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!


Backofpack said...

Great report Bret! It was a fun day and we got quite a kick out of tossing "thongs" at you! I really enjoyed the few minutes of running with Rick - his story is quite an inspiration. See you somewhere, sometime!

Oh, and congrats on the fantastic PR!

olga said...

Wow, man!!! Is it new status, or no training?? Congrats to both of you!!!

Anonymous said...

Is this the same Bert Henry I knew? I'm in shock. You used to be a fat boyee couch potato. Quite impressive. So will the "real" Bret Henry please stand up? This would not be my choice of how to lose 5 lbs. Congrats to you and Gail too. Merry Christmas, xoxo pamela jo

saschasdad said...

Hey, you actually double p.r.ed with your en-route 50k time. So double congrats! Great job, Bret. Enjoy the buffets!