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!


Sarah said...

Great report! Yes, sometimes a successful race isn't about the time, although you had a pretty good time too. Not far off your course PR. Your enthusiasm, positive attitude, and training will carry you to the finish of Waldo!

olga said...

Wow, what an ending to the post! Waldo is going to happen. All you have to do is be smart, patient and bull-minded towards the end. Just like you were at PCT:)

Anonymous said...

It was so much fun to help a friend make some kind of transition easier!! Great Job!!

Kate said...

Great RR - loved the suspense. I was working the Start/Finish and I'm sorry I missed seeing you there. Good job! I ran that section hard last year too, for the same reason, but missed 11 hours by about 5 minutes. I really know how happy you must have been.