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.