What a beautiful, beautiful day at Hagg lake...the Gods didn't disappoint.
Where to begin? I was going into this 50k race with a couple of simple goals: run controlled and come under last year's time. After first 2 of my years at Hagg in 5:20I dropped a bomb upon myself by struggling in 6:25 last year. Yes, it was the muddiest and the weather was the most horrific with cold rain the whole day, but still, my spirits were dampened. Having Old Pueblo 50M scheduled for the following week, I wasn't going to give this race much effort, yet I didn't want to see a number over 6 hrs on the result page.
On the night of Thursday in the dawn hours I had a dream that I finish under 6. In Russia we have an omen - dreams from Thursday to Friday come through. Then I checked a horoscope for Saturday and had a line "a great day where you exceed your expectations". Well, now if I only have sun...
And sun we had! First, I picked up Mike from his house on the way to the race, and was bent over the sight. Of course, I knew he was getting prepped for "Men in Skirts" competition, held for the second year there, but what I saw, I couldn't stop giggling the whole 30 min drive:) That not to mention, I could die for having legs like that. Total of 6 men braved their manhood, and all of us appreciated it greatly.
Sean, Dan, Mike, Mark, Tom, Tim
The air was buzzing. I love this race for been first in Oregon Trail Series, the place and date when Oregonians wake up from winter hibernation, shake off their feathers and come for the show! So many hugs, so many kisses, so many smiles.
Ronda and Stacey and their incredible volunteers do an awesome job keeping things organized. Actually, if you know Ronda as a pure example of type A personality and perfectionist in everything she does, you wouldn't be surprised. And that not to say they are keeping it super-fun!
The air was warming up rather quickly. I just got my new NUUN Team uniform on Friday and pulled noth short sleeves and long sleeves on under my pack. I also made a decision to go with one bottle - a first since I started this ultra thing 5 years ago. I knew the course by heart and had arranged practically personal crews:) There was Sarah at the start/finish, Gail and Sid at Dam AS and Kyly and Liz at last one. Isn't it great to run locally amongst best friends? :)
At 8 am we lined up, gave last "good luck" to each other and started on this tidious out-n-back road hill... as much as I hate this section, it gives us an opportunity to see and cheer on each other, and since I was located pretty much at the end of the pack (5th from the back at the turn around), I high-fived the whole field. What a wonderful way to start!
My compartment syndrom talked, not loudly, and only third time so far this season, so I stood with Tom C. at the turning point for a few seconds to let a blood flow push throuhg my shins, and started down. At the entrance to the trail I switched my bottle with the one Sarah held for me, took the long sleeves off, put the music on, and submerged into "control motion". One thing to note here - somehow I left my i-Pod in the car but had Monika's with me. Boy, do we have a different choice of music, or I hit the wrong button:) No Korn, no Queen, no Scorpion, no Pink Floyd...and so on. Most of what was playing was soft and even slow. I usually totally tuned out of the music, it is simply a background, but it is soothing to "know" what song comes next (I haven't changed the selection in 3 years since first downloaded it). At first new songs distracted me, but then I stopped "hearing" them. What brings another point to all who oppose running to music - not that it's not a personal choice, but it's upsetting how some are certain that people with headphones don't hear nature, footsteps or talks. May be some don't, but I can hear silence, you never even have to warn me of passing or repeat a phrase twice.
Anyhow, I set a goal of hitting Dam AS in 50 min. At first I couldn't get my breathing stabilize and it was erratic, but then things smoothed out, and I was enjoying the trails, all alone, by myself, heartily "remembering" every turn and hill of the trails from years before. It's like body has a memory on its own. I ran the road over Dam, and for the first time I realized it's a slight decline, or at least it seemed to be - road stretches at Hagg had always been a drag for me. This time I was controlling my footsteps completely.
Gail and Sid's AS came right on the spot, in 50 min. It was good - I felt good, relaxed, controlled, with sun high above and a gorgeous day. I got my bottle switch, downed a gel and a sip of coke and moved on. "Practice eating and drinking as for OP50" - thus was the order. I was. NUUN and HEED mixed up in a bottle and a gel every 30 min. Even energy, even pace. Next goal - 65 min to Liz and Kyly's AS.
Up and down, forest and open field, here is where I fell last year, here is where we all slid on our butts...where is the mud??!! Not a single spot. I had NEVER seen Hagg trail so clean and dry, never ever. There were like two stretches" of about 5 steps each where you could potentially get your shoes wet and dirty, but you could also avoid it if wanted to. Hello, isn't it a Mud Fest? I kept running alone and hit next AS in...60 min. Hmm, things must be good. I figured that much when the 25k front runners started passing me over a mile later than last year. So after refilling my bottle I had made a pact to deliberately slow down to loop's end. Next section always takes me 45 min, but slowing down this year was quite easy, as the next bunch of 25k runners was hurrying "home" and I had to stop way too many times into torn bushes (most were polite, but some were quite grumpy). So 50 min it was, as I hit the start/finish.
Sarah was there with fresh bottle, but I decided I needed to pour the mix into the one I carried, and it took me a couple of minutes. Ronda, Mike M. and Tom C. all were ready there yelling at me "Where do you think you are, at a training run? Move it! We're closing course on you now!". I love this, it goes back days, and I certainly have to say "Can I stop now, please?" while we all know it's out of question. Just a game, and it gives a nice personal kick to it:)
Loop 2. I finally do some math. It kind of throws me off. If I try and keep an effort at the same level, I have 10 extra minutes to still break 6 hrs. Until that point I wasn't thinking of finishing time, only about "sections" time. So here we go. Why do I have to adjust goals on the fly? Because it's fun. Let’s make it to the Dam in 50 min again!
I start passing people, one by one, every 10 min or so. I know some, some know me, it is a weird feeling (still) to hear "I read your blog". One guy, Frank, teams up with me, and we chat. In a midst of it I realize this is my 50th ultra. I am running on my 5th anniversary from the first 50k back on February 15th 2003, and this is my 50th ultramarathon. How cool can it be?
We hit Dam AS right on the spot, 50 min. I take my bottle from Gail and Sid and bid goodbye. I have work to do, I want to do even splits now. That would be fun! Passing more folks...not surprising, and not only because they took off too fast or I sped up, but mainly because I am so damn slow for the first 3 hrs, I wouldn't even be able to take off fast! I physically can not make this mistake because I can't! I can't run any faster:) I have one gear, and, thank God, it stays on this shift the whole time. So I chug along, same speed, still running, still enjoying, still smiling, still somewhat working, but not pushing. Life is good. I see Liz and Kyly...
2 min faster! Yikes, that is interesting. I ran even splits before, but yet to go negative. I spend these 2 minutes chatting and refilling my bottle, and take off. 45 min - that's the usual, so I should be able to, no problem. I keep the effort even, no surges, eating and drinking. Nothing hurts, breathing in check, legs moving, still passing others, giving encouragements and telling how long left to the tens of a mile. Awesome day. What an awesome day, nice, warm, sunny, when things just fall together and the run is effortless. Here is that final bend. I don't think Mike or Sarah are waiting for my finishing picture - it is not close to 6:30...
It is 5:45. Yup, I had exceeded my expectations for this day. FatGirl still can run:) On this glorious, sunny, friendly, dry, beautiful day I ran with not much effort on negative splits to a solid time. And ran straight into the hugs of my best friends!!
Mike dragged me into a lake - I was foolish enough to say I might try it since I need a speedy recovery for next weekend. I kicked and screamed some, but I think the water was almost warm under this sun. Many more joined, and we had a whole party going on, after which came - beer!!! And food. And more hugs, kisses, talks, hugs again, talks again, smiles, laughter and plans to see ach other again. The winner Neil Olsen broke a CR by 2 min (3:43) and went for another loop to cool down. Rod Bien placed second. Sean came from Bend sick as a dog and still finished 4th. Two ladies from Sequin, WA, battled for the win with a 1 sec difference (wish I could see that) - Stephanie Forshaw and Laura Gould in 4:51. Mike ran will in 4:42, Adrien was a mere 2 min back, Sarah's non-hubby Mark came 5 min before me, Caroline and Linda PR'ed on course. There was 123 finishers in 50k race. Full results here, Official photos by Brian Conaghan.
Thanks to Ronda and Stacey for RDing this awesome event, to their greatest volunteers and friends and families, to Oregon Trail Series, to sponsors, and mostly - to runners for making it a day to remember. I am ready to go into 2008 season, into 6th year and second half of my century ultrarunning, and I can count on you all! I think this day was rather "showing the way".
So, why are we doing this crazy thing?
For the beauty.
For the friendly hugs and kisses.
For the solitude on trails.
For the finish line exhilaration.
For the fun.
For the beer.
For the food.
Did I mention friends?