh/groin area. It was definitely the beginning of a cramp. I sucked down some fluid, at another block, and tried to massage it out. I was a bit scared at this point. I was a good 3.5 miles in either direction from the aid station and I had no other runners around me. I really wasn't sure if I could handle the cramps completely on my own.

After massaging it out for a couple of minutes my leg seemed to want to work again. I took the descent gingerly, being careful not to make any sudden or awkward movements over rocks or logs. I ran over the rocky saddle, hit the dirt road, then back to the cutoff trail. Every minute I pulled closer to the aid station I was happier as I knew they might have something to help me if the cramps started. I was feeling ok, and started down the next technical descent. There was a log in my path and I had to get over it. I stopped to a walk and cautiously picked up my right leg. BAM - thigh seized with a vengeance. I screamed an obscenity at the top of my lungs it hurt so bad (not that anyone was around to hear it). It was a bad cramp, the kind that leads to my whole body cramping and I was terrified that was what was going to happen. The two times that has happened I have had someone there with me. They have helped me to work it out and get me functional again. No such luck this time. I tried to relax knowing that tensing wasn't going to help anything. I worked on rubbing it out hearing Janet's voice in my head telling me to rub away from my heart. After 4 or 5 minutes it started to release a bit. I slowly started to walk again, being extremely careful this time not to make any sudden movements. The slow walk eventually turned in to a very slow jog to the aid station.

I walked up and said I was having trouble with cramps. They pointed me to S caps and told me to take two. I was willing to try anything, so I downed two with three cups of water. I grabbed a handful of M&M's as I was getting really hungry. I ran the downhill stretch much slower this time, uncertain of when or if the cramps would return. It was on this stretch that my watch died. I had turned of the auto-lap feature in hopes of getting more life out of it, but apparently 6 hours and 40 minutes is the maximum battery life of my watch. I was a bit disappointed not to have the watch as a guide for the last few miles. I had a slim hope of making it in just under 7 hours and it was going to be hard without the watch. Bummer.

I made it through the cross-country section of the course and was at the final turn onto the gravel road. I cruised down this the best I could, trying to pick up the pace a bit. I hit the parking lot, .8 from the start, ran down the final gravel stretch and then made the turn onto the .3 mile uphill stretch to the finish. I pushed up the hill the best I could and tried to bring it in strong. Just as I was closing in on the finish line I caught sight of the race clock - it was just turning over from 6:59:59 to 7:00:00. I was disappointed but still tried to finish strong - crossed the finish line in 7:00:12.

Overall a good run. I was pretty happy with my effort. I didn't have any negative thoughts during the day. I knew I wasn't going to do overly well in the standings, but I felt happy to finish 7500 feet of climbing in 31 miles of running in a single day. If I could figure out how to keep the cramps away from good I know I can do better. I did end up coming in one minute and twelve second faster than in the Gorge 50 and this was a harder course - so I feel as though I am making progress.

Stats (Updated 6/16/11 - They updated the results and I moved up a spot)
Finish time: 7:00:12
38 out of 71 overall
9 out of 21 women

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Ridgeline Ramble Trail Marathon

A month or so ago our friend Janet sent out a link to the Ridgeline Ramble in Eugene over Memorial Day Weekend. This race had something to offer everyone - a 10k, 20k, 20k relay, and a marathon. Adam and I no longer make climbing plans for Memorial Day so we decided we would give it a try. He registered for the 20k and I registered for the marathon. Alice also decided to join in on the fun, registering for the 20k. Jay & Janet were doing the 20k relay.

In typical Sarah fashion, I didn't do the best job of understanding the logistics when I registered. For some reason I was thinking the race as in Salem instead of Eugene. Salem is a 45 minute drive, while Eugene is a 2 hour drive. The marathon start time was 7 am. Since I wanted to make sure to build in a little time for getting lost and using the bathrooms upon arrival at the starting line it was going to be quite an early morning.

I got my stuff prepped on Thursday night in order to make Friday night a little bit easier. Friday night came, we had an early dinner, and were in bed around 10. The alarm came early Saturday morning - 3:30 am. I put on some coffee for Adam and hopped in the shower to loosen up my muscles a bit. We were dressed and ready to go by 4:20.

The forecast was for 70% chance of rain, and it had been raining for the previous two days leading up to this run. Since this was a trail run we knew that meant we were going to encounter a good bit of mud during the run. As we made our way down to Eugene we hit patches of torrential rain intermixed with long dry stretches. We had been in one of those nice long dry stretches until about 2 miles before our exit when the torrential rain hit again, and continued all the way to the race start location.

We were first to arrived, followed quickly by Jay & Janet and Alice. It wasn't raining too hard at this point. We were able to grab our race numbers and timing chips, although it made sense to crawl back into the car to put all the stuff on. We had arrived at 6:20, giving me 40 minutes to get myself settled before the gun went off. There were only 26 people running the marathon - by far the smallest marathon I have done - and I was quite intimidated by looking at some of them. They looked like marathoners - ridiculously strong legs, super thin, etc... - I was worried I was going to be dead last. They gathered us all together and gave us some course instructions. There were white flour arrows on the ground indicating which direction to go. The marathon was running the 20k course backwards, and then running back and tacking on a short 2k loop to make it a full marathon. We were to follow the flour arrows backwards to the 20k start and then follow them forwards. Seemed simple enough.
And we're off!
And then we were off. We had to run across the grass to start, and then we were on pavement for the first three miles. Within a mile we ran down a pretty good hills (would need to run back up it on the way back) and then hit an insanely steep uphill. I could pretty much see the entire field at this point, and it looked to me as though I had about 11 people in front of me. There were two people that took the early start (out of 26), so I figured I must have 12 people behind me. I felt pretty good being in the middle of the pack. If I could finish mid-pack I would be happy.

There were three aid stations in the first 10k. We hit the trails around mile 3, and started to do a decent amount of climbing. Topped out on a beautiful ridge, and enjoyed a bit of ridge running for about 1/2 a mile. Then a steep and super muddy descent. My shoes sunk into the thick mud and after 1/4 mile of running with what felt like lead weights on my feet I had to stop and scrape them off. The 10k aid station appeared as we came down the trail, and I followed a white arrow and took a right (going straight would have led us through a parking lot). We went down, down, down for what felt like a long ways. Then I found myself at a junction - there were three trails, one to the right (no arrows), one somewhat straight ahead (backward arrow), and one to the left (forward arrow). Knowing we were supposed to follow the arrows backwards I took the straight ahead path. In short order I found myself on a road. I was confused here. I could see an arrow across the street but I had a feeling that might be pointing me towards the additional loop I needed to do on my return trip. I hemmed and hawed here for a bit, I stood around confused. Finally this truck came barreling up the street, a woman leaned out the window, and told me to run down the street. I thanked her and kept moving.

Right at the end of the street was another aid station. We then looped back into the trees. There was a short stream crossing and lots more mud. Then I was back at the trail junction. I was totally confused here. I knew if I followed the forward arrow I would end up back at the 10k aid station. But if I followed the backward arrow I would just repeat the loop I had already done. Even though I had scrutinized the map before hand I did not understand that there was an out and back section of the course. If I had understood that, the arrow would have made sense. But thinking I would never be retracing my steps I was just flummoxed. Thankfully, in 2 - 3 minutes a guy I had met at the Gorge 50k came up the trail. He thought the right direction was to go back up the hill. We both continued that way. Then about half way up he doubted this as well and he pulled out his phone which had a GPS map of the course on it. We confirmed that there was an out and back and continued up. All in all, I think I lost about 5 minutes on this section of the course due to confusion.

About 1/2 way up the hill I passed this girl wearing with long blond hair. I said three times "passing on the left" and she refused to move over. Her music was blaring so loud on her iPod that she couldn't anything around her. Finally when I was practically on her shoulder she realized I was there and moved over. For some reason this annoyed me and I made it a point to work hard to stay ahead of her.

Just as we were getting close to the top of the hill two guys pass us going downhill - they were flying! We were now going to be encountering the 20k runner's for the next few miles (they had started at 8, while we had started at 7). Once at the top of the hill and back at the 10k aid station, we crossed through the parking lot, across a road, and back on to trails. Some of the 20k'ers were just hauling. One woman yelled at me "good job 6th woman!" And that's when I fell apart. How was I 6th? I hadn't been passed by any women. When I had been able to see the full field up ahead of me at the beginning I had counted 5 women, and I had passed one. That should make me 4th - how did 2 get ahead of me? I got myself into a horrible internal dialogue at this point, going straight for my typical neuroses. "You aren't a runner, you are too fat to be a runner. You are slow. Slow and fat. Slow, fat, and ugly. Slow, fat, ugly and stupid." It just kept getting worse and worse.

I had figured would meet up with Adam and Alice somewhere along this stretch, and wasn't surprised when in another 10 minutes I spotted them. I was super crabby at this point b/c of dropping time getting lost and finding out how far back I was in the crowd. They looked like they were feeling strong, and they were right in the thick of a big group of runners.

After a mile or two I wasn't passing the 20k'ers any more and it started to feel a little desolate. I tried to keep the guy who had helped me with the GPS map in sight. Every time I caught site of his yellow shirt I felt a little comforted that I was either still on the right track, or I was lost with someone I knew. I figured I was at about the 10 mile mark when I saw the frontrunners (2 men) coming back my way. I asked them how many miles to the turnaround and they told me "a couple." Another 10 minutes went by and I started to see a lot more people. I counted 15 people coming back my way. Back to my original point, I hadn't been passed by anyone, how had so many people gotten ahead of me?

I popped out of the trail into another parking lot at an aid station, grabbed a cup of Gatorade, and asked the volunteer which mile we were at. His response, "I think we are at 3.2." He was figuring from the 20k point of view, which would have put us at mile 9.4 - I knew this was wrong and just continued on. I was trying to shake all my negative thoughts. I was out here for fun, not because I was trying to win. Granted, I wanted to do the best I could, but I was doing that. My pace was pretty decent, my legs were feeling good, etc...

It didn't take too much longer to get to the 20k turnaround - probably a mile and a half. The volunteer wrote down my number next to a number indicating what place I was in. I was 18th. Ugh... Still couldn't figure out how I had gotten so far back. However, this is where I finally seemed to shake the negative thoughts. I told myself that if I couldn't get out of the negative space in my head then I needed to stop racing b/c this wasn't worth it. I'm never going to be the fastest; never going to win. I'm out there to push myself and enjoy myself. So I just let it all go and decided to work hard and enjoy the next 13.8 miles.

I grabbed another cup of Gatorade and I continued back. As I was heading back from the aid station, blond ponytail girl was running opposite and one her way to the turnaround - probably 2 minutes behind. Now I was on known ground which is much easier. You can plan accordingly which helps and psychologically you know exactly what you are facing. I passed one guy not far after the turn around. It didn't seem to be too long before I found myself back at the 10k aid station and heading back down the long hill. On my way down I passed by a lot of the front runners coming up, sure enough I was 6th woman. I worked hard not to get down about that and pressed on. Back to the funky intersection. I ran it the same way I had the first time (which was backwards this time), then followed the arrow across the street (where I had turned left last time) to do the additional 2k loop. When I completed that I talked to the guy at the aid station who recorded my number. He told me I was supposed to run it the other way, but as long as I had completed the loop it didn't really matter.

At one of the trail junctions
Then it was back up the hill. As I was climbing my way up I was surprised to see 4 or 5 people coming down that I had passed on my way down the hill (they had been on their way up). I asked one of them why she was coming back down - she told me that she had missed this section the first time around. Suddenly things started to make sense. A bunch of folks had hit the 10k aid station the first time and gone straight across the parking lot instead of down the hill, cutting appx. 3 miles of course. That's how so many people had gotten ahead of me.

Stupid as it may sound this actually perked me up a bit and I continued up the hill and passed another guy. Ran straight through the 10k aid station and got back on course. This is typically the spot in a marathon where I seem to get an extra infusion of adrenaline. It's a nice little perk and makes the last 10k go by a lot faster. I knew I would also hit that ridge run again, which even though it was a steep climb up it was super pretty. Those 3 miles went by pretty fast and I was at the last aid station. A great aid station with oranges, pretzels, gummy bears and more. I asked them how far to go - only a 5k left!

Now we were back to road running. I was hoping to increase my pace for this last stretch. My next mile was 8:09 and it felt pretty good. Then all of a sudden I saw blond ponytail girl ahead of me?!? How had she gotten ahead of me? She never passed me. I was never off course. It didn't make sense and it got me upset. She had to have cut some section of the course (intentionally or unintentionally) to get ahead. I figured I had two choices, talk to her at the end and see if we could identify where she skipped a section of the course or just pass her outright and not worry about it. So I kicked it into high gear and passed her. My last two miles were 8:06 and 7:52. It felt hard but good. I passed one more guy right at the end. One of my goals has been working on strong finishes and pushing hard at the end, so it felt good to find a different gear and really be able to finish with some speed.

I saw and heard Adam cheering me in to the finish. I crossed the finish line in 4:26:41 - a 10:09 pace.

7th out of 20 overall
4th out of 11 women
1st out of 3 in my division

Adam, me, Alice, Janet, Jay post-race
Apparently there was a lot of confusion out on the course. The first two guys that finished missed a section and so they weren't counted in the final results. Then there were a bunch of people that had to do the out and back section twice on the way back because they missed it. In the end I'm pretty sure blond ponytail girl wasn't trying to cheat, I just think she somehow missed a turn and unintentionally cut off a section of the course.

Overall, I feel pretty good about that performance. I'm thankful I was able to stop the negative thoughts and enjoy the second half of the run. I wish I hadn't gotten into that space to begin with, and definitely have some work to do mentally for future races. In the end it was a great day. Adam and Alice did really well in the 20k and had a lot of fun as did Jay & Janet in the relay.

We finished off the day by going to Janet & Jay's in Newberg, having some excellent grilled food, and lounging in the hot tub. A wonderful day filled with running and friends. Couldn't ask for anything better.

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Day Off to Run

Had you asked me a year ago if I would consider taking a day off to run I would have told you you were crazy. I mean, day's off are supposed to be for tromping around in the gorge, the mountains, or lazily hanging out home. Last Thursday came with the promise of a beautiful Friday forecast - sunny, warm, dry - it was going to be a perfect day. I couldn't conceive of spending such a perfect day sitting in the office so Adam and I decided to take the day off.

Arriving home on Thursday night we talked over whether we should climb Hood. It would be a pretty day in the mountains so it would be a great day to do it. However, it was already 7 pm. By the time we packed it would be 8. Then we would lay down for 2 1/2 hours to "sleep," getting up at 10:30 to prep and drive to the mountain so we could start slogging up the Palmer around midnight. We knew there would be a bazillion other people on the mountain with the forecast, and, quite frankly, neither of us wanted to do it.

I came up with Plan II. I wanted to get in a long run and Adam was game for a long run for him as well. I put together a nice route that would give me 32 miles and him 16. We left the house at 8 am on Friday (perfect for hitting rush hour traffic) to drop a car on Germantown Road where Forest Park's Wildwood trail crosses over. This trailhead is mile post 24.62 on the Wildwood Trail which is a total of 30.2 miles long, beginning at the Oregon Zoo and ending at Newberry Road.

Adam then drove me to a drop off spot on Broadway Drive just on the south edge of downtown, right off of 405. Sadly I had realized on our drive that I had forgotten my GPS watch. I didn't want to lose the time of driving home and then back to the drop off spot so I decided to forego the watch and run "naked" for a change. My drop off spot was about .5 miles from the base of Terwilliger Hill. I started at appx 100 feet of elevation. I had about 2 miles of road running to do before hitting, and staying on, trails for the rest of the day.

I started running at 8:55 a.m. (according to my phone which I was carrying with me). I was wearing a running skirt, tank top, long sleeve shirt, arm warmers, gloves and my amphipod belt. My belt was loaded with two 8 oz bottles of grape drinking vinegar, one 8 oz bottle of Gatorade, one 8 oz bottle of chia seed coconut water, 2 packages of clif shot blocks (400 calories), and 2 gu's. The first 2 miles seemed to go by pretty quick. Unfortunately I realized in the first 1/2 mile that I was overdressed. I took off the long sleeve shirt and tied it around my waist, stuffed my gloves in my skirt pocket, and pushed down my arm warmers. The climbing wasn't too hard and I was listening to my iPod for this stretch. Thankfully there was a bathroom about 1.5 miles into the run and I was very happy to be able to take advantage of it. In short order I saw the sign for the Marquam trail and headed into the woods. The turnoff is around 240 feet of elevation. I turned off my iPod at this point - it distracts me too much to listen to music while running trails. The trails through here are pretty narrow and the signs are just odd. It is super easy to get lost. I'm pretty sure I took a wrong turn somewhere but post-run even looking at the map I couldn't figure out what I had done.

The trail goes up, up, up and I was feeling it in my legs and chest. I made it up to a road crossing in about 2 miles, and was at 780 feet of elevation. I was very confused by this intersection and stopped and asked a few people for directions - they were of no help, so I just continued on hoping I was making the right decisions. Then had to drop down 260 feet, just to climb up another 520 to top out at Council Crest (1073 feet - the highest point in Portland). I took quick notice of the mountains, drank from the water fountain, and then found the path that would take me down to the zoo. This path was relatively well marked, and in another 2 miles I was at the zoo. I figured I was around 6.5 - 7 miles in at this point. I sent off a quick text to Adam to alert him to my whereabouts. Without my watch it was hard to figure out how fast I was traveling. When I had left Adam that morning I had expected to hit our meeting spot around 2:45 - 3 hours.

I made another wrong turn going through the Zoo area. There are so many side trails through here that it is challenging to stay on the main trail. But soon enough I found myself back on Wildwood and leaving behind the mayhem of the zoo on a sunny day. It was 4 miles from here to Pittock Mansion. You have to climb up about 200 feet from the zoo, then drop down 200 feet to the arboretum, and another 300 feet to cross Burnside street. From Burnside you gain about 400 feet in 3/4 a mile to arrive at Pittock Mansion. I was already starting to feel the heat.

I stopped for another bathroom break and ate a Gu. I was about 11 miles in at this point and had already drank 3 of my 8 oz bottles, along with drinking water at three water fountains along the way. I called Adam to let him know I was at Pittock. From here it was 5.5 miles to our meeting spot. I figured I would be about 55 minutes to an hour. Our phone call ended at 11:03 and I started off again.

These miles rolled by pretty quickly. There was quite a big downhill to start this leg, and then a gradually climb for several miles before settling into some rolling hills/descents. I drank the last of my liquid around mile 14 and was getting excited to see Adam and get some more fluid. I arrived at our meeting spot at 12:01 (Leg 1 of 16.25 miles had taken appx 2:55 of running time - appx 10 minutes in bathroom breaks/phone breaks). No Adam. I figured he had probably gotten stuck in Friday traffic and sat down to wait. 10 minutes, then 15 minutes passed. I started to get worried. I didn't have a contingency plan for him not showing up. It would have been very hard running back to civilization without having any more fluid on me. Thankfully he pulled up around 12:20 - he had gotten snarled in bad traffic.

I drank some water, ate a bar, resupplied all the liquid on my belt, dropped my long sleeve shirt, arm warmers, and gloves. Adam was carrying 20 oz of Gatorade in a handheld bottle along with several packets of Gu. We left the car at 12:35. We were at mile post 9.2 on Wildwood and were headed for the car at mile post 24.75.

We settled into a good rhythm pretty quickly. Even though we don't talk a whole lot while running it was very nice to have company. I also find it really nice to run with someone that I don't need to keep up a steady string of conversation with. Sometimes I find that pressure to be stressful, and since I run to relieve stress, it isn't a good thing for me.

About 10 miles in we ran into a couple that had their one year old beagle of leash for the first time. They were walking the opposite direction of us. The pup saw us and got scared and started running in the direction we were going, not the direction his parents were going. So we had to stop and they had to go try and catch the beagle. It was pretty entertaining. She was a cute little pup - clearly quite terrified of the scary runners.

The heat was starting to get to both of us about 12 - 13 miles in. There is a good long climb from mile 21 - 23. We were both low on fluids. I had started the run that morning at 58 degrees and it was up to 75 by the time we got home. Having had such a cool spring so far we just aren't used to the heat yet. We picked up the pace for the last couple of miles, drinking our last fluids about a mile from the car. That leg of 15.75 (we tacked on a bit extra at the end) had taken 2:53:13. Total distance 32 miles, total running time - appx 5:48, elevation gain - appx 4500 ft.

Overall a great day. I think if I had had enough fluids for a resupply and if Adam could have gone farther (we are taking it slow ramping up his miles b/c of a knee issue) I could have done another 8 - 10. It wouldn't have been easy, but I think I could have done it. Since I have my sights set on a 50 miler at some point that was a good sign.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Avenue of the Giants Marathon

Coming in to the finish line of the race.
Running the Avenue of the Giants Marathon was the brain child of my friend Alice. She wanted another shot at qualifying for Boston and she thought it would be awesome to run through the Redwoods. It just so happened that her friend Ingrid lives in Trinidad which is only about 70 miles from the start of the race. This allowed us to have one night of free lodging, and for us all to get to spend time in beautiful Trinidad and with Ingrid and Sweet Pea (Ingrid's adorable pup).

Lee, Alice and I all signed up for the race in late December to get in on the early registration fee. Celeste, Lee's girlfriend, wasn't going to run but wanted to join us on the trip. We planned to take two cars, Lee & Celeste would drive one and Alice, Charlotte (Alice's 14-year old daughter), Rudy (Alice's 12 year old pup) and I would head down in the other. Alice made us a hotel reservation in Eureka for the night before the race.

We left town around 11:30 a.m. on Friday April 29. To get to Trinidad involves driving a couple of hundred miles south on I-5 to Grant's Pass at which point you turn off on 199 which leads you to the coastal highway, 101. There are truly beautiful sections to this drive. We hit lots of heavy rain on the way down, but overall made pretty good time, arriving in Trinidad at 6:30. Ingrid's place is adorable with a great view of the ocean from the front window. She was a goddess being willing to put up 5 people in a dog in a two bedroom house. She made us a great dinner and we all got to enjoy hanging out for the night.

The next day I was up at 6:30. Lee, Alice, Celeste and I went for a pre-race short run along Scenic Drive which gives you an amazing view of the beach below Trinidad. Ingrid's friend Amy was also running the race - this would be her first marathon - so she offered to pick up our race packets. The remainder of our day involved a trip into Arcata for a native plant sale that Ingrid was keen on going to, a visit to the Arcata farmer's market, a hike up and around Trinidad head, and a pasta dinner in Arcata.

We got ourselves tucked into bed by 10 pm and the hotel was thankfully quiet enough that I didn't need to sleep with headphones on. I slept soundly for the majority of the night and woke 2 minutes before my alarm on Sunday morning. I was in the shower by 5 am getting my muscles warmed up with the warm water. Many other racers were staying at the hotel and we saw lots of different running attire as we started packing up the car at 6 am. We all packed in to one car for the drive to the race. The start was just about 40 miles from Eureka and the race website warned racers to get there by 7 am to avoid a traffic jam. We were turning off into the race site at 6:55. We still hit a bit of traffic, but the parking monitors were doing a great job and it only took us about 10 minutes to get us parked.

Once parked, we scrambled a bit to figure out what exactly we needed to bring with us up to the start. It was a very cold morning, made that much colder by being surrounded by huge trees and close to water, but we knew it was supposed to warm up to 70 at some point during the day. Celeste was willing to take a bag for us back down to the car so we got to wear our warm layers up to the start and shed them just before the gun. Celeste had decided to sign up for the 10k that morning. It didn't start until 9 am (the marathon start was 8 am) so it gave her time to get ready for her own race once seeing us off.

So began the usual wait for the porta-potties and then hanging around and freezing until the gun went off. Against my better judgment I decided to keep on my long sleeve top. My teeth were chattering so violently at the start that I couldn't imagine taking it off. We said goodbye to Celeste and got ourselves lined up. Soon enough the gun went off and we were on our way.

This is the smallest marathon I have done. There were 566 participants. Unlike the bigger races where it can take a long time to cross the starting line, in this race we were across 11 seconds post-gun. This is a double out and back race. You run out 6.5 miles to a turnaround and come back hitting the start again right at the halfway mark, then you turn down a different road and do another out and back. The goal for the race was to pace Alice to her BQ time. Originally she wanted me to pace her right to the 4 hour mark. Then she decided she wanted a bit of cushion so we were going for a 3:55. Then she altered that down to 3:50 and by race day the goal was a 3:45. That meant running right around 8:35's.

The road on the first out and back is twisty. Lots of turns as well as the road surface was pretty poor. I found that I had to keep a pretty close eye on my feet for this stretch or else I would most likely go head over heels. I talked to Alice about trying to run the tangents as much as possible. On a course this twisty I figured you could probably save quite a bit of energy by hitting the tangents instead of following the road. I was hot less than a mile in and stripped off my long sleeve shirt and tied it around my waist.

Alice went out a little fast and I kept working to reign her in. By the midpoint I stopped trying and just let her run her pace. I knew it meant it was going to be a rough second half, but after repeated attempts to slow her down I figured we would just see how this strategy worked for her. We were doing a pretty good job of walking the aid stations to conserve a bit of energy and get fluids down. Alice's big problem tends to be not eating or drinking enough electrolytes during a race causing her to bonk. Today she was working hard to stay on top of it. The biggest problem with the pace in my opinion was that it was erratic. We would drop to a 7:50 pace and then go up to a 9:30. We were staying right on target with our splits, but I felt there was going to be some burnout from doing bursts of speed and then slowing down as opposed to trying to hit a steady pace.

We lost Lee around mile 9. He needed to stop to stretch out his knee a bit. He had been struggling with a knee issue for a couple of months and it had caused him to drop out of Vernonia a the half-way point three weeks earlier. We hit the half way point pretty much right on target at 1:52.We saw Ingrid, Charlotte and the puppies and they were doing a great job of cheering us and everyone else on. I handed of my long sleeve shirt and arm warmers to Charlotte but decided to keep my gloves as it was still kind of chilly.

This was a great section of the course b/c there were so many spectators. Since we were back at the start it was easy for folks to get here and they were lining the road and the bridge that we crossed. Now we started on the second out and back section. The second out and back was the part of the course that was used for both the 10k and half-marathon so all of a sudden we started seeing a lot of people. Team in Training had a huge presence at this event and they all had great energy and were heartily cheering each other on.

Right around mile 14 we went down a steep incline that we knew we would have to come up at mile 25.5 on the return. This section of the course was interesting. We kept feeling like we were going downhill. It was gradual, but if felt and looked to be downhill. Alice was getting herself into a bit of a negative spiral here. She was tired, not feeling so good, and stressing about having to go uphill the whole way back. I did my best to motivate, encourage, cajole, and basically keep her moving. I knew the stretch from 13 - 20 would be where she needed me to keep on pace. I always find this to be the no-man's land of marathon running. You are done with the first half, but not yet in the final stretch. You kind of just try to keep yourself moving through these miles.

The scenery helped to keep us going as did the energy of the other participants. I think this course would be very challenging if you were one of the front runners as the return side of the course was filled with the slower half-marathoners. The lead marathon runners had to work to fight their way through the crowd. A couple of the top runners just ran right back through the out section of the course b/c there was less traffic on that side than the return side.

We kept ourselves moving. Our pace was slowing a bit, down into the 9's and I tried to keep up the string of positive energy. I'm starting to feel like I am not such a good motivator b/c I think I was just annoying Alice at this point :)  I kept her on track of eating and drinking and I think that helped a bit. We hit the turnaround at 19.6 and I thought this might perk Alice up - knowing that we were now just heading for home. The next couple of miles were rough. I continued being positive and upbeat but this wasn't working. So tried tough love. That also failed. Then I tried quiet.We saw Lee at this point on the out-and back. He wasn't too far behind and was looking strong.

We got to 22 and Alice told me she wanted to slow down and she wanted me to go ahead because she didn't want to hold me back. We had talked about this ahead of time - how to know if I the other one was serious about wanting to be left alone or if we should ignore their request and stick with them. We had done San Francisco together two years earlier and I had started cramping at mile 12. She wanted to stick with me but I had told her to go, telling her that it was going to be mentally easier for me to suffer on my own than with her. So I told her that my goal for this race was to help her get her BQ and I didn't care about my own time, but if she really wanted me to go I would. She told me that this was like San Francisco for her and she would be best on her own.

It was hard to go b/c I  was feeling like I had let her down. That if I was a better motivator, coach, friend that she would have wanted me to stick with her. But, I tried to push that out of my mind and just run for the last 4 miles. My legs were feeling good, I had gotten a surge of adrenaline at 20 and I just wanted to run all out. So I got to let my legs loose and go. The hills we had gone "down" on the way out never seemed to materialize as uphills. I am not sure how it is possible but the second out-and-back felt like it was downhill both ways. Impossible I know and yet that is how it felt.

I passed a bunch of people on this final stretch and got lots of "good jobs" and "keep it up" from the the other racers. This is what I like about small races is that you tend to be close to the same people for the majority of the race. This was the first marathon that I had not worn my headphones and I really like the experience. Even though the last two marathons I ran I had worn the headphones but had never turned on the music, I had still isolated myself from the other runners b/c they thought I was listening to music - thus we didn't interact. For this race the organizers had actually stated no headphones and the majority of the racers had complied.

When I hit mile 25 I turned on the speed. I was realizing that the cramps might actually not materialize this race and I might truly be able to sprint the finish. I kept picking it up through that final mile and was truly running on adrenaline at this point. I passed over the bridge and heard Celeste yell good job, and then heard Ingrid and Charlotte cheering. I had a singular focus of the finish line and just brought it in as fast as I could.

I looked down at my watch - 3:43:45 - 2 seconds off my PR! I have since looked at the official race results and they put my finish time at 3:43:43 (I wasn't sure which mat was the starting one at the beginning and I think I started my watch 2 seconds early). So I officially TIED my PR and got my second BQ time. I am not sure what the odds are of getting the exact same finish time on two marathons in a row is but my guess is it isn't high.

I was feeling good at the finish. I grabbed a water and my medal and walked over to where Charlotte and Ingrid were. I knew that Alice had the ability to finish strong and I wasn't surprised to see her coming through the finishing chute a few short minutes later. Finish time was 3:49:42! A PR by 11 minutes and she was smiling when she came through! I walked over to the finish and gave her a big hug. Her grin was ear-to-ear as she realized she had made it with plenty of time to spare. She grabbed some water and her medal and then we rejoined Ingrid and Charlotte and waited for Lee. He wasn't too far behind - coming through in 3:56:10 and looking happy as well. This was a PR for him by 6 minutes and he did it on a bum knee - no small feat.

We hung out for awhile longer - enjoying the bright sunshine and warm weather and waiting to see Ingrid & Alice's friend Amy finish her first marathon. Once she came through we packed it in and headed for the cars. It was a bit of gridlock trying to get out but soon enough we were back on the road. We stopped at the hotel in Eureka to drop of Lee and Celeste at their car. Celeste had gotten an extension on the room checkout so she and Lee could shower post-race. Alice and I then headed for Ingrid's so we could also get in a shower.

We quickly got cleaned up and went for a quick lunch at the Beachcomber in Trinidad before hitting the road. Left Trinidad at 3:30 and pulled up in front of my house at 10:15. It was a long day. Knowing what I know now I would have scheduled an extra day. It would have been lovely to spend the rest of Sunday hanging out on the beach in Trinidad and just relaxing.

Overall it was just a great weekend with great friends. Happy to have done it.

Overall - 101/566
Gender - 24/253
Division - 4/41