Wednesday, October 17, 2007

20th Century 100K

This is a brand new ultra in the Seattle area, east of the city between Easton, Washington (the start/finish of Cascade Crest Classic 100) and Carnation. The majority of the run takes place on a rails-to-trail conversion and the footing is generally flat gravel road. There is a very minor uphill grade for the first 20 miles, and then it's downhill for the remainder of the run.
The weather was just perfect staying between 40 and 60 most of the day. It was pretty cool in the morning and most of the day I did OK with the long sleeved shirt. When we arrived at the start it was still dark and the cloudless sky revealed bright stars twinkling at us. We needed head lamps for just the first 15 minutes or so. After about the first 5 miles I felt very tired and I continued to feel very tired all day long and it was a real struggle to just keep moving. Things improved briefly for about an hour around 45 miles, but then I went back to feeling tired and I was pretty much miserable all day long. The footing was basically gravel road the whole way and far to hard of a running surface for my taste. I think that contributed to some of the difficulty I had. My legs and feet ached terribly and every step was an exercise in mental focus and thought tactics to help ignore the discomfort. I guess that would constitute a long day of practicing "mental toughness." Whatever. It always seems incredible in retrospect that I ran ALL DAY but while I'm doing it, it doesn't seem that remarkable. Time passes and the miles just tick themselves off.
My friend Pete ran with me at the start and at least we had a good time keeping each other company. He ended up having a hard run as well so I was lucky enough to have him decide to stick with me the whole day. In the end I had to drag him over the finish line. We were both happy to have it be over. The views were really nice and up near Easton there was a lot of pretty fall color and we saw the pass peaks and alpine meadows way up above us. Pete got some nice pictures I'll share after he sends them to me. We got to run through the 1.8 mile train tunnel at Hyak station. There's a huge, train-sized opening in the side of a mountain and then way down the tunnel there's a pinpoint of light. Pete and I both agreed that we were really looking forward to the experience, but that after about the first half mile it was tedious and we just wanted it to end. Even though you could see the exit the whole time, it just never seemed like you were getting any closer to it. And we were told to expect the temps to be cool in there but it was actually warmer than outside and we were really sweating the whole way and peeling off layers as we ran. Luckily the race director had a box of head lamps to borrow (I forgot mine in the car) and he had a drop box just after the tunnel so I didn't have to carry it all day.
We passed by Snoqualmie Falls and had to weave around the tourists. Towards the end we had about a half mile of very pleasant single track and my feet and legs appreciated the varied terrain and softer footing. There were fall leaves to scuff through most of the day and that nice smell they make when they are damp and moldering. Pete saw a coyote while I ran back to an aid station to retrieve my water bottle I forgot there. So I guess I technically ran 62.75 miles rather than 62.5 but I didn't get to see the coyote.
Between the last aid station and the end it was dark and we ran with head lamps again. We started in the dark with headlamps so it framed the day. The race organization was really good. The rotating aid stations were always stocked and we had our drop bags rotated regularly, too. Since it was a small field of runners (less than a dozen) they all knew our names and we didn't have to wear race numbers. We were always greeted by name and they all knew where every one was and how we all were doing. There were some roving aid bikes that kept tabs on us between aid stations and updated us on everyone else. Several times one guy even road on ahead of us after checking in, stopped and step up to photograph us as we ran by.
I intended to finish around 12 hours but 13 1/2 is just fine considering I felt like crap all day. I did fine with keeping up my hydration and salt and food intake. We took a 2 minute (or more!) walk break every 20 minutes and that really kept us going, psychologically. All we had to do was gird our loins to move for 18 more minutes and then we could have a rest. I don't know what the deal was but suspect I'm just ready for some running down time. All things being relative that means down to 30 miles a week (instead of 50) and a break from racing. I don't think I'll do anything more than the next 2 marathons I have already planned (Manchester NH and the Christmas marathon) until Hagg Lake in February. Hmm. Looks like I'm only giving myself a whole month off. Well, technically that will be 3 months off from doing ultras.
After the run I was very sore and achy. The discomfort I had all day just escalated. I drove back to Renton (about a 45 minute drive) where we were staying with a friend. I took a handful of Ibuprofen and a Percocet and ate some treats and went to bed. The next day as long as I kept moving I felt ok. If I sat too long I seized up and got stiff. I did take a few walks and that helped. I only got one small blister in my usual place, although I think it's an unusual pace to get one...the end of my middle toe on the right foot. It's never on the left and that toe isn't longer than the others. It's odd but predictable. That toe nail came off after Waldo so it's not even halfway grown back and survived this time.