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.

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