Friday, September 25, 2015

Crystal Mountain Marathon

Slow down, slow down, slow down. I only got faster by slowing down.

By faster I mean not dying or struggling towards the last few miles of my long runs. I don't think I'm an endurance athlete. I don't have the gift of enjoying the easy cruise, on the bike or on foot. 25K to 20 miles is my favorite distance. I love nothing better than pushing 10k effort for up to a 30k race.

Training the last few months for Crystal Mt. I've had to force myself to GO SLOW. Really slow. Again, I'm not fast to begin with, but adjustments needed to be made in order to finish.

I heard Adam H. say at a discussion at Seven Hills Running Store that "if you wouldn't do it at mile 95, why would you do it at mile 5?".

 Damn good question!

Since then I've had that rolling around in my head like a giant ass bowling ball. My effort needs to be level. Needs to be tamed. Needs to be under control. I learned from earlier trail races this year and last year that I can give up huge chunks of time on climbs, because I can catch most on the downs.

In runner terms: I can push marathon pace on the ups and hit 5k speed on the downs.

Running downhill means pushing the effort out and forcing gravity. (5k-10k effort). I get upset with myself when I feel I'm running downhill "too pedestrian". To the point that I often yell out loud at myself, "What the Fuck are you doing!". However, the last few long runs I've realized that slowing down altogether both uphill and downhill helps in the final few miles. (I know – Shocker!)
I’ve been keeping it fun, quick pace on the downs, not pushing just an easy flow and never to the point where I feel  winded, tired, or end up paying for it later.

 Taking this approach into the race on Saturday I never really felt like it was a race.

 My goals for the day:

1. Aid Station #1 (mile 3) in an hour. More would be too slow, less would be too fast

2. Make adjustments early, within minutes, not hours (as usual)

3. Stop and use the Aid Stations to fully restock and reevaluate the day

4. Reach Aid Station #4 (mile 21) with my legs under me

5. ############### Hidden goal

Morning started off great. Had my Bear Crew supporting me and hoping to see them at a few aid stations. Saw lots of friends and familiar faces that I was really glad to see.  Going to make for a great day!
Matt, Tif, Levi, Penny. Photo by Alley

 The 1st 3 mile climb bites off about 3000ft. When the race started I was in the back and just started a quick fast-ish hike. I was 3rd from the end as everyone else shot off. About a mile later, still fast hiking I easily passed about 25 people. The sun came out about half way up and really warmed things up. I pulled off and vented as much as possible not to overheat and sweat too much. In my mind I compared the first 3 miles to the swim in an ironman. I needed to finish it feeling like I’d just warmed up and was ready for the day start. Reaching the top I glance at my watch about 20 yards from the aid station and it read 59:58. Cool.

Took my time at the AS, talked with Earl and got on my way. – Time - 9:00 in, 9:04 out. Perfect!

I ran easy across the ridge taking in the views and smiling SO damn big. Minor headache. I hit the next section, which can mostly be described as extreme downhill and couldn’t wait to test myself on it. Without hesitating I jumped over the ledge and bounded down to the scree field that laid below the initial drop.

I love me descending a good scree field : ) too much fun!

The climb back out of there was a little rough, but short. Once back on the ridge trail, mile 4.5ish I’d guess, the trail is just plain iconic northwest trail running at its finest. The 5 mile descent was the  most amazing section leading into AS#2. I grabbed up two more people passing without much effort and telling myself, “You’re not racing, just stay steady. We’re not trying to catch anyone.” The last person I caught up to was a woman that was moving quickly on the downhill. She kept looking behind her so I rolled in about 10ft behind her and yelled out that I wasn’t looking to pass, was just going to eat and that I’d give her room. I backed off about 30ft, broke into my Trailbutter (Mmmmm) drank some more fluids, rested about 30 seconds then called out “On your left”. It always amazes me the closing speed on downhills. Up and around her and enjoyed the last mile and a half by myself.

Photo by Alley
Outside of AS#2 I saw my Bear Crew: Alley, Matt, Tif, Penny, and Levi. I ran straight to Penny, I knew if I ran past she’d drag whoever was holding her. I did a full change of shirt, pullover, arm warmers, gloves, and hat. I was doing a good job at controlling heat, but my clothes were all soaked through. Hit up the AS for a restock of fluids and off I went. - Time 10:00 in, 10:06 out. Perfect!

Legs, mind and body felt great leaving the AS. Seeing my peeps was great. About 3 minutes after the AS a tough climb sucked some of that away. Then a long uncomfortable downhill stretch on a service road was really hard to run without feeling jarring. I ran with a guy for about a mile then told him I needed to lay off, I slowed up but the grade on the road eased up at the same time making it possible to run the downhill with really no effort. So I laughed as I past him, not 1 minute later saying, “The knees decided not to lay off”.

That descent led into a climb about half a mile below AS #3. Not the hardest climb, but outside of the first 3 miles, the longest so far. I got through AS 3, refueled, talked with a friend Erin, who was working the AS and started out feeling pretty good for mile 14.5.

Somewhere in the back of my mind this next climb is still going on. I’m leaning against some branches so I don’t fall backwards back down to the bottom.

This section is the teeth of the day.

Mile 14.28 elevation – 3148ft

Mile 18.27 elevation – 6152ft

No fucking around.

I saw 3 people throwing up along it. 2 people sitting down with that gone look on their face. It’s a four mile climb that I was a bit naive about. I got out the top of it at four hours race time and found a piece of ground and sat my ass down for 4 minutes. Trying not to lose focus and trying to deal with this headache that started to come to life. Changing out of my wet tank top, gloves, buff, and hat. The only dry thing I had left was a dry wind vest. Oops. Headache growing.

Splits for miles 15-18:

15           23:29.6  1.00      

16           32:39.7  1.00      

17           30:11.1  1.00      

18           20:03.0  1.00      

I got up and started and easy jog at best, head started to pound a bit, was able to ignore. Then about 5 minutes later I heard a loud buzzing noise and looked around just as my right arm lit up. I grabbed my arm and ran as hard as I could for about half a mile to the edge of the ridge. Reserve energy out the window. I stared at the mist pouring into the valley below as it started to lightly rain. Head was pounding and all I could hear was  my heartbeat way too load in my ears.

About mile 18.5.

New game plan. Make it to AS#4(Mile 21) as fast as possible. Run with my hands squeezing my head. Cold, wet, and only having a wind vest on, not the wisest choice throwing my jacket to Matt back at AS#2 cause the sun was out. Bad move. I figured back along the ridge to AS#4 and I could rest and get warm there.

Then the arrow pointed down. -awww shit......

Again, my bad for not knowing the course. We had to take the course the same way we went out on. Which meant back up through the scree field, clawing our way up to the ridge. So what I thought would take about 30 minutes back to the AS ended up being just over an hour.

Climbing up the scree field I couldn’t ignore my head anymore and yelled at myself for signing up for one of these things again. I wanted to drop, wanted to quit, wanted to be warm. Just wanted my head to stop pounding. I can usually set any discomfort aside in my head and focus on turnover, breathing, form, anything, but not this time my head just hurt so much. I reached the top, passing Glenn and ran mostly because I was freezing and needed to get to the AS.
Photo by Glenn Tachiyama 

I saw Alley and ran to her, I couldn't look at anyone because I knew I would just completely fall apart. I was trying not to cry, but think I did a really bad job at hiding it. I sat down, Matt and Tif helped me get some warm clothes on and Alley fished out some ibuprofen for my headache.

Photo by Alley
Heading to the AS a runner caught up with me and was right next to me as I talked with the B Crew. A woman directing runners to the AS yelled out "Runners! AS to your right." I laughed out loud as I putting my hand on the guy next to me and said, "She must be talking to us?". Running seemed like something that happened way earlier in the day. We got to the AS and Earl once again got me refueled and restocked. I took my time.

Five miles to go. My goal was to have legs at the last AS to be able to work the last 5 miles.

 I’ve had my head hurt the last few times I’ve been running up above 6000ft. I kept thinking, the sooner I get down the sooner the pressure will let up. 

I left the AS and skipped a few times to see how the hips felt. Something I started doing a few years ago. Pretty good. Broke into an east run and felt fine. The descent is aggrieve to say the least. You lose about 600ft in the 1.5 miles, 2300ft overall in those last 5 miles with about 500ft of gain. And it’s a somewhat technical descent based on speed. Very rocky and narrow. Within the first half mile of the descent I knew I had my legs under me. 

If I could maintain I wanted to hit the last five miles in an hour. Legs felt great and as I came down the head felt better. I passed 2 people before the 1st lake, then another at Bear Gap. There was a small climb to the PCT and I could see 3 people up, and had to be calm, no energy on the climb, but I knew it was short. Hit the top as I just caught two of the three guys I saw before, said,”Fellas, see you guys at the bottom.” and bolted.

I knew that point at the PCT sign was about 2 miles to the finish and free of anymore up hills. I kept saying over and over. “In 15 minutes this will be over, in 15 this will be over. Enjoy.” I passed up 2 more people, pace was 7:25-8:45, crossed the little bridge and I knew the finish was close. Down the service road, then onto a little rocky trail that I wasn’t expecting. Which was great cause it cut down straight instead of looping out farther on the service road. Then the light at the end of the tunnel, the hard right at the end of the tree line straight down to the finish. I had my legs still and opened my stride and kept hard through the wicked little descent.

Photo by Alley 

Man was I glad to be done, and what a HELL of a last 5 miles. My personal hidden goal was to actually race the last 5 miles, not just survive. I feel like I left it all out on the course for the last 5 and am happy with how the day went. Barring the headache, everything pretty much fell into place.

Time: 6:42
Last 5 miles 1:01 with a 8:40, 7:10, split on the last 2 miles : )

Thanks to my Bear Crew who were amazing and really got me through one of the roughest points of an event that I’ve been in. Well, at least that I can remember : ) and to Seven Hills Running Store for ALWAYS understanding and helping out with any and everything!

Until next time…..