Monday, May 31, 2010

PCTR Forest Park 50K - 2010 version

This race kicked my butt! I finished in 6:56:34, which is about 23 minutes slower than 2007 when I ran this a week after the MacDonald Forest 50k. I'm still trying to decide how I feel about it. I should be happy that I'm able to participate. Heck, less than a year ago I couldn't even walk a 5k without pain, let alone (mostly) run a 50k. So yeah, I should be happy about that. I'm really, really trying to be happy about that. But I'm extremely bugged that my knee continues to give me problems somewhere between 15 and 20 miles. I need to figure out what's going on. It's not an injury, per se, because it resolves fairly quickly with a little rest. But there has to be a muscle imbalance or gait issue that I'm not addressing correctly.

Yes, it rains a lot in the Pacific Northwest, but this May has been atypical. It has rained A LOT, and not just sprinkles and intermittent showers, but thunderstorm and buckets type of rain. In particular, this past week there was a lot of heavy rain. Fortunately, the forecast for race day was pretty good, but I was expecting mud. And yes, there was mud. But this wasn't May mud, or even April mud. It was Jan/Feb, wet sloppy, puddly, slippery, deep, shoe sucking mud.

I decided to start slow, especially since they sent the 200 or so 20k'ers off with us 50k runners. The first 10k up to Firelane 1 and the first AS is mostly uphill. I walked a lot but ran some of the smaller hills and straights. This section is never that muddy, but it was muddy in spots and some people ahead of me were hesitating, so I had to pass them. I can't stand can't tiptoe through the mud. And compared to what was ahead, these mud puddles were nothing. I carried one bottle of nuun and since the aid stations were about 10k apart, my plan was to finish off a bottle between aid stations. It was cloudy with temps in the 50's (60's by the end), so on a warmer day this might not have worked.

The second 10k (from WW M11 to top of Saltzman Road) was the muddiest. For awhile I was hanging behind a group that was just about my speed, maybe a bit slower. But I wasn't ready to pass because it was kind of nice to draft along. But then another faster group came up behind me and I hung with them. They were going the perfect speed, not too fast for me but definitely moving along steadily. The gal right in front of me would alert me to sticks and other obstacles on the trail. That so reminded me of when Sharon and I used to run the trails together. Once we hit Saltzman Rd., they walked and I kept jogging the less steep sections. (I never saw them again, but there aren't many behind me on the finisher's list so I wonder what happened to them.) It was on the way up Saltzman that my medial left knee started bothering me. I wonder if the transition from running to walking has anything to do with it. Because at the Tacoma Marathon, my knee problems began when I started to do more walking too.

I left the Saltzman AS by myself and didn't see another soul for quite awhile. I can't recall now how my knee felt during this time. But it had probably gotten better. Once I was back on Wildwood, not missing the turn up Trillium trail was pretty much all I was thinking about. I saw some other non-race runners out, but otherwise had the trail to myself. The hike up Trillium was steep. At the top, I walked some more to eat the payday I had grabbed from the aid station. At this point I realized I didn't really feel like eating. I had brought along some ginger candies so sucked on one of those instead. Soon I got to the super steep, oil line. Someone called it ass-scraper and this is an apt description. You either need to totally bomb down and likely slide on your bum, or carefully step down. I choose the careful route and it was slow going. I finally caught a glimpse of another racer (it had to be a racer, no regular runner would choose this route!) down below taking careful steps too. And then I heard a voice above shout, "How did you get down there?" from a woman who was being careful, but was moving quicker than me. Finally I made it to the bottom without mishap. We had about a mile on Leif before we had to turn up for more climbing again. I leaped frogged with the other woman, but she finally went ahead as we turned up the trail. As I started up the trail I saw the guy (who I found out was Matt), coming from the other direction of Leif. He has missed the trail, but had discovered his mistake before going too far.

Matt and I walked up, up, up, back Firelane 5 to the Saltzman aid station. After we crossed Wildwood, we actually ran into some racers that were just coming down from Saltzman. Wow, I was surprised that there were still racers that far behind us. I wonder too, if they actually finished. At the aid station, I decided to go with just water since my stomach was feeling slightly queasy. Matt and I stuck together but we didn't have a chance to talk until we were running back down Saltzman again. It was his first ultra and he had never run a marathon either. In fact his longest run to date was 22 miles, just two weeks ago. Kudos to him! We decided that finishing and having fun was an ideal goal for this race. At this point, I was feeling my knee again. But soon after we got on Wildwood again, it feel fine. Matt and I ran together until I had to take a pit stop. But I caught up to him not long after and we leaped frogged a bit. I was faster through the mud. It seemed more sane to run straight through, rather than risk slipping by trying to hug the edges. He was faster on the (few) mud-less downhills.

Finally we were back on Firelane 1 and the final aid station. I looked at my watch for the first time and saw 5:30ish. Under normal circumstances I could have done this final section in about an hour. But this turned out to be the worst part of the race for me. It was mostly downhill, which aggravated my knee. And when it got steep I really had to put the breaks on, which gave me a vicious side stitch. Also, I had stopped eating about 10 miles before so my energy was low. So this last section, which should have been fun, was tortuous and seemed never ending. When I got to the stone house and the turn back to the finish I looked at my I knew I'd at least break 7 hours if I didn't totally blow it. I gingerly made my way along the rocky trail and was happy to see a few people left. They even said "Good job, Sarah" as I crossed the finish. Gotta love the personal touch! Matt finished just a minute or two behind me.

I hung around for a few minutes, drank a coke and had come Cheeto's. Back home, I was so wiped out I hardly had enough energy for a shower. I just wanted to lay down! I think the last time I felt this tired after a race was after some of my earlier marathons.

So there's another one for the books (my 10th ultra, 23rd marathon/ultra combined), but it wasn't pretty. My knee is less painful today, but still stiff. I'll skip tomorrows run, but will likely be able to go out Wednesday or Thursday. I need to figure this out and may make a trip to my chiropractor who is really a genius on bio-mechanics. Yes, that's what I need to do. I also plan to tape my knee for all my runs over 15 miles. And I need to just keep training and cross-training. Overall, my mileage is still low and I need to build a more consistent base. I'm getting there. My mileage for the year has been: January - 102; February - 127; March - 102; April 117; May - 162.

And maybe, just maybe, I should be less hard on myself. Enjoy where I'm at, but keep striving for where I want to be.


olga said...

Sarah, I think you OUGHT to be happy, while still figuring out the knee problem. A year ago we were all afraid you'll never run again. I was pulling for you, but had no idea how you are mainatining your positive attitude while can't run s step for a year! Look at you now! We all get aches and pains, and eventually they go away (and the new come). But the part that we CAN...this is special:)

Joe said...

Excellent race report, Sarah... I appreciate (and can identify with! ) all the reflection and introspection. You are not a newbee runner, so you know what is possible. You are also Very Dialed In to what your legs feel like. So, all of this makes sense.

The knee taping and trip to your biomechanics guru sounds wise.

I'd also suggest the fatigue may have simply been the combo of the mud and the lower training base. I wouldn't read too much into that.

Be thankful you have all this to think about!! And be thankful you correctly locked your car!!!!!!

grrlpup said...

Great report! My knee gave me grief and I had to walk the last 80 percent of the race, so maybe I was one of the stragglers you saw. I squeaked in 15 minutes before cutoff and there were one or two people behind me, so I dunno why the posted results end at about 7h30min.

Beautiful weather and friendly people, but I was still very glad to see the stone house on the way back! :)

Backofpack said...

Good job Sarah - like everyone else has said, it's just thrilling to hear you are back at it! I think course/weather conditions also play a big part in how fast you go on a particular day. Hopefully you'll find a way to manage that knee so you can keep cranking them out.

Gretchen said...

Awesome job, Sarah! I admire you for handling all that mud - I suck at that. Those conditions could also be part of the culprit for aggravating the knee. Regardless, rest up and take care of it. You should definitely be proud!

Bret said...

You did good. When you fight pain like your knee it is always bound to slow you down a bit. It sounds like the typical Ultra battle, the pains we all have, maybe I should eat more but I cant cause my stomach feels like crap, and on and on. I could have put my name on your post as it sounds oh so familiar. But when you are in those shoes you feel like its only you going through this.
I think you should be pretty happy that you are back on the trail. I am sure after a couple more races you will be back to the level you want to be at. I say congrats on finishing a tough race.