Thursday, April 13, 2017

I'm a Lumberjack and I'm Ok

My work sent me to the Pacific Northwest for a few days. As a crazed ultrarunner, I did a quick search to see what races were happening in the area. Gorge Waterfalls in Oregon, was that weekend but that race is so popular that there is a lottery to get in so that one was out, though I would like to run it some day. The race I found was Lumberjack up in Port Gamble, Washington, outside of Seattle offering 3 distances, 100 mile, 100k and 50 mile.

Based on where I am in my training plan, I decided to run the 50 mile. This felt rather ambitious to be running that far. Sure, I have gone 160, 135 and 100 miles just a couple months ago but on the other hand, as my previous posts have stated, those races left me feeling like I was starting over. Over the last couple of weeks I have been feeling much better. I am not dreading going for my training runs any more. These runs are still not very fast and I am still fine with that. I feel better and that is the important thing.

The race was both a chance to run somewhere new and to be a test of where I currently stand in my training. Leading up to it my longest run has been 15 miles so I was not very confident. I figured I could suffer my way through it by walking if I had to but that would mean I was nowhere near ready for a 100 miler in 10 weeks. My right hip, IT band and hamstring had not been feeling very good. They are fine when I run but start to hurt when everything tightens up, making them ache during the night and making it difficult to get comfortable to sleep. This has been a big concern to me because I don't want to run too much and make it worse but I also need to get into better shape.

I flew in to Seattle on Tuesday and spent the evening at an old friend's place that consisted of beers, music, nostalgia and general catching up. The next morning I was able to get out to a park to run some trail in the rainy weather this part of the country in known for. The rain was very light for the most part, misty at times, which added to the lush atmosphere of those forests. I wasn't sure how far I would go and found myself just wanting to keep going and exploring. It has been some time since I have felt that way and it was good to have it back. A very good sign.

I drove down to Portland the next day for the last part of the work trip. I didn't worry too much about not making time to run, instead deciding to walk around the downtown area, spending a good part of the day at Powell's City of Books, which has long been on my list of places to visit. I was able to get myself out of there without spending too much. It was impressive but I think King Books in Detroit is better. After finishing up the work duties on Friday, it was back up to the Seattle area for the race.

I fully expected a rainy day since the forecast had been calling for that but the morning was clear but cool. Waiting at the start line I was getting cold and just wanted to get going, This was a rare time before a race I didn't think about the magnitude of the distance. Sure, I have run 100 miles and longer but a 50 mile run is still a long way but on this day I felt no pressure.I had no real expectations or goal other than to get through it.

The old school nature of the race showed with the lack of inflatable arch or even a banner at the start/finish line. In fact there wasn't even a start/finish line. We just kind of gathered on the road and were sent on on our way. The race is a looped course with 12.5 miles per loop, meaning I would be going around 4 times.

Pre-race, the race director let us know that there were a couple muddy and wet areas and the first one came up before mile 1. Turning off the gravel road onto a single track trail into the woods, the mud began. There were some wood pallet type things put down to help get through the mud. The lush green forest seemed to collapse in, making me feel a little claustrophobic. The trail wound around right next to trees and it felt like there was barely room to get my shoulders through. The mud and roots made footing very difficult and I started to get a little frustrated right from the start.

Once out of this difficult section there was plenty of room to run with a mix of dirt road and trail. The sun came out and shown in rays through the tall pines trees. The trail sections were super soft thanks to a bed of pine needles and the rain, which made running easy. I kept the pace slow and consciously slowed down going uphill. The aid stations came up quickly but that may be because I was used to going hours between checkpoints. Before I knew it the first loop was done, in around 2 hours 30 minutes. I felt good and was happy with how things were going. The hip had initially ached a little bit but it had faded away.

Now I knew what to expect and started the second loop. As I approached the section that frustrated me before, I told myself to just take my time, get through it and it wouldn't be that bad. Too often in races I get into a negative place mentally and it saps my energy. Going through this muddy section again, I just took it a step at a time, didn't worry about being slow, and refused to be frustrated. I actually would laugh when I has having a hard time. Before I knew it, I was through it and moving along well.

The miles ended up just melting away. I moved from aid station to aid station. My pace was slow but I kept running, backing off if I felt myself pushing too hard. There were only a few hills that required walking. I finished the second loop in around 2 hours 40 minutes. I started thinking that getting under 12 hours would be a decent showing and I had some buffer now. The next two loops went rather easily. I never found myself struggling to keep running.
Rolling along
credit: Philip Oppliger

I brought my headlamp on the last loop in case it got dark but I never needed it as rolled into the finish at 7:32 for a 11 hours and 32 minutes time. My friend Chris, who I had seen earlier in the week, was there at the finish, which I truly appreciated deeply (again, finish line attendance is topic for whole future post). I grabbed a beer and quesadilla and that was that. A very good day.

Assessing the race and my status, I feel like I have work to do but I feel much better about things than I did. This race gave me a ton of confidence. I now know I can run 50 miles without it being an awful, difficult experience. My feet felt good with no blisters and only couple black toenails. I was sore but nothing like what I have gone through in my races over the last year. I'm really glad I decided to do this. Things are looking good.

Last post  Mar 29  - 206.8 lbs
Today April 13  -  211 lbs  Usual post race water weight and the likely effect of going off the diet while travelling and racing. No worries. 
Goal - 195ish

Week of March 17  49 miles
Week of March 24  40 miles
Week of March 31  50 miles
Week of April 8   55 miles