Decided a few days ago to jump into this trail 50K in Portland, OR. Figured with Cascade Crest 100 a mere 13 weeks away, I really need to get my climbing and trail legs quickly. Heck, I needed a race to give my training a swift kick in the pants. I also wanted to try out some of the new gear and food I'd received the other day....the TPL-028 vest, some shot blocs and honey stinger gels....everything you're not supposed to do (i.e. try for the first time on race day).
So up at 4:45 so I could drive down to Portland for an 8:30 start. Took a couple of "preventative" immodium on the drive down hoping to prevent one of "those" runs (and it worked). Laced up my one and only pair of trail shoes (which are in dire need of replacement as the outsole nubs are nearly worn away, which I would pay for later) and was off with a large group.
The course was an out and back on mostly single-track trails, with a 10K loop at the far end. What wasn't advertised was the level of mud on the trails. The first/last 10K were okay, but the middle 30K were fields of mud in many places. Glad I didn't decided to just wear some road shoes or I'd still be out there.
First 10K passed reasonably quickly......about 900' of climbing if the race materials were to be believed. I settled into a decent gear and ran the whole stretch to the first aid station, passing a few folks but content not to exert too much effort. I wasn't feeling great and was worried about the amount of yard-work I'd put in yesterday. Downed some of the one handheld bottle I was carrying but not the entire thing, took a gel (mmmm, I like the honey gels!), and chewed on the shot bloc thingies. The hardest part was getting the package open.
The second 10K was much nicer people-wise.....not nearly as crowded as many were running the 20K and made the turn. More (mostly) gradual climbing but very muddy and slick in spots. The trail was a bit more overgrown in areas and I've got the stinging nettles itches to prove it. Put away the entire bottle, took an S cap, and more shot blocs. Arrived at the 2nd aid station at the 20K mark, refueled and headed out on the "loop".
Up to now I'd been feeling pretty bleh. Felt really crappy for the first few minutes out of the aid station due to over-salting a boiled potato. After I got enough water in my stomach so it was happy again, my legs started feeling better. This loop was pretty tough. The downs were pretty steep and the ups likewise. And they had a mud-slide for us to navigate. Probably a 40-60 deg slope down that was all mud. Needless to say I went down 3 times on the descent, and I wasn't alone. Glenn Tachiyama was at the bottom taking pictures....I sure they were good ones while the mud was still fresh. Fortunately for me, despite the difficulty of this leg, this is where I started really picking people off. Leaving the 20K aid station, someone announced I was in 19th place. I think by the time I made it back to that aid station (now the 30K aid station), I was in 14th or 15th, and I took down 3 more people in the next mile.
The last 20K was mostly downhill....hadn't realized how much climbing we'd done in the 10-20K section, but it was nice not to climb, because by this time my climbing gears were pretty well shot. The mud wasn't so bad on the way down, aside from the steep stretches, but my hips were really tiring and my feet started really twisting in the mud. Somewhere in here, my left knee started singing occasionally.....nothing too bad but it was letting he know I'd done something. More blocs and stingers and water....I was really going thru the water now, as well as popping S-caps every hour.
At the last (40K aid station), I marked the next 2 runners to pick off. One was pretty easy...he was close and I nabbed him just as we made the turn from the brief section of fire-road back onto the single-track, but the other had a sizable (4-5 minute) lead. I spent the last 8.5K or so just keeping up the turnover and trying to hold a decent pace in hopes of catching him. As I hit the mile-to-go mark, I was just about to concede that I wasn't going to catch him when I looked down a switchback below me and spotted him (finally). So the last mile was a 6:47 mile on some really rocky downhill stretches where if I'd wiped out it would've done me in good. I pass him with about 1/2 mile to go but didn't dare let off the accelerator since when I passed I could tell he tried to hang on. I kept my foot on the floor thru the last 1/4 mile at the end too, and as it turns out wound up a minute or so ahead of him (but it felt like he was on my heels). 4:40:18, good enough for 6th place.
Automatic PR, since this was my first 50K. Race info said the elevation gain was around 3100'. Sure felt like more than that. Garmin said 6438' (I know, unrealistic) but Garmin Connect said 5129', which sure felt more accurate. In any event, I definitely got some climbing, descending, rollers, and single track running in. Even got to bomb down about a mile of fire road. I'm happy with the effort and the result. A fun race, even if it was a bit muddy at times. I'm sure I'll be feeling the effects for the next few days. Since their computer went down sometime during the day, I didn't find out about age group placings before I left, so maybe I'll win or place in my age group. In any event, a nice training run for my summer buildup.