30 October 2011

SCOTT Cougar Mountain 20

Yesterday? Sun and low to mid 50s. Today? Rain and upper 40s.

But I Need to keep reminding myself of where I live and not to complain. Still, it was coming down hard this morning when I woke up.

Yesterday I was actually nervous. For sure I am not immune to race-day jitters but this was amplified and included apprehension of the unknown. Only once in my life have I run this far and that ONE time was last weekend when I ran 19. My longest run prior to last weekend? About 15 miles. On deck today was the last race in the SCOTT Cougar Mountain Trail Run series. Most everyone else was probably going to do the 50k but they added a 20 mile option which seemed perfect (read: doable) for me. Party on.

As usual I woke before my alarm. On the up side it gave me time to eat breakfast and let it digest.

I left home a couple of minutes after 7 and luckily Cougar is really close and there was not any traffic to speak of so I arrived around 7:30. Nice.

Although the rain was not pounding down when I parked it was still drizzling pretty steadily and I was more than a little damp after walking the 200 m to check in. get my number and then back to the car. Oh well, at least it was not cold!

I sat in the van sipping my gel flask and fretted over what to wear. Justin A had given me a Patagonia Houdini jacket which was VERY light and so I put it on over my undershirt. But then the rain stopped… I stepped outside to perform a temperature check and when shielded from the wind by my van it was not bad at all so at the last minute I swapped the jacket for my vest and called it good. I did keep Shelley's Nike running hat on as my concession to the potential cold. Finally it was time to walk back up to the start.

Of course hanging out here for just 15 minutes got me shivering like crazy. I spent half the time squatting as low as possible so my chest was pressed against my thighs for warmth.

Looking around it struck me how I do not have a clue how to gauge other runners. At cycling events - especially recreational ones - I can usually tell who is really fit and who is a poser. Not so for running. My current rule of thumb is the more gear they have the slower they will go. GPS watch and hydration belt? Don't need to worry about that guy. No GPS and not even a hand-held bottle? He's gonna tear it up.

So I'm looking around getting myself pretty psyched out when the organizer finally says GO. We take off for one lap around a grassy field before we hit the trail.

I was determined not to take off too fast today. After doing that big time and paying the price in Leavenworth I was hoping I had learned my lesson. So it came as a huge surprise to me when we exited the field and I was still in touch with the leaders! Of course then I realized that most of these guys were doing 50k today and so I kept my enthusiasm in check.

After just one mile of trail a lead group had been established and there was a second group as well and then there was me behind a couple of guys. Not more than two miles into this thing we started to descend and damn did it go down for a long time… all I could think was that we were going to have to gain all the elevation back! :(

Sure enough, after 10-15 solid minutes of descending we started to climb. The pace seemed very relaxed, so relaxed in fact that I passed these two guys in front of me. Was I going too fast…?! I DID NOT KNOW. But I didn't think so and carried on.

Having a bottle I went straight past the first aid station which opened up the gap behind me some more. "Easy… take it easy…" I kept telling myself. Eventually we started the descent to 900 and it put that first descent to shame. I was trying not to hammer the brakes much but it was too steep to just let lose and 'coast' plus I did not want to fly off one of the switchbacks. Going down this one guy caught me and we started chatting. Eventually he asked me what kind of time I was shooting for and when I told him I was just trying to finish and only dong the 20 he immediately said he had to stop and tie his shoe. I'm betting that if I had said I was doing the 50k he would not have stopped. :)

And he caught me in no time! Amazing.

The last bit of this descent is very steep. I asked him if he would be able to run up this on the way back and he gave me an emphatic NO so of course I resolved to give it a try myself since I was doing 11 miles less than him. HELL YES, I WAS GOING TO RUN THE HILL! At aid station #2 I grabbed a gel, had some water, turned around and started back the way I had come.

Not more than 100 m later I was walking. NO WAY IN HELL COULD I RUN THIS HILL!

And that is right about when things started to slow down. And the last time I had any company.

After walking roughly .5 miles I tried to jog again and it was hard! Kind of a shock to the system. Thank goodness the trail pitched up again and I could walk some more. :( It was sort of like swimming up stream going this way. There were only a handful of people in front of me as the organizer had let some folks (30?) start at 7:30 AM if they felt they needed extra time. Pretty nice of him. Everyone else was barreling down the trail.

I almost missed the turn off of this climb as the route did not backtrack all of the descent. I had just gone about 30' past an intersection when I noticed there were no confidence ribbons. I stopped, looked back and saw them behind me going a different way. Whew… the last thing I wanted to do today was log extra distance.

Eventually I got to running again but from here on in I never had the same pace as on the way out. At this point I had not slowed down too much but with my current fitness I feel fine for 10-12 miles and then anything longer is a bit of a chore.

But damn was it pretty out here… Have I mentioned that yet? It was an amazing day! It was NOT cold, the trees and ferns were BRIGHT green and the big leaves, which totally covered the trail at times, were GOLD. I recall thinking that my bright orange vest was kinda obnoxious at the start when we were standing in a field of dry grass but now it was totally eclipsed by the sea of gold (and yellow and orange) I was running through. There were several sections of trail that were 100% invisible. Good thing the footing was okay.

After the slog up from 900 there was another 'wall' (I forget the name) around mile 12 or 13 and just like that I was walking again.

At aid station #3 (the last one for me) there was Scott McCoubrey himself handing out the treats. I think I kind of surprised them because they were hanging out down the road when I ran up. He told me I had about 4.7 miles to go and to be aware that there was a good hill coming up before the finish. Here I grabbed another gel, a cup of some PowerBar energy drink, a bite of banana and took off. I still had half my bottle so did not top it off.

Man was it quiet out here… all you could hear was my breathing, the water dripping off the trees and the sound of my shoes striking the ground. And that's when it dawned on me. I was alone. ALONE IN 1ST PLACE.

Argh… I had told myself not to try and be competitive and just to try and enjoy this run as my main goal was simply finishing. But now I kept trying extra hard to listen for those footfalls that mean someone else is coming up behind you. It did take some of the pleasure out of it. :)

Shortly after the last aid station I got onto familiar trails that Justin has led me down. It was kind of cruel in a way as normally this trail meant we were almost done but not today. I pulled into the Red Town trailhead, turned up the road that we usually take to start our runs and promptly had to walk again. Ouch!

At the top of this first hill we ran down a long section of dirt road that was flat but I was now hating life. I had no zip at all and when the marking finally turned left up a hill I was almost glad as I figured I would lose less time to anyone behind me walking than running.

And walk I did. For what felt like 1.5 miles! Damn that was a long and steep climb. Killer really, especially this close to the finish! If anyone doing the 50k got here with company they would surely not be together by the top. When I got to the top it was a real effort to run again. I had to walk across a flat section and use a small downhill to get my legs moving at a different speed.

From here to the finish it was tolerable but I was sure not setting any speed records. I kept wondering if I could speed up at the end and figured I could so kept looking for anything that might clue me in and kept listening for those footfalls behind me. And then I was done.

The finish totally snuck up on me. One minute I was walking to crest a small climb and then the next thing I remembered I was rounding a corner and saw the finish line tent up the trail. I think I had just started running again like 10 seconds ago… I sped up - for like 100' - and then was done.

Food. I was suddenly pretty hungry. And thirsty! Good thing the organizer had all kinds of options for us so I ate an orange and then headed to my van to change. When I got back I had a bagel with humus, potato chips and hot soup! That hit the spot big time.

At some point while stuffing my face I remembered I had not stopped my watch right after I had finished so walked over to the results people and asked how I had done. That was when they told me my time. After picking up my schwag I strolled over to the results tent again and that's when I saw my number at the of the list. With the fastest time! Wow.

Before my head got too swollen I reminded myself that all the real studs were doing the 50k AND I could not hang with the first two groups for even the first 10 miles but I was still flying high. Especially after I saw that 2nd place was just 15 seconds behind me. Holy crap. Would I have been able to speed up if he had caught me on the trail? I'd like to think so but I'm also glad I never had to find out. Finishing with no one else in the picture is always a plus.

What did Martin learn today? That 4000' of elevation gain is hard. And that I need to drink more. I never cramped or even felt close but I essentially only consumed one bottle and that is not enough for three plush hours; you sweat a lot running. I also confirmed that waking up extra early to have breakfast helps.

In lieu of sponsors (I don't have any when it comes to running) I feel like I need to thank some people today.

Shelley - for letting me do what I enjoy and for encouraging me to do so.

FootWorks Physical Therapy - for getting me back in the game as fast as possible after my two mountain biking get-offs this summer.

Mobility Plus Healthcare - for chiropractic and massage without which I would not be able to run or ride.

Justin - for his constant encouragement, tips and clothing hand-me-downs. I ran in some of his old Patagonia shorts today and they have quickly become my favorites.

Matt Hart - for turning me onto Teko socks; they really are fantastic!

Now if I can just turn this experience into a building block and accomplish my real goal this fall, the Grand Ridge Marathon distance trail run in just three weeks! Yikes. Yesterday Lucca completed her big running goal for this season, the Autumn Leaves 50 mile. Very inspiring. Here's hoping I can do half that.

Sleep 6
Waking HR  
Body Weight  
Body Fat  
Breakfast 5:15 AM - 3 pancakes (w/protein powder), banana, apple sauce
6:00 AM - large bottle w/1 tablet Cola Nuun and 2 scoops HEED
Workout Food 30 minutes prior to start - gel
run - small bottle w/1 tablet Cola Nuun and 1 scoop HEED, 2 gels, bit of banana, but of water, cup of sports drink
Time of Day 8:30 AM
Workout Type race
Weather upper 40s, wet ground, dry sky, cloudy, windy but we were sheltered
Course Cougar Mountain 20 (to 900 and back)
Results 1st overall
official results
Time 3:11:33
Distance 19.7 miles
Pace 9:43 min/mile
Equipment Brooks Cascadia, hand-held bottle
Clothing shorts, Craft short sleeve undershirt, wind vest, hat

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