Sunday, February 19, 2012

Hagg Mud

High end spas charge large sums of money for mud baths, but Oregon ultra runners prefer to get our mud at the Hagg Lake 50k every February.

I wasn't really planning to do Hagg this year after doing it the last two years. There is only so much mud you need to run through before you kind of feel like "been there, done that", and with two victories, I didn't feel like there was anything left to prove. Plus, this year the race fell on my son's birthday and I am pretty sure that is at least minus 250 Mom points for racing on your son's birthday. But RD Todd sweet talked me into entering. Besides, everyone knows I do love me a Hagg Lake shirt... I guess even enough to take the minus 250 Mom points! :)

Hagg Lake is 14 miles around. The 50k has a road out and back at the start (uphill 1.5 miles then down) and then two laps around the lake. The first lap is muddy, but after 200 runners churn up the course, the second lap is a slop fest!

In what seems to be the new normal for every Mom and Pop 50k in the Pac NW, the field was stacked- Joelle Vaught, Cassie Scallon, Ashley Nordell, newbie local speedster Natalie Bak- so the opening road miles took off fast with me right in the middle of the fast chick pack. But in the first mile on the trail, Cassie and Ashley passed me by, seemingly unaffected by the mud. Meanwhile, I just felt really tentative on all the slick trail. I could have used a lot more shoe, but I don't think that was the major issue. Mostly, I just didn't feel comfortable, which is funny because in years past I have always really enjoyed the mud and felt like I ran well in it. Not sure if I was shy after two hard falls at Orcas, or maybe my legs were just fatigued enough to not plant well, or maybe I was just being a big sissy, but I was timid in the slick areas and handfuls of people passed me in the first trail section (including Rui, one of my training partners).
I was planning to change into sleeves, but kept my jacket when the race rudely started 4 minutes early. With all the rain, I didn't regret it, but you can't see my Hagg shirt. Of course, I am wearing one!
(photos by the awesome Michael Libowitz)

By mile four, I was telling myself the front ladies would have to come back to me as I didn't think I'd make my way up to them. The only upside to going out slow is that my first nine miles on each lap were nearly identical splits. Consistency paid off a bit as Ashley came back to me around mile 24, as did Rui. I personally am all for racing when it comes to podium spots and I am especially not a fan of ties for a victory, but beyond that I think it is great to be able to work together with someone on the trail. With Cassie, Natalie, and Joelle ahead of us, I told Ashley I totally respected her if she wanted to race it in, but I was happy to just run with her. She was agreeable to the latter and she made the last 7 miles go by a lot quicker. I was moving a little better than her on the flats, dry stuff and roads, but she was much more sure footed in the mud, especially on slick hills.

We took turns leading where we excelled and passed a couple of guys in the process. I was 5 minutes slower from the last aid station to the finish, but I really feel like that had a lot more to do with the chewed up conditions of the course than anything. I was being a little more risky to try to stay with Ashley and ended up falling THREE times - a new record for me! But they were all soft falls where my foot just slid out from under me. No big deal, just a lot of dirt!

We almost caught Sean Meissner at the end, but he put in a last minute surge to stay ahead and we ran out of real estate. I tried to get Ashley to run ahead at the end because I felt the preponderance of mud in the final 5 miles really would have favored her, but in a show of good sportsmanship, she crossed the line right with me.

"Yay! You guys tied for third!" one of the RD's told us. What??? Turns out Natalie had dropped. The computer didn't process ties, so Ashley and I got times 1 second apart, with Ashley very deservingly getting the faster time.

Ashley and I finishing together. Actually, it does look like she is a step ahead. Hmmm...
And that is mud on my butt, I swear!

I was quite happy with the day as I was 1 minute 40 sec faster than last year on a much muddier course and just two weeks after a hard effort at Orcas. And I am pretty sure I earned my 250 Mom points back for Liam's X-wing fighter birthday cake!
I wanted the Millenium Falcon, because it is basically a circle with two triangles stuck on front - easy as pie, err , cake - but Liam was like,"Mo-om, the Millenium Falcon is Han Solo's ship and Han Solo is not a JEDI! Luke Skywalker flies an X-wing!" Damn you, Han Solo and your paltry credentials!! I tried to use my own Jedi Mom mind tricks on the boy, but the force (and stubbornness) is strong in that one!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Motoring Along

Today at the gym I found out I may be eligible for a motorized scooter!

Ironically, about the only time I watch TV is when I am at the gym. And as I was trudging pathetically on the treadmill to warm up, I saw a commercial for medical scooters with these screening questions:

*Do you have limited mobility causing you pain or preventing you from doing your normal activities?

Why, yes, I do! I saw my PT on Tuesday for some Valentine's Day pelvic action (umm, not that kind) and she says my iliopsoas are really tight, limiting my hip mobility and that's what's been causing my pelvic pain. It doesn't keep me from doing my normal activities, but that was an "or" question!

*Do you have difficulty going up and down stairs?

Yes! After just about every race.

*Do you sometimes have difficulty getting to the bathroom?

Sure. I had to stop in the bushes on my last trail run because there was no way I was going to make it to the bathroom!

*Have you fallen down in the last 12 months?

Oh, heck yeah. I fell twice at the Orcas Island 50k alone. I had a pretty nasty spill at Miwok, too, and I am sure there were a few others.

"If you answered yes to one or more of the previous questions you may be eligible for a scooter AT NO COST TO YOU!"

It is disgusting to me that commercials like this are sending the message "If walking is difficult, just stop walking!" How about we tell people to lose weight, exercise more, stretch, get PT...anything to actually help people walk better!

So for me, I will be doing some extra stretches and a few strengthening exercises in the next couple of weeks. But if that doesn't work, I am glad to know I could still be out there doing ultras like this (at no cost to me!):
This grandpa could totally rock the 24 hour paved loop ultras. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A "Killer" Weekend At Orcas Island

I went into Orcas Island just hoping to have a great weekend of fun, but I didn't know how things would go for the race. Turned out both went great.

I traveled up with Amy Sproston, who was good company in the car and also a good navigator as she kept me on course even when I tried to drive us to the ferry terminal in Port Townsend instead of Anacortes. Perhaps when you download directions you should actually look at them! We made a stop at the Lululemon outlet for Amy - because I wasn't going to buy anything. Three pairs of shorts, two capris, and two tank tops later, I was ready to leave! We got to Monica Ochs' gorgeous house on the sound just as the sun was setting. Monica and her husband were fantastic hosts with dinner ready to serve as soon as we got there!

The next morning, we caught the super early ferry to Orcas Island with lots of other half asleep local racers. Race morning was cool, but there was not a cloud in sight - couldn't ask for more in early February.
Ready to run (after we shed a half dozen layers)! all photos: G. Tachiyama

At the start, Shawna took the lead (or so I thought) and I fell in line between Amy and Nicola Gildersleeve. On the first uphill, Amy asked if I wanted to pass. I was still getting warmed up and happy to follow her lead, but she soon pulled over anyway. On the first downhill, I let Nicola ahead, saying I thought she was more spritely than me on the descents. She confirmed my impression with a spin on the first switchback! She floated down the hill but I didn't seem to be getting dropped too badly and caught her early in the next climb, where she let me ahead. After a lot of up, up, up there was some nice smooth downhill and my legs were ready to run.

Running well on the downhill, though not well enough to look up!
I first caught a woman in head to toe Solomon gear and wondered who this Solomon-girl was as I hadn't even noticed her ahead of me at the start. It turned out to be Jen Segger, a super sweet Canadian with an awesome resume of ultras and adventure races, including the Orcas Island CR. I caught Shawna near the bottom of the descent to take the lead.

From there, I just felt like my legs kept getting stronger and I felt great all day. The second climb up the power lines was a killer, but there were lots of early starters to commiserate with and I knew I wasn't giving up any time. Really there only two low points in the race, both hard falls that shook me up and bloodied my knees and elbow, but otherwise caused more shock than damage. It has been a long time since I have fallen twice in one race!

The high point (literal and figurative) was the aid station on Mount Constitution. As the AS guy said to me (without meaning the pun), "Killer view, huh?" I responded, "Ha, ha funny" but he still didn't seem to get the joke. (Aside: Have you notice how successful orcas have been in their rebranding efforts. I mean, when I was a kid, we went to Sea World to see Killer Whales. They were fierce creatures that ate baby seals for breakfast. Now they are majestic Orcas capable of forming strong bonds with people, especially young boys trying to set them free. Nice job, Orcas. Almost as good as Classic Coke after that whole New Coke debacle. No wonder the guy didn't get the joke.)

Orcas Island AS with a "killer" view

I still felt great the last few miles around the lake, but the short uphill driveway to the finish felt like the hardest climb all day! Guess I was ready to be done! 8,000 feet of climbing makes for one tough 50k!

After the race, RD James and his girlfriend Candace throw a great party with live music, lots of great food and as many 6 oz juice glasses of beers as you can drink (first time I can say I had three beers after a race! - woohoo, party girl!).

A win is always nice, but I think the best part comes from knowing my weaknesses aren't so weak after all. I worried about pelvic pain, but with a little Ibuprofen it wasn't an issue at all. (I still have a "pinch" when I really flex my leg or sit for a long time so I am keeping my Valentine's day PT date). I wondered if I'd become too much of a "roadie" putting so much focus on worlds, but races like Miwok and Orcas are reminders that I do ok in the mountains, too (well, mountains without real elevation anyway. Life at 400 feet keeps me a little (a lot) underprepared for high elevations). And passing people on downhills is helping me get past my "I suck at downhill" attitude.

All around, a Killer weekend.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Pelvic Pain


Did you know you could crack your pelvis? Neither did I till about a month ago.

Unfortunately, I have been having pelvic pain and specifically pain right at the pubic symphysis since the marathon. Trail runners can insert their favorite "I-told-you-so" lines about the evils of road running. I still don't think road running is evil, but I think the marathon was harder and faster than anything I have ever done and maybe my body just wasn't as adapted for that as it needed to be.

For the most part, I have done the same thing I have done for every other niggling injury:  mostly ignore it, run more miles, and make weak attempts at stretching. Oddly enough, this strategy worked for plantar fasciitis, posterior tib tendonitis, and a hamstring strain. It seems like these things just kind of go away after 4-6 weeks.

But four weeks after the marathon this had not gone away. I saw my massage therapist who gave me some tips on how to "realign my pelvis." That night while squeezing a soccer ball between my knees, I had a flash of pain along with the sickening "Crack." The next day my pain wasn't gone, but it seemed better, so I figured I was over the hump and on the mend. But it didn't improve after that.

At Bandera, I felt "off" from the start. If I am honest with myself, some of it may have been my training and fitness. Last year I put in seven hard weeks before Bandera. This year I had two and a half weeks of taper and two weeks of recovery (for CIM) in the weeks before Bandera. But my frustrations in the early miles came from a feeling of uncoordinated legs, bad posture, bad form - things I am sure related to my pelvis and instability issues.

After Bandera, I took two weeks off. The rest and recovery was well needed, but I don't think it improved my injury. So today I threw in the towel; I made an appointment with my PT. Seeking medical care means I have to come out of denial for my injury, so here I am coming clean. My appointment is a week from Tuesday...yep, my PT will be playing with my pelvis on Valentine's Day! :)

Just because I am coming clean doesn't mean I plan to take it easy! I am off to Orcas Island for a fun weekend hanging with ultra runners. Oh yeah, and a 50k race. This casual, early season race has some pretty fast names in the women's race: Amy Sproston, Nicola Gildersleeve, Shawna Thompkins, Monica Ochs. I'll be there to give it what I've got for the day, but I am not sure what that will be. Whatever the race brings the weekend should be a great time as many of the racers (including myself) are staying in cabins at the start/finish. I am looking forward to hanging with old friends and hopefully making some new ones!