Sunday, January 18, 2009

Becoming A Mega-Fat Ass

My sister and her family are moving to the East Coast next month and so we wanted to get up to Fort Lewis one more time to visit. I noticed the Capitol Peak Mega Fat Ass run on MLK weekend, and so I was thinking "two-birds, one stone."

Saturday morning was chilly and the weather forecast didn't have it getting much warmer as the day progressed, but at least there wasn't any rain in the forecast. I arrived earlier than I wanted, did a bunch of nothing, then got in line for the ONE bathroom and almost missed the start because it was moving so slowly.

Being a true Fat Ass, there was no fanfare at the start, just the RD saying, "OK, go!" The course went uphill a couple hundred yards on a dirt road and then hit the trails. The course had been changed this year due to a lot of snow and a section of washed out trail, but there was still plenty of mud and water to splash around in, and at the higher elevations the trail tracked through snow, some of it quite slushy.

The course has one big climb, which I climbed sandwiched between two other runners - it took the mental out of it with one runner pulling me from the front and one pushing from behind! We had a good threesome going for a bit, but I had a bit more in my step than the person in front of me, and even in this non-competative environment I was quite aware that she was the first place girl.;) So I pushed on ahead and the other guy stayed right behind me. We ran for a good while together, hopping puddles, jumping a few logs, but more or less just holding a good groove.

When we hit the detour onto the dirt road he had more speed than me and took off. At 1:28 I saw a sign pointing the opposite way saying "Mima Camp (our start) 6.8 miles" which freaked me out at first thinking we had only gone 6.8 miles, but then I realized that must have been for the direct route and we had to have come a more circuitous path! About 20 minutes later, I came on another sign, pointing the way I was going, that said "Mima Camp 2 1/4 miles." Now how's that for covering some serious ground in 20 minutes -hahaha. I finished up the first lap in 2:05 - the first girl in for 15 miles.

Pretty much all of the runners that were near me took the 15 mile option, and I was heading out for loop 2 on my own. But when I hit the ascent I looked back and saw three guys just a turn below me and a bit later they were all together moving up the hill. I expected the three of them working together to catch me and I was kind of hoping they would so I'd have someone to run with again, but they never did. After getting up on the ridge, the space between us just got bigger. I never really saw them again out there and so I ran the second loop entirely by myself. Fortunately, the trails were great single track. In several places the trail was so narrow the brush was groping me from both sides! Plus there was tons of mud and puddles, and even a dozen or so downed trees to either hurdle or duck so there was plenty to keep my mind busy while I was running. And even better - on the second lap there was sun, which was great but it made running under trees very wet as the frost and ice melted off and came down in big icy drops.

I walked very little all day, maybe only a couple hundred tough uphill yards where I wouldn't have been able to run much faster than a walk anyway. I felt pretty good at the end and even had a bit left for a "sprint" finish for a total time of 4:16.

Now I know the whole purpose of a "fat ass" run is to be a non-competitive, early season motivator, but I am hurting for ticks in the W column, so I am going to go ahead and claim TWO victories for my efforts on this one - a win in the 15 mile race and a win in the 30 mile race. The web site advertises: "No awards, No t-shirt, No aid, No frills and NO WHINING!" but no where in there does it say "No winners!" Heck, I might as well go ahead and claim a course record, too, since this is a new course that has never been used before!!

More important than the wins though (which really weren't important at all, though it was a little fun), is that I felt like this cemented the direction I want to take my running this year (which, ironically, is not on cement, but rather on trails!). I really love running on the trails; even the uphill stuff doesn't seem so bad. And now with three ultra-finishes under my belt, I am beginning to feel legit as an ultra-runner, instead of just a wanna-be. Plus, I feel amazing today. Ok, maybe not totally amazing, but I can't believe how good my legs feel. After the California International Marathon, I was hobbling for days because I was so sore. I just don't have any of that after this one. I am not sure if it is the slower pace or the softer terrain, but it made a huge difference even though I was running farther.

With the Fat Ass I got in 72.5 miles this week (an all time high by 12.5 miles!) and I had 60 miles the week before. I am going to back off a little this week, though it still feels a little strange to call a 40-50 mile week "backing off!"

Added: Results are here. I got 3rd overall out 35, first female. Not too shabby even for a Fat Ass!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Cascade Crest Half-Marathon

"Oregon's only half-marathon in January" (as the flier says) took place in the next town over, so I found myself toeing the starting line this past Sunday. I was coming off a pretty hard week for me (60 miles), but I turned my usual one day of rest into two, so I was rested, but not tapered.

The race started in fog and drizzle, on an out and back course along country roads. I was hoping to run comfortably, but also wanted to go under 1:30. I hit the first mile in 6:48 and was worried that I went out a tad too fast, I did a 6:55 second mile into a strong headwind, but after that was very consistently hitting 6:43 - 6:48 pace.

At the half way point a guy was calling out times - 44:39. I knew I was trying to get under 1:30 and my first thought was, "Not going to happen!" The negative attitude had an opposite effect on my running as I put in my fastest mile of the day at mile 7, a 6:32. Seeing everybody at the turn, I knew I was the second woman and I think the add pressure made me pick it up, but then I was right back to my 6:48 pace. My penultimate mile was 6:55 - the exact same time I ran that mile going the other way, when I was claiming a head wind. So shouldn't I have had a tailwind?? Maybe I can try to claim it was uphill! Really I think I was just getting a little tired. I reminded myself I only had about a mile to go and so pushed a bit harder on the final stretch, crossing the line at 1:29:19. I ran each half in 44:39 and 44:40 - pretty good pacing, I think!

I did hold on for second woman. Woohoo - another second place finish to add to my "first loser" status! I was a gaping 4 minutes behind the winner, so I can't evn claim that it was a close race for first! The results got messed up, with a couple of early start women being credited with a time 1 hour less than their actual - so I only got an award for second in my age group! Fortunately, all the awards were the same for everyone (a medal); I'll just have to make my own (correct!) sticker for the back!

The race was somewhat symbolic, since I did the 10K exactly a year ago really as the first step to re-entering the world of running after several years off. Each half of this race (6.55 miles) was about 11 minutes faster than my untrained 10K (6.25 miles) from that day. That served as a good reminder of my progress.

After the race, I thought it'd be the Badass-Ultrarunner thing to do to run home (9.3 miles), while my friend (who I carpooled with) agreed to take my stuff home. I started off walking a bit as I ate and drank a little to get my energy up, and then started plodding home. By about mile 7, I wasn't feeling quite so badass, in fact, it was more like dumbass! I walked the last few little uphills (and they were little uphills, but they felt big!) but made the whole trip in 1:18, and even managed to beat my friend home (who stayed for the awards). Let me tell you, I slept like a log that night!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Into the New Year

I took New Year's off - it is a holiday after all - but I've gotten in 30 miles in the last three days. I am trying to embrace that "ultra-runner" mind-set, but it is difficult to buck some of those "road-runner" notions. For example, today I signed up for the Cascade Half Marathon, thinking I could use it as a training run. But part of me has a hard time planning to do a race at less than my best effort, thinking things like,"shouldn't I at least taper a little bit. If I have a decent race, I have a good shot at placing." I keep reminding myself that I am focusing on the longer stuff this year and not to get caught up in race mentality. So the plan is no taper, but I am going to go easy on Saturday before the race instead of doing the usual long run. To make up for taking it easy the day before, I've got it in my head that I will hitch a ride to the start and then run home (8-10 miles, I think - I haven't mapped it out yet). That just seems like an ultra-runner thing to do.

And then to stop being such a wanna-be, I got all the plans lined up for the Capitol Peak Mega-Fat Ass. The 8 mile loop course seems like a pretty safe place to start. With options to stop early, though, I am worried that it might be a little too safe a start! Even still, at least I'll be getting out there and getting some good trail mileage in. If I do manage to complete the 34 miles, it'll be my 3rd Ultra finish, which I think lends a bit of legitimacy in calling myself an ultra-runner for the rest of the year. So here's to lots more miles in 2009!