Frölicking trails since 2010

Frölicking trails since 2010
Frölicking trails since 2010

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Hagg Lake, Two Races, and a Half Gallon of Beer - Hagg Lake 50K & 25K, February 16th/17th

I won't start the race in the porto this year. I won't start the race in the porto this year. I won't... - Pre-race Mantra

Morning Sun at Hagg Lake.
Photo by Jennifer Love.

Muddy. Muddy. Muddy. Muddy....except this year! The trail around Hagg Lake is infamously known as a soul-sucking, shoe-stealing, groin-pulling, mud-in-my-mouth-and-face-and-oh-shit-it's-everywhere kind of conditions. However, this year was a prime exception, and the weather leading up to the race was unusually sunny and dry. This meant that the 50K would have one of the fastest courses ever in the race's 12-year history.


It's early in the season, and Hagg Lake was to be my fitness test. After 2 weeks of tapering, my body was maxed out on potential energy. Mentally, my mind was prepared to greet pain with a smile and to push hard for a sub-4 hour finish in the 50k race. All that mattered was that I run my race and go as fast as my legs could carry me. If someone else's legs were faster, then good on them. Finishing a race can mean just as much (or even more) than winning a race if you surpass your own expectations, and my expectations were based on feeling more than time. There's a fine line that I've been trying to find between endurance and speed, and neither the clock nor music are going to tell me where it is.

Pre-race shimmy. The Zags are so hot right now.
Photo by Paul Nelson.

With a jig in my head, a fire in my heart, and after 3 trips to the porto, it was time to line up at the starting line. Friends were everywhere, either racing, spectating, race directing, or photographing. After countless hugs, smiles, and words of encouragement, the race began.


Jacob Puzey in Red, I'm at the right in the green bandana.
Photo by Long Run Picture Company.
Quickly positioning myself with the front of the pack, there were about 5 of us running together as we started the 1.5 mile out-n-back. The first 1.5 miles were a gradually uncomfortable uphill dirt road, the steepest and longest climb of the course. After a half mile, Jacob Puzey and I were the only ones within chatting distance as we pulled ahead of everyone else. Nice guy! After the turnaround, Jacob just took off back down the hill faster than I dared to run (his long stride helped). It would have been nice to run with him, but there was no way I could keep his pace without detrimental consequences. My goal wasn't to get first place, so there were no reservations in letting him go. Just loneliness...*sigh*...

Lovin it!
Photo by Long Run
Picture Company
After passing the Start/Finish area at the 3-mile mark, I picked up my water bottle and began Lap 1 of 2 around Hagg Lake. Puzey was well ahead at this point, but still within sight. The runners behind me were far enough away that I couldn't hear them, but they weren't out-of-mind. The thought of being chased was more motivating at this point in the race, for I was determined to make it 'a bitch' for anyone to keep up with me. So every hill was a tempo sprint to the top, as the trail around the lake was filled with many short climbs in rolling fashion. Hills are my strength, and I often try to use it to gain ground on those runners who are faster than me on the flat sections of the course. At least, that was the strategy.

Photo by Long
Run Picture Company
At the dam (4 miles into the race), Puzey was already a half mile ahead of me. Hot dam! It made no sense for me to look back and see who was behind me at this point in the race, so my eyes were fixed on the path ahead...and then the GU in my hand...and then the pretty lake view...and then back to the path. Arriving at the dam Aid Station, the garbage can was lacking a plastic trash bag, so I took my empty GU packet and THREW IT ON THE GROUND, thinking that the aid station volunteers were just slow at inserting the plastic trash bag. Nope. There was trash in the trash can, and I threw my garbage on the ground, right in front of an Aid Station volunteer. I felt like a royal ass. I vowed to right the wrong on the second lap, and tried not to let it affect my race.

Running strong, accelerating up the hills, coasting the downhills, floating the flats...things were going smooth. No one in front of me, no one behind me...just me, baby. Arriving at the first timing check point, I took another empty GU packet and THREW IT ON THE GROUND! (with permission from Cole).

16K SPLIT: 1:08:48
PACE: 6:55 min/mile

Photo by Long Run
Picture Company
My legs were feeling great, and passing the early start runners gave me a little boost. It's not so much the passing of the runners that helped, but more so the interactions with them. There was a lot of kindness on the trail as the early start runners stepped to the side, cracked a little joke, smiled, and said words of encouragement. Thank you for sharing a moment with me during the race, you have my respect for having to endure the race for longer than I did.

The first lap around Hagg Lake ended at the Start/Finish area, and there was lots of cheering. Joe Uhan clocked Puzey at 7 minutes ahead of me. Wow, he must be in a hurry. Running to my drop bag, my shirt fell off as I began chugging a can of C2O Coconut Water (sponsorship, please). After switching water bottles, I took off for the final lap around Hagg Lake.

HALFWAY: 1:56:54
PACE: 7:02 min/mile

"How far ahead?"
Photo by Long Run Picture Company.
Gratuitous partial nudity and C2O Coconut Water.
Photo by Long Run Picture Company.
The beginning lap 2 felt exactly like the beginning of lap 1, which surprised me. The legs were still strong, still able to bound uphill, and I was in no need of a potty break anytime soon. Even with 200 runners on the trail, the ground stayed firm and fast. Arriving at the dam for the second time, the short road section provided a prime opportunity to suck down another GU. After psyching myself up to actually throw my GU wrapper in the trash can this time, I turn my head and see a runner behind me ~100ft. I didn't stare (that's rude), so I had no idea who the hell had the audacity to catch up to me...but it definitely got me running. Zooming by the Aid Station without stopping (except to politely throw my GU packet in the trash), my pace increased. Shit. Shit. Shit. Can I sustain this pace? Did he stop at the aid station? Shit. Ugh, why can't this ever be easy? Oh yeah, because I Love this shit. I guess. Crap, my legs are feeling stressed. Ok, ok. Run your race. Don't let him push you. Just run strong, and if he pulls ahead, push like crazy and catch him in the last 5 miles. But until then, run your own damn race. Let HIM work to catch you, don't make a mistake and blow up too soon. Keep calm and carry on, son! So with that little pep talk, my pace went from 'frantic' back to 'comfortably uncomfortable'. He hadn't caught me yet, so there was no reason for me to panic. For the next several miles, finish line scenarios were running through my head. Could I hold him off?

39K SPLIT: 2:49:00
PACE: 6:59 min/mile
Neil Olsen: 45 seconds back

Half mile left.
Photo by John Spencer.
Throughout the race, my nutrition was mainly GU energy gels and Hammer Endurolytes (salt pills). The stomach stayed solid, and everything generally felt good. But after passing the 39K mark, things started to fade a little bit. My peripheral vision got fuzzy, and the fuzziness creeped closer and closer to my center of vision. After quickly downing a GU, I then grabbed a couple salt pills and ingested one after the other. My pace slowed a little as my body recovered, and thankfully my vision went back to normal. Come on baby, hold to together.

Coming into the last aid station (4.5 miles from the finish), I made only my second stop of the race to have my bottle filled with a combination of water and electrolytes (GU brew). Neil Olsen entered the aid station as I was leaving, and thus began the final push to the finish. If I had anything left, this was the time to leave it all out there. My hamstrings were tight as hell and slightly quivering on the uphills, and I popped my last salt pill to hopefully keep them from totally cramping. There were plenty of opportunities to look behind me and gauge Neil's hunting skills, but I kept my head forward until one of the final landmarks of the course. Arriving at the Parking lot C (half a mile from the finish), good guy John Spencer was course marshaling and shouting some words of encouragement.

John: Yeah Buddy! One hell of a PR!

Me: Is Anyone behind me?
John: Not that I can see!
Me: Thank God.

A quarter-mile from the finish, I look behind me one last time and saw nobody. WHOO-OO! The finish line came into view, and people started cheering. It was impossible to tell, but they were telling me to HURRY UP! After crossing the finish line, I figured out why. The 3rd fastest course time in Hagg Lake history was 3:41:53 set by Andy Martin in 2010, and I happened to break it.

RESULTS: 3:40:53, 2nd out of 190 Finishers
PACE: 7:06 min/mile
PR by 38 minutes
3rd Fastest Course Time in Race History

"What was my time?!"
Above Photos by Long Run Picture Company.
As soon as I crossed the finish line, my hamstrings painfully seized, and I went down easy. As I lay there, people told me all the fun facts about the race. The funnest fact being that the only Jacob Puzey (3:24:22, 2013) and Max King (3:26:54, 2010) have ran a faster course times. Okay, I'm happy with that. Neil Olsen crossed the finish line a few minutes later, but I was still lying on the ground soaking everything in. There are few moments in our lives where we can say that we did everything we could with the time we had, and this was one of them. I didn't ever want to forget this feeling.

Congrats to Jacob Puzey (3:24:22) and Andrea Jarzombek-Holt (4:07:10) for setting the new men's and women's course records! Incredible times!

Now, time to recover for the 25k the next day.

Hagg Lake ice bath.
Photo by 
Long Run Picture Company.


After the 50k, my legs were quite sore and my hamstrings felt like guitar strings that were strung too tight and played way too hard. That evening, I went to the Float Shoppe for a 90-minute float to help recover. The whole float experience involves floating in a tub of water with 1,000 lbs of dissolved Epsom salts, providing sensory deprivation and total body calmness. While floating, the body absorbs the magnesium from the Epsom salts, which helps flush the lactic acid from tired muscles. And floating not only helps relax the body, but it also gives the mind a chance to take a break from everything. They say one 90-minute float is like the equivalent of getting 7 hours of sleep, and the effects can be felt immediately afterwards. More information lives here.

Having floated several times before, my experience has been extremely positive. But I had never tried floating this soon after a hard run to help increase my 24-hour recovery period. Would my hamstrings loosen up? Would the soreness go away? After my 90-minute float, my body was still considerably sore...however, my body also felt as if it just had a full night's rest, and my mind was way above the clouds. It's hard to really explain the experience without trying it yourself, but all I can say is that there's a lot of good that comes from floating, both physically and mentally.

For me, floating most often becomes a time for self reflection and allows me to cut out the distractions of everyday life to focus on what matters most. Whether I'm recovering from a high mileage week or preparing for the next race, the Float Shoppe has played a significant role in relieving the physical and mental stresses of life to allow me to maximize my training efforts.


Deja vu.

Sunbeams at the race start. Photo by myPhone.
Caption Contest.
Photo by Long Run
Picture Company
Man oh man, only 25K to go before I get rewarded with a growler of beer for doing both the 50K (Saturday) and 25K (Sunday)! The only thing that worried me were my hamstrings, which were still super tight. The key to this run was pure survival, especially since all my legs could muster was a warm up shuffle to and from the Portos. There were several other running buddies out there who were also doing the Hagg Lake double, and we all shared each others pain. Misery Loves company. And growlers.


Running with
Hugh Davis.
Photo by Long Run
Picture Company
As soon as the race started, I had to slow down and let most of the runners pass-on by. My hamstrings were still too tight for me to keep up with the main group, and I was shuffling for a good half mile. Eventually, my hamstrings started to loosen up and allow me to run a bit faster. For the first part of the race, I found myself running with Hugh Davis and Megan Bruce. Reaching the dam, my stride opened up a little bit and I started to accelerate...straight to the Porto. Ahhh. After taking care of business, I opened the Porto door and *WHAM*, totally nailed a woman with the door as she was running by. After asking if she was alright and rightfully apologizing for almost knocking her unconscious with a Porto door, I ran ahead and caught up with Jerry Mark for a bit.

Not before too long, the lap around the lake was nearly over. Being able to run with people was a nice change from Saturday, and the time flew by. My legs had loosened up nicely since the start of the race, and it was surprising how well I felt by the end of it. You know you're an ultrarunner when you become less sore after running 15 miles.

RESULTS: 2:19:10, 51st out of 288 Finishers

PACE: 8:57 min/mile

Sporting the Limited Edition Todd Janssen T-shirt (still in stock!).
Photo by Long Run Picture Company.

Let the celebrating begin.

Many (but not all) of the Hagg Lake Doublers.

Thank you Race Directors and Volunteers. This race was well organized, well stocked, and full of amazing support. The grilled cheese sandwiches after the race were amazing, and the post-race environment was incredibly comfortable and social. Job well done, I can't wait for next year! (And the roses in the Portos were a nice touch).

And thank you to Michael Lebowitz and the photographers taking excellent race photos for the Long Run Picture Company. Without your photos, this blog would be lifeless.



Before too long, they'll turn ultrarunning into a true spectator sport. 

The crazy NSPiRE setup.
Photo by 
Long Run Picture Company.
No chip-timing system can compare to the system that NSPiRE introduced at this race. Throughout the race, live updates were broadcasted online, updated on my Facebook/Twitter accounts, and available on the NSPiRE mobile App. As runners crossed the finish line, the results were instantly displayed on large TV screens like it was something out of NASCAR. I can't wait to see what else the come up with.

Thank you Team NSPiRE for your all your support and encouragement over the past year. I'm proud to make you proud.

Thanks Eric & Kelly Barten, Todd Jannsen, Chad Brown, Doyle Boyd, and Renee Seker!
Photo by Long Run Picture Company.


This stuff is so good, one bite and you'll be speaking a romance language. Mmm...Holy crap this is f*ing delicious! (Pardon my French).

Baby, I'm gonna trailbutter your bread.
Photo by Long Run Picture Company.
Spreading it on DKB while riding
to Idaho to pace Randy at the
IMTUF 100.
I've been using Trailbutter (and Dave's Killer Bread) as my pre-run breakfast since last Fall, and it's consistently helped me run with a satisfied stomach and a body full of energy. The key Trailbutter ingredients are almonds, peanuts, and hazelnuts mixed with a blend of dried fruits, seeds, nectar, honey, and precious oils. The result is a slow-burning, healthy fuel that can be easily spread on bread, dipped with pretzels, or eaten straight with a spoon (done it).

Here's a list of the ingredients from one of my favorite flavors, Expedition Espresso): Dry-Roasted Almonds, Hazelnuts, Peanuts, Bitter-sweet Chocolate Chunks, Coconut Oil, Clover Honey, Ground Coffee Beans, Soy Lecithin, Golden Flax Seeds, Ground Vanilla Beans, Sea Salt.

Jeff Boggess, co-founder and life enthusiast, will be sampling Trailbutter at many local trail races. If you're signed up for the Portland Trail Series, NW Mountain Trail Series, most of the Oregon Trail Series, or Trailfactor races, chances are Jeff will be there. Be sure to try some! You can also order Trailbutter from their website or at select retail locations.

Great guy, Jeff Boggess.
Photo by Long Run Picture Company.


Knowing the YMCA could save your life someday.

Much Love,