Saturday, May 24, 2008

Graduation, and another Bird Attack

Avery "graduated" from pre-school yesterday. They had a nice little ceremony, and it was pretty darn cute. I was a little disappointed that they didn't throw their caps into the air, but the teachers probably knew that'd be trouble with a room full of 5 year olds.

I seem to remember dropping out of pre-school at some point. I guess Avery the first in the family to graduate pre-school, so naturally, we're quite proud. I'm not sure what the requirements were though, as far as credit hours and GPA and whatnot. If any of the children failed to graduate, it was kept pretty hush-hush.

In other news... I was attacked by another bird on my run today. That makes twice in the last four weeks. I've lived here and run or rode in the forest for more than ten years a,nd have never been attacked by a bird (or any other creature), until the last four weeks, when it's happened twice. It must be some kind of omen.

This time, I was running along, and I noticed three very cute little chicks near the edge of the logging rode. They scampered off clumsily as I jogged past. I couldn't help but slow down and smile, as it was sickeningly cute. I watched for a few moments, then looked up to find myself under attack by a large and PISSED OFF wild Turkey Mother bird.

Holy crap was it pissed! And big. And U-G-L-Y. It's hard to believe those cute little chicks would grow up into a beast like this. It lunged at me several times, but I managed to dodge it, and eventually grab a big stick with which to keep out of striking distance, while I carefully and quickly worked my way around it.

Later on at home I was mowing the lawn, and noticed the chairs near the bird feeder are *covered* in bird crap. Freakin' birds!

I made eggs for dinner. I felt better after that.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mac Forest 50k

First off, I should apologize to everybody who had to listen to me whine yesterday. I set a PR for whining, for sure. Considering I finished under my target time, all that whining probably wasn't called for. But man, it was a struggle!

I was pretty concerned going into the race, as my resting heart rate was about 10 BPM higher than normal, perhaps because I was still recovering from the flu, and/or hadn't fully recovered from the race four weeks ago, and some hard training a couple weeks ago. Resting heart rate is usually a pretty good indicator of how recovered you are - mine was telling me to rest.

The race started at 8:00. I felt pretty good for the first couple, mostly flat miles. There was a super speedy group that blew off the front right away. I had no intention of trying to chase those guys, but I was probably in the top 10 to start off.

After a couple miles, the course heads up the first real climb - about 600 feet up, in a mile or so. Near the top of this I was already starting to struggle. I didn't feel like I was pushing the pace - and in fact I was getting passed quite a bit - but my heart rate was in the upper 170's, hitting 178 BPM at one point. Whoa. My heart rate NEVER gets this high - not even during hard training intervals. I think my absolute max heartrate is around 182 or so. So hitting 178 early in a race was just crazy. And frustrating, as I certainly wasn't blasting up the hill. Near the top I was reduced to a power hike, trying to get my HR back down. I was already starting to reconsider my goals for the race, wondering if I just didn't have it today, and whining a lot. :-)

Thankfully, after the hill crests, there's a long, gentle downhill, then a few miles of relatively easy rolling terrain, all the way to the first aid station. My legs felt great in this section, my heart rate came back under control, and I came back to life. I made it out of the aid station 57 minutes. Right on my target pace.

Out of the aid station, there's a modest up-hill for about 3/4 mile, then a steep, brutal downhill on a gravel road. This downhill is a leg killer! But again, I felt pretty strong going down, with fresh legs and good turnover. I was able to catch quite a few people who'd caught me on the climb. I realized already that climbing would be a struggle, and I'd have to try to make up time on the downhills.

The road bottomed out near Sulpher Springs, and began a tough climb up the road and into the "maze" section of trails. Once again, I struggled badly going up, and got passed a lot. I made a point of walking every time my heart rate hit 170, which was often. Even walking, it stayed high, and I was suffering. And whining. I was seriously doubting I had any chance at sub 5 hours, and in fact was just trying to avoid thinking of quitting outright. I kept going by telling myself I'd have to back off - make it just a training run, relax, and try to enjoy it. So I slogged up to the top of the climb, and tried to relax for the drop down Extendo trail to the 2nd aid station. Even going down at this point was tough, as I was pretty drained. At the bottom were Avery and Jasmine. I was going to explain the I might be pretty late getting the Chip Ross (where they planned to meet me next), but my entire explanation came out as: "I'm feeling Sh#tty!". (Avery later asked Jasmine: "Mommy, _how_ is Daddy feeling?")

I took a fair amount of time at the aid station. I was surprised that I was a couple minutes ahead of my target splits for a 5 hour finish. But I was writing off 5 hours anyway at this point. I headed out, slowly, from the aid station for the next climb. A bunch of people passed me here, including William, Penny, Mike Burke, and others. My only consolation was that I was still passing early starters. I ran slowly, and even occasionally walked, up the road and Up-route trail. I started to feel a bit better, resigned to take it easy for a while, not worrying, for the moment, about my finish time. Dropping back down into the maze, I tried to relax and not over-do the tricky downhill. Most of the up-hills in this part of the maze I'd be walking regardless, which was probably good at this point, as it wasn't quite so demoralizing. Though I continued to whine to anybody who would listen.

I came out of the maze and saw Scott Leonard (co race director), and whined a bit more to him. From here it was about 1.5 miles, up a moderate slope, to the aid station atop Dimple Hill. I'd been dreading this climb, given how I'd been feeling. Jeff Phillips, from Seattle, passed me at the bottom, and I decided to at least break into a run again, and see what happened. This was definitely a turning point for me, as I was rather shocked to realize I could run, and keep a fair pace, up this hill. My heart rate settle in at about 167 BPM for this climb, and I felt comfortable. I managed to stay close to Jeff all the way to Dimple. I got into the aid station at 2:57 - still two minutes ahead of my target split, and amazingly feeling better. I'd made up some time on the last climb, and now I had a long downhill. Last year I think I hit this aid station at 2:55, on the way to a 5:03 finish. But I'd really fallen apart after Dimple hill last year, so I knew if I held it together and continued to feel better, I still had a shot at 5:00. Game on!

My friend Chris and a slew of other Corvallis Mountain rescue folks were working the Dimple aid station. They were in "Braveheart" them - face paint, kilts, etc. I didn't actually notice the kilts at the time - I must've been pretty out-of-it. They offered my Haggis and Scotch. I declined both, though the Scotch was pretty tempting.

Somewhere out of the aid station, Jeff mentioned 5 hours as well. For the rest of the race we traded spots, and encouraged and pushed each other, both pushing for a sub 5 hour finish. I pushed as hard as I could down Dan's trail, and up and over Chip Ross. I felt OK, though not great, going back up. It was good to see Jasmine and Avery again atop the hill at Chip Ross. It's a beatiful spot, and close enough to the finish (9 or 10 miles) to start thinking ahead.

At the aid station I heard someone say "hey, no falls yet!". Must be Meghan A. Yep. :-)
I kept it brief at the aid station, and hiked up the first steep section out of Chip Ross, and kept it quick, but controlled, down lower Dan's and over to lower Horse Trail. I passed Drew Breynton at this point. I'd seen him take off at breakneck pace early in the race, trying to keep up with the leaders. He was paying the price for that now. I talked to him later, at the finish, and he said he figured he'd give it a try, see what happens. Gotta respect that.

Going up Horse Trail is a tough climb. By this point I was constantly checking my watch, trying to stay on a 5 hour pace. I figured if I could get to Lewisberg Saddle by 4:15, I could make it. 4:20 Would probably be too late. 4:15 probably meant topping out from Horse at 4:05, which is exactly when I made it. (I know these trails way too well, and can figure out sub-splits on the fly in crazy detail). Again I pushed it on the flat and downhill section to Lewisberg. Though by this point, even the downs were tough, and I was starting to cramp up a bit. I moved by Jeff again in this section, and we agreed we were still on pace for sub 5:00.

I kept it brief at the aid station, but was sure to down another gel and 1/2 fill both water bottles. Jeff and I left the aid station right at 4:15, crossed the road and began the 1.5 mile climb to the top of the Nettleton road. I knew this climb was the make-or-break moment for sub-5:00. After the climb, it was almost all a gentle downhill to the finish. If I could keep a good pace on the climb, and get to the turn off to the section 36 trail by4:45 or so (30 minutes for the section), we'd have it in the bag. I run this section a lot in training. It takes about 30 minutes at a modest pace when I'm fresh - about 17 minutes to the top, and 13 across and down to the far end. Going up today was tough, but I was seriously motivated to keep pushing. Jeff and I stayed pretty close at this point - not much talking, lots of suffering. We topped out right at about 17 minutes. Cool. Looking good. The next section is easy - a nice, gentle downhill. I cruised this section pretty well, and got the the Section 36 trail at 4:44. From there it's a short, steep climb, then a steep, winding downhill trail to the finish, with only a couple very short ups. I ran and hiked up, checked my watch, and knew I'd make 5 hours.

The last downhill hurt - my legs were cramping, and were generally thrashed from pushing the downhills all day. I was a bit tentative, as I was worried about falling. I knew I had a minute or two to spare, so I chose caution over speed. Jeff caught and passed me near the end. No worries - I was only thinking 5 hours, not thinking place, at this point. The last few minutes seemed to take forever, but finally I heard the music coming from the finish, and passed someone calling in numbers on a walkie-talkie or something. I came in just under 4:58. Who-hoo!

I found Jeff at the finish line, and we congratulated each other. We'd both been pushing hard for the last two hours, and to make it with barely two minutes to spare felt pretty great.

I came in 20th overall. My best finish at the Mac. It was a struggle for sure - I certainly didn't feel my best, but I'm pretty stoked about making my goal - probably more so for the struggle that it was.

Lots of pictures here:

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Numbers and Words

Just two days until “The Mac” ( I just checked the website, and was surprised (and flattered ) at the fact that I’m listed with bib #9. The first 30 bib numbers are assigned based on some in-decipherable code, by the race directors, to people who, I guess, have done well or are expected to do well in the Saturday’s race. #’s 1-20 are for men, #21-30 for women. Last year’s male and female winners are #1 and #21, respectively. Not sure how the other numbers were picked – I sure didn’t finish 9th last year, and people who finished ahead of me last year have lower numbers than I. Oh, the pressure! I’ll do my best to drag my low #, and my inflated ego, up and down the hills on Saturday.

The other good news is that I’m starting to feel almost healthy. I’m mostly over the cold and/or flu from last week. The stuff running from my nose is turning from a sickly yellow color to a lovely clear color. I think that’s a good sign. My resting pulse is still a bit elevated, but it seems to be slowly working its way back to normal. Yes, I keep track of this stuff. Last year my resting heart rate was really high before the Mac, and I did OK. Except for, you know, the pneumonia. So I’m still a bit worried. But since last year’s Mac, I _always_ get worried about pneumonia, or some other ailment, before every race. It’s part of my pre-race ritual. Usually I end up at the doctors insisting they listen to my lungs or take a chest x-ray or something. They must think I’m a wuss. I’m feeling good enough this time though that I’ll skip the Dr. this time.

I’m also obsessing about what pair of shoes to wear. As if my feet won’t be tired, blistered, and bloodied regardless. Should I wear the ones that give me blisters on the toes, or the ones that give me blisters on the balls of my feet?

Yep, should be fun.

In other news: Avery is 5 ½ today. Apparently ½ birthdays are pretty big these days. I told her I couldn’t remember ever turning anything-and-a-half in my whole life. This seemed to surprise her. I think she was kind of hoping for a party or present or something, but she settled for getting to choose what was for dinner instead. Actually, she only got to choose half of what was for dinner.

Incidentally, I turn 36 ½ tomorrow.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Evil Bird, and other Assorted Nonsense

I was lying on the couch flipping through the channels when I came across professional bull riding. Avery took notice, and we watched several bull riders do their thing. Avery has since developed a game where she sits on one of those big exercise balls, bounces up and down, pretending she’s bull riding. She even dons her new pink cowgirl hat. At one point she expanded the sport to include not only make-believe bulls, but also rhinoceroses, dinosaurs, and my personal favorite: sharks-on-wheels. Avery currently holds the world record for riding a great white shark-on-wheels.

This morning, on the drive to pre-school, Avery asked me “Daddy, when you die, can you still think?” I hadn't had my coffee yet. I couldn't think without it. I don't think I can expect much when I'm dead.

Avery's kind of a goodie-goodie when it comes to following rules, etc. That's great, but I kind've want her to develop a bit of a healthy distrust of authority. So I told her I'd give her a dollar if she asked her teacher if everything she's ever been taught is a lie. Jasmine didn't think it was such a great idea, but I think it'd be pretty funny.

Saturday I was out running, and stopped for a quick break at the top of a long hill. I noticed a big bird in a nearby tree. The bird hopped down and casually walked over to me. I think it was a grouse. At first the bird just sort of walked back & forth, chirping or gobbling, or whatever it is these birds do (grousing?). I wasn’t sure what it’s intentions were – casual small talk, territorial defense, or perhaps an amorous advance? After a minute it started getting a bit too aggressive for my liking, so I backed away a bit. I figured it was defending a nest, and I didn’t want to be a bother. But the more I backed away, the more aggressive the bird became. I kicked a bit of gravel toward it (carefully, not wanting to actually hurt the bird) and it only got nastier. I grabbed a branch with fir needles on it, and tried to sweep the bird away. I just cursed at me, and kept coming.
At this point I should point out that the bird’s beak was uncomfortably close to crotch height, causing my internal “fight or flight” instinct to kick in. Now, I’m reasonably sure that if it came down to it, I could win out in a fair fight with a grouse – but because I didn’t want to hurt the bird (or perhaps it was cowardice), I decided against fighting. I ran. The bird chased, on foot. That damn bird chased me a good 50 yards down the road before slowing up. It continued give an evil glare, while I put some more distance between me, the bird, and my dignity.
Postscript: The next day I mentioned the bird attack to my buddy Tim. “Was it right at…” and he goes on to name the exact location. Apparently he’s been assaulted by the very same bird, and is aware of others. So if you’re up in Mac Forest, where the 6021 road tops out on the ridge (just south of the bottom of the South Ridge trail), beware of the evil bird.

This week I've been sick. Monday night I developed a fever, and spend the night and much of Tuesday shivering. Wednesday I felt better and was back at work. Wednesday night it turned into a head cold. I went to work Thursday, but by mid-day it had blossomed into the worst head cold I can remember, and my co-workers insisted I take my germs home. It's Friday evening now, and finally I'm starting to feel better. I havn't run all week - this is probably the longest I've gone without running since nearly a year ago when I had pneumonia. I can't stand it! But hopefully I'll be well rested and well recovered for next Saturdays race (the Mac Forest 50k). The longer I go without running, the more I'm stoked to try to run that one as fast as possible, and break the 5:00 mark. Wish me luck.

Avery had her friend Abbie over this past wednesday. Jasmine keeping an eye on them. After some intense giggling, Jasmine asked what they were up to. "Mom!" Avery said. "We've come up with a really fun game! We're pretending our mommies and daddies are DEAD and we get to stay up AS LATE AS WE WANT!!!". Lovely. :-)