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.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

Sorry I didn't come out and see you guys but I was in full vacation mode back at the hotel. : ) Gail is a rock star! You're not shabby yourself. : ) I hope your leg is feeling better!