Sunday, June 27, 2010

Bald Peak to Hagg Lake

If fate had smiled favorably on me, I would have been running the Western States 100 today, where by the way, both Geoff Roes 15:07 and Anton Krupicka 15:13 broke the course record.  Instead I have 62 days left until my 100, which is probably just as well.  I noticed that last week I said I had 72 days til Sisters to Sisters, haha, nope, that's what I get for having my brain on too many events at one time.  Today was my last big training run before Sisters to Sisters which will be here in a little over a week.  I started in Laurel, OR, if you don't know where that is, don't worry, neither did I.  I ran up and over Bald Peak, big long steep 3 mile hill up to a beautiful view. 

 Then down a very steep hill to Laurelwood.  I felt really good early and probably was running too fast.  But a major map snafu slowed me down.  I had mapped the route on and Jeanne and I both had it on our phones but, we had limited phone coverage for internet access and some of the map road names were not the same as street signs so miles 6 through 12 included several stops and conferences to make sure we were going the right way.  From now on, if I have no idea where I'm going and I have the luxury of a road crew, printed maps!!!
While figuring out where I was going I decide to take advantage of the slowed pace and eat something, then I realized that I had forgotten to put the food I had prepared in the car.  I was about 10 miles into 30 and in a seriously bad mood, I was pissed at how many stops I had to make and then the prospect of no food for the entire run.  Jeanne saved the day by finding a small store and getting me some crackers and peanut butter.  She got one more day saver but that comes later.
Once I started seeing signs directing me to Hagg Lake and now knowing I had food waiting for me when I got there my mood improved quite a bit and I ran really well to the lake.  I had intended to run the lake counter clockwise to get the big hills done earlier but I assumed that I could pick up the trail on the north side of the dam and directed Jeanne to drive ahead of me.  There was no trail access so we ended up going over the dam to the South side.  Realizing the mistake and not wanting to get all pissy again I just decided to run clockwise.  I ate some peanut butter and crackers and refilled my bottle with Infinit and took to the trails.  I'm really not crazy about trails.  I know they're serene and beautiful, and you're suppose to have some spiritual awakening while running them, but you end up having to watch your feet so much it really doesn't matter how beautiful the scenery around you is.  Here's an example, this is what the brochure would look like

And here is what most of the trails looked like.

Around mile 20 I started really struggling, looking back the majority of it was mental.  I was frustrated with the trail, I had rolled my ankle a few times and was starting to think about how beat up I felt after Forest Park.  About half way around the lake I took to the road and felt better, then I was quickly reminded that the big hills are on the North side of the lake.  Now I was struggling a little with the hills. At mile 24 I found out that Jeanne had also bought a Coke for me.  I learned in the Helen Klein 50 miler the magic properties of Coca Cola late in a long run or race.  Maybe it's a placebo effect, but within minutes of adding Coke to my bottle I felt really good. I ran really well in from there and even enjoyed the scenery a bit.
I wasn't sure how much switching to the roads changed the mileage so I ran back toward Gaston to finished with a smile on my face.
 Oh, one last thing I almost forgot, I found this glass like slipper on the side of the road, and I picked it up.  Upon completion I found out, much to my chagrin, that I am NOT Cinderella.
Next stop, Day 1 from The Dalles.

Monday, June 21, 2010

To Walk or Not to Walk

To walk or not to walk, no one piece of Ultra running has perplexed me more than this.  Ultra running has required learning or relearning many things.  I'd never tried to eat in the middle of a run before, but knew that I would need to, and I learned how.  With food, it was math ish.  Finite energy storage, calories expended over x period of time, required calories consumed before I was done.  People can make this very complicated, but the bottom line was I needed to eat, and so, I do.

Walking though?  Of course, the further the distance, the slower you go.  And of course, you learn to try and run slower early and save something for late.  It doesn't always work out that way, but that's a wise plan to follow.  So at some point, distance really, going slower becomes walking.  And, following this logic, if you know you're going to walk some of a given distance, it's wise to walk early, but it feels wrong.  What feels right is to run until you just can't anymore and then survive.  But I would never have a marathon plan that was, run 10k pace until you just can't anymore and then survive.  I told you this has perplexed me.

So, I'm going to share my recent experiences and experiments, and reveal a plan that will have buried in it, a prediction of sorts for the Lean Horse Hundred, my first 100 miler in August.  I can't reveal the plan without the prediction being obvious, but there is little to no boasting in the prediction.  The appeal of Ultras to me is the flirting with failure, and I'm very well aware of the potential for failure.

Eh, walking.  When I first started running, I learned the Galloway training method, which has you run a certain amount of time and then walk a certain amount, 5 minutes run, 1 minute walk.  I always felt stupid doing it in races.  Every body that I knew that ran, used this, and I was warned that if I didn't walk, bad things would happen to me, that might even involve my soul.  Like may religious warnings, I decided to take my chances, and stopped walking.  Nothing happened, except I got much faster.  But, even since that apostasy I have walked in races.  I've blown up in marathons and walked some of the last few miles in.  I walked in the Crater Lake Half Marathon when the hill was so steep that I thought it would be faster to walk, it wasn't. 

And I walked in my first Ultra, a 50 miler, last October.  In that, I walked with a plan, sort of.  The plan was 30 minutes run, 2 minutes walk, eat a little every hour.  I didn't come close to following that plan.  With the exception of slowing briefly at aid stations to get a full bottle, I didn't walk until I was 15 miles in, it just seemed silly to walk sooner than that, even though that was my plan. I walked quite a bit from mile 28 to 30, then recovered and ran/walked on a schedule until mile 36, then the schedule was driving me crazy, so I ran when I felt like it, even a pretty quick 42nd mile and walked when I needed to to the finish.  I was pleased with my finish and my time, but did feel like a little saved early would have served me well late. 

This brought me to the really perplexing part of walking, how slow is too slow? I do think there is speed, where to go any slower is not really saving any energy, you're just not as far down the trail as you would have been.  Maybe some people derive more psychological benefit from resting early, but I'm little high strung, and get antsy waaaay too easy.  I know that I can't trust myself and that I need a schedule.  I also know that any schedule works well on long run workouts.  So, I've decided to go with a run for an hour, walk 5 ish minutes ish.  I know that early in the race the walks won't be 5 minutes and that towards the end the run won't be an hour but the better I manage that transition the better I'll do.

I can't think this far and not start doing some arithmetic, and I can't do that with having some expectations.  Not really a prediction, but I have to believe in my training and need to have a goal.  And so the thinking goes this way, running slow and easy and walking 5 minutes once an hour is around 9:30 a mile.  I think my training will allow me to maintain that for the first 60 miles.  That gets me to 60 miles in 10 hours, then, I know, things will get interesting.  I'll be over the moon giddy to go under 20 hours, very happy with anything under 22 hours and completely satisfied with a sub 24.  Walking and eating P n J sammiches.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Sisters to Sisters

This is the first Sisters to Sisters post.  I'm days away.  All rooms and travel plans that are going to be made, have been made.  My Map is complete ish.  I haven't figured out my exact route from Madras to Sisters exactly.  I may scout that out the day before and make a game time decision.

Last year I ran from the Burnside Bridge in Portland to Sorosis Park in The Dalles.  The full account is here. At this time, I'm thinking I'll attempt Sisters back to Portland next Summer, but who knows.

Sorosis is Latin ish for Sisters, hence the name, admittedly taking some poetic license, Sisters to Sisters!

As it stands right now the 4 days looks like this:

Day 1, Sorosis Park to the Hwy 197 a little past the White River crossing south of Dufur. 35 miles
Day 2, White River to Antelope Hwy crossing, south of Maupin.  35 miles
Day 3, Antelope Hwy crossing to somewhere south of Madras.  30 ish miles
Day 4, Somewhere south of Madras to Sisters. for a total of 131 miles in 4 days.

And the Map looks like this.

I know it's gonna be hot, and the two big hills are big and long.  Last years Portland to the Dalles was CRAZY hot, in the 100's each day.  I can't imagine it will be much hotter.  I may need to get some really early starts, especially since last year I was averaging 19 miles a day and this year will be 33 miles a day, that's over 2 hours more running each day.  Food, drinks, water, extra clothing I think I've got down.  Last year was a test of planning and logistics as much as running.  This year, the running should be the hardest part, which is much better.  Worrying can't help running!

A lot of this is out in the middle of nowhere so this sounds funny to say but, if you're in or around the area and want to run part with me, let me know!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Coach John Wooden

Just before falling asleep last night, I learned that Coach Wooden had died.  I woke up thinking about nights at Wooden Camp, films in a small theater and then Coach would talk about life.  I'm sure it was intentional that these were the last events of the day.  You worked hard, really hard, all day and then when your body is exhausted your mind and soul are truly ready to receive.  You are then left, to fall asleep, with those lessons bouncing around in your head.

I've never liked phrases like, "give 110%", "busting my ass" or "gave it everything I had".  They're just rarely true.  Even in our greatest accomplishments, there are flaws.  Even our greatest efforts have weakness embedded in them.  I've always been drawn to phrases like one attributed to Steve Prefontaine, "fatigue makes cowards of us all".  I'm sure these feelings started with Coach Wooden's definition of success, “Success is a peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”  I love sports, love watching an 8 year old celebrate a made basket, and love watching adults act like 8 year olds when they win.  But I think true feelings of success are quiet moments, all alone, with yourself.

Coach Wooden had almost as much influence on my life as my father, and now they are both gone, leaving me only with their words.  From my father, "It's not what you do today, it's what you do every day that counts". And from so many wonderful Coach Wooden quotes, my simple favorite, "Be quick, but don't hurry".

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Forest Park 50k

I ran my first Trail Ultra on Sunday at the PCTR Forest Park Trail 50k, in Portland Oregon.  This was even closer to virgin territory than the word “first” might suggest as it was only my second trail race ever and only my second Ultra race ever.  That being said, I felt like I was in very good shape going in and thought my biggest challenge would be holding myself back as I really wanted to continue my Eugene Marathon (slower and more consistent pacing) approach.  I grossly underestimated many things.  The mud, the hills, the mud, the terrain, the mud and the mud.  It became obvious pretty quick, that I was in for a fight.

And, the winner, by unanimous decision......Forest Park.
It didn't knock me out!!!   It did however, knock me down a few times though.

The whole experience was pretty humbling.  I learned that I'm kind of priss. 
I'm pretty tough about enduring pain etc.  But the whole getting muddy and dirty and just tromping through not caring isn't exactly my cup of tea, yet!  Early in the race,
if the trail was decent it seemed I was faster than those around me, even
though I was running pretty easy.  Where it was really muddy and
nasty, they'd catch up to me.  "They" were probably running
close to the same pace regardless of the terrain, I was a tiptoeing
little princess for quite a while.  Then I turned my ankle around
mile ten, primarily because I was trying to prance from mud blob to
mud blob and not get my feet wet, and I mistook a rock for a mud
blob.  I started deciding at that point to pull out at the 20k
aid station.  I had all the "this isn't even running, this is
retarded, I'm just going to hurt myself, I have to get my first DNF eventually it might as well be here etc" talk going on in my
head.  All the way up to the aid station I was gonna quit.  Then, Jeanne asked me what I needed, I took a quarter of a P n J sandwich and a new bottle and took off.

I can't count how many little turns of the ankle I experienced.  I do know the left one rolled all the way over 3 times and the right one once.  I fell three times, the only positive being, I never was going that fast so they were more of a stumble than a fall.  Never in my wildest nightmare could you have convinced me that a 50k could take me 6 and a half hours.  I remember not too far past 20k, recalculating my original goal time and thinking 6 hours was possible.  At 30k, I jokingly said, "maybe I'll break 6:30".  Whew, 6:28, barely!

I survived, that's really what I take away.  I really admire the people that are good at this kind of running.  I know it's part training, part technique and part guts.  At one point I thought of a line from the movie Rumble Fish, "Blind terror, in the face of a fight, can easily pass for courage".

May 2010 ended up at 240 miles, and somewhere through the middle of the month I went past 12,000 miles total.  Now the big miles begin.  As I type this on June 2nd, I have 87 days 'til the Lean Horse Hundred.  Still, a few adventures to go between now and then.