Frölicking trails since 2010

Frölicking trails since 2010
Frölicking trails since 2010

Monday, June 27, 2011

Beacon Rock 50K - Columbia Gorge, WA - June 12, 2011

Beautifully Painful...
Race Day Photo by Matt Hagen

Ever since April, I've noticed my body going through some interesting changes. Not quite like a second puberty, but it's close. The most evident (and important) is my ability to recover. The month of April was packed with 3 races for a total of 96.2 race miles, and I was able to finish strong for each one of them. Granted, I took good portions of the weekdays off, but running a strong 50 mile race only 2 weeks after running my fastest marathon at Boston?...what once was a lifelong goal was now considered a training run.

June was just as ambitious, considering I was continuing to increase my weekly mileage along with having weekend races. For example, the day after the Timberline marathon, I went for a 15 mile round trip run up Larch Mountain in the gorge. How the hell did I still have the energy for that? Does that mean I didn't run the marathon hard enough? It hurt, but maybe it needed to hurt more...I don't know. My body's teaching me new things these days, and it's taking me for the ride of my life.

Finishing with a 60 mile week, my next goal was a 70 mile week. Why not start it off with another long training run?...


On the way to the start, I picked up a fellow CCC registrant named Jen. This was only her 2nd ultra, but her marathon experience leaves me in the dust (and she runs marathons faster than me). It was nice chatting with her about training and whatnot as we enjoyed a nice early drive through the Columbia Gorge.

Arriving at the start, there were familiar faces EVERYWHERE! The ultra community is so friendly and encouraging, you can't help but fall in Love with the people you share these experiences with. After chatting with the likes of Chris, Liz, Randy, Larry, Stan, Esther, Amy, Marta, and Will, the race began like all typical ultramarathons...a speech, some jokes, and a modest ready set go.


Winning! Photo by Candice Burt
In typical fashion, I ran out fast knowing that I'd eventually get passed by the front runners. This time, I was only winning for about .1 miles. The course involves TWO 25K loops, with two hearty ascents for a total of 3750' of climb per loop. It started with a brief downhill before beginning the first demanding uphill climb. For some reason, this hill woke my demons. A combination of not stretching, not tapering, and not warming up had put me in a small depression due to the tightness and apparent fatigue in my legs. Not even a mile into the uphill, the thought occurred to me to bail out at the 25K mark. 

Deciding that I probably started out too fast, I slowed down and made my ambitions wait for my legs. Chatting up whoever I was running with, I was reminded that I wasn't the only one suffering. Near the top of the first climb, there were some steep switchbacks that begged to be hiked. Relief! Chris had caught up to me at this point, which was nice since I was hoping to run with him for at least some of the course. Larry was also directly behind me, and he put out my demons with some choice words..."Go get 'em, Jason".

Cresting the first peak, my feet found the downhill like a galloping horse. Then it became rocky, and it turned into a game of twinkle toes while trying to keep my momentum rolling. Fly like a bird, tread like a ballerina! My legs recovered well on the downhill, and I was finding myself running in a state of trail zen: running strong, breathing easy, and 100% focused on my next steps.

After the first Aid Station, the downhill continued (there was not a single flat part of the course). Waving to Stan at the crossroads, the trail continued down and over a creek crossing. The worst part about creeks is knowing that they are usually found at low points…Thus, the climb to the top of Hamilton Mountain had begun. It started off fairly gradual in a nice shady OW! OWowowowow.... Gah!..Did I just sprain my ankle?! I somehow missed my footing and rolled my right foot over a tree root, and a sharp pain shot up the outside of my foot. I ran like a wounded animal for a hundred feet or so before trying to run normally...and...the pain...went away! Close call...

Photo by Matt Hagen
The climb went up and up and up! Some switchbacks were runnable, others were less runnable. The uphill climb seemed forever! There were tons of gorgeous views along the way, but running on rocks with distracted eyes can lead to a close encounter of the earthy kind (as it did for many runners that day). Thankfully, others stopped to take photos. They were probably the most beautiful views I had ever seen during a race.

Reaching the peak with tired, worn out legs, I was ready for some downhill recovery. It's about time, I was feeling kind of *CRASH*....hello earth, how are you? Yes, I did have a good trip...Without any room to roll, I stubbed my toe and flew forward, creating a scraped shoulder and a water bottle yard sale. I got running again before the pain set in…and then…theeeerrrre it is…Did I seriously kick that rock with my pinky toe? Ugh. The pain went away after a while.

Running with a man named Brent, we chatted for a while as we were headed downhill back to the starting line. He let me go in front for the downhill technical sections, but when we hit the gravel/dirt road he was flying. Knowing we had to do another full lap, I let him go and hung behind him for 4 or 5 miles.

Photo by Matt Hagen
At the starting line aid station, I made a big tiff about them only having peanut m&m’s when my body specifically craved regular m&m’s. I hope they knew I was joking, because the food was phenominal and the volunteers were SO nice! Liz, the spectating pregnant ultra runner, gave a cheer and I waved back at her before heading out for lap #2. Her husband Chris was on the home stretch when we crossed paths and high fived each other. That lucky devil was only doing the 25K, and he had a strong finish despite not running in 2 weeks! Nicely done!

Party on, round 2 has begun! Now that I knew the course, everything was quantified. My legs were feeling great, and leaving my shirt at the start was the BEST IDEA EVER! The first hill that almost destroyed me in the first lap was now quite nice! Finding my uphill forever pace, the first climb was steady and manageable. Brent had started the hill at a faster pace, but he slowed down and I pulled ahead for good about halfway to the top. This second lap already felt easier than the first lap…I was not expecting this. Charging downhill as gracefully as I could, I got to the aid station with two empty 22 oz bottles. Mental note: switch to California Conservation Mode (shower sparingly, no showers preferred).

After refilling, I eventually caught up with the runner ahead of me. We began our ascent of Hamilton Mountain together, but I soon pulled ahead. We were both running/hiking, but my pace was faster and I was able to run more of the switchbacks. The ascent was still slower than the first lap, but I was feeling comfortable. My bottles were emptying quickly, both due to the 80 degree heat combined with dehydration. I was drinking so much my kidneys were feeling sore. That’s a first! At least I decided to carry 2 water bottles that day, because that was barely enough.

Photo by Matt Hagen
Reaching the top of Hamilton Mtn was a relief, and the guy behind me was nowhere in site. The downhill felt good, and I was pushing as hard as I could for the finish. Reaching the final homestretch, I saw my friends Kyle, Nicole, and Lynda cheering me on to the finish. Did I mention how much I Love the running community? My pace was strong through the finisher’s chute, and I couldn’t be happier with how the race went that day.

Results: 5:11:52 - 6th out of 70 Finishers

Pace: 10:02 min/mile

The finish area was full of people relaxing with beer, barbeque, and live bluegrass music. James Varner, the race director, put on a perfect race, and I'll try to run all of his races someday (Rainshadow Running). After shaking his hand, I met my friends (and my new fanclub, inspired by my James Bronder t-shirt). Thank you Nicole, Kyle, Justin, and Lynda for all the support! I’m still amused by Justin downplaying the 50K by saying “it’s only 31 miles. Jason hasn’t even done a 100 mile race”. Cute kid…I’ll try to earn his respect in August. (Notice the shirts.)

The overall course was fun, soft, technical, and vertically challenging. It was the hardest race I’ve run so far, largely due to my early onset of depression on that first hill. The elevation gain and hot weather were the toughest I’ve had to race through (so far), but everything was relatively manageable. I’m starting to grow more confident in my ability to do well (finish) at Cascade Crest…Ha-Roo!

Bonus Material

Things that got stuck in my head during the race, in order of magnitude: Bury Me In Timbers GreenHarty Boys, and Family Matters (Bruce Lee Episode).

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Timberline Trail Marathon - Timothy Lake, OR - June 4th, 2011

Sun...what's that?

My initial reason for signing up for this race was so I could catch up with the people I met at the Bunker to Bonneville 50K. I've kept in touch with a few of them on Facebook, but this was the first time I would see them in 8 months! As soon as I parked my car at the start, I ran into the lot of them. The jokes started immediately as I met and re-met my Columbia Gorge Running Club friends, and it was the highlight of my day.


The race started in an interesting fashion, only letting one runner go at a time. I was the 2nd that was unleashed, and I sped forward at a comfortably ambitious pace. The morning was cool, despite the forecast for 80 degree weather that day. The course started with a small (mostly downhill) trek to Timothy Lake, where the marathoners were to run around it twice and return to the start at the Clackamas Lake Ranger Station. From what I hear, the course used to start at Timberline Lodge...that would have been awesome.

The trail was soft compact trail, and mostly flat with some rolling sections. I started the race in 2nd place, and I kept my position for a while. Eventually 3 guys caught up and ran with me for a while. I asked if they wanted to skip ahead of me, but they were content with my pace. Ugh. I hate leading a wild pack of runners, it makes me feel like I'm being pushed. I'd rather chase than be chased, but we were only about 6 miles into the race. I was running with 2 water bottles, mainly for practice, but it worked in my benefit. After the first aid station, I lost all the runners but 1 because I didn't have to stop. Yeehaw!

"You see Arcadian,
I did bring more runners than you."
The one guy running with me had a manly beard, which earns him the nick-name King Leonidas. It was his first marathon, and I was glad he decided to ride the trail rather than pound the pavement for his first 26.2. The trail adds a little bit more to the soul whereas the road marathon seemingly tries to steal my soul every time I run one (except Boston). Further on, we were close to the end of the first lap when we were passed by a man wearing a Poland shirt. Polska! It would have been fun to run with him, but I had to bail and take advantage of a campsite toilette. Unfortunate dietary planning, I suppose...stupid fiber.

Getting back on the trail, I completed my first lap around the lake! To make things interesting, the half-marathoners had just started...and so I was now running with a lot more people. It wasn't a bad thing, except I had no idea who I was racing against unless I saw the color of their bib. Bah. My legs were still feeling great though, and so I kept up my pace with a touch of urgency to regain my pre-shit position (with no idea far behind I was). Go legs, Go!

There was an ever growing tightness in my hamstrings as the race went on, another reason why I hate flat courses. Any variation of uphill and down hill would activate and deactivate different muscle groups between the vertical transitions, but flat somehow always makes my hamstrings hurt. Maybe 2 days of taper isn't enough for a trail marathon? Who knows. I was racing the best race I could with the legs I had that day, and that's all that matters. I was able to catch up with King Leonidas, as he was beginning to struggle. We did some quick runners talk before I pulled ahead, chasing behind some fresh half-marathoners.

It was fun passing through camp sites full of people just watching the runners go by. They probably had no idea that there was a run going on that day, but many of them gave a cheer which was appreciated. And there was one point where 4 or 5 children lined up to give high fives...awesome! It reminded me of the Boston Marathon and all the millions of high fives that made my right arm OH so tired.

After finishing the 2nd loop around the lake, I headed back to the start. There was a little hill that I decided to power hike before I found the flatland. The last mile went quickly, though I was was looking over my shoulder half the time. I finished with a sprint, not knowing (or really caring) about my place or time.

Results:     3:23:36 - 4th out of 72 Finishers

Pace:     7:50 min/mile

The weather was beautiful, I finished with a good time, and friends were was a great day! The rest of the afternoon I ate and hung out with many of the Columbia Gorge Running Club folks, especially Kyle Chaffin (who managed to win his age group despite a broken leg). It's easy to get burned out during training, and it's days like this that help re-vamp my motivation to keep training. As my weekly mileage increases, my free time decreases. There is a balance, and I'm still trying to find it...but the races are worth every mile.

Nicole and me post race

It was great seeing everyone, especially Nicole, Kyle, Gary, Stan, Esther, Lynda, Brett, Brett's Wife, and everyone else! Thanks for the awesome day!