Monday, May 23, 2011

Clearing: Sun Mountain 50km Race Report

The sound of the rain is rhythmic. Hunkered in our tent, I feel sheltered yet immediately exposed to the natural elements. I shift and turn seeking to find the comfortable spot amongst the undulating surface we have situated our tent on for the evening. The rain persists, and I find myself continuously disturbed from my slumber by the changes in its ferocity. A steady drizzle, a sudden downpour, each evokes its own sensations.

After a restless night I awake to the stiffness and peculiarity that sleeping without any sort of pad or comfort provides. The grass was my bed and my body is reminding me how foreign of a notion this is in our modern age. My girlfriend and I spend the early hours of the morning packing up our things and seeking the requirement of a strong cup of coffee. Successfully, we enjoy this within the warm confines of a local Coffee Shop in the quaint town of Winthrop, Washington.

The race cannot come soon enough. I have been ready to go since 6:00am when I first awoke an hour early. But alas, the 10:00am start means I am merely killing time. We meander the foothills of the Methow Valley as the sun momentarily breaks through the overcast skies. Things look promising but the clouds are threatening. Looking at the singletrack carving through the slopes, I am soon eager about the 50km of running that lies ahead. I seeded this notion the previous afternoon when my girlfriend and I enjoyed a nice mellow run on the first part of the course. The forgiving, non-technical terrain is a welcomed relief from the usual scree-slopes, roots and step-ups of the North Shore trails.

Finally, we are off and in my opinion the only way that an ultra should, a quick 5second count down by the RD. It is a fast start, and not surprising, as the 25km runners join us for the first 9+miles of the course. I tip-toe my way through the early sections stepping around various runners who were a little ambitious out the gates. The gradient steepens as we make our way on to some doubletrack. I feel sluggish and lethargic, my body wants to rest. But my mind wanders, I am distracted now. The beauty of the surrounding landscape captures my attention. The shadows created by the morning sun are pleasant; just looking, a sense of ease emanates through my body. I forget that I am even running a race. In fact, in that moment I wish I was not. I would love to stop and take in my surroundings and continue to explore these foothills. A passing runner snaps me out of these thoughts. I have become lazy.

We hit the first aid station where I quickly refill my handheld and empty the trash I have stored in my pocket. It is just past this point where we deviate with the 25km runners and I am surprised at how many there were. Few make the turn up the slope to continue to the apex along the 50km course. Juxtaposed to the initial climb, the descent requires my full attention. It is tight and winding single track and due to the previous evening’s rains, there are many precarious points. I catch myself a few times as I slip and slide through the mud. Dry socks no longer. I continue to yo-yo with a couple other runners. We seem to work well together, taking the lead at various points.

Time elapses quickly. It always does when on foreign terrain. I have never been in this area nor run trails as groomed as these. I enjoy not having to watch my footing and hop-step my way up the slopes. Plodding along. I roll into the 17mile aid and quickly restock my waist pack with the necessary calories to carry me through the final 13miles and two substantial climbs. It is warming as we near mid-day and the exposure of the mountain is catching up to me. The first of the two climbs to the top of Sun Mountain catches me by surprise. It is a fairly steep gradient and I soon fall into the dreaded power-walk. Perhaps saving something, I juggle with the thought of grunting up the hill or reserving for the final stages. Mind games. I choose the latter and simply continue my forward progression up the slope mixing between walking and running. Lazy. Once again, the descent breeds life into my legs and I am soon passing runners I noted ahead of me on the climb. The singletrack cut into the side of the slopes wreaks some havoc on my hips and feet as I rarely find a flat spot. Thankfully, these are switchback so it balances out well.

The final aid station cannot come soon enough. My bottle has been empty for the last 20minutes; I have misjudged. With the 24mile aid in sight, I sprint along the quarter mile stretch of road, the only road we encounter the entire course, desperately seeking hydration. Quickly, I refill my bottle and down a couple cups of water. Relief.

The final climb waits for us across the road. The open terrain and cutting single track weaves up the mountain. Stark and barren, it sits in front of me. There is nowhere else to go. I continue to pick off runners as I climb. Each time feeling more and more motivated. It is arduous but doable. Inevitably, I reach the top and retrace my steps down the slope. Precarious at first and attempting to regain my legs, I eventually open up on the descent feeling the best I have all day. Is this race really going to end now? Nearing the bottom of the mountain my girlfriend awaits and tells me that I have less then 20minutes. Buoyed, I run on pushing the hardest I have all day but reminding myself of the slight uphill finish to the course. I take a quick glance at my watch and realize a sub 4:45 is out of reach so I resolve to a steady pace as I cross the line in 4:48. My legs feel fresh and my mind clear. The sensation is overwhelming. I cannot wait to do it again.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Week in Review: April 24- May1

Monday April 24, 2011: AM: 10.5miles (1:34) Fairly steady run from behind Park Royal on the Trans-Canada Trail up to the Cleveland Dam; did a few loops up around the rolling trails there and then retraced my steps home. Saw some low 6:xx's coming back as it started to pour rain. Mostly motivated by the fact that I was late to meet Meredith after her workout.Enjoyed the rest of the day off work.

Tuesday April 25, 2011: PM: 6miles (52min) Easy run. Tried to treat this as purely a recovery effort. Headed out and did 4miles on my own and then 2 more teaching KINTEC run clinic. Legs felt stiff and awkward, time for a day off.

Wednesday April 26, 2011: PM: 2.5miles (25min) Really easy teaching KINTEC run clinic. Poured rain the entire time. My energy pathetic.

Thursday April 27, 2011: Noon: 10miles (1:37) Off work at noon today. Immediately headed over to my parent's because I had to drop some stuff off. Took care of business then headed out their back door, all of two steps, right on to the Baden Powell. Debated the necessity of a jacket (chose to keep it and tucked it in my waist band... good call) and then worked my way along the Seymour River. Felt decently chipper given how things had gone the last couple of days. Ran up Curcuit 8 over to Lynn Loop, once again debated whether or not I should do Lower Lynn Loop... Decided to go for it and found myself running through a few inches of wet snow as a fairly heavy hail started to fall. Wet and muddy but I was just enjoying the luxury of an afternoon off work and spending it on the seemingly vacant trails. Eventually reached lower grounds and coincidentally, the sun made an appearance and I basically just worked my way back to my parent's. Hungry by the end.

Friday April 28, 2011: AM: 18miles (3:01) Medium Long run along the Chuckanut Course around Fairhaven/ Larabee Park. Circumstances drew me south of the border today so I planned a long run. Got on the trails by a little after 10am with a vague plan in mind. At the end of the day I basically ran 5miles along the fairly flat dirt path to the entrance to Larabee Park. I then headed up to Fragrance Lake and over the backside of the mountain. From there, I pondered continuing to the Ridge Trail but realized that time was not on my side and further, I took but one bottle and did not know the area well at all. So I retraced my steps back up the mountain to Fragrance Lake, enjoyed a quick loop, and then a buttery descent down the singletrack to the bike path. Beautiful trails and I am definitely starting to develop quite the affection for the area.

(Equipment post run- Notice the new Saucony Peregrine- great first run in them and nothing but positive things to say about them so far- the fact that I could go and run a comfortable 18mile mountain run in them says a lot I suspect)

Saturday April 29, 2011: AM: 3miles (25minutes) Loops around a few block radius surrounding my apartment. Then headed out with Meredith and did 10miles (3:00) of hiking/ running. Enjoyable day.

Sunday April 30, 2011: 11miles (1:55) Quick run early in the morning up at Lynn Headwaters. I did not have the greatest energy but got it done. Just ran as my body dictated. Some was slow, some was moderate, nothing was fast. When I got home Meredith and I headed out for a hike along the Baden Powell near Grouse Mountain. 7miles (2:45)- we packed lunch and just savoured the stunning spring day. Despite the easy effort, my legs were pretty tired by the end. The cumulative effect of the week I suppose.

Weekly Mileage: 78miles (15hrs)
Cross-Training: Daily ITB and planks. No gym session.