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.