11/4/06 and 11/5/06
Short: Autumn Leaves 50 Mile 7:19:34, First woman, 3rd overall. United We Run Marathon 4:14:47.
I somewhat had been dreading this particular weekend because the majority of the race surface would be on roads, and I have become more aware of my sensitivity towards it. But after having passed my boards with high marks (I got a score of 710 when 379 was needed to pass and the 99th percentile was 700), going into this weekend carried less mental stress. That was until Tony Covarrubias and Olga Varlomova got involved. I had planned on just running the 50K at Autumn Leaves because two years ago I did the 50 mile race and swore I would never do that distance again there. It just hurt too much. But Tony mentioned be me that the 50 milers would get a belt buckle, and I collect those kinds of things, so I reluctantly signed up for the 50 miler knowing that suffering was in store. More on Olga’s contribution later.
I left for Portland after work Friday at about 3:30pm. I had been exchanging e-mails earlier in the week with Olga, Eric Barnes, and Steve Stoyles. Olga was letting all 3 of us crash at her house in Tigard, just south of Portland and only a 25 minute drive to the start. I wished I had ridden down with Eric and Steve, who only arrived minutes before, but I was not sure what time I would be able to leave work. They had already ordered pizza from Round Table and Eric and Steve graciously declined any contributions from me. While waiting for the pizza, we sat around the dining room table and talked about what else? Running. Eric planned on running the 50 miler with the early start to finish around the same time that Steve would complete the 50K, which started 3 hours after Eric’s start.
Olga had urged me to apply for the Montrail running team earlier in the year, but I was reluctant since I thought people were usually recruited. But I had e-mailed the person now in charge of finding people, Paul Curran, who took over that duty when Krissy Moehl left Montrail when Montrail moved to Portland. Anyway, I was accepted into the Regional Team at the end of October. I hesitated to tell anyone since it’s not exactly “official” yet, but I figured I needed to tell Olga since she was the reason I applied in the first place. I also figured that after I told Olga, it wouldn’t be a secret anymore. Olga’s always trying to bring out the best in me, so she suggested that I try to run a sub-7hr race at Autumn Leaves. Now, I had planned on running a sub-8hr or come close to my time of 7:41 two years ago. However, she piqued my interest and I sat down to calculate what it would take to run 7hr flat. I needed to run an average of 42 minute per 5 mile loop. That seemed like a big stretch for me since I had such a horrible race at Tri-Cities.
We retired some time after 9PM. I had brought my cot and sleeping bag and set it up in her dining room. Sleep was intermittent, which is always the case for me in new places. There were normal house noises I was not used to. Olga and Eric needed to leave early for his start and Olga’s volunteer work. I got up not long after them at 4:45 and got ready myself. Eric’s start was at 6AM and mine was at 7AM. Just like Tri-Cities, I was not sure of what I needed to where for the weather.
I arrived at Champoeg (pronounced shampoo-eee) State Park and saw the early starters out on the trail with their flashlights. I had a thin long sleeve shirt on, shorts, and no hat or gloves. I felt pretty warm and asked Olga, long sleeve or short sleeve? She said short. She was right; I was totally warm in the first loop. Each loop was 5 miles. The first 1.5 miles was flat and paved to the one aid station out on the course. Then, you did a 1 mile out then back to the aid station, still on a paved bike path. Then there was a short jaunt over a short bridge to the trail part of the loop, which was about 1.3 miles. This trail portion was mostly flat with very slight rolling. The trail part stopped about 200 yards to the slightly uphill finish of each loop. After 4 loops, I was totally hot in this overcastted and breezy day. I stripped off my shirt and ran only in my sports bra and shorts. Still, my face was hot when the wind was not blowing.
I carried a hand-held and had my asthma inhaler, e-caps, and one gel in my back pocket of my shorts for each loop. I didn’t want a waist pack, because those give me back pain on long road races. And I didn’t need a hydration pack. But I didn’t want to carry my hand-held the entire run. So, I dropped off my bottle at the aid station before the one mile out and back for each loop, limiting my need to carry it to only 3 miles per loop. The aid station workers were great! They would see me coming to take the bottle from me and ask if I wanted anything in it, which was usually “no” so that I would have less to carry. Then they would see me coming back from my out and back and hold their arm straight out so that I could grab it without breaking stride. About that time I would have an e-cap before I hit the trail. Just before the loop would end, I took in a gel and deposited my trash as I was coming in to the start/finish of the loop. I did this on every loop and it worked like a charm. I needed to take in a few extra e-caps after the third loop because I thought I was cramping in my calves. But I think that when I took off my shirt, I was not sweating as much and must have helped me lose less salt.
Since there was that out and back, I saw all the runners at one point in their race or another. They were all very encouraging. I’m afraid I was so focused on my goal to finish in 7 hours that I don’t think I smiled much. In fact, I think I had on a grimace most of the time. But they all said that I looked very strong out there, even though I felt like crap. I hate racing my races! There is an element of pressure there that can make the run unpleasant. The only reward usually is a good finishing time and placement. But I was moving along at a pretty good clip. I even lapped people, some of them twice! My loop splits were: (1) 41:02, (2) 39:58, (3) 39:59, (4) 40:55, (5) 42:03, (6) 42:46, (7) 45:50, (8) 48:28, (9) 50:20, (10) 48:10. So my slowest loop was not so bad. Ten minute miles are still considered respectable, right?
After my first loop, I said to Olga, who as manning the Start/Finish aid station, that I didn’t want to work this hard, because I thought it was a struggle to pump out a sub-42 minute loop. In true Olga fashion, she said, “Oh stop complaining and get out there and run!” I just love her! I must have warmed up enough in the first loop because my second and third loops felt better and my times were a little faster. But the winds started to make an appearance in by the 4th loop. They were not by tri-Cities standard, but I knew that they were enough of a deterrent to keep me from a 7-hour finish since they did make me expend more energy or caused me to slow my pace to avoid expending that energy. It didn’t blow hard the entire loop, just the areas that were more open, about 1-1.5 miles of it. The rain threatened a few times with sprinkles, but my sweating made me wetter than the rain. I finished before the downpours came. There were people still out on the course when I left, so they were not so lucky. My problems came in the second half. I had run a strong 1st half, and I don’t think I “went out too fast.” My marathon time was 3:34.
I completed the 6th loop still with a good time of 42:46, but I started to have problems in my left knee with a sharp pain and a sensation of it giving out on me. It really didn’t give out; it just felt like it was going to. I think it was a result of quad fatigue, and I have noticed in the last 4-5 races that I have done that my left quad has become fatigued faster. My 50K time was 4:15:45, which may be my fasted 50K time ever! Anyway, the giving out sensation happened 4 times in the 6th loop and continued through the 7-9th loop. I wouldn’t stop and walk, because past experience had shown me that walking allows it to stiffen up more and thus take longer to loosen up if I rested it. So I continued running and every once in a while, I would have to hop on my right leg to stop the sensation, then I would continue on. In fact, I didn’t walk the entire race except for when I left an aid station. Thus, this problem with my left knee slowed my loop times enough that I lost the 6 minute cushion I had developed in the first half for a 7-hour finish by loop 9.
Knowing that I was not going to be able to do that, I decided to just try to enjoy the last two loops. I had found early on that I was not racing against other women, just the clock. There were some strong women runners out there though. My 9th loop was the slowest due to the knee problem, wind, and the loss of urgency for a 7-hour finish. But I decided to run as fast as I could in the last loop, since it appeared that I could finish under 7:30. Interestingly, the faster I ran, the less my knee hurt. I ran the last loop without a bottle and stopped at the aid station out on the course. However, as I was nearing the end of my final loop, I realized that I could break 7:20. So I booked that last trail section and sprinted the last 200 yards, finishing in my adjusted goal of sub 7:20 in 7:19:34, a 12 minute PR for me in the 50 mile distance!
I finished first woman and 3rd overall. The RD said that my time was not a course record but will rank up there in one of the fastest all time list. I just sat there at the finish aching. But I didn’t want to go in the lake even if I knew it would help me recover for UWR. There’s a big difference soaking after each marathon in sunny Lake Tahoe at the Triple compared to a cold, rainy, and windy fall day in the Pacific Northwest. If there had been a massage therapist there, I would have paid good money for a short session. I hung around a while, delaying the time that I would get in my car to drive home with a stick shift and 4 hours in the rain. I had a little bite of the sub sandwich and chips available to the finishers, but what I really craved was a big, greasy hamburger. The tomato soup was warming. I talked to Sean Meissner a little. He did the 50K and missed his mark of a sub-3:40 finish by mere seconds. I was watching his race with great interest because in the last 2 loops, there was another guy in front of him. I was just about to finish one of my loops and saw Sean and this guy come in. The other guy kept looking back at Sean, who was only a few strides behind him. Then I saw that at the very end, Sean broke out in front of him to finish first. Turns out that it was his pacer. It was too bad that he did not meet his goal either, but came a lot closer than I did. I also mentioned to him that we would be teammates, since he runs for Montrail. He said that he knew because Olga told him. See, I told you it was not a secret anymore!
I got my belt buckle, hit the road, and got my big, greasy hamburger. It was raining so hard that just opening my window to place my order at the drive-thru left me soaking wet! The drive home was another white knuckle drive. It was even worse than the drive down. There was so much standing water and the visibility was terrible. I really can’t stand the semi-truck drivers. I think that because they sit higher up, their visibility is better than us down lower. So they continue to drive their regular speed, which is 65-70 even when their speed limit is 60. So I planted myself a good distance behind a truck traveling about 65. Even then, I would get passed by passenger cars going 70 that would splash the standing water on my windshield causing me to lose complete site of the road temporarily for 2-3 seconds even with my wipers going full blast. No, I couldn’t even fall asleep even if I wanted to. I had a few times where my feet would cramp up on me and would need to stomp them on the floor of the car. I arrived home at 7:30, had dinner, told Ken about my day, and had another restless night.
Sunday came with an overwhelming sense of fatigue. But alas, I needed to meet King Arthur at Alki to carpool to Kent. This race is a point to point course that runs from Kent to Alki. Another maniac was with Arthur, Shawn Lawson, who had a great run. There were a lot of maniacs at this race as there had been at Autumn Leaves. This race also included a relay. This is a low key, no cost race, but the t-shirts are always great for a small fee. The course was mostly marked, but due to the monsoon in this area the day before, a small portion was not freshly marked. There were remnants of the markings from the year before that were still visible. There were several aid stations on the course, but you still had to plan on being self-sufficient. It’s always a fun group, and the reward in the end is Fish and Chips at the famous Spud’s right there at the finish. (Paid by you, of course.)
I knew in the first mile that I would be okay. I was stiff, but nothing really hurt that much. I did have a swollen toe from Autumn Leaves. It was angry looking when I went to bed the night before. It was less swollen when I woke up but was still tender to the touch, especially the toenail, which was still attached. So I tape it up good, and it didn’t bother me until after the finish. I knew my time would be slow, but that was okay with me. I had an excuse. The theme of the day seemed to be, “Don’t let Van beat you.” I guess people were worried that I could outrun them even after running hard the day before. They had nothing to worry about. Two consecutive road races in two days are much different than a road-trail or trail-road combination. I definitely could not have run harder and still enjoy myself. However, I ran most of the race alone. We lucked out on the weather. We were in between storm systems. One had blown through on Saturday, and another one was expected to come Sunday night. In fact, I think the rain started after everyone had finished. I ran a steady pace the first 24 miles. But when I knew that I only had two miles left, I decided to sprint in. Mary Hanna was driving by and honked at me. I waved back. She had a cross-country race earlier in the morning (and took first Masters in her age category) and had said earlier in the week that she would run out from the finish, meet me, and run me in. Well, I thought that she would not get to run with me much because I knew she had to find a parking space and I was booking it. I think I may have run 8 minute miles those last 2 miles. She ran out to me, and I had only ½ a mile to go. She said, “Wow, you’re running pretty fast after running 50 miles yesterday.” I told her that I just wanted to get it over with. I really had enough of running for the weekend. Usually I don’t say that, but that’s the roads talking. I was hobbling a lot more after this race than my 50 miler. I think I’ll rest some before the trail 50K next weekend!