Posts Tagged With: Running

Sun Mountain 50K

Although Fall training had been a bit tentative because of a lingering left ankle sprain (which I rolled a few steps from the end of a hike with the kids back in July), the Deception Pass 25K race (December 2015) went okay and training for Orcas 25K was going well. Unfortunately, I rolled the ankle hard at the Orcas race on January 31 and, while I was able to “run it in,” I had suffered a pretty bad sprain, and I ended up taking 6 weeks off from training. I was scheduled to run the Chuckanut 50K in March but  was able to obtain a refund from the race director (the RD of Chuckanut, Krissy Moehl, was wonderful I might add) and set my sights instead on Sun Mountain 50K in May 2016.

 

Back on the Mend

Slowly, with the help of my coach, Alison Naney of Cascade Endurance, I was able to put in place a training program that would get me ready — though far from optimally — for Sun Mountain. Now, for me, an optimal training schedule for a 50K trail race would involve a slow buildup of mileage with a peak of the longest run being in the 20+ mile range (or 5-6 hours) occurring around 3 weeks pre-race day. But Alison came up with a plan that would have me a bit under-trained but more or less ready with a peak long run of 4 hours at 2 weeks prior to the race. Sub-optimal, yes, but it would have to be good enough given the 6 week layoff for the ankle.

Not So Fast

So all was going pretty well. Four weeks pre-race, I had a great 3 hour run on the Chuckanut course near Bellingham and a week later had a good 3 1/2 hour run at Cougar Mountain. Unfortunately, the good running karma took a break when two weeks before the race I rolled my ankle again on what was supposed to be 4 hour run from Snoqualmie Point to Rattlesnake Lake but ended up being only 2 hours with some collateral damage. The good news, though, was that I was able to run 3 days later and had a few good one-hour runs later that week. That Sunday (6 days pre-race), I set out for a 2-3 hour run at Discovery Park but ended it early when my ankle started feeling stiff and then hurting whenever I landed after scaling a log.

Now any runner will tell you that this was not going well. Your ankle should not be hurting with less than a week to go before a major race. Furthermore, if by some strange miracle, my ankle was okay on race day, there was this little matter of being under-trained for the race.  Still, I decided not to panic just yet and was thankfully able to snag an appointment with my wonderful ultrarunner physical therapist, Alison Gillespie of Real Rehab (yes, both my coach and PT are named Alison). Thankfully, Alison was reassuring. She worked on my ankle, suggested I take a few days off from running and that I try instead some spinning or biking to get the blood flowing to the injury without bearing weight on it. Best of all, Alison told me she thought it was okay to run the race on Saturday, and worse-case-scenario, there were several points during the race that came by the start so if I needed to drop, I easily could.

At this point, my confidence was less than spectacular, but I nonetheless followed PT Alison’s advice and rode my bike Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday and held off doing any running. To make matters even worse, my ankle was hurting on Thursday riding home from work, which I figured was not a good sign. Because of my concerns of keeping the ankle from swelling any more, I decided not to run the entire week.

Race Day

Well, the hotel was booked, I had always wanted to visit Winthrop and the Methow Valley, and I wasn’t going to get refund from my race entry fee, so I figured I’d give it a whirl despite my misgivings. Those last few days, I worked hard on staying positive while remaining realistic. Listen, I’m not some crazy ultrarunner hero; I wasn’t going to keep running if my ankle was really hurting. But on the other hand, it was a no brainer to at least start the race. We took off for Winthrop Friday morning and the drive there along Highway 20 was beautiful. I sat in the back seat with my leg propped up while Suzanna supportively did all the driving.

Suzanna and I discussed race strategy, prepared my drop bags, discussed where she would be able to see me on the course, and how I would communicate to her if I dropped. Saturday morning arrived and I was the first runner to check in. After chatting with some runner friends and coach Alison, and visiting the porta-potties at least 3 times, I was ready to start the race.

flowersThe race started at 10 AM and I have to say right off the bat, I felt crappy. At mile 3, I seriously contemplated turning around and heading back to the start. I just wasn’t feeling it. About that time, Coach Alison’s husband Sam (also a Cascade Endurance coach) was there cheering me (the first of three times I saw him on the course; thanks, Sam.) A little after that, a voice in the distance from above shouted “Paul, I see you” which surprised me, especially since I couldn’t see where exactly the voice came from but I was pretty sure it was Suzanna which made me smile. I clamored on and finally settled in a couple of miles later with a a pair of runners (Kari and Broeck). Having other runners to chat with was great and really helps when one is thinking of how horrible they feel. We made it to the first aid station at Thompson Ridge at mile 8. I grabbed a few grapes and headed back out. At this point the ankle was feeling okay and while I wasn’t feeling great, I was okay. A few miles later, I fell back and lost touch of my two new friends. My thinking soon devolved into whether I’d drop out at the second or third aid station, or maybe there was the slightest of chances that I might tough it out I finish the whole darn race. The ankle continued to be fine but now my right side which I had strained a few weeks earlier doing some plyometrics drills started hurting.

Lest I only whine about the pain and hardship, I should mention that the course was beautiful. Yellow and purple wildflowers were everywhere; the valley was so colorful surrounded by gorgeous mountain peaks and sweeping views.

Digging In

The second aid station, Homestead, was supposed to be at mile 17 but my watch was telling me that it was mile 15. Nevertheless, I was happy to make it and see Suzanna and Porter (our black lab). I sat down for a few minutes, refilled my hydration pack, ate a few grapes, kissed her goodbye, and headed back out onto the trails.

Soon, we began a long climb up Black Bear trail. I got my running poles out which helped ease the ascent. It was tough but what really hurt was the descent down Black Bear. At first my right side pain came back and then my hips. With each step down the hill, my hips and pelvis screamed with a bone-jarring pain. A nice woman who introduced herself as Laura ran with me for a bit, encouraged me and then took off. I slowed down, did a little walking (which I never do on the down hills), and took a few deep breaths. And then I just continued going forward. At this point, I was sure I would be dropping out and debated whether I would drop when we ran by Sun Mountain Lodge at around mile 22 or at the last aid station at around mile 25. It was just a matter of time.

The trail bottomed out and was flat for a bit before climbing very steeply to Sun Mountain Lodge. I saw my running friend, Nicola run by looking strong (she finished 5th) as I struggled to make it up the ascent. Once again, the poles helped as I struggled up, but it was the fact that in a few miles, I would turn around and descend this very steep incline that worried me the most. At the top, we then flattened out and ran by a bride and groom having their pictures taken on the lawn in front of the lodge.  The course continued down past the lodge for another mile before turning around at small white sign in the middle of the trail. On the way down I had spied a large root with a loop that was raised several inches above the ground. I yelled “root” to the runner right behind me who yelled it to the guy behind her. About a minute after the turn around I looked up to see a guy trip and fly through the air. He must have missed the root. Fortunately, he tucked and rolled perfectly and was fine. We headed back up to the lodge and then back down the earlier very steep hill. Ouch, it hurt, but a little less than it hurt on Black Bear, for which I was thankful.

SunMountain-420-LAt various points in the race, you would come up to a spring-loaded gate that you would open and let snap shut behind you to stop livestock from going where they were not supposed to go. But at some point between Sun Mountain Lodge and the last aid station, I looked up and saw a runner ahead of me climbing what appeared to be a step ladder over the fence. And indeed, I had to do the same. Now, suffice it to say that 20+ miles into an endurance race, one of the last things you want to do is climb a ladder over a barb-wire fence but that’s what we had to do. I yelled to the runner who had just performed the feat “That’s interesting.” She yelled back, “No, that’s rude.” I chuckled as I next hobbled painfully up and down the ladder, steadying myself on the tree that thankfully was there to assist with this trying feat of strength. I thought about stopping to photograph this absurdist of mid-race obstacles, but I was too tired to take my phone out. (Thankfully, I saw that someone else had posted a photograph of the obstacle in question when composing my story.)

At the bottom of the hill, things flattened out again and the trail went by Patterson Lake. In the distance I could hear what sounded like the third and last aid station. The din of cheering and cow bells got louder and pretty soon I was there at the Patterson Lake aid station at mile 25 (or mile 23 according to my watch). Suzanna was there, of course, and took my picture as I was approaching the aid station.

I rested a bit, chatted with Jess Mullen, who was working the aid station and who proceeded to tell me not to be fooled by the first false peak up Patterson Mountain. Suzanna and I talked. I discussed with her my options, which included dropping now and walking back the two miles with her and Porter to the finish as a DNF, or maybe, even if I walked the remaining 6 miles of the course, I guessed it which would take me about 2 hours and get me to the finish in about 7 hours, which was plenty of time before the 8 hour cutoff for the course. I mean what’s 2 more hours of suffering anyway? Did I mention that miraculously my bad ankle was not bothering me at all? The fact of the matter was that I would much prefer to finish the race, as long as I wasn’t seriously injured than drop out. Suzanna agreed that I should go for it and so it was decided I would continue and not take the easy exit.

Doubling Down

Patterson Mountain was the steepest of the three steep climbs of the race, ascending a little over a 1,000 feet over about 2 1/2 miles. It was brutal, worsened by the fact that it was open so you could see all these runners in the distance slowly making their way up (and then back down) the mountain. I walked most of the way up and ran the few flatter spots. I made it to the turn-around and then headed back down the very steep decline. Amazingly, the bone-jarring pain I felt 7 or 8 miles earlier was gone. I mean I was exhausted and every part of my body hurt, but nothing like the earlier descent down Black Bear trail. I continued on.

I should mention that one of the nice things about the out-and-back nature of the peaks of the Sun Mountain course, is that you saw people going in the opposite direction as you went up or down and almost everyone was there cheering each other. The people coming down when you were going up would usually throw you some encouraging words. “Nice job.” or “Way to go.” And when you, in your state of absolute exhaustion and self pity, were coming down the mountain, the people who were behind you by 20-40 minutes were smiling and praising you like you were some amazing super ultrarunner, making you feel almost accomplished, like you were fast or something, when you were pretty sure you were way slow. That’s the beauty of the ultrarunning community — almost everyone is nice and friendly. And despite my not feeling up to it, I tried to reciprocate with some encouraging words of my own.

About half way down the mountain, I came to a T in the trail and instinctively, without reading the yellow sign, headed to the right to retrace my steps from earlier. Fortunately, a few steps later, I realized that I never looked at the direction of the arrow in the sign. I turned around, ran back to the sign, and saw that I was actually supposed to go left, not right and head towards the finish, not back to Patterson Lake aid station. A runner who was heading up the hill, yelled “good catch.” Boy was it ever.

From there it was about 3-4 miles to the finish. I was alone for the next two miles on some technically difficult single-track terrain. Not difficult because it was very steep or because of any sheer drop offs, but difficult because we were running along a narrow dry stream bed (about 2-3 feet wide) with a rut carved right down the middle. Suffice it to say, that the footing was difficult, and I was worried about rolling my ankle. Fortunately, I managed to avoid any injury and made it to the road. I crossed the road and headed toward the finish. Since my watch didn’t agree with the map of the course that I had studied and printed before the race, I wasn’t sure how long I had to go. I was thinking it was anywhere between a 1 and 4 miles at this point, though I was thinking–okay hoping, wishing, and praying–that it was closer to a mile. At this point, it didn’t matter. I was committed and I was going to finish! After about a mile, I saw a sign for Chickadee trail, which was the trail we had started on and which I was reasonably sure would soon lead me to the finish. I dug down a little deeper and ran the shallow inclines instead of walking them like I desperately wanted. After another half mile or so, I started to hear the cheers in the distance. I quickened my pace and spotted Suzanna! She confirmed that the finish — which I couldn’t see at this point because of a remaining turn — was about 50 feet away.

I accelerated across the finish, smiling big time, with a respectable time of 6:22. I did it. I stuck it out despite having a thousand excuses to quit. I simply refused to use any of those excuses. Not this race.

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Double Dipping

Returning home from workSo the reality of my late summer athletic commitments has finally settled in. I’m training for both a September marathon (the tiny Tunnel Lite marathon) and the August 50-mile cancer fund-raising bike ride (Obliteride).

What this means…

  • I need to run five days a week including one long run on Saturday and one hill or speed workout on Tuesdays.
  • I need to bike to work most days. Only 5 1/2 miles each way but it’s valuable bike time none-the-less.
  • I need to do a long bike ride at least once a week. Typically on Sundays with Suzanna.
  • I recently added strength training. Weights & core stuff. You know the drill.

10 minutes later suited up for Tuesday night hills workoutIn many ways, it’s like training for a triathlon without the swimming. So far, I have to say that everything is going well. The big fear, of course, is of injuring myself. Which means that while I have to be consistent and push myself I need to also train smart.

Also, for Obilteride, there is the fund-raising task. And that is going phenomenally well. I am mainly using social media (Facebook, Twitter, and this blog) to publicize my efforts and ask for donations. Plus a few emails to my friends and co-workers. If you are one of the 28 people who have already donated, thank you! And if you haven’t donated, please consider donating today. You can read more about the cause in prior blog posts.

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Ending My Sounds of Silence

LaurelAndHardyHushLike many bloggers out there, I started with a bunch of ideas that I wanted to get out into the blogspace last year, and then got distracted and this blog has suffered.

Let’s see if I can restart this thing and put out something that others may be able to benefit from.

Catching Up

Wedding-87Since I last blogged seriously, a lot has happened. I got married in a wonderfully romantic wedding in Monteriggioni, in Tuscany, Italy to my soul mate, Suzanna, last October. I started to run seriously again and ran a 5K back on New Year’s Day of this year. I also joined a running group at the beginning of the year and set my sights a little higher: first signing up for the Lake Sammamish Half Marathon and then the Eugene Marathon, which was held April 28th.

Running for Boston

I am happy to report here, that running has gone spectacularly well for me this year. Not only did Eugene go well, but I managed to qualify for the first time in my life for the Boston Marathon, which has been a life dream, and which I finally accomplished in my 8th marathon finish with a time of 3:39:22. Not bad for an old dude.

TrackWorkoutApril2013Cropped-2013-2Unfortunately, the qualifying time margin for me is only 38 seconds, which isn’t a lot with the renewed interest in Boston after the horrific bombing this year. Thus, I have decided to run another marathon on September 15, the Tunnel Lite Marathon. It’s a very fast course so I am hoping to clock a finish time of more around 3:30 which would give me extra cushion in registering for Boston 2013.

Cycling for Cancer Research

PaulOnBikeNewOrleansOh, and a couple of days ago, I registered to ride in a cancer fund-raiser bike ride, the Obliteride, to raise much-needed research money the world-class cancer research institute where I work: Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Expect more blog entries on my Obliteride journey. Meanwhile, if you are so inclined, please consider supporting my effort and the efforts of the scientists at “Fred Hutch” by donating to my Obilteride.

Thanks for reading!

Paul.

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My New Goal: Eugene Marathon in April!

New goal: training for Eugene Marathon on April 28th and using it to qualify for Boston next April.

bostonqualifyingtimes

 

Post Script

I did it! I qualified for Boston with a time of 3:39:22.

Categories: Fitness, Running, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

2013 is Coming into Focus

magnifying_glass_by_hillllallll-d59skm5Boy, I haven’t posted in a while. Sorry about that. Bet you’ve heard that one before. It’s funny how you can be so gung ho for a time period, posting like mad. Sometimes, even having to wait to space out your blog posts. While other times, you just get busy—like me for the past month or two—and don’t either have anything to say, or are too busy to say it in your blog. I guess the latter was true in my case. But here I am, with my laptop in bed late, deciding to hack together a post sometime after midnight on New Year’s Eve 2012.

Catching Up

Today is the beginning of the last day of 2012. So the good news is that I have been fairly consistently running and spinning and less consistently lifting weights. Additionally, while I am not currently logging my food intake into My Fitness Pal, I have maintained my weight at more or less where I want to be. I am currently 165 pounds, which is at the top of the range of where I want to be. Considering this is the pinnacle of bad eating season, I am pretty okay with that. In comparison, at this time last year, I weighed 185. Yes, 20 pounds more than I weigh today.

But weight is not everything. I am also pretty happy with my fitness level, although with the craziness of the holidays and my kids being in town, I managed to run only twice last week. However, during each of the weeks in December prior to last week, I ran at least 3 times. And I have started running on Saturdays with the Seattle Greenlake Running Group that I found on meetup.com.

In fact, I ran long runs of 9-10 miles with the group the past 3 out of 4 Saturdays.

Plans for Next Year

I have big plans for 2013 and have already signed up and paid my entry fee for three—count ‘em, three—races. They are:

1. Resolution Run

This run is tomorrow, January 1st at 10:30 AM. it’s a 5K followed by a jump-in-the-lake. (And in case you are wondering, it’s likely to be raining and very cold!) The trick, of course, is not to stay up too late New Year’s Eve and get too drunk. Otherwise, the race will be very painful. (It will be cold and wet, regardless, however.)

2. Lake Sammamish Half Marathon

This is the one I actually have to train for. 13.1 miles around Lake Sammamish in Redmond, Washington. The race is Saturday, March 9th which gives me about ten weeks to get ready. And while I can run 10 miles without too much trouble, I’d like to ramp up over the next ten weeks and use this race to really improve my fitness.

3. Pacific NW Spartan Sprint

Okay, now we are getting a little crazy. I have to say I have been intrigued with these so-called extreme obstacle course races since I first started hearing about them this past year. They include Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash, and the one I just signed up for a couple of days ago: the Spartan Race. The deal on Living Social was just to good to ignore so I nabbed it. The race is Sunday, August 4th in some town I have never heard of in Southern Washington state. Oh, and yes, as a matter of fact, I am crazy. ‘Nuf said (for now).

By the way, I am loving my new iPhone app for tracking runs: RunKeeper. The also have a version for Android phones. It’s free, addictive, and highly recommended. And for the most part, it makes GPS watches obsolete. Expect a post on this fabulous app sometime soon.

Oh, and we got a dog a couple of weeks ago…

PorterKidsXMas2012-1

So that’s my story. What about you? What do you have planned for 2013?

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