Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Road to Badger Mountain update

I've now begun another week of 30/30/45. Today I did the first 30 Miler of the week, in 7:20, which I think is a little quicker than last time, but who knows? So many factors. The weather has been warmer, and therefore Wildwood Trail was a mud pit. I will take tomorrow off, then on Tuesday do it all over again, with the 45 Miler on Thursday. I hope the weather holds. A downpour on Thursday would throw things off, though I suppose I could do it on Friday without too much trouble.

In the past two weeks I've gone back to my more 'normal' schedule, of running every day. In addition, I've done two FAT ASS 50Ks the last to Saturdays, which are great training (see my blog for the write-ups). Having a group of folks running with me helps me boost my pace. My main worry for Badger Mountain at this point is how slow I am: Will I even make the cut off time? I'd rather just come in under 24 hours, but I just don't know how it will go.

Actually, I have plenty of worries. Despite feelings fairly strong on the 50Ks, and despite feeling more in shape than when I attempted Burning River two years ago (almost), I somehow feel doubt that I'm ready for a Hundo. I suppose when I get through this next 45 Miler I'll feel better, but Badger Mountain is now about two months away. I guess that means at least two more 30/30/45s, and I'm signed up for the Hagg Lake 50K in February, so I guess that's a lot! I'd feel better with a 50 Mile race (or two) under my belt, but I searched: in the winter months they're scarce.

Still, good news: I have another team member. Or, I think I've talked him into it, either perhaps pacing me some, or at least being the car driver.

Other worries are unemployment running out (maybe, maybe not), and no good job prospects, that I can find. I know there are ways to train for a Hundo with a full-time job, and if it comes to it, I will. Still, I'm hoping to take advantage of my joblessness by doing Badger Mountain. After that, then I can begin to stress in earnest. Of course, then there's the Born To Run Hundo in May....the madness never ends.

If anyone has any tips or thoughts or suggestions for me at this point, or for race day, they are much appreciated. I'm in unknown territory, which is a good thing, but tips from Those Who Have Gone Before would be nice.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Capitol Peak FAT ASS 34M

Ugh. Getting up at four in the morning is brutal. More so when you have a head cold. But, it was necessary to get up here to Capitol Peak National Forest just outside of Olympia, Washington. I'm actually early. Like, way early, arriving with all the Search and Rescue folks who are putting on this FAT ASS 17/34 Miler, as a fundraiser for their group, Friends of Capitol Peak. Being Search and Rescue dudes (and they're mostly dudes) they've all got their personal vehicles tricked out with extra lights and winches and tires. But heck, I'm glad they're out here. If I get lost, they'll be right here to find me.

They seem to be running this FAT ASS run as some kind of training day—a good idea I think, meaning that there will be smaller groups of them spread out along the course, with radios and water and First Aid kits. This is going to be WAY more organized than the FAT ASS I did last week. I feel in capable hands.

I check in at the main tent, and they even have bib numbers for us. Classy! The main organzier dude asks me if I want to do the early start at 7. I think about it, tempted, but then realize I can't, I didn't bring my headlamp. It's 6:30, and still dark, because 1. Dense fog, and 2. Dense fog in a dense forest. Instead, I head back to my rental car and crank up the classic rock station and watch more cars come in. At seven, a group of early starters start, maybe about ten of them, with headlamps and looks like backpacks, or maybe Camelpacks, though they look big. I just haven't ever gotten into lugging a bunch of stuff on long runs, IF I know there will be water stations, and actually, here, on a mountain, there maybe be some lovely mountain streams to drink from.

Finally 8 o'clock rolls around, and light is filtering through the trees and fog, though the fog doesn't look like it's going to lift anytime soon. Still, enough light to run by. Temperature is maybe just above freezing. I'm wearing my Merrill Trail Gloves—the best tool for this job, mainly to keep the feets warm. I do see some other minimalist shoes here and there, and actually saw a bunch last week too, so, at least for trail running, minimalist shoes are becoming almost normal. Maybe. There's also one crazy guy in some kind of huaraches I've never seen before, and he's also just wearing short shorts and a 'barely there' sleeveless shirt. He looks like a cross country star somehow. I bet he's fast, but brr, looking at him makes me colder.

The Organizer Dude gathers us all up at the Start line to go over directions, though many people don't seem to be paying attention, more concerned with saying hello to old friends. After last week's fiasco, I want to hear everything, so I get right in front of him. And yes, he is way more dialed in. He shows us a bit of orang and red flagging that they've used out there, and says they've also marked all turns with orange spray paint. The 17 Miles is an out and back, from the first aid station, which, do I hear this correctly?, will also be a Tequila Station? Wtf?

As for the 34 Milers, we will run up a mountain, run around the top of it, and back down. No problem. There was some worry about snow, but he says it's packed down and not that bad. Sounds cold, but ok.

And, with the typical FAT ASS 'not much ado', he says go, and we go!

I'd say there's maybe 50 of us? Or maybe up to 75? I'm terrible with judging numbers (and mileage)(and time), but anyways, I let the faster folks go on ahead. We get a little dirt road to filter us out, but then we're all on trails, going uphill switchbacks like the 75 Dwarves. Many people seem to know each other, or else it's my luck (such as it is) to be around them. I can tell I'm tired, because I'm grumpy, and annoyed already that a woman right behind me is yelling back her end of a conversation with someone else five places back. Call me crazy, but in the situation, I'd just drop back five spots to talk to the person. But ok, breathe John, breathe. Relax. This is a wonderful day, the sunlight filtering through the icy trees and fog. And you're running! And the cold isn't really that back. I feel a little congested, but I'm not draining, or sneezing, or coughing. I just feel like, with a cold, I feel better when I get out and stay busy, rather than moping back in my apartment, so this is gonna be pretty active. We'll see. I could very well overdo things and send myself into pneumonia by the end of this! Ha! But no, I have faith in running! Running makes us feel good. Running heals. That plus a tequila shot or two.

But there are occasional bumpings out onto dirt roads and wider trails, so people can pass as is their wont. And I wont. I'm barreling down the downhill sections—Part of my new running style, trying to run a little faster. When I get in long-distance mode, I tend to lock into one rate for up and downhills, so I'm trying to use the downhills more, to use gravity, to speed me up. So right now I'm zipping along, passing lots o' folks, but I may regret it later, since, despite trying to use gravity while maintaining a light 'lifting the feet' mode, versus a 'slamming the feet down' mode, my quads do still seem to take a beating.

In overhearing more (sometimes loud) convos, most people seem to be doing the 17 Miler, and in fact, the fast ones (including crazy half-naked dude in huaraches) now are heading back on the same (sometimes narrow) trail. The thought strikes me that maybe the 34 Milers should all have started an hour earlier? Just to clear us out, and to get us all back sooner, so everyone can head home sooner? Might make for a lonelier run though. Having all these people around makes this seem like a 'real' race, meaning that our competitive natures kick in and we all are running faster than if we just went for a run on our own. That's one of the reasons I decided to do this race, as part of my training for the upcoming Badger Mountain 100 Miler Challenge.

I get to the first aid-station/turn around and yep, some guys have set up a tent, with some tables, and some bottle of tequila, along with some Mexican decorations. Wow. And yet, I know I'm going to have to take a shot on my way back. Just because. But I have many miles to go before I drink.

I continue on and up. And yes, without the 17 Milers, the pack was been widdled (? whittled?) down significantly. I'm now alone. How sad. But, I break out into a old clear cut area and voilĂ , the sun! The fog has lifted! No, actually, once I get way out into the clearing I see that in fact, I've just gained enough elevation to be above the fog, because now I can see out for miles and miles, all the way out to Mt. Rainier! And below, just a white fluffy sea of cloud/fog. The whole valley is socked in, but up here, glorious sunshine. In fact, it's now warmer, and with snow on the ground, brighter.

The snow is either fairly packed down, or melted off, so that running isn't bad. But, the trail is now a bunch of switchbacks going up another clearcut. So, not running anymore. This has become a hike. I see some radio towers way up on the top of a mountain and wonder, Hm, Am I going all the way up there?

The trails have been well-marked, no doubt I'm on the correct route. Still, nice to see some other runners out here, even if it's two guys passing me. I could probably be hiking faster, but I keep getting distracted by the view: The higher I get, the more I can see of this huge fog-sea, with occasional hilltops peaking out, looking like islands. What a beautiful day. Minus one little thing: someone has come out to the State Park to shoot their guns. Damn. Doesn't seem fair that one or two people can disrupt the serenity of a whole valley of people. But, who knows, they probably feel the same way about a bunch of crazy runners hogging the trails. Hopefully though they're get tired of shooting their guns. I mean, how much fan can it be?

Onward. Upward. The water from the aid station is nasty, so I opt for something much better: Creek water. Snowmelt from right off the mountain. Nothing better. And plentiful along this route.

Organizer Dudes instructions come back to me when I get to a fork on a high dirt road, with orange paint arrows pointing both ways. This is where we'll basically run around the top of the mountain and come back. The snow up here is thicker, though still packed down, at least on this logging road. I feel a little like Legolas from The Fellowship of the Ring, running over the top of snow. It's the kind of snow that, if just a little better warmer, I might crash through up to my knee or thigh and really tweak something badly, so I'm trying to be careful, and with the icy crust I'm still slipping a lot. I pass one woman who has stopped to adjust her Camelpack or something. I figure she'll catch me soon, but I don't see her again. Still, again, good to see another runner. I just don't want to be last, to have everyone waiting for me back at Base Camp.

The route goes in a large circle around the top of the mountain, and on the backside I come on some Search & Rescue guys at their truck. There's also a woman, who's asking where the bag drop is, and they're trying to explain that is was back at the first aid station, at the Tequila Station, but she seems kind of out of it. Man, she's like eleven or twelve miles off. I wonder if she's going to just quit. Something doesn't seem right about how she's acting, though maybe it's just frustration/anger at not knowing where the bagdrop was. Yikes. Still, I do maybe see her point: why have the bag drop 8.5 miles in, and not further up, more at the halfway point?

I don't know. I keep going. More up, on an old old steep steep road/path. Just hiking best I can, slipping on the ice and snow. But this road takes me up to the very top of Capitol Peak, and man, the view is just....amazing. Mt. Rainier on one side, and Mt. St. Helens on the other. Surrounded by the sea of fog below, in all directions. This may get my vote for most scenic race/run I've ever down. Makes me really appreciate having moved out here to the Pacific Northwest.

In fact, I have a new worry: with all the snow, and sun, I may be in danger of getting sunburned! Who'd've thunk?

I bail down the other side, almost falling on my ass a few times, on this ice-covered dirt road. In fact, there's a State vehicle off to the side: Looks like it actually slid off and almost turned over. I check inside. No one there. Must have happened earlier. I guess they're just going to leave it until the snow melts down. Seems like the Search & Rescue guys could winch it out, though maybe even they can't get their trucks up in this snow.

Back to that original fork. Ok, I've looped around the mountain. I'm now over half-way. And: it's all downhill (mostly) from here! Man, if I could slam down those switchbacks I could really make up for time. Check my watch: 4:20. Hm. Not sure if that's good. With that massive hill, I think so. My average time for a 50K is six hours, but this is a little more. I think I may be out here for more than six hours. Ok, well, I hope I'm not last.

I'm now running again, though as I feared, I'm tired, and my quads are stiff, so although I'm getting a little boost from gravity, I'm not zooming down. Still, a great day to be out running, and I'm not super exhausted. I'm not sure I'd be up for running a full Hundo, which gets me mildly worried about Badger Mountain: I have two months to be ready for it, and I don't think I'm ready for it. But oh well, stay in the moment John. Enjoy this.

On the way down, there are more Search & Rescue teams at the road crossings. Part of their training day more than anything, doing a little traffic control, which isn't really necessary. But still good to see them, and they assure me that I'm not last. Ok. Whew. I don't see anybody coming up though: Everyone must at least be running around the top of the mountain by now, which gives me a little boost to maintain speed. Would be a little disheartening to be passed by someone now. But I don't see any runners at all.

There's still guys shooting guns though. In fact, I end up getting a wee bit misplaced, going down a main dirt road that doesn't look familiar, but which takes me right to the shooter dudes, who, to give them credit, are friendly, and confirm that they haven't seen any other runners come by. Oops. So I turn around and run back up the road, and yep, I ran right by some big orange paint arrows. Not paying attention. Zoned out and tired. This is my big fear about a Hundo: getting majorly lost due to my own delirium. This is why I need pacers.

But yeah, having guys shooting right by me is a little unnerving. And, they were firing pistols as paper targets twenty feet off the road. And they've been doing that for hours. That just doesn't seem fun. I guess they want to get as much practice in as they can before Obama takes away their guns. And, ha, now there seems to be some other groups of target practicers, one of them with what sounds like an automatic rifle. “The hills are alive / with the sound of gunfire....”

I am tired. The cold isn't helping. I fear I'm on the edge of getting chilled. I just feel congested, like my ears have been popped. Plus my stomach is rumbling, alien chest-burster style. But lo! Looks like a Tequila Station!

It is. There's a bunch of what looks like mountain biker dudes, and one dudette, huddled around a fire, with the table full of tequila bottles. Wow. But strangely, the thought of tequila doesn't make me want to vomit. In fact, in some way, I feel like it might feel good. I'm not a big drinker at all, but I feel like my sinuses might get cleaned out. And/or maybe it'll kill the alien in my stomach. So ok, I order one up.

The guy behind the table pours me a shot, along with one for him and a friend who comes over. I ask, “How many shots have you had today?”

He smiles. “Oh, only one for every runner that's come by.”

That can't be possible. He wouldn't be standing. But anyways, it's good to actually talk to this folks, to see people in general, and they seem genuinely enthused to see me. They confirm again that I'm not last. Whew.

Onward. The tequila feels ok actually. I feared suddenly having to vomit, but it, plus the lime (nice touch!) take actually good. Again, who'd've thunk?

Ok, well, 8.5 miles to go. Or, maybe a little less, since they said something about the route back being slightly shorter (I'm still not clear why). I'm at 6:20. Wow. Ok, well, I wanted a long run, and I'm getting it. I feel super slow though.

I'm off the mountain though. The route is back to short ups and downs. Still no one. I'm on my own. Ugh. Slog mode. Mentally tough more than anything: I feel the twinges of “I just want this to be over.” Yeah, if I'm feeling this, then the Hundo is gonna be tough.

The route IS slight different, rerouted. Maybe not a full 8.5, and most glorious is seeing a State Park sign with the name of the campground where I started on it, and a big '.5' next to it. Almost there!

Without a lot of fanfare, I come into the Finish, almost taking the volunteers by surprise, but they give me a cheer, which is nice. Time: 8 hours almost on the dot. Wow. Whew. Man. I'm sixth from last, with only 30 people signed up for the 34 Miler, though that doesn't take into account the early starters, so I'm actually more in the middle of the pack, which makes me feel a bit more respectable.

I thank the Organizer Dude for a good race, and head to the food. I'm going to go into hypothermia soon now that I've stopped, but wee bit o' hot soup helps, along with some salty potato chips, and why not, a bite-size Snickers bar. Or two.

One other runner is there, a woman who came in like fifteen minutes before me, though she's one of the late-starters (time 8:30ish). We chat for a while. She seems as eager as I to actually finally talk to someone. We also chat with an older gentleman ladling out the soup, who is friendly up until I let slip a comment about all the people out shooting guns. He immediately makes a face and walks away. Wow. People must really like their guns out here.

But yes, body cooling down fast. Must. Change. Clothes. To talk at. Normal. Speed. I thank all the crew once again and head to my car, so I can sit down for the two hour drive back home, and my legs can tighten up nicely. Tonight, a big bowl of guacamole and chips and a hot bath, and tomorrow a nice yoga class! Wonderful run. Wonderful day.

Results: 18th out of 25 finishers. Not last!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

MAC ASS 50K Fiasco

I had wondered if the ‘FAT ASS’ type of race existed out here on the west coast, and voilĂ , now I have two in a row here in January. For those who aren’t familiar with them, they’re basically free races, or very cheap, put on by kind souls who like distance running and are willing to put something together for the benefit of the local running community. I’m here at the MAC ASS 50K (and 10K and 25K), in McMinnville, about an hour southwest of Portland. The race is being put on by a local high school cross-country team, as a fundraiser. Free to sign up, but they’re asking for donations. So, I’ve put in forty bucks in the coffee can at the check-in desk.

It’s cold. Just below freezing, with frost on the ground. Fortunately, in this little park picnic area, the organizers have two separate fires going, along with a big outside space heater. The 50K is starting at 8, with the 10K and 25K starting at 9. I’d say there’s about 40 people here now. The other Oregon barefoot runners are all doing the shorter distances, so I don’t think I’m going to know anybody, but no, there’s Janson, down from Washington of all places. He’s doing the 25K but got here early, so has come looking for me. Janson will be one of my pacers for the Badger Mountain 100M challenge. In fact, he’s the one who told me about it. We talk about tentative plans for that race, and I’m surprised to learn that he’s fully expecting to be up all night. I’d been planning to get him pacing me early so he could get back to his family, but now we’re thinking, if and when I get some more pacers, that maybe he can trade off with someone. Anyway, we’ll figure it out.

This race does fall nicely into my training though. Two weeks ago I did my first ‘30/30/45’ and this past week I’ve been doing more ‘normal’ runs. But I do still need one long run a week, and this is it, along with a little practice in getting ready for a race, and with the added bonus of some minor competition in order to get me to run faster. Next week I’ll probably be doing another FAT ASS up near Olympia, with ‘normal’ running in between, and then I’ll do another 30/30/45 week.

The organizer dude calls everyone to the Start line to explain the route. No one wants to be in the front of the pack, so he has a hard time getting everyone to gather up. So he just talks to those of us nearby, explaining that the course if flagged in pink, along with some directional signs, and that we “shouldn’t think too hard” about directions, and not to every backtrack if we see a sign not directly in front of, concluding with, “Don’t worry, you can’t get lost.” Uh oh. Whenever a race director says that, many people get lost.

No official start, really. He just says go. I go slow, letting people pass, not in any hurry, especially since we almost immediately go uphill, up this dirt road, past a huge clearcut. Apparently there is logging allowed in State Parks? Or we’re not in Metsker State Park at this point? Not sure. I am concerned by how slowly I seem to be going, worrying that I might in fact end up last in the pack. I could run faster at this point, but I’m pacing myself.

And we basically go up to a certain point, manned by two volunteer dudes who are drinking beer at 8:30 in the morning (wow) and turn back around. At this point I’m running with this woman, and come to find out she thinks she’s running the 10K! She’s shocked to learn that we’re all 50Kers here. “I was wondering why he didn’t give directions for the 10K course!” So yeah, maybe the organizer dude might have clarified that in his speech.

At least on the way back I get to see that there are in fact people behind me. I’m not last! Yes! We return right back to the park picnic area and Organizer Dude is there at the dirt road that goes back up to the Start. He points in that general direction and says, “Left at the green sign!”

I am by myself at this point, and hesitate, because there’s a fork in the road, with some green flagging off on the right fork. That can’t be right. I stop and hold out my hands. He yells after me, “To the left! To the green sign!”

I look back where he’s pointing, then up the right fork in the road I see a light green sign up in some trees. Oh. Ok. Wow, that bodes ill.

We’re on a trail that circles around the picnic area, and the pond it’s next to. When back within sight of the picnic area, there’s a woman taking photos, and she points me left again and up a small trail. It tops off onto another logging road, and here I kind of get into a group of folks. We follow some pink flagging to the right, back down into some woods, and soon come to a flagged off trail to the left, though the signs are not facing us. The woman in front of me goes, “What should be do?”

I say, “Well, remember, he said not to think about it too much, and not to backtrack. But I’d understand if you didn’t follow me.” She and I continue on the main trail, though the people behind us seem to have taken the left.

We bail down onto another logging road, with no apparent flagging either direction. No, there’s a faint pink flag off to the left. Still, seems not quite right. But we go on, until the woman goes, “Uh oh, there’s my son. And he’s supposed to be at the beginning of the pack.”

Her son and his two freinds say this road leads out to a paved road, which can’t be right. So we all backtrack up to that place where the flagging went to the left, though the youngsters soon lose us. How embarrassing, to run a race with your mom!

This newer trail takes us up into an old clearcut area, where there’s lots of ‘reprod’—younger trees. And here is where chaos ensues: There’s a fork, with either a trail, or a smaller logging road, and there are groups of people coming and going both directions on both forks. I’m starting to feel like I’m in the movie The Poseidon Adventure, with my group unsure of where to go, but asking other groups, who seem equally unsure. This can’t be right. There’s a green sign that says 50K and points up the logging road, so we decide to try that.

Which takes us onto some other trail through the woods, flagged though, and not unpleasant, though we’re still seeing people going both directions, though nobody can confirm this is some kidn of ‘out-and-back’ or not. And then we get dumped right back at that trail/road fork. Well shoot. What’s going on here? We turn around, and meet another group coming the way we just came, who say this is their first time through.

We continue, going out and about, and getting dumped out right back at the same trail/road fork. Und scheisse. Was machen wir? Que diablos hacemos?

We finally meet at guy on the trail who turns us around yet again, claiming he’s just done what we’ve done, twice. He takes us back to the fork, where one of the organizer dudes is now standing, directing people. He points us back up the trail. I ask about the 50K sign, and he goes, “Remember, only follow a sign if it’s facing you.” Yeah, well dude, this trail sign says ‘50K’.

I’m getting annoyed and even angry, but then I think, you know what? This is an opportunity. I’m training for a Hundo, and this is an opportunity to run even more than 50K today. Still though, to put people out here running around lost, in really cold weather, feels a little irresponsible.


I lose the woman I was running with, but gain a couple other folks for a while, and not that we’re lined our properly, though we end up at the fork yet again! This time the two young beerdrinkers are there instead of the other guy, and they point us up the logging road. I say, “Are you sure? This will be the second time I’ve gone this way.”

They’re suddenly not so sure. “Yeah, we heard something went wrong.”

Great. But this time that first guy is farthur up, and he points me up the road, instead (!) or following the flagging. “Just head straight up until this road hits another logging road, and turn right. Don’t follow any flagging, follow the green signs from now on.”

Ok....And of course this logging road turns into a trail. Did I just get lost again? Goddammit. And there’s still people coming down in the other direction. But I find a green 50K sign, and see that this there’s another sign facing the other direction, meaning this is a place with traffic in both directions, and by now, the 10 and 25Kers are out on the course as well. Ok....

But I do in fact bump out onto a larger dirt road, with flagging to the right. Ok....

More people running the other way, but also a couple of folks running my way too. I ask them, “So do you have confidence in where you’re going?”

They both give a fairly confident affirmative, though then I find out that they’re running the 25K. So yes, now I’m being lapped by people who started an hour later than I. Great.

On a side note: the guy I’m running with points out a young man coming towards us as the worlds champion trail runner, though I don’t catch his name.

But, finally, we get to a water station. I’ve been running 2.5 hours now, my water bottle long empty. That can’t be right. But the two good ole boys running the station can’t confirm any directions about the course, except to point me up this STEEP side road a little ways back. As I turn back towards it, one yells out, “It’s just a .4 mile out-and-back.”

I almost stop. .4??? At this point, that’s almost insulting. I’ve been running around in circles and you want me to run uphill, on a super rocky road, and then back? Grrr...

But I do it. I guess I see why it’s on the course, because it takes runners up to the highest point in the area, with a view of the two large valleys on either side. Ok fine.

Back down, heading back to the station for a top off. The good ole boy tells me, “Back down the road. Look for the green signs.”

The good news is that there’s still people coming the other direction, so I’m not last. Though, actually, they could all be 25Kers by now. Argh. But there is indeed a green sign, pointing down and to the left, onto a kind of...trail. More like a trailblazing route through the trees. This isn’t an official trail, though it’s becoming one with how many people are running over it. I wonder if the State Park officials know about this?

Basically I’m sidehilling along under that road I just ran along, but then the trail bails downhill. At least I’m pretty sure that the route is all downhill from here, so I’m having fun just running fast, making up for lost time, even finally passing some people.

Not too much later, I get to the second water station. Ok, that’s weird, but I top off. The guy there points me back up hill for a four mile loop. At this point, I’m walking the uphills, to this is kind of a long walk. But that’s fine. I use it to down a Clif Bar. And then, I reach the peak of the trail and barrel back down, ending up right back at that water station. More water, then he points be to a hidden downhill trail. Unflagged. Good thing someone was here to show me.

Down down down. Then an evening out, and some slight up uphill as I follow a trail paralleling a river. I suspect that this is the river that goes up to the picnic area. Wierd to have those two water stations crammed together right at the end. And my confirmation is correct: I come out into the open, a little downhill from the Start.

Still plenty of people under the rotundra, and now there’s food! I cram in some chips and hummus, a deviled egg, and some tangerine juice. Most 50Kers I’d talked to along the way said they were just going to bail when they got back. Me, I’d really like to run a 50K. I mean, I need/want a long run. Yet, I check my watch: Oy. It took me 4 hours and twenty minutes to run this first loop! That’s crazy!

I check in with Organizer Dude, going over with him the route, and the flagging and signs. A young woman volunteer says/claims that there was some mischief, that some “mountain bikers” has switched signs around. I’m not so sure. Feels like incompetence to me, but maybe they’re right. Organizer Dude tells another guy that they’ll be out here until dark. Well, ok, if someone’s going to be here, I guess I’ll try a second loop. Especially if others are going to be out there.

I head out after that one guy. Thankfully we don’t have to run that first out-and-back up the logging road, just arond the pond and up. And man, this time the route is clearer, and I see that I got lost way way early. This time I end up at the trail/road fork way faster, and know which way to go. I pass that one guy somewhere in there, but he catches up to me just as I’m about to do the long uphill that’s the end of this little maze area. He stops though, asking, “Should we follow the flagging?”

I explain that at this point we just follow the green signs, and that I’ve been through this whole area like three times. He kind of doubts me, which is totally understandable, but follows me up, and when we bail out onto the top dirt road, he says, “Wow. Thanks for lining me out back there. I would’ve been lost forever.”

“Believe me, I know how you feel!”

We run together down the road, and turns out this guy has run Western States! I don’t get what he’s doing so far back in the pack (if there is indeed a pack at this point—I’m starting to feel like we’re the only two people out on the course). But I get to pick his brain a little about running a Hundo.

I’m checking my watch though, and even though we got through that maze part with no problem, and much much faster than I did the first time, it’s now six hours in: which is my usual finishing time for a 50K! And at the first water station, the good ole boys are gone, though they left a gallon of water behind.

We top off, and I make my decision: I’m not going to do that .4 out-and-back. This is just taking too long.

The other guy is going to do it though. So we part ways. I say he’ll probably catch me, and the shakes his head. “I doubt it.”

So, interesting. But, onward. And now it’s all mostly downhill. At the second water station, there is nobody. No water. Check my bottle: almost empty. Ok, screw this. I’m not going to run around without water. So, I skip that extra four mile loop. I’m just heading for the Finish.

This second time through has gone MUCH faster. I feel like I could’ve PRed if I hadn’t got lost. And man did I get lost! I think I lost an hour or an hour and a half!

And soon I’m back at the Finish. And yeah, everything is packed up. The volunteer guys clap when they see me. I tell them that there’s still another guy, maybe an hour behind me (because I suspect he’ll run that four mile loop too). They’re surprised. Organizer Dude checks the list. They thought I was the only person out there. In fact, my name got checked off already. They think I’m him! Good thing I said something.

At this point, they organize and send guys out on motor bikes to find him and get him back, because they all want to leave.

Me? I head to the little food still left out and chow down on more chips and hummus and juice. Organizer Dude give me my 50K finisher hat: a camouflage hunting cap that I’m never going to wear, yet which I feel I’ve earned still.

Like I said, I normally run a 50K in six hours. My watch says 7:20. Crazy. Thinking about it now, if I had been Organizer Dude, I would have shut the race down and prevented me and that other guy from heading out for a second loop. I’m not sure he even realizes how badly many of us got lost. Oh well.

Despite my earlier annoyance and anger, I feel good. I got a good long run in, and adapted and overcame. It’s actually been a wonderful day! And now to do the worst thing possible: sit down in a car for an hour and a half and have my muscles all freeze up. Woo hoo!

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Road to Badger Mountain: First 45 Mile Run

Well, I did it. Ran 45 miles on my own. For fun. I guess.

Actually, it went well, and in fact was a wonderful day, bringing in the New Year running.

I ran the ‘normal’ 30ish mile route up in Forest Park, on a cold crisp sunny day. Not that many people out, due to everyone staying in and watching football I guess. I was again in my Merrells, though the trails weren’t quite as muddy, due to the ground being frozen, and no rain the past two days. But still the best tool for the job at this point, mainly to keep the feets warm. A minor problem: blisters on the tops of my feet, from the shoes rubbing against them. Not used to that!

That took about 7:30. I returned to my apartment, and didn’t allow myself to sit down at all. I didn’t want to give myself any excuse to stop there. Instead, I changed out my top torso clothing, the two shirts and the shell, which were all wet, though not soaked, and put on another wicking shirt, my old ratty Ibex wool sport sweat shirt, and my Seattle Marathon long-sleeve glow in the dark.

I quickly downed an orange, and heated some lentil soup, though surprisingly wasn’t ravenous, not wanting to run on a full stomach anyways. Oh, also, the one weird thing was that I drank one water bottle less than I have been doing on the 30 Mile route. And by then, water just did not sound good. This happened to me on Burning River too: After a while, water from a running bottle just doesn’t taste good. So I drank a glass in my kitchen, but did refill my Amphipod carrying bottle and one of my belt pack bottles.

In the other belt pack bottle holder, I put my Xero huaraches (thin enough to fold up that way) and a pair of Injinji socks, in case of need of warmth. But I just needed to do some barefoot running. It’d been a couple weeks at least, which for me is unheard of. I wasn’t sure how long I would last, since the temps were still, seemingly, only in the high 30s, and I would be running on into the darkness.

My plan was to simply attach on this other longish run that I do, which is to head down to the river, go upstream to Sellwood Bridge, then back up the other side. I think it’s about 15 miles, usually takes me about 3 and a half hours.

So yes, after running from 8 to almost 4 o’clock, I then set out once again, and I have to say that I looked like a complete dork, with the glow in the dark shirt in still daylight, and also that by then I was running at a bent over shuffle. But, running nonetheless. This has been my experience in longer races, like the two 50 milers that I did, that the body, my body, is still capable of shuffling along, even though sore and in pain and unable to lift the legs very high.

I still in the back of my mind considered the possibility of cutting this section short, and doing the hour and a half route instead, but I stayed with it. Running barefoot felt, good, and re-vitalized me a little, I guess with the sensation of having sensation down there once again. My experience with running barefoot in cold weather back in Michigan says that I can run down into temps a little below freezing for at least short periods of time, most especially if the sidewalks are dry, which they were. I ran maybe five or six miles before I started losing daylight, and the bike path I was one got a little rougher. At that point though, I only put on the Xeros, not the Injinjis, and in fact, just that small separation between the soles and the pavement was enough to warm the feet for the rest of the run.

The one BIG factor at this point, and again, I remember this from Burning River, was the almost overwhelming loneliness. It’s the combination of being exhausted, running in the dark (especially on the deserted Willamette Greenway, away from any buildings or lights) and knowing that most other people were sitting inside, warm, together, watching tv or talking. Running is solitary, which is what I like about it, but THIS was very solitary. So, this was good, a good opportunity to feel it again, to remember that this is going to happen at Badger Mountain. This is where have a pacer will help, just another human nearby. This loneliness was a BIG factor in my DNFing at Burning River.

It got a little better once the Greenway came back up into civilization, and I could see lights and buildings, and downtown Portland in its glory across the river, with all the buildings lit up. And by then I was well past the half-way point for this second route: Not that many miles to go before I sleep.

And I made it home. That whole second route I didn’t walk at all. Didn’t run too fast, but didn’t walk. It was all mostly flat. That part took me about four hours. So, yes, I’d run a total time of eleven and a half hours! And live to tell the tale. That’s about right. The two 50 Milers I finished both at around twelve hours.

The biggest thing I noticed was just how sore my feet felt, both from the rocky paths in Forest Park, and just the overall all day use of my arches. Of course the rest of my body was tired and weary and slow-moving. But, that said, I didn’t rest right then, as I had walk a few blocks to get to a cafe to get online and book a train ticket for Seattle, for the next day. Which I did. And had to get up at six the next morning to get over and catch the train. So didn’t even get a real good night’s sleep, but had enough energy to enjoy walking around Seattle. Moved a little slow, but not to much. My body recovered surprisingly fast.

So, overall a success!

Now, I will take a couple weeks of a more ‘normal’ running schedule before I do another 30/30/45. Though, that said, the next two weekends I will be running FAT ASS 50Ks. In between, shorter runs, hopefully barefoot.