Frölicking trails since 2010

Frölicking trails since 2010
Frölicking trails since 2010

Monday, January 7, 2013

Hagg Lake Hybrid Marathon/Relay - Hagg Lake, OR - October 13, 2012

"Hey Jeff, have you heard Taylor Swift's new single? It's life changing!"

Perfect running weather on a fast, yet tiresome, course.
Photo taken by Long Run Picture Company.

What makes this marathon a hybrid? 12 miles on road, 14 miles on trail. It's not a very common concept to combine both pavement and trail into a distance race, but that's what makes it so unique. For this particular race, Hagg Lake conveniently has both a paved road and a dirt trail that circumnavigate the lake. Lap 1 would be run on pavement, and the Lap 2 would be done on the trail. There is also a Marathon Relay option for teams of two, with one runner completing Lap 1 before switching to the second runner to complete Lap 2.


*Alarm*....Ugh....should I go to this race?....Yeah, I'd better.... Driving to Hagg Lake that morning, I had no ambition to run fast or do particularly well at all. The previous weekend I had spent pacing the legendary Randy Benthin for 60 miles of the IMTUF 100 mile race, and the body wasn't feeling any real competitive voracity. But of course, the reason why I showed up at the start of the race was because I'm addicted to running and hopelessly in Love with the running community.

Smack talking Hafid before the race.
Photo taken by Long Run Picture Company.

Todd's pre-race speech, with his usual sense of humor.
Photos taken by Long Run Picture Company.

As everyone began toe-ing the starting line (shyly), Todd began his pre-race announcement. There would be a man on a bike (Brian) escorting the race leader along the road portion of the course, and Todd jokingly said that if anybody touched Brian they would get $100. Little did he know, one runner wearing a Warrior Dash shirt would accept this challenge. Seconds before the start, Jeff Hoppert and I were chatting heartily about life, liberty, and our pursuits of happiness before we started the race together.

The Starting Line
Photo taken by Long Run Picture Company.

The man in the Warrior Dash shirt went sprinting up the hill after Brian, surprising everyone. Whoa, that's a world record pace!! Wait...did he take Todd seriously?...yup...there he goes.

Warrior Dash guy sprinting after Brian.
Photo taken by Long Run Picture Company.
Jeff and I knew each other fairly well, as we have enjoyed a'many group runs together organized through Trailfactor. We found ourselves running side by side, after deciding that we enjoyed having someone to race with. Side by side and bullshitting most of the time, the road miles flew by. We caught the Warrior Dash guy (who looked rather winded) and continued our pursuit of...the woman. Alas, we were getting chicked badly, and there was nothing we could do about it. Maybe she's doing the relay? Hey, yeah! Definitely maybe...But does it matter?....shit. There is no real shame to getting chicked, but boys will be boys. At least for Jeff and I, we had each other.

Jeff and I getting smoked by the female.
Photo by Long Run Picture Company.
After accepting out fate, we kept calm and carried on in 1st/2nd place (of the masculine contenders) for the entire Lap 1 around Hagg Lake. It was very pleasant, as nobody posed a challenge to either of us. Our lead was all but set in stone...but the problem was, which one of us would steal 1st place? We'd become such good friends after the first lap, but would our friendship survive the second? Together we arrived back at the start and switched from road shoes to our trail shoes. We waited for each other before setting off for Lap 2. We ran single file, and I jumped on front to take control of the pace. Maybe I can push the pace a little bit and try to lose him? Jeff matched my pace stride for stride until we reached the dam, and that's when he started to pull away from me.

Photo taken by
Long Run
Picture Company
Just beyond the dam, I kept Jeff in my sights. All of a sudden, my side started cramping so bad, I had to walk. It seriously felt like I got stabbed just beneath my right rib cage, likely from the recent consumption of a sugary electrolyte beverage at the last aid station. BLAST! After a bout of intense suffering, I stopped, bent over, took deep breaths, and applied pressure directly at the source of the pain. Slowly the pain subsided, and the frustrations of having to stop made me want to run even faster. Literally, my heart was on fire, and my legs felt unleashed like a rabid squirrel-hungry chihuahua. Fatigue disappeared, my pace increased, and the chase was on. I've never felt this way before in my life.

Beginning of Lap 2
Photo taken by
 Long Run Picture Company.
Arriving at the mile 19.1 Aid Station, Jeff was just leaving. Without stopping for aid (running with water bottles has its advantages), I continued after him. At this point, it became very apparent that we were finally racing each other. Running behind Jeff, I couldn't help but analyze and compare our strengths. He would pull away on the flats, but I would catch up to him on the hills. With this, I courteously took the lead and pushed every hill with bursts of speed, trying to both pull away and wear him down at the same time.

After the last aid station, it felt like I was pulling away. For a time, I was alone...until I heard Jeff spit behind me, and then I realized how close he actually was. Looking over my shoulder is a pet peeve, because it shouldn't matter how far the person behind me is. If someone can outrun me when I'm balls to the wall, then they deserve to beat me.

With a couple miles left to go, the hammer was thrown. The last two miles were spent enthusiastically bombing the downhills before quickly switching gears to bust my ass on the uphills. It was all I could do. Coming to an open clearing, I looked behind me (I know, pet peeve, whatever) and saw nobody. The finish line shortly came into view, and my legs coasted into the homestretch. The adrenaline quickly wore off and my calves began to quiver from cramping a mere 50' from the finish line. I'm glad that didn't happen a mile earlier!

RESULTS: 3:07:20, 1st out of 29 Finishers
PACE: 7:09 min/mile

Photo taken by Long Run Picture Company.
Me and Jeff after the race
Photo taken by
Long Run Picture Company.
Jeff finished soon afterwards, after falling victim to cramping issues of his own. We pushed each other to the edge, and for that I am grateful. The limits of true potential, for me, are often found in moments of absolute determination to outrun something more powerful than fatigue. For me, I outran my own doubts. This was another proud moment in my life, because I totally didn't expect this at all...especially given my unconventional tapering.

Thanks Jeff for pushing me to my limit, I'll buy you a beer any day (even if it takes me 10 months to do so).

Of course, thank you Kelly Barten, Eric Barten, and Todd Janssen for putting on a such a stellar and unique race. I'll be back next year, if I can!

Michael Lebowitz, it's always a pleasure seeing you at these races! As always, thank you for the photos and the deep conversations. You indeed are a great man.

Jeremy Hurl and the elusive female (Marathon Relay winners)
Photo taken by 
Long Run Picture Company.

The past 3 months had been some of the best months of my life. Ever since my bedrest ended in July, Running has reestablished itself as the reason why. Sometimes our lives fall into purpose, other times we define it for ourselves. But either way, there's a journey that we must take, and that's nothing to be taken as insignificant. For me, running is a journey without end. One finish line leads to another, and another, because there is no end but the end we make for ourselves. As Howard Thurman once said,

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."

Mum sent me that quotation a long time ago, and it has since become one of my favorite sayings to live by. She may not entirely understand why I dedicate my free time to such exhausting behavior, but she sees how it makes me whole.

That said, there are times when I won't be able to run due to injury or some other blessing in disguise. And in those times, I'll be volunteering at races. There's few instances in life where so many people can look and feel their worst and yet emotionally feel their absolute best. If you want to be surrounded by genuine, emotionally honest, and self gratified people, spend some time at the finish line of a marathon or ultramarathon. This is why I enjoy spending all day at every finish line I cross, because I Love surrounding myself with people who truly are alive. At times when we can't be happy for ourselves, we can at least share in the happiness of others...let's not forget that.

I Love you guys!!! Nicole Chaffin, Kyle Chaffin, and Bryan Mears
Photo taken by Long Run Picture Company.

You complete me. Thank you for all the support this past year, your encouragement has helped me discover the kind of runner/person I am. I Love you guys!

Team Nspire, with the last and first place marathon finishers
Photo taken by Long Run Picture Company.

Much Love,