Wednesday, September 23, 2009

2009 McKenzie River 50k

This race is turning into one of my favorites. It is such a beautiful setting and pretty easy for a 50k trail run. The race starts in the upper reaches of the famous McKenzie River of the Central Oregon Cascades. Gail, Eric and I met up at the Ranger station as this course is a point to point run. Eric picked up Gail and I and we went up to the start at Carmen Reservoir. Gail and Eric were taking the early start at 0630 and I was taking the regular start at 0730. There was probably 40 or so early starters taking off just as the sun was coming up.

About 10 minutes before my start time I felt the need to water the trees. I have found most runners get in the port a potty line then when they are done they get back in line again because you have to wait so dang long. It's a combination of early morning, nerves, and coffee that creates this mess. But I am smart you know. I head for nature and the trees. Well as I get back to the start area I notice I don't have my camera anymore? It must have fell off my water belt. I frantically look for it and to no avail? Now I have like 3 minutes to get 300 yards down the road to the start! Yikes! Well as I go by the sign in table someone already turned it in. I thank they and take off running down the road. As everyone is waiting for the start the RD looks at me "like come on and get across the start line". As soon as I get behind the line he counts down "5, 4, 3, 2 ,1 go!" Off we go.

My view in most races...back of the pack.

As usual I let the most everyone go in front of me. I hate going fast for the first few miles. We jog up the gravel road and then drop onto the trail heading up river. It becomes a walk as we all jam up going up the early up hill section. We see some great waterfalls and I stop and take pictures. (It's a long race ya know!) I soon start to squeeze by a few runners "On your left" I say. Most folks are so great, they move on over and let you by. I run walk this section as we head up towards Clear Lake. This is such a pretty area but has some very technical sections with lava rock and such. I slowly pass more folks. We get close to the first AS and begin to see the fast runners coming back down this out and back section. This is the highest point on the course at about 3,000 feet. So elevation is not bad at all on this run. I get to the AS and get a quick refill of my water bottles. I am hand carrying one and then one 20 oz on my water belt. I eat some chips and a gel and am out in less than 30 seconds.

Awesome views on this course.

My goal for this race was to beat my PR from last year, of 5:55. So I planned to run most all the course as there is not much uphill, spend short times in the AS and run a nice constant pace.

Clear Lake

As I left the 5.6 mile AS the course is pretty much downhill from here. There are some minor ridge climbs but we lose about 1600 feet or so from here to the finish line 25 miles away. The trail is real nice in this area as we go around the lake and run through some camp ground areas. I feel good and talk with some friends as we move along. I do have to take about a 5 min break for some gut issues but feel much better afterwards. (You know how your cat races around the house after using the cat box??? Yeah you get the point.) We now get into the 11 mile AS near were we started. I grab my drop bag, chug a Starbucks double espresso, some chips and am gone. I really like the next section. It drops nicely and is just fun as the trail twists and turns. I again talk with Nancy, Trish and others. Quite a few folks I talked with were not having good days. Not sure why but it seemed much more than usual. Weather was perfect with clear skies and probably 55 at the start and 80 at the finish.

Blue Pool where the River comes back above ground

I get in to the 16.7 mile AS and still feel really good. My hamstrings hurt for about the first 2 hours but a couple Vitamin I and some time fixed them up nicely. My darn GPS watch was dead today so I am running old school with no pace to follow. All I have is my stopwatch on my regular watch. But it is fine to change up now and then. I can do the math pretty quickly on how I am doing. I am on pace to run a 5:45 or so. I have been tripping a bit so far but no falls. I told Gail last night that I would probably do a face plant this race, as I have fallen here both the last two years. Something about the trail and its hidden rocks and roots that grab my fee.

Nice wide section around Clear Lake.

This next section is probably some of the easiest on the trail. Not many climbs and lots of nice wide trail right along the roaring river. It is very cool at times as the cold river water really cools down the air next to it. I again run into a few runners that are normally much faster than me. They seem to be struggling a bit. I come upon two women my age that I see at many races. They are off the trail and seem to be putting themselves back together. I ask and yeah one took a pretty bad fall but is OK. I press on. As I am going a bit faster it happens. BAM! Down I go so dang fast that I can't even get my right are moved from my running position. I land face first on the trail with my right arm pinned against my right rib cage. I hit hard and feel pain right away. My right lung doesn't work to well but the left side is OK so at least I can breathe. But damn this one hurts. I just lay in the dirt for 15 seconds or so as I figure out if I am OK. I start to get up and Darrin comes along and asks if I am OK. I sort of say yes. He says he saw me go down. My ribs really hurt but I start to walk. After 30 seconds I start to run very slow. It hurts to breathe but is not too painful. After a mile I pick up the pace. What is funny is the last two years I bet I fell with in a mile of this same spot. Strange.

The course can be pretty technical in places

At the mile 21.8 AS I still feel fine except for my ribs. I refuel with a espresso and head out. I am not taking a gel every half hour but as needed and seems to average about every 45 minutes. As I am running now I start to think we I will catch up to Gail. Last year she struggled and I caught her at mile 16, the year before it was at mile 26. At SOB this year I never did catch her. So not sure what to expect but I am happy that she is running strong this year. The next AS is really close and only about 3.5 miles away. It comes quickly and still no Gail or Eric. Good for them! I just take some minor water and move on to the finish. With just less than 6 miles to go I am at 4:50 minutes. I think I really have to move to break 5:50 and get a new PR. (For some reason I kept thinking I needed sub 5:50 rather than the actual 5:55) I press on.

The ribbons we Ultra runners all learn to love (They mark the course)

My Gel flavor of choice. Hammer Chocolate.

I am passing lots of runners now. This is a tough time for many people in a 50k. That distance from 22 miles on or so. I run all the uphills but one. Soon I think I see Gail. Yep it is here. As I get up behind her I yell "I'm stupid". This a joke as she yelled that at me last Spring when we were doing our first back to back marathons.(Saturday and Sunday). The first race had the option of doing a 32 mile loop or the marathon. I decided mid race to do the 32 miles. When I caught up to her that was the first thing she said to me "You're Stupid!" (She was right too!) We chatted for a bit and I asked were Eric was? She said she hadn't seen him in a long time, but that his goal was for me not to pass him. Well I said I have a chance to PR so I got to press on.

I didn't have all the energy I did the last few miles as last year but I was more steady this year and did less walking. At around mile 29 I thought I saw Eric up the trail. As I got closer it was him. I was quiet till I got right behind him then I said "Can I carry your water bottle?" (The last two races he has paced me he always asks me that) He bursts out "Dang it Henry!" as I am sure I burst his bubble. I talked with him for a bit then passed him by giving him a big arm hug. Craig Thornley the RD of Waldo happened to be standing along the trail with a few others in this area. He hooted to Eric to catch up to me. It was a fun time for me but I know Eric was hurting and that is never fun.

This section is mostly flat to downhill and I just tried to keep the pace up. But my ribs finally started to hurt pretty bad. I couldn't go real fast as I could not breathe that deep without some extreme pain. I saw 5:50 go by on my watch and was bummed I wasn't going to PR but I knew I should still break 6 hours which is great for me. Soon I see the steep 20 yard hill that goes up to the finish line. I push and hear the crowd. This is the fun part. I'm running strong and the roar of the crowd. Fun fun fun! I cross in 5:54. I am happy but a tad disappointed.

Five minutes later here comes Eric. He looks tired but had a great first 50k trail race. He throws his water bottle at my feet as a joke. He is not real happy but boy don't I know that feeling. Four minutes later he comes Gail. It was a PR for her and it was sure fun to have all of us finish with in 10 minutes of each other. We chat a bit and realize it is quite warm at over 80 for sure. We walk back across the highway to our cars and head to the community center for some free food. We chow down a bit of good food and talk about our day. Eric said he died around mile 20 or so. He did super good for being sick for the last 10 days. Gail was so happy I didn't pass her by the mile 26 AS. She said that was her goal and when she made to that AS the rest was gravy. So we all sort of made our goals for the day. I was to find out later that I did PR on the course by about 90 seconds. So that was nice to discover.

Mr Eric pushing to the finish line.

Gail is just minutes later and a new PR for her!

Hitch, Detour and Fat Boyee at the finish.

Gail and I got in the car for the drive back to Lake Oswego. After about 20 miles I was getting very tired, sleepy tired. Then I started to feel a bit light headed. I asked if Gail could drive and she said sure. I kept getting worse in the right seat. I slumped over and tried to nap. Not sure what brought this on as I felt fine right after the run. As we got farther north I just put my wet bandanna on my head and tried to stay cool.

Trying to stay cool on the way home

Once we got home I could barely move because my ribs hurt so bad. I debated on taking some prescription pain killers I had when I broke my ankle. Later that night I had to take some, then took another as it didn't help. Bed was hell as I could barely lay on one side. Every move I made was agony. In the middle of the night I got very light headed and had to have Gail help me put my feet above my head so I wouldn't pass out. We debated going to the emergency ward but I decided to wait. I slept sparingly through the rest of the night groaning on every move I made.

The next day I researched cracked ribs. They don't do much anymore for them except give you pain meds. I just found taking IB's took some of the pain away so I would just suck it up. Now 10 days later I still have tough time sleeping though it is getting better. Yesterday I ran with no problem but sleeping is still a problem. It is getting better so I bet I just bruised them and smashed up all the tissue around the rib cage.

Whats up next? Well Gail and I are working the AS at the Hundred in the Hood race this Saturday night. We will be at mile 40 and 90. Will I see any of you there??? Next race for us is the hometown Portland Marathon on October 5th. Boring course but fun to see all our local friends.