Monday, February 25, 2008

Hagg Lake 50km

I ran the Hagg Lake 50km again this past Saturday ( This was my third year running this race (it was my first 50k in 2006), and we were lucky enough to have, by far, the best weather and best trail conditions ever seen for this race. It was quite a change from last year, when weather and trail conditions bordered on ludicrous, and included long sections of “trail” that had become streambeds, complete with standing rapids and deep pools.

I was a little unsure what to expect from myself. I’ve been getting in some good training, but I didn’t taper for this as much as I usually do for a 50k – maybe 10 days, rather than my normal three weeks. Also, I’d been coming off a cold, and earlier in the week I’d managed to tweak my back pretty good – right where I’d had problems last year with what turned out to be pneumonia, after the Mac Forest 50k. I was freaked out enough about it that on Thursday I went into the doctor where they listened to my lungs, took a chest x-ray, etc. Everything checked out fine, and my doctor’s advice was “take some ibuprofen and enjoy your run. I felt a lot better after that. By Friday I felt really good again, so I figured I’d give it my best shot, and whatever happens, happens.

Saturday morning was clear and cool. I popped some Advil at 7:45, and put some more in my pocket for later. At 8:00 am we were off. I tried my best no to over-do it up the first (and only) big hill, and even forced myself to walk a couple times. I still managed to push my heart rate well above where I wanted it. I was using my heart rate monitor for the first time during a race. I didn’t have a target heartrate in mind, but I did want to record the data and see where my “race pace” heart rate was.

After the 3 mile out and back, I settled into a pretty good rhythm for the first loop. For a while I followed a couple pretty strong runners – one of whom I recognized as Sean Meissner, who I’m pretty sure I have no business running with when he’s at his best. I followed these two for a few miles. On the uphills, Sean and the other guy would pull away a bit, while I’d catch up a bit on the downhills and flats. I was doing my best at this point to avoid trying to keep up or race against anybody, but instead just focus on keeping a steady effort. I managed to keep within sight of the two until the first aid station. I was feeling pretty good, but I didn’t try to keep pace as they pulled away after the aid station.

Even with the dry weather lately, I fully expected the far side of the loop to be a mud pit. I was pretty shocked, and pleasantly surprised, that what had been heavy, wet, and sticky clay the previous two years was now solidly packed, which made for some fast running. Sections of trail that had sucked out energy previous years were fast and fun this year. With the good conditions, and the fact that I was feeling strong, I realized that I had a shot at a PR (my previous best 50k was 4:28 at Mckenzie River, last September). I do, however, have a habit of going out hard and fading late, so I tried not to get too excited, or push it too early.

I finished the first lap (about mile 17) in about 2:15. I felt really good about going after a PR, and then some. By mile 20, though, I started feeling pretty tired for the first time, and the legs weren’t quite going like I hoped. I scaled back my pace just a bit (and my heart rate), forced down another gel, and tried to drink some more water and energy drink (I was carrying two handheld bottles). For just a few minutes my stomach seemed a bit off, but by the next aid station it came back around, I burped a few times, and my legs perked up a bit. Between the Damn aid station and the next (last) aid station, I really forced myself to keep my pace in check. I really wanted to save something for the last 6 or 7 miles. I was passed once by this section by a guy I’d met last year (Kurt) – though I didn’t recognize him until we chatted at the finish line. We’d run together for a while last year, until he pulled away on the last couple miles.

With maybe 9 miles to go I caught another runner, and decided to just stay on his heels and let him set the pace for a while, rather than pass right away. I hope he didn’t mind. He mentioned he was bummed he didn’t have his i-Pod. I offered to sing for him, but he politely declined.

With about 8 miles to go, William Swint caught us. I’d been expecting this, as this is now the third race in a row where William has caught me with 6-8 miles to go. (Coincidentally, the other time I’ve met William was when I was hiking out from Three Fingered Jack last summer. About five miles out from the trailhead, William came running by. If he weren’t such a nice guy, this habit would get on my nerves). For the moment, William stayed with us rather than moving by. Apparently he’d hammered pretty hard to catch and move past Mike Rosling (another Corvallis runner) who was just a few minutes back, and had gotten a bit bonked in the process. That’s what he said anyway, though he still looked pretty strong to me.

After the 7 mile sign (halfway around the lake) I picked it up a notch, and William and I moved past the guy I’d been trailing. We ran more or less together for quite a while – all the way to the last aid station, with about 4 miles to go. Somewhere before the aid station William moved ahead of me, and slowly but steadily started to pull away. I think we passed another runner during this section, though I’m not sure.

After the last aid station, I was pretty sure I was in the top 10, but not sure exactly where. I’d been told much earlier in the race that I was 10th. It was difficult to keep track after that though, as the early starters and 25k racers were mixed up with the 50k racers. I knew at least two guys had passed me since then (William and Kurt), but and I wasn’t sure how many people I had passed. I really wanted to hold onto a top 10 finish, and was pretty determined not to get passed again during the last 4 miles to the finish.

Also at the last aid station, I realized I had a shot at a 4:15 finish, though it’d be close. I thought I’d left enough in the tank to give it a shot. I blasted through the aid station, grabbing a couple gels but not really stopping.

Somewhere in the next mile I noticed a guy not far behind. I pushed hard for a few minutes, and managed to lose him. The course came to a road section that stretched for a few hundred yards, where I could see quite a ways in either direction. I looked back again and couldn’t see the guy behind me, so I knew I had at least a few hundred yards on him. William had managed to put a few hundred yards on me, up ahead, so catching him was out of the question, despite my best efforts.

4:15 was going to be close. I kept looking for the 1 mile to go sign. I think I passed it at around 4:06, meaning I “only” needed to run a nine minute mile to get 4:15 (I’d averaged just a bit over 8:00/mi up to this point in the race). Given that Hagg is a relatively “easy” 50k, and given that I may never see course conditions this good again on this trail, I figured this might be as good a shot as I’ll ever get to run a 50k trail run in sub 4:15. So I pretty much decided to do it, right there with a mile to go.

There were a couple tight turns, a couple short ups and downs, and a big parking area to cross before the final short trail section to the finish line. By the end of the parking area, I knew I had it. I slowed up just a bit, smiled, and let myself really enjoy the last few minute or so. I let out a holler (hoping Jasmine and Avery would hear me coming) and coasted through the finish at 4:14:30. 7th place! Avery and Jas were there to take pictures and deliver hugs.

I spent the next couple hours enjoying post-race bliss, watching the field come in, and catching up with the other runners. I took a few minutes to soak my legs in the lake (it was C-O-L-D!) which I think did me a lot of good. Instead of being really REALLY freakin’ sore today, I’m only really freakin’ sore.

Lots of other folks had good finishes. I think it was a good day to set a PR for lots of folks. Lots of Corvallis runners turned out as well. Tim came in at around 5:30, setting a PR of his own. Afterwards we joined the bulk of the Corvallis contingent at McMenamin's in McMinneville for some post-race food & beer. A good end to a great day.

Lots of Jas's pictures are on-line at: . Enjoy!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Avery Learns to Ski!

Avery and I went skiing at Willamette Pass today:

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Head Size Trends

Avery was playing with a measuring tape a couple months ago, and decided at one point that she needed to measure my head. Since then we've been tracking our head sizes at irregular intervals, where Avery measures mine, I measure hers, and she measures her mothers. Results are shown in the atttached graph - with me in blue, Avery in pink, and Jasmine in green.

Apparently, if one assumes Avery's measurement technique to be consistent and reproducible,* my head size is extremely variable, but at least it doesn't appear to be consistently growing or shrinking over time. But perhaps I should be concerned about the variation. I think I need to bring the graph in next time I see a doctor.

Jasmine's head appears more steady than mine. But she probably could've told you that. Avery's head remains the smallest, though I suspect this won't last.

Today, Avery also launched a data collection program which measured the size of our bottoms. Jasmine, however, is adamant that results of this study are not to be published on this or any other blog.

* Actual gauge studies are yet to be completed.

In other news.... Lastnight I was watching the TV guide channel scroll through program listings. "Super Tuesday Election Night Coverage" scrolled up, immediately followed by something called "The Biggest Loser". That cracked me up.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Cats and Dogs

The snow kept coming all week last week, blanketing most of Mac Forest. It's the most snow I remember getting since I've lived here. It'll be a few weeks at least before most of the trails and logging roads are clear. Mountain biking is probably out of the question for a while, but the snow didn't stop us from having a good long run Sunday morning.

At one point heading down a long hill I noticed we were following some awfully big tracks. Not knowing one track from another, I first figured they were dog tracks, though they seemed awfully big. And I realized we hadn't seen any human tracks (prior to ours) within a mile or so, so a dog seemed unlikely. So we decided they might be cougar tracks, and stopped to take a few pictures. The tracks were about 4 inches wide, and slightly wider than long. Later research confirms they're too big to be a bobcat or coyote, and any dog print would be longer than wide, so we're pretty sure they were cougar prints. We were glad to see, upon returning the same way later on, that there weren't any fresh cat tracks following our tracks.

My friend constantly worries about Cougars, but honestly I'm more afraid of dogs when I'm running or biking in the forest. Saturday afternoon I was out for run when a pair of good sized dogs came running around the corner, well ahead of their owner. One dog didn't much like the look of me, I guess, and proceeded to bark madly, bare his teeth, and pretty much let me know if I moved an inch he'd bite. I didn't move. Finally the owner caught up, and apologized, sort've, saying "sorry... but he's really very friendly!" Uhhh... no, he's not. Bad, bad owner!