If you've been a reader of this blog you know that running this race has been a long time coming for me. Marc and I ran the 50k (when that was still an option) in 2006 as our first ultra. Completing this 50 mile race has been a goal for me ever since. My training the early part of this year was not as I hoped. But as the race started to fill up in May, I took a leap of faith and registered. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
|Once again we camped at one of our favorite spots, clear blue-green Clackamas Lake|
|At the early start with Jodi who camped with us. So. Much. Fun.|
Of course, I took the early start at 5:30 am. As you can see in the pictures I was wearing my headlamp, but didn't need it at all and soon stashed it in the back pocket of my race vest. My plan was to carry one bottle for the first 28 mile section and then pick up another bottle when I came back through the start/finish.
|We didn't plan it but I ended up running much of the race with Desiree|
The first miles were glorious. Everyone took off except a few of us slow pokes and I was just enjoyed myself taking it all in. Within the first mile the trail opened up to a field full of white flowers, gently glowing in the misty pre-sunrise light. Wow! I couldn't help exclaiming out loud to no one in particular: "This is what it's all about!" I wore my Garmin but really didn't want to focus on it too much. I mainly wanted it to see my pace and try to stay at or under 14 minute miles.
For the first 6 miles I ran close with friends Jodi, Laura and Desiree. I know Desiree from Daily Mile, but we had never met in real life before. At the 6 mile Little Crater Lake aid station, I went ahead, but Desiree eventually caught up to me at the next aid around mile 10. From then on we were pretty much together the rest of the race. We never actually agreed to run together, but Desiree seemed happy to let me lead and we waited for each other at the aid stations. It worked out perfectly and it was really nice to have someone to push me and keep me company, especially over the more difficult south section.
The first 28 mile section went really well. We ran a lot of sections that I remember walking the first time I did this course at the 50k back in 2006. We seemed to be moving well, but it didn't seem that difficult. We ended up back at the start/finish by 11:25 --- under 6 hours and with a 12:38 overall pace for the first section. I had told Marc that I would be there at 11:30 at the earliest but more like noon, so he and the LG weren't there. I didn't really expect to need much help from them but it would have been nice to see them. However, my friend Rose was there and she was a rock star crew. While I was rummaging through my drop bag, she had my bottles filled lickity split, just right.
|Happy to be off!|
The second portion - 22 miles south - was all new territory for me. After we left the start/finish, we ran for a few miles and then I suddenly hit a real slump. Desiree may have felt the same way. I had been eating a lot of gels and some bananas and oranges at the aid stations, but really wasn't taking in a lot of solid food. My stomach was starting to go a little sour. Unfortunately, the forest service folks that oversee this section have put a lot of odd restrictions on this race. No pre-cooked foods are allowed so they couldn't have boiled potatoes at the aid stations. I usually live on the potatoes, but also like larabars so I had plenty in my drop bags. They had them at the aid stations too, but I made the mistake of trying a new flavor that turned out to be vile - apple cinnamon. I had to spit it out and from that point on couldn't stomach the thought of another larabar, even the flavors I liked.
Anyway, I choked down a gel, drank some more nuun and I started to feel better. I was really glad I picked up the second bottle. One was just fine on the first section, but the temps were rising and I had drained my first bottle well before the next aid station. We started the first long climb and the power walking helped take the edge off so I could feel myself recovering. Along this section to the Red Wolf Pass aid station we were passed by our friend Sarah B. who was totally killing her first 50 miler (she finished sub 10 hours). Bret also caught up from the regular start and passed us. Always great to see him out on the trail!
After Red Wolf Pass the trail descended and we caught up to and passed a few friends from the early start, Jeannie and Stephanie. I loved the downhill, but was already dreading the climb back up. At the bottom we dipped our heads and bandanas in the cool creek water and then it was time to climb up again to the Warm Springs Meadows aid, which was also the turnaround. I really wanted to eat something solid but nothing really appealed. I finally tried a pretzel but it was so dry I could barely choke it down. The aid stations were out of oranges and the bananas were getting slimy in the heat, so I vowed to keep pounding the gels. Stephanie and Jeannie caught up to us while we were there and then left right before us so we followed them down the hill to the creek. We stopped again to splash some cool water. Desiree was covered in dirt and I imagined I looked the same way. I couldn't help telling Desiree she looked like a total badass. And it was true. Here she was, hitting the 40 mile mark on her first trail run over 50k and she was still going strong. Except for the dang bees which were vicious and on the hunt, I never once heard a complaint out of her!
The climb back up to Red Wolf Pass was difficult but not as long as I remembered, thank goodness. On this climb we caught up to Stephanie and Jeannie again and then hung behind them for awhile. Finally, Desiree pulled around and we passed and picked it up a little bit. I was so glad to finally reach the top because it was our final climb and the rest of the way would be mostly downhill or flat. I was surprised that we passed Bret just before the Red Wolf Pass aid station. He was having a little slump but was able to revive at the aid station and still get his Western States qualifier.
|Looking pooped with a quarter mile to go.|
At the aid station, they were running out of water and only let us have one bottle full. Fortunately we only had 5-ish miles to go and a lot of it was downhill so it worked out okay. We cruised down the hill, but once we hit the flats I started to poop out again. Funny how this was the same place that I had my low spot going the other way. I still had good energy, but I was getting that late in a race feeling that if I pushed it too much harder I'd faint to the side of the trail. I chock it up to lack of training. So despite being on the flats, we power walked a lot and ran in spurts as we could. My garmin had been off all day, so we could only guess how much farther we really had to go. But we knew it was close and we started looking for landmarks.
|Thank goodness for a few final downhills|
|The final little hill before he hit the pavement|
Finally we got to the spot that hairpins down before the cutoff to the trail around the campground. We turned off and had a mile or less to go. We saw another sign that said it was a half mile to the ranger station and we were like horses smelling the hay in the barn. And then there was Marc around the next corner, taking pictures and encouraging us along. I was positive I would cry crossing the finish line. Sure enough as we hit the pavement I started to hyperventilate a little bit. I could hear the cheers and I was so excited to finally be finishing this race!
|So nice to make that final turn to the finish|
|Coming in for the finish|
As soon as I crossed the finish line, I bent over and started dry heaving. That was totally unexpected, but I must have given it my all those last few yards. I had to sit right down and I dry heaved a few more times, but was fine within 5 minutes.
|Enjoying nature's ice bath|
Not long after we headed over to the creek for a cold dip. So refreshing and it took only 10 seconds in that clear water to feel clean and revived.
|My favorite oar boy - wearing his Mt Hood 50 shirt from last year|
|So peaceful on clear blue-green Clackamas Lake|
The day after it's easy to second guess and think I could have pushed harder here or should have done better there. But I think I did as well as I could on the training I've done this year. The last few miles I was thinking never again. Now I'm thinking, how can I improve.