Thursday, May 16, 2013

Lake Sonoma 50: a wee bit after the fact

The last month has been a whirlwind, and has left me feeling very fortunate, a bit nostalgic, pretty fit, and short on time to write about it.  This past weekend was the first one at home in over a month, and looking ahead, the summer and fall will continue at a somewhat frenetic pace.  Sadly, Portland has been having the type of spring that you never want to miss a day of--sunny and warm--almost too much sun for my liking, but as much as I like the rain, I can't say that I actually dislike the sun. I just like to be contrary.  Flying back from Turkey a couple of weeks ago into Portland and again last Sunday from Illinois I was so happy to be home. Flying over the Pacific Northwest--past Mt. Hood, along the Columbia River Gorge, and over the very green landscape into PDX-- makes me realize how very lucky I am to live in a place that I love.  But I'm also lucky to be able to get out frequently and see other places in the world that I love to visit--most recently to California for the Lake Sonoma 50, on to Istanbul, Turkey for work with a stop first at Lake Iznik for the Orhangazi 80K, and then last weekend back to Monmouth, Illinois, my hometown.

There's really no better way to forget a 50 miler then to run a second one the week following.  I had a blast at Sonoma, but had an even more amazing time at the Iznik Ultras in Turkey, such that they kind of overshadow my memories of Sonoma. Sonoma felt like a family reunion, and John and crew do an excellent job with the pre-race pasta feed, post race tamale-feed, and Sunday wine tasting.  There's just enough organization to feel like it's a weekend of activities, with enough free time to relax a bit and enjoy lovely Sonoma County. For me it really was a family reunion, of sorts, because my aunt and uncle drove up from San Jose for the weekend for their first ultra experience.
Uncle Denny and I at the pre-race dinner.
Maria and I enjoying some wine and scenic views in Sonoma County. John Medinger (RD and Sonoma County resident) is a lucky guy. 
So, on to the race...the Lake Sonoma 50.  Both the women's and men's field were slated to be super-competitive, but as is often the case, the entrants list did not equal the start list, and the women's field had a number of key drops.  I'd done an interview on Ultra Runner Podcast the week prior, and in complete sincerity said I'd hope to crack the top 10.  When a number of top names dropped, I was gunning for top 5, but hoping to podium (top 3). I planned to race, but also wanted to be able to walk the next day, and run another 50 miles a short week later (10 hours time difference to Turkey, so it was actually a short week between races). So Lake Sonoma I planned to race, and the race in Turkey I planned to see what it felt like to run consecutive 50 milers while trying to avoid injuring myself.
Lake Sonoma
Words I've heard to use Sonoma are "deceptively tough" and "relentless". With 10,500 feet of elevation gain, most of the climb comes in the form of short relentless hills, except for a 14-mile section from miles 18-32 where you have 3 sustained ups and downs (see elevation profile). Besides the longer climbs in the middle, the short duration of most of the climbs makes it such that you feel like you should be running most of it, none of which is flat.  And because it's an out-and-back,  you begin to dread the final 10 miles during the first 10 miles, as you realize that you're going to be going up and down never-ending rollers on the way to the finish. Or at least I was dreading the final 10 miles early on.  I started off towards the front of the women's field, and found myself catching up to Rory when we turned off the road and onto the trails. We were in 3rd and 4th at this point.  She let me ahead, and then we ran together for several miles. I felt like I was pushing, and at some point asked Rory if she wanted to pass. Her response kind of implied that she wasn't really working, and was just along for the ride, enjoying the trails. I opted to jump off and let her by, as she seemed to be expending very little energy, and I seemed to be over-expending.  She effortlessly bounded up the hill, and I assumed I wouldn't see her again.

The course runs fairly close to the lake; the ups and downs are the result of descending into and out of the various creeks surrounding the lake. Thus, there are several creek crossings (12), which were very low this year compared to past years. There was water enough to splash in and get your feet wet, which was nice, as it was a bit warm for us Oregonians. I felt OK, but after the Warm Springs aid station at mile 12, walked some of the climb out of it, and also hiked a bit of climb to the turn-around. I never felt particularly bad, but never felt particularly great, either. I was pushing, but not really into it in terms of racing. There's a lollipop at the turn-around, so I'd seen Cassie heading down the road and looking strong, but didn't see Joelle or Rory, which meant they were in the loop. Cassie was about 15 minutes ahead at this point.  Meghan turned into the aid station just as I was leaving, so looked to be just a minute or 2 back.

The next part of the course was the most enjoyable (to me) because you're both heading downhill and homeward bound.  And, it was a section where I passed a lot of people.  After getting passed by Rory and a couple of guys traveling with her around mile 10, I don't think I was passed again for the rest of the day. I ran alone for nearly all of it, and probably passed another 10-15 runners before the finish.
Somewhere near the turn-around. Those Oregon legs are not quite tan, but more so after this race. Photo by Gary Wang.
I came up on AJW, probably at about the same point I passed him at RM50, after the turnaround with 20 or so miles to go, and he was looking a bit less salty than at RM.  I started hearing reports that Rory was just ahead, so I just focused on pushing to try to catch Rory, but more so that I didn't get caught by Meghan.  I started to see Rory ahead of me on the climbs, and we came into the Warm Springs aid station at the same time. She left before me, but I caught up to her not long after, and she hung on for a while.  I picked up the pace, as I wasn't really in the mood to race, and was kind of enjoying the solitude.  Once I passed her, I continued to pick it up, because I wasn't mentally up for a close finish, and Meghan had looked really good at the turn-around. I like to run with friends, but I prefer to race alone, as I play less head games with myself that way.

The last 10 miles were pretty uneventful. I passed a few more dudes, and felt pretty strong running most of the short rollers. I went into the quarter-mile out-and-back section leading to the last aid station (Island View) and didn't see anyone exiting as I entered or see Rory or Meghan as I left the aid station, so didn't feel the need to push. I ended up finishing in 8:04:11, which was 3rd chick and a respectable time for the course, 16 minutes back from Cassie, and a minute and a half back from Joelle. Rory and Meghan finished soon after in 4th and 5th.  I've never finished ahead of Rory, or that close to Joelle, so all in all, I was pleased.  I never really felt like I was racing, and had some left at the end, but it was a good solid effort, and I awoke on Sunday feeling like I hadn't trashed my legs completely. It wasn't a great race, but it was a good test of fitness, and I felt much stronger than I had at Ray Miller 50 back in early February. I'd gone into Ray Miller on not a ton of training, but had gotten in a 9-week block averaging 80 miles/week in the weeks following RM. That's most likely the most miles I'd ever done in that stretch of time, and with more speed work than I've done in the past (lots of marathon-pace tempo runs).
The "podium". 3rd, 2nd and 1st listening attentively in all directions.
RD John Medinger with me, Cassie and Denise.

More wine tasting at one of Maria's favorites.
Sunday was a really nice recovery day, with morning hot tubbing, followed by a wine tasting event organized by John and crew, followed by more wine tasting with Dennis and Maria. My quads were a bit sore, and I ended the day by going for a short shake-out walk/run on Mt. Tam, as Max and I were doing a photo shoot on Monday in the Headlands. While I felt good on Sunday, after an all-day photo shoot in high winds and chilly temps, I awoke Tuesday morning in Portland feeling like I was hit by a bus. Tuesday morning at work the USADA people showed up to catch me during my one day back in the office for a quick urine sample.  At least it looks like they're looking at my schedule notes, and are being fairly accommodating. Wednesday it was time to fly again, and there's nothing like a long flight to Turkey to kick back and recover, arriving in Istanbul Thursday afternoon, and by Friday, I was hanging out with my Turkish running buddies (from last year's trip to Turkey--see next post) in Iznik, and again preparing to run 50 miles on Saturday at the Orhangazi 80K, part of the Iznik Ultras that take place around Lake Iznik, a short journey from Istanbul.  I went for a 3 mile shake-out run on Friday afternoon to loosen up after a few long days of travel, and proceeded to face plant on concrete, completely tearing open my left hand and knee. I felt tired, uncoordinated, and jet-lagged, but wasn't nervous, as I was really just planning to do what I could.

MHW Way2Cool tank: The fit and fabric of the Way2Cool tank has changed a bit, and for the better (to me). A slightly longer cut, and the fabric is buttery soft (also has the new cooling fabric, but living in OR, I can't say that I've noticed--felt good at Sonoma and it was warm). I wear this tank on most of my runs these days.
MHW Ultrapacer Short II: I have always loved the Ultrapacer Short and the second version of these shorts hasn't changed much from the first (which is a good thing).  Just as gloriously short as the first version, and light.
Montrail Bajadas: No feet issues. The newest version of the Bajada has fixed the two issues some had with the first.  They're reinforced around the toe box (fixed the blow-out issues), and the tongue no longer slips because the little shoelace loop thingy on the tongue has been moved to the outside (and I wonder why I never get asked to review shoes).
Injinji Run 2.0 Midweight Mini-Crew: This particular model is a favorite (along with a few others). I love my injinjis. And it's not just because they give me socks. I had no feet issues, and I'm still 10 for 10 on toenails this year. My pedicurists love me.

Nutrition: Clif Shot gels (5'ish), jelly bellies, water, coke, and 2 salt caps.  I wasn't carrying salt, and because I was drinking water, realized I should probably take some at some point. So, I took one at the half-way point, and then, just after I left the last aid station and was lamenting the fact that I'd again forgotten to grab salt, I found a salt cap laying on the trail.  The trail gods were listening!  I licked off the mud, and it was good as new.  Otherwise, I drank water throughout, ate gels for the first two/thirds, but then coke and jelly bellies fueled the last third because that's what sounded good. Not my best fueling day.


ultrarunnergirl said...

Love your race reports, even long after the fact. Congrats on making the podium again! Looking forward to the Turkish 50 Miler report.

Olga said...

"I feel blessed coming home" indeed for you! I still (and hope forever will) love coming back to Portland and flying over those distinct features. Great report, I can't believe you "didn't push" yet passed Rory and was almost to Joelle. You are totally in great shape. It was awesome to see you and get a chat in too! Gotta check out that top for myself...

sea legs girl said...

Loved your description of coming home. - flying over it. Think, if you were not a runner, you would not so intimately know those places you could look down upon. Yes, fortunate in many ways. Congrats on Sonoma and I look forward to hearing about your race in Turkey. said...

Hope you recovery time was really uneventful and helped you to recharge your batteries! Though, it seems like you always are fresh and after the rest!

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