Yesterday I completed the Defiance 50k, a new race held in Point Defiance Park in Tacoma and directed by maniac #3. I've had my eye on it for a few months and finally decided to register for it after McKenzie when I realized it would be a good last training run for Autumn Leaves. Actually, I thought it was going to be flatter than it was. But despite the hills it was still fairly runnable.
Since the race didn't begin until 8 am, I was able to drive up to Tacoma from Portland the morning before the race. I woke up at 3:30 and was on the road by 3:55. I arrived at the start around 7 am and snagged a good spot by the beach where the course would pass the parking lot. It was still dark and I could see the lights across the sound. It was a chilly morning, probably around 40 degrees with a steady wind, but it was going to be a beautiful day.
The race consisted of three loops with an aid station halfway through the loop and at the start/finish. See my previous post for a look at one loop of the course. The overall elevation gain/loss was 4177 ft. While there weren't any long, huge climbs, there were a lot of ups and downs. Many were runnable, at least on the first loop, but there were a few grunt hills that were pretty steep. The trail itself was soft and pine-covered. It reminded me a lot of Forest Park's Wildwood trail, but was even cushier and less hard-packed in spots. And like Forest Park, at times you felt like you were in deep wilderness and other times civilization was right at hand, especially when the trail peaked out at the edges of the point and we were treated to views of the sound, Narrows, and islands.
My goal was to keep my pace at 12 minute miles or faster. I was successful the first loop, which I ran in 2:01:49. But I knew I'd likely slow the next lap since I had run many of the hills that would likely be walkers in subsequent loops. At the start of the second loop, I felt a sudden tiredness and my mood deteriorated. The thought of running two more loops seemed daunting. I think I was just feeling the effects of getting up so early. I took a gel and reminded myself that low points are part of the process and I'd likely feel better. I hadn't brought along my music since I make it a practice to not wear my iPod on trails. But about this time I was regretting this decision. My pace started to creep up to the 12 minute mark and over and I couldn't help a few "I suck" thoughts.
My time for the second loop was 2:13:44. However, that included about a half mile of bonus mileage. Particularly in the second half of the loop, the course wound around quite a bit. I generally have an excellent sense of direction, but there were times when I had no idea where I was or whether I was heading north, south, east or west. And there were so many turns it was hard to recognize landmarks even having just run the same loop. I was enjoying a bit of gradual downhill, trying to pick up my pace, when I was struck with a strong side stitch. I was concentrating hard on getting rid of it and trying to run through it, when I missed a right turn and kept going straight. The course was really well marked, with chalk lines across trails we shouldn't go on. Well, I ran right across one of those lines without noticing it. Soon I suspected I was off course when realized I wasn't seeing any more pink ribbons. Then I knew for sure when I came to a junction and saw markings for the trail coming a different way and taking a different turn. So I headed back, feeling mad at myself for the time lost. The one good thing was that my side stitch went away with the adrenaline surge from trying to get back on course.
The sun came out and my mood picked up for the third loop, which I completed in 2:14:36. I was resigned to the reality that I wasn't going to get my overall sub 12 minute pace, but I wanted to keep a steady pace. I was a little concerned that I hadn't pee'd yet. I decided to take the time to stop at a restroom and squeezed out a few dribbles. Very odd for me to not have to pee. I had been filling my bottle with water at each aid station, but I hadn't been totally draining it, so I wasn't exactly sure how much I had drunk. But the small amount I was able to pee wasn't dark so I decided to not worry about it and be glad I didn't have to stop so much. I arrive at the last aid station at about 5 hrs 28 minutes and decided that my goal was to finish under 6:30. I still had the steepest hills ahead so I knew it would be a push. This was also the part with the most turns so I really tried to not lose my head and space out. The last little bit of the course you had to climb down a steep trail, with a fixed rope and then it was about 50-100 yards of flat running to the finish. I arrived at the top of the climb with 6:28 on my watch and hoped I still had time to make it. I skied down the hill as fast as I could and at the bottom my watch was 6:29:27. I sprinted hard (yeah, I probably left too much in the tank), but I saw the clock click over the 6:30 mark.
My official time was 6:30:11. While I still feel that I'm really darn slow on trails, I have to be happy about that since it's a 3 minute trail 50k PR for me. Except for races, I haven't done a lot of trail work this year so I guess that's pretty good. My next two races are flat road races, so I'm concentrating on road work for the rest of the year. Come January, I need to assess what I want for 2011 and maybe working on improving my trail times and distances will be my goal.
Physically I felt pretty good at the end of the race, but I had zero appetite for the lovely, catered, barbecue meal. I talked with TP and Jenny for a few minutes, grabbed some watermelon, changed, and then hit the road. I drank a bottle of water and a small container of chocolate soymilk. At home I had part of a beer, more water and some tea. Usually after an ultra, I'll eventually have to pee like crazy. This never happened. I thought I was retaining water, but I think I just didn't drink enough. Thankfully this wasn't a problem with the cool weather, but it's something I'll need to be more mindful of in the future. Today I feel great and ready to taper for Autumn Leaves. We may go on a family hike later this afternoon. If not I'll head around the neighborhood for a short recovery run.
I'm not sure if I'll run this one again, but that doesn't mean I don't recommend it. For $65 ($55 if you register early), I got a well marked, scenic, chip timed trail race. The aid stations were well stocked with helpful volunteers and there was a full barbecue lunch at the finish. For swag, we got a really nice Brooks vest and a ceramic coffee cup (that I've already used twice!) with the race logo on it. They even announced my name when I crossed the finish line!