The McDonald Forest 50k is the local race for all the Corvallis trail runners (and nearby Salem dirt seekers), and as such there is a lot of speculation and trash talking before the race. Of course, most of that trash talking is done by people who aren’t actually running the race! In the men’s field, Dan Olmstead was so heavily favored, that it wasn’t even worth talking about. Fortunately, this year’s ladies’ field had some good competition for the front spot. And if I wasn’t been aware of who that competition was, I sure knew by race day because I had a couple of friends who kept sending me e-mails saying things like:
“[RD] Ken [Ward] only seeded you third, though I am not saying I would have ranked you higher.”
“You know Karen DeWolfe’s PR on the Mac course is a lot faster than yours.”
“Even though Laura [Hempel] isn’t seeded, you better watch out for her. She was a Div. 1 college runner and she is super fast.”
With friends like that, who needs enemies?? :) In the spirit of fun competition and jest, I admit I fired back,”No way am I letting a 22 year old Dartmouth 1500 runner beat me in her first ultra!”
No one really ever mentioned Becka Kem with her previous 5:02 McDonald Forest 50k time as her one and only ultra , but I kept informing people that I thought she’d be the one leading the charges. She used to live and run in Salem, so we’ve been keeping up with her accomplishments and I knew she won the Lithia Loop marathon on trails, won the Redding marathon on the road, and crushed the Peterson Ridge 20 miler with a CR.
Anyway, we all had our picks set to determine who might be buying post race beers. Let the racing begin!
Karen and Becka took it out fast. I was content a bit back catching up with Josh Zielinski, a Salemite runner who I met after he bested me by a couple of minutes at the Condor 25k. I soon caught up to Karen and had chance to chat with her before pulling ahead. At one point early on, Mike Rosling let me know that Becka could not be maintain her pace.
“I don’t know,” I warned him. “She is a 2:53 marathoner and she is in good shape.”
“Yeah, but you’re better than that,” he told me.
“No, “ I corrected, “My marathon PR is 2:55.”
“Yeah, but you are better than that,” he answered again.
I wasn’t as optimistic as Mike; Becka was running strong and already had a several minute gap by the first aid station.
|Running the ups, but still not keeping up with Becka (Long Run Pictures)|
The section known as “the maze” was some bad running for me. I always have trouble in the maze. Lots of twisty - turny trail with uneven surfaces just isn’t my forte, especially when you have to run down. By the end of the downhill to AS2 Karen had repassed me. But I was good to go and blew by the AS without stopping. Karen was the better downhiller, but I could tell I was better on the ups and put a gap on her on the way back to “the maze.” By the time we were exiting about 2 miles later at mile 16, there was about a half dozen runners who had either just passed me or were about to pass me, including a local friend, Sander. And, uh oh, there’s Laura!
Mac was working the AS. Actually, Mac and our minivan were the AS. It was supposed to be water only, but he went all over-achiever style and even made chocolate chip cookies. But I wasn’t stopping for cookies (besides, I had eaten WAY more than my share with Olga and the kids the night before). He had a new bottle for me and I was off on the 1.5 mile uphill slog on the road to get to the high point of the course at Dimple Hill.
|Cresting Dimple (Long Run Pictures)|
I gapped Karen again on the road and the rest of the downhills were smooth enough that I never saw her again. But Laura came out of the maze a bit ahead and I didn’t think it boded well that I couldn’t catch her on the grinder uphill. Uh oh, I may have to eat my trash-talking e-mail words!
Fortunately, I still had Sander to guide me down the back side of Dimple and I felt nice and smooth gliding down before passing Sander at the bottom. The course makes a small lollipop loop out to Chip Ross park, and right before I was about to leave the “stick” and enter the loop, I saw Becka headed back the other way, meaning she was over 1.5 miles ahead and she was still killing it! Plus, I hadn’t even seen a glimpse of Laura ahead, so I got a bit discouraged thinking about my pathetic age of 38: too old and slow to hang with the “young whippersnappers” ahead of me, but not old enough for the master’s category. I had been ruminating on this for a couple of minutes, so that when I saw my friend Alinna at the intersection, I blurted out, “Why do I keep doing the Mac? I hate this f*cking race!” (sorry to tarnish your innocent ears, Alinna!)
But the funny thing was that I was all smiles and joking around. I wasn’t feeling bad at all and really I wasn’t hating any of it. And I felt like I was running pretty strong. I think I got over it by Chip Ross when I heard I was four minutes down to Laura, because then it seemed like the gap was actually big enough to let it go in my head and just run. Plus, by that time I knew it should be pretty easy to get under 4:50 so I knew I was running my best race on that course, and really that was all I could hope for. That sentiment boosted me for the run up Horse trail, which seemed easier by far than any of my three prior races here, and I didn’t think my run down ridge trail was too embarrassing. I guess it couldn’t have been too bad, because Laura was leaving the last AS right as I came in.
I caught her (and about 4 other guys, including Josh) on the last little hill - newly added this year with about 100 extra feet of climbing. I did hike a little the very steepest part, but still seemed to be faring much better than those around me. After the top, I was hauling to the finish, feeling great and psyched with my 4:41 finish, a good 13 minutes faster than my last two years. And ahead of Laura, so I didn’t have to take too much crap, but she should be congratulated for an awesome first 50k. Becka, however, broke the course record by 14 minutes (after I said I didn’t think anybody would break it anytime soon since the course has gotten so much harder!) and bested me by 16 minutes, for a 4:24 and a 37 minute improvement! My only consolation was that I didn’t lose anymore time to Becka after the last aid station. See - I just needed another 50k to have a chance!
Anyway, it was a great run for me and also a great ass-whooping. But even better it was a great weekend with friends. I always enjoy hanging out with the Corvallis crew, but this year I got especially lucky and managed to get a fun weekend with Olga, who was visiting from Texas and had a great race of her own at the Mac.
|Pushing to the finish (nice belly!) ( LongRun Pictures)|
And now that I finished #4, I guess I have to go back to run that “f*cking race” at least one more time for #5.