Many months ago, I got talked into signing up for this thing. For a long time I thought I would never do an ultra. It just sounded long and painful to me. Since all of my marathons ended in exhausted suffering, the idea of going further was not too appealing.
But all the crazy ultra-loopsters made it sound so fun and easy. And when three of my favorite loopsters, hell, favorite people in the world
invited me to come up and hang with them, and run with them through a
beautiful, woodsy trail heaven, well, I just couldn't say no! I signed
up, saw that it was 4 weeks after Boston, and decided to just use
marathon training and see what I had left.
I would also be
meeting up with one of my non-running friends who lived there in
Portland, so I committed Friday night to him, and planned to meet up
with Mild Sauce and the Matzes on Saturday for a hike. Well, once they
knew I was in town, of course they wanted me to join them, since they
were already several rounds into happy hour. So, after a burger and a
beer with my friend S, we all met up just in time to check out a famous
Portland landmark, the Salt and Straw, where people line up down the
street for some really good ice cream. It was worth it! Yum!
I wore a hat, in a perhaps pathetic attempt to appear cool, and blend
in with the others who were two decades my junior (at least)!
next morning, S and I got up early, and headed out to Eagle Creek,
where a magnificent 12-mile trail awaited us. The plan was to meet up
with the others at 9, but they were running late, so S and I, and his
friend D, another old guy like us, started the hike early, taking it
easy with the hope that they would catch us. Well, they were much later
than we thought, so it would be 4 more hours before we met up. But that
was OK, because we were enjoying a fantastic hike! Check out these
was 6 miles one way to a magnificent waterfall. Mostly gradual uphill.
It was really stunning, and such a change from what I am used to in
Southern California. One really incredible view after another, and I
loved it. And after almost 3 hours we got to see this.
Spot the BP
took a break and had lunch and waited for the gang, but still nothing,
so we started heading back. About a mile down the trail, there they
were. And not just Sauce and the Matzes, but several Saucy friends, and
loopster AnnieRunsforFun. Well, we had no choice but to turn around and
head right back up to the falls. So my hike ended up being about 14
miles. Two days before the race. Madness! By the last three miles, my
legs were really feeling heavy, and I was mentally kicking myself. But
it was worth it, because seriously, this hike was amazing.
we made it back to reality/civilization, we all went out for pizza and
beer at Lucky Lab, a hangout for stud athletes like us.
Then a relaxing night with Sauce's friends where I may or may not have crushed them in Wii Jeopardy. (OK, I did)
had two items on the agenda: Brunch and Dinner. But both were Loop
Meetups so that made them awesome. Brunch was with LadyRunsALot (Angie)
and her husband. It was great to meet her after reading her loop posts
for a few years. And her DH was very cool too.
a little later we road tripped to Estacada, where AnnieRunsForFun
hosted all of us for some carbo-loading. More great times eating and
chatting. Loop meets are always so comfortable and fun.
then there was nothing left but to get some rest, and do a 50K the next
day! My legs were quite sore from that darn hike, but what the hell, it
was just a fun run with friends right?
So far the weekend in Portland had been dry. We got lucky and had great
weather for hiking and al fresco dining. But race morning we awoke to a
steady rain, and the forecast was for it to continue for at least 6
hours. We were grumpy.
it was really perfect for running. It would keep us cool, and we would
be protected by the heavy forest we would be running through. So, lucky
on the weather. It just sucked a wee bit waiting for the start.
The scene at the start line.
plan was to run with my friends, Mild Sauce, Cal Running, and Santiago
(K & L). Keep the pace easy, walk the hills as needed, stop at aid
stations for food, and hopefully have enough energy to stay with them
the whole way. I had my Garmin for record keeping, but I wasn't planning
to worry about time. Turned out the forest blocked the signal so much
that it was way off the whole time and worthless. It had me at 25.7
miles at the end, over 5 miles off.
OK, I kind of wanted
to break 6 hours, but was ready to take whatever the trail gave me. With
the rain, I expected a lot of mud (and was not disappointed). I
stripped down to shorts and a tank top, with a cap to keep the rain off
of me. And then we were off, about 120 of us. Here is the course for
started right off with a long uphill. I trotted easily with K & L.
Sauce and her friend Will started to pull ahead. I let them go for a
while, but soon felt it was too easy and moved up to join them. I
suggested we slow down and wait for K & L, but with no luck. They
said, "Oh, they will probably catch us at the first aid station." It was
still comfortable, but we gradually pulled away from K & L in the
first mile, and I would not see them again until the end. So much for
So we ran. The course was simply amazingly
beautiful. The rain was mostly blocked by the trees. The trails were
dirt, but mostly not too muddy. They were very well groomed, few rocks
or roots in most sections. The trees were huge and the forest was thick.
Several times I was moved to say "Welcome to Jurassic Park" in my best
Richard Attenborough impression. Felt like another world. Lots of sharp
dropoffs next to the trail. Constant twisting and turning and ups and
downs made it very fun. Many stream crossings, either with a little wood
bridge or without. I was just running and smiling and enjoying the
scene. Amazing. At one point I let out a loud whoop of joy as we cruised
down a particularly beautiful section. It was bliss. Like this.
Will and I ran together for the first 14 miles or so. We talked. We
alternated spots. We laughed. We hiked up the steep sections, and let it
roll on the downhills. We rarely encountered other runners. At one
point we hit a very muddy section that was a steep downhill for 1/2 a
mile. Crazy and kind of scary, but we survived. Will flew down that
thing, and we would not catch him for 2 miles!
just clicked by. Soon we were at 2 hours, and figured we better have a
GU. Before I knew it, it was 3 hours and I had another. Also had some
snacks at the aid stations, PBJ, pretzels, more free GU. But I didn't
really eat a whole lot. 4 GUs total and lots of gatorade and a few
snacks. With the cool weather dehydration was not a problem. My bottles
never ran dry.
About midway was a steep uphill hiking
section that was muddy and technical. A little break as it were, and
then we had some open wide trail for a while. Sauce and I were side by
side chatting, and just kind of giddy with how fun this whole thing was.
We felt good too. Trail miles just do not beat you up like road miles.
The softness of the dirt and the constant adjustments for terrain must
keep your legs fresh. I came to look forward to the hiking sections for
the uphills. The break would rejuvenate me rather than wear me out like
running up a hill in a road race can do.
We got to the aid
station at 19.7 miles and found out the distance (over 4 miles more
than our Garmins were showing) and did a quick calc and realized sub-6
looked pretty probable! Stopped for a pee in the p-o-p there, and a few
bites, chatted with some other runners, drank a few glasses, and then
headed on. No rush.
And then most of the last 12 miles
were nearly flat or downhill and I felt so good, I started pushing the
pace. Just a little, enough to feel like I was racing. We locked in on
another runner at a similar pace and just rolled through the forest.
It's hard to get across how the miles just flew by. I felt like I could
run all day, like it was a natural state, like breathing. Hard to
imagine that I was out there for nearly 6 hours, running almost the
whole time. I have never gone over 3 hours before except in marathons,
and those were so much more painful at this point. My hams and glutes
were getting a little tired, but nothing too bad. No cramps, no huge
fatigue. It was crazy. I was very excited by the whole thing. Trail
We had one more good hill to hike at about
mile 28, but we knew it was downhill from there. Sauce was working a
little to stay up with me, but we would stay together no matter what. I
was actually holding myself back a little from 20-28, waiting for the
bonk. But it never came. For the final 2, we both opened it up and flew
the downhills. Such a blast. I was working now, and was happy to finally
see the finish area come into view. But I also felt like I could have
kept going for another hour or two. Crazy!
a 10:55 average per mile. Seems like I was running 9 minute pace or
better while I was running, but I guess the hiking and the aid stations,
plus all the little sharp curves and roadblocks do slow you down. I
finished 44th of 93 finishers, 2nd in my AG (but no award). And I helped
Sauce break her PR! Instead of medals we got pint glasses, which could
be immediately filled from the keg.
We got a little muddy.
And then we got to see this fabulous finish!
burgers and dogs (regular or vegan) were there for us. We celebrated
together. Lucky weather, great course, fabulous company. It all added up
to perhaps my best race experience ever!
Later was a
celebratory dinner, and the next day was more fun exploring Vancouver
and Portland. Also enjoyed many fine restaurants and food carts.
Amazingly, I could walk just fine. I even went down 8 flights of stairs
with no trouble!
So, I hope my enthusiasm shined through.
As of now, I would love to come back and do it again next year. And who
knows what trail madness I might end up doing. This roadrunner has seen
the light, and it is out on the trails!