Wednesday, September 29, 2010

McKenzie River 50k: The 2010 Edition

I remember the first year we went up the McKenzie River Highway. All Gail kept saying was how beautiful it was. This year was no different as we drove to our motel. It was a nice night after many days of rain earlier in the week. Summer never came to the Northwest this year and the trails were very different. Not dry and dusty but soft.

We picked up our "swag bags" had some dinner and called it an early night. The next morning Gail took the 0630 early start at I was off an hour later. We decided to leave our car at the start and hoped to get a ride back from the finish. (More on that adventure later). Gail was a tad nervous as she had not done over 18 miles or so since Spring. We both have had some strange adventures on this trail. She has had contact lens problems, running with others who got sick. And me, falling and breaking my ribs last year which caused me to have one of the worst nights of my life. I love this trail. It is mostly downhill with a fair amount of technical running due to rocks and tree roots. Gail on the other hand is not a big fan of technical trails.

This years course is a bit different. The start you run on gravel roads for a mile or so before dropping onto the stair section. So the crowds thinned out a tad before there but again I was in dead last after one mile. I always wish that I was a bit ahead of the pack when power climbs come. I want to go faster than most but feel its a bit rude to pass when so many runners are in a steady line. Soon we were up around Clear Lake and the lava beds. I passed a few but got stuck behind a guy who ran every downhill and walked anything up, even a few paces. At the first AS we have a new out and back because of the finish being shorter this year. I dropped my water belt and went up the short grunt section. It felt good to dump that belt for a bit. On the way back I saw Pam from Salem and said "hi". Noticed a few other familiar faces too.

I always feel that the course is pretty much downhill from here. Yeah there are some minor climbs but it is all runnable. I slowly pass more runners, some are friends and we chat a bit. I feel like I am running strong but my Garmin doesn't show the pace I expect. I am eating less these days and loving my Nuun as my gut never gives me any problems anymore. What a 180 degree turn around from the last 9 years of my distance running.

At the second AS I grab my drop bag and have half a can of Starbucks Esspresso, boy those are good. I enjoy this next section as its in some in very dense cool foliage with just a bit of technical sections. Soon I pass hiker who says "watch out for the stingers up there". I think she is probably talking about the stinging nettles type of plant. But after about 10 seconds I see to women runners in front of me scream, swing there arms widely and then double their pace. Uh Oh. Yep, it happens. Intense pain. I get stung by bees 3 times in less than a couple of seconds. I never see them in this dark section of the trail but boy it hurts.

Soon I catch up with Nancy. She is my hero as I think I said last post. At 61 she has such a great pace. We chat about Waldo, her next race, Mexico and many other things. I follow her for a long time. Soon I pass but I feel I may see her again later!

I keep looking at my watch. I feel good but no speed. Maybe tired Waldo legs still from 3 weeks ago? Not sure but I am enjoying the run with all this blue sky and nice cool temps. I keep thinking I might be catching Gail soon. I really hope I don't as that means she is having a good day. I pass a couple of spots on the trail where I caught up with her in the past. I am happy as I don't see her yet. Soon I hear the cheer of the mile 23 or so AS. I never tire of that cheer as you approach. I get to the top of the little hill at the AS and there is Detour. Yeah! I caught her here like 3 years ago. I give her a kiss and the AS volunteers get a puzzled look. We chat and she says she is doing great. I say "I gotta go cause I might PR".

I blast out and try to really push it a bit. I soon pass the area where I fell hard the last two years. I am constantly thinking about that this year but I only stub my toe a few times. I am now running a good pace. All is well. I pass most everyone except I think one guy catches me. I have my tunes cranked but we still chat a bit. I see the last AS and I ask "How far to the finish" A young guy yells back "Less than 4 miles" I keep running deciding I have enough water to finish. I want that PR!

As I round the corner at the last AS I pass the guy who had passed me. I get the adrenaline flowing and start running hard. I always thought there were really big hills in this last section but since my Ultra career as progressed I find no real hills just some short little up sections. In years passed I remember just dieing on these "huge climbs". Funny how things change. I am running sub 9 pace which is huge for me at this point in the race. I see my buddy behind me a few times and he is catching me on the hills but I pull away on the flats. This is fun. Wish I was fast so I could race like this with the big guns. I am passing tons of folks these last few miles. I make a turn on a dirt road and a course Marshall says "three quarters of a mile to go". I look at my watch. I only have 2 mintues to get my PR. I am bummed. I thought the new finish might be closer but I was wrong. I pretty much knew the last 5 miles I most likely wouldn't PR but I had to try, I would be pissed if I would have missed it by a minute or so.

Now we hit this gravel road and have a good climb. My racing buddy comes by, he is strong on the hill and passes me. He is nice and says "C'mon you are doing so good, don't let me by" I say a few words but don't have the hill climbing legs left to stay with him. After a 1/2 mile of climb we crest the hill for a nice downhill finish. I cross in 5:58, just under 4 minutes slower than my PR last year. I am a bit bummed but happy I am feeling good after 31 miles.

I chat with fellow runners and eat a few things as I wait for Gail. Sarah is looking for Marc and LG and I tell her he ran a 1/4 mile with me earlier. I talk with Meghan and Craig as they are looking at the Oregon Trail Series list. I say I think I am only one of two runners that completed all 7 races of the Series this year. It would have been 3 of us but April had sprained an ankle earlier in the race and had to drop. I ended up finishing 14th male overall and 4 in my age group in this years trail series. Even though I ran all the races they take your 4 best times to calculate the winners.

Here comes Detour down the hill to the finish. She is running strong. She crosses the finish and due to some health issues this is her first trail ultra in a year. Her last one was McKenzie of 2009 one year ago. She is a happy runner today.

We now have to get back to our car. one wants to give us a ride so we head out to the highway to hitchhike back up the road. It feels strange sticking my thumb out. Cars go by and no one stops. I tell Gail I should jump in the woods as she is so cute I bet the first car would stop! Soon someone stops but the bad news is we find out he is only going 2 miles further. So out we get dumped and stick out our thumbs again. About 10 minutes later some fellow runners in a pickup stop. We jump in the back. This is so cool. I feel like a kid again riding in the back. I think this is illegal in Oregon now but who cares, its fun! They drop us off at our car and we thank them.

What a smirk! (photo by Craig T)

As we drive home I wonder if I will do this race next year. I like the course but just not sure if I want to do it one more time as I have run it four straight years now. Kind of the same feeling about the Oregon Trail Series. I tell Gail I think next year I will try some other Ultra's, maybe out of state. Problem is that it is so easy to drive and do these. I have hardly done any in Washington and think I should give those a try. Want new adventures lurk? This winter I think I will be a Marathon Man. 26 miles or so seems far enough for a fun winter. Maybe next year I will do some more half marathons. Those are fun. You are not exhausted but can run fast for 1.5 to 2 hours. Who knows. I don't really have the fire to try a 100 miler but if I got into Western I would sure give it a try. This was my 75 th run of Marathon length or longer. Maybe that is making me pause and think about where running is taking me. I do know someday Gail and I will be in an RV driving around the country doing Marathons for a few months. It is something we both want to do. But that is probably years away with jobs still required. What do the few of you that read this blog think? Any fun ideas? Let us know.

Next up? Portland Marathon. No pressure or anything as I have posted my two fastest marathons ever the last two years on this course. Wonder if the fire will come back that morning? Right now I look forward to the race but not pumped about running hard.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"Go Get Your Hat Fat-Boy"

This was to be the race of the year. A 100k (62.5 miles) that climbs 3 mountains (12,000 feet) and is 99% on single track trail in the Central Oregon Cascades. My focus for the last 8 months has been to get my hat. Only finishers that are done by 9 pm get it. If you finish after 9 you get
an official time but you don’t get the hat. I want the hat!

2:30 am in the lodge pre-race

Gail and I spent the night in Oakridge as we have the last few years. 3 years ago we volunteered at the Mt Ray (mile 20) aid station. I learned so much about Ultra running by watching the runners come in to the AS. How they acted, what they ate, how they ensured they got what they needed. That day Gail and I went out for a 16 mile run on some of the trails the racers were on. I knew someday I would be out here racing. The next year I entered Waldo but got hurt about a month before on the PCT 50 mile run. I tested the leg a few weeks before the race and there was no way I could do the entire 62 miles. So I ran to mile 32 and then quit. Last year I thought I really could do it. But somewhere going up the second big climb (The Twins) my brain decided to leave my body and I had balance and just over all comprehension issues. I DNF’d at mile 47. It was the right thing to do but within hours I knew I had to come back this year.

Up at 1:15 am Gail and I did a quick breakfast and headed out for the 3 am start. Our friend David was hitching a ride with us on the 30 minute drive up the start. We chatted and enjoyed the company. At Willamette Pass Ski Area we parked the car and at 2:30 walked into the lodge. Had a quick sip of coffee and a chat with some friends. It was supposed to be in the 30’s but for some reason we got lucky the temps were in the mid 40’s. I wore a short sleeve shirt and a long over the top of that know I would drop the shirt at mile 20. I was covered in DEET and sunscreen as it was supposed to be a bad mossie year. We walked over to the start line. We got a short talk from the RD, I kissed Gail and off we went. You run for about a hundred yards then begin the climb up the ski trails. David and I chatted for the first 20 minutes or so. The dust was not as bad as years past. But its still pretty interesting to watch the headlights creep up the hill. After a mile or so we get to run. We drop onto some nice single track and off we go. My leg hamstring and leg begin to throb at mile 4. What is this? My good left leg is hurting so soon? It starts in my pelvis bone towards my back. I had this pain two weeks ago at Haulin Aspen. I get scared and think I can’t run 16 hours like this! I press on. Soon I am alone on a course marked my green glow sticks. You hear a few words now and then but mostly its calm. I hear only my breath or the trickle of a nearby stream. I enjoy this.

2 hours into the race the sun starts to rise

Dropping onto a road for about a half mile we cruise into the Gold Lake AS. It is still dark and the campers are sleeping so we must be quite. I refill my bottles and drop in an Nuun an move along. Now we start the first big climb up Fuji Mt. (As if climbing a ski hill is not big!) I think this climb is about 2500 feet. I mostly power walk but there are sections that are runable. I start to see light in the sky. It will be dawn soon. As I get to the Fuji Mt AS at mile 12 the bugs are awake and so is the sun. I refill only one bottle as it’s a steep but short 1.5 mile climb to the summit. You run a bit but mostly it’s a climb. I pass the fast early starters coming down the hill. I soon get to the top and as always enjoy the rising sun and a great view of the Cascades and the high lakes. I get RD Craig to take my picture as it is such a great spot with perfect light. I only stay a few minutes and then head back down. I see David on the way up and he says he is real sleepy. I take a few photo’s and then go on our way. Back at the Fuji AS I am excited for the couple thousand foot, 6+ mile, downhill run to the Mt Ray AS. I am with Marc, my fellow age 50+ crazy ultra runner. He always cracks me up with his stories. They always help pass the time. On this section I learned how he solo climbed 14,400 foot Mt. Rainier in Washington. He is one tough guy for sure. Soon he has to drop into the woods for a bit and I press on. This section seems to be more rollers than I remember and am a bit disappointed that it isn’t more downhill. At about mile 19 Tim Olsen the ultimate winner passes me. I tell him Erik passed me earlier last year. You must understand these guys had two hours to make up and they still pass me before mile 20, amazing. I run across the beautiful meadow, then back into the trees. I then hear the sound of voices, yep I am nearing Mt Ray AS. I see signs posted on the trees with funny sayings like “If it doesn’t hurt now, it will soon”. I cross the Waldo Lake road and enjoy the cheering crowd. I see Gail who will really take care of me this day. She has a 3x5 card I filled out the days before the race. It tells her what to do and what to ask me. Questions like, do you need Vaseline? Do you want more gels? Let me take your headlamps. This allows her to do the right thing in a time critical fashion and as my brain starts to not function as well, that I won’t forget anything. It works so well. I have a little Waldo stuffed doll I have pined to my water belt. At each AS I am having them sign it. I hope I will win the special Waldo award but I think I will lose to Nancy who at 61 is carrying Pom-Pom’s and doing a song and dance at every AS. I am so outclassed! Well off I go to the next AS.

Sunrise from 7100' Fuji Mt

Near the summit of Fuji

David said he need more sleep but he finished!

This section I am a bit tired. It has a slow climb that is hard for me to run. It is going to be a long day so I take it easy. Many regular start runners are passing me now. It’s just after 8:15 am and I am around mile 21. The temp is perfect in the 40’s with a blue sky. I catch up to Kate at this point, but I have to hit the trees again. I was hydrating very well at probably 30 ounces an hour or more. Some points with big climbs I couldn’t get enough fluid do to the distance between aid stations. We turned right onto the Bobby Lake Trail. I was trotting pretty good again catching up to Kate. But again the trees called. We turned North (left) onto the PCT and started the climb up to the Twins AS. I caught Kate again and she wanted me to pass so I did. I was running and walking and feeling OK. The pain in my left hip and leg were gone. I was so happy about that. This is about 6.5 miles to the Twins, so I will probably be out of water when I get there. I am carrying two 20 ounce water bottles, one on a handheld the other on my belt. I am putting the miracle potion Nuun tablet in each bottle. I am hardly eating gels, mostly Chomps, some Shot Rocks, turkey cheese sandwich, maybe some Starbucks Espresso at the AS but that’s about it. I also take one S-Cap and one Hammer Anti-Fatigue cap every hour. My stomach is good. At the Twins AS they are all dressed as Angels. They do a good job here and are very humorous. This is mile 27.2, one more mile than a marathon. I think I got in here in about 6:30 or so. Today my goal is to run between aid stations. Try not to think that I have 35 miles to go, or 20 miles to go etc. Just run the distance to the next aid.

As I leave the Twins I know for the next half mile or so I will still have to climb. The geology of this section is interesting. I love the boulder type of rock formation. More runners pass me. Bushwacker goes by and I say “I was going to say I am too old for this, but you are even older than me!” (He is 61) He stops and says “I forget your name” So I tell him and off he goes. Wish I could run that fast. Soon William passes me. He and I were one of 3 racers in a 12 hour run in Salem in May. We had a nice chat on the course that day. We get to the good downhill part of this section. I follow a gal who is a Maniac. We don’t chat but she soon lets me by. I am running nice, and it feels good. Soon I see Charleton Lake. I know the mile 32 AS is near. I see the signs on the trees. Then the crowd cheers. That always feels good. That is why I always clap and cheer for others at these races. I love the feeling and I hope others do too. I see Gail, she is with Pam, our new big time “fasty” from Salem. They take my bottles and Gail reads the list. I chew on a Snickers bar, it tastes awesome. I see Caroline and her big smile telling me “get going, get out of here”. I chat a bit more and tell Gail I am tired but doing OK. Off I go to the Forest Service Road. I have 5 miles or so.

I have to stop a few times on this short section. My stomach had some real issues and this cost me a good 15 minutes or so. This is the easiest section of the course I to run. Just mostly rollers. I get into the Road 4290 AS with just over 9 hours of running. That seems so slow for only 37 miles but the plan was all about my pace. This was the last time I see Gail until she picks me up as a pacer in another 10 miles or so.

Sarah and Detour at mile 37 AS. This is the last road we cross for 25 miles.

As I head out to the 2,000 foot climb up the Twins I am pretty nervous. This is where I died last year, so I go out easy walking when I probably didn’t have to. I know how big this climb is so I want to be strong and make it the 7.5 miles to the next AS. It seems flatter than I expected but when the climb starts it goes up pretty good. Quite a few runners pass me but I’m OK with that. It takes me 2 hours and 20 minutes to make it to the Twins AS but I feel pretty good when I get there. I fuel up, Sarah hiked in, so we say hi. I see some other AS folks I know and we chat a bit. I have a Popsicle and get brain freeze. “Oh it hurts” I yell out. So someone gives me hot soup. I probably spend 5 minutes or more here as I want to make sure I am good to go on. I know most say get in and get out of the AS but to me on these long races I mentally like the time I spend at them. It seems to refresh me from the boredom of just hours of running on the trail by yourself.

I died here last year. The climb up the Twins.

I had a professional photographer run the entire course with me.

Arch Nemesis Nancy! She is faster, older and had a better Waldo than me! Good job girl.

I head down the hill knowing it’s mostly downhill till I meet Gail at mile 47 at the Bobby Lake Trail. I am tired but mostly running. When I look up and see Gail running towards after only about 1.5 miles. How cool is that? It was so sweet to see her earlier than I expected. She just figured she would get to me and we could run sooner. I had given her this list of how to pace me. It said:

Run behind me unless I ask you to lead

Do not let me complain.

Tell me to drink every 10 minutes.

Make sure I eat enough.

At the Aid Stations don’t let me forget anything.

Don’t take what I ever I say personally.

And remember I love you.

I figured that covered most of it. Soon after we hooked up it was mostly flat with some rollers. I started getting tired and was walking more. I started to whine but soon shut up as I knew that it was easy to vent with your spouse. But I wanted her to help not listen to me feel sorry for myself. So we began the climb up Maiden to the last AS before the big climb of the day. We got into the Maiden AS at 4:09 pm. I had been running for just over 13 hours. The last 5.2 miles was at a slow 16 minute pace. Gail took ice and rubbed my legs down…oh did that feel good. I was drinking a good amount of Coke and it seemed to just give me enough boost from the sugar and caffeine. Nuun was working its wonders on my stomach. I no longer have any stomach issues. That is so amazing as I would get nauseous for the last 10 years of my running long distance. What a cure!

We left Maiden AS and had a good climb but then it was runable. I thought “This Maiden climb ain’t so bad!” Soon I was proven wrong. The trail on much of the mountain goes straight up the fall line. I was just RFM, one foot in front of another. Soon Cheri and Gary passed me. We both faked it and said we were doing fine. I never passed anyone on this climb but had probably 10 pass me. Some miles were at a 27 minute pace, that’s how steep it was. It just went on forever, then we see the spot where it gets real steep. I know its only a ¼ to ½ mile climb from here. It is super loose and tennis ball size loose rock. Gail and I push on. It is getting really cold and windy now. We summit and it is blowing 25 mph and probably in the upper 40’s. Dang cold! But I stay on the top for at least 5 minutes. I know this is a race but I won’t win anything. I want to enjoy the view. I may never be here again. I made it. I have never been here before in the last two times I have done this race. Enjoy the moment. Freeze the picture in your brain so you can recall it for years. Gail and I take some pictures of each other. I name off the Cascade high lakes and some of the mountains. I am cold. Time to move on. We say goodbye to the volunteer at the top and I am excited that the hard part of the race is over. I have about 10.5 miles to go to finish this sucker.

Climbing up Maiden Peak at mile 52. I am slow but moving.

Pacer, wife and BF on top of 7800 foot Maiden Peak

On Maiden its 45 degrees and blowing 20 mph. Cold!

As we ease our way down the steep loose rock section we see Marc coming up. He is so tough; I thought he would be miles behind me. He is hurting big time though. Seeing him motivated me to run more. We got directions on the way down. It was very technical and steep in places. I soon was leaving Gail behind as she is more shy of the steep than me. She says she will catch up. We get to good downhill runable sections and I pour it on. I am really moving. The low point is over and now its time to ride the highs. They usually don’t last very long at this 55 mile point. I keep looking back for Gail. Sometimes I see her sometimes I don’t. I push on. Soon she catches up with me and we get into our last AS at Maiden Lake. This place is amazing. I get my face wiped with a nice moist towel. Then my neck and shoulders are massaged! Oh this is great. Gail makes sure we have everything. We have 7.5 miles to the finish and I think its all downhill but the volunteers say there are a few climbs thrown in for fun. Yuck!

We have a walking climb out of Maiden Lake AS. We did that last hard section of 5.2 miles in 25:06 pace including breaks at the AS and the summit of Maiden Peak. I have calculated earlier that I wouldn’t get my hat (finish in under 18 hours), and so Gail would say, “but you are going to finish”. And she was right, and I was OK with that. This part of the trail was kind of frustrating as it was downhill then up and I was pretty tired. I started to do the math in my head. We left the last AS at 6:17 pm. I had 2 hours and 43 minutes to go 7.5 miles. I told Gail, “Hey we might make it. I have to do 20 minute miles to make it by 9 pm and get my hat.” She says “We can do that”. So I get a little juice going. I am power walking allot of the time. I feel sort of like I am gliding. Then I run for a bit. Gail says my running and walking are the same pace. But I want to run as it builds confidence, which I need right now. We come upon a guy who is out of gas. He has no gels left. We give him a couple and save his day. He finishes I notice later. It’s fun to be able to help each other out there. We hit the Rosary Lakes area and the scenery is a nice diversion. The trails start to flatten out along the lake shores. I tell Gail, “I might get the hat”. She cheers me on. Oh it is so great to have her with me. She worked so hard all day and now gets to enjoy this part of the race with me. I start hallucinating. After a bit I tell Gail what I am seeing. Everything from Huskies and to Armadillo’s to people sitting in lawn chairs. None are real. It was fun to share with her how the mind starts to go away. I look at my watch. I think we are about 3 miles from the finish. I run more. I have over an hour and 10 minutes to finish I figure. I tell Gail, ‘I might get the hat” (for about the 10th time!). We drop off the lakes back into the dense forest. The trail gets a bit bigger and has a nice gentile downhill slope. I push. I want this hat. I am feeling the best I have in 10 hours. I am at about mile 61 or 62. I figure I got a mile or so to go. It’s a little before 8 pm. I shout out to Gail behind me. “I’M GONNA GET THAT FRICKIN’ HAT!!!!” She gets excited and shouts tons of encouragement to me. I keep thinking, I have been working for a year for this. I imagine what it will look like when I break out of the woods and see the finish line. I push, I push.

And boom! There it is. We are out of the woods. I see the ski lodge. I see the finish line. It is dusk. We have had our headlamps on for the last few miles. I hear the PA. I hear the crowd. Gail says “Go get your hat Fat-Boyee!” Whoo hooo. I push. I hear the crowd. I can’t believe they are cheering for me this far away. I am so dang happy. Gail drops back and to the side. I push up the hill. Then I hear the PA. “We will stop the awards now so we can acknowledge this runner” Oh….I guess they were cheering for the real runners who win stuff not my 18 hour finish. Funny but it did help me keep going and was fun to hear. Now they do cheer. I cross the line with my fists clenched and my arms above my head. YES!!!!! I cross at 8:12 pm, 17 hours and 12 minutes after I started at 3 am so long ago. Meghan hands me my hat. I love my new hat. My hat is my friend. I will wear my new hat forever and ever. I hug Gail, say hi to friends and can not stop smiling. Enjoy the moment Bret it may not happen again.

Happy boy!

Oh and did I tell you I love my hat?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

"Two Wild & Crazy Guys!" and a Marathon

"Vee run zo vee can meet all zee hot babes!"

Haulin' Aspen marathon in Bend is a race Gail and I both enjoy every year. It is just like an Ultra except shorter! Very challenging course but still fun. They do such a good job with the post race fun at Shevlin Park. Plus the weather can't be beat this time of year.

Start line briefing

Fenny and Gail getting ready.

The night before we met Susan, Rich and family for nice diner out. It was a fun time to have some laughs and just relax, oh and have some beer too! Once back at our room I went into my pre-race mode. Laying down and running the whole course in my mind, doing my mantra's, seeking a higher power and finding the comfort in my inner self. Ha! If you believe that you don't know me very well. I think I had another beer and some of Gail's M&M's.

Yea! Sarah and Marc running together today.

This was to be Gail's first Marathon since her injury back in late March. She was pretty excited but felt she might need the early start. This year instead of busing us to the start we ran from a new school. So part of the course had changed both at the beginning and the end. We chatted with Steve "I sleep in my car after running a marathon the previous day" Walters, Marc and Sarah who were running together today, Susan, Fenny, and others. It was a very fun and social pre-race time. Gail took off a 1/2 hour early, I didn't think she would need it but she was unsure how she would do in the hills.

This race is nice and small, only a few hundred. We get a quick briefing on the new course and off we go. Seriously, I am dead last again by 100 yards. Am I really that slow??? Well I eat everyones dust for awhile and enjoy the new trail we are starting on. I have run 60 miles the week before this race and am treating this only as a training event. I was a tad worried how my legs would hold up in the hills after this many miles.

Tunnel of trees near the start

I slowly start passing some folks, chatting as I go by. As I go by Marc and Sarah he tries to put heavy rocks in my pocket to slow me down. Just joking Marc, you stud. We wind through the woods and come out at AS 1. A fellow Maniac plops her leg on the AS had has them was the blood of her leg, she has fallen early in the race and this course has sharp stuff on the ground so when you go down here you usually bleed.

Susan K pushing it up the hill around mile 8

Susan's kick to the finish line!

We start the teaser downhill on the jeep road but then the climb starts. It goes pretty much up from here to mile 13. My goal today is to run the entire course, no walking on these kick ass uphills. By mile 10 we hit the super steeps. Funny how they didn't seem this steep in my mind but they are! I baby step up and happen to get behind a guy doing the same thing. We plod along but never walk. A few years ago I boasted in this blog how you must walk these hills as you would be worn out if you didn't. Not really true as it depends on your fitness level. Oh how I learn.

My pacer up the killer hills.

Finally after thinking my lungs were going to kill me we hit the AS at the top. I refuel and takeoff for the 13 miles of downhill to the finish. I just cruise today, not wanting to hurt myself by running too hard downhill. My legs do feel the fatigue of the climb for sure. At around mile 15 I see Gail and yell "Hey I'm lost! You see any ribbons around here?" (Detour joke) We stop and kiss (whooo hooo!) and she says she feels awesome and is loving her day on the trails. Later she said she actually enjoyed every minute of the run. I was so happy for her.

A gem in the woods!

By this point I was pretty much on my own. Passing someone maybe every mile or so but mostly so trotting through the pines with some tunes on. By mile 19 my legs were feeling this weeks miles. But it was a gorgeous blue sky 70 degrees so who was I to complain.

Coming out of the mile 22 AS or so I jumped in front of a guy, I stopped and said go ahead as I thought I might be out of place. He tripped and almost face planted right in front of me. Another guy who looked faster than me was leaving too, so I said go ahead. Funny, he did the same thing. Did I push these guys or what?

As we heading into more and more of a turning course I was kind of getting cranky. "Enough of all this turning, I want a straight stretch!" Whiny little baby. So as we drop down the technical section to the park I am looking at my GPS (which has been right on all day. Did I tell you I love my new Garmin 301xt?) and see that we still got 3 miles or so to go. I am kind of bummed because in the past you only had a bit over a mile to the finish from here. But with the new start things have changed. This time we run a bit above the bottom of the park. I am passing many folks now, some slower 1/2 marathoners and some marathon folks having a rough day. My gut feels great today but my legs are feeling it. We hit a few climbs and I still got the juice to run them. We come down the hill towards the finish, but no! We must go back in the park for a mile or so. Oh the tease. We run our first pavement of the day and it actually feels nice, then back onto the trail for the short 3/4's of a mile to the finish. I pick up the pace a tad but don't want to go all out. This was to be an effort run but not max. (Coaches orders.) I see the finish line and hear the crowd. I never tire of that sound, it is so sweet. I cross in 4:30, a new PR for the course by 4 minutes. Hard to believe after 60 miles training week. I guess I am getting ready for Waldo.

Love seeing this.

I walk over by the area where the course first turns back into the park. I see Susan and cheer her on. Then a few minutes later its Gail pushing hard. "Go Detour!" I shout. I am so stoked for her.

Gail pushing to a PR for the course.

Back at the finish line Susan crosses strong, then Gail. She is pretty happy, which of course makes me very happy. We talk with Steve, Susan, Rich and the kids, some Maniacs. Then Marc crosses and Sarah just minutes later. We eat, we drink beer, we laugh and just enjoy the sunny day. It was a grand time.

Detour, Susan and Evan.

Gail and Steve.

She is running 52 marathons in 52 weeks to support a charity in Africa.

Winner of the under 10 age group

Great way to cool off after the race.

This was my final test for Waldo. I think I am ready. I could have done more core work. Maybe some more hills too. But my goal is just to finish. I want that dang hat. 16 hours would be a dream but anything under 18 hours will make me very happy. Even if it was after 18 hours and I plod in after dark I will still be satisfied. No DNF this year. This has been my goal for the last 363 days. Stay tuned!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A PR but not a real PR

This was my fourth time I have ran the Mt Hood Pacific Crest Trail 50 miler. The second time on this new course. I have been training hard this month and didn't have much time off this week so I was curious to see if I ran out of gas early or if the training got me through.

I got up at 3:15 to make the 80 mile drive to the 6:30 start. I got there with plenty of time and parked about a 1/4 mile away. We start at these old Forest Service buildings that we can't touch, because the oil on our hands might ruin the place. Oh, the 10 feet of snow won't damage them but our oily hands will? Oh don't get me started! A new set of RD's took the race of this year and had plenty of new challenges the FS put on them. Everyone that touched the snacks during the race had to have a food handlers permit (remember that next time you hand out Halloween candy!). All snacks had to be packaged. So no boiled potatoes, salt, chips (some had bags of them) and other treats. They did the best they could but still made more different than any race I have done.

We lined up and RD Jerry told us about the new course. We run on Miller trail to start, not the road (good thing) then we join the PCT and run to Little Crater (dont go in this year) then to Highway 26 and don't cross (another good move) then back to the start. Back on Millers trail til we hit the PCT and stay on it, not having to run on the gravel roads was a nice touch this year. Then pretty much the same course. Bored yet?

Well Jerry said go and off we went. Everyone was running for a couple of minutes when they realized this is the wrong way. Being last as I usually am as everyone turned around I was now in First Place! Whoo hoo! So I ended up losing about 3 minutes do to our wrong way start. Second time that has happened to me on this race.

I plodded along in last place for the first couple miles. Then slowly started passing folks. I had to pee a ton this day. In fact I stopped 7 times in the first 28 miles!! It was nuts! I ran most the first 6 miles to Little Crater AS. Then we head the short 2.8 miles to the next AS which is famous for a ka-gillion mosquitoes. Then we start our first climb of the day. Mostly we walk but some is runable as I pass more folks here. I want to run more but I tell myself this is mile 10 of a 50. Go easy. I like this section as we head into an older forest and get the first great views of Mt Hood. Soon we start to run into the early starters and the rabbits. It's a pain always having to share single track but it is what it is. I hit the 14 mile turn around and have to use the facility. (was nice to have one!) I took off and 1/4 mile back I realize I forgot some stuff at the AS so back I go. The section heading back is just kind of a cruise. Nothing seems real exciting as you have seen already. I take my time at the aid stations. Making sure I don't forget anything.

As I cruised the trail back I just kind of took it easy. No push but not being lazy either. I was realy drinking my Nuun early. Probably averaging close to 40 ounces of fluid an hour. That would include a bit of Pepsi and Root Beer I would drink at the AS. I got into the mile 19 AS and asked for Vaseline. Darn, didn't have any. Some had some Glide but where I needed to put it wasn't appropriate for me to borrow their stick...if ya know what I mean.

Back at the Little Crater AS those folks have done Ultra's, they had all the right stuff out. And they had the lubricant I soooo needed. The last 6 miles are interesting as they use to be the deathmarch from mile 44 to the finish. Now we are at mile 22 so it is kind of fun cause you can actually run this section.

As I came back to the start/finish line at mile 28 Cheri and Gary really took care of me. They got ice for my bandanna, Gary gave me an awesome cool down sponge bath, I got food, my drop bag etc. Again I was in no real rush. I want to be strong at the end so take care of me now, was what I kept thinking. Every race I am in it seems like there are some "Angels" that come down to save you. It might be a runner, or a fan or friend etc. Today it was Cheri and Gary. It wasn't much but it made me feel real good. "Thanks!"

The next section was a nice climb for 5 miles up to the Red Wolf AS. This year was so much nicer as we ran on trail the entire time not the roads of last year. I walked most the big ups and tried to run some of the easy ups. I was getting warm but would take my bandanna and wipe my face with its cool ice water. I will never run a hot race without one of these.

Saw tons of horses on the trail today. Had to stop and get off the trail which is fine. Race or no race we all have the same rights to this path. But I probably ran into 3o plus horses.

As I got up finally to the Red Wolf AS it probably is the high point on the course of about 4300 feet. I was tired but not exhausted. I did the usual stuff but started to drink a bit more Pepsi here. I was not doing my gels (did two already) but was trying to drink most my calories. This next section is fun for a bit. Its flat to up for a little over a mile then bomber downhill for a couple miles to the Warm Springs river. I stopped in this tiny stream and just totally washed off. I mean wash the head a few times, both legs, arms, neck and then dip my hat is this very very cold water. Oh it felt sooo good. When I got back on the trail I was a new man. They always say at Western States how many folks get in the creeks to energize back up. They are right. Again I said "take care of yourself today". The next section starts a pretty good 2+ mile climb up to the final AS and turn around point at Warm Springs Meadow AS. This is the AS Gail and I manned last year for the Hundred in da Hood race. We had the overnight shift and it was so cold. This year it was warm for sure. I walked allot to get here and chatted with numerous folks. At the AS I hit my Starbucks double shot espresso, had a great sorbet, more pepsi and more ice. I dreaded leaving as I knew that big climb was in front of me in a couple miles.

So as I jogged down the hill I got my mind ready for the climb. I decided if my heart rate or breathing got too high I would just stop and rest. Don't let things get out of control. I even remember have to pee but thinking I will wait for the climb and it will be an excuse to stop there. Oh the mind games! Well I hit the bottom at the Warm Srpings river. I did the same as before. Total cool down. Off I went with trepidation of the climb that lies ahead.

You have a real short steep climb off the river. Then it seemed to flatten out...hmmmm I didn't remember this. I was running. A bit later, I was still running. "Oh I am in the fir trees again, this is where the climb starts". But I was still running. Soon I ran into some sections that I had to climb/walk. Then I ran again. Finally the big climb was there. It was a push but it wasn't terrible. But I knew it would go on forever. Soon I saw a guy laying 15 feet off the trail. I asked if he was all right? He said yes but he had just gotten sick and was getting over it. Wow that was almost me last year. I kept he climb going. Heart rate up but not out of control. Suddenly I crossed a logging road. "So soon?" I thought. Back in the woods the climb continued. But it wasn't real steep. I ran some. I kept looking at my brand new Garmin 310xt gps watch.(Oh btw I love this new watch. It has 20 hour battery life where the old one died at about 8.) I figured I only had a 1/4 mile or so til it came to the flat section. I was so juiced up then! "I made it through hell and it wasn't even that hot this year!" I was running again, 90% of the time and was one happy boy. I knew in a mile or so it was going to be all downhill from the final AS to the finish. "Yee Haw! I got this one done!" I went under the big power lines and into Red Wolf. The final AS. Five miles to the finish. Again, same thing. Took my time, ice, pepsi, my S-caps, anti fatigue caps. All the stuff I had to do.

I had been looking at my watch. Coming out of mile 40 I kind of figured I wouldn't break 11 hours. I just thought on those climbs I would probably be pushing a 30 minute pace and that would put the 11 hours out of reach. But I kept trying and the climb was not that bad. I left mile 45 AS after running 9 hours and 55 minutes. I had 1:05 to finish 5 miles. Sounds easy on most days since this was almost all downhill. But, this is mile 45 to 50 for a fat boy on a hot day. I really thought I could do 12 minute pace which would get me done in 1 hour. The reason for all of this is you must run a 50 mile race under 11 hours to qualify for Western States 100. Now there are easier 50's but this may be my last this year so it was now or never.

Off I went running. The top is flat with little downhill. Then we get going. Soon I feel like I am flying. Wow I must be doing an 8 minute pace? I look at my watch, 11:52. "Oh crap! No way!" I really felt like I was screaming. But I kept looking at that watch and I was slow. Usually between 10:10 and 12:10 pace. Oh well. "Just keep pushing Bret, just keep pushing" The last thing I wanted was to be this close and give up. I had to try. I did not want to regret this by finishing 2 or 3 minutes slower than my 11 hour goal. I passed folks all the time. Had to be 10 or 15. Many guys had leap frogged me all day. I would pass and say "come on, join up. We are so close, don't let me pass you now!" They tried but no one could keep up. I was on a mission now. I didn't eat a thing and I was hungry. I barely sipped on my Nuun as I didn't want that upset stomach. I don't need all that just to finish now. I would look at my watch, 35 minutes and I think I have 3 miles left or so? "Argh! Am I going to make it???" I pass more folks. Is that the road we get on there? Nope, not yet. Go, go, go! I walk only the steepest short ups, other hills I run up. I look at my watch, 10:50 it says. Dang, don't quit, push. I see someone standing on the side of the trail. Someones friend. This usually means the finish is close. Yes! I keep going. Another person watching. Yes! I look up the hill off my left. I see cars parked on a road. Yes I am close. Finally I hear people. I push up the steep short section onto the road. Yes! 10:53 on my watch. Yes yes yes!!! I am going to break 11! Whoo hoo! I run down the road as folks cheer. I feel so relieved. I turn and head up to the ranger station and I think of Olga trotting with me here last year. (Miss that crazy Russian.) I cruise relaxed across the finish line. I made it! 10:54:36. Tons of time to spare. :) Funny part is my coach Nikki put me down a pace chart to finish in 10:55. Can't get much closer than that.

After I cross Gary says he will get me water. I say I am fine and just need to walk. I head down one of the little logging roads. I start that wheezing thing I used to do. My throats starts to close up as I get a bit emotional about what just happened. I don't get scared but its pretty freaky to hear and it feels like your throat could just close totally. I just walk around and get it together, very happy about what I just did and how I feel. My gut, head, legs, all feel great. No real pains. I could go farther that's for sure.

Soon I start to get the low blood pressure thing. I feel a bit dizzy. I always get a bit embarrassed so I want to leave. As soon as I sit in my car it gets worse. I tell ya, I need to walk for at least a half hour. When will I learn. As I drive off it gets worse. Soon I pull over and put my legs up for a good 20 minutes. I feel a tad better, so I continue the drive home. Within an hour I am doing great.

I never thought I would be this strong for this race. Nikki had me running huge miles very close to this race. I thought my legs would die. Now I didn't PR but I was only about 10 minutes slower than last year. But I finished so strong this year. Best ever for sure in a 50 mile trail run. Right after this race there was no way I was running Waldo. It is so much harder and I would be dead at 50 miles just like last year and my DNF. By Sunday I was thinking maybe I will do it. Now on Tuesday I am ready to destroy Waldo. I am going to be so ready for that race. Nikki is dropping my miles but wants me to run more hills and and at a faster pace. She also has me doing some mental affirmations, such as seeing me cross the finish line at Waldo every day. I have the Haulin Aspen Trail Marathon in two weeks. That is supposed to be viewed by me as the last 26 miles of Waldo. I will not DNF there this year. I will plod the entire course if I have too. I have a mission now. I have a focus. And I have a plan. See you all at the Where's Waldo 100k finish line on August 21st. I will be there!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

That hill is an SOB!

The Siskiyou Outback 50k trail run is a great course. It has a variety of terrain, great aid stations, elevation between 6 and 7,000 feet and that frickin' hill. (more on the hill later) Gail and I couldn't get our flights to work out so we did the 4+ hour drive thing to Ashland the day before the race. We got to see our daughter at the farm she works at in Grants Pass so it really worked out for the best to drive.

Gail was is still coming back from her injury so she was dropping to the 15k. I was still doing the 50k and taking the normal start at 7 am. The group seemed small this year but everyone looked fast. By far I was the biggest thing at the start line! "Hey man! Don't you know old, tall, fat guys aren't supposed to run 30 miles in the woods? Go home and drink beer or something." That's kind of the way I feel at these races. Just a tad out of place. :) But I gave Gail our pre-start kiss and punched my stop watch and off we went. As I have said her a ka-gillion times I am slow at the start. But here I was way slow. This fast-ees took off and I was a 100 yards behind by the 1/4 mile mark. Gail even commented she could see this big guy all dressed in black with the red bandanna plodding along. Well at about the half mile point two runners are standing over a guy sitting on the ground. I guess he blacked out and went down pretty hard. I talked to someone later and he walked back to the start on his own. Scary stuff.

Well we hit the PCT at the one mile point and I follow an older gent for the first 3 miles. I finally over take him and move into second to last place! The trail is nice, a bit more mud in places due to our late spring snows melting. My goal here is just to trot. I ran the marathon 6 days earlier so I assumed a PR wouldn't be in the cards. I wanted to be strong at the finish, not die on the course and just run smooth and easy. I need to work on my hydration and eating. Trying to really nail that down.

As I ran along I seemed to be quite alone. I caught a few runners in the first 13 miles but not many for sure. Around the 13 mile point we hit quite a bit of snow. It was no problem but amazing to have that much around this time of year. I hit the road that pushes up to the high half way point AS. I took my time here, using the facilities, putting snow in my bandanna, refueling etc. I probably took 10 minutes here. Time was not my goal today.

Some sweet meadows to run through!

Up the hill we went on the road. Then the downhill section on the gravel road which always seems like a waste to me. We worked so hard going up now we go hard down these steeps. I wish it would be gentle single track down but thats just the way it is. We then drop onto the Red Mountain loop at mile 18 which is my favorite part of the course. You gets some very good views, technical rocky running and some beautiful meadows. Some areas have nearly straight down drops. No tripping allowed here! On the climbs here I start to feel a bit tired. My quads spoke to me by mile 3 but nothing serious, just that they were fatigued. I again stopped for more snow to refill and rub on me to cool down. The temps now were about 80. I was sweating a ton but not feeling overheated at all. The big downhill section here I used to fly down. This year I was no faster than the flats. I was tired for sure but not feeling bad. I missed the fun of bombing this section. "Training run, training run" , thats what I kept telling my self. This is all for Waldo!

Some steep drops in places.

As I got to the water station at mile 21 or so I dreaded the next section. We had some up but then got the flats where I could run again. At the next AS I take a break. Get my drop bag, have a Starbucks Double shot, sit down and cool off for a few. I know the killer part of the course is next. I am in no hurry. I get up and head out. Once the climb starts I chat with a woman from Corvallis who is doing her first Ultra. I tell her this is the big one. I don't think she believed me at first. But soon she understands this climb that goes on forever. I decided to stick behind her. We chat and keep each other going. We are doing 23 minute miles and still sucking air! This is so not fun. It just keeps going on forever it seems. Finally reaching the top we are now a group of 3 and we all let out some screams of joy. A slow trot takes us the half mile or so to the mile 26 AS.

Some of the "ups".

I refill with water and plop a Nuun tablet in. I have been drinking this all day at probably 25 to 30 ounces an hour. My gut feels good. I am not eating a ton but probably only 4 gels by this point, a few Shot Rocks and a couple of hard snacks. Much less eating than I have done compared to last year. I worry I am not getting the calories but my stomach feels better. As we go out I know the hard part is over. Corvallis wants to keep up and we both agree on a potty break. I pull away from her on the running sections and kind of feel bad as we helped each other on that climb. Soon I see her! "Hey Detour!" I shout. It's Gail. She has run out to meet me after her 15k. We hook up about 4.8 miles from the finish. This is cool.

This last 4 miles is nice to run. Some little walk sections but mostly I just trot. I don't even think I will break 7 hours today. Kind of sad. Last year I ran a 6:05. I know its a training run but its hard to be this slow. We finally get to the road section, one mile to go. I walk most the up but do trot a bit. Onto the flat pavement and Gail lets me go. I feel good but tired of course. I cross the line to cheers at 7:08. One hour slower than last year and a PW for the course.

I walk it off for 20 minutes or so. Talking with Gail, Dr. T and some others. I feel pretty good, just a tad light headed. I avoid the heavy foods and just snack a bit. It is a gorgeous, warm day with awesome views from the Mt Ashland Ski Area parking lot.

I am sad I couldn't race today but that's the plan. In two weeks at the PCT 50 miler it will be the same deal. Get the miles, feel good and look for the goal of the Waldo finish in late August. This 6 day period I got almost 80 miles in. Now you big time Ultra runners that are my friends that read this will find it hard to believe but that is the most miles I have ever ran in one week. Yep that's it. Most miles ever. I think for a big guy like me too many miles will really hurt me over time. But with my goal I am going to push it this summer. Hopefully no more injuries will happen. Right now most my uphills my left knee still hurts (2 months+ now), my right ankle hurts when I walk but running on it is fine (strange?). But the good news is for the last two races my head and gut are super after the race. That has been one of my big demons ever since my first marathon 10 years ago. All I can say for now is it has to be the Nuun. I think the carbonation and electrolytes keep my stomach from getting upset. But I also have cut down on the gels and calories. We shall see how all this works out.

Well next up is the PCT 50m in two weeks. My legs are really swollen now. Especially my right one which has had this edema for the last 8 months or so. Coach Nikki had me run 8 miles the day after the race. It was tough but I did walk a bit and ran super slow with Gail. She changed my plan and gave two days of total rest. But the next two days are 10 milers and then 18 and 15 on Saturday and Sunday. So if anyone wants to go long this weekend drop me an email.

It's all about Waldo Bret and getting that stupid hat.

Hmm...I know Gail never gets tired of Hal! (2009)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

I don't need no stinkin' taper!

On the 4th was the annual Foot Traffic Flat Marathon. This race has really grown over the years. It was only a half marathon at first and slowly morphed into a nice holiday adventure. Gail and I signed up only a few weeks ago. I have a marathon, 50k and a 50 mile race in July so this was going to be a "training race". I hired a coach a couple of weeks ago. I felt like I need someone to be accountable too. I picked Nikki due to her references and that she is almost as old as me. She has been a fast road racer but I felt I could still learn from her. My goal as you all know by now is to finish the Waldo 100k in late August. So she knows all my races between now and then are just training. Well except the PCT 50 where I need to break 11 hours to get a WS 100 qualifying time.

Gail and I left with plenty of time to get to the start. Traffic is always bad but this year it was a nightmare! We were stuck two miles from the start in traffic with 45 minutes to go. Two minutes before I got parked they sent the Marathon runners off. Well I was sure glad this was chip timed. Gail was running the half as she is still fighting some nagging injuries. So I walked to the start mat and crossed hearing my chip beep 8 minutes late.

Coach Nikki had me run 10 miles the day before this race. We need the doubles to get my endurance up to a maximum. I wanted to go a tad faster in this race but Nikki said to go out slow. So I ran the first mile at an easy 10 minute pace and then just trotting along at 9:45's. I chatted with some virgin marathoners and wished them well. Saw Larry Macon of 300+ marathon fame. Then I ran with his buddy who has a shirt that said "I'm running with Larry". Nice guy from SoCal and old like me! The time really flew by and next thing I new I was at mile 16 or so. They added a few little climbs in the flat and my legs didn't feel tired at all even after the previous days 10 miles. So about mile 17 I decided to push a bit. I started feeling real good and by mile 19 I was cranking it up big time. I kept waiting for the wall at 2o miles, "nope", 21, "not-ta" 22? Not today. So at mile 22 I put my ipod on 10 and said lets have some fun. So off I went, playing air guitar and drums, singing out of tune and just running fast. I was all sub 8:30 the last 5 miles with mile 25 being at a crazy 8:11 pace. That is just wild for me. I usually am starting to hurt pretty bad but for some reason this just felt so dang good today. Like an easy 10 mile run or so. I think I played some Rob Zombie song from the Matrix about 3 times in 5 miles. Dang this is fun!

I finished in 4:07, pretty good day for me. My plan was 4:10 to 4:20 or so. Talk about negative split, 2:10 on the front 13 and 1:57 on the backside. Ya think I had some gas left??? After the race I felt so great. No stomach issues, no light headed I'm gonna die stuff. Lets eat shortcake and walk around. "Please Mr God can I have days like this more often???" Pulll-lllleeeeeasssse?

So what did I do different. Well my smart, gorgeous and athletic wife has been trying to get me to use Nunn drink supplements for a couple of years. I tried and thought it tasted like Alka Seltzer. Well finally last week I ran a few times with it. So this race I used it on all my water bottles but one. It was good. I gel'd a few times, did some chomps and mixed some water and a few gulps of Heed. It was a cool day so that had to help along with such a flat course. I hadn't run over 18 miles in like 6 weeks so maybe I was rested. Might it have been Nikki's idea for me to go out real slow. I never pushed ultra hard due to the fact I have the tough little SOB 50k in Ashland this weekend. Well whatever it was it worked and it sure was fun to have a day like that.

My previous post questioned what I want to do? Maybe the Marathon is only as far as I should go? We shall see. I did run a little 50k in Salem between this race and Mac Forrest and didn't feel too bad. So might it be Mac is just tough and I had a bad outing? I took no pix of this run so unless I find some online this will be a text only post. C-ya all out there.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Whaaa Haa-pened?

Mac Forest. Yep. Mac Forest. I always think I am ready for it. Six months or so after the last one I think about the course. It isn't that hard. It has a few hills. Then about half way into the race, BOOM! The Jesse Ventura Body Slam to the mat! Dazed and confused I wonder where my energy went, or my quads, or my gut or as this year, my head. Don't ever under estimate "The Power of the Mac, Luke".

So as I am driving in the early morning hours towards Corvallis I am sad again. No Gail with me. This was to be her first attempt at the McDonald Forest 50k. But she is still not up to speed. She has no gas in her tank right now and could not imagine running a race on the trails. So again I travel alone to get my trail fix.

I get there in time to chat with a few folks. It's a nice sunny cool morning. I put my race number on upside down which I don't realize until later. It says 08 but is supposed to be 80. So all day long I confuse the aid station folks. I decide again to use a waist belt as I have lost interest in carrying a bottle on real long runs. I am bringing few gels as I am planning on eating at the AS rather than packing a ton this time. Solid food is more my goal now on Ultras.

Nice pond near the start.

We get a short talk and then about 200 of us take off down the road. I am dead last as usual. I stop and take some pictures and soon everyone is almost out of sight. I like it this way. I hate the crowd on a single track trail the first few miles. I like to run alone or with one or two others. Anymore than that and I might as well run the Portland waterfront at noon on a weekday.

Rare happy time for me this day

Once we get on the trails I have a chance to test my knee. It has been a major pain for about two weeks. I have not been able to go upstairs with out holding on to the railing. Going down or most flats are fine, but up is knife like sharp pain. I ran 7 miles two days prior in San Francisco and after 5 miles or so it didn't hurt. So I am hoping for that here. As I push up the hill every step shoots pain in my knee. I have had lots of knee problems but nothing like this. So I transfer some push off to my good/right leg. I am now officially worried.

Such great trails here.

Soon I start to see the first runner I will pass. My leg still hurts. I ease by and chat for a bit as usual. We keep going up. I walk the steep and run the easy ups. I pass a few more runners as we approach the top, probably a 600 foot climb or so. We drop out into a clear cut and the sun is shining strong. I ease down the hill with caution. I don't want to pressure the knee so I just go at a medium pace. After awhile we are back on the gravel road and have a nice downhill for a mile or so. Again I just go even pace.

Nice view with the clear cut newly planted.

As we climb into AS one my leg is feeling better I think. This is around 7 miles. We start a big climb out of the AS and all feels good in the knee. This is cool I think. Next we drop back down a small old road. This is big down and usually I fly here, but not today. At the bottom its up we go for another good climb. This is what Mac is. No flat, just up and down all the time.

Common roads we run here.

Around mile nine I notice my quads feel a bit tired. Strange as I have done some hill work and had some of my biggest mileage months every the last two months. Maybe it was the 7 mile run two days ago? I usually take at least 3 days off prior to a race. As we wind up "lovely rita" (I hate you Rita!) I chat with a woman from Southern Oregon with a Southern accent. We have a great chat and it helps to cover up the heavy breathing on this big uphill hike. This whole area is by far my favorite section of the race. Lots of single and double track trails. Its tough but fun.

The push to the top of Dimple Hill.

I pass more runners, which many are the early starters. I run into Dr. T and his dad and we chat for a bit. The course has only a tad of mud. I would hate this place if it was really raining. Boy it would be a tough one.

We now hit the big climb up Dimple Hill, which tops out at 1500 feet. So we get about a 1100 foot climb. At the top the "Where's Waldo 100k" folks have the body builder theme going on. The gummi bears say "human growth hormone" and they have many other performance enhancing drugs for us to take. (Just kidding! Jeez!) It is all good for a laugh. Sad thing is, I am not laughing. I am tired. I take some more S caps, drink my Starbucks Double Shot, eat half my cheese and turkey sandwich and head down the downhill. I don't even feel like running. I just feel...blah....blah.

View of Corvallis around mile 20

I get to the bottom and walk the first uphill I come to. The fun is gone. Now its work. I wish I had gas. I take a gel. I drink some more. I am more thirsty than usual so I think maybe I have taken too many salt tabs. I walk allot now. I notice the huge amounts of poison oak, it is everywhere off the trail but you are fine as long as you stay on the path. I only run downhills now. I get into AS at mile 22 or so and eat a bit and head out. Now many folks are passing me. I am the slug now. I get a little running in on the mile or so downhills before the horse trail climb. This trail kills me every year and this year was no different. As we climb from about 300 feet up to 1300 or so I bet I walk all but 500 yards or so. I have a major pity party. I am going to quit this. I will DNF at the last AS. My head is light but my gut is fine. I just don't want to do this. How many races do I have to say this???? I mean really. Why do something you don't like? Why do I even run besides the fact I would he obese if I didn't? If I can walk it in it will be about 8 miles. Oh that will take forever! These all things I think.

Ugly, cranky, very white boy!

I finally get to the top of the hill where it dumps out onto a gravel road. I see a big pile of rocks and I go over and sit on it. For 5 minutes I sit. People pass, I rest. It's downhill now but I don't care. I am so done with this crap. I get up. I walk. I trot. I walk. I hate life. I trot. I mumble. I walk. Then I hear the noise of the 26.8 mile AS. So I trot a bit. They hoot and holler as usual. I eat a bit and they ask how I am. I say "I'm tired!" So they suggest I sit down for a bit. I do not argue with them! I chat with a few guys I have seen out on the course at other races. They keep feeding me Dixie cups of Coke. I have 4 or so. Finally after about 15 to 20 minutes I get up. I do feel a tad better. So I waddle out thinking I will just walk the last 4.8 miles to the finish.

The final uphill push at mile 27.

I cross the road and push up the gravel logging road. This gentle climb will be a 1.5 miles or so I think. I am on autopilot now. I just walk. Nothing else. Just walk. Finally at the top I look forward to a trot. Not bad...I continue to trot. As it goes downhill I enjoy the run, well sort of. At least I don't hate it anymore. Soon I hit the trail again. We have one last uphill climb. Then a 1.5 mile screaming downhill. I just cruise. No pushing today. I pass a few and one passes me. I finally hear the finish line crowd. I cross the line in 7:31:18. My worst/slowest time ever for any 50k I have ever done. 31 minutes slower than my Mac time in 2007. An hour slower than two years ago.

As I walk around I don't really feel real bad. My gut is usually making me dizzy but I don't have that. I go and eat some pasta and cookies. It tastes good. I am thirsty and drink a few cans of Mango juice. I don't know what hit me today. Maybe I didn't eat enough? But my gut felt so much better. Maybe too much salt? Maybe the 7 mile run the other day? Maybe cause I am 50 and weigh almost as much as I ever have. All these questions.

On my drive home I feel real good. I eat more cookies. I open the sunroof. I enjoy life. I worked hard to get ready for this race. I don't have the time to train like many I know. I have other interests other than the running. But it is one of my passions. Ask me why I couldn't tell you. It is just part of me I guess. And yes I will run again. And of course it will suck. I do know I need to evaluate what is the max distance I should run. I just think anything over 35 miles or so is really hard for me on the trails. So maybe I should stop at the 50k mark. I never want to get to the point where I don't like it. The year or so I was running a ton of half marathons I think was the most enjoyable running of my life. I love that distance. You can push hard but still have to be in cruise mode. You get an awesome workout but you are not exhausted at the finish. Maybe that is where I need to be? But I know I will always be out there.