Monday, June 21, 2010

Moments of Optimistic Impulse, i.e. Sun Mountain Race Report

Photo Credits to Glenn Tachiyama, from the 2009 Sun Mountain Run

Oi vey...where to begin?! I'll start with the most recent, and work backwards. My trip to Oregon last week might require its own blog entry altogether...

So. I don't know that I've mentioned it on my blog yet, perhaps out of fear of jinxing myself into injury, but I am registered for a 50K trail race on Vashon Island this coming weekend. I've been lucky to get in two training runs a week for the past few months, given my crazy schedule - but fortunately, this is not the world of road marathons with hard and fast training plans etched in stone. No, in the trail running world, it's perfectly acceptable to train when you can, register for ridiculous distances in a moment of optimistic impulse, and come race day, show up with a tub of Vaseline and a backpack of gels and snacks, pin a number to your shorts, and see what miracles your body can pull off.

In yet another impulsive fit, I decided to also register for a 25K the weekend before - a decision made some 50 odd hours before the race began. I figured I'd take it easy as a pleasant training run; I've been doing almost exclusively 2+ hour runs lately anyway, so why not make my Sunday's training run one with the company of a hundred or so other runners, in a gorgeous part of Washington state to which I'd never been before? No matter that it would be a 415-mile drive roundtrip, or that I'd have to set my alarm for 4 a.m., and didn't get home from work until 10 p.m. the night before, or that none of the five people at various points who thought they might join me for the adventure actually wound up doing so; I love a good adventure all the same, especially when running is involved.

In my usual punctuality-obsessed ways, I got to the town of Winthrop about an hour and a half early. Pumped full of adrenaline, peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, cheap gas station coffee, and useful Dutch phrases such as "De vrouwen proeven de rijst" ("The women taste the rice") from listening to my Rosetta Stone Audio Companion on the drive out, I arrived at the trailhead. I quickly found some interesting folks to chat it up with, including one guy who remembered having run with me for part of the Orcas course. It's always amazing how quick runners are to open up to each other...I walked up to this circle of people, and everyone greeted me with, "Hi! We're just talking about how we all got involved with running...divorce, Diabetes, mental instability...what's your story?!"

As for the race itself - I made my usual race mistakes and (1) accidentally started at the front of the pack, and (2) started off way too fast. It generally takes me a few miles to get into my running zone and feel good, so if I actually start off feeling good and strong, it's usually not a good sign. So this time around, while the first mile was full of happy race adrenaline, I felt trashed by the second...not a good sign when you're going 16.

After a few plodding, self-doubting miles of getting passed and being terrified I was going to epically fail to run even half the distance of what I'll be running next weekend, the course unmercifully turned into pretty relentless uphill until about mile 10.

Course profile.

Rough...though a bit of nuun at the aid station helped. Once the course dipped back into a pretty steep downhill, I got all my running zest back in an instant; I tore down the steeps and had a blast pretending to be a sprightly gazelle instead of a lethargic human who probably wound have been better off sleeping in after all.

The second half of the course was a lot of mixed terrain - some uphills, some downhills, some rolling flats, and one particularly brutal scramble up what can only be described as a near-vertical wall of dirt. (Leave it to race director James to contrive of such a thing...) Nevertheless, I felt much stronger. All these long runs I've been doing have trained my body how to keep going, even when I've been running for two, three hours already. At some point, even though I was feeling vaguely nauseous and rather ready to stop, I just shut off the entire mental soundtrack and let my body do its thing. My pace picked up. I plowed right over all the hills, rather than walking them as I had earlier on in an attempt to conserve energy. By the last few miles, I caught up with many of the people who'd passed me in the early ones. I crossed the finish line (measured by several runners' Garmins to be at 16.7 miles) in 2:45:something...not too shabby for a "training" run! (Ha. I'm incapable of not "racing" a race, I've learned.)

Because I'm lame and failed to actually take pictures at the race, and because the usual race-photographer-extraordinaire Glenn was busy prepping to shoot Western States and couldn't make it, I have no imagery to show for the day except from the drive out there on Highway 20:

I hung out at the finish line for awhile, chatting with many of the runners whom I ran stretches of the course with at different times, and enjoying some of the post-race pizza and good ol' party cups of keg beer. (I'll chalk that up as yet another reason why trail runs beat the pants off road runs.) I thought the pizza would tide me over, but two hours into my drive back to Seattle, I found myself pulling into the parking lot of this palace: a restored 1944 caboose turned Southern-style barbecue joint, with grills smoking on the patio. I wolfed down half of the Big Daddy's Brisket Sandwich (appropriate, I thought, given the holiday yesterday) and thought I'd make it to Seattle with the other half such luck either. I don't think I'd even made it past the Marblemount town limits (population: 281) before I'd devoured the whole thing. Nothing like darn good food after running your butt off. I can only hope the lingering barbecue scent has overpowered the other, less favorable smells in my car, thanks to yesterday :)

With all that are a few other photos to make up for the lack thus far in this entry. They are of other various adventures in my life over the past week and a half. (And, indeed, the Oregon trip + accompanying photos will be a separate entry.)

Canoeing with Elodie!

'Twas a gorgeous day to paddle by the arboretum indeed.

We watched a few members of the Seattle Hash House Harriers play in the lake.

Sounders game! I've been lucky to get to a couple of them in the last few weeks. World Cup break now...which I've been woefully lacking in my observance of.

Hike with Wayne at Lake 22.

Mmm mountains...

Clearly, still doing too much, it seems...but at least doing most of "too much" in the great outdoors, which breathes life and energy into me :)

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