I had another blog post planned before this race came up. I'm still going to write it, but will go ahead and post my race report first. Hopefully my anal-retentive brain doesn't explode!
About a week ago I found myself getting really anxious, and even slightly panicky, about this race. Of course, finishing a 50 mile race is never a certainty. But I had done it before on less training so I was surprised that I was getting so nervous about it. Finally I realized that this race was the first in The Trifecta (Mt Hood 50M, Waldo 100K and Pine to Palm 100M), so it wasn't so much this race I was nervous about but the whole series.
|Ready to run 50 miles? Not! :-)|
Finally a few days before the race I began to calm down. As we like to do, the boys and I headed up to our campsite at Clackamas Lake the day before the race. I ate a good dinner and with no noisy volunteers next to this year even got a restful night's sleep. Up at 4am, ready and over to the start by 5am. Always fun to mingle with the usual suspects and meet new friends too. Before long we were off.
One of my favorite spots of the race is in the first mile, when the trail turns a corner and before us there's a field of daisies. In the early morning light the flowers' glow always brings a smile to my face. I settled into an easy pace. The first 26-28 mile section to Frog Lake and back is very runnable. Last year I ran it in 5:54, which I thought was pretty fast for me. My goal this year was to maintain that pace, but try to improve on the more difficult second section, where I faded last year.
Within the first few miles I noticed that my friend Teri was just ahead of me. Although it was her first 50 miler, Teri is a super strong runner and I was a little surprised that I was that close. I caught up to her and we settled into pace together. I hadn't expected to run with anyone, but it was nice to have the company and we ended up running together the first 34 miles.
|Running with my friend Teri was a pleasure!|
I felt really good the first section but noticed I wasn't drinking as much as I usually do, likely because of the cooler weather and overcast sky. I also didn't start taking any S-caps until an hour or more into the race. In hindsight, this was probably a mistake as I think I got behind on my hydration and salt, which caused some cramping and led to other problems.
When we got close to the ridge, I commented to Teri that this was where the frontrunners from the regular start had passed last year. Sure enough, not long after that, Ian Sharman came bounding down the trail. It was a long time before anyone else passed us, but eventually others followed. And as runners started coming towards us, from both starts, I knew that we were getting close to the Frog Lake AS and turnaround.
|Coming into Frog Lake AS - Photo by Karen Wang|
As we ran down the hill I could hear a man's voice yelling my name but I had no idea who it was. Then I saw Yassine, cheering me into the AS. What a great support he was at the race. I've been going to the Animal Athletics boot camps and Yassine had asked if I wanted an AA shirt to wear at the race. Of course! It could only be good karma and I think that it was. Thanks Yassine!
My other friends Lynn and Karen were working the AS and it was great to see them. In my fluster trying to get to my drop bag and fill my bottle I dropped all my S-caps and Nuun into the dirt. Karen so kindly helped me pick them out of the dirt. Thanks Karen! I drank a V-8 and grabbed my potatoes and peanut butter wrap. The forest service doesn't allow food cooked at home at the aid stations. I love potatoes at races so decided to see if they would work in my drop bags. They did and were pretty much the only solid food, aside from fruit and a few bites of my pb wrap that I ate. Otherwise I ate gels, maybe 8 or 9.
It didn't seem to take long to get back to the start/finish. I'm always amazed at how fast that section seems --- but maybe it's because I've run it numerous times now. We got back in 5:37, which was quicker by 17 minutes for me than last year. For the last few miles my knees had been aching, which was surprising since that's not a feeling I often get in training or races. Once again Marc and the LG missed seeing me here when I came through. It would have been nice, but I wasn't expecting it despite me telling them this time I may be earlier. Lynn was back from her assignment at Frog Lake and was super helpful filling up my bottles. Thanks Lynn! Yassine was here too and gave me a little pep talk that really helped. I had planned to hit the porta-john but saw that Teri was on her way out, so decided to stick with her.
I remember from last year that this next section was where I had felt bonky last year. It starts out flatish but starts to climb up to Red Wolf Pass. Despite being aware and trying to forestall it, this part was definitely my low spot again. Honestly I can't remember how much I actually vocalized to Teri and how much was just the voices in my head. I do know that I vowed to drop out of Waldo and Pine to Palm numerous times. I also decided that I'd much rather just hike the rest of the race. This I do remember telling Teri because I know we decided together that we likely wouldn't make the cut-offs if we did that.
In addition to the mental low, I also noticed that my right glute was cramping up. As I eluded to earlier, I'm pretty sure this was because I was low on salt. I should have started upping the s-caps right then and there. But it took me many hours and miles to figure that out. Due to the glute cramping, my ITB on that side got really tight and my knee was painful and stiff. At the Red Wolf AS (mile 34) I realized I wasn't moving very fast and I told Teri I probably couldn't keep up and she should go ahead without me. She quickly pulled ahead of me, and while I was genuinely happy to see her moving so well, I was a little sad for me that I wasn't moving like I wanted to.
After Red Wolf Pass the trail climbs a bit and then drops down the longest and steepest hill of the race. Unfortunately, due to my tight ITB/painful knee, I had to take it slow and easy down the hill, even walking in spots. This was demoralizing but I decided to just focus on moving. Seeing all the other runners - the super fast already coming back towards me and the regular starters passing me - was a nice diversion. Everyone was so supportive. I've written it before, but I just love that about ultras. I wonder if it's like that everywhere. Near the bottom of the hill, Bret passed me and we had a momentary chat. He was in good spirits and went on to have a great race.
I hit the creek bottom, took a moment to dip my visor in the cold water, and then started the climb up to Warm Springs. Thankfully, this hill seemed shorter and less steep than last year. Despite being out in the, by now, hot sun, the Warm Springs AS was an oasis. No popsicles but they did have ICE! My friend Julie was working this aid station and was super helpful and cheerful. She filled my buff up with ice and got my drop bag for me. Thanks Julie! Rather than bend or stoop to go through my bag I did the one thing I've never done in a trail ultra. I sat in a chair! I felt kind of naughty for doing it, but I only stayed a minute while I got a new supply of potatoes. The best part was sitting stretched out my glute enough that my ITB loosened just a bit and my knee pain subsided some. The pain/tightness wasn't gone but it was enough for me to realize it was just a temporary situation and not an injury. That boosted my spirits! It was also about this time that I realized I should probably start taking more salt and that helped too.
I was able to head back down the hill with a little more ease and confidence. This year the climb back up to Red Wolf Pass seemed long and slow. Rhonda passed me, hiking strongly up the hill and I tried to keep pace. It didn't last long, but her strides gave me inspiration. I could see myself gaining on some of the early starters ahead of me and that kept me moving too. Once I crested the hill, the flattish downhill seemed to take forever. Back at the AS they had more ICE! They filled my bottle with ice and water while I grabbed some fruit. I saw a chair, and I don't know why now, but I took a seat. It worked well at Warm Spring so why not? Almost like a challenge I thought I can sit in this chair momentarily. And I did, was back up within a minute. At this point gels no longer appealed. I figured I could make it the last 5 miles on what was in the tank but I made myself take a banana piece which I slowed mushed during the first mile of this final leg.
Last year I totally ran out of gas on this home stretch. I could shuffle down the hills, but running any uphills or even flats was out of the question. This year I vowed I would run this section. And I did! My knee was killing me again which was so frustrating. But my head felt screwed on straight! No bonky or fuzzy feeling at all. If that darn knee had cooperated I could have flown. As it is, I ran steadily, even catching and passing a few runners (likely regular starters who passed me earlier). I remembered how the flat section in the last 2 miles seems to go on forever. I maybe stopped to walk for a few 20 foot sections, but keep pushing forward. Finally I saw the glorious turnoff to the Miller Trail. I knew it was only a mile or so now, with just a few small uphills to navigate.
|There's Marc filming my finish!|
At this point I finally looked at my watch. It was approaching 11 hours 30 minutes - it would be close. I hiked some of the small hills, but darn if I didn't charge up that last hill to the pavement. I knew by now I'd missed 11:30 but I still wanted to finish strong. It was a great feeling crossing that line and not crumbling over into a dry heave like last year.
|Photo by Karen Wang - Didn't know this woman was there until she passed me. No matter since she was a regular starter.|
Final time: 11:30:45 - a PR by 23 minutes. And despite my struggles on the back "half" I still completed that section quicker by 6 minutes.
I know I can do better. I thought twice was enough, but I may just have to try again next year.