Thursday, July 21, 2011
TUESDAY: My final heat training session in the sauna...I did 60 minutes and felt like I could have kept going...I was pumped. And the weather forecast for Auburn was only in the mid-80's.
WEDNESDAY: We left in the morning for a road trip of epic proportions when you consider the fact that we had 3 kids under 5 years old in the back seat. We hadn't even made it out of Corvallis before we were having problems. But similar to the Boston Marathon trip, it seemed like going was a lot better than coming back. Even with lots of stops we made it to Tahoe City in about about 10 and a half hours. My Mom's 60th birthday was the day of the race, so we had decided to rent a nice house to stay in before the race.
THURSDAY: I got up early and headed over to Squaw Valley for a hike up to Escarpment and run back down. There was an organized group doing this, but I started late. Other people did too and unfortunately I followed them up the wrong way...great, I thought, let's get the wrong turns out of the way now. It was nice to see a little of what I was going to be in for...the first 3 miles were snow free. The views from the top are amazing...you can see Lake Tahoe and all the snow covered mountains in the distance. That afternoon we all hung out in Squaw Valley awaiting the arrival of the rest of the crew.
When my parents and Kristin arrived we had dinner. And after dinner we walked around and checked things out. There was a WS panel discussion that night that I wanted to attend. I met up with William, Jason, and Kane there and afterwards we all drove back to the house together. One of my highlights from the discussion was Craig Thornley telling everyone that they will puke at some point during the race.
FRIDAY: I rode over to Squaw Valley in the morning with William, Jason, and Kane to get registered. This is when my nerves were in full force...I nearly flunked the medical check...my blood pressure was sky high! They told me to go sit down and relax for 15 minutes...the re-test was still pretty high, but they said it was acceptable. While I registered, William, Jason, and Kane did the hike up to Escarpment...pretty badass for a 9 year old. On the way down, William had a glissading accident, but felt like he could still fulfill his pacing duties...like shit talking with Sean Meissner! We did think it would be funny to tell my sister she was going to have to take over. Speaking of Sean, I ran into him while I was getting lunch...I was waiting for my sandwich and he made me go sit down and brought it to me when it was ready. Thanks for that! Once I had my sandwich, I headed over to the pre-race briefing. They went over the course conditions...they talked a lot about the snow...something like 13 miles of it...and I also remember specific warnings about ibuprofen and rattlesnakes. The big excitement for me was the raffle for free entry into next year's race. Yes, I bought raffle tickets again, but I swear they were not for me! The names on the first 2 tickets picked began with Mike...I was on the edge of my seat...but neither one was me. Then the last ticket they picked didn't have a name on it...they said the winner had bought the ticket earlier today and had told them he would be present at the raffle...this is exactly what William had said when he bought a couple tickets that morning! I'm holding my breath...damn, it wasn't meant to be. Afterwards, we all headed back to the house. Tonya and Kristin worked on a really nice birthday dinner and cake for my Mom. After dinner we went over the crewing plans, watched A Race for the Soul for inspiration, and went to bed. The final member of the crew, Andy Stallings, arrived later that night.
SATURDAY: I woke up excited at 3:30 on race morning...everyone else seemed a little tired! I pieced together a breakfast of bagels and fruit leather and William, Jason, and Kane drove me to the start. No one else was up when we left, so I wasn't sure if anyone else was coming to the start. It turns out my parents, Kristin, and Andy did come to the start, but I never saw them...it was really crowded. When I checked in, I got weighed again and I was down a couple pounds from the day before...I ended up having to explain this a lot because my weight was down for most of the race...there are limits for how much weight loss is acceptable. Talk about nervous energy...I was ready to get started. It was fairly cold, so, like most people, I stayed inside until just before the race started. Once we moved out, I barely had time to acquire satelites on my Garmin...I got it just in time and then we were off.
Friday, July 1, 2011
I knew there were several elements to training for Western States that I needed to incorporate in a plan...uphills, downhills, long long runs, hiking, night running, snow running, fueling, heat training...but when it came down to putting that plan together, I felt like I needed some advice. One of the comments I made to Meghan Arbogast was, "Not suprisingly I've heard being properly trained for Western States is important. I'm willing to put in the hard work, I just want to feel like I know what I'm doing!" Besides the fact that this was my first 100 mile race, I haven't exactly had good success in 50+ mile races period. And I hadn't run that many either...I could count them all on one hand...
1) 2007 PCT 50 miler...my first 50 miler and probably one of my best 50+ mile runs...in the good old days when the race went all the way up to Timberline.
2) 2008 Where's Waldo 100K...I was very unprepared and endured much suffering.
3) 2009 PCT 50 miler...I like to attribute a sub-par race this year to the triple Mary's Peak two weeks before the race.
4) 2009 Where's Waldo 100K...DNF at mile 32, should have been a DNS.
5) 2010 White River 50 miler...ran it on not much more than marathon training, but ended up having a pretty good run.
In the end, with advice from Meghan and a lot of the other Corvallis trail runners with 100 miler experience, I pieced together my tentative plan. Craig Thornley's blog posts on Western States were another wealth of information specific to the 100 miler I was going to run! How nice. So I had a plan...here's how it played out.
JANUARY (averaged ~ 40 miles/week)
The official switch over to Western States training didn't actually start for me until mid-January. I ran the Capitol Mile and Hangover Run on New Year's Day.
One detail I didn't include in that post was that I paid the price for having two good runs by hurting my calf. Heck of a way to start the year...injured. I had to take a few days off and actually got pretty desperate...ended up trying some herbal healing wrap and massage. Luckily the combination of herbs, massage, and time off did the trick...a few days later I had a great 800 workout and thought I was ready for the Cascade Half Marathon. It ended up being the first in a string of 4 consecutive races that would really test me mentally which, in retrospect, I figure was probably good preparation for a 100 miler.
Test #1 - The Cascade Half Marathon included a steady dose of wind and rain this year. There's wind every year, but it's usually only a headwind in the last couple miles. This year it seemed like there was a headwind practically the whole way...and it's an out-and-back! To make matters even worse, it rained...everyone got soaked. I started struggling mightily very early on in the race and ended up running a slower overall pace than I did at the Boston Marathon this year!
Test #2 - The fourth race in the 2010/2011 Run Wild Aventures Trail Series was the Williamette Mission 5K/10K. It was such a wet winter that there was still some flooding at the park and the course had to be partially rerouted. Well, the water that did recede left some incredible mud behind. This mud was so slick that at one point I was sliding down a short hill like I was on ice. It was ridiculous, I couldn't run...I was completely spinning my wheels. Then I see Jason Hawthorne plow through like there was no mud at all...crazy.
Between the two races and also after Willamette Mission, I ran a couple 20+ mile runs in McDonald Forest. In late January I began doing the weekly McColluch Peak hike on Wednesday nights organized by Frank Schnekenburger. Essentially, it's a 4 mile hike to the highest point in McDonald Forest, then a 4 mile run back down. Between these weekly hikes and other runs on my own, I summitted McColluch Peak 24 times leading up to Western States. Looking back, all this hiking was definitely one of the most important parts of my training. By May and June I felt like a strong hiker. Another benefit of doing the hike in January and February was the fact that it included some night running.
FEBRUARY (averaged ~ 48 miles/week)
February was pretty crazy. The annual training run at Hagg Lake took place on the first Saturday of the month. For several years now, The Pain Train and I have done two loops around the lake 2-3 weeks before the Hagg Lake 50K. What gets me through that second loop is the thought of stopping at the Hagg Lake store for pickled eggs...I love those things now. This year we also got my sister, a friend of hers, and Andy Stallings to run with us. To make for a completely crazy weekend, the next day I drove back up to Hagg Lake to do some trail work as part of my volunteer service for Western States.
I spent the second weekend of February in Massachusetts with my mom and sister at my cousin David's wedding. At first I wasn't planning to go, but I'm really glad I did. They had a great wedding and it turns out it was the last time I would get to see my Grampa Merritt.
Test #3 - The third Saturday of the month was the Hagg Lake 50K which started off on ice and ended on mud. I came to realize I had been very spoiled over the past 3 years with near ideal Hagg Lake trail conditions. The ice didn't last too long, but the mud on the second loop really got me down mentally. Similar to the Willamette Mission 10K, I felt like I was just spinning my wheels out there. I came away from the race just itching to race something I felt was runnable. There were several positives, though...The Old Gunslinger and Andy Stallings finished their first 50K...my sister finished her second 50K...and The Pain Train and I entered the Hagg Lake Hall of Mud...5 consecutive 50K finishes.
For the second time this month, I went back up to Hagg Lake the next day to volunteer at the 25K to fulfill my service requirement for Western States. I rode up with The Pain Train and my sister met us there. We all worked the last aid station...it was a blast...we got to see Sam (2:56:54), The Guam Bomb (2:57:36), and Gimpy (2:58:46) come through, all very close together. A big thanks goes out to the Hagg Lake RDs...they treat their volunteers very well. That being said, I had certainly had my fill of Hagg Lake for the year.
Test #4 - The final weekend of February was the Run Wild Adventures Buck Mountain "Snowslinger" Trail Run. Talk about epic conditions...we had sub-freezing temperatures and knee deep snow in spots. It was so cold The Pain Train had to stick his glove down his shorts during the race...desparate times call for desparate measures. I felt bad for the poor bastards who had to mark the course, so I helped sweep with The Pain Train after finishing the race. It certainly wasn't ideal running conditions but it was my first race since New Year's Day that I felt was a solid performance. I also got some additional snow running earlier in the week on my own street.
MARCH (averaged ~ 56 miles/week)
No running the first weekend in March...I spent it with family at the Great Wolf Lodge.
When putting together my plan, I was pretty excited to find an Oregon ultra in March...2011 would be the first running of the Gorge Waterfalls 50K. James Varner did a good job building up his own race..."I am certain this will quickly become known as one of the most amazing races in the country!" High praise for a race that had yet to be run, but it got me to sign up. Eric Jensen also signed up for his second 50K...he was looking for a 50K PR after running in pretty tough trail conditions at Hagg Lake. I had heard enough about James Varner's races to be wary...they're usually tougher than advertised. This one was no exception. The trail for much of the race was pretty technical...lots of rocks which made the footing tricky. It wasn't too far into the race when I started thinking, "this is way more than Eric bargained for." Heck it was more than I bargained for, but I was just thrilled that I was getting good footing and not spinning my wheels. Eric showed a lot of guts in his performance. After a hard fall on some rocks early in the race, he ended up finishing the race with broken ribs! That's the stuff of legend!
The next weekend was the Run Wild Adventures Santiam Canyon Scramble. Sasquatch ran a hell of a race. My plan was to have fun and try not to get seriously hurt. I had a good race, but really got hammered by the blackberries...I won an award for bloodiest.
The day after the scramble I ran Meghan's patented double McColluch Peak run with The Pain Train to try and trash my quads...34 miles all on gravel roads with 4 summits...2 from the Oak Creek gate and 2 from the Sulphur Springs gate. It went pretty well, but I felt really run down the rest of that week. Then on Saturday a Run Wild Adventures group met at the Santiam Horse Camp in Gates for a long run. I had wanted to do 3 loops on the trail which would have been 27+ miles, but it didn't work out. From the get go, my legs felt very heavy. I started to feel a little better on the second loop, but my calf also started to bother me. I was thinking, "I cannot afford to get injured...it would really screw up my plans." So rather than run a third loop, I took a nap in the truck. I was pretty nervous about the calf, but I think I stopped running in time and then gave it some time to recover because it didn't bother me again.
APRIL (averaged ~ 65 miles/week)
April was another crazy month. It was also when it became apparent I was racing too much...something I would do differently if I had it to do over. The first weekend of the month was my Grampa Merritt's funeral on Friday, Tonya's brother Jeff's wedding on Saturday, and then a run with The Pain Train on Sunday...the McDonald Forest 50K course. I remember feeling really good early on in the run because I had taken a few days off beforehand...looking back, I ran the first 20 miles too hard because when I finished the run up on my own, I hit a low and felt like I slowed to a crawl. I still finished in about 5:30...too fast, it seemed, for a 100 mile training run.
The next weekend was the beginning of back(40)-to-back(26.2)-to-back(9.3)-to-back(50) races for me...is that ever a good idea? For the third year in a row the whole family stayed in Sisters and I ran the long race at the Peterson Ridge Rumble...this year it was a 40 miler. Since Sean has changed the course to incorporate all the new singletrack trails being built in the area, it's really become an even more enjoyable run...the terrain is not too tough and the scenery is great. Heck, even the weather has been good every year I've run. We drove over on Saturday before the race...it's always fun hanging out with the kids at the llama hotel. On Sunday morning, The Pain Train picked me up at the hotel and drove me over to the race...he was sweeping the 20 miler. Tonya and the kids got to hang out in Sisters with her parents and even Tonya's brother Lee stopped by after the race. Before heading out of town we had to stop for milkshakes and a banana split. I felt like I ran a solid race...some other notable performances included Andy Stallings finishing his first 40 miler and The Guam Bomb (3:36:37) and Gimpy (3:44:30) running the 20 miler in preparation for their upcoming goal races.
Just a couple days after getting back from Sisters, we packed up and flew to Massachusetts! It was already my third trip back there this year. My sister and I would be running the Boston Marathon...her first Boston, my sixth. Getting there went pretty smoothly...everyone was happy and excited at this point.
Taking the whole family back to Massachusetts is definitely about more than just running. It has to be...flying cross-country with kids is not easy! Since having kids, it's been important to me to have them meet their great grandparents. Here's Audrey meeting Grampa Rosling for the first time.
We arrived on Wednesday night and stayed with my Aunt Sue and Uncle Ed in Milton which is not too far outside of Boston. They are so generous and took such good care of us...we all had a great time staying with them. Thank-you! After Kristin and my parents arrived, we had a very special moment...Tonya had made up shirts that said "RUN IT FOR YOUR BIGGEST FAN", a tribute to Grampa Merritt. That really choked me up. He really was our biggest fan...he always took an interest in whatever we were doing. On Saturday, Aunt Sue and Uncle Ed invited the whole extended family over for a spaghetti dinner. And that morning, my cousin David and his wife Elizabeth drove my sister and me into Boston to pick up our race packets. David really got into it and got himself a sweatshirt at the expo too!
Although I was training for Western States, I had been preparing for the marathon too. For many weeks I'd been doing marathon tempo runs of increasing length based on heartrate and I was also doing Yasso 800s on a trail weekly. Based on these runs at home, I felt like I was ready for a good effort and I was targeting about a 6:20 pace for the race. Unfortunately, very soon after we arrived, I acquired some kind of stomach bug...I felt like I was constantly in the bathroom. I did a couple short marathon tempo runs in Milton...they went horribly. I could barely keep my pace under 7:00 miles at the same heartrate I was running sub-6:20 miles at home. Maybe it was part jet lag, part sickness, part wind...it was ridiculously windy in the days leading up to the race. But based on those runs, I literally had no idea what to expect for the race...though I was still promising sub-2:50! By Sunday I was feeling much better...I was spending a lot less time in the bathroom. We moved our base of operations to Auburn, we visited with the Roslings, and we had another spaghetti dinner at my Aunt Carla's house...we were carb loaded.
The plan for race day was to drive to Hopkinton State Park to drop off the runners. Then Tonya, the kids, and my parents would ride the train into Boston to see us finish. We'd all ride the train back together. When Ella woke up Monday morning, I could tell something wasn't quite right...she didn't want to eat anything for breakfast. We were nearly to the park when she threw up all over herself and the backseat of the car. It was pretty traumatic. As quickly as we could, we pulled into the parking lot and tried to clean things up...it was a mess. In the end, Tonya took the girls back to the hotel rather than trying to go into Boston with them...have I mentioned how great my wife is? Will still did get to go into Boston with my parents.
Kristin and I rode into Hopkinton on the bus and we walked down to Athlete's Village. We didn't have a lot of time...I got rid of my stuff, we wished each other good luck, and I headed back for the Wave 1 start. When I got into the starting corral, I made sure to move over to the far left side...that's where the elite runners walk by before the start of the race. I got to give Ryan Hall a high five...he looked really amped up. Another highlight was passing Joan Benoit Samuelson during the race around mile 9. As I went by, I told her it was an honor to be running with her. At the same time I was a little disappointed that Meghan Arbogast was not able to race her...Meghan started with the elite women while Joanie started with the rest of the runners.
From the start I was watching my heartrate and pace carefully. In training, my marathon tempo heartrate target was in the low 170s. Early in the race, I was running just below 6:20 pace while keeping my heartrate in the low to mid-170s...then, in the hills and beyond, my heartrate was in the high 170s and low 180s! I got a little concerned when I started to get into the low 180s with more than 5 miles to go. In the end, I was able to maintain it. My pace did drop off slightly in the second half of the race. I ran the first half in 1:22:52 and the second half in 1:24:34 and I finished in 2:47:26 (6:23 pace). I was really happy with my race...until I heard that the winner had broken the world record! I felt like I had run nearly the exact race I had prepared for. After I finished I found Aunt Sue and Uncle Ed at our usual meeting spot, the Park Plaza Hotel. We all walked back to the finish to cheer on Kristin. She ran a good race too...she finished in 3:56:45 and had a great Boston Marathon experience.
My parents, Will, and my cousin Johanna had also staked out a spot near the finish to cheer us on. Aside from watching the runners, a big highlight for Will was giving the Bruins bear a high five. We firmly believe this is directly related to the fact that the Bruins won the Stanley Cup! Will, it's a good thing you're on his good side...don't ever cross the Bruins bear...example 1 and 2.
Our original itinerary had us going back to Oregon the day after the marathon...everyone was ready to go home by this point. Unfortunately, getting back didn't go as smoothly as getting there. First we ended up having a flight cancelled and had to spend an extra day in Rhode Island. Then we got rebooked on different flights...we got that straightened out, but the flights themselves were pretty miserable. We were so happy to get home.
Just a few days after getting back from Massachusetts, I ran the Run Wild Adventures Monument Peak 15K. This race was on a really cool trail at the Santiam Horse Camp in Gates. I wasn't sure I'd have any legs left after the Boston Marathon, but I wanted to complete all the races in their series...I also didn't want to miss out on racing Max King. I remember the first 50 yards of the race very vividly...everyone at the front started off together on the flat gravel road, then just as the road started to climb, Max seemingly floated ahead...it was a little surreal. As far as the rest of the race goes, I ended up surprising myself and having maybe my best race of the series! Only about 13:30 back of Max!
The next week I ended up running 52 miles in the 5 days leading up to the the Capitol Peak 50 miler, so all I had to do was finish the race and I'd have my first ever 100 mile week. Originally I was planning to go up to the race alone, but The Pain Train decided he would run too...originally he was talking about running the 55K, but in the end he decided to to run the 50 miler. We started off running together and got stuck behind a pretty long train of people on a narrow trail. For some reason, I was feeling particularly impatient and finally worked my way around. I didn't see him again until the out-and-back section near the middle of the race. Just literally seconds after I got to the out-and-back turnaround and started heading back, here comes The Pain Train. I believe he said something like, "are you nervous"...I laughed because he didn't know how close behind me he really was. Surprising to me, I made it all the way back to the other aid station before he caught up. From that point, about 35 miles in, I had a pretty tough time...thankfully, the last 15 miles had a lot of downhill. It just felt like I was barely moving and a couple times I got passed like I was standing still. In the end, I still ran a 50 mile PR and The Pain Train finished in under 8 hours! On the drive up to the race The Pain Train had said, "no one ever says you have to run Capitol Peak". After running it, I don't think I'll be the first to say it.
MAY (averaged ~ 73 miles/week)
The Eugene Marathon was the day after Capitol Peak, but I still really wanted to go down to support my guys. Gene Wusstig was following a specific marathon training plan that I had created for him...I felt like providing support at the race was part of the deal! My plan was to pace him for the last 4-6 miles of the race depending on how I felt after the 50 miler.
I parked at Valley River Center which was near mile 19 and started walking toward the 20 mile mark. I got to see all the leaders come through which was cool. As I was walking, I was also looking for a bathroom...I finally found one near a baseball field, but I had to climb a fence to get into Marist High School. I had passed mile 20, so I decided to continue on to the bridge going back over the Willamette River. I waited on the bridge near mile 21. The Old Gunslinger rolled through first and looked like he was hurting, so I ran with him for a few miles. It wasn't the race he was hoping for, but he gutted it out and broke 4 hours. I ran back to mile 22 and Sam was coming through...he was hurting too and had seemingly decided he was going to walk it on in, so I let him go and waited for Gene. When Gene came through 22 miles he was having some issues with cramping...he took a few of the Endurolytes I had and we started off running slowly. I didn't tell him this, but my hope was that we could go the rest of the way without walking. Once we hit mile 23 I started keeping track of our mile splits. Even though he was obviously huring, he was able to pick it up a bit because we were literally passing everyone. For miles 23-26 he averaged 9:15 per mile which is way under the 9:52 pace he averaged for the entire race. I peeled off before he headed onto the track. He finished in 4:18:49...this was over a 30 minute PR. Great work, Gene...you really showed me something in those last few miles. If you keep at it, I guarantee you will break 4 hours. I didn't have any Eugene Marathon pictures, but here's a good one from the Cascade Half Marathon.
A couple other notable performances at the Eugene Marathon this year...Melodee Nolan, Cascade High School alumnus, ran an incredible race, especially considering it was her first marathon. I saw her pass by me near mile 21 and she was looking really good...most people are hurting pretty bad by this point. She finished in 3:37:45, a Boston qualifier! Amazingly this is the exact same time Kristin ran last year! My pastor Brent Kauffman also ran a great race...he finished in 3:38:58, also a Boston qualifer and, I believe, a PR. I was just disappointed I didn't get to see him out there. When it was all said and done, I ended up getting about 10 miles of running in...that gave me 112 miles in the last 7 days! I took the next couple days off.
All spring I had been wanting to get up to Mary's Peak, but there was so much snow this year that it wasn't really possible. But now that it was May I made up my mind I was going to go check it out. My invitation on the Corvallis Trail Runner Yahoo group was met by some rather unenthusiastic responses...this one was my favorite. "Good luck on that -- the snow is clearly visible from I-5 and that means it is deep! Also probably a lot of down trees from the winter not yet cleared." It was looking like it was going to be a small group.
Turns out only Gimpy, who probably didn't know exactly what he was getting into, was able to join me for the run. We got up to about 3200 feet before we hit the serious snow. It took a little searching, but we found the trail and got up to the junction with the Tie Trail. It was pretty obvious that the Tie Trail was impassable. So we had a decision to make...we could go back down or try to continue up the North Ridge Trail which did have a lot of snow on it, but it was marked with blue diamonds on the trees. Gimpy was up for an adventure, so up we went. When we finally popped out in the parking lot it was really nasty...strong winds and rain. I told him I wanted to summit, but he should probably head back down and I would catch up. I trudged through the snow to get to the top, patted myself on the back, and quickly headed back down.
So we made it back down with a total of about 9 miles...this was a problem since we both wanted something in the high 20s or low 30s. The next logical route to take was down the lower portion of the North Ridge Trail. Typically this section of the trail is not very well maintained, but we got a pleasant surprise...it was in the best shape I'd ever seen it. Thanks to whoever worked on this...it looked like a significant amount of work and it was really nicely done. At the end of the trail we turned back up the road and from there we followed the TOE 50K course as best as I could remember it. But we could only go so far before we needed to head back and refuel. After refueling we consulted the map and decided to head up the 2005 road toward Conner's Camp. From there I got out on the paved road and ran down to Parker Creek Falls and back. In the end, I think I got about 32 miles in a little over 7 hours and felt like I could have kept going. It felt like good 100 miler training. Thanks Gimpy for sharing the adventure with me.
I only summitted Mary's Peak two more times before Western States...once Memorial Day weekend and once in mid-June. The Saturday of Memorial Day weekend was another lousy weather day. It ended up being an afternoon run and I think I was lucky it was. As I was heading up I noticed there was all this white stuff that looked like little styrofoam balls on the trail...for some reason it took me a while to figure out that it was unmelted hail. I think if I would have run earlier in the day I would have been pulverized. And let's see, if there's hail that's not melting, it has to be pretty cold...well, I forgot my gloves and once I got up near the top I don't think my hands have ever been colder...to the point I was getting a little concerned. Luckily I didn't lose any fingers. There was still some snow on the Tie Trail, but it was passable. And this time I didn't hit serious snow until the East Ridge Trail junction near the parking lot...that was all passable, but the Meadowedge Trail on top was still impassable. So I was able to do the whole loop minus the Meadowedge Trail. In June, I was able to run the full loop because the snow was almost completely gone. I was surprised how much snow had melted in only two weeks. Looking back, maybe all the snow on Mary's Peak this year was somewhat of a blessing for me...it prevented me from doing something really crazy.
The second Saturday in May was the McDonald Forest 50K which didn't quite go as well as I hoped, but I still had a pretty good race. Thanks to everyone for coming out to support me.
The week after McDonald Forest was the Corban University 12 hour run. I completely blew it here...I wanted to simulate Western States in terms of pace and fueling, but I got caught up in running the race. On a postive note, the world didn't end.
This year there were 2 relay teams and 5 solo runners. One of the solo runners was Jason Hawthorne who took off at a very fast pace...so fast I was wondering if he was trying to get 100 miles in! His legend continues to grow, at least in my mind...how's this for a back-to-back-to-back...an Ironman in St. George, Utah, the McDonald Forest 50K, and 12 Hours at Corban. And who knows what he did the weekend before or after. From the start, I was running with Gaby, but I felt like I was pushing way too hard to do so. And that was confirmed by my heartrate which was too high for someone with aspirations of running at least 100K. In the end, Jason and Gaby both had great runs and had quite a race going for the overall win. They both ran more than 100K, the previous record held by The Pain Train, but it was on a completely different course...asterisk!
I hadn't even gone 50K before I was in a world of hurt. My legs were dead and my stomach felt terrible...it was really sloshy, like I was putting all this stuff in and I wasn't processing it. The Guam Bomb had come to run with me, so I sucked it up and did what I could. He got to witness the first puke. Puking actually felt great...it really was a puke and rally kind of feeling...suddenly I was pain free and able to run, but my energy levels dropped pretty quickly and eventually my stomach was hurting again. I never really felt good enough to eat much. I feel like I tried several things, but nothing was working for me. Later on I walked a couple laps with The Old Gunslinger. It was on one of these laps I realized I needed to keep going just to try to figure out how to come out of this. Eventually even The Pain Train broke out his running shoes and ran with me. He got to witness the second puke and rally.
With about an hour and a half to go, The Pain Train cooked up some chicken noodle soup for Fenny Roberts. Since I was just sitting there, I had some too. It was amazing...as I was eating the soup I almost immediately started to feel really good. I was a born again runner...I had never experienced anything like it. Everything felt better...in particular, my legs felt so good it was like I had just started running! It was nice to end on a high note...I only completed 86K, but I felt like I could have kept going. A big thanks goes out to everyone who came out to support me...Eric and his family, Gene and his family, William, my parents, and Will and Ella. My crew ran a superbad aid station! And you guys kept me going when I probably would have quit...the race became a really good reminder of what not to do at Western States! Thanks to The Old Gunslinger for the before and after shots.
Corban really shook me up. All of the sudden I felt like I wasn't really sure what to do...basically I was thinking take a break or push through. The thought I kept coming back to was you're supposed to be really tired at this point in training for a 100 miler...so I decided to push through. Memorial Day weekend ended up being my last big weekend which started with Mary's Peak on Saturday.
On Sunday, while Gimpy was running a 50K PR at Forest Park, I decided to run from my house in Corvallis to my parent's house in Salem mainly because it was something I had always wanted to do. The route went something like this...head out of Corvallis on Highway 34, take Riverside Drive toward Albany, enter Albany through Bryant Park, get on Old Salem Road, head under I-5 toward Jefferson on Murder Creek Drive, Kamph Drive, and Scravel Hill Road, go through Jefferson on 99E and continue to Enchanted Way, and take Delaney Road and Battle Creek Road to my parent's house...about 36 miles. It was ridiculously flat until the very end. I kept my heartrate in what I felt was the 100 miler range, didn't worry about pace, and I experimented with pork and beans as fuel. Everything worked out well...it took me less than 6 hours.
On Monday I finished off the weekend at Rooster Rock with The Pain Train, Dennis, Ken, Frank, and Gaby. I went in with the expectation that I was doing a double, but as we started up I was a little nervous...I was definitely feeling the effects of Sunday. In the end, I loosened up and had a run that gave me a lot of confidence. The Pain Train and I were the only ones to complete the double. Heading down that first downhill, trying to keep up with Dennis, I was amazed at how much my quads were getting worked. I would have liked to have hit that run one more time during training...my quads have never been so sore. Rooster Rock is brutal!
After Corban I also had a memorable night run in McDonald Forest...if you want to get spooked just try running by yourself in the forest after dark. I started from Lewisberg Saddle a little after 10:00 and ran the last ~5 miles plus the first ~6.5 miles of the McDonald Forest 50K course. Not much more than a half mile in, I came across what I'm pretty sure were two dogs. My headlamp picked up their eyes on a side road and I just stopped...they were looking right at me and I heard a little growling. They had the body type of a greyhound and I'm sure I saw collars on them...after the staredown they turned and headed up the side road...I took off too. Other than a couple deer, there weren't any more really spooky sightings until I was on the Old Growth Trail. I saw a light out of the corner of my eye and I stopped and looked up toward the road. As I was looking up at this light, I could tell that whoever was up there was looking down at me! That creeped me out, so I took off fast. Who else would be crazy enough to be out here at nearly midnight?
After Rooster Rock my quads were so sore I took four days off...for two days I was having trouble walking! So June ended up being the start of my taper. I was OK with that...I was satisfied with the training I had done up to that point. My original plan was to do one more long long run 3 weeks before the race, but at this point I was afraid it would do more harm than good.
June was also when I did the majority of my heat training. It was all in the sauna...the only hot day in Oregon I remember before the race was June 4th...we're past mid-July and it's still not hot! Craig Thornley directed me to the Badwater website for suggested heat training regimens. Based on what I found, my plan was to slowly build up to one continuous hour in the sauna over 4 weeks. One key thing that I remember reading was that it was important to do the heat training every single day. So I ended up getting in a routine of going every night right before the gym closed. I started with 15 minutes and that wasn't too bad...I was even getting a little annoyed when people would go in and out and leave the door wide open for too long. But by the time I got beyond 30 minutes I was welcoming any door openings! To help pass the time, I would bring in magazines...I was able to read for the first 20 minutes or so, then I got too wet and uncomfortable to continue. I was getting wet from sweat as well as all the ice water I was dumping on my head to keep cool. I noticed that if I ate a lot for dinner or ate something right before going in the sauna, my stomach would get a little upset. I guess the blood that was aiding in digestion in the stomach was being diverted to the skin to help keep me cool...a real science lesson! As I was building up, once I got beyond 30 minutes, it got pretty tough. Over the 4 weeks I only had to abort 3 times...that meant leaving the sauna and taking a cold shower...I was just so overheated I felt like it was getting dangerous. I ended up meeting some of the regulars...I was surprised at how many people were at the gym literally every night...I told one guy that after my 4 weeks was up, he would probably never see me in the sauna again. All told, I spent over 14 hours in the sauna in 4 weeks!
Two weeks before Western States I did a couple fast runs to test the legs...I did the McColluch Peak hike/run in just under 1:16 and I ran the Homestead/Uproute/Extendo/Homestead loop in 33:41...the fastest I've ever run it. That got me pretty excited...my legs were back! At that point, nearing the end of such a long taper, I was getting anxious for race day to arrive.
And nothing had changed in my mind when I went down to Western States in 2010 to watch The Pain Train pace Cameron Hanes. A few weeks prior, I had purchased 10 raffle tickets for free entry into the race in 2011, but they weren't for me. The Western States website says this, "You don't need to be a runner yourself to purchase raffle tickets. This is a great opportunity to surprise that special ultrarunner in your life!" How cool would it be to win the lottery then give the transferrable entry to The Pain Train.
So there we were at the mandatory pre-race briefing on June 25, 2010 when they conduct the raffle. I'll never forget how I was saying my name to myself just as they announced it. I let out a huge yell! What were the odds! Well, they said there were over 5000 tickets purchased for this year's raffle, so if a similar number were purchased last year, that's like a 1/500 chance of being picked. It's like it was meant to be.
But suddenly I have a problem...William is one of the best friends I've ever had and one of his best qualities is selflessness. Basically he was too good of a friend to take the entry from me. He told me this might be the only chance I ever get to run the race since getting in is so difficult now. We talked about it several times, but I still couldn't help feeling bad about taking the entry because I never intended to take it in the first place. OK, so he wants me to have this opportunity, but now I have a another problem...how could I convince Tonya to let me run the race?
It's debatable whether I ever really did convince her, but I officially signed up in early October. Now I had to start thinking about how to train for this race...I felt like I would be entering into a whole different type of running...different than anything I'd ever done before.