Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Catchin' up - Forest Park 50K (May 29, 2011)

The 2011 Forest Park 50K turned out to be a WOW for me compared to last year.  Last year I'd barely finished and just past the traditional 9 hour cutoff.  In 2010, Gimpy had spent most of the second half of Forest Park walking the flats, the hills, and the downhills and barely getting a qualifying time.  I think I missed a DNF in 2010 only by the kindness of the race directors, who I think really want us to finish if we can.  Still they looked like they were packing up when Gimpy hobbled across the finish line and collapsed on a picnic bench, too tired to even say thank you for a great experience, and then took over an hour long recovery before my daughter offered to drive me to my car which was less than a quarter mile away.

As I lined up at the end of May 2011 for my second attempt at the Forest Park 50K Gimpy had a few more miles under the belt, a lot more hills, and had a chance to run most of the course during training which really boosted Gimpy's confidence and minimized my 'don't get lost factor'.  As all of the run/walkers started up the trail, I believed I had addressed most of my concerns from the previous year, on top of this, the weather looked to be good, so I wasn't going to have to worry about over heating, just finishing.

The one potentially nagging issue was Gimpy was just getting over the affects of a grade 2 sprain from end of December and wasn't sure how it would affect me later in the run.  I'd turned my left ankle pretty good on a training run in McDonald Forest and 6 months later it would occasionally remind Gimpy to keep the eyes on the trail not just the prizes at the end.

However, Gimpy had no ankle pain as he started the run up the trail towards the first aid station.  The trail is a little crowded with the 20K and 50K folks running together.  I had to remind myself a couple times not to get impatient with the number of runners who were running 2x and 3x across as they chatted.  Gimpy's not a speedster and I think the number of runners kept me from taking off too fast which I did to some detriment the year before.  Also the trail is a bit rocky in the beginning and I had my head down most of the time trying to avoid any unnecessary face plants or turned ankles early on.

After the first 10K things opened up and Gimpy could run his own slow poke pace.  It was nice to chat with another runner for awhile and I mentioned I'd run the year before and gotten lost.  I was pretty amazed I was chatting at all.  That was an early clue Gimpy was probably going the right pace.

The next section was pretty enjoyable as it levels out on Wildwood a little before dropping back down to hit the road up to the Saltzmann aid station.  I did glance briefly into the bushes near the spot an old water bottle had escaped out of my belt in one of Gimpy's previous training runs.  I didn't give it much more thought, but was thinking that was one of the deciding factors to go with a hand bottle for this 50K and my future runs.  I was thinking something like, a bottle in the hand is worth two in the bushes.

There's a couple muddy sections that I almost lost a shoe, and then on the road up to Saltzmann I kicked into Gimpy gear and was looking forward to any downhill sections that might present themselves.  I remembered passing one guy on this stretch just as he was meeting up with his pacer, who must have inspired him because they took off at a faster pace and while Gimpy tried to stay with them, the pace was a gear higher than I wanted before getting to the half-way point.  I was hoping to get to Saltzmann before meeting the lead runners on there way back to the finish, but it wasn't to be.

I remember seeing Yassine Diboun with his 110% effort going down hill thinking crap Gimpy's gear is a slow gear and I wish I was going down instead of up.  There were endless others passing by, but I'm a bit too new to Ultras to know many people and I'm pretty sure they don't know Gimpy.  So I toss out my heart felt "good job" and "way to go", always impressed with the talent and ability of these front runners.

Well regardless it's good to be running and the aid stations are a relief, but Gimpy has to remind himself to thank the volunteers, then get in and get out or he grazes the fine selections a bit too much.  So top off the water bottle, snag a few gummy bears, a few chips and that's about all it takes and I'm out.  Note to self at aid station two, chips stick to the teeth and roof of mouth, stop eating chips.  There is a moderate elevation loss out of the aid station, followed by a steeper drop on Fire Lane 5 that Gimpy needs to go slow on.  He wishes he had that go for it mentality he sees in some of the elite runners.  "Spike" Rosling has it and he seems to glide to the bottom of these descents without effort.  It's probably age related, but Gimpy feels like he is stutter stepping all the steep downhills.  Gotta get smoother and faster, let gravity carry me forward and downward.

Gimpy coming down Oil Line

At the bottom of the steep section there's a lollipop loop to do, but gotta make it up "roots don't trip me now" Trillium trail and then down the slippery Oil Line Rd first.  This year Glenn Tachiyama set up at the bottom of Oil Line for the Photo ops.  I was happy I didn't face plant at the road or Gimpy would be forever memorialized with mud on his face, instead of his rear.  Happily it seemed this section was much faster than the previous year and with the Garmin I could really see what my pace was as compared to 2010.

I knew from my training run, that the green tank trail was a walker for Gimpy and so tried to push this section of road.  More than half way done and I was still running, and I actually knew where I was going.  The course was well marked, so Gimpy didn't really have worry, but I was running with more confidence having adding on 5-6 miles the previous year not knowing where to go and losing track of the trail markers.

The slog back up to Saltzmann was both intimidating and a challenge, but Gimpy felt like he still had energy to finish strong once he makes it through this section.  A lady came by with a walk 20 steps run 20 steps approach that I just couldn't keep up with.  I grazed the Aid station and now it was mostly down hill for awhile so I grabbed some more gummies, a gu, and chips and off we go.  Note to self again, chips stick to the teeth and roof of mouth, stop eating chips.

The road section for whatever reason are a bit of a blur, don't have a lot of recollections other than Forest Park is still pretty green in late May.  It is pleasing to the eye.  There were a few muddy sections again that I remembered now because this is where I passed a woman who was choking because she'd inhaled a jelly bean.  She said she was OK, so Gimpy had continued on, not feeling altogether chivalrous at all.  Gimpy was starting to ask himself how much further to this aid station when suddenly there was the turn and I'm thinking I'm gonna make the cutoff with plenty of time to spare.

On the turn up to the last aid station, I did my good deed for the day with a simple finger point as the runner in front of me wasn't sure which way to go.  She probably didn't thank me for the uphill section you have to do to the aid station and before the turn around and the final 10K down hill to the finish.  We got to the aid station about the same time, but she kicked Gimpy's butt on the down hill.  At this point Gimpy is thinking can he do under 6 hours?  Ultimately it wasn't to be, by now I'd sworn off chips, after about a mile even though Gimpy still had gas in the tank, it was only going to be second or third gear to the finish.

Still, I pushed as hard as I could, with no walking allowed even though the legs were saying it's almost time to relax.  My general rule at this point is to try and not let anyone pass me.  I still had a couple people pass me, but Gimpy didn't let them by easily and he could hear their relentless steps, before they finally pushed by.  At the Stone House, the legs and feet are hurting, but Gimpy is almost done and he's gonna be happy with the time no matter what.

The run to the finish line in 2011 was with the head up and a good kick to boot.  Gimpy is happy with this 2nd run at Forest Park.  The previous year I'd said I'm coming back and kicking Forest Parks butt.  I think even if I knock off an hour for getting lost the previous year I've shaved off almost 2 hours from the previous year.

Gimpy's Ultra History
Forest Park 50K (May 30, 2010) - 09:07 - 2010 Forest Park 50K Results
Forest Park 50K (May 29, 2011) - 06:14 - 2011 Forest Park 50K Results
Mt Hood  50M (July 30, 2011)   - 12:30 - 2011 Mt Hood PCT 50 Results

I've still got the Mt Hood PCT 50M to blog about as these three runs have helped me set some new expectations for myself, revealed some new pains and pain thresholds, taught Gimpy some good running lessons, and given him some confidence on how far is possible when one puts in the time and training needed to cross the finish line.

Gimpy is finding that while URunning is something that's driven from within and often requires training alone, it is also filled with encouragement, motivations, new friendships and inspiring acquaintances that make the journey even more rewarding.  I know for a fact if it wasn't for Mike "Spike" Rosling I wouldn't have shaved the nearly 2+ hours off this run.

Thanks Mike, William, Gene, Eric, and Samuel I couldn't have done it without you.

As I finish this blog I noticed Gimpy's running miles has just passed 1500 miles on the road and trails.  It's not quite a year since Gimpy started on the new training plan.  I've now got a 50 miler on the running resume although with similar near a DNF time as Forest park 2010.  I hope to do another 50M at the end of October at Autumn Leaves and possible get a 11 hour qualifying time for a 100 miler.

Mike and William have both got there 100 milers in, they were hard earned and I can't yet imagine the pain and determination it takes to finish a 100 mile run.  I hope if I can stay injury free there is one of those in Gimpy's future as well.  So as I finish up 2011, I'm thinking:

'Let's Go Gimpy! Time to Run!!!'