Monday, April 26, 2010

Capitol Peak Mileage ("It's NOT A Race" Report)

One day a scorpion decided he needed a change and so he set out from his home looking for adventure. But early in his journey he was halted by a river and could see no way across. He was just about to head home when he spotted a large bull frog. The scorpion asked the frog for a ride across the river, but the frog was skeptical. "If I let you get near me, you will sting me," the frog responded. But the scorpion assured him that this was not so. "If I sting you, I will drown." And so the frog agreed and the scorpion climbed onto the frog's back. Just as they reached the deep water, the frog felt a stinger plunge into his back. "Why did you do that?" the frog implored. "Now we will both die." The scorpion simply responded: "It's in my nature." - fable, author unknown
After American River, I was pretty beat up. My quads felt like they had been mauled by angry bears. And so last week, I only did 39 miles and even that was about 35 more than I wanted to do!

So this week my main goal was to have a high intensity week. I set the bar high aiming for my first ever 100 mile training week, with half of those miles coming in the form of an event: The Capitol Peak 50 mile. But the purpose of the event was just to get in the miles, NOT to race.

In keeping with the low key spirit, the whole family tagged along and we made a weekend trip out of the ordeal at the Great Wolf Lodge in nearby Grand Mound, WA (who names a city Grand Mound??). So my pre-race activities on Saturday included hours and hours in a water park, shooting water guns and riding slides.

Sunday was event day (Not RACE day, because I wasn't racing, see?). My friend Gaby was also doing this as part of her training for Big Horn. So I just settled in with her in the early miles and listened as she lived up to her name, chatting it up with everyone around us. Gaby is a great climber, and I couldn't keep up with her on the hills and still feel like I was breathing easy, so I just let her go when we got to the steep stuff. No worries, it wasn't a race.

There was a nice "grunt" section up to the top of Capitol Peak (2659') at mile 16. The next 18 mile P-shaped segment after Capitol Peak was awesome with dense conifers and a lush green carpet of moss and oxalis. I ended up mooning the guy right in front of me when the trail made a U-turn just ahead of my well chosen stump, but otherwise just more uneventful, easy running.

Right as we were getting back to the aid station, somebody was calling my name right behind me and there was Gaby! I was so confused as I thought she was way ahead of me, but I had unknowingly passed her at an aid station while she was going through her drop bag and she had been tailing close behind the whole 18 mile loop (luckily for her, not close enough to be flashed by me!). "Great," I was thinking, "now I can have good company for the last 16 miles."

We got up to the aid station below Capitol Peak and Gaby again was restocking from her drop bag when I was ready to leave. In previous years the course has headed back down after this aid station, but due to a course re-route this year we summited Capitol Peak a second time. Right as I was leaving, one guy says to me,"You're third woman. Second place is only a minute ahead and first place is about five minutes ahead."

Oh, man, what was this guy trying to do to me? Didn't he know that was like feeding a mogwai after midnight?!? Even still, I told myself to just stay calm.
They look sweet, but NEVER feed a mogwai after midnight!

I walked pretty much the entire half mile up to Capitol Peak, but I still caught the second place girl at the summit. I stayed behind her for about a mile and we chatted for a bit, mostly talking about 50K vs 50 miles, as this was her first 50 miler. It would have been nice, except I just couldn't stand the pace anymore. I was tripping all over myself trying to stay behind her. I told her we should use the downhill a bit more and that she should just follow behind me to get a little bit more speed. But she was begging off and even asking about how many women were behind her, which I knew was a bad sign. I wished her well and scooted around.

With open trail ahead, I picked it up and felt good. I knew I had a lot left in my legs from taking it so easy in the beginning and I just couldn't help myself... Goodbye Gizmo; Hello Gremlin!

Downhill running is definitely not my strong suit, but it helped that my legs weren't overly tired. I thought I was moving pretty well, but at the next aid station (mile 38) they told me I was still five minutes behind first place. That was discouraging, but no turning back now, so I kept up a strong pace to the last real aid station (mile 41.5). They greeted me with a different story:
first place was only about a minute ahead!

Not more than two minute out, I came up behind her. I thought I was running like an elephant, but she was quite startled to see me, partly because she had her headphones blaring and partly because I think she had no idea that anybody might be catching her since she had been leading all day. I blew by with just a few quick pleasantries and then took off.

I say it over and over again that I am a "slow and steady" kind of runner. I am a firm believer that an even pace is the most efficient way to run a race, at least for me. But also, I think I am a come from behind runner because I HATE to be in the lead. I like to know what is going on and that is hard to do when you are in front. It always makes me panic a little bit and keeps me running scared. But I guess sometimes that is a good thing because it definitely keeps me pushing. So I ran everything just hoping that I wasn't next in line to be startled from behind.

Maybe I was watching my back a little too much and not the clock because I finished in 8:00:36. Then again maybe it was a good thing that I didn't start racing the clock, because I was NOT racing that day! (yeah, right!)

Yes, I am a sandbagger, and a liar, and a headcase. Or as my husband so elegantly put it when I told him I won: "You are a total F@cking renob!" (Sorry ladies, he's taken!).

I was certainly tired afterward, but I don't think my little Gremlin episode left me overly taxed, as I really only "raced" the last 16 miles. And I certainly feel good about completing my first ever 100 mile training week (101 miles!). To finish off my good week, I got three and half more hours in the water park after the race with two overly excited (but very cute) pre-schoolers.
Lots of post-race water park fun with my mini-gremlins

From here on out it is all about Western States. I am doing MacDonald Forest 50k in two weeks, but I am NOT racing; it is just a training run...Yeah, I can't even type that with a straight face! I am not signing up for any other events before Western States because I cannot be trusted!

Capitol Peak was a great event whether or not you are there to race or just have fun. John Pearch does a great job with race organization and his adorable mother cooks up some awesome grub for the finish line. Congrats to all the racers, including my friend Gaby who ended up third woman/first master!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

American River Race Report

American River seemed like a good race for me this year because I needed a fourth Montrail Ultra Cup race (with Where's Waldo '09, Bandera and Western States) and I didn't get in to Miwok. As an added bonus my parents live 25 minutes away from Auburn, so the weekend could double as a bonding opportunity. Or so I thought. It turns out my parents were out of town for the weekend, so I picked up their car at the airport and drove it to their house, where I myself. Hey, the price was right! Though I didn't get to see my parents, I did get a chance to meet my pacers for Western States, two fun-loving ladies and great runners.
Because I was bussing from the start to the finish (4:10 departure - that's AM!), I had to get up at 2:30. In classic OCD fashion, I set three alarms and then woke up before any of them went off!

I rode on the bus with one of my pacers Anne Hitchcock, an awesome runner who ran a 3:02 at Napa this year and who was doing her first 50 miler at AR. We had a nice time chatting during the hour bus ride and even got about ten minutes of bonus time when the diver got lost!
Anne and I agreed to run together as long as it suited us. We started pretty far back in the pack and were bogged down quite a bit in the first couple of miles, running 9:09 and 8:35. Well, after two miles I felt warmed up and I got a bit antsy to pick it up because I wanted to be running 7:30-7:45 miles on the road section and Anne was content to pick it up slowly, so we got separated pretty quickly.

The first 26.7 section is mostly paved bike path with a three mile diversion on trails up and down some bluffs near the Folsom dam. I ran pretty smoothly through this area, sharing about an hour of it with John Blue, which helped to pass the time quickly as he told me all about his Western States experiences. He told me he once was mistaken for Scott Jurek and some guy came up to him and starting asking him all kinds of training questions. "Can you believe some stranger would just start grilling a person for training advice?" he asked, to which I sheepishly apologized for grilling him about his Western States training. "Oh, no. We're not strangers," he said with all seriousness, "we introduced ourselves and now we are running together!" So true how I have connected with so many people who would otherwise be strangers through running.
We clipped along right around 7:30 pace, but John eventually fell back. I continued to move my way up in the lady's standings. By mile 24, though, I could tell the road pounding was hard on my trail-spoiled quads. They've gotten soft now that I don't do marathon type road training on the weekends!

I hit the marathon marker in 3:23, which is faster than a couple of my actual marathon times and only 13 minutes slower than my PR! Before we hit the trail, I had moved into second place.
The trail gave my legs a bit of new life, and I kept passing people, but all guys. When I got to Granite Bay Aid Station (mile 31.67), I inquired about the women's leader. "Oh, man she's in a different time zone! I don't think you can catch her!" When I asked just how far ahead was she, another lady chimed in, "30 seconds."

What? Really? "No, I just didn't want you to feel bad. She's got 25 minutes on you." Dang, a 25 minute lead in 31 miles! At that point I knew the task at hand was to preserve second place. I still ran hard and gave it my all. I passed a lot of guys, so at least I felt like I was moving pretty well. The next ten mile section was either a good stretch for me or a bad stretch for Tracy (Garneau) because I stayed 25 minutes behind. I was doing pretty well on gentle climbs, but on the steep climbs at the end, I couldn't muster the power. Tracy put another 6 minutes on me in the last nine miles. That girl can run!

I was pretty sure I had a comfortable lead over third, but I had let a few people know my goal time was 7:15 and I was hoping to make it. I knew it was going to be close. With one mile to go, I thought I would fall short because I had less than ten minutes, but I ended up ducking under at 7:14:21.

Third place was 13 minutes behind, and I was excited to see that it was Anne! She used the same tactic as me, coming from behind to pick off ladies, taking down Susannah Bon with less than two miles to go for a podium spot! Susannah was also a come-from-behind runner as I never saw her all day, so she had to have started behind me and picked people off as well. I love it, because I am a big believer in the slow and steady strategy, unless you are Tracy Garneau, because fast and steady worked out really well for her! She had an impressive race (not that I saw any of it!) and she will be one to watch at Western States.

(Photo: one of the benefits of finishing second is that you get your photo on so that you can steal it and put it on your blog).

After the race I got to meet Mo Barley, a total firecracker with an impressive ultra resume including five top ten finishes at Western States. She paced Anne the last nine miles of American River and is my other pacer for Western States. Mo is so competitive she makes me look tame. Anne told us all how Mo was encouraging her to go after the "dead meat" at the end of the race and was even yelling at her to take down Tim Twietmeyer in the final mile. I love it! I just hope I am in position to go after "dead meat" with her at Western States!

We hung out at the race for a long time before heading off to Anne's house to shower. Anne has the good fortune of living a half mile from the AR finish and a stone's throw from Placer High School. Then we replenished our spent calories at a local pizza joint before calling it a night. It was a great day all around.

Oregon Represents!

It was a great day for Oregonians in ultra-running today!

First off, a big congratulations to Meghan Arbogast for her 100K road national championship title. Does that woman ever slow down? I am so in awe of her.

Oregonians also had a big day at the American River 50 mile, placing 4 guys in the top ten (Max King -3rd, Andy Martin-5th, Lewis Taylor - 8th and Rod Bien-9th) and nabbing a second place finish in the women's race. Though not an Oregonian, I would also like to congratulate Tracy Garneau on a stellar performance; I wasn't even in the same zip code when she finished!