Monday, November 28, 2011

Coming down the Mountain…

It’s funny the things I’ve never done before, but already knew I’d love the second I tasted it. Like when I bought kayaks before I ever kayaked. I knew I’d love it, so why not. Same with the Grand Ridge Half Marathon race. I’d never done a trail race before, but knew if I talked myself into signing up I’d love it.

Again, like triathlon, I followed after Alley did her first and got the low down. I’ve run at Discovery, Carkeek, Redmond Water Shed, and a few others, but never in race mode.

Alley and I had scouted the course a few weeks before with a close friend and got a real idea of what an ass kicking this was going to be. I quickly noted the 3-4 places I’d have to walk – in the first 2 miles – no joke! I came away from the scout run knowing I’d have to walk plenty and that was just the way it was going to have to be in order to survive. No illusions of powering up the hills, because there was 2200’ of powering that would have to happen in 13.1. Pace yourself Grasshopper!

The morning of it was freezing, temps. in the low 30’s and snow was expected. Crap… I love the snow, but come on now it’s going to be snow bound for the next 8 months, couldn’t it just wait one more day!

Trail running seems more laidback than regular running and I didn’t have the nerves that I usually have before a tri and road race. It was a lot like the first time I did Fat Salmon and all the swimmers were just so easy going and relaxed. OK, I can do this…

Game plan: It was my first so I was pretty open to crashing and burning, but I figured if I had a game plan I might be able to pull this off and have a great time.

Start slow. Walk when it makes sense, don’t force the up hills and conserve your energy until 10 mile.


1-2 miles went as planned, I knew from the scouting run that the hardest grade was inside the first 2 miles, about 18% for about 150 yards twice. My thought was if you race the 1st 2 miles you’d never see the finish. So the race really wouldn’t start until the top of mile 2.

This is where that whole thing about not ever doing something but just knowing comes into play. The aid station was at mile 4ish after the big climb up to 2 you still had some steady climbing but it was rolling and ONLY and 8-9% grade. Small down hills but nothing like what I knew was up ahead. I ran through the aid station without stopping, because I wanted to pass the 2 guys in front of me because the first massive down hill was about 30 yards up the trail.

Hold on to your sh#t cause this is going to be a bumpy ride!

Now for whatever reason I’m lucky to have a fast turnover, I’m light on my feet when I run on uneven terrain, and I trust in my ability to descend. On the first down I passed by about 12 people in about 5 minutes. I was in full flight, zigzagging back and forth, over the mud puddles, over logs, it was beautiful. I must have yelled out a dozen times in excitement. It was a freaking blast! I watched everyone else going down hill and it seemed tense and timid. I wanted noting to do with that, gravity was my bitch finally, I wasn’t slowing down for nothing!

The turn around was at the bottom of what I think was a 1.5 mile drop, which means, yeah, 1.5 miles back up. I walked, as was the plan, most of this and knew I just had to make it back to the aid station. In all I’d only been past once, after mile 2, then again just before getting back to the aid station. But that was OK.

My plan was to be conservative until the turn off back to finish, which was about mile 10. Then it would be game on with about 700 feet of elevation to drop in a about 2.5 miles before the finish.

Unfortunately, that’s when I felt the heat start rolling behind my eyes and the aching start up through the backs of my arms. Are you kidding me, is this a fever I’m feeling? Crap!

I was running with 5 other people starting the downhill and quickly lost two in the first few turns of Mr. Toads Wild Ride. The legs were feeling great and as long as I could keep my balance I was in good shape. It’s pretty amazing carrying that amount of speed through such tight turns over puddles and rocks. My garmin had us at 7:15 pace. I thought that was totally nuts considering there wasn’t a straight section more than 20-25 yards long without having to change direction.


There was a really big fallen tree, about 40 ft long, really hard to miss, that I remembered from the scouting run that meant the end was near. Up a tragic little hill, then straight down, hard hard left, into a unavoidable puddle. Then .6 miles of flat, flat, damn flat road to the finish.

I couldn’t of hit the last puddle any worse, pole vaulted with a firm planting of my right leg that put a pretty good jolt through the system. At this point I was only about 2 seconds behind the guy in front of me. I had visions of hitting the last stretch and picking up a 7 minute pace and pulling away from the guy I’d been switching turns with for the last 2 miles. BUT NOOO, that’s actually when the damn fever I’d forgotten about decided to flip me the bird as I grinded to a 10:22 pace and started sweating from every point on my body.

Running on empty...
I kept thinking, ‘you’re doing fine, don’t give in, don’t quit’. Then I almost started laughing while I keep thing at the same time ‘ARE you kidding!?!? A F**king fever now!’ I thought it was all happening in slow motion, but no that was just my pace. The legs just would not move. The two people behind me raced by about 50 yards from the finish and I couldn’t generate anything, full on white wash of emptiness. Sadness…

The up shot was it was an amazing amazing race. It was my first trail run and I had a freaking blast. The down hills rocked and felt like they were part of some insane carnival ride. A guy that I was running with asked how long I’d been trail running because I had great technique. I laughed and said it was my first and he had that ‘shit, wait,what’ look on his face and said ‘I had major crashes on my first four, nice job”

It was a nice job, I grabbed 23rd out of 167 at 2:13:03 I was guessing 2:10 based on last years finishing times and was extremely happy w/ the outcome. I can always tell that “another” is born when I hear them say ‘next time I need to add this or that to my training’ and yes I have plenty to add to my training before this one next year.