Saturday, August 4, 2012

Mt Hood PCT 50: Improvements noted, hopefully more to come

     July weather brings blue sky and warm sunny days, a great time to be running.  Arriving the day before the Mt Hood PCT 50, the chipmunks, crickets, and beetles were oblivious to the running that was about to happen in a little over 12 hours.  It's a great wonder that nature offers up such a nice a pallet for trail running and for me getting out on the trails provides the opportunity to see Oregon at it's finest.

This July heading up to Clackamas Historic Ranger Station I was looking forward to a good 50 mile challenge.  This would be Gimpy's third 50 mile ultra since 2011.

After scouting out a place to park for the night, I wandered down to the start finish area and thought about the last minute details for the run and aid stations.

The Clackamas Meadow was gorgeous as the sun started to set.   I snagged a couple pictures of the meadow/lake with flowers in bloom, with a good night's sleep, Gimpy's 2nd Mt Hood 50 mile run was about to begin.

The Gimpy goals for the Mt Hood PCT 50 held July 28, 2012 were:

1) Run under 11 hours
2) Qualify for Western States (WS100)
3) Run faster than 2011
4) Finish with a smile

These are not necessarily the goals of the elite or speedy runner, but simply an average runner looking for incremental improvements on tougher and tougher ultra challenges, hoping someday to complete a hundred miler.

I knew going in to the run that the first two goals were a bit aggressive given the significant amount of time improvement needed to hit the 11 hour goal as compared to 12 hours 29 min in 2011.

I knew it was going to take significant reduction in mile times of 1:00 - 1:30 minutes / mile for the first 28 miles and over 2:30 minutes / mile for the last 22 miles to hit sub-11 hours.  It was definitely a daunting task.

Starting the run at 6:30AM, the morning started cool, the trail dusty, but for me the pace quite reasonable.  I had my new Garmin 910XT and heart rate monitor hoping to get a full run recorded.  In 2011, the old Garmin 110 had failed at 6 hours in 2011, barely past the return to the 28 mile start finish line.  As it turned out the satellite signal failed at mile 14 (Frog Lake) and it didn't recover until I turned the watch off and back on at the start finish line.  Technology has it's frustrating bits.  So for better or worse, I only used the heart rate and time for the first 28 miles.

The watch was a distraction, but I knew I'd get to see the speedsters and almost everyone else a couple times for the two out and backs and I hoped I'd get some motivation to keep the pace up to meet my goals.

The pace to Timothy Lake was good for me, but a bit bunched up in places.  I kept monitoring the heart rate and keeping it under 140.  I wondered where I'd pass the lead runners and early starters on my way up to Frog Lake.  A short time later, sure enough Ian Sherman and Mike "Shave and Haircut" Rosling were tearing up the course as I passed them heading back to the start finish area.  The two went on to 1st and 2nd place looking like the whole thing was but a walk in the park.  Bret Henry, someone who'd been running about my speed passed me some time earlier, but I decided not to try and keep up with him and rely on the heart rate as a indication of the right pace for a stronger finish than 2011.  I'm glad I didn't as he went on to shave a huge chunk of time off his own times which so far have been consistently under 11 hours.

Not long after the lead runners went by, I got some new motivation, when William "Pain Train heading for the Plain 100" Swint, Levi "1st Ultra" Wilson, and John "Get it done" Asman came rumbling by clearing the trail of root and stone.  I know this had to be the case since Gimpy did not trip, fall, or otherwise crash and burn for the entire race.

I had thought I'd try to finish the first 28 miles in about 5:30 and was pleasantly surprised when I rolled in around 5:15.  I thought wow, now can I finish the last 22 without the dead mans walk repeat of 2011.  This would be tough though since I wouldn't have my sister to pace me in to the finish this year.

Not having the Garmin in top form actually seemed to work to my advantage for awhile as I felt pretty good still going up to Red Wolf Pass aid station. I didn't start feeling the heat until I was heading up the first big hill.  The downhill sections felt fast, even though in reality they weren't as fast as I'd need.

Gimpy made a number of mistakes along the way.  I wore the vest for the first 28 miles, but for lapse of brain function or something, consistently underfilled it at the aid stations and ran out twice before getting back to the ranger station.  Otherwise, I continued to get enough Gu in every 30 minutes.

The other mistake came in the second half when I didn't get enough solid food in.  I'd switched to bottles so I could see how much fluid I had and refilled at all aid stations, but continued with just gummy bears and gels.  I felt good and was running all the downhills and most of the flats.  Heading up to the Warm Springs Meadow aid station I started feeling the heat and the distance.  They'd also moved the aid station down the road a bit further.  I was pleasantly surprised that I hadn't resorted to any Coke, which is usually a sign I'm running out of energy for the long runs.

I don't know if it was the melted gummy bears at the previous aid station or just one drink too many, but right after the final aid station at Red Wolf Pass I got about 150 meters and decided I better take one more Gu, sip some water before the finish, but almost immediately had to step off the trail and do the ole heave ho. One, two, three and hmmm, I actually feel pretty good.  The whole experience reminded me of something Mike had told me that he felt a lot better after he upchucked in a previous run.  That good feeling lasted a solid two miles.  I was rockin' 11:30's, which for me is solid at 45+ miles.  Unfortunately, I couldn't get any food or drink in me and nothing seemed good.

So Mr dead man's walk, I'd ran out of energy.  Mentally the best I could do was relentless forward progress at turtle pace, the beetles were walking faster than I was.  Two miles to go, not good for 11 hours.The eight horses going by was a nice distraction, especially the one that tried to kick me got my attention.  I learned that if you don't want a horse to kick you, you should greet it like in Harry Potter and the Hippogrif.  Bow low and say Hi.  Well that's what 48 miles makes me think about, that and the riders kept telling me to say hi.  I can't remember how many times I said Hi, I was too tired to recall.

I kept looking for the sign out of the reservation and finally the 1/2 mile sign to the ranger station.  At that point mentally I got jogging and finished in what on film looks like a walk, but I felt like I was sprinting.  Regardless 50 miles done, Boom!!!

Knocked off a solid 1 hour 8 minutes the 2011 time.  Apparently I needed to leave a little room for next years improvements.

The aid stations were well stocked and the volunteers were all smiles and very helpful.  I like the way Todd Jansen organizes the run and the post-run burger is great, even though I couldn't eat a thing for a couple hours.  Much appreciation to the Long Run Picture company for snapping pictures all day long.  Wouldn't have much to record the finish without them.  Nice work and many thanks for a great run experience.  

Mt Hood PCT 50M Ultra trail run - Gimpy's Run Numbers

Year  1st (28 miles)  2nd (22 miles)  Full (50 miles)
2011    5 hr 38 min     6 hr 51 min      12 hr 29 min
2012    5 hr 15 min     6 hr 05 min      11 hr 21 min
Diff           - 22 min          - 46 min      - 1 hr 08 min

How'd we get here.  Well 2012 running has been better, with some longer miles over the year and thanks to Mike, Eric, Tonya, and William a bunch more hills compared to last year.

These longer hillier training runs and a few more 50K+ races this year prior to Mt Hood resulted in much better preparation:
Feb 2012: Hagg Lake 50K              (6:26:12)
Apr 2012: Peterson Ridge 40M       (7:43:40)
May 2012: McDonald Forest 50K  (6:55:52)
July 2012:  Mt Hood PCT 50M      (11:20:45)

So far a solid run year.

I've still got a few more runs planned this year:
Waldo 100K (Finish goal - sub-18 hours)
McKenzie River 50K (Finish with a smile)
Flagline 50K (Better than last year)

Waldo is unlikely to result in a Western States 100M qualifying time (15 hours), not likely and the remaining 50K's go toward the Oregon Ultra Series.

The more I consider where things stand this year, I think it's better I didn't get qualify for Western States.  So much of running ultra's is mental.

I've learned a lot more about what it takes to run the longer distances and I don't think I've had enough hills and miles and mental prep needed to be successful in a race like Western States (<30 hours).

Even so, the judges have spoken and there inputs entered into the new Gimpy Run Improvement Time Scale (GRITS).  The results indicate the year to year improvement for Mt Hood PCT 50 rates 8 out of 10.

Looking forward to more good running at Waldo, McKenzie, Mt Batchelor, and seeing more Oregon trail ultra treasures.

As always, I wouldn't be running as well this year if it wasn't for some really nice people who keep encouraging me to never quit and to try new tougher trails, like William, Eric, Mike, Derek, Gene, Samuel, and now Tonya (Mike's wife).  Well and of course my alter ego Gimpy, who keeps me honest and takes the blame for all my faults and short comings.

Happy running...

Can't wait for the next big run...

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

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