Monday, September 14, 2009
Mt. Hood PCT 50
July 25th 2009... Somewhere along the Pacific Crest Trail
I have done this race several times in the past 4 years and this race was my very first Ultra back in 2005. But, the course was different this year due to the new Wilderness act keeping organized events off a short portion of the PCT which prevented us from going all the way up to Timberline Lodge. The new course went 14 miles out and back on the usual section, then did an 11 mile section on the Southern direction of the PCT from Timothy Lake. It was a fairly warm day and I took the early start to help avoid some early heat and to avoid always being at the back of the pack. My goal was to finish under 11 hours. My PR on the previous course is 10:48 so I felt this was doable.
I have worked out a new (genius) contrivance in my running/walking plan to substitute for fixed times of walk breaks. This also eliminates a great deal of plain hiking I typically do on steep uphill sections. Most of these up hills aren't really so steep you can't run them, but they are sufficiently steep and long that running them in their entirety over a 50 mile race (at elevation) is just too hard for me. So here's what I did: when it got steep, I would run for the count of 20 steps on my right foot, then walk 20 steps and alternate 20 run/20 walk all the way up the hill. I found all the uphill sections very doable this way and there was rarely a grade so sleep I couldn't manage it. I could hardly believe how wonderful this felt and how much time it saved me. Why didn't I think to try this before? It worked spectacularly!
My fueling, electrolyte and drinking schedule was dialed in and off I went. When it got hot I put on my ice bandanna and that helped me immensely in the heat. I did fall in the rocks once and got a huge bruise on my right hip from a pointy rock as well as my usual skinned knee, but nothing that affected my running.
I finished the first 28 mile out and back in 6 hours. The second out and back was new territory. There was a lot more climbing than the first section and being after 12 noon it was hotter and with less shade. There was a nice cold water creek I laid down in once and that cooled me off really well. I just kept plugging along with my 20 steps routine and was able to run nicely all the flats and down hills. I believe I kept up a pretty steady even pace all day.
At the last aid station the final mileage to the finish was posted as 4.5 miles (it was 4.1 miles in the pre-race information). I was 10:15 into the race and I figured, with the mostly downhill nature of the last section, I could easily come in under 11 hours! So off I ran. I ran hard and did not let up. I got passed by a couple at one point but later they couldn't sustain that pace and I passed them again. Later we estimated we were going about 8:30 min miles. Of course this is downhill so that helps with the speed, but I was really pushing hard to get in under my time limit. 45 minutes later I knew I was still over a mile from the finish. How could that be? Well, obviously, as we all agreed later, that section of the course was really several miles longer than advertised. In the end I knew I wouldn't get in under 11 hours but I wanted to push it as hard as I could anyway so I did and finished in 11:05.
So....it was a harder course this year and probably 4 miles longer than the 50 miles it was suppose to be (so the price per mile was a real bargain!). I feel like I had an excellent result. I finished ahead of my usual competitors and came in 4th out of 13 in my age group! After the race was over I felt so good that I was able to eat a big Garden Burger. On the way home I stopped for a big ice cream cone, too. Usually I feel unable to eat for several hours. By the next day I had trouble remembering I had just run that 50 (+) miler because my legs felt so good. I recovered in record time! I believe the recent elevation work was helpful, and the run/walk cycle worked very well for me. I am very excited to tackle Waldo next month and kick it's ass!