Monday, February 23, 2009
Mud and Fun 2009
Hagg Lake Trail Run, the first race on the Oregon Trail Series for 2009. I was looking forward to getting back on the dirt as I haven't done much trail running this winter. It is always just too easy to just go out on the road since it gets dark so early. I felt my fitness was better this winter than last as I have been putting in a few more miles per week. I hadn't run over marathon distance since late October at Autumn Leaves.
Gail and I headed out early to the start. She was taking the 0700 early start and I wanted to get a good parking spot as they wouldn't allow us to park on the road anymore (whinny little bike riders) and I didn't want to walk the 1/2 mile to the start. (Lazy Fat Boy) We got there in nice time and it was a cool morning at around freezing but with only high clouds, so it looked to be a cool start and warm finish. We socialized with some friends including Olga who was taking the early start too. Off the early starters went and I headed back to the car to get ready.
I ran into David Alavi a fellow runner from Eugene who runs a pace similar to mine but usually just a bit faster. Soon Richard Simmons showed up, er...I mean Sean. What an outfit! At first I didn't even recognize him. You see, many guys have made it a tradition to show up in skirts. It makes for some fun times.
I decided in this race to try my new Brooks Cascadia shoes. I am a pronator but I love the feel of these shoes, plus I have been prone to heel blisters on distances over 26 miles so I bought some nice orthodics and thought they may give me the support I need. The Cascadia have great traction and on this muddy course I figured they would be a good fit. The main weakness is that they are mesh so they don't keep any water out, but I figured my feet would get wet anyway in the famous Hagg mud.
Our two famous women race directors gave us the pre-run briefing. I feel like I should bow in the presence of these two. Stacey who came in 2nd in the 153 mile Spartathon in Greece last year and Ronda who has won a few 100 mile races including Big Horn last year. They do a great job of putting on these race in an ugly time of the year here in Western Oregon. Thanks ladies!
Well we were off at 0800. The first part of this course sucks. It hits the road then goes straight up hill for about a mile and a half. As you know I am always slow in the beginning of a race and I hate uphills at the start. (Kind of like Rick at Lief training runs. Ha!) You then gotta come down this hill. So my hamstrings hurt going up and my quads get beat up coming down. If I was warmed up I wouldn't care but hate this early on in a race. I had a good time chatting with some folks during this "walk" time. Some remembered me breaking my leg here 3 years ago, others are just ultra running friends.
After 3 miles we hit the 14.1 mile Hagg Lake loop. About 12 miles of this is on trail, some is extreme single track in some pretty deep ruts. Some goes through muddy bogs. Other is on nice rolling trails through the woods and only about 2 miles each loop is on pavement.
I get into my groove and slowly start passing folks. My fluid and calorie intake is the same as it has been for the last year. Only thing I eat at the aid stations this year is potato chips and just a small slice of a PBJ sandwich. The course rolls allot so its tough to get a good rhythm but it is fun most of the time.
I hit the pavement to cross the dam for the first time. I pick up the pace to 8:30 or so to take advantage of the flat smooth surface. I pass 5 or 6 more runners here. Just like last year my legs feel tired early, probably because of the early climb again. David catches me at this point and says I am much faster than last year as he is on pace for last year and said he passed me much earlier before. After AS#1 David and I played cat and mouse. He would lead then I would, then I would gel and he would pass. It was nice to chat with someone for the first lap.
The trail was quite muddy in spots. Ronda said it was the worst she had seen during the course marking. So far it wasn't bad though, just some rough patches but I was super happy with the grip my Cascadia shoes were giving me. I never slipped the whole day.
At the end of the first loop it was at 17 miles. I saw Gail there and thought it would be cool if we ran together for a bit on the next loop. But she said she was too worn out from 3 hard days on her feet at work so she wasn't up to doing another loop but was going to go run 9 miles on her own just to get up to 26 miles for the day. I stripped off my long sleeve shirt and grabbed my 6 gels for the last loop and off I went. David spent some more time at the AS and that would be the last I would see of him this day. At the finish he said he took a major spill on the second lap and that slowed him down a bit for the rest of the day. Sometimes these crashes don't hurt you but the jar your body pretty good. It can really take it out of you for the rest of the run.
I felt pretty good going out. I just cruised the trail, passed a couple and had one pass me. Nothing was hurting today. Just kind of tired. Put the iPod on and had some tunes at low volume. I don't like to crank up the volume on trail runs as I can't hear the runner behind me who wants to pass. Again I hit the dam area but this time I am at about a 9:15 pace as I am just about 20 miles into the race. At AS #1 I tell them "I am tired! And I was tired here last year. Can you move this aid station somewhere else next year?". Off I go back on the trail. I am starting to feel the effects of the race. Its now ultra running time as I call it. Stomach a bit queasy, legs tired, hills seem huge and a bit of walking now starts. I still run most short steep hills and the shallow longer ones. I never walk the flats unless I am taking a gel or catching my breath. I start to pass more runners here, maybe 4 or so. I even pass Steve Walters who is super fast but he had a cold all week so it is a tough day for him. I also get a trailer here who asks if he can latch on. I say sure as it kind of helps push me a bit too.
The trail is actually nicer this time around as the 25k runners have flattened out a bunch of the muddy areas. I see the sign that says I am half way around the lake with 7.1 miles to go. That feels good to see at mile 24. I just kind of continue on, nothing exciting in this race for me. Just kind of doing it. My trailer passes me as I am slowing down a bit much. At the last AS I feel tired but fine to do the next four miles to finish. I slog on.
The trail is a real mix in this area, some road, some trail with steep sections and some muddy single track bog running. I soon see the sign that says "Push! You have one mile left". I love this sign! So the end is near. I still pass a few more but they might be early starters. We cross the Sain Creek parking area and I can smell the finish. I wanted to finish under 6 hours today as my second goal. My first goal was to beat last years 6:16 finish. We got back on the nice trail for the last quarter mile. I saw the finish and eased on across. My time was 5:48, a new PR for the course and all my 50k's. Gail was the first person I saw as I crossed. Felt good to see her first.
I didn't feel sick after this one but just tired legs. A couple of blisters in unusual places, one on my big toe and one on the side of my foot. These may have been cause to keeping that foot's laces very loose as I have been fighting a top of the foot pain the last 6 months. But who knows.
Gail's shaved legs not mine!
We had some food and drink. I got Ronda to give me a cool Montrail sweatshirt as it was an XL and most ultra runners ain't fat boyees! I waited for David to finish and gave him a high five as he congratulated me on my time. I also gave kudo's to Gail for having the guts to go run another 9 miles after she was so tired. It was a beautiful day to run. Cool start and probably 48 at the finish with just some high clouds. A grand day for February in Oregon!
Well whats up next? Gail and I are heading back east in a week. Going to run our first double marathon on a Saturday and Sunday. Both of them are in Maryland. This should be interesting as I get pretty sore and stiff the day after a race. But it will be an adventure for sure.