Monday, February 20, 2012

25-no wait-50K

Remember when I said I had signed up for the crazy 50K race with my friend Courtney in Oregon? Well that race was this weekend! For the month or so leading into the race I had decided that I was only going to do 25 of the 50K race since I had been traveling and not training very hard for it. My longest run since the NYC marathon in November was 15 miles, on roads, definitely not enough to prepare me for 31 miles on trails. I even called Courtney before heading out there to tell her my plan of bailing on her at the 1/2 way point of the race. I had come to terms with my decision and was actually pretty psyched to not have to stress out about an ultra-marathon that I wasn't prepared for.

So, I flew out to Portland on Thursday night and stayed with Courtney and Jason and sweet little doggy Kima in their adorable bungalow. On Friday, Courtney skipped out on work and we wandered around the cute little neighborhoods of Portland and jumped into eating establishments and clothing stores whenever we felt like it. It was so much fun not having a plan and just going with the flow.

Cool mural

That evening we booked a hotel room about 40 min. outside of the city to be closer to the race start the next morning. We had a grand evening of live music, bar food and a geriatric bedtime.

In order to give ourselves a little leeway, we opted for an early race start. There were about 30 other people that also signed up to get out ahead of the 300 or so other racers. We figured we would need all the time we could get. The course was one 3 mile out and back and then two laps around Hagg Lake. Each lap was 14 miles, so after the out and back and the first loop that would make 17 miles...more than enough for me to call it a day after. Our plan was to go slowly, walk when we needed and eat at all 3 aid stations, each time around (which was going to be once for me).

Super-official course map

The course is known for it's muddy terrain, in fact, the race organizers sent out emails hoping for rain. Crazies. And, true to form, it rained hard the night before and the morning of the race. Luckily we started running only in light mist. I opted to bring my camera along and take pictures along the way since we weren't running it to win it.

Here we are on the downhill after the 1.5 mile uphill at the start

Yeah, Oregon isn't very pretty

Once we got on the trail, we cruised along, chatted non-stop and enjoyed the views. The trail was in great shape, so we were able to run pretty consistently the whole time...not quickly, but we were running. There were a few really short road stretches that linked the trail and it felt really good to be able to lengthen out the stride a bit.

Said stride lengthening happiness

The aid stations were definitely the best part of the race! The tables were chock full of all kinds of yummy food - PB&J quarters on white bread, ruffles with ridges, fritos, M&M's, banana pieces, orange slices, coke, sprite...all the yummy food from my childhood. We hung out at each table for about 5 minutes loading up on food and chatting with the friendly volunteers. It was really nice breaking up a race by just running from aid station to aid station.

Taking in the lake views

Somewhere around mile 13, I decided that I was feeling great and that I thought I could do the whole thing. I really didn't want to leave Courtney to finish the whole thing by herself (it might have actually been a lot more peaceful for her, but still).

I really was excited to keep going, promise

Good thing I had mentally made up my mind that I was going to keep going because miles 14-17 were complete swampland with mud/clay up to our calves. We tried tiptoeing our way through, moving aside for all of the elites who were now catching up with us. We finally resolved to run when we could, walk where we had to and swear the whole time. I later termed this area the Devil's Butthole because there was really nothing redeeming about this section.

When we got back to the start line/aid station #3, Courtney's family was waiting and cheering for us. It was so great to see friendly faces, so we grabbed some more food, chatted for a few and then took off for lap numero dos. About 50 yards into lap 2, I slipped on the now muddy trail and fell right onto a blackberry bush. Courtney said something about maybe it's a bad omen for me doing the second lap, but we kept on trucking.

Poor finger was all black and blue after we finished

The trail was in pretty rough shape after the 350 runners passed in the rain, so we went along pretty slowly while slipping and sliding around.

Pretty good idea of what the trail looked like on lap 2

The big hills got scarier and felt a lot steeper. Screw running, sliding's where it's at.

The second time around, we hung out at the aid stations even longer, chatted a little less because we were focusing a lot more on our footing because of the poor trail condition and there were a few points of downtrodden moods when it started pouring and blowing like crazy, but we always snapped out of it and found something to laugh about. It's amazing that even after 6 hours of running, we still found great stuff to talk about and laugh about, which helped get me through. The second loop seemed to fly by, until we got back around to the "Devil's Butthole." But this time around, we didn't try to tiptoe or stay clean anymore, we just threw all caution to the wind and ran through it like bulls. People around us were falling like crazy, but we managed to keep our footing and get through it. The final run into the finish was such a great feeling. Courtney's family was still there and cheering louder than before and after 7 hours of running, it was nice to see the finish line. We finished together in 7 hours and 5 minutes! Wahoo!! After planning on doing only half, I was so happy to be done, in one piece and to have finished with Courtney. We were perfect running partners and probably annoyed everyone on the trail with our constant chatter!

After the race we stripped down in the parking lot (it is Oregon after all), put on dry clothes and headed back to the Smettel household to chill before dinner. That night we met up with 15 of Courtney's friends and family for dinner and chatted until our eyelids wouldn't stay open anymore, then we went home. I checked into a hotel downtown because Doug decided last minute to fly in and hang out in Portland with us on Sunday before he had to fly to California for the week. I crashed hard the second my head hit the pillow and barely greeted Doug when he got in late that night.

The next day we cheered Jason on to a 10K PR and then we tooled around town. Here are some pics of our evening out at dinner. Putting Courtney and I together in front of a camera takes cheese to a whole new level.

Portland Prom 2012 - True Loves 4Ever

Thanks Courtney and Jason for an awesome weekend! And CPS, thanks for popping my ultra cherry!!

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