Monday, May 11, 2009

MacDonald Forest 50K

Last Saturday was The MacDonald Forest 50k, and even though it didn't have the distance for a Capitol Peak redemption, I was stil hoping to have a good race. Goals: don't get lost and go under 5:20.

I had the pleasure of joining the Corvallis trail runners three weeks ago to preview the upper 20 miles of the course, which I thought would give me a good start in achieving my first goal, but I was surprised how unfamiliar some of the trail looked! Fortunately, the course was above and beyond well marked, so it was absolutely impossible to get lost. Some of the junctions practically had neon signs pointing the way!

The race started on a logging road and I was maybe a wee bit faster than I should have been, but I settled down and soon found myself running with Mike Burke and a few other guys who seemed to be admiring Mike's butt. I was enjoying the comedy on the uphill, but at that point Mike was behind me so I didn't get a chance to see what all the fuss was about. ;)

By the time I hit Lewisberg Saddle, I was running in third for the women which seemed about right since I knew there were at least two women in the race who were faster than me. I was wearing the Nathan pack I won at Peterson Ridge, even though it turned my back into hamburger at Capitol Peak. But I still haven't done anything to rectify my distaste for hand-helds and I did like the way the pack held so much other stuff. So I decided to employ my husband's favorite anti-chafing technique: medical tape. It worked great, except I had new lower back chafing. I may just have to tape my entire back next time! Anyway, I didn't need anything from the Aid Station, so I didn't even stop.

I walked very little until I hit The Maze and then it was one big walk-fest. Some courses advertise the number of switchbacks the course includes to emphasize the toughness of the climb, but there are no switchbacks in The Maze, just straight ups and straight downs. I didn't mind it much on the ups but on the muddy downhills, I would have been happy to see a switch back or two! At the second Aid Station, I got my pack filled and then it was up a road and back into The Maze. About a mile and a half later, a course marshall offered encouragement: "Keep it up. You are almost done with the maze." Well, either I was going A LOT slower than she thought or she had a warped sense of "almost done" because it took me another 22 minutes to get off those zig-zagging muddy little game trails. Even though there is still a bit of a climb up to Dimple Hill, the logging road was such a welcome running surface at that point, I didn't feel the need to walk much of it. Plus, there were several encouraging signs like: "Nobody f*cks with Jesus" to keep me motivated to get to The Big Lebowski themed aid station on Dimple Hill.

Jesus (in purple jumpsuit and stocking cap) was welcoming people in and the Dude (donning a bathrobe) manning the food table. "How about a White Russian?" he asks me. "Now you're talking, " I joke back, grabbing my pack and heading out. After I finished, I realized they really were serving white Russians up there and I missed my free cocktail!

Heading to AS#4 at Chip Ross - women's leader Darla Askew passes me going the other way, which means she is 2+ miles ahead of me. She has got a huge smile on her face and she doesn't even look like she is sweating!

After Chip Ross, there is another big climb (this one with switchbacks) that frustrates me a bit because both times I have done it, I have felt like I should be running more of it than I actually do, especially since the trail is wide and smooth. Fortunately, I ran into Olga on this section and she was living it up and even took my picture!

(photo from Olga)
During training, the Corvallis group warned me to save something for the last climb. "It's really not that bad, but you'll see a lot of people walking the whole thing at that point in the race." Hmmm - I don't think I followed this advice too well, that very gradual climb felt tough! I saw an early start woman up ahead and I could't catch her until we hit the downhill, because I was SLOW on the uphill! But on the down I felt good and I was starting to check my watch trying to figure out if I was going to break 5:20.

The road finally turns back on to a trail, with a sign: "1.64 miles to go." Dang! I was really hoping it was only 1.5! But I had 17 minutes and was optomistic that I could make my goal, until I saw that the trail headed straight UP! I start power hiking and I am checking my watch like every ten seconds. The trail becomes a little less steep, I try to run and then the trail heads downhill again. I am feeling good and I think I am picking up time. I pass a guy and think I am encouraging him: "Only one mile to go!" but really I think those words were for me. 45 seconds later I see a sign that says just that - 1 Mile to Go! - once again, just a bit longer than I thought! It is 5:11:06. A nine minute mile is not hard, I tell myself. I wouldn't have believed that after 30 miles, except the trail is a nice gradual downhill and I was still doing ok with downhill at that point. I start cruising, almost take a fall, groan at a little baby uphill, and then finally I see the finish: 5:19:34! As far as racing goes, it was pretty boring: After mile 3 when we had all settled into our own paces, I never passed or got passed by another woman (excluding early starters) and finished up third (27th/162 overall).

Finish line festivities were great and the sun felt amazing. So did the free massage table! I did miss the free beer on the way out of town, as it was being distributed on the South bound road and I was going North to Salem - That's two free drinks I missed out on (and that is really all I need, I am such a lightweight!). But there were no falls, no getting lost and I went under my goal time - a good day all around!

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