Monday, May 28, 2007
Number 20? Now Serving Number 20. Forest Park 50K
As runners we often travel great distances to run in special places. Sometimes taking 3, 4 or more days to get to that special run. Well yesterday we ran in my own backyard, Forest Park here in Portland. What a great place to run! You feel like you are out in the middle of nowhere but you are actual only a mile away from Starbucks.
The Forest Park 50K was held on Sunday and what a great day to run. Temps were in the 50's with a nice overcast and occasional cool breeze. It was a small group that including those running/walking a 10, 20, 30 and 50K. I met Rick and Ruby at the start. Rick was doing the 50K with me and his wife Ruby was walking her first 20K. At the start we saw many of the usual suspects, Sean, Steve and others but this time I got to meet Sarah and Olga for the first time outside of the "Blogosphere". The start was just the way I like it, not crowded and very relaxed.
Rick and I had run the MacDonald Forest 50K the previous weekend and I have never done a marathon or Ultra in back to back weekends. (Yeah, yeah I know....all you big time Ultra folks are making fun of the Newbie! Ha!) I didn't run once the entire week and really missed it, but knowing my body better as I run more I figured it would be best to rest all week. It turned out to be the right decision I think. Training is great but rest is what makes you stronger in the short term.
So the RD gave us course instructions on what color ribbon we were supposed to follow. "The stripped ribbons lead the turn, now it will be on the side of the trail you turn at. Don't go past them. Green is for 20K, pink 30k, orange 50k and Purple 10k and Cyan 20k and Plaid 40k and 70k............" OK I know, I will just follow Rick! I came up with POP for our course, Pink Orange Pink. It actually wasn't too bad and only got turned around 3 or 4 times.
The race starts up hill which doesn't bother me too much if it is not too steep. The amazing thing was that I wasn't in last place at the first mile! A few miles into the course it started to thin out but was definitely more crowded than most ultra's I have been on. I don't really like running behind folks on trail runs as I like to keep my eyes 5 yards or so ahead to miss any rocks, roots etc. And by following other runners I often find I gaze at their legs rather than the trail. Just a little pet peeve I have. We got to the fire lane off Wildwood and ran up it to the first Aid Station at mile 7 or so. I felt very good at this point, and was drinking the right amount I thought. Rick, while behind me says "That water in your bottle is not gonna do you any good at the Aid Station". That really stayed with me the entire race and I tried to drink more than I thought I might need and I think it really helped me out later in the race.
We blasted out of Aid Station number one and headed down the Wildwood Canyon. I like this part and had some nice speed going down. Up the other side is a walk for me. The trail was in great shape with only a few minor muddy spots. We dropped down to Saltzman road and I ran into Sean coming the other way, he yells out "There's my boy", he was in second place at this time which is where he ended up finishing. At AS #2 we stopped and Pete "Hippo" was manning it. We had a great chat and fueled up on PBJ's, M&M's, chips and those boiled potatoes. I was trying to have 1 Gu per hour and 3 E-caps along with some snacks at the aid stations. It must have been just right as I didn't feel very hungry after the finish.
Out of AS #2 at about 13 miles is where the fun began. Big downhills and big up hills. One trail was so small I figured it had to be a mistake. We climbed over a couple of logs and finally saw a small trail. More of a scramble for sure. Later along the oil pipeline we had a huge downhill which if it was muddy would have been impossible to stand up. This area was about half trail half old roads. It was in this area I took the Advil as my legs where getting pretty painful.
We got back to AS #3 which is the same as AS #2 after hour little loop. I ate more and chatted with Hippo some more. Off we went and the course was mostly downhill from here back to the barn. My legs improved about a 1/2 hour later and I didn't have to walk as much. Around mile 20 I heard this "Yelp" behind me and I turned around and Rick is down in the grass. I gave him 5 bonus points for the nice "trail biff!" Plus he got a great looking knot on his arm for it! I was jealous of his "War Wound". We ran with a guy from the Bay area during this time and had some nice chats. Interesting that he had never ran a marathon but went straight into Ultra running.
We rolled into AS #4 which was AS#2 also on Fire Lane #1. This was the most confusing part of the race as you came up the canyon a sign on Wildwood said "Return to race course" and many folks just continued on bypassing the 1/2 mile loop or so to the last aid station. Rick and I had to stop and double check the course directions he had to make sure we did it right. Many runners shortened the course by a half mile or more I am sure. I really chowed down at AS #4 and salt was really tasting good! Rick told the AS folks "You gotta get him outta here. He will eat all the food if you let him!" So Rick drug my butt out of the there and we headed back down the hill. There was a new trail to take us back to Wildwood and we again got confused once we got to Wildwood. A couple of guys turned the wrong way. A woman came running down Wildwood and we told her she took a shortcut and she should go back. She grumbled "Boys, I ain't turning around and going back here". "Ah OK" we said. We actually ran behind here for a few miles and she was running a nice steady pace that was real good for me. I started feeling really good at this time, as we were probably around mile 26 or so. Once we got on the part of Wildwood I am familiar with I started to pick up the pace on the downhill portions. I passed our woman pacer and Rick stayed with her.
I love running downhill. It feels so good on my legs, I like the speed, and on trails the mental aspect of watching very intensely of where every step has to go. It takes away from the monotony of just pounded the dirt at one pace. I went past the Birch trail head which I often begin my runs. I knew I was getting close to the finish. A few miles later I came to a merge of many trails. There were no markings. I was totally confused on which way to go. I stopped and asked a few people, I feared I had gone too far. Panic started to set in. Finally someone said "are you in the race?" "Yes" I said. "Well just head down this way a mile or so and you will find the final trail to the finish" "Thanks" I yelled! I must have stopped for over a minute there. Later Rick said he had to do the same thing. I bet someone vandalized the course marking ribbons.
Now I was flying. Someone had caught up to me at the trail merge but he stayed with me for only a few minutes. The trail becomes very technical but I like it that way and kept the pace up as high as I could. The trail got crowded with many strollers and children and I was screaming out "On your left! Thank you!" as I was trying not to run into anyone. The Thurman street bridge came into view and I knew it was a 1/4 mile to the finish. This was the strongest finish I have had in a long time. As I crossed the finish line the low key nature of this event was quite evident as not one person cheered or clapped. Didn't even see anyone writing down my time. Thats just fine by me as long as I know what I did. Never been a big fan of huge crowds at races.
I finished in 6:17:10 which is a PR for me I guess. Hard to relate PR's in 50K's I think. Often they are more than 50K or less. The course may have a ton of hills or be mostly flat. So to me the PR doesn't really matter. I like feel how I ran the course, how I felt and how strong I was at the finish is what counts. This was the best I have felt on a 50K so I guess it is a PR in that case.
Rick finished a couple of minutes behind me just about the same amount I finished behind him last weekend. I got some soup and a pop. Talked with Sean about the course and how he did (he got second). Then went over and talked to Ruby about her farthest walk yet. She says she will stick to pavement next time. Good for her though for getting out here and doing 12 plus miles in the hills. Sean came over and the 4 of us chatted for a while then headed off for home. Was so nice to get in the car and be home in 15 minutes, not 15 hours!
I really enjoyed this course and will hopefully run it again next year. Great time meeting my new found ultra / marathon friends. So what is next? Only plan is the Sauvie Island marathon on July 4th. I may, yes may go up to Seattle and run the Green River Marathon next weekend for fun. I love that route and its free! (Pictures to follow later.)
Oh btw, this was my 20th marathon/Ultra. Thats why the Title.