Sunday, November 16, 2008

Autumn Leaves 50-50

"You don't need to run that far!" Gail told me "Just do the 50k" she says. I think about it and wonder why am I running the Autumn Leaves 50 miler? Last year it was to qualify for Western States 100. This year? "Uh I don't know? Cause it's there I guess?"

So I worked late the night before the race. Got 5 hours sleep, up at 0430 and out the door at 0510 for the 0600 early start in the dark. The race is held at Champoeg Park just outside of Willsonville, Oregon. Which is only 30 minutes from my house. (Ah, thats one reason.) I got the car parked a few hundred yards from the start line and had all my food and stuff in the back of the SUV so I could just stop and refuel, etc.

Said hi to some folks including Olga who showed me her new ring! Who-Hoo!! Congrats girl! I then weighed in to see how much weight I would lose/gain during the race. I was at 218 pounds. We lined up at the start then off we went in the dark. Some early 50k runners started with us too. Off we went on this flat five mile course, following some nice newly paved bike paths for the first 3.2 miles. The course is a bit of a loop and a bit of an out and back. 1.8 miles is on nice rolling trail along the Willamette River. And yes there were leaves everywhere. The first lap was my usual slow pace, by mile 2 all but 2 or 3 runners had passed me. By mile 4 the sun was coming up and the headlamps were no longer needed. I felt good running nice and easy at a 9:45 pace or so trying to just get warm. I did have to stop and water the weeds twice though and finished the first lap in 54 minutes. I figured if I could finish each lap under 1 hour I would meet my goal of finishing under 10 hours.

Lap two was pretty good. I talked to Fenny (who got lost and was late to the start), Rob and many other friends on the course. Lap two was done in about the same time. On lap 3 I was behind Michelle and some of her girlfriends. I think I heard them say something about "thongs" and that perked my ears up! So we chatted a bit and had some good laughs. They then started the walking portion of there run so off I trotted. I was feeling great through mile 15. I was "gel-in" every 30 minutes and two plus gulps of water every 10 minutes ( I finished a 20 ounce bottle every lap) and two e caps every hour. Every once in a while I would eat some boiled potatoes at the aid stations too.

Lap 3 was the last lap Olga was the timer so I said goodbye. Caroline (the winner of the Oregon trail series by the way!) was the next timer. She is great as every lap it was nice to see her smiling and keeping us motivated. She also refilled my water bottle every lap. I had two of them so I would just drop one off and pick up the new one.

The 50k runners started by this time and it was nice to see the course get busy. Lots of familiar faces out. By lap 4 (20 miles) I was at about 3:25 time. I was getting a bit tired but nothing bad. I saw Gail on this lap and we stopped and had a nice chat as she was doing the 50k.

My training for this race had been minimal. My longest run was just under 11 miles since the Portland Marathon a month earlier. I was a bit worried how I would do with no real long distance running but I have found that once you get a good base you seem to do OK. I have found that not running for four days prior to an Ultra makes me much stronger than two or three days off. I think too many of us amateurs think we will lose too much fitness if we don't keep running till just a couple of days before the race. At least this works for me.

Lap 5 I ran into those crazy "thong" girls again and we had more laughs. I also saw Mr. Marathon Jim Scheer (250+ marathons!) and we shared some words as we passed. So I got 25 miles done in 4:30 and still felt pretty good. Gail and I had chatted and she thought she might be getting sick. (Bummer!) But she was still running good. On this lap I was going to try something new. I felt that my last few Ultras I needed some protein. So Gail had made me a turkey and cheese sandwich the night before. I tore off half of it as I passed my car and went off running and eating. It didn't upset my stomach at all and it was nice to have something other than sugar based foods.

At the 50k mark I was at about 5:35, which would have been a PR for me if I would been doing that distance. I still hadn't walked yet except for the brief stops for food and water. I striped down to just a short sleeve shirt and dumped my gloves as is started to warm up on this gorgeous sunny day. The top and bottom of my feet started to ache around this time but nothing else really was causing me any problems. I had put my music on around my 27 or so and it was nice to sing along with it. (sorry other runners....I know I don't have much of a voice).

Coming up to the end of the 7th lap I saw Gail at the car. She said Rick wasn't on the 10k list so he probably wouldn't be here. "Bummer" I thought, it would have been nice to run with him for a few laps. I got to the turn at lap 7 and there Rick was, ready to run. The 10k race had filled up but he came out to pace me for a few laps anyway. Rick just had open heart surgery in July and was just getting his mileage back up. He said "yeah I will do a couple with you". I ate some more of my T&C sandwich and off we went. I was getting pretty tired on this lap and my pace was down to 10:30 or so. By the 40 mile mark I was at 11 or so pace. Rick and I had some nice chats as he was doing great pacing me. I told him I hadn't walked yet and I wanted to finish the 4o miles without walking, but that the next two laps (10 miles) I would run walk.

Starting out on lap 9 I was tired. My pace probably went to 11+ average. I thought I would walk on this lap but Gail was with us and the 3 slugs had a good time chatting about everything. I think this was Gail's last lap so she was pretty happy that she was going to get done soon. She had a great time going but had forgotten her watch and didn't have a clue how she was doing. At mile 2.5 Gail started walking and Rick and I kept running. I wanted now to finish this lap without ever walking. I was hurtin' pretty bad now. Tired legs, couldn't think very straight. I would ask Rick if I had drank? "He said "Yeah about a minute ago" Opps! Stuff like that was happening allot now. We hit the dirt and I asked to lead so I could concentrate on the trail. He would chat now and then and I said "as long as I don't have to talk, say whatever you want". I said "next lap we are walking allot!"We finished mile 45 and it was about 8:10 elapsed time. Rick thought we could finish under 9:20 if all went well. We were about to head out when Gail was coming up to the finish line. We waited and cheered her on. She got another one done. I think this is like 16 months in a row she has run a marathon or longer.

Rick refilled my bottle and I started walking down the road waiting for him to catch up. It was great he was going to do the final lap with me. I just started picking out things on the trail to run to. That way I didn't feel to overwhelmed. I wanted to walk but Rick said "lets run to the aid station then you can walk that hill after it". I complied. We then walked for a few minutes. It was the first time on the course I felt like I really needed too. This was around mile 46.5 or so. Never have I ran so far without walking. Now it was a battle. I wanted to be done. Rick told me to put my music on. I said OK but I do sing with it. Ha! I had to walk one more time about a mile later but then ran the last bit to the finish. It was funny that Kashmir by Led Zeplin came on my Ipod the last bit before the finish. The same song a month earlier right before the finish at the Portland Marathon. I kept on running as we heading up the little road to the finish. Gail was there cheering me on as were many others. I was so tired but happy with how I had done. I crossed the line and the time was 9:10. A new PR for me on my fifth 50 mile run. Last year I had run this race in 10:45. Even though most of us thought last year the course was a bit long.

I bent over at the finish line. Caroline came up and congratulated me. I said as I was hunched over "Nice shoes" I think she thought I was going to lose my lunch on them!! Ha! I got my buckle and needed to walk a bit. I was a bit emotional and just needed a couple of minutes to relax. I came back and shook Ricks hand. I know I would not have done this well without his help on this day. We talked to a few friends and all I wanted to do was leave. I was beat and not in the social mood. The three of us walked to the car and and I took some of these pictures before we headed home. It was sure great for the three of us to run together again. I hope there is more of it in the future.

So I have PR'd my last three races. McKenzie River 50k, Portland Marathon, and now Autumn Leaves 50 miler. It's strange as I haven't trained that hard. Maybe it's that I am learning to eat and hydrate at what is just right for me (BTW, I lost only 5 lbs on this race...pretty good for a fat boyee at 218lbs to start). Or is it that I just mentally know what to expect? I am not sure.

Whats up next? Gail and I do not have one race planned. Our schedules are pretty busy. But it is strange not to have one in the future. Maybe I will go to buffets and drink beer the rest of the winter. Hmmm.....doesn't sound too bad. Nah!

Friday, October 31, 2008


Do you Detour take this Fat-Boyee to be....

Well we both figured since we have known each other since 1982 (26 years!) and dated since 1990 and lived together since 1993, it was probably time. So along with our planned vacation to the great island of Kauai we decided to get married. Gail did all the leg work. She contacted a wedding planner that a friend of hers had used. We sent off the $50 deposit and got the show going.

We got to Kauai on Saturday the 18th. My birthday was the 20th so we decided that we would get married on the 21st. That way I will never forget our anniversary! We met the planner the day before and went to get our marriage license. The best part was where we got the license. The planner said " Go to the Pono Market and talk to the little Oriental man who makes the Espresso's.

"Your kidding me right?" Well at least it wasn't the Porno Market. We got there and it is this really small "quicky mart", like a miniature 7-11. We went in and there he was, sitting at the only little table helping another couple. Well that must be him. So after he was done we sat down with him. Filled out the forms, paid the 75 dollar state fee and raised our right hands and swore we would never be bad. He took our picture (he has done over 8,000 licenses!!) and off we went.

It had been pretty cloudy and rainy on Kauai since we had arrived. But on the morning of the 21st it was mostly sunny skies. We had decided on 10 am rather than the 4 pm option as it might be less cloudy and a bit cooler in the morning. We drove to this apartment building parking lot, walked down a long pathway to a great little beach. There we met the planner, photographer and the man who would perform the wedding. Don't think I could call him a minister.

We decided to have the ceremony on the beach in our bare feet with the waves lapping up on us. We got started and then a huge Monk Seal decided to beach itself about 30 yards behind us! Gail and I were both pretty upset as he didn't have an invitation! We went had a great time with the vows. (I think I only messed up twice, and the bride corrected me once! Ha!) It only took about 10 minutes and we were done. That was fun! Can we do it again??? But it was hot for sure.

Then the photographer took us for about 20 minutes got some great pictures that we should receive in a week or so.

So now what do we do? Off to the coffee plantation. Seriously...thats what we did. Had tons of samples. Was a good time.

When we got back to our room we found some great gifts of snacks and flowers and champagne from our friends. We proceeded to knock off one bottle that afternoon.

What a great day this was. I got to marry the woman that I only dreamed would ever even go on a date with me 25 years ago. How many men get to marry their "dream girl"? SCORE!!!!

These are only a few of the pictures, the pro ones are not back yet.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

When You Least Expect It

Sunday was the Portland Marathon. The race I said I would never do more than once because I think it's a boring course. Portland is a pretty place but the race doesn't show much of it. Well this was Portland Number4. Gail and I got a good parking spot a few blocks from the start. We ended up in the PP line till the gun almost went off. We didn't really care cause it was a huge crowd and it was chip timed. We worked our way up to about the 4:30 pace group.

They were running wave starts this year which I had not heard about. We took off and enjoyed the first part of the race together. At the 1/2 mile point they have the Portland Drum Group playing. I just love that! Gets the juices flowing really good. I just wish they would be at about mile 25 or so too!

The first mile or so is crowded as usual for a marathon this size. I was running 10+ pace for the first couple miles till it thinned out. I wanted to push it a bit on this race if I felt good. My goal was sub 4:10 so I wore a 4:05 pace band. I kind of thought about pushing early and seeing what would happen even if I might blow up at the end. I usually need few miles to get in a groove so the crowds were actually a good thing. Often if I go out fast I never seem to catch my breath for the longest time.

At about mile 2 I hear "Hey Fat-Boyee!". It's that damn Sean guy from Sisters. Doesn't he ever stay home??? Ha! What was funny was the guy in front of me had his bib on backwards and it said his number and "FatBoy". Guess there is more than one of us out there. Well we start the easy climb up Nato then the turn on Jefferson (?) Street for a short uphill grind. I just take it easy. Then the climb up Broadway which again I don't push.

At the mile 3.5 turn I know its downhill and here is where I need to see what I have today. I pick it up to sub 8 pace and it feels just OK, nothing to rave about. Down on the flats through town I keep the sub 9 pace going. Out into the industrial area I jump off the road behind my favorite dumpster and take a quick 20 second relief break. I hit the 10k mark at :57:41 which I like. I still feel good. I see Steve Walters first, then Abbe. We make the turn out around mile 9 and I am still pushing 8:35 or so, trying to slowly catch back up to the pace band I am wearing. Coming back towards town I see Jim but miss Gail. (How many times have I been reminded that I missed seeing her???) We make the turn up for the gentle climb to Northwest Portland. I again just slow it down a bit but still stay under 9 minute pace. It begins to rain. Temperature is probably mid 50's by now with overcast skies. Perfect running weather for me. Fat needs cool weather ya know?

Out on to the flats towards the St. John's bridge and I keep going. I feel really good. Passing 95% of the runners. Rarely does someone pass me. As I cross the half marathon point I check my time, just a tad under 1:59. Thats good, I am ahead of the 4:05 pace and building some cushion in for a possible bonk later.

The rain picks up a bit, but feels good due to the mild temperature. I am a mile or so from the Bridge climb. I am actually looking forward to the bridge. On my trail races this year I have done much better on the hills. I hit the hill and pass almost everyone. One good woman Maniac runner has been taking me down on every hill. I love good hill climbers! I am always in awe of that. I just run a 10:30 pace or so up the hill for that 1/2 mile, get to the top of the bridge and try to enjoy the view but it is pretty foggy and rainy so you can't see town very well.

I fly down the backside of the bridge passing the Maniac woman and take the turn through the nice crowd with tunes a blaring. Btw, I put my ipod on at about mile 6 or so. It was nice to run with today. I hit that little uphill just off the bridge and my legs feel tired for the first time today at around mile 18. We get up the hill and now it will be flat for about 5 miles or so. I tell my self to push. I am 5 minutes under the 4:05 pace. "Can I break 4 today? Will this be the one?" I am not really excited about it but I don't want to be lazy if I have a chance to do it. So I push, even if I blow up, I am going to push. So I continue with the 8:3o pace. Around mile 20.5 I feel a bit tired, I unconsciously slow down a bit (9:00 minute pace). This is when I see Rick and Ruby. I run over and give the Rick a high five and promptly pull the headphone cord out of my ipod. I scream out "3:06!", like he has a clue what that means. It was that I was at his location of about 20.5 miles in 3 hours and six minutes. I wanted them to know that this might be the day. Like they would understand! I had hit the 20 mile mark at 3:01 about the same time I had in 2006 and ran a 4:04 that year. My hips flexor / IT band gave out that day at about mile 23.

Winding through the University of Portland area is fun. You are tired but they have good crowds. I was still pushing and passing everyone. I came around the corner and there was the Adidas Headquarters and that big lovely long downhill at around mile 22 or so. I pushed hard down that hill, probably at about 85% of what I had left. I was running 7:30 to 8 min pace. Legs were tired but not dead as usual around here. On the flat I kept it going, knowing the little climb was coming. I slowed down again of course to probably 10 min pace. I took another gel. (one every 30 minutes again with only water to drink) Down we went along the MAX train line and Widmer Brewing Company. "Push boy! Push!" The sky opens up and it pours like a thunder shower but it feels good to me, just a bit much in the eyes is all. I looked at my watch. I had about 2.2 miles to go and my time is 3:37. "Ya know, I think I've got it! Even if I bonk and do 10:30's I will probably get the sub four? Oh this is so cool!" But I didn't want to bonk and have the race be like Twin Cities. When I finished in 3:59:59:54. Since it was a USTAF race they had to round it up to officially being 4:00 flat. I did not want to have another * by my name like Roger Maris did. I would rather be 4:01 than 3:59:58 or something. So I kept running hard.

Across the bridge and back on Front (opps Nato I mean) Street and off I went. I kept looking for the runners turn point to know where the finish was. Push, push, push! Some runners with nice kicks were passing me this last mile but thats OK. I feel for these folks as the body starts to revolt against the 25 miles. I have been there soooooooo many times and it truly sucks. I pass the last aid station and pass on everything. Today I just brought one 20 oz hand held for water and needed to stop only 3 times to refill.

Around the corner I turn. I see the fat lady and she be singin' her tune. I pick it up a bit, turn the ipod off so I can here the crowd and enjoy the moment. This is the good part of big marathons. About the only thing I like about them. Around the next corner, I see the finish 50 yards away, I hear my name over the loudspeaker. I cross the line. I look at my watch. I smile. No scream, no tears. Just feel damn good. 3:56:35 I got it.

We get our medal and our space blanket. I begin to chow down. First off a huge chocolate milk, and it is awesome. Then some grapes, some chips, some water and other stuff. I wonder around hoping to see other runners I know but everyone looks the same with the silver blankets on. So I walk and eat and walk and eat while I wait for Gail. "I hope she has a good day too" I think.
I see Mark Roberts and we chat for a long time. He had some problems and it slowed him down to a 4:02 today. I wonder if Abbe finished in front of me. I never did pass her I thought. I was pretty focused today so maybe I missed her? I think I am going to the car as I am getting cold. Then there she is! Go Gail, how did you do? 4:23 we find out, a new PR for Gail! YES! She asks me and I tell her my time and she gets a big shocked smile on her face. Yep! This family PR'd today folks. Must be that our cycles are in sync? What'da think?

Well we hang out for a bit, get our drop bag and cheer in the over 5 hour runners. I now how you feel as I have been there. But good job folks. You got it done. Thats all that counts. I do think it is harder to be out there longer than to run faster. At least this race felt that way. I wasn't really tired afterwards. I never had my post race collapse. I guess after 42 of these I maybe getting the hang of it. Fun race today.

So no pictures yet as I don't carry a camera. Maybe someone will have some I can grab and I will post them later. What's up next? Well Rick, Ruby and I are running the Blue Lake 15k this Saturday for fun. Then we have Autumn Leaves on November 15th. I signed up for the 50 miler (why? I dont know? Just cuz!) and Gail signed up for the 50k.

Monday, September 8, 2008

McKenzie River 50k

The MRTR 50k is popular run. It opens for registration on April 1st and usually fills up the first day. Once you get out on the course you understand why. It is a run with some amazing sights that only a hiker or runner would see. The 3 falls that you run by. Lava beds that dammed up Clear Lake and preserved a forest under water that you can still see. The "Blue Pool" where the Mckenzie river comes back up from its underground travels and forms the most beautiful circular pool of calm blue water. And lastly the a trail that follows the wild McKenzie River. Oh and of course some old growth Douglas Fir that are so big you could build a subdivision with just one of them.

Gail and I once again headed south to the start with an early morning departure of 3:30. She was taking the early start at 6:30 and I was taking the 7:30. I got to the start about a 1/2 hour early. We got out packets, I dropped off Gail and headed down the Highway 17 miles to the finish line. Once there I parked the car, stuck my thumb out and hitched a ride back to the start line. I recognized allot of the runners but none except Sean were on a name basis.

We walked a 1/4 mile down the road to the start. Got the briefing and off we went. I went out slow as usual and my plan was to take it nice and easy the first 6 miles. This is the part of the course that has the most climb. It's only a few hundred feet or so and is actual almost all runnable. We hit the trail and pass by the first fall. I stop at every viewpoint as you don't get to see things like this every day. I don't care if I lose a few seconds here and there. I want to imprint these into my memories. The trail is mixed in with some stairs in places and as usual the pace of a large group slows down. We pass two more falls then see Clear Lake. It circle the pristine lake in a counter clockwise direction. We soon run through lava fields with trails of rock carved through them. If you fall here you probably won't be finishing the race! We soon are back on the soft trails of fir needles in the trees as we leave the lake on a mile or so spur up to the first AS at mile 5.8. I arrive at 1:08 about a 11:40 pace, a bit slower than I wanted but it was uphill and crowded. I take in potatoes and refill the water and off I go. The plan is still to gel every 1/2 hour but I am mixing it up with more chocolate and less sweet gels to keep my stomach happier. Back down the spur I go and soon continue around the lake. I am surprised I didn't trip as I keep looking at the lake as you can see the trees and sandy bottom down to 50 to 100 feet I would guess. It is a cool mountain morning and I still have a chill after about 2 hours. I am still running easy and walking the steep hills. As I roll into AS at about 11.2 miles I am still on the 11+/mile pace but am feeling great. As soon as I head out my gut starts telling me "you are going to have to find a tree soon". So many folks say this happens when they run. Never happened to me. But off I went into the woods to join the club.

Back on the trail it is a mixture of technical rocky climbs and descents and smooth trails with little log bridges here and there. The river has disappeared and it goes underground for some reason,. It is strangely quiet. Soon we get to Blue Pool and I stop at least 3 times to enjoy the view. In this area I start to catch some of the early starters. Must be about 3 hours into the race. Usually my legs start to feel a bit of fatigue here but today they are just fine. I decided to try and take two Ibuprofen ahead of time to see if that makes things easier. (It did!)

At AS 3 around 16.7 miles I keep eating potatoes and a few chips. I also get vaseline as that stop in the woods has created some ugly chaffing. (Do not visualize this!) I am also drinking 2 or 3 cups of water. This is along with my 20 oz bottle I am consuming between each AS. I am going to hydrate on this race! I make sure to take E-Caps so I don't loose my electrolyte balance. We have a few climbs in this section and I run most of them. About mile 18 I run into Gail. She is having just an awful day. Her contacts are messed up in someway and she can't see the trail very well. She says she has tripped at least 10 times so far. I feel so sad for her, trying to think of ways to help. We walk together for 10 to 15 minutes. We talk, she considers dropping out. I don't give an opinion because that is such a personal choice. I just walk with her and try and be a friend. When you are hurting on a run sometimes it's so nice to have someone to talk with and other times you just want to fight the demons yourself. I finally say that I am heading out. I give her a kiss and off I go. I feel bad.

We get a few rollers but mostly the trail starts to follow the River. So it looks flat but mentally I keep telling myself it is downhill. We run a few gravel roads. Funny how when I get on the road I feel like I am so very slow, but on the trail I feel much quicker. Strange....I get into AS 4 which is at 21.8 miles. I ask if anyone has saline solution to clean Gail's contacts. Sadly no one does. I describe her and ask them to help her when she gets in. They agree and off I go still feeling pretty darn good.

As I cruise out of AS 4 I look at my watch. My Garmin is broken so all I have is my stopwatch. I think I was at around 4 hours 18 minutes. I have 10 miles left and 1 hour 40 minutes to break 6 hours. Thats about a 10 minute pace for the rest of the race. I doubt I can do it but I will push the pace up a bit and see what happens. That was the plan anyway. Try to stay strong for the finish. I run easy but with a bit of urgency. Legs feel good, not tired yet. Gut is perfect. Trail is beautiful. The trees are huge. Life is so gooo.....argh...ah...shit..."Bam!" Dirt sandwich. Yep, never saw it coming. Was the quick kind. No flailing around trying to save it. Just quick. I rolled over on my back and looked back up the trail. "Good, no one behind me" I rest for a few seconds...nothing really hurts too bad. Just a knee, hip and shoulder. Good to go. Up and off I trot. Nice spot to crash, no rocks, lucky me.

I start to pass a few more folks from the early start and some that passed me early on. I still feel good. Push it up just a tad. I get to the last AS. I fuel as usual and they say mile 26, same as they did last year. But I know better, its not mile 26. Its only 25.1. So I got 6 to go. A 10k. A walk in the park. I think I was in at around 5 hours but truthfully can't remember. Drink some coke this time with the water. Taters and chips and off to the finish.

Oh how I wish Gail was here with me. Last year I caught up with her at this AS. She drug my sorry ass into the finish. I wanted to walk and she always kept running. She was my tow rope. Today I am on my own. But I feel strong. I push. I thought had only a couple ups. I was wrong. It had quite a few more but nothing severe at all. I ran them all. I have never done that at the end of an ultra before. I just sade "baby steps" and I took these tiny little steps up every climb, but at least I was running. I would get to the top and feel fatigued, but it went away after 30 seconds, so I pushed. The flats, I was moving like never before. "God I feel good!" I am tired and want to quit but no where near exhaustion. This is so different. I push more. I pass more runners. I now have my Ipod on. I crank the volume. I rock out. I run hard. I sing out loud. I breath with control. I can do this.

I have no idea how far I have to go. But I know I have a chance. I feel it. I pass more runners who are hurting. I have been there. I feel there pain. I shout "On your left, don't stop I will go wide. Have a good day". Another climb. Damn. Oh that wasn't so bad. I know this area. This is close to the finish. I push.. I keep looking for that short climb we go up to finish. Kashmir from Led Zeppelin comes on. It fits the mood. I see it. The hill. Yee-ha! I push more, rip up the hill and finish. I got it!!! 5:55!! I busted that 6 hour little devil.

Caroline Klug winner of this years womens division of the Oregon Trail Series is at the finish line. I have seen her a few times on the course taking pictures today. I tell her "I wish I could take this feeling I had the last 10 miles and put it in a bottle" It would be so nice to feel that way at every finish. I go over and get a water. Don't really see anyone I know so I walk across the highway and get changed. I grab a Starbucks Frap from my bag and guzzle it down. I feel a bit queasy but not too bad. I head back to the finish for some ice and to check and see if Gail had pulled out. They had no information as of yet. So knowing the battle she was having I figured it might be another hour or so. I got to the car and had another " frap" and thought I might walk a bit. Out of the car and there she is! Wow, she is done already. A killer, long, ugly day for her but she did it. Bad eyes and all. As Sammy Hager would say in I can't drive 55, "Write me up number 25". And that's what she got. Her 25th marathon or longer race. Damn she is tough. Thanks Gail for coming along on this crazy ride. You make it so much more fun.

So this is really the end of the Ultra season. Yeah there are a few here and there but soon we will migrate back to the roads. The marathons. Probably travel to some, new states to get done. I will miss it. It has been ugly, hard, painful and yet fun. And I will be back!

Picture from Tom Riley. Thanks!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

DNF Better Than A DNS?

That was my dilemma at the Waldo 100k. I tested my leg at the Haulin' Aspen 1/2 marathon and knew that 62 miles was not in the cards for me a week later. I was pretty depressed as Waldo was my main goal for the year. I had never run beyond 52 miles so it was a big jump for me on a tough course. As I contemplated what to do I had some logistical problems that I had to deal with also. If I decided to run I knew that after 32 miles it would be hard to quit as there is not a good spot to quit and get off the course without a major hike to a road. I studied the map and figured that mile 20.5 at Mt. Ray AS or 32 miles at Charlton Lake would be the best place to quit. I wondered if I should even start the race with the hassle of getting a room and driving all the way to Willamette Pass anyway. Decisions, decisions....

I thought about it and figured that I would need a long training run anyway as the McKenzie 50k was about a month away and I didn't want to lose my fitness in the meantime. So off Gail and I went to Waldo. We did the crazy thing of getting up at 12:30 am so we could be on the road at 1:00 am for the 0500 start. I was going to do the 3:00 am start if I was going to do the whole race but I knew that wasn't going to happen so why run 3 hours in the dark if I didn't have too? Plus starting with all the "fasties" would be fun. The drive up was easy as my crew (Gail) slept in the backseat. We arrived about 4:00 am and went into the lodge to check in. I got all my stuff together and headed out to the start. This is a USTAF race so no headphones are allowed. I brought mine along thinking I could put them on and get kicked off the course instead of quitting! (Ha!)

At 5 am sharp the RD said go and off we went. The first part of the course is about a 300 yard run then you power walk up to the top of Willamette Pass ski area. You are working hard but it actually is a good way to warm up for what was to come. It was still very dark and the road/trail was covered with a very fine dust. The headlamps we wore created a eerie look of dust and halo's. I passed a few folks and we had some nice chats. Soon I caught up to Olga and we were about the same pace so we chatted while pushed up the hill. I turned around at one point and saw a beautiful view of the moon just over Mt. Scott, it sure was a great sight to see.

We reached the top and started to trot. I stayed with Olga as we were the same pace. Soon we hit some downhills and off she went. I had to take a couple of coffee relief stops as usual but other than that I felt pretty good. The trail was nice and not to many obstacles to overcome as the light started to increase. I do know that I need a brighter headlamp. My 3 LED is not quite enough. If anyone has suggestions on make and models please let me know. I chatted with a woman from the Bay area in California who grew up in Portland. She was a coach for Ultra runners so I thought I would pick her brain a bit. We had some good talks but soon she fell back and I continued on.

We came into the mile 7 AS and someone yells "Hey Fatboy!". It can only be Sean as I look up and see him in a long red dress. Yep a dress. It is good for a laugh. I refuel and try to eat and drink more than usual to prevent a bonk like I had at PCT. Plus it is going to be hot today with forecast highs over 100 in the valley and the 90's up in the mountains. Those that finish today are going to some real tough folks! I head out on the gravel road and we hit the Fuji Mt trail. This begins the second climb on the course. We go from about 4,800 feet up to the top at around 7,100. A nice 2,300 foot climb over the next 6 miles. But the climb was not to the killer on this part of the course. It was the mosquitoes!

Up the mountain was probably 80% a walk. Not much area to run but not that steep where you you really felt out of breath. Soon I caught up to Olga again. This is where the bugs got bad. Every step you took hundreds of mosquitoes would fly up. These are the black kind that are very, very hungry. I figured with our record snow pack and cool spring many of them were just hatching out for the first time. Usually by this time most the bugs would have been gone. I had put on DEET prior to the run just in case as I had read some blogs of folks who had trained on the course a few weeks earlier and described them as "black clouds". One even left there camping trip a day early due to the massive blood sucking.

I followed Olga up the hills as we chatted and swatted bugs. I would look at her legs and see many mossie's on her. I mean many! I counted one time about 9 on one leg, 5 on another and a few on her unprotected shoulders. I was getting bit too even with DEET on. Some right through my shirt and socks. It was really driving us crazy. When we hit runnable areas the breeze would keep them off us so we kept hoping for spots to run in. Olga said " I got to pee but I don't want to stop and get eaten!" Soon we got into some sunny areas and she stopped and I went on by.

At AS 2 at mile 12.4 I loaded up the water bottle for the 1.3 mile push to the summit of Fuji. I asked for bug spray but the poor AS workers said they gave out all they had plus there own personal stash. They were suffering too. Most had coats and hats on but the bugs were feasting on them. You guys were awesome...thanks for putting up with such miserable conditions to help us out. Just before this AS we saw the fast folks coming down the mountain and man some of them can fly. Olga caught back up to me and got the bad news about no spray too. I told her Gail would be at Mt. Ray and to ask her for my DEET from her.

Then next push is a pretty good climb of about 800 feet in just over a mile. Olga and I stayed together and ended up taking some pictures on the way up. As I took some pictures of Olga she was dancing around screaming and giggling as the bugs were eating her up. We both had a good laugh and got going again quickly We got to the top and had a magnificent view of the Cascades and the high lakes area including Waldo. The summit was like a real mountain top, just an area about 25 yards square. Some volunteers were up there taking pictures and ensuring no one shortened the course. I spent some time just enjoying the view as I knew this would be my only summit of the 3 main mountains on the course. Olga stayed for only 30 seconds or so. She took off and yelled at me "C'mon Bret we gottta go!" The woman was on a mission as she is in most races. I let her go and stayed for a couple of more minutes. It was a such a fantastic view I wanted a good memory of it.

I headed down at a nice running pace. The trail was a bit rocky but nothing too challenging. I got back to the Fuji AS and just did some minor refueling. I took off for the nice downhill portion of the course to the Mt Ray AS at mile 20.5. I was running pretty good and gel-in every 3o minutes. I was adding in as much non-sweet foods at the aid stations as possible. Mostly potatoes, chips and pretzels. I didn't want to get the over sweet feeling that I seem to have with just gels. This downhill section was nice to run with some rollers and nice flat areas. You lose 2,100 feet over 5.6 miles. Some sections were really steep and you had to walk down them lest you bust your fanny. In this area I would still see patches of snow and even had to cross some. Amazing this late in the summer. I crossed a nice meadow of wildflowers and picked some (don't tell the Forest Service!) for Gail. I started to get a bit tired in this area as the heat was picking up a bit. I drank as much as I could handle. I usually drink every 10 minutes but would add in some extra today as I still think I don't drink enough especially on warm days.

Soon I could here voices and new I was near the Mt Ray AS. Would I drop here or continue on for 12 more miles? What should I do? My leg felt pretty good with just minor pain. But I was getting tired. What to do??? Soon I saw an AS worker up on the trail. She would radio down to the AS my bib number so they could mark me off as coming through. Then it happened. "Ouch!!! What the F!" I just got stung by a bee on the leg. "Damn that hurts!" The AS worker said they would have Benadryl at the AS. I rolled across Waldo Lake road into the AS that Gail and I had volunteered at last year. It was run by Cindy who is from Eugene and works Ski Patrol at Willamette Pass. Gail was there and it was great to see her. I took my time and reloaded my pockets with gel. Took care of the bee sting and ate some food. I chatted with Cindy and she didn't recognize me. They do a great job at Waldo aid stations. Everyone really takes care of you. I talked with Gail and decided to head on to Charlton Lake and I would quit there. We also decided that Gail could run out from that AS and meet me and run into my final AS. It would be up to her to decide how far she wanted to run. I got some more DEET and put it on. Gail said Olga had just come in and screamed at Gail "Bret says you have DEET?" So Gail rubbed it on Olga as the woman is no nonsense at an aid staions. She always says she doesn't stick around long in them.

As soon as I headed out of Mt. Ray I felt tired. I didn't feel like running at all. I really thought about turning back and quitting. I pressed on and just told myself it will get better. I barely ran the flats as the temps really started to climb. I was struggling for miles. Finally on the Bobby Lake trail I started to run some more. I knew there was only 3 or 4 runners behind me and was sure they would probably pass me at some point. I got to the PCT intersection where the course was vandalized last year and many of the front runners went the wrong way. This year they had great markings on the course and marshals at the major intersections. This part of the course climbs from about 5,400 feet to about 6,500 feet. It is not steep at all but my low energy made running much hard. I soon recalled the altitude I was at and now understood why I was so tired. The lack of O2 does make a difference even though your breathing seems normal. In this area a 30 something woman passed me. She had a good pace but I would keep her in sight at times. I ran out of water on this section a good mile or so from the AS. I had 2-18 oz bottles so I was really drinking well but the heat an altitude really drys you up fast.

I rolled into The Twins AS and was pretty much done. They had belly dancers which did help my attitude! They had a water sprayer which sure felt good. I had lost my ice bandanna somewhere on the course so I couldn't have my nice cool water drip down my neck. They even gave me a fruit juice Popsicle! I ate some food and took my time getting back on the trail. They said it was 5 miles to the next AS and was mostly downhill.

I power walked out of The Twins as we had a 400 foot or so climb for the next 1/2 mile or so. I came around a corner and saw a woman sitting on a rock. She was the one who passed me earlier. I stopped to ask how she was doing. She said she was "tired and that this course was harder than I expected". We chatted a bit and I started to head out. I said "I am just going to walk so if you want to join me you are more than welcome." She hesitated for a bit then said "Yeah I think I will". It was great to have some company. Her name was Karalee and she was from the Sacramento area. I told her I was going to DNF at Charlton Lake and she said she was going to do the same. I think she was having dehydration issues as she only had one water bottle and said that she didn't see any reason why the RD's said you should have two water bottles. She now knew why. And this is from a woman that trains in the 100 degree heat of the Sacramento summers. We talked and walked for about another 10 minutes. Then I saw a lovely sight. Gail running towards me on the trail. Oh how it was great to see her! We stopped and I introduced my new trail buddy to her. She turned and joined up as we continued to walk. This was an interesting portion of the trail as some massive rock formations pushed right up to the edge of the trail. I love geology so this was probably more interesting to me than most folks.

The three of us chatted and the course turned downhill. I started to jog and all kept up. I was still drinking allot as I was very thirsty. At one point Karalee even asked if she could have some of my water. I said "sure" and gave her half of my remaining bottle. Poor gal was really dry. Lesson learned here for both of us for sure. I was running 90% of the time. I said I was going to walk and Karalee cheered. It was great to have all 3 of us together as it made the time pass much more quickly and also made me run more than I probably would have alone. Soon we started to see the AS signs like "Surfs Up", "Party area up ahead!" My leg had started to hurt pretty good in this area and I knew I had made the right decision to DNF. I could have gone on but it was getting close to the cutoff time and I probably would not have made the next AS.

We rolled into Charlton Lake AS to the cheers of the volunteers. They asked "what do you need" with big smiles. I said "I'm done!" The smiles disappeared from their faces as I told them that I had an injury and this was my plan. They looked disappointed but I was very sure of my decision. Karalee met her husband and they left pretty quickly. Gail and I ate and chatted. The lake was gorgeous and people were swimming in it. So I took off my shoes and went wading in the water to cool off and clean up. I was tired but not so much I couldn't have gone on. Finish? Probably not unless I would have to walk a huge amount of the course. My leg was swollen again but nowhere near the pain I had on the PCT the previous weeks back. Gail and I grabbed some great cookies and had the short walk to the car. We drove back to WP ski area and got some food and drink and hung out for a bit. We had a long drive home so we didn't stay to see the first finishers.

Well my first DNF ever. Yeah it was planned but it still stings a bit. I just looked at it as a training run but I was sad about missing my goal for the year. Everyone says there is always next year but I will also be year older and you never know what will be hurting next year too. Waldo is a tough course and those that finish get a huge amount of respect from me. I ended up completing 32 miles in 7:53. 7 minutes before the cutoff time of 1pm. I only had a couple of runners behind me at this point. Looking at the stats about a 126 runners signed up 21 did not start the race. 22 of us DNF'd. So 83 finished. The winner in 10:06 and the last runner at 19:07.

I think the portion of the course I ran was tough I still had 2 more mountains to climb and about 4,800 feet of climb left. So even if I was in good condition could I have finished? I guess we will find out next year. Thanks to Gail for crewing for me, it is such a mental boost to see a friendly face on the course. What's up next? Well its McKenzie River 50k then the Portland Marathon in early October. Kind of sad but it feels like the Ultra running in the Northwest is coming to a close for the season. Maybe we should all move to Southern California so we can do this crazy sport year around. (Wasn't this the guy who said he was done with these after the PCT???) Will I ever learn?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Haulin' My-Aspen

Gail has a goal of running a marathon or longer every month. She says this is only for this year, I think it's forever! So we had just done the PCT 50 miler two weeks earlier. I had signed up for the Where's Waldo 100k earlier in the year but Gail being the smart one in the family decided that 62 miles and 3 mountains might be a bit much so she decided to pass on this one. So she needed to do a marathon in August. She signed up for Haulin' Aspen in Bend (twice actually!) on August 10th. I was torn. I had Waldo the next weekend but love the toughness of the Aspen course. Should I do the full marathon as an easy training run or just do the half? What do I do? So in my state of procrastination the race sold out. Now what do I do? Well I do what Bret always does. Call the Race Director! Cindy the RD was great. I played my sad story out in an email and she said if I don't take a medal, don't ride the shuttle and don't tell anyone she would let me in. So now I had to make a quick decision. Half or full? I decided it would be stupid for me to run the marathon a week before my longest run. Plus I had really hurt my leg during the PCT and it was swollen for at least a week. So the smart move was do the half, go easy and find out how my leg would hold up.

I had to work till mid-day Saturday so we left for Bend early in the evening. As we drove into Bend I was shocked to see the population was 75,000 now! When I went to College here in 1977 it was 17,000. Back then it was just a nice little cowboy/ski town. Now it is big houses, Golf courses and allot of elite athletes. Not sure if that is good or bad, but it is different for sure. We got to the hotel and they upgraded us to a suite for free. It was a great room, too bad we went to bed within an hour.

Up the next morning at 0530 we had our usual breakfast. Off we went to Shevlin Park for the start. Last year I parked up the hill and just walked down. This year they were pretty adamant about not parking anywhere on the road. So we just parked in the lot for a few minutes while Gail and I got our race packets. I then wished her a good race and went back to the car.

The marathon started at 7 am but my half wasn't untill 8:30. So I just drove around some of the back roads and enjoyed beautiful Central Oregon. I parked at the High School and took the shuttle down to the start (Bad, bad Bret!) I got there plenty early and just hung out. I didn't know any of the half runners as most my friends were doing the full marathon. It seems to be a much younger crowd that runs half's. And I think there is more twenty-something women than any other group.

My plan was to run easy and test out my leg towards the last half of the race. Push it a bit and see if it hurts. If it did then Waldo would be out.

Off we went running the first mile or so on pavement before hooking back to the start area on some single track. I had screwed up and left my Garmin in the car so I was without mileage today. They didn't have any mile markers on this course except at the aid stations. But I didn't really care about time so it would be a nice change. After getting back to the start we cross the stream and head up a steep climb for a few hundred yards which soon eases to rollers. I am out of breath quickly as the 3000 foot elevation takes effect. The course soon follows old fire roads which makes for easy running. We come out onto a bigger gravel / rock road and hit the first aid station which I bypass as I am carrying a water bottle. It is a nice downhill section and I allow my stride to stretch out. So far my leg feels fine.

The road then turns up and we have the big climb of the race for the half folks. It goes up for probably 3 miles or so. After about 3/4's of a mile most people are walking. I vowed not to walk in this race since I am just doing the half. So I go into my hill climb mode where I just take small baby size steps and let my breathing determine my pace. I pass many runners in this area that went out a bit too fast. I feel strong and mentally positive because this is just 13 miles race.

At the half way point I refuel with gels and water and know its mostly all downhill from here. I decide to push it up as we run the switchback downhill single track. I follow a woman about 15 yards in front of me. She has a good pace and forces me to keep up. As we pass folks my leg still feels good. Numerous rocks in this are cause many runners to take a dirt nap. Many stumble and catch themselves too. So far all is good for my size 13 feet.

Soon my pacer pulls off the trail. "Darn it! Why did she do that?" So I press on alone. Now I am really going to test the leg and I push harder. Soon my leg starts to talk to me. Just a twinge, then discomfort, then it starts to hurt from the foot up the shin. It's not shin splints but the actual muscle or tendon that goes up the side of the shin. I now know Waldo will not happen this year.

I hit the steep rocky and technical area of the course. I am passing numerous runners as I am a bit pissed off and really let it fly down this area (Stupid!). Nearly at the bottom I roll my frickin' ankle on something. I loose my balance at high speed and let out at least 5 four letter words as I fly off the trail as it does a 180 degree turn. I can't slow down due to the steepness of the trail. Luckily there is some open area and I fly into it and grab some tree branches to stop me. "Damn it hurts! How bad is it?" I was so lucky as this area is ugly. I could have done major body damage is I would have done a face plant. Well I stop for maybe 15 seconds then walk a bit. I am now at the bottom of the hill and it is pretty much easy trail the next 1.5 miles or so to the finish. I start to trot and it hurts but I will finish. It gets better and I pick it up a bit. (No it wasn't the ankle I broke two years ago on the trail) I have a few pass me as I have slowed down but now the last mile I pass a few back. I feel pretty good except for the leg pain.

I cross the finish and say no to the medal offer. (Got enough half medals and had to keep my promise to the RD.) I then went to the aid tent and got a bag of ice for my leg and ankle. Soon I went to the chow line. They have the best food by far of any race I have ever done. They cater pasta from a local restaurant and off many other goodies. RD's, take notice. Runners like nice finish food! Plus they had two kegs of beer! Whooo-hooo!

Over the next few hours I just hung out waiting for Gail to finish. I soaked my legs in the cold stream, ate more food and talked to some great folks. Soon I saw Marc Brewer cross the finish line. He had just completed a weekend marathon double. Two of the hardest ones for sure. Crater lake yesterday and now Aspen. He said he felt good except for some chaffing around some body parts. I had to laugh at his description! He looked good but was tired as would be expected.

It was fun to cheer all the finishers. I know when I finish it is great to hear the crowd. As the amount of folks at the finish area greatly shrank I often was the lone voice cheering on the runners. Each one of them is a star. Anyone that runs 13 to 26 miles is awesome! Sometimes we forget that.

Here comes Gail! She looks fresh as usual. This is a kick ass course and she is smiling. She gets her medal and we head off to the food area. She eats and we chat about the race. "That 7 mile climb was killer" she says. Oh how I remember it from last year. The good thing is that she didn't eat any dirt this year. Two years ago she really got banged up and still has scars on her knee to prove it. Good for her to come back her and do it again. I tell her about my leg and that Waldo will be a no go this year. We talk with Leslie of Maniac fame ( 50 marathons last year!!!) and she and Gail discuss how she took a wrong turn somewhere on the course.(Gail and her ran together for a bit) So as she got to the finish line she didn't go across the line as she felt it wouldn't be right. She had run the Crater Lake Marathon the day before too. Pretty honorable of her to do that. We grab the shuttle back to our car and head for the 3 hour drive home.

Gail finished in 5:44 and was happy with her time on this tough course. I finished the half in 2:09 and was 151st out of 336 runners.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

PCT 50 and The Death March

Gail and I got up at 0' dark-thirty (0300 am) to drive up to the start of the Pacific Crest Trail 50 mile run. Gail had worked the day before so she got to sleep in the back of the car while I drove to the 0530 early start. As we pulled into park (right across from the start line) Sarah and her non-runner husband Marc pulled in right behind us. I went up to the sign in area to check in and get our bibs. Co-RD's Olga and Monika were smiling and taking pictures as I picked up our packets. I went back to the car and handed everything to Gail as she was in a rush to take the early start. I was going to be brave (or stupid) and take the regular start at 0630. Sarah and I chatted and I discovered that Marc was talked into doing the race around the campfire the previous night. (Sarah as a long term injury and had previously signed up for the race). Marc brought no runner items as he didn't want to be tempted to run the race. (So much for that idea!) About that time Gail says "I have no insoles for my trail shoes!" She had left them in her road shoes. The trooper she is, she still was planning on running without insoles!! Then I went and asked Sarah what size her shoes were and amazingly enough they were pretty close to Gail's shoe size. So I asked if we could try them. She said "Of course". They ended up fitting in Gail's shoes perfectly. While all this was going on I talked to Marc and he was wearing one of the course officials running shoes which he borrowed (he brought none to avoid temptation) and they were pretty darn small he said. I mentioned that I had a spare pair of trail shoes with me. And guess what? They fit! What a great trade. Gail gets Sarah's insoles and Marc runs in my back up shoes.

So we head up to the start line a few minutes before the gun. We chat with folks and then off they go. As I look at Gail she seems different. What is it? She has no water bottle! "Gail! Where is your water bottle?" "Oh crap she says" and then looks back and finds where she had set down her bottle while she used the pre-race facilities. So she grabs and off she goes. Gail is planning to only run to Timberline Lodge, which is the half way point of this 50 miler. But she says she will just run as long as it feels good.

Over the next hour I just chat with our ultra running friends and watch Olga and Monika strip down to their bikini tops to get their photo's taken. (How many races to you go to and get to see the RD's in bikini's?) It is a fun time as all the "fasties" show up.

The pre-race briefing is simple. If you get lost you are stupid! The race stays on the PCT the entire time except for a little jog to the Little Crater Lake campground. "So just follow the signs and all should be well"

Monika yells "Go" and off we trot. We head up the road for a little 1/4 mile turnaround then back past the start. I run with my friend David from Eugene. We both start out slow and chat. As we come back to the start area, David dashes over to his wife for one last kiss. I then look at Olga as she sees this too. So I stop and we copy them in a comical embrace.

We hit the PCT a mile or so into the race. The sun is up so no need for flashlights on the trail. The first six miles follows the shores of Timothy Lake and is a very nice section rollers on a wide trail. David heads out and I chat with a woman for a few miles. I soon pass and find my self alone just a few runners from the back.

My fuel plan is what has been working for months. Gels every 30 minutes, two gulps of water every 10 minutes and E-caps every hour. Around mile 5 a runner comes up fast behind me. Her name is Linda I think and she is always in the top 5 women finishers. She got to the start 10 minutes late and said "Its a long race, no problem". We chat for a bit as we come to an intersection in the trail. We both stop and look around, not sure which way to go as the course is not marked. We see a sign to Little Crater and we figure this is the way to go. As she pulls away she yells back "I see other runners". Relief sets in as we know we didn't take a wrong turn.

We turn into Little Crater trail and run a quarter mile or so on planks of wood across a swampy area. Little crater is an amazing spring. Super cold water comes up from underground forming this super clear water filled crater about 150 yards wide. As I run I have to dodge runners coming out of the aid station. I hit the 10k (6.1. miles) mark at about 1:05. A nice easy pace as I don't want to push it early on.

The next section has a bit of climb, maybe 300 to 500 feet up to AS 2 at 9.3 miles. As I get closer I feel blisters starting to form on my heals already. I had gotten them again on SOB a few weeks earlier. As I pulled into the AS I asked if they had duct tape. They said "Yes" so I sat down and took off my shoes and the patches I had on my feet. I put on new patches and placed 6 inch strips of tape over them. As this was going on the mosquitoes began feasting on my legs. I had no bug spray on so they thought I was Sunday brunch! At times I probably had 20 of them on me at once. I had never be attacked like this in my life! I would swat at them then work on my feet for about 5 minutes. I knew they would win for sure. Well I was finally done and off I went.

This next section is great trail. The first part is a steady climb over rocky terrain. I would walk the steeps and run what I could. Soon the trail smooths out and we begin a steeper climb. Around mile 12 we are on the traverse the side of a large hill and catch a awesome glance of Mt Hood. Timberline lodge looks to be 30 miles away but actually is only 12 or so which is kind of demoralizing. I am running most sections at an easy pace. Around this point the top of my foot has been hurting for an hour or so. And now the pain runs up the outside of my shin on. Not sure what it is but it is getting worse. I run into AS 3 (mile 14.5) at the Highway 26 intersection and I refuel and head out.

The next section has some steeper climbs so I walk allot. Soon it is downhill and I let it fly into AS 4 at mile 19.1. The theme here is Thongs! Pretty interesting thongs hanging on trees and being worn by men and woman alike. This is the last AS before our big push up Mt. Hood.

The run up to Mt. Hood is more of a 6 mile walk. I probably only run 25% of this section as we climb up from probably 4,500 feet to over 6,000 at Timberline. About half way up I run into these two hikers going the same way as me. They are all dressed in the official Africa Safari outfits of Khaki color. As I walk behind them I hear a British accent speaking about someone who is in London. I think "This is cool, they are probably here on vacation enjoying our mountains." How wrong I was to be. As I waited to pass them the fast runners had already made the turn and were coming down the mountain. The older hiker was putting up his hand (open palm) and yelling "Slow down!" They did this numerous times and would not attempt to move to the side of the trail at all. I thought this is pretty strange and rude. The runners I observed would move to the side or even off the trail as they headed down the trail. This guy just kept up with his rant on every runner. Soon I said "Excuse me, on your left" as I power walked by them. I asked how is your day? I got some response like "Not very well". OK I thought and pulled away from them. Another runner came by and I heard a yell. The back and younger guy had put out his elbow and both the runner and hiker took a bit of a hit. Soon a woman who was behind me came up behind the hikers. I heard her say "on your left" as she walked past them. Some words were exchanged and I heard her say "We are in a race" the older hiker said "I don't give a shit!" When the woman caught up to me she asked if I had heard the exchange? I said "yes". Of all the trail races I have been in, these two were the rudest hikers I have ever come across. Come to find out later this guy works in Vancouver at one of the hospitals . He wrote a letter to Monika to complain about the runners. They had a few emails exchanged and he was getting pretty intense in his comments. He also wrote the Forest Service to complain that an event like this is too big to be held on trails (150 runners over 50 miles????). I also find it interesting that he put his job title on all the emails. (Ego?) Sure hope his company allows personal emails from work. Ha! Here is link to the email exchange.
Click on the reports link at the top of the page and then scroll down to the section titled A word from Monika Gold, co-RD, on a “Hiker’s incident” . More of this was on the Oregon Ultra Runners email list with actual copies of the email. Monika was great as she dropped this as the future of the race could be impacted by this ..... oh he would probably sue me if I said what I was thinking.

I get above the Timberline and hike the sand dunes of Mt. Hood. This is a hard section due to the steepness of the climb, the sand and altitude. The view is amazing though. You are looking straight up at the summit! It is a beautiful clear day with the temps in the 60's on the mountain. I can feel my blisters acting up and know I need to fix them again soon. I see Gail for the first time. She is running with two other women and looks great. I guess she is not quitting at the 25 mile point. What a woman!!! I get a kiss and we chat a few seconds and then part. I go above the Lodge and then cross some big snowfields and finally get to run a bit to the parking lot where the turn around is set up. I grab my drop bag and some food and water. Kate is there to help. She is great and does everything for me. I mention my feet and she says "Yes change your socks" When she sees my feet she knows work has to be done. I have 2 half dollar size blisters on the side of my heals. She does it all! Takes off my shoes and socks. Cleans my feet, then puts on moleskin then layers of duct tape to keep it all in place. This takes 10 minutes or so but I know if I don't do this my day will be done soon.

After a short hike above the lodge its time to fly down the mountain. The first part is great with all the soft sand and you can really let go and it feels so soft each time your foot lands. Back on the trails it is a real pounding for this 6 mile downhill. My leg really starts to hurt. Each time my right foot lands its under allot of pain. Still not sure what it is but I am not quitting now. As I roll into AS 6 at 30.9 miles I feel the first sign of fatigue. My stomach is not feeling to great but I know I need to eat. Nothing on the AS food table looks good. I force down some Coke and few non-sweet items. I am still gel-ing every half hour and they are starting to gag me.

This next section has a big climb in it. Really the last one of the race in this direction. I power walk and the heat is starting to rise. I have filled my bandanna with ice and wrapped it around my neck for some great cooling. My foot is getting worse. It hurts more to walk than to run. What is wrong? I think its just some soft tissue that got all fired up and now I am beating to death for 8 hours. At the top of the hill I run. The downhill section into AS 7 at mile 35.5 feels pretty good. At AS 7 I can barely walk on this leg. Meghan suggests I loosen my shoelaces but it is probably too late for that. Again my stomach is not great but I can still drink. I take two more ibuprofen (that's four today) and head out.

This next section is a gradual climb but I walk most it. Only running the flattest of flats and the downhills. I begin to hate life around here. Soon it is the part I like. Nice downhill section that is pretty technical due to the amount of rocks in the trail. It makes me concentrate on my running and I ignore my gut and leg. I pull into AS 8 at mile 40.7. I am tired. I fill my bottles and chat with a runner that I have been close to. I let him head out first and I try to stay with him. It works well for a few miles but soon I am walking again. This is about a mile from AS 9, so about mile 43. My gut is done. Nothing is good. I am hot, my leg hurts and stomach doesn't like me anymore. I walk the last mile to AS 9.

Right before AS 9 I see Gail. We stop and talk. She doesn't feel good either as her stomach is upset. I take my hate off and her face stops and she says "You don't look good" and I agree. She says I will wait for you. I feel that I am done for the day so I tell her to go ahead as I don't know how long I will be at this AS. I don't want to slow her down as she is doing so good on her 25 mile run in this now 50 mile race! Did I say she is amazing. All you runners out there, get your spouse to run with you. It is the best!

I sit down at this AS and try to cool off by pouring ice water on my head. Nothing looks good at the food table but I do have a little cup of Coke to try and juice me up and settle my gut. I am getting to the point where I can't think straight. More ice for my bandanna and I get up and walk out of the AS. BTW all the aid folks were awesome. Most were runners themselves and even those that were not did a great job. Thanks to all of you!

I get back on the PCT for the final 6 mile section to the finish. I know my running is done. My gut has taken over the discomfort of my leg now. I figure I will just "Death March" it in for 6 miles to the finish. No quitting now. I was on pace to break 10:30 but not now. Not even sure if I will break last years 11:54 time. I can't run at all. I even walk the downhills. Every time I try to trot I stop after 20 yards or sot. I stop drinking as my gut feels shutdown. Actually I try and sip just a tad every few minutes as dehydration is getting worse. This trail goes on forever! It is so runnable but I can't do it! I try to visualize my easy 6 mile runs at home. Letting my self know that this will be an easy walk to the finish. As I walk I freak out as I think I see something on the side of the trail. I scream out "OH F**K!!" and jump back. Nothing is there but the adrenaline seethes through me. 5 minutes later the same thing happens but I see something else and again I scream out loud. I know realize I am in the early stage of hallucinating. Probably from mild heat exhaustion or dehydration. My gut is getting worse. I am thinking I might lose it. Soon I wretch. I have never gotten sick on the trail. I wretch again and up it comes. Just liquid. I find a log and sit and continue the event. I am shocked this is happening to me. I read others blogs and all the Ultra runners have done this. I never thought I would get like this. I sit for a few minutes, no one passes me. I am in a cold sweat. I get up and begin walking and as usual start to feel a bit better. I figure I have 2 miles to go. I try to run, but can only manage a waddle on the steepest of downhills. Two young bucks pass me. Soon they walk too. I am walking a fast clip now and catch them. I can tell they are hurting too. They soon sit down and I go on by the 20 something's in my 48 year old fat-boy outfit. It feels good.

I know this section of the trail. I am close to the road. I begin to jog a bit and then hit the main road. YEAH! I am almost done with this crap. I vow to run to the finish no matter what. I get cheers from folks by there cars and it feels good. I see Gail, she has brought me mints and a cup of water. What a partner!!! More cheers now as I turn into the parking lot. I see the finish and the noise gets louder. Gosh I love this part! I cross the finish and I am so done!

I walk over to Gail and want to leave right away. I try to socialize with friends but I feel so sick. David had a great race, beats me as usual and tells me I finished 30 minutes faster than last year. A PR! (How does he know this?) I feel good about it but don't really care. I tell David and Gail, "No Waldo! No way I am doing that race" I walk off to the car to change after a bit. Gail gets her Garden Burger and we leave for home.

I finished in 11:26 which is a 13:43 pace. Pretty good for all the stops and walking I did the last 6 miles. I was 83rd out of 114 runners, a little better than I usually do in 50 milers. Gail finished in 12:17 a great time. She of course felt fine after the finish but also had very rough time that last 6 miles. So much for her only doing 25 miles!

On the way home Gail and I stop in Sandy. I already have drank a large Starbucks bottled Mocha Frapacuino and now buy the 44 ounce Coke slurpee. It goes down good, brain freeze and all.

When we get home I weigh myself. When I left in the morning I weighed 216, now I weigh 209 and that includes the huge drinks I had. Yep, dehydration killed me today. I vow on my next race to drink even more.

Not sure what to think of this race this year. I felt good with my legs. But blisters and leg pain killed me. Then the stomach issue was the twisted knife in my day. I really like this course but am I meant to run this far? I don't know.

By the next day my foot is so swollen I can't wear shoes. Two days later I go to the doctor, nothing is broken but just severe tissue trauma he guesses. Tells me how dumb I am to do this stuff and prescribes the "Game Ready" machine. It is a pump you fill with ice water and it compress around your injury under pressure. It is very cold and is meant to reduce swelling quickly. I can hardly walk for 3 days. Finally it goes down and by 6 days later I get shoes on and can go to work. And I do this why?

Thanks to the Green Card Girls Olga and Monika for putting on a great race on a very special course. I hate the thought but I am sure I will run this one again next year. (Idiot! Ha!)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Detour and Fat-Boyee are S.O.B.'s

I had planned on running SOB all year. I signed up early as my goal was to do all of the Oregon Trail Series races this year. I signed up Gail too as she did the 15k last year and I thought she would enjoy the views the 50k has to offer. Last year Gail ran out a few miles on the course and watched me waddle and weave my way back to the finish. I had bonked hard on the 3 mile climb between mile 23 and 26. She saw what I looked like and it bothered her that she too might feel like that after doing the 50k. She had quite a bit of trepidation about whether she could do this run or not.

We had to drive to Ashland on Friday night as the last flight out of Medford was a 3:30 pm and we weren't sure if we could make it or not. So 4:30 later we made it to Ashland. We got a great little suite at the Holiday Inn Express that was only about 12 miles from the start line at Mt. Ashland.

We were up early at 0430 as Gail was to take the early start at 6 am. It was supposed to hit 100 degrees in Medford that day so we were both worried about the heat. The good news was that the start line was at about 6,500 feet so with standard lapse rates you should have a temperature of about 15 degrees cooler than in the valley in Medford. Now the bad news is the air is allot less dense at 6,500 feet! My lungs would hate me on this day.

The start area was great! Once again we parked about 100 feet from the start line. We got there 15 minutes before the the early start. Just enough time for Gail to get her bib and hit the POP's one more time. About 25 runners took off at 0600. I considered it but you were limited to a 6 hour finish time. I knew I probably wouldn't make it in less than that but you never know?

I messed around and finished eating my breakfast over the next hour. I talked with some runners including David Alavi who always seems to beat me. The usual suspects were there plus you could see the hamsters, the "fasties", the ones with 4% body fat! You know what? They have age group awards, I think they need Body Fat divisions! Yeah thats the ticket! My 22% BF would be sure to get me an award!

We lined up promptly at 0700 and off we went. I was near the back but not dead last this time. The first mile runs along pavement until you hit the PCT. I did the usual chatting with folks and was having a good time. But boy I was sure breathing hard. Once on the PCT it was hard to pass as usual for the first few miles. Most folks were good after a bit and would step aside and let me buy. The trail is pretty flat the the first 3 miles or so with just some little rollers. ( on the return trip those rollers always seem to look like mountains. Wonder why that is???) We go through a nice meadow with some excellent views. It was smoky from all the forest fires but not so dense you could smell it. The wildflowers were in full bloom as the cold spring had delayed blooming by 3 weeks or so.

Around mile 4 we start a bit of a little climb. I run most but walk the very steep ones. Then we hit the nice 3 mile down hill that I just fly over. Some are 7 minute pace. I just love this part! I just sort of let my legs loose and they just go. It is the best for sure.

At mile 8 we hit the second aid station. I am sticking with the plan. 2 gulps of water every 1o minutes but I am trying to take just a bit more with the expected heat today. 1 gel every 30 minutes and a couple of e-caps every hour. I may nibble at taters and such at some of the aid stations just to get the sweet taste of the gels out of my mouth. Out of the mile 8 aid station starts one of the big climbs of the day. For a few miles all we do is a steep climb up a dirt road that 90% of the folks walk including me. Its too early to get tired. Then we go through another meadow and some easy climbs soon we are at the farthest west point on the course and begin our way back to the barn.
At the 16 mile aid station I take out my bandanna and fill it full of compact snow and wrap it around my neck. I love this thing. Over the next 90 minutes the snow slowly drips down my back and chest acting like a swap cooler. Nothing beats it on a warm day. Zombie Runner carries them if you are interested. I think my split time here at the halfway point was around 3 hours which was good for me. Off I went and do a bit of a climb up some gravel roads and I feel good so I mix it up with some running and walking. Then we get a nice few miles of downhill on gravel road until we take the trail around Red Rock Mountain. This becomes the most technical part of the race as the trail is often narrow and rocky. After some rollers and a good hike climb we are rewarded with some awesome views both north and south. Then the fun begins. It turns it to some fun technical downhills with steep drop offs at times. I love this part as the speed with the bit of fear really gets my adrenaline flowing. I pass many folks in this area. I think some may have been the early starters. As I am behind one man he asks if he showed step aside. I look up and spot Gail just a few hundred feet ahead of him. I say "no, I got someone to talk to up in front of you". So I yell out to Gail and she responds. We stop and chat for a minute. She looks good and strong. But the words out of her mouth are "This is much harder than Peterson Ridge! The climbs here are huge!" I had felt this race was much like Sean's Peterson Ridge Rumble. I still feel that way but I think the added 3000 feet makes it seem that much harder. So I gave Gail a big kiss and off I went wishing her well. I heard chatter soon behind me and I was later to find out that the gentleman behind Gail said "You sure are friendly with the runners!" She laughed and offered him one too.

Off I went continuing to fly down the hill and cruise the flats. I was getting a tad tired but not bad. (mile 21 or so) I had taken my Ibuprofen a half hour earlier and it helped as usual. I did start to feel a slight twinge of maybe some blisters forming on my heels again. I was to find out this was true. Both form on the inside of both my heels. I still can't figure this out. Maybe its the Gaitors as they keep the moisture in more than if I didn't wear them? I don't know but they are back and I will most likely have them the rest of this year.

Just before the next AS around mile 23 I passed a woman who asked where the next aid station was as she was out of water. I said less than half a mile or so. It would end her and I playing tag for quite a few of the last miles. At this AS I grabbed my drop bag for my last refuel. Got the gels and loaded up for the last 8 mile push. Gail came in too so I stayed and chatted with her for a bit. I probably lolly-gagged in the AS a bit too long but it was fun to see Gail there. I grabbed a handful of boiled potatoes and headed out. Three times I ate taters during the run....the really seem to help me out.

Out of this AS is just a little trot downhill then the last big hill push starts. After a bit I caught up to the woman I had passed and as we started up the hill she heard me sigh and asked what this was about. I said I died last year on this section. Had to stop twice and get off the trail to catch my breath. I swore I would walk the entire section this year and not over due it, so I would have some energy for the last 5 miles. During this time I did have one mile that was almost 21 minutes long. Last year I had two that were 25 minutes long! My plan worked. After the hell of this 3 mile climb was over I soon got some energy back. It took a while to stretch out my cows, er calves or is it calf's? Heck if I know? I trotted in to the next to the last AS and just refilled my water bottles. The weather was starting to get warm. I never know how hot it is when I get tired running. I am very susceptible to heat exhaustion but never know it till it puts me down. So I will often ask others what the temperature is. I ran into some hikers and asked them this...they said 75 degrees or so. That is warm but no worries for me. I just cruised down some nice downhills in this area passing folks every now and then. One gent was hobbling along very slowly. I did my usual "How are you?" He said "I'm cramping up bad". So I stopped running and pulled out my baggy of drugs, er...E-caps and said "take two of these, bet you feel better in 15 minutes." He said "Wow thanks! I guess it does pay to complain". Pretty funny I thought as I wished him luck and took off.

I could tell I was getting tired as the little tiny rollers started to make me walk at times. But I forced my self to push it just a bit. I thought earlier that I might break 6 hours today but that frickin 3 mile climb took that dream away. But it did look like a PR on this course was a done deal which made me smile.

I blew through the last AS when I yelled out "How far to the finish?" They said "2.7 miles". So I had plenty of water for this distance. (I had one hand held bottle and one on a belt. I hadn't worn the belt in a long time so I was curious to see if it would bother me. It didn't. I felt I needed more than one bottle between AS's today if it got real warm. It was nice to have two.) This section takes you back through the original meadow. It was pretty flat with just some small runnable uphills. Most of them I ran. When we dropped off the PCT I knew we had one mile to go. The road here was a bit of a grade and I was tired so I walked for about a half mile. Then it flattened out to the finish and I ran on in. Even the last 1/2 mile I would look behind me to see if David was coming up behind. He has caught me on every Ultra we have done together. I figured he was hurt or dropped as I was running good but not great today.

As I entered the finish chute they called out my name. No matter how many times you hear this I never get tired of it. It is just a nice little pump as you are filling so good about finishing the race. As I crossed a girl came up and handed me a big bottle of Hammer Gel and said I was a raffle winner. Too funny as it was the same flavor I had won at McKenzie River last fall. (Banana btw) As I finished I was breathing pretty deeply. As I walked to cool down my breathing never slowed down. For almost 20 minutes I kept breathing at a joggers level. It was very strange.

I finished in 6:11:20 a 11:59 pace. My second fastest 50k ever. Only 5 1/2 minutes behind my PR in Forest Park in late May of this year. I placed 64 out 125 runners. Much better than I usually do in Ultras. Most times I am in the bottom 30% or less. In marathons this is about where I usually place. I was 17 out of 30 in my 40-49 age group. I think the knowledge of the course of when to push and when to go easy really helped. I hit the downhills pretty hard but not extreme and took the long uphills at a moderate walk. I fueled good but still think I need to drink more, even though I stopped to take a leak 5 times! 4 of those were in the first 2 hours though.

After I did a quick change in the car I went back to the finish line to wait for Gail. Here came David my arch nemesis to the finish. Ha! He is actually a great guy and we always spend time before and after these races talking. But for once I came out in front. He finished in 6:27. He asked what time I did and he then said "you dog!" We both laughed and discussed how I kept waiting for him to pass me and he said he kept looking for me to pass. He figured I DNF'd or something as he felt pretty good running today for the most part.

A few minutes later her came Gail. I cheered loudly for her as she is such an amazing runner. She finished in 7:31 which I thought was great. We hugged then walked for a bit. Later we just hung out and ate, drank and chatted with other runners. It was a beautiful day for a run and never did get as hot as was expected.

We had to get back to Portland that night as Gail had to be to work at 0600 the next morning and do a shift of 12 hours on her feet. (See I told you she is amazing!) So off we went down the hill towards home. We stopped at Dutch Brothers coffee and I got a large coffee and a large frozen/blended coffee drink. Did I mention I like coffee after a run???? On the drive home Gail mentioned how hard this run was for her. The hills were pretty tough she felt. She went on to say that it was the hardest thing she had ever done in her life. Even more than child birth she felt. SOB has 4,000 feet of elevation gain which isn't real big for a trail ultra but the altitude is what makes it feel so hard for us flatlanders. Gail has ran farther before too. A fifty and a forty and numerous 50k's. She also felt that she might not want to do another trail ultra and that the PCT 50 miler in two weeks? No way.....I am not doing that one for sure! During my run I had bouts of doubt too as usual. Wondering why I do this? I am not having fun. I'm sick to my stomach. My lungs hurt. Who cares about the trail or the trees or the frickin mountains. If you are reading this you have probably been there too. Never talk about the next race the day you finished the current one.

Well it's a few days after the race. I am in Seattle working and Gail is getting ready for her annual girls drunk, er gathering in Sun River for the week. While we talked this week Gail said that S.O.B was probably the best run she has ever done. She loved the weather and blue sky. The trail and views were so excellent. As I listened to her I knew where she was coming from. After the pain is gone you revel in your accomplishment and even more when the weather is top notch. As I always say I am the luckiest guy in the world. To have a spouse gives me so much in many ways and then partakes in a difficult adventure/hobby like this....what can I say?

Well what is next. PCT 50 miler in 10 days. Gail had no plans to do this but now asked me "are we going up the night before or the day of the race?" So I guess we both will be there. I told her if she is tired just make a 25 mile run up to Timberline lodge. I think she liked that idea if she doesn't feel like doing the entire 50 miles. I think we both will take the early start. One because we are slow and two because it is nice and cool that early. After PCT it is my greatest fear, Where's Waldo 100k. I am so, so nervous for this one. Oh maybe because its 62 miles and 3 huge climbs! I even think I may no show. Or maybe DNF. Or maybe.......???? Oh crap I don't know! Even if I came in DFL I would be happy. Stay tuned!