Monday, October 31, 2011

Autumn Leaves 50M - Happy Trail ! Oh Yes!!!

The Autumn Leaves 50 Miler at Champoeg State Park finished out Gimpy's 2011 ultra running season and I think with my best pace/mile to date for 50K and over.  My previous long runs have been up and down for time and pace.  I see this as part of my running journey as I gain more experience with different terrain and running conditions.

The Autumn Leaves 50M is definitely a different kind of running challenge.  The flat looped 10K course on mostly paved trails means faster pacing, with a risk of going out too fast.  I'd run the 10K in 2010, so I knew what I was getting into as far as terrain and I'd ran four loops a few weeks earlier.  I had a good idea the pace I wanted to hit for early miles.

Fortunately, I got a nice parking spot right across from the Pioneers Mother's Cabin where I'd set up the back of the car with a few extra things in case I needed anything not in the drop bag or aid stations.  It turned out I'd need a few extra Gu gels, so it was worth the early morning drive to get the spot.  I'm not a big fan of Chocolate and Huckleberry Gels.  Gimpy likes 'em Vanilla or Plain (about 12-15 of them).

The short walk to the pavillion with headlamp was required just to get to the packet pickup area and set the tone for the race start.  I'm not much of an early morning runner, but the 6AM start in the dark was a nice experience.

I saw Josh Gum and we exchanged greetings and best wishes before the run.  As Bret Henry started the count down I wished Josh a good run and we were off into a light fog.  It was pleasing to to see the bouncing reflections and head lamps as we started out on the trail.  The fire was crackling and inviting us back after each loop.

To start I wanted to keep my heart rate around 130 for the first half of the run, expecting it to start climbing as the run proceeded.  I was generally successful and I'd adjust my pace downwards if it started to climb above 135.  This was my strategy to avoid going out too fast per Coach Rosling's suggestion.

Garmin 110 failed to save :(
I think I spent a little too long in the aid stations, but felt like the pace was 11' or less for those first four loops.  The Garmin 110 served its purpose to maintain heart rate and pace for the first six (6) laps and then as if on cue from previous runs died with a low battery and worse failed to save any of the run. (Irritating, requiring note to self: 'It's time to replace the Garmin with something that can last the long run, it's let me down on three of my last five (5) long runs.  I'm resolved to replace the battery and if that doesn't do it, it will become a Christmas present for someone who likes 5K's and 10K's.

It will be somewhat difficult to stop using it, since it's logged over 1500 miles for Gimpy in the last year.  The actual distance longer due to battery fails.

The completion of the first loop was a relief, revealing solid footing along the entire course.  The wood bridge wasn't as slippery as my previous run.  Although I was about a minute/mile slower on the 1.25 mile trail section, it didn't get as muddy as we expected and I was able to run the entire course with only brief walking breaks at the aid stations.  My goal was to continue jogging through as many miles as possible.  Even the slight elevation gain at the turnaround point was runnable for me until my 6-7th loop.

For comparison, I'd crossed the finish line on my first 50 miler a bit on the exhausted side at the Mt Hood PCT 50 in 12 hours and 30 minutes.  In that run, I'd really paid the price on those hills and I was looking forward to see what I could do on a flatter course.  I checked a few people's times who'd run Autumn Leaves and Mt Hood and it looked like 1-2 hour improvement was possible.  I felt I could run Autumn Leaves faster, I just didn't know by how much.  My goals were similar to previous runs, with minor tweaks to the times.

My Autumn Leaves 50M goals were:

1) Finish with a smile
2) Finish under 11 hours (this is the last year Autumn Leaves will meet a 2012 WS100 qualifier)
3) Finish under 10 hours (I'd told Mike I'd be super pleased if I could finish under 10 hours).
4) In Gimpy's dream world I'd love to have beat 9 hours, but this will have to be reserved for a future run

Comparing Results:
May 2010: Forest Park 50K:         Gain (3185 ft):   Time:  9 hr 05 min (Pace: 17:35'/mile)

May 2011: Forest Park 50K:         Gain (3185 ft):   Time:   6 hr 14 min (Pace: 12:04'/mile)
July  2011:  Mt Hood PCT 50M:   Gain (5630 ft):   Time: 12 hr 30 min (Pace: 14:31'/mile)
Sept 2011: Flagline 50K:               Gain (4200 ft):   Time:   7 hr 30 min (Pace: 15:00'/mile)
Oct  2011:  Autumn Leaves 50M:  Gain *(1300 ft): Time:   9 hr 47 min (Pace: 11:45'/mile)

One thing I appreciated was seeing Josh Gum as we passed on the course, this was his first 50 miler and he really got my spirits lifted.  It was especially inspiring since he'd just finished pacing his wife Wendy for the Portland Marathon.  Josh is a man of generosity and positive attitude.

I also got another big boost as I came in at the end of lap seven (7).  I saw Coach Mike, Ella, and Will Rosling near the gate approaching the turn around. Will gave me a high five, followed by Ella and then amazingly young Will paced me to the turn around point and that really got me psyched for the last lap.  I completed the turn around and the three of them paced me out towards my last lap.  I had goose bumps and was running high for the first two miles. 

Like the great coach he is, Mike gave me a challenge when he said we'll see you in about an hour.  I think I said maybe a little longer.  Even so, I felt strong like I'd almost saved too much for this last lap.  My quads were definitely aching and the balls of my feet were starting to hurt.  I put that out of my mind and started counting the miles down, 6,5,4,3,2, and finally 1 mile to go.  I ran the whole thing with out walking.  The Garmin had died so I had no idea what my pace or heartrate was.  I checked my phone and I could see I was going to come in under 10 hours but wasn't sure if I'd be closer to 9:45 or 10:00.

I popped out off the trail on to the parking area and I could see the finish line and pushed hard wanting to finish strong.  Josh's family had been cheering me on and I saw the Rosling kid's just past the finish line.  I would repay them soon.

50 miles done...  I briefly thought about whether I could turn around and do it again.  The thoughts slipped away after I mentally checked off the personal OK to register for the Western States 100 lottery.  Whether I'll actually do it if selected...  Well that's a future blog.

I did think about it again while talking to Mike at the McDonald Forest 15K, 100 miles seems like an aweful long ways.  "Pain Train", I'll work on my back to back runs next year.  Oh and I be very pleased if you'd provide a little coaching on those scrambles too.

In  the mean time, I've got a little down time between the next Run Wild Adventure run and WS100 registration on November 12th to think things over.

For now, I'm just happy to have gotten another 50M on the running resume.

Josh, thanks for be a smiling face and offering encouragement as we passed each other on the course.  I'm really glad we got to do a 50 together, best of luck on your next big adventure.  It was inspiring to see your family sharing in your running experiences.

As to the Race Directors Bret and Gail Henry and all the volunteers, very nice job.  The course and all the organization was exceptional.

The chicken soup at the end really hit the spot.

P.S. Mike, hope the kids didn't get too many gummy bears, cookies, chips, and other junk food.  Ella and Will, hope your dad gave you the Payday bars, 'cause I know he likes them too.  Tonya, thanks for letting Mike and the kids cheer me on.  You've got a super family, definitely filled with character and good will.

Some Bling from the race and some of the gear

Happy trails...  Gimpy's looking forward to next year

Until then, Let's Go Gimpy, got some winter trails to run...

Monday, October 17, 2011

No Blues at the Blue Lake 5K

The Fall season felt fine, it was slightly overcast Saturday with a good chance of running fast.

Gimpy's discovered that the Blue Lake 5K course is a great flat and fast course for newbies and experienced runners alike.  The RD's and volunteers really take good care of the runners young and old; before, during, and after the run with Subway sandwiches, assorted cookies, soda, milk, and award ribbons for most runners.  All Gimpy needed was a good nap to complete another awesome running experience.

This was my second time running the Blue Lake 5K course and I made some solid improvements from last year.  There's still more running this year, Autumn Leaves 50M is a few weeks away, but this has been such a good year for me, I'm taking a moment to enjoy the progress made since last year especially for my 5K run time, currently this is a PR for me, and I'm quite happy with the progress so far.

I would be remiss if I didn't plug the coaching support I got from Coach "Spike" Rosling.
Thanks Mike, Help Gimpy run faster => Check => Mission accomplished:

Near the Finish

Pain Train at Monument Peak

<=I can't say my running attire was in the best form, I probably need to consult a fashion guru like Pain Train aka "The Scrambler", before my next run. ==>

Very nice legs there William!!!  I believe I'm having a jealous moment.

A friend of mine, Derek Sterling, also ran this year.  This was Derek's first race since his Army days and I think he did a great job for someone just getting back into running after a long break.  Derek's been running with me over the last couple of weeks and really made some good improvements towards his health and run times.

  Thanks to Kelly Barton and Marianne for the race photos.