Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Leaves all Zane Grey Around the Edges

The gain is not what makes it the "toughest 50."

My decision to run the Zane Grey 50 was a hastily chosen one.  I say this because of my necessity to race after the demise of the Lake Sonoma 50, to well, Lake Sonoma.  As I mentioned in my last post I have the worlds worst short term memory, and now I know I have the worst long term memory as well. 

If you get the chance to look away from the trail.
The race is billed as the toughest 50 miler and it certainly can compete with every other course over the same distance.  Heck, I have even run the Miwok 100k faster, much faster.  Sure the hot April sun is a shock to the system, and after running 8 to 16 hours the cumulative elevation gain and sustained oxygen deprivation of 6,000 + feet really begins to wear on the soul but the terrain is really the coup de grace. I find it hard to even call a trail and would never train on such a surface, you see, I'm a runner.       

Ankle crusher.
The course is deceptive, just as the race begins you're stymied .  Perhaps it's more of a stutter that takes over, maybe a bob and weave that only lasts for a few shorts miles.  However, once fatigue sets in, the ankles begin to bend a little more.  Then the legs give in, and compensate for the faulty feet and finally balance is completely compromised and you're  face down in a Manzanita bush, if you lucky.  For others like Sean Andrish (an ultra champion), you can't even hitch hike home because you dislocated you thumb and it's pointing towards the fiery depths of where you came.
Good thing it was marked!! After seven of these ravine's look for number eight.
When I ran this race in 2003 there wasn't much to remember other than vowing never to return again.  I fell back on my promise in 2007 when the course changed direction and wound "downhill," promising to be easier. Not to be.  So I have no one to blame but myself for this years start, except Joe Galope.  I really liked the Phoenix National Trail 50 he used to direct in January and I imagine I was feeling lucky to be able to seek refuge in one of the many sold out events in April.  Oh, and it left me 3 weeks to recover for Miwok. 
She said it was useless (2003) and that was the last time I got on a post race massage table.
Clean shaven and probably much wiser.
So my race was for the most part short lived.  I enjoyed bouncing around with Dakota and Geoff through the early miles as we jockeyed with John Anderson and a few other racers including Nico Mermond, founder of Hoka1 shoes.  It wasn't much after 10 miles however that I jostled with my Scaps, stopped to go to the bathroom and subsequently lost my pack. You see it was a five person pack and then it shrunk by two, two runners left the wolf pack leaving three in the pack,  and then could it be, yes the pack shrunk by two more leaving just a one man wolf pack , running around the desert..  It stayed that way for 35 miles.  I was concerned with my lack of motivation throughout but then again I never found a decent rhythm to get relaxed and at times became discouraged looking for the course in the 80 degree heat.  I was shocked to see Dakota out of the race at 33 and the thought of joining him over the next 11 miles left me parched.  Seriously, you need multiple (3) bottles or a hydradration pack for this run.  I was foolish to run with 2 bottles and they left me dry with miles to go each time.  I found myself pulling back on the throttle so as to not look like one of those 80's Dodge Caravans going up the pass in the summer and it cost me dearly.   Things turned around the final 8 miles but by that time the only thing I was gaining was confidence for Miwok and Western States. 

I thought about breaking my time from 2003 but those last miles drug on and all that misstepping left me a couple minutes short.  I think I like the consistency though.  8:36 : 8:38 , 8 years apart.

As we waited around for finishers I was reminded of why I love ultras. Immediate reflection is needed after such a dramatic experience, perhaps just a moment to soak it all in, and thankfully that was fulfilled under pines, rim and quiet sunshine of the eastern terminus of the Highline trail.  As the sun began to set friends filtered in and reveled in the accomplishment of the day.  Ian found a smile after hours of physical anguish but I know his finish meant a little more because of it.  Carly joined me sight unseen and rallied as only she knows how to do. A stellar 12:36 to catapult her into Miwok, which she'll undoubtably run faster as well.  I think I heard her exclaim her legs weren't even beat up!  All the culprits are found here, and would have not made it without the help of the numerous volunteers on the course and behind the scenes.  Thanks again Joe! 

Even the best fall victim.


Congratulating the juggernaut. In this photo he JUST returned from changing and getting a drink and making a phone call and ordering a burger.......


y mas

Yes, he was smiling at finish #9.

I don't think this was a smile?

Friday, April 15, 2011

35th Running of the Pear

This week I really struggled to find a decent title for our blog, hence the serious delay with which I will now attempt to cover all things related to the biggest running event in the valley.  Actually, it has nothing to do with coming up with unique titles, I thought of a bunch.  "Bananas and Bread," "Maximum Effort"(although I think the Mail Tribune used that one year and I just don't come up with stuff that clever), "Rennaker Fails as a Pacer," that one i really liked and will go into more detail.  Seriously though, I drug myself out of bed every morning, gingerly descending my stairs while avoiding numerous pitfalls (an English Setter jumbled with a poor excuse for a legitimately sized Australian Shepherd) just to make my way out of the kitchen, grabbing my running shoes, and to my computer to look for descent pictures of everyone from the race (read that part really fast as I tried to fool you by thinking I was dragging myself out the door to run, I don't do that anymore though, duh).  I say decent, not because everyone ends up wearing little to no clothing at these things (road races) anymore but decent in the sense that I don't think we ever tend to run as fast as on East Main and Hanley and therefore look like we are about to enter a casting call for "America's Got Zombies." OK so that was another title I was thinking of and it had to get used.

As race morning approached I grabbed Carly by the hand and we headed out the door to make our way to Medford for an event that I had no role in planning or erecting. However, I felt like I had put in a lot of time  geting ready for it with coupons and bread and signage, really the gut busting stuff.  As you probably saw, I did put in enough time on the course though, ugh!  

Kicking and screaming the whole way, you can't even see the coffee Carly spilled on herself in the car. 

This year I felt like I was entering the PBR with enough strength and speed and to indeed break my PR as I hadn't run anything over the marathon distance since early March.  Not a usual occurrence so it would seem the legs might be fresh enough to roll 5:30's with ease. I even thought I might see Erik on the straightaways?  Another part of me also knew that this was probably not to be as my speed work consisted of what it always was or rather wasn't, some fartlek  trail downhills and the occasional hill repeat/stride. 

10 - 9 - 8 - 7 - 6 - 5 - 4 and the mussel loaders blast, false start?  We'll, for a second or 5, and the runners are off.  The picture above tells the tale as it was certainly one of the most awkward starts I've been witness to, but eventually the mob was off and out of site.  Casual chatting took a back seat at the 1st mile mark as a runners fell in line, marching to some unseen destination but in the most rapid fashion.  I tried to count the masses in front of me but eventually fixed my gaze on Neil Olsen's green RVR singlet.  It would carry me out and back on this day much like a tug boat to the sea. Sorry Neil but I can only think of those large ships that cruise around with the bright blue hulls.  In my haste, I thought I had snuck in on the top 10 but it was Neil who ended up grabbing the penultimate podium spot joining Max (CR) and Erik (5th). 

I think I see that giant ship sailing in the distance.
1700 finishers in this years 10 miler and just over the same amount in the 5k.  Too many local runners out there to name individually but their performance are all just as noteworthy. However I would like to congratulate those in the fairer green singlet.  RVR runners Bree Ray for her commanding 2nd place finish and Becky Hacker's run for 8th spot along with group run regular Melissa Schweisguth who ran very well to capture 5th place in 1:05:24.  All the results can be found here

David and Jeremy crest Hanley Hill with no problems.

Erik eventually go the best of this BAC runner.

A wondrous sight to behold in the Rogue Valley, runners as far as the eye can see.
Was this taken after the race? 

In the end there were a few surprises.  Max broke his CR(not a surprise), but did not wear the pear monokini, surprise.  Bree ran strong (not a surprise), but did drop her pacer, surprise. RVR was there with fast runners, good coupons, and lots of bread (no surprise), there were more people at the store later that day, surprise.  Nice work southern Oregon, and another big thank you to Jerry and Zellah and all their hard working volunteers. 

Another victory for one of the best guys around. 

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Capturing the Spirit

There's a lot going on in Southern Oregon this week.  For starters, the 35th annual Pear Blossom Run returns.  Will there be more monokinis? Will Max King break 49 minutes?  Can RVR place 5 runners in the top ten, again? We'll have to wait and see but one thing we know for sure is that a record number of runners have signed up to race in the 5k and 10k this year, and that is perhaps the best record that can be broken.

Additionally, we are lucky to be sponsoring the premiere of the Hood to Coast documentary in Southern Oregon.  This weekend marks the start of the Ashland Independent Film Festival, and with that, two exclusive showings of the feature film documentary Hood to Coast.  Tickets to both shows are still available, so act now to get in on the fun and help fill the Ashland Armory.  You won't find another chance like this to gather with the running community for such a unique event. 

Lastly, and a little closer to home, we have opened registration for the 2011 Lithia Loop Trail Marathon.  No surprises here, the race is once again doubling as the 2011 USAT&F Trail Marathon Championship with $2500 in prize money. The entry fee stays the same as we continue to bring you one the best races for your dollar in the country.  Sign up now and commit to bring your best come November.