Monday, September 10, 2007

Stubbed Toes and Awesome Views



The McKenzie River Trail 50K was everything I hoped it would be. It all started when Gail, Rick and I were in Olathe, Kansas running a marathon in late March. The MRTR web site said that if you didn't get your application postmarked by April 1st you wouldn't get in. So we all mailed in our applications from Kansas on the day we headed home.

The race starts at Carmen Reservoir on the McKenzie river. Gail and Rick took the early start at 6:30. I wanted to try and break 6 hours so I took the regular start one hour later. We all had stayed at a motel in McKenzie Bridge so it was a quick 20 minute drive up to the start. The start line was about a 1/4 mile from where you could park so we all hiked back to that point. The RD gave us instructions and then off we went. About halfway back to the parking lot about 30 runners met us coming the other way, they had either been waiting in line at the Porta-Johns or missed the need to come back to the start line. Most were good kids and went to the line before starting but a few just joined in with the pack. Like 30 seconds is going to matter over 31 miles!

We soon hit the trail and it was a bit of a climb the first couple miles with the usual walking until the crowd thins out. Some parts were pretty steep but very short. By mile two I could already feel a tightness in both my upper calves which wasn't normal. This stayed with me the entire race and I had never had this before. I think I must have over stretched them on these initial climbs it was an annoyance but never a problem to run with. We hit the east side of Clear Lake with its lava flows. You couldn't always run but they didn't last for long. The view of the lake was fantastic but I couldn't look for long or I would be on my face! At aid station one at 5.7 miles I stripped my gloves and long sleeve shirt, refilled my water bottle took a Gel and kept going. I knew the hard part was over as we gained about 200 feet over this section. Now it was going to be mostly down hill for the next 26 miles as we would lose about 1700 feet in elevation.

We now crossed over to the west side of Clear Lake and ran through just rolling trails. My goal was a 10 minute pace but the walking and crowds had me at about 11 minutes at this time. Yeah all you "speedy's" out there I know I am slow but I am also old and 220 pounds. Ha-Ha! As we passed back by Carmen we got to AS #2 at 11 miles. I was Gel-ing every 50 minutes and 3 E-Caps every hour. I also took a minimum of 2 gulps of water every 10 minutes. I estimated that I drank about 168 oz of water on the course. I am doing so much better now that I quit any sports drink. I drink more often and feel much better after the race. I have increase my eating and Gels to replace the lost calories from the sports drinks. I hand carried one bottle and had one on a belt. I also took two ibuprofen around here again as my legs started to ache. A half hour later I felt much better.

Out of AS 2 we lose the River as it goes underground for a few miles. It then pops up in this amazing Blue Pool. I stopped and went to the edge of a cliff to look at it. It was the most incredible shades of blue and aquamarine. I called to another runner to look and she too was very impressed. This part of the course had very sharp lava rocks on the trail with some steep and curvy sections. I like this technical parts and tried to pick up the pace here. I started passing some smarter and more cautious runners here. If you would fall here it would be broken bones.

At AS 3 I did the usual chips and few bites of aid food, refilled the bottles and ate as I walked out of the stations. My goal for the day was to never spend more than 2 minutes at any aid station. I did accomplish that goal too. We ran along Trail Bridge Reservoir and crossed a few ridge lines. None of the climbs required walking but I did on most of them, saving my energy for being speedy downhill.

Just past AS 4 at mile 22 I ran into Rick. He informed me that he had lost his lunch a few times and was having a rough day. He said he had just sent Gail off on her own a few minutes later. I ran with him for 15 minutes or so and then headed out. I felt bad to leave him but he said he was doing better and was going to finish even if he walked in. What a stud! I am sure if I was barfing on the trail I would DNF right now. He gets the badge of courage for this race. From here on in the trail is pretty sweet. It is mostly soft needles and rolls along the river. You do climb up a few hundred feet now and then but always roll back down to the beautiful McKenzie. I only walked the steep hills in here but mostly ran a little over a 10 min pace. As the temperatures warmed up I did went down to the river and got my bandanna wet tied it around my neck and boy that felt good.

As I cruised into the last AS at mile 25 I saw the most lovely site, the woman I adore. There was Gail hitting the brownies! She was to be my savior the next 6 miles.We chatted and headed out. She then took off running and I followed closely for a bit. This trail is full of roots and rocks so if you follow someone to closely you probably soon be eating dirt. So I put some space between us and she was running a perfect pace for me right now. At times she would pull up to 200 yards ahead, sometimes I would be right behind but she was pure RFM (Relentless Forward Motion) as she rarely walked the hills. She was just powering up them. This is from the woman that figured she might even DNF because her longest run since about late April was 14 miles! Now she is out doing 31!!!! No guys! She is taken...she is with me! Ha! She said she felt great and that taking it easy with Rick in the beginning was really helping her be strong now.

At mile 30 we saw Kate who was a volunteer with us at Waldo a few weeks earlier. She was at an unplanned aid station passing out ice cold water. What a gal! We chatted for a minute then went off to finish. With about a mile left a runner named Barb came up behind us. We offered to let her by but she was fine. Her and I had chatted very early in this race for a few miles. She must be famous cause everyone said "Hi Barb!". Gail kept up her RFM and I felt she was dragging me on with a rope. I kept waiting for the hill as from reading Sarahs Blog I knew the finish was on a short up hill. Soon there it was. I ran up beside Gail and she grabbed my hand as we did the last 50 yards together. What a way to finish, both of us with big smiles on our faces on a great course with 80 degrees and blue sky! Yeeee--haaa! It was work but it was sure fun. Running those last miles with Gail made my day. She can be my pacer any day. But I think she is made to do this. I am sure a 100 miler is in her future, and most likely before mine.

At the finish line we saw many friends including Sean, Olga and many others I have met in this sport. Well I sucked down a cold pepsi and Gail and I headed to the river to soak. That river was so cold I couldn't stay in for more than 1 minute at a time. We would cheer the runners telling them its only 200 yards left. Then we saw Rick! Whoo-hooo! He was going to finish and a much better time than either of us thought. Way to go Pole! We walked back to the finish line and we all talked then headed over to the community center to eat and socialize some more. They had amazing chicken noodle soup and berry cobbler. We listened to the awards for the fast people and were amazed at how fast some folks can run. Way to go winners!

We dropped Rick off at his motel, showered and headed home. Both Gail and I loved this race and this valley. I didn't hit my goal of 6 hours but 6:17 was close to my PR so I will take it. It was one of the best Ultra's I have done and having Detour there made it so much more fun. Whats up next? Well it looks like the Portland Marathon on October 7th. I would like to get another race in before that but I think my schedule won't allow it.

Sarah, happy belated birthday. Olga, thanks for taking the pictures.

Put MRTR on your list, its a great one!

3 comments:

Sarah said...

Nice job Bret! It was great to finally meet Gail. Very cool that you were able to run the last miles together. I'm definitely running this one next year. It's such an awesome course. But fun to watch too.

C'mon you know you want to do Timberline, don't you? : )

Bret said...

Sarah I would do Timberline in a heartbeat but I'm pulling a Marc and heading to Reno this week. National championship air races. I go every year. You will have a great time. It is an awesome course going that direction. Have fun!

olga said...

Yay, Bret! It was great to see you out there with a smile, and Gail and Rick did awesome! I think right now I am in for Timberline...but I'll see you elsewhere I am sure.