Tuesday, March 23, 2010

March Madness

Sub 4 Club

It was only a few years ago that I exclaimed to Trevor Palmer, a standout miler and 5,000m runner at Southern Oregon University , during our Rogue Valley Relay Challenge, that I was a 16:12 guy.  Now we were running 5k relay legs, but for those of you that know me I rarely run 5k's.  I was talking about 16 hours and 12 minutes, for 100 miles!
g. tachiyama

So, this weekend when the racers showed up to the 18th annual Chuckanut 50k all the talk was about going sub 4.  Obviously, we are not talking about the mile, but the illusive 4 hour barrier that only 4 people have gone under in the races history.   The course has changed over the years, but only once significantly and just a few years ago did it undergo a few reroutes that have lengthened the time we have come to know by about 5 minutes (This is Uli Steidl's adjustment, the current course record holder, and if you only knew how esoteric he is about his course records then you will find this the de facto standard.)
g. tachiyama
Conditions were perfect for the surreptitious striders. In the 5 years that I have participated in the event I can't say I've seen them any better. The usual muddy stretches were baked dry and only a few puddles remained  while the clouds had parted to reveal beautiful landscapes and lighting on the ridge that I didn't think was possible.
g. tachiyama
Erik Skaggs descends into Aid #3

g. tachiyama

I think this is Chris Rennaker? Or my mechanic.

Early on Andy Martin , Adam Campbell , and Erik Skaggs laid down a furious pace. Luckily for the chase pack, all of us, their warning was heeded.  It only took 5 miles before the glimpses of their silhouettes became mirages. Having run with Andy and Adam at Transrockies, I couldn't reassure myself or the runners around me that we would be seeing these guys again as so often happens in ultras with rookies. Speedsters that run well on the flats that "come back" to you, later on, as the hills, terrain, and miles take their toll.  I mean Adam is a former member of the Canadian National Duathlon Team and the 2009 Vancouver Marathon champ, while big Andy ran with standouts Uli Steidl and Pete Julian at the University of Portland and is a marathon champion and Olympic trials runner numerous times over.  Erik was primed for his first ultra in months and looked good all year preparing for this event.  I had my money on Erik if he could build enough of a lead over the hilly technical middle section and stave off any attack on flat 6 miles back home.

g. tachiyama

This is much steeper than it looks and I was moving much faster too. I must be honest, although my speed was lacking for this event I knew 4 years of running the course had to come in handy somewhere.  However, certain climbs reinforced the pain that I knew was inevitable and perhaps left me struggling for motivation. Luckily, familiar faces on the trail helped to provide that additional spark to keep the legs moving at a decent clip. The long climb up Cleator Rd reminded of training on 2060 and how it was no match to our steep terrain here in Ashland, I kept pushing on.  The infamous Ridge Trail is quintessential NW running, there is nothing like it here to train on, so you have to take it easy because you'll end up spinning your wheels.  Sometimes I can slide or power through technical stuff with my size 12.5 feet but this windy, twisty, rooty, melange was making me look like St Patricks Day revelers exiting a pub.    It wasn't long before I had descended upon the climb to chinscraper.  Where was Erik and how was he doing? Are Chris and Carly running well? Would my legs hold up for this brutal mile? Can you believe this weather? Would anyone catch me here? Would I catch anyone?  All these thoughts were floating in my head, perhaps keeping me floating.  It wasn't until I dove off the top of Chuckanut Mountain and back onto the interurban trail for the final 6 miles that the fun began to happen. It's a lonely, straight, boring path if you get caught in no man's land.  No man's land consists of thoughts, tired legs, an aching back, cramping stomach, all those things keeping you from focusing on a steady pace, and of course, someone to share it with. Joe and I had covered this section in less than 40 minutes just a couple of hours ago, now alone I was struggling to maintain 8 minute pace.  It didn't take long before I had company.  I think Yassine summed it up best on his blog;

I blew through the final aid station and could see me reeling him in a little. I was feeling worked but started digging really deep asking myself "How bad do you want it?" Over the next couple miles I closed a gap and the white dot of his shirt started becoming bigger and bigger. One of the Fairhaven runners coaches told me that he was in range and encouraged me to use my arms to try and catch him. Then on a long straight stretch I could see a black shirted runner in front of Hal! It was Joe! Man...I couldn't believe it! I just held the red-line pace and tried to surge every so often. There were a couple little slight uphill sections that just killed me and then a little single track area that got me out of my groove. Toward mile 30 I realized that I probably ran out of real estate but still continued to hammer it home.

I came into the finish in 6th place in 3:57 just about a minute behind Hal and Joe was just ahead of him. Hal told me he was trying to hold me off and then Joe said he was doing the same to hold off Hal! It was a classic race and I was totally stoked to be up there with the big guns. It was so satisfying to leave it all out there on the course. I had nothing left and that's the way I wanted it.

While 3 runners sat consumed, another battle began to brew.  Erik had tried to hand with Andy on the long downhill stretch from chinscraper but his road speed and a little too much smooth ground proved to fast.  However he did end up jockeying with Adam for 2nd place, passing him with only a mile to go.  Meanwhile Chris stormed to a 4:18 finish just seconds ahead of the first an second place female finishers, I guess all the motivation he needed.  I think I overheard one of them exclaim to him that they thought everyone from Ashland was fast, ouch!

The biggest improvement of the day went to Carly as she wiped 25 minutes off her previous time here although she had to keep an eye on her wedding ring and swollen fingers.  A little more H20 next time!  Full results can be found here.    

Four personal records, not a bad day.  

While the Chuckanut 50k holds steady as the 3rd largest 50k in America with some 300 finishers it still pales in comparison to the 500 plus finishers at the Way too Cool 50k that took place on the 13th of March in Cool, California.  Rogue Valley Runners JC Callans and Shahid Ali skipped out on the fun at the Tar N Trail to run this classic course amidst the mud and foot traffic on one of the biggest days in US Ultrarunning. JC battled with the masters runners all day and ending up running a fast 4:27:32.  Shahid Ali ran a stubborn 6:14:43 just two weeks after the Hagg Lake 50k, and can be seen here rallying for a higher finishing position.  Way to dig deep!      

While it may have been the end of February, were still going to congratulate Ben Benjamin on his run at the LOST 118.  Many of you may remember the odd weather in Florida as record freezing temps rivaled those at the Winter Olympic Games being held in Vancouver, B.C.   The 118 mile scenic trail that circumnavigates Lake Okechobee in central Florida is a mix of asphalt and trail and played host for this unique fourth annual footrace.   Ben covered 106 miles of the trail and I haven't heard how many alligators he had to dodge during those miles.  Way to represent Oregon Ben!

Now that's an ultra starting line. 


Aaron said...

That must be the best Chuck race report I've read - especially the link attached to Erik's name - too far?

Joshua Brimhall said...

Approximately how much more oxygen were you able to uptake thanks to that Breath Right strip, Hal? Classic. Erik, you're not fooling anyone with that water bottle. I know there's nothing in it. Nice work, Carly!

Yassine said...

Nice report Hal and helluva run! I would have to say that the whole Ashland crew represented this past weekend...in fact Oregon runners in general. It was great to meet you (and try to chase you down!) Congrats to you and Carly on the engagement too. See you soon. Welcome back Erik :o)

Rogue Valley Runners said...

Aaron, we missed you but I don't think I could've taken one more speedster in front of me.

Amazingly enough the breath right strip lasted 25 miles, I may have to break it out for states.

Yes Yassine, Oregon did R-E-P-R-E-S-E-N-T.

I want to thank everyone including Krissy and Tonya for celebrating DT, he was sorely missed.

crunningman said...

Gotta love the "mechanic's handlebars" :). Great recap of the event.

JC said...

When does RVR do the interview?

Find Hospitals in your Area said...

Thanks for the experiment. It was very informative. I keep in mind. Thanks a lot for sharing such a awe-some information.
Find Hospitals in your Area