Monday, March 14, 2011

I Won a House!

Well, for two nights anyway. The prize for the Gorge 50k was a two night stay at a house near Mt. Baker, Washington. It even has a hot tub! Can't wait to head up there this summer for a great weekend get-away!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Feeling Gorge-ous

"OMG, Do you know what a freakin' moron your wife is?!?" I called home in a panic.

I was 70 miles from home and had just finished a great dinner at Nicholas's Lebanese restaurant with the entire Corvallis crew, when I came to the stark realization that I was headed to my KOA Kamping Kabin with out any "kamping" gear.

I had packed for the race early that morning knowing that I would be leaving directly from work. I meticulously gathered everything, doing a head to toe double check before packing up. I even had multiple options to account for changing weather: short sleeves and long sleeves, shorts and capris, vest and rain jacket, hat and beanie. I was fully prepared. Well, except for over looking that little detail of bedding. Ooops.

Actually, I wasn't too bad off, I reasoned, as I was staying in a cabin with heat and I had two coats. I had just about convinced myself that I was fine, there was no problem, when Salvation intervened. Yep - a Salvation Army super store!
My Salvation

I pulled in and picked out a toasty Coleman sleeping bag and got the $2 zebra fleece pillow next to it as well, because I think it is important to accessorize your Kamping Kabin! Well, and also, because the zebra is symbolic to me. You see, zebras and horses are genetically quite similar, to the point where they can actually produce viable (though typically sterile) hybrids. But the zebra is very different from the horse in one major way (well, aside from all those stripes, obviously): the zebra has never been domesticated. People have tried but the zebra cannot be broken, it doesn't lose its spirit. When I ran my first hundred miler, Hundred in the Hood, my mantra was "Be the zebra." So you see purchasing the pillow was really my way of stating: "I may be too dumb to pack a sleeping bag, but I will not be broken!"

Happy with my purchase, I headed out to my car only to find some guy sitting in the bed of my truck. He was a skinny looking guy with a full beard and a cap pulled down really low. I did a double take to make sure that it was my truck, but it was. Yeah, so the zebra has a strong will, but still, a predator will scare the shit out of a zebra!

"Hey, can I get a lift?" a gruff voice called to me.

" sorry I can't do that," I stammered. I was like a zebra caught in the headlights!
Wouldn't you be scared of this shady character?

Then the guy quickly adds, "Pam, its me, John. I didn't mean to scare you." LD and John had spotted the Western States sticker on my truck and followed me into the parking lot. They wondered if maybe I was making a covert trip to the liquor store next door! I had a good laugh at the situation. Not only was I fooled but I was busted buying gear, and I had to confess my packing stupidity (not to mention the the fact that I had bought a cheesy fleece pillow!).
Surprise! It's not a psychopath, it's an ultrarunner. Sure both types are mental, but the latter are very friendly.

The irony was that our Kamping Kabin was about a hundred degrees when we got there and a sleeping bag was totally unnecessary!
Doesn't my bed look "kozy?" (not to mention stylish!)

We woke to the sound of passing trains...about an hour after we went to bed and then about every 60-90 minutes after that. The rail road industry is alive and well in the gorge!
Stowaway John, Andrea, and LD getting ready to run

John duped us again the next morning by guiding us onto the bus that was sure to leave first... Ours was the last to depart. But we got to the start with plenty of time to spare, so it was actually nice that we had a few extra minutes in a warm bus.

The race starts with a hefty climb - 1700' in under two miles. I started with all the people who thought they'd jog the uphill. But as the climb wore on, more and more people resorted to walking. I have been doing almost all flat and road training in prep for Mad City, but I was surprised to find that I felt strong on the climb. I don't think I have gotten good at hills, just that my fitness is pretty good right now. There weren't that many people ahead of me when we got to the top, but then there was a screaming downhill. Man, I suck at technical downhill! At least six people passed me on this mile. But each climb, I would pass several people back. And each time, fewer people would pass me back on the downhills.

The trail popped out onto the road at about mile 8.5 for a two mile stretch before the first major aid station. In the distance, I spotted a red jersey ahead, but no one else was around. I was flying on this section - 6:57 and 7:03 miles - and all time the little devil of doubt was telling me, "slow down, this pace is insane," but another part of me kept thinking, "You're fine. You said you are trying to be less conservative in the beginning." I probably would have slowed down had it not been for that pesky guy in red luring me into a chase.
I like to laugh at people who look like death in their running pictures. Fortunately, I can laugh at myself, too. Maybe those speedy road miles weren't such a good idea after all.

Well, I chased him for the next 22 miles. I don't think I was ever more than 100 yards behind. I would close the gap periodically but he would open it up on a downhill... or when he peeked back and saw me getting a little too close!

Between mile 22 and 23 there was a very short out and back to a waterfall. Mike Rosling was about a minute ahead of us, and two guys were starting just as we finished so I knew we had a five minute lead over them. No women were in sight down the trail, so I knew I had at least a five minute lead with 8-9 miles to go. I was pretty sure that would be enough cushion even with the five mile downhill finish, especially if I could just hang with (or pass!) the guy in red.
It takes a blurry picture to make me look awesome.

About a mile later we caught Mike, who was having some cramping. He and I ran a ways together and commiserated on the last big climb. ("When will it end?!?"). I thought he'd pass me back on the downhill to the finish, but his calf was giving him a bit too much trouble. The downhill being my weakness allowed for the guy in red to open up his biggest lead on the five mile stretch to the finish. I stared at his back for 22+ miles ("Clif") but never could catch him, eventually settling for 27 seconds back. At the finish I learned the guy in red was William Emerson, so I don't feel too bad about not hunting him down! Although, I think he was teasing me a little bit out there, too, running just fast enough to stay "unchicked." ;) Hey, it works for me as he kept me on track all day long and "paced" me to third place overall. Thanks, William! (Full Results here)

After the race, I changed into my best hobo costume. Oh wait - that is just me wearing 3 jackets, two long sleeved shirts, 2 pairs of sweat pants, and sporting the worst hat head ever! The rain didn't seem so bad while we were running but afterwards I was freezing!
I headed directly to my nephew's second birthday party in Portland after the race. Thank goodness family has to love you no matter what! And thank goodness, I'll probably never see the other 30 people at that party ever again!
Happy birthday, Deacon! You eat cake, I'll go shower!

(Thanks LD and Lobo for the photos)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Hagg Lake - Better Late Than Never

I am getting my stuff together for this weekend's adventure: The Gorge Waterfalls 50k. I am excited for this race as the course looks awesome and there is a large group of Corvallis Trail Runners going up and taking over the Cascade Locks KOA Friday night (thank you Corvallis group for adopting this poor, deprived Salem trail runner!). But most of all, I am excited because this weekend represents my "tune-up 50k" for Mad City, which is my Big Goal Race for this year, as I would really like to make the US 100k team. There - I said it, so it is official!

The formula of running a low-key 50k 3-4 weeks before a big race seems to be working for me. I did Shotgun Trail 3 weeks before American River, Autumn Leaves 3 weeks before JFK, and Frozen Trail Runfest 3 weeks before Bandera. So off to the Gorge I go, with 4 weeks left till Mad City.

But before moving on, I wanted to write something about Hagg Lake 50k, which I ran Feb. 19. Somehow, I just haven't had much inspiration to write a race report for that over the last three weeks. It wasn't a new race for me, everything went smoothly and as expected, and it wasn't a race that I had put any serious mental focus into. In summary, it lacked the drama necessary for a good write up! In fact the most drama for the day came on my drive to the race.

The pre-dawn temps were in the low 20's and a thin film of ice coated the roads near Forest Grove. Driving in my half sleep state, I vaguely registered blinking hazard lights off the road right as I was passing. With a quick glance out the passenger window, I could make out a large sedan flipped on its side with the roof leaning against a tree. I slammed on my brakes, hit reverse, and then jumped out of the car.

Ummm?...okay, now what? I hadn't seen any other cars all morning but within the next 30 seconds, I had three other cars stopped and we were all out yelling and preparing to go down the bank. But one of the guys spotted some kitty litter that had clearly been laid out in the road (under my truck) to mark this spot, and we all agreed that we were relieved of our Good Samaritan obligations.

Not five miles farther, there was another car in the ditch, this one looking much less hazardous. I again slowed, but the driver was on his cell phone and he assured me he was fine. At this point I was fully awake and glad that my anal-retentive self had left Salem with plenty of time to drive slowly.

The ice sheet also made the race start a bit comical. Instead of bolting off the line, we all gingerly tip-toed and shuffled across the parking lot skating rink.

I have been contemplating split times and strategies since Bandera, so one of my goals for this race was to go hard from the beginning and see how that played out. I guess it played out well. I felt like I was working harder the whole race, but I don't think I ever slowed down.

I ran the entire 1.5 miles of the uphill on the first out and back and noted that I was keeping company with a lot of the fast guys. By the turn around, I already had a good lead on the rest of the women, though later, I learned speedster Denise Bourassa was just exiting the a Port-potty when the race started.

I felt like I was in all around better shape this year than last (with a 50 minute improvement at Bandera to corroborate that feeling), so that I should have been able to go at least 5 minutes faster this year than last, but the course did not co-operate. Yes, I am blaming my slower time all on the course! Last year was a dry year at Hagg; this year, a week of rain before the race most definitely made this a mud year! I like mud, I think I am a pretty good mud runner, but mud is still slower than dry trail, especially when some parts are so muddy you can't run uphill or you have to pull yourself uphill by grabbing trees and brush!

I ran the first lap well, passed several guys (especially on the road section - yeah for 100k road training paying off), but came to the start/finish (17 M) in 2:17 (vs. 2:14 in '10), so I knew breaking last year's time was not to be. Second loop around was the same story- 2:05 vs. 2:04 last year. So I am fitter, ran better, worked harder and finished slower! Fortunately, there were plenty of dirty runners with whom I could commiserate as pretty much every repeat finisher reported 2011 as being one of the slowest years.

Despite missing my time goal, I still had a fun day. For some reason, I really like mud. I think it is because I am an overly cautious person and I harbor a little bit of fear when I run technical trail. I am not actually afraid of falling; I am afraid of falling and getting hurt. When there are rocks, cliffs, and gravitational potential energy, I worry about breaking my leg...or neck. But somehow, I have fully convinced myself that you can't get hurt falling in mud. Don't ruin my delusion because it has made me a very good mud runner!

There have been reports of snow on the course in the Gorge for this weekend, but I am hoping it has all melted and turned to MUD! If nothing else, it would be good respite from all the long road runs I have been doing lately.