Saturday, February 20, 2010

Hagg Lake 25k

I've been intrigued by trail running for awhile. But have been too lazy/too busy/[insert lame excuse here] to get my self to the trails. Except for the packed dirt/gravel at Lacamas Lake, which doesn't really count, as I discovered today. I went into this race knowing that I was unprepared...HUGE understatement. Thankfully, I was having too much fun to really notice. I get it now. I'm totally hooked after my first one.

I woke up this morning and went through the normal pre-race routine: get dressed, mix fuel bottles, load gel packets, pack gear. Except when I got to the "pack gear" part, I was a little stumped. I put on a pair of normal running shoes, but they were too clean for a muddy trail run. So I put on an older pair of running shoes, but the laces were elastic and I knew I would step right out of them in the mud. I finally settled on my racing flats, solely because they had laces that tied and didn't stretch. I quite possibly had the most ill-equiped footwear out of anyone there. I was tempted to ditch my shoes and run in socks, but I promised my Mom that I wouldn't go that far barefoot.

Fast-forward to the race site. After signing in, Ken and I sat down at a picnic table in the sunshine and soaked in the warmth. We watched the 50k runners head out and waited for the 25k countdown.
Ken said that it looked more like a group of ambitious campers, than a group of runners. I guess we're both used to the atmosphere of road races. This was much more mellow and relaxing.The start.

The race started with a 1.5 mile out-and-back on a packed gravel road. Packed gravel = not so bad, right? Except that I was walking within 5 minutes due to the incline. I seriously thought about turning around, running back to the parking lot, and leaving. Except that I had already purchased a hat with the race logo on it. So I kept running. Er, walking. Finally we hit the turnaround and headed downhill. Okay, this isn't so bad.

After running back through the event area, we made a right hand turn onto single-track trail. It wasn't terribly muddy at this point. I played with technique, like running in the deep grooves without breaking my leg, and how to get downhill without hitting a tree root and flinging my body to the bottom. No broken bones, so I was at least partly successful. There were a few puddles, and my feet were soaked at about 30 minutes in. I came to a sign that read something like "bridge washed out, detour to the right". And next to it "Hagg Lake race, to the left". It's difficult to describe this section, but I was very muddy and very wet afterwards. I also lost my right shoe. And then my left one.

I reached the part were the route turns back to pavement and crosses the damn towards the first aid station. I saw Ken here -- he was riding loops around the lake on his bike while I ran. Here is a pic of his pretty new bike:
Shortly after the aid station, I saw a sign that marked the half way point. Yeah! I was feeling good. Going slow, but feeling good. The middle section of the course was fun. Lots of uphill, lots of downhill, and a moderate amount of mud. I perfected the "downhill skip", you know, where you sort of skip downhill because it's too muddy to put on the brakes without falling, but if you don't brake you will careen out of control over the edge of the hill. I learned a lot in this section. Oh, and I tossed my headphones in the trash. I doubt if I'll ever listen to music again while trail running. There really is no need.

Somewhere in the back half of the course I remember thinking "huh, they talked about all of this mud, but it really hasn't been that bad". Then I saw a sign that basically said "warning: MUD!". Oh yeah, LOTS of mud. And no way around it. And remember, I'm in the back of the pack, so almost 400 other people have churned and slicked it all up by this point. I saw someone fall, and laughed. I hit the same spot and both feet flew out to the side and I landed with a "squeeeesh" in the thick of it. I got back up, trudged on, and lost my left shoe again. But didn't immediately realize it. I reluctantly went back for it. A little further down the course, the trail narrowed and steep walls were on either side. Smack in the middle was, yep, mud. Deep mud. I fell here again. And lost a shoe again. But it was all so funny, and not frustrating at all.

After winding around several fingers of the lake (there are many, and it is always deceiving how far away from the finish you really are), and rounding one of the final corners, I knew I was close to the end. My body was starting to throb a bit. A sign marked 1 more mile to go. I had a few bunnies (aka pace booty) in front of me and did my best to catch up. To my own suprise I still had gas left in the tank and was able to make a pass. Finally, the finish!

If you look really close, I am the pink dot on the far hillside. This is maybe 1/4 mile from the finish.
The finish line! Final time was actually 3:46. Yes, I am that slow. And yes, I am very proud of that time. It was a hard course!

Ken had made a trek to a nearby store and was waiting with water and beer. I headed into the water to wash off the mud...and stayed there for about 15 minutes. It was like a natural ice bath. We headed out for burgers, beers, and fries (!!!) and now I'm getting ready for a 7pm bedtime. Fun, fun times!

Note: this is a VERY well organized event. Top-notch volunteers, well stocked aid stations, the most awesome cookies ever at the end, and some pretty rad swag!


sallyaston said...

Congratulations!!!! What a great acheivement. I love the pictures and the MUD!!! :-)

Bill G said...

Great job - those are some tough conditions to be running in! Way to fight through to the end and you should be proud of your time!