Some adventures in road and trail running.
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Sunday, July 27, 2008

PCT 50 Miler

On Saturday July 26, 2008, I ran the Pacific Crest Trail 50 mile run. The picture (credits to my son Cole) shows one of reasons why.

Short version:
50 miles in 9 hours and 43 minutes
Averaged 11:40 per mile
45 out of 114 runners.

Long version:
This run starts at the Clackamas Lake historic ranger station at 6:30 am (5:30 am for early starters who require a little more time). You head out on the Pacific Crest Trail and climb up to Timberline Lodge on the shoulder of Mt Hood. Then you run back down to the start as shown at left. Simple and very rewarding with some amazing trail for running and some breathtaking views of Mt Hood as you climb up to the lodge.

This was my first 50 mile race. Last year I ran a 100 km (62 mile Where's Waldo) run but I trained and ran that event strictly to finish. I had planned to race this one to get the best time and finish position possible. Unfortunately my body did not cooperate. I still do not know what really caused the injury but a week before the race, 10 miles into a 15 mile training run with my buddy Rick I started experiencing pretty good pain in my left shin. Erg. I ran for one more mile and then walked the remaining four. Not good. Started R.I.C.E immediately with the hope to heal for race day. No running for 6 days with lots of stretching, icing and massaging. One day before the race I tried a 3 miler with Trisha. I could run but with nagging discomfort. Bummer. Enough whinging...time to do the best I could.

So I was nervous going into race day. The morning came with perfect weather. I had had a pretty good night's sleep. I settled in to just take the day as it rolled out and give it what I had for that day.

Start to Little Crater Lake : 6.1 miles in 54:17 minutes
The first six miles are rolling and a great way to get out the early race anxiety but one must be careful not to go to fast and dip into the reserves that will be needed on the return trip. I really focused on trying to run with a correct stride and prayed for a reduction in the pain but pretty quickly knew it was going to be a longer than planned day on the trail. Met Trisha (awesome crewing Babe!) at the first station, grabbed my other water bottle and headed back out on the trail.

Little Crater Lake to FS58 3.2 miles in 33:39 minutes
Once out of first aid station at Little Crater lake, you have some more rolling and then the start of the first real climb. I loved it. Ronda had helped me plan and train to handle the hills with many hard hill repeats out in the Gorge. My leg felt better on the ups and I was more able to keep up with the other runners. Unfortunately as you can see from the profile above, the whole race is not up. I was frustrated on any downhill as I could not stride it out and "float" to enjoy the benefits of gravity. Oh well, focus on the positive and adjust to the weird reality of looking forward to the uphills :-)

FS 58 to Frog Lake (Hwy 26) 5.2 miles in 46:55 minutes
This is where you start to do more climbing and experience the first real views of Mt Hood. It is both awesome and scary at the same time. You see this amazing mountain off in the distance and realize you are going to run up and over to it :-). A group of us crested the hill and started heading down into the Frog Lake aid station and everyone and their dog started to pass me like the speed bump I was :-) Everyone was very encouraging and it was great to see so many people having a good day. I think all who passed offered me pain killers :-)

Frog Lake to Hwy 35 (Barlow Pass) 4.6 miles in 58:29 minutes
This section was tough for me. The drop bags for the aid station did not make it in time and I had been looking forward to my tunes to help me out...find a beat and try to stretch it out. Trisha was great providing me with backup stuff...except no tunes. The climbing parts were good but then you had to pass the turnaround for the old 50 km race. Boy, would I have liked to turn around. After a minor pity party, it was time to dig in and commit to finishing this thing. Running with Dave S helped us both regroup and head up to the mountain.

Hwy 35 to TimberLine 5.9 miles in 1 hour 20 minutes
The best part of the race for me was the push from the Barlow Pass (Hwy 35) aid station up to Timberline Lodge. Settled in with Todd and we pushed and talked and enjoyed the amazing views afforded on this section of trail. Running through snow in July was fun and blinding. The kids loved playing in it as well. When you clear the forest and get the first clear view of Mt Hood...simply amazing!! Worth 50 miles any day :-) It was also great fun to see the front runners heading back down to the bottom. Rod Bien looked like he was in total control (he would go on to win in 6:56!) with Ian Mcilvenna (from Quesnel B.C. Canada, near where I grew up) in second. The constant stream of runners heading back was inspiring. Onwards and upwards!

Timberline to Hwy 35 5.9 miles in 1 hour 4 minutes
Then we had to turn around and head back. Trisha and Kyly kicked me out of the aid station in good form. I had made the top in 4 hours 30 minutes. Really with the 4000 feet of climbing on the way up and only 1300 feet of climbing on the way back, you should be able to do a negative split or close to it (run as fast or faster back). Not to be on Saturday. Soon it seemed like everyone was passing me as they flew by letting the brakes off as they careened down the forest trails. I continued hobbling along at my governed pace trying to shout encouragement to each and every passing runner. Ultra-running rolls that way.

Hwy 35 to Frog Lake 4.6 miles in 1 hour 2 minutes
I tried to hitch my wagon to Caroline Klug as she motored in to take 4th women overall. I just could not quite keep up on the downhill but it did help me none the less.

Frog Lake to FS 58 5.2 miles in 1 hour 6 minutes
Uphills good, downhills bad. Scenary amazing.

FS 35 to Little Crater Lake 3.2 miles in 41:40 minutes
Running with Allan B (his stomach had shut down to say the least) I figured out how to do the downhills slightly better. Short choppy steps, almost like doing stairs. I think it made it easier, not sure if it was faster. We ran together chugging along until the last aid station.

Little Crater Lake to the Finish 6.1 miles in 1 hour 17 minutes
In the years that I have done the 50 km version of this race I have always died a horrible death in these last 6 miles. Dehydrated and underfueled I slog in like a zombie. Not this year. Likely the second best part of the race for me. I fueled and drank properly for the entire race Warning gory detail: for the first time ever I actually peed in a race!!. Gels about every 35 mins on the trail, turkey slices at the top, 2 Red Bulls along the way, PB & J and coke in the aid stations, and used Margarita Clif Bloks for added salt. Having Trisha at all the aid stations reminding my addled brain to drink and eat was great help! Once I remembered that I had my music, I settled in to some Kutless and was even pleasantly surprised when I saw the paved road up ahead that meant the turn to the finish. I had the added honor of Cole running in the last little section with me. Someday I hope we will run the whole thing together.

Hanging around the finish, eating (burgers!!) and talking to everyone about the race was only topped by the refreshing and required swim in Timothy Lake to finish out the race day.

Today, waking up in the campsite, my body felt far too strong and nimble after 50 miles. My left shin/ankle is no better, no worse. Need to figure out what is the deal. More RICE and back to training. I feel primed and ready to try again next time.

As part of this first 50 miler for me, I used my training and running to help raise awareness and funding for the Micah Project. The challenges these kids face go way beyond those of running 50 miles. For more details please see my previous post. Please consider adding your support to this cause and help me reach one of my other goals for this race.

The PCT 50 is a great race all around with amazing trails, great scenery and so many cool people to hang out with. I learned that you can fuel and hydrate for a long race and not end up needing an IV at the end. Trisha liked that part the best I think :-)
I also learned that all my training has payed off and (most) of my body was really ready to tackle the 50 miles.
Another benefit of not being able to all out race on Saturday was running with many more people than normal. It was quite enjoyable.
Thank you to all the volunteers and Olga and Monika for organizing the race. Jeff...the burgers...mmmmmhhhh!!!!

Make sure to add the PCT 50 to your list of TODOs and know that I will be back next year with a nice little mental edge knowing that I should have no problem setting a personal best :-)

See you at the next race: McKenzie River 50km. a 31 miler almost seems short :-)


Anonymous said...

It was nice to meet you on Little Crater pathway! Kutless, is always my finishing music!! they actually go to my church in Tualatin! Woot! Woot! way to go! I hope to see you on the trail soon!

Cheri Redwine

apoplectic runner said...

Darin!! Great blog. My buddy, Ben, told me you had one so I had to check it out. Running with you was great and the views truly amazing. So glad God us through Saturday. Wow. Hope you clear up the issues with your leg. Prayers. Todd

Darin Swanson said...

Cheri - now I can make the connection! We will all have to get out for a Gorge run...and get Kutless to play for an aid station :-)

Todd: Thanks man!

Pete said...

Hi Darin -- Thanks for the nice comment over at Whine Country! Hope to meet you in person sometime down the road (er, trail)....

William Swint said...

Sorry to hear about your injury.Get healed and we will see you at Mckienze.