This year I decided I was going to try to get in as many Oregon Trail Series races as I could. Yesterday’s McDonald Forest 50K was the second of three I’ve signed up for. I registered months ago thinking I had plenty of time to train and prepare. But student teaching, bike commuting 10 miles each way, and dealing with a foot problem related to bike commuting seriously cut into my free time allotted to training. The foot problem was especially frustrating since the injury occurred because I couldn’t get my foot out of the pedal clips fast enough before I fell over. I twisted my foot which tweaked the top of my foot right above the arch. The result of that incredibly stupid mistake was to make any run more than a few miles painful. So for the 6 weeks leading up to Mac I ran ~52 miles, 34 of them at the Peterson Ridge Rumble exactly 6 weeks earlier. I should have been running about 50 miles/week. The one good thing about bike commuting, though, was that during that time I logged about 500 miles on the bike. So I wasn’t quite sure what to expect at Mac.
I woke up at 4am planning on hitting the road a 5:15 to make it to Corvallis by 7. The schedule went according to plan. However, I realized as I was leaving Portland on I-5 that I forgot my handheld water bottle even though I remembered to fill it with water before heading out the door. D’oh! Then I remembered there was an empty 16-ounce bottle that has been living in the car somewhere for months. That would have to do.
I got to Peavy Arboretum right on schedule, checked-in, said “hi” to a few runners I knew from other races, and got my gear ready to go. At the start I was a bit nervous and excited. Nervous because I had no idea how my foot would hold up. My plan was to evaluate at every aid station. I tend not to push myself to injury, I’m a conservative runner, so I decided if it got painful I would DNF. I was also excited since I haven’t been running much at all and was eager to get out on the trails and enjoy the fabulous day.
Word was this race can be challenging. The elevation gain is 6700 feet with a lot of climbs, descents, and more climbs. And the rain a few days before meant muddy trails. The first half of the race felt great. It was absolutely great to be back running. The foot felt fine. I got to aid station 1 and didn’t even think about DNF’ing. Between aid stations 1 and 2 I started to wonder what all the fuss was about Mac being a challenging course. By the time I hit aid station 2 I was still feeling great. Then at about mile 15 I started to enter a world of pain. At that point I figured I was at the halfway point and mentally I decided to slog though it.
I heard from another runner that aid station 3 at Dimple Hill had a Big Lebowski theme. I’ve never seen the movie so I didn’t know what to expect. So I roll into aid station 3, this guy in a purple satiny leisure suit asks if I need my bottle filled with water or HEED, then another guy ask me if I need a white Russian. I ask “you’re kidding, right?” The woman behind the table says “no” then hands me a sub-Dixie cup concoction that looks like a white Russian. I down it to verify, and yes, it was indeed a white Russian. I down some chips and Oreos and head out. Then I wonder if the white Russian was a good idea over the course of the next mile. I conclude that at least it wasn’t as bad of an idea as running a 50K on a questionable foot and little preparation.
The last third of the race actually becomes enjoyable, which is typical of the range of emotions that goes through my mind during these races. I have a nice conversation with Mehmet, who’s run this race a number of times and gives me some veteran advice (save some gas for later, there’s more uphills towards the end). I tell him I’m targeting 6:30 and he tells me I should have it easily. We get to aid station 4 together but he leaves me behind while I’m downing M&M’s and Oreos. I’ll catch him before hitting aid station 5, by which time I’m feeling great. Legs and feet hurt but I’m edging toward euphoria. The folks at aid station 5 tell me it’s a little over a mile uphill, then all downhill after that. Nice! I’ve got Cheri Redwine up ahead of me who I’m targeting. But she must be feeling a little bit better than I am because she’s charging ahead faster than I am. At this point I figure I have 6:30 as long as nothing disastrous happens. Luckily, nothing does, and I roll into the finish at 6:28:51. Sweet!
It’s the day after and I’m as sore as I felt after my first marathon. I’m having trouble going up and down stairs, getting up from sitting, and sitting down. Mac really was a challenging course. But I’m feeling really good about my time and my effort, especially since I thought I was in terrible shape for an ultra. Actually, I think I was in okay shape, but the lack of training resulted in a lack of confidence in tackling the uphills and more importantly, taking on the descents a lot more conservatively than I could have. Experience and training, especially hill training, isn’t just about training muscles, tendons, and ligaments. There’s that psychological training taking place as well. I really need to get outside more.
Next up… Forest Park 50K in two weeks!