Thursday, August 4, 2011

Mt. Hood PCT 50

First, kudos to Todd for quite possibly the coolest logo ever--well, to me, anyhow, as I love Mt. Hood and how she peers down upon us in Portland on sunny days, tempting us to escape the city and come play.  Earlier in the year I had planned to run White River 50 again (which was on the same day), but when I saw the logo and heard there would be pint glasses for finisher's awards, I opted to run the Mt. Hood PCT 50 instead.  That's not the complete story, but it works for now.  And check out the finisher's pint glass--pretty sweet, no?  In the end, there were several friends heading over from Portland to run, and I'd never run up near Mt. Hood, so opted to stay local and explore some new trails.
Ymmmm.  Oregon.  Beer.  Oregon beer.  
Pam had put a little pressure on me to go after the course record, noting that it was soft.  It was hers, so I doubted that it was too soft, and I had no intention of racing hard with Waldo 3 weeks away. But, it gave me something to shoot for, assuming I didn't have to kill myself to get it.

I was impressed and amazed that we even made it to the starting line, as the week prior had been insanely stressful and busy at work, and as I logged off my computer at work at 5:30 on Friday, I knew that I could easily continue working through the weekend and be no closer to being caught up on Monday morning. There had been some late work nights (1:30 a.m. on Wednesday as an example), so I was all too eager to switch off my computer and escape to the trails for the weekend.  Reality would still be there on Monday morning, and I would deal with it then.  Post-stressful-week packing is never good, although I remembered most key items, like shoes and a sports bra.  Jason and I were like a train wreck trying to pack up the car and get out of town, but finally got on the road by 7. The one key item I forgot was my sleeping bag, which is important when camping up in the mountains.  Luckily, a fleece blanket had been thrown in as an afterthought, and I awoke Saturday morning only mildly chilled. Keeping with the chaotic nature of the week, the start line prep felt rushed as we arrived a bit later than desired, but managed to line up in time for Todd to start us off.  I'll blame the fact that I was freezing at the start line in my singlet, as to why I ran the first mile with Yassine. I warmed up quickly, and realized that running with Yassine was probably a bad idea if I wanted a pint glass, so dropped back and shared the first 6 or 7 miles with Ian Sharman.  This doesn't sound much wiser, except that Ian typically starts off slowly and then builds speed throughout a race. So, he got in a few slow miles of warm-up before he bounded up the first mini-climb and out of sight for good. 
Trying to keep pace with Yassine.  Ha!  I guess I was feeling a bit cocky, as I don't usually  start up quite that close to the front.
I felt fine through the first aid station (mile 6'ish), but heading up the first real hill around mile 7 I had a bit of a melt down. Suddenly, my legs had 0 juice, and I felt like I was having a panic attack. A little wheezing and absolutely no energy in the quads. I think I was "running" 20 minute miles. WTF? It was not a hill that was worthy of walking, but I allowed myself a few steps to evaluate the situation.  My mind was still whirling from the busy week, and I think it was just a mini-freak out from the stress of the week, and then finding oneself thrown into the middle of the woods slogging through 50 miles. I downed a gel, continued slogging up the hill, and the panic went away, and once I started heading downwards to the first turn-around at the Frog Lake aid station, I felt relatively OK.  Somewhere in here, we started passing early starters, and this gave me something to think about and distract myself from my own thoughts.  A nice cruisable downhill into the aid station, I tried to politely pass early starters without flinging anyone off the trail. Lots of nice views of Mt. Hood through this section, as well.  
PCT en route from Frog Lake aid station.  Lovely, soft, runnable trail. 
Somewhere after Frog Lake (mile 14) I had my first explosive stomach issue of the day. I blame it mainly on the fact that we got up late, and got to the start late, so there just wasn't time to let things settle.  Otherwise, my stomach felt OK, until very late in the race.  A note on headphones, here, as I intentionally pissed someone off somewhere in this section. So, I'm attempting to pass a group of 3, and the woman in front is wearing headphones.  I'd called out to the other 2 to let them know I was coming by, and passed them without incident, but then called out a few times to the woman in front, who just plodded along clueless to the world around her.  I noticed she was wearing headphones, so leaned over and yelled (almost directly) in her ear, "Passing on your left," which intentionally scared the crap out of her.  Sorry, but if you're an early starter on a double out-and-back, where you know you're going to have about 150 people passing you, DON'T WEAR HEADPHONES. Is this not common sense? Or, turn them down enough so that you can hear what's happening around you. OK, I'll stop with the rant.  And yes, I can be a brat sometimes.  
Coming into an aid station.  Lots of lovely shaded trail all day. 
Besides running the first miles with Ian, I ran alone the rest of the day.  Luckily I was alone when I took my one major face plant of the day, probably about mile 20.  It was on a smooth pine-needle'y downhill, so scuffed up my knee a bit, and made me really dirty, but otherwise had no major impact on the day.  I hadn't fallen in a while (as in about 6 weeks, but I tend to go through falling spurts, and this seems to have been the start of the most recent crashing trend which has continued this week).  
Lots of nice views of Hood.  Not this particular view, but ones similar....
The course is a double out-and-back on the PCT, with most of the significant climbing (although nothing is really significant in a course with 5600 feet of climb) coming in the final out-and-back.  So, the course goes out 14 and then back, bringing you through the start/finish at mile 28.  You then head the opposite direction on the PCT for 11 miles, and back to the finish.  After the first out-and-back, I made it back to the start/finish in 3:48, so 28 miles in 3:48. I figured if I ran the second half in the same time, I'd run 7:36 and get in under Pam's 7:42. Surely I could run 22 miles as fast as I'd run 28?  I hadn't really had time to check out the elevation profile, except briefly. A little course knowledge is sometimes worse than no course knowledge, because I remembered there were bumps on the elevation profile, but couldn't remember exactly where they were. As it turns out, they are all in that last 22, or at least they seemed to be. 

There's a long'ish gentle climb up from the start/finish to the next aid station at mile 33.  I mixed in a bit of run/walk, as I wasn't feeling a lot of oomph.  I wasn't suffering, just didn't have the motivation to push the pace much.  It was nice to see familiar faces at the aid station up top, but was disappointed when Rick couldn't confirm that the course immediately went downhill.  He was right, as we ran along top for another mile or so, but eventually the nice long downhill started, and my mood improved. Then there was one more slog up to the turn-around aid station, which was a happy sight, as I'd now be moving in the direction of the finish line.  I made sure to time when I passed the next female, as she hadn't been too far behind at mile 14.  Heading down from the turn-around, I was happy to see she was now at least 30 minutes back, so I didn't have anything to worry about in terms of staying in front--while I wasn't feeling very competitive, I also never like to be passed in the last 10 miles after leading all day.  I could slog homewards to my heart's content, although  I did still want to get the course record, so was motivated to make an effort to keep moving at a reasonable pace. A nice slog up to the Tuesday night group's aid station, followed by a nice long down to the finish.  Nothing too eventful in the final 11 except for some brief stomach issues, which necessitated a not-very-private stop about 2 miles from the finish due to poor planning and the emergency nature of the stop, and lost a few minutes and a  place to the poor soul who also had to witness my somewhat-public bathroom display.  
Timothy Lake: a nice spot for some post-run soaking.  
In the end, I didn't run the second 22 much faster than the first 28, and finished in 7:30. Pam had called the record soft, and I'll add that the record is still soft.  Throughout the day I didn't have a whole lot of juice, and while at times felt like I was cruising along OK, other times felt like I was shuffling through the motions. The word "blah" sums up the race for me pretty well in terms of effort.  The weekend on the whole was a big thumbs up, as it was a fun weekend with friends in a beautiful spot in Oregon. There are so many trails and lakes and places to explore around Mt. Hood, and being up there this weekend was a reminder that I need to get up there more, and just how lucky I am to live in Oregon.  Lots of great times were run by friends out there, and it was fun to see so many familiar faces on trail. Even after his slow start with me, Ian went on to dust the previous course record in 6:29. Laura Kantor completed her first 50 miler in a great time--she is truly an inspiration. Yassine, always strong, ran well for second, and cheered for everyone like a crazy man throughout. Randy, always downplaying his ability and his training, rocked a sub 7:30 finish. The post race grub was good, and it was fun to get in a nice post-run soak in Timothy Lake with new friends from Idaho and a birthday boy from Sisters.  Add in a chiropractic adjustment from some chiropractic students there to offer their services (which helped to get some ribs knocked back in place that have been bugging me for months) and the post-run celebration was perfect.  Todd and his merry group of volunteers put on a great race--I expect that this one will grow in popularity again. 

Roomie Jason and I after our post-run lake soak.  Feeling refreshed and smiley. 
Post run, I didn't have much soreness except for an exhausted right hip flexor.  My left foot continues to have some weirdness in the flexor something something muscle, but it's more of an irritation than an issue. All was good until Tuesday night, when I crashed hard twice on a FP run, which has resulted in a lighter week than desired.  Just a bit of bruising to my pride, more than anything, although my right knee is a wee bit bruised and irritated.  Crashing is so incredibly frustrating. I'm hoping to hit it hard next week before a brief taper into the Waldo 100K the following.  After that, I have absolutely no plans.  I've been looking to sign up for something, but I have no idea as to what that will be.  Suggestions?