30 March 2018

Badger Mountain Challenge 50 mile

Sometimes you sign up for a race and you end up being a pacer. Or, sometimes you decide to run a race with a friend and one of you has a bad day.

In 2016 I ended up running the last 30 miles of the Pine to Palm 100 with Paul Morrow. This got me through a very low point and I actually recovered and then ended up coaxing Paul to the finish when his tank was empty. A few months ago, after discovering that we are both going back to Pine to Palm, I suggested that we run the whole thing together. He agreed so the next sensible step was to find a "tune-up" race to see how compatible we were these days. The Badger Mountain Challange 50 mile was that race. Turns out today was a replay of the last 15 miles from Pine to Palm.

I pulled into the Tri-Cities Thursday relaxed and early. After checking into my hotel I got my race packet and then drove over to the pre-race dinner. Now I know everyone LOVES pizza and salad but when it's Dominos and literally just a giant bowl of shredded iceberg lettuce (with some sort of thick, syrupy, non-descript dressing) I was kind of bummed. Thank goodness the church that was hosting this dinner had a social event the night before and there were no less than three big trays of pulled pork that the race organizers served us. Nice! The church building, on the other hand, was a little frightening.

Not needing to eat in the mornings gives you loads of extra time so I kicked back in what turned out to be a very comfy bed at the Red Lion Inn and relaxed with some Law And Order.

I've been working hard on my pacing and fueling and it's been paying off. The first test this year was the Chuckanut 50k and today was the second. I got to the start around 6:20 knowing we were heading out at 7:00 AM. There was ample parking and it was close so I was also able to make one more stop at the restroom. With about 10 minutes to go I connected with Paul, everything was working out splendidly.

Then it was 7:00 AM. Go!

This course starts by taking you straight up Badger Mountain. That's fine with me but in just 100 m Paul was pulling away and my heart rate and power were dangerously high. I caught up to him and said I needed to slow down and thankfully he realized he needed to as well.

This course is beautiful! On a nice day anyway. And it's exposed! Unlike on the other side of the Cascade Mountains, there isn't a single tree in sight and tumbleweeds are the tallest plants I saw all day with the exception of grape vines in all the vineyards. I hear it can get windy out here and thankfully it was not too bad today. I'm also SO grateful it was not cold. The forecast was for 70 degrees and I don't think it ever got quite that warm but I was able to remove my arm warmers in short order and only had to put my gloves back on a couple of times when the wind picked up.

None of the hills are very long on this course but some are very steep. The trails on Badger Mountain itself make use of switchbacks but everywhere else they are eschewed and I was super glad to have my trekking poles with me today. A couple of the climbs were just giant gulleys so you went straight down and then straight up the other side.

I could have sworn that Paul told me he wanted to tray for sub 8:00 today but when I brought this up at dinner he demurred and said he was hoping for 8:30. Whew, I'd be lying if I said eight hours had not gotten me pretty nervous. I would be happy with 8:30 too so I was doing some mental math as we ran to keep this time goal in sight.

For 10 miles we were looking good. We were running with this 18-year-old girl (18 looks like 12 to me these days so I was doing frequent double takes in disbelief) and it turns out she finished in almost exactly eight hours. Nice.

Around 13 miles in Paul slowed up a tad. No problem I thought, we'll just shoot for 8:30 which was his goal anyway. At 15 miles Paul slowed again. At 20 he slowed again. At this point, we had to maintain our pace just to make 9:00. The aid station at the turnaround (this course is an out-and-back) is just shy of halfway and it's on top of a hill. I was hoping the descent would help Paul but he slowed again. Ouch. I was feeling bad for him. He said he just could not speed up on the flats or the descents and that his quads were tight. Looking at his hobbled gait almost made me cramp up!

The irony of today was that I was feeling fantastic and should not have been nervous about our tme goal at all! I'm not usually much of a talker on runs but now I was chatting Paul up, offering him my drinks, gels, and just generally encouraging him along. A couple of times he told me I should run on ahead but it would have been a major dick move to ditch him now and it wasn't like I could salvage even a nine-hour time at this point so we hung together.

Running pace and cadence is interesting. Pretty much the entire second half of this race I could not run at Paul's speed. I had to jog ahead a bit and wait. Repeat. Or walk really fast. Sometimes I would let him get a gap so that I could jog a little more before I was walking again. Here I am waiting for Paul after running ahead somewhere past the turnaround.

I picked the wrong day to leave my camera and phone behind. :(

Poor Paul! And things did not improve. Around this point, I figured we'd be lucky if we broke ten hours. Then, with about 10 miles to go he told me had a blister. When it rains it pours.

But there were highlights!
  • Paul never spoke of quitting. Which makes sense, this was a UTMB qualifier for him so all he had to do was finish under the cut-off time.
  • Paul didn't complain! He just could not run.
  • Unlike me, Paul is a talker so with very little prodding we had some good, long conversations.
  • I saw tons of friends! Way too many to mention? (Dale, Jess, Van, Jill, Glenn, Yitka, George, and many more) When you are running on exposed terrain like this it's hard to miss people.
  • We ran through a culvert pipe. It was just long enough that in the middle you could not see anything except for a dot of light at the other end. You just had to trust your footing and relax. It was really cool! Literally (since you were out of the sun) and figuratively (because I felt like a 6-year-old kid exploring).
  • The volunteers at this race were awesome! As was the aid station food. After one descent where I got ahead of Paul, I had half of an avocado and ate it with a spoon!
  • The aforementioned descent was SO MUCH FUN. It was coming down to the mile 30 aid station and it was about three miles of soft, narrow, curvy singletrack. The gradient was just steep enough so you could really rip and not so steep that you had to grab the e-brake. I had a HUGE smile on my face. And for a change, I was passing loads of people again. :)
  • Everyone that I saw seemed like they were in a great mood! Runners, volunteers, everyone.
  • I collected a variety of ammunition out on the course. There were a couple of spots up on a ridge where people blew some serious cash and the ground was littered with shells.
  • My GPS watch (which is getting a little long in the tooth these days) lasted the whole 10 hours with a heart rate strap and power meter. Just. With about eight miles to go the display blacked out with a low battery warning and I had 5% battery left when I crossed the line.
  • The weather was nice. I wouldn't have minded just a little more heat but no one could complain. We never had much direct sun but a couple of people (including Paul) got a little pink anyway. And the wind never really got discouraging. Out on the course, I heard stories about how bad the wind can get here and I guess there were some wet years too...
  • About three miles into this race I felt an "urgency" in my guts. But guess what, there was a porta-potty at mile five! Disaster averted.
  • There were warm quesadillas and hot soup at the finish. Nothing like warm food when your body starts to get cold.
  • There were some VERY dusty sections of the course and I got lots of it in my shoes but I never felt any discomfort while running and after finishing I only discovered one small blister on my left little toe.
  • Glenn Tachiyama was out supporting a friend and took some great, "unofficial" pictures. Like this one.

This post run shot sums up my race pretty well.

I thought this would be the last run for this pair of Topo Terraventure shoes as the uppers are wearing out on the sides but they held up! And after a thorough rinsing, they don't look half bad. These have become my go-to trail shoes and I love them.

Here are all my pictures.

Nutrition (before)
Nutrition (during)
Nutrition (after)

17 March 2018

Chuckanut 50k

The Chuckanut 50k was my first ultra back in 2012. And as I milled around the start grid on this day talking to people I realized that was a pretty common experience. Kudos to Krissy Moehl for being such a force in the trail running community.

That first ultra was tough. I had spent the last few days trying to prepare myself mentally for the return trip down the Community Trail that finishes off this race. For someone that prefers going up and down to running on the flat, the closing stretch was starting to loom larger than life. Wry social media posts were not helping.

But the weather was fantastic! Around 40 degrees at the start (and around 50 at the finish) with sunshine all day. It was so nice I walked the half mile from my hotel. This year they let you leave a drop bag at the start/finish which was super convenient.

You'd think that after a couple of decades of racing bicycles and six years of running races I would have my fueling totally dialed. Almost, it's still a work in progress. Little tweaks here, little tweaks there, but I am very close to knowing just what I will need on any given day. Today I nailed it.

I have also been using a Stryd power meter and LOVE it. Just like with cycling, power is the most accurate and objective indicator of how hard you are working. After wearing this for about one month I have a pretty good idea of what I can and can't maintain. Today my goal was to average 280 watts and I actually exceeded that by a little bit. This has been a fantastic tool for pacing myself.

Here is a link to the complete power file.

And here is the quick and dirty.

I ran the first 10k significantly slower than in 2012, like 45 seconds per mile slower. I kept right on moving throughout the middle section, in fact, I only stopped twice, each time for water. I am liking carrying all my own nutrition! I felt great on the Chinscraper climb, I even ran parts of it. I ran the last 10k significantly faster than in 2012, like 45 seconds per mile faster.

Lesson learned? I think so.

It was tough to hold back for those first few miles... people were STREAMING past me. But I started to pass them back on the very first climb and after the 2nd aid station, nobody else passed me again. Climbing Cleater Rd I went by about 20 people. Running along Chuckanut Ridge I found myself alone and that pretty much lasted until the aid station at the bottom of Chinscraper. On that climb I passed another half dozen guys, a few more on the descent and then on the return trip I just kept picking people off in ones and twos. I was working hard, make no mistake, but this experience was night and day compared to how I felt running this section in 2012.

I got water (only!) at the 2nd and 4th aid stations. I would just pull my ziplock bag out as I approached and by the time I came to a stop, I usually had my bottle open already and just needed to dump in the powder and ask for a fill-up.

All this paid off, with a 12-minute PR for this course and an age group win. I'm convinced I was faster back in 2012 but these days my pacing and fueling are better. Obviously, that matters more.

And I was able to smile at the finish.

Here I am running up Chinscraper.

Look how clean and dry my shoes and socks were after five hours!

And I love my shoes! I have been running in Topos for one year now and let me tell you, having a shoe that fits your foot and that lets you #movebetternaturally is amazing. So. Comfy.

Nutrition (before)
Nutrition (during)
Nutrition (after)

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