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.

Pre-race
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.

Stats:
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.

1 comment:

  1. Sarah - you are amazing - that's a wonderful run and I'm so glad you got rid of the negative voices in your head to make the 2nd half better! I see you have your dotty running skirt on - super cute :) Great job!!

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