Saturday, February 13, 2016

Hagg Lake 50K - A Pyrrhic Victory

Well, I said half marathon phase was over and ultra-phase had begun and what better way to kick it off than with an ultra!

Nowadays, there are big ultras every month and the two loop mud-fest at Hagg Lake has been relegated to "small local ultra" status, but back in pre-Ultramarathon Man days, Hagg Lake was pretty much the only thing on the Pacific Northwest Ultra calendar this time of year. In its 15 year history many top name ultra runners have kicked off their season at Hagg including Kami Semick, Joelle Vaught, Ashley Nordell, Cassie Scallon, Krissy Moehl, Devon Yanko, Denise Bourassa, Darla Askew, and for the men guys like Hal Koerner, Karl Meltzer, Max King, Jeff Browning, Ty Draney, Rod Bien, Ryan Bak, William Emerson, Jacob Puzey and Sean Meissner. With a history as a season starter like that and a location less than 90 minutes away, it was hard not to choose Hagg as a kick off for my (hopeful) comeback to ultra running. Plus, I have four Hagg Lake finishes of my own (my first goes way back to the 25k in 2002!) and five finishes gets you into The Hall of Mud, and who could resist that?? (you maybe haven't heard of it, but I assure you, it is very prestigious. Very.)

I took a very easy week between the Roaring Run Half marathon, mostly doing little three milers on my treadmill at a pace that I am embarrassed to post on my Strava (and usually don't!). But I assure you that 12+ minute pace is very deliberate (and even way slower than MAF) to allow recovery and "flushing the system" without adding any running stress or fatigue (I have to do these on the TM to run that slow, but I actually enjoy it - makes me feel like I could go forever!). I ended Roaring Run with a pain in my right hamstring and right foot, but the right foot pain was mostly gone the next day and the hamstring pain got diagnosed as piriformis/sciatic pain and stretching (esp. pretzel stretch) seemed to be helping so I didn't think it would be too big a deal. I had done five 20+ mile runs since Jan. 1, and while 13 weeks can't substitute for years of continuous training, I was feeling pretty good about my fitness for a 50k. What should have worried me was the fact that none of those runs were on technical trail.

Now Hagg Lake is not a technical trail, nor is it particularly hilly with 3,370' feet of total gain, but the issue at Hagg is the name sake mud. Hagg runs very differently on dry versus wet years, and this was a VERY wet year, especially after six straight hours of rain the night before. The dirt becomes a thick layer of sticky clay and it only gets worse the second loop after everyone has churned it all up the first time around. My La Sportiva Mutants did great in the mud, but so much force is needed to push off your toes to propel you forward and not having done any training for this, my feet were weak. By the end of the first lap, my arches were hurting badly! Hips and quads also had something to say, but only just typical minor whines.
Did I mention the mud?
The dam on the lake before the five mile AS is usually a nice little break from the trail, but by the second loop, I was in agony. I pretty much ran duck foot the final nine miles with several shouted "Ow!'s" (but no cuss words!). Fortunately, I had a lead and was able to keep it to pick up my third Hagg win, but at that point, there would have been no racing from me if anyone had passed. I was so glad to finish, but then the pain only got worse. I have never been so anti-social after a race! I made it to my car where I finally got my shoe off but could not take off my socks because of the pain when contorting my foot. I thought I'd walk the 100 yards to the food, but I almost fell over on my second step because I couldn't  put pressure on my foot. I got in my car and drove away and twice screamed in pain while driving (who needs to brake??).

My overall time was pretty slow compared to my other times, but I think this was the muddiest I have seen the course and the times across the board were slow. The men's winning time was 4:16 as compared to a 3:24 course record and winner Zach Gingerich is not a slow guy! Even the top ten master's times for men are all under 4 hours, which again just speaks to how slow it was this year. That being said, I know I didn't run the second lap very well, but I don't feel like it was due to bad pacing or fitness and my fueling was good, so overall, I am happy with the race. I am not, however, happy about my feet! I have a newfound sympathy for plantar fasciitis sufferers and I must admit, I probably didn't have a lot before. I have run through so many different "niggles" that I kind of thought people must be exaggerating with PF, but it is no joke! I hope WebMD has some pointers for me (hahaha- as if!). I am 3 for 4 in races (plus a master's win) since December after getting diagnosed and medicated for asthma, and while winning isn't really that important, especially in these smaller races, it is just nice to feel like I am getting back in the game. I don't want to have another set back! (yes, that is my whiny baby voice!). Anybody got any good PF advice??
Happy to be done! Also happy my car is the closest one!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

I am Old Lady, Hear Me Roar - Roaring Run Half Marathon

This past weekend I ran the Roaring Run Half Marathon to see what 13 weeks of training and medication could get me. Well, it got me a strained right hamstring and a finishing time that didn't mesh with my goal time! 

Three weeks ago, I ran the Cascade Half Marathon at a controlled effort for a 1:26:44 finish. I thought three additional weeks of training along with a "race day" mentality (including a bit of a taper and better pre-race nutrition) would allow me to run ten seconds per mile faster for a 1:24:30 finish (6:27 pace), for my second fastest half ever, which would be a good accomplishment in my book (my PR came in 2013 when I was running out of my mind and I am not sure I will ever be able to equal that effort). I actually think it was a pretty reasonable goal and in line with my fitness. Unfortunately, I got a little too fired up early on and deviated a bit from the plan. (That's a euphemism for "I went out too fast and screwed up the pacing"). 

Two women were out front together early, chatting away at 6:10 pace. I knew better than to stay with them, but I stayed a little too close especially as the first two miles went downhill. I backed off but only to about 6:20 pace - still faster than goal pace. By mile 7 my hamstrings were sore and cement like and the pace slowly dribbled into the 6:40 range for a 50 second positive split and a 1:25:18 finish. Oops! At the time, I thought my hammies were just suffering from the hot early pace, but afterwards it was clear something wasn't right. My right hammy and right foot were in a lot of pain. My planned five mile cool down lasted all of 0.2 miles. On the bright side, I was at the front of the line for the potato bar! 
Covered bridge over the Roaring River
Saturday after the race, my kids were in a piano competition. Liam was up first and he totally choked. He left the stage in tears. Afterwards, I tried to tell him that we all have bad days and that I didn't have a very good race that morning. "Yeah, except nobody cares about running, Mom. It's just a stupid race!" So as you can see, there is no good reason for me to get too upset about my race! Megan didn't have her best day either, so no real shining stars in our family for the weekend, but we are getting out and trying and that's what counts.
How Liam really feels about the Bach festival: "Sucks big time". Hahaha!
Despite missing the goal, I am still quite encouraged. Aside from the hamstrings, I felt great. It was an "old lady PR" (PR post-40) and a master's win. (The two fast women went on to take 1st and 2nd overall). I know I could do better, but I am not a half marathoner and am not too hung up on what I could run. I think of endurance fitness as having two main components: a cardio-vascular component and a musculoskeletal component. With asthma, my CV fitness got so bad that I really wasn't taxing my musculoskeletal system and that fitness withered away. But with the asthma under control, my CV fitness has improved tremendously and now my musculoskeletal system needs to catch up. Strength training has always been an important part of my training because I think it helps so much in keeping the musculoskeletal system strong enough to endure the stress when the CV system gets in really good shape. And the weights don't lie: last time I was at the gym, I struggled to deadlift 155#; at my peak I could DL 200#. Now that this base/half-marathon phase is over, I know I need to get back in the gym and get strong again! But this week, I'll be babying my leg and not doing very much: ultra-marathon phase starts next week and I need a healthy hamstring for that!
First Old Lady!
We ended the day with peanut butter pie for Mac's 42nd b-day. Pie is good for aging husbands, sore hamstrings and crabby little boys. :)