Saturday, August 4, 2012
Shell Sharks rip Ragnar to pieces and White River 50 Race Report
First Ragnar Northwest Passage. The route was extended by about a dozen miles to make it an even 200. Divided by 12 that's not too bad (three legs each, separated by about 8 hours), but it made it awefully hard for us to have a shot at 24 hours. 25 was the new goal, and Van 1 started late on Friday. Our Van 2 Crew assembled, and revealed James' awesome creation... A giant shark bust mounted on top of our borrowed van! Going for the 'Pimped Out Van Award' again, and there was no doubt that we would be on top of that podium.
Training for this race basically consisted of recovering from the San Diego 100, running a couple of good weeks, and a week of road running. Almost no 'speed work' as a road runner, but a couple of faster 10-14 mile runs left me feeling like I still had pretty good wheels.
My first leg was through the town of Bellingham. Within 200 feet of starting I needed to pause at a cross-walk. Then I blasted right through downtown (and it was full of busy traffic), pausing at intersections, and wondering if I was off course. First mile was a 6:15. Second was a 5:45... and then I hit a train track right as a train arrived. Great. There was no coming back from that, as the next section was a 500 foot climb, and I even managed to lose a few seconds getting confused at an intersection. Passed (Shell Sharked) one runner right at the end. The rest of the Van 2 Crew put on good strong legs, and we finished up late at night. A short nap on the gym floor of a high school, and I was standing at the start of my next leg at 2:30 am. Strange. A fast runner took off about two minutes up on me, so when I took over I had a tail light to follow in the dark. My mission was to catch that guy! I was on him within a mile, and passed at the bottom of a pretty good climb. He ran on my shoulder for almost eight miles before re-passing me near the finish. Turns out he is a local Cross Country and Track star, and has a scholarship to run for a big school out east. He finished infront, but not by as much as he started. Here's to 37 being the new 25! The last leg was more of the same, but during the day. Another tougher leg with a 6:13 average pace. We were catching hundreds of slower runners, and having a blast.
Great job to all the other runners on our team, and especially to James for leading the whole show and building that massive shark! I think just about everyone was running above their expectations. Neat how the mind can turn it on when it's a race, and when you have teammates who are also working hard!
End result was a win in our division (Mixed Corporate), a 24:30 finish time, and a win for the Pimped Out Van. GREAT TIME!!
The very next week was the awesome White River 50 mile trail race. This includes over 9000 feet of climbing (and obviously the same descent) over two large mountains near Mt Ranier. A great training run for a 100 mile race that has over 20,000 feet of climb! I ran this two years ago in a time of 9:22. My goal this time was to go under 8:00, and to run 7:30 if I felt great. Unfortunately my legs felt just a bit dead all week, probably from Ragnar, and I even managed to twist my knee jumping around some mud on an easy run. Great. I took a relaxed 'we'll see' attitude, enjoyed time hanging out with my good friends Reed and Dana. This was the biggest field for this race, and there were some elites. Most notably Ellie Greenwood (who just won Western States 100 in a course record time) and Sage Canaday (super fast marathon runner just transitioning to trails). Thumbs up.. let's do this! Leerooooy Jenkins!!
The race started like a track meet, and even with a first mile well under seven minutes the leaders were out of sight. I took it easy up the first climb, never feeling really peppy, just hoping to feel it at some point. Unfortunately I was conserving gels, and I think that this really affected my race. I'm sold on the 'one gel every 20 minutes'. This plan just works if you want to run harder, but the gels I ordered didn't show up in time, so I was down to 12 for the whole race!
Descending the first mountain I really jammed my right ankle, and I just couldn't run down hill fast. The second big climb up to Sun Top (mile 37) was not great. I felt sluggish, and had no motivation to put the power down and suffer a bit. To make matters worse that ankle was killing every time I broke out of the hike and tried to run. What a bummer! All day the views of the surrounding mountains, Mt Ranier in particular, were just stunning. Out of this world. Wild flowers of every color surrounded me, and being immersed in this natural beauty was a very special thing. This is part of the reason I love to do this stuff, and I just enjoyed the steep hike, somehow still managing to cover five miles per hour.
A quick stop at Sun Top, and down the gravel road to Skookum Flats. This descent killed me last time, and I was expecting worse with my ankle. Strangely the pain went away when I started running faster. I locked in a seven minute mile on my gps in order to conserve the quads, but still make good time (a fast finish was already out of the question). Next was the Flats. The Flats are not so flat. The last 6.6 miles are a twisy, rooty, trail that runs near the White River. Plenty of little steepish climbs also. Many many people falter here, but it's got the potential to be a really nice part of the run. My energy was coming in waves, so I cranked some tunes and got to work. After a couple of gels (that I should have eaten earlier) I started to feel just great, and absolutely hammered the last mile or so. How is that possible after running for eight hours? No idea, but it was nice to finish a kinda lackluster day (energy wise) feeling like that. 8:07 was the final time. Not too far off the mark. 19th overall, out of 315 starters, and 275 finishers. Sage Canaday set the course on fire. He treated it like a 10k, and ran 6:16. A course record, and almost 10 minutes faster than Anton Krupicka two years ago! Although I don't think I could ever get there, and certainly this wasn't a focus race for me this time, it's great to see what's possible. Never limit yourself!
I really enjoyed hanging out that afternoon, relaxing, and watching the finishers come in. I plan on coming back for that sub-eight finish! Mabye it will be another Ragnar-White River double next year!
So next up is the Cascade Crest 100. Working to my advantage is the fact that I've done a 100 already this year, my running base is pretty big, I've got some faster runs in (indeed, I'm faster than ever), and I completed a great training run with the WR50. I feel my body recovering nicely after a few days of funk, and I'm ready to put down a few good fast runs prior to a nice easy taper week. Anything is possible right? 100 miles is a totally different journey, and even though I did one recently, it still seems impossibly far to travel in the mountains in one day (or hopefully a bit less)!