Sunday, May 31, 2009

Western States Camp

What better way to spend a long weekend than running 74 miles on the Western States course with tons of other people who think this is not only normal but great fun??

I stayed with my parents in Lincoln and then took off every morning to run. Camp was AWE-SOME in that the trail was great, the organization was amazing, and the food was fantastic. A mere twenty bucks a day for transportation, fully stocked aid stations, and a hot meal each day after the run - this is not only a great experience, but a great deal!

Day 1: 32 miles from Robinson Flat to Foresthill - a killer day with the two major canyons. The day was hot and I even splashed in a cool mountain stream for a bit, which is pretty rare for me since I usually dread cold water. I was dragging from Michigan Bluff to the finish and I started to worry that I wouldn't be able to handle the mileage over the next two days, so worried I even took a dreaded ice bath. Not sure why I am so loathe to take one - they never bother me all that much.

Day 2: 20 miles from Foresthill to the River. I started out slow and I was definitely feeling the previous day, but I seemed to loosen up quickly. I was just starting to feel good, when I hit my toe on the side of the trail and took one of my hardest falls ever, leaving me with a jagged laceration and some long scrapes down my shin. At the first Aid Station, Tim Tweitmeyer filled my water bottle and he says to me "You've got some blood running down your leg." I nonchalantly tell him I fell. "Well, you can wash it off at the river." That's kind of funny since the river is about seven miles away, but I agree this is what I'll do. I refrain from telling him he is my ultramarathon hero and that I haved put all of my faith in training for the AC100 on his 1996 WS training log. Instead I just thank him for filling my bottle and head off to the river. This whole section only has one little climb and a couple of steep downhills the rest is really runnabale the whole way. There's a party going on at the River Aid station and I take my time. I finally leave with Portlander Larry Stevens, whose done WS before and is in it again this year. Despite that we still go a half milepast the river crossing before we realize we are off course. So we head back and when I get to the river, once again I am in up to my thighs in an instant and splashing water all over myself. It felt great for the climb back up to the bus!

Day 3 (22 miles, green gate to Auburn): Day 3 was maybe the most fun for me because I spent the most time running with other people. I ran quite a bit with Rena Schuman, and by the end of the day I was completely in awe. She is running strong at 48 and going for her 9th WS finish in a couple of weeks. You go girl! I also ran a bit with Greg Smith, a fellow Oregonian, who I think was a bit surprised to see me hanging with him as he told me at least three times that I was running well that day. The highlight of the day was crossing No Hands Bridge. Despite how tired I felt after Day 1, I seemed to be doing OK and even passed 8 people on the climb up to the finish in Auburn.

The whole experience was great and I highly recommend the Western States training camp, even if you have no intention of running Western States. Be warned though: this is no cushy camp. I was completely drained afterwards! I took Tuesday off, swam for an hour on Wednesday because I still didn't feel up to running, and I Thursday I did 3.5 of the slowest and most painful miles I have ever run and that was after getting a massage! I took it easy Saturday, doing only one Mary's Peak loop (14.5 miles) while everybody else did two. I only just now feel like I am getting some zing back in my legs. It seems like I am doing OK with the running these days, but recovery is still hard for me.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Humble Pie and Black Cherry Soda

Last year I read about the Titus van Rijn on Greg Crowther's blog. I thought it sounded like fun, but his post fell after the TVR deadline so I was out of luck. I pretty much forgot all about the whole thing until Greg posted about his TVR experience again this year. This time, however, he was kind enough to post way in advance of the cutoff, so I had plenty of time to participate in the fun.
So Monday after getting off work at noon, I headed over to Charles Bowles track at Willamette University. My goal was at least 13,600m (8.5 mi); I thought that would be a piece of cake.

Things started on a bad note because I forgot my sunscreen and I am militant about sunscreen. Not good since I only had a singlet bra to run in.

I ran my first mile in 6:36 - just like me to go out too fast in a race! By the second mile I was sweating like a pig and I knew I would have to back it off. It was sweltering out there! The temp on the way home said 78, but it felt more like 98 - this Oregonian is not trained to run in the sun!

I shared the track with a few midday walkers for the first five miles or so, but then it was only me and the guy on the lawn tractor.I kept a good pace through four miles but then just started slipping, little by little, lap by lap. Man, was I sweating!

With about 12 minutes to go, my friend Gabriel shows up to run a set of bleacher steps. I practically begged him to run with me as I came by, but he just shrugs and says,"I am done." When I come back around he apparently has some sympathy for me and he falls in beside me.

"What are you doing? Mile repeats?" Gabe asks me.

"Ummm, no. I am running on the track for an hour," I clarify.

"Doing what?" Gabe is clearly still confused.

"Just trying to go as far as I can. I only have seven minutes left." I try to explain about the TVR. I think Gabe respects the idea, but I am also pretty sure he thinks I am nuts running laps by myself for an hour in the noon day sun. After our third lap together, we hit the starting line with 1:35 to go and he is encouraging me to push the last lap. The one hour alarm goes off right as I step on the blue triangle marking the end of the last relay zone and I just stop. Gabe gives me a funny look and I am left to explain why I stopped 90 meters shy of completing the lap: "You have to stop when the hour is up."The stopping point, 90m shy of the start and 90m shy of 8.5 miles.

8.5 miles was not the piece of cake I expected, more like a slice of humble pie! Fortunately, I had a cooler full of black cherry soda to wash it down and I had plenty to share. Gabe and I each took a big swig before heading off for a (slow) mile cool down (after I had put my T-shirt back on to cover up from the sun, but I still came home with toasty red shoulders). Then we plunked down on the bench and just enjoyed the TVR celebratory beverage. I even washed mine down with a second, but Gabe declined.
The Stats: The Garmin measurement was short a couple meters per mile. Hmmm - The Willamette track is known for being too long, maybe I hit my 8.5 miles after all. j/k! And yes, I stopped at exactly one hour, it just took me a couple seconds to stop the watch!

Total distance: 13,510 meters

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!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Lesson One: Two Wrongs DO NOT Make A Right

After Capitol Peak, I was pretty pissed off at myself for dropping down. Had I stopped and thought about it for two minutes, I think I would have continued on to complete the 50 miler, but I acted on split second panic alone. If how you act when under fire is the true test of character, my character was getting a D-. I am a grade grubber (or at least I was), so this did NOT sit well. I didn't like thinking I was weak, or scared, or too soft. So four days after Capitol Peak, I sent in my application to Angeles Crest 100.

The first day, I was really excited. AC100 works great for my schedule because we will already be in Southern California for my sister-in-laws wedding the weekend before. Plus, I've got the in-laws available to babysit the kids, which leaves Mac free to crew (a complete novelty for me). Plus, I grew up in Arcadia and hiked a ton in nearby Chantry Flats, so the area is somewhat nostalgic.

Two days later, I was in complete panic mode. "What the f*ck did I just do?!?" How am I going to be prepared to run a 100 miler? And what's more, why would I want to?? Sure, I know Chantry Flats and Mt. Wilson, but that is only about 5 miles of the course, what about the other 96?? (yeah, I know, I was even dumb enough to pick a 100 miler that is actually 101 miles!). Not to mention I started looking up all kinds of information on the web about AC100. Finishing times seem about 2 - 2.5 hours slower than Western States for people who have done both courses and in a ranking of "Hardest 100 milers" AC100 was ahead of WS100. Why didn't I at least look for the list of "Easiest 100 milers" and pick the #1?? And I hate being sleep deprived. And do you know how hot it can be in L.A. in September? I read race reports on, and most of them for AC100 are NOT good. Plus, THERE ARE RATTLESNAKES! Normally, I don't mind snakes, but rattlesnakes can strike unseen from the brush, so you'd be miles from civilization with deadly poison rapidly coursing through your vessels and exacerbated by your already high heart rate.

That night I had multiple stress dreams: I forgot my shoes, I kept vomiting, the hotel lost our reservation. I woke up at 4:30 in a complete adrenaline rush panic.

Fortunately, I've calmed down a bit in the last week. Looking back at Capitol Peak, I am still a little disappointed, but I think I've gotten it into perspective: In the grand scheme of things, it is not that big a deal. There will be another day for me to complete a 50 (like July 25th - PCT50!). And while doing a 50 is something that I really want to do, it really doesn't change who I am. Also, I was running really well at Capitol Peak, had awesome fueling and good hill climbing, I enjoyed the course, got a good workout, and still took 4th and won my age group even with 2-3 extra miles. So maybe that is more like a C+?? ;)

100 miles (or 101 miles) still scares me, but it excites me a little, too. Actually, some days more than just a little. The goal is not for the course record or even a victory, just to complete it. 3 mph is all it takes!! Plus, my "shrink" and awesome friend Debbie, helped calm me down by showing me Tim Twietmeyer's training log for his 1996 victory at WS100 (in an old issue of Runner's World) and his highest mileage week was 78 miles. I can do that! Not that I am Tim Tweitmeyer, but if an elite like him doesn't need 100+ mile weeks to be ready, then mere mortals like me should be able to get by on less, too.

So, if you want to know what I'll be doing this summer, it's training like crazy. But not more than 78 miles a week.