Monday, June 8, 2009

North Face 50 miler

The North Face 50 miler was a very interesting day. First of all, we planned on leaving Seattle at 2 AM in order to get to Bellingham in time to check in and have a few minutes to prepare for the 5 AM race start. It's hard to go to bed before 10 PM even if I know I am setting the alarm at 1 AM. I tried to plan to be in bed by 9 PM, but by the time my day was coming to an end and I had packed all my things for the race, I looked at the clock and it was 10 PM. I thought to myself, it seem real weird that I will be running 50 miles starting in 7 hours....So I got into bed and promptly fell asleep. My alarm went off at 1 AM and I got out of bed, made some tea, chocked down some toast and headed out the door to Owen's where John was picking us up. I was walking over there at 1:50 AM, bar closing time. In the heart of Capital Hill, the streets were busy with lots of people staggering to their cars and talking really load about how much fun they were having and it all seemed so surreal. In 3 hours, I would be running 50 miles and the day was just ending for most of these people who were sharing the sidewalks with me.
John arrived and was a zombie. He had about 1 hour of sleep and so he layed down in the back and Owen drove and I sat in the front seat, Brock sat in the middle seat of the Eurovan. We started driving up to Bellingham and about half way there I'm feeling car sick. I had Owen pull over and I had to get out and get sick. I got back in the car and we drove about 10 more minutes and I had to have him pull over again. I felt awful and again, I'm thinking in less than 3 hours, I really have to exert myself and I feel terrible. Mind over matter....
We arrive at the start and get our numbers. At least I have a 4 in my number, I love the number 4. We get ready and chit chat with friends and the next thing you know, it's countdown time....3-2-1, go. Less excited, I could not be. I was wondering if my stomach would hold out, I was wondering if I would be able to eat and I was just planning on having a training run that would not make me so sore that I would be worthless the following week for training. I ran the first 11 miles on and off with Owen or Van. They were good company and made me forget my stomach was still a bit upset. By the time we left the AS at mile 11, I was feeling more confident that my stomach would not be an issue. So, Owen and I ran some together until we got to the Ridge Trail which is pretty technical with lots of short and steep ups and downs. Owen got ahead of me here and I just plugged along with my iPOD and staying steady. On the next longer decent, I caught up to Owen and from here, we ran the rest of the race together. We were in the same boat, not feeling great, not feeling bad, not wanting to push it to the limits, but wanting put in a good solid effort. We both tuned out with our iPODS and ran at a good pace stopping and eating at all the aid stations. I was feeling quite relaxed really. I had planned on a 12 hour day and so that was my mind frame, 12 hours of good solid running on the trails.
We got to mile 30 and I was in a bit of a lull. We saw another runner, Jeff, who told me that I was the 4th woman. I was really surprised by this. He also said she was a good distance ahead of me but if I was motivated by 3rd place prize money, then I should get on it. Prize money? I didn't even know there was prize money for the top 3. I didn't really even entertain the idea...I was content to keep going at the same pace and didn't feel like I had any get up and go. I was in the lull and was fine being there.
A few miles before the AS at mile 42, we were running a fun downhill section. I saw a woman in front of us and realised that this was the 3rd place woman. I thought I could have a chance at placing 3rd. So, according to Owen who was just paces behind me, I took off running downhill like a bat out of hell. He had no idea that I had cranked my music and felt a moment of fresh legs. He ran down with me and we greeted and passed the 3rd place woman. I was feeling pretty good about this time and thanks to some head banger music on my iPOD, I was feeling motivated to try to stay in 3rd. When we got to the AS about 1-2 miles later, Owen gave me some good advise, he said, run the rest of the way steady and don't blow up, there is still 8 more miles. So, for the last 8 miles, we ran strong and steady together, him leading the way. There is a very brutal and rowdy climb at about mile 45 that literally took my breath away. It took me some time to recover from that one. That was just plain torturous to have such terrain that late in the game. Although, seemed like Owen was not having the difficultly I was, he was like a damn billy goat getting up there.
The last AS was at mile 47.5. 2-1/2 more miles, pretty much downhill on the logging road with the last bit on technical single track. As we came around the corner to the finish line, I thought, wow, I might really have come in 3rd! We crossed the finish line at 10 hours and 18 minutes. I soon found out that indeed I was third and had won some prize money. That has never happened to me IN MY LIFE! Alison Hanks was 2nd overall and Jamie Donaldson was 1st.
The day really took me by surprise and a great surprise at that. It was also quite relaxing and I think I learned a thing or 2 about how to approach these runs. Each time I do one, I'm amazed at the things I learn about the sport and about myself. Everyone seemed to have a great time, literally and figuratively.
All the meanwhile, the San Diego 100 miler was going on and while we all were hanging out and enjoying our post race buzz, Jess, Jonathon, Linda and Joe, and many others I don't know, were still grinding it out. Congratulations to all of them for great performances!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Elusive 12 Summits

Um, well I have attempted 12 summits 4 times. I have run it successfully only 1 time. ONE TIME! The first time I attempted it, one of the people I went with bonked pretty bad so we had to cut part of it out and go back the most direct route. The second time, it was a success, partly due to other people that knew the way. The 3rd time, there was too much snow and had to turn around and now this time, we were "re-routed" and had dropped the water in the wrong spot and had to run on the road until we found it. Leaving the water untouched was not an option as it was super hot and we were all pretty much out of water. Good thing we did not bring the dogs as they would have suffered big time in the heat.
It all started off just fine. We made it all the way to the 5th summit without directional difficulty.
We first realized we were lost when the terrain looked very unfamiliar despite going the way the map had instructed. Also, we could not find the 6th summit. The map said, "look for a stump." No seriously, I must have seen many many stumps and none of them looked like they led to the 6th summit. Once we got to a clear cut section that looked completely foreign to me, we turned around and ran back and took the other fork. We ran on that for awhile and then heard a fairly busy highway, HWY 18. John and Owen knew seeing HWY 18 was not a good sign for staying on course, but I have no sense of direction and once you get me out of Seattle, I don't know my way around or what direction Auburn is or Kent, or Renton. We started heading up following the power lines and until John spotted a hidden trail that said, "Tiger Mt. Trail." More excited, I could not be for it was headed down and the power line route was headed steeply uphill. Once we were running on it, it looked vaguely familiar but then came across another fork in the road and wondered which way to go....but I found some handy dandy spectacles and so we were all set, pretty much. We did eventually make it to the correct water drop but only to realise that we had dropped the water in another location, sigh. So we ran/walked on the road for awhile until we found our oasis. Once we did get to the water, we were joined by a pair of siblings, probably about 10 and 13 years old who were fascinated by our running gear. The 13 year old girl was particularly fascinated with Owen's tattoo's and referred to them as "hella tight." They were kind enough to throw away our empties at their house which was just down the road. And they were really excited to get their photo taken.
After we refueled, we didn't really know where we were but followed the trail leading up and back towards the start, miles away. Eventually found our way thanks to 2 dudes on motorcycles/dirt bikes who told us it was a LONG way back to High Point and some luck. Although we didn't hit 12 summits, we managed about 40 miles with still quite a bit of climbing. A good run and getting "lost" was actually a highlight. It was quite an adventure. Here we are at the last summit!
Then down we went running pretty hard the last 3 miles to the parking lot. Great adventure for a hot sunny Friday!
I didn't realise how tired I was until I got home. I had to tell Struth that I was at the dentist all day long because I didn't want him to know I was trail running without him. I mean, with a face as cute as this one, it's really hard to know I've disappointed my dog by not taking him with me.