Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Forest Park 50k Trail Run

Portland, Oregon
May 25, 2008

“Endurance is one of the most difficult disciplines, but it is to the one who endures that the final victory comes.” ( Buddha)

Beginning Fashion Report: White Nike Hat, pink shirt, black shorts, hot pink gators, green Vasquez trail running shoes.

Ending Fashion Report: Mud, Blood, Poop, Pee, Puke, Sweat, and lots of Tears!!

In thinking about what I was going to write, I wondered if I should leave out any of the gory details. But then I thought, what fun would that be? Therefore, as you continue through this novel, be aware that I plan to leave nothing to the imagination. Enjoy!

I knew going in this run would be as much mental as physical, if not more so. I took up running for the first time in my life only a short two years ago, but I have been blessed to have a strong running partner in my friend, Karen Peterson, and over the past year a positive and supportive coach in Bill Spaeth.

On Friday, Karen and I, with Charlie the Dog taking up the entire backseat, made the 8-hour trek from Humboldt County, California, to Portland, Oregon. On Saturday, while Karen attended to some personal business, I spent the day hanging out at her folks’ house by myself, enjoying the quiet of the country and making the acquaintance of the llamas living behind their back yard. Later in the afternoon, Karen returned with her brother-in-law, Rodney, and as we ate dinner, we were rewarded with the onset of heavy rain, thunder, and lightening, ensuring a messy trail for the next day. I also got to finally meet Karen’s sister, Kate, who arrived later in the evening. For those of you “in the know,” her posting handle is “katemd.” Yes, folks, the one and only. She’s famous . . . and now I get to say, “Yeah, I know her.” (a wink to Kate ;o) ). She and Rodney were going to be our support crew at the aid stations, and little did I know just how important that support was going to be.

Sunday dawned bright . . . and overcast . . . and ready to dump more rain. We arrived at the park about 45 minutes or so before the start time, and were met at the top of the stairs by Kate’s friend, Glenn, who had come just to see us off. Yet one more act of kindness that is so prevalent through the trail running community. Karen and I went to register and found that the very, very short line was for the 50k. (Should this have been an omen??) We picked up our bib numbers, availed ourselves of the Honey Buckets (port-a-toilets) - well, at least I did - and soon Wendell of Pacific Coast Trail Runs ( was making announcements through his bullhorn. I had made my way to the back of the pack, and pretty much he sounded like someone out of a Peanuts cartoon and I couldn’t understand a word. It wasn’t long, though, before the horn sounded and we were off! Okay - we were walking, shuffling, jog a step or two, walk, maneuver around someone, jog a few steps, stumble (#@$% rock! Oh wait - this is a trail . . .) This continued on and off for awhile until the various factions (10k, 20k, 30k, 50k) went their separate ways.

I had never been to Forest Park before, and was marveling at the beauty around me. It is the largest urban park in the US, comprised of 52 acres with 40 miles of trails. It’s absolutely gorgeous. It wasn’t long, however, before the rain started again, and kept up for about the first 2-3 hours of the run. This caused quite a bit of the vegetation to bend over into the trail, and at times I was thinking that maybe I should’ve brought my machete with me :o). It also made things very muddy and soggy. This was good and this was bad. It was good in the beginning, because it was fun sloshing through the puddles and slipping through the mud. It was bad in the end ‘cause I was tired of sloshing through the puddles and slipping through mud.

Karen and I sort of frog jumped each other (her in the front 99.99% of the time) all the way to the first aid station (10k/6.15m). Kate and Rodney were there braving the rain, with Kate filling our bladders (fluid bladders, that is), Rodney taking pictures, and everyone all smiles - for now. A little way out of the aid station, Karen and I picked up another runner named Karen, who was celebrating her 50th birthday, and honoring a friend’s daughter who had recently been killed in a vehicle collision, by running her first 50k. We hadn’t been gone long when we came upon another runner who was confused by a trail marking. Which direction to go? Since there were no turn markers (striped ribbons), we all decided that the small veer to the right and down the hill was the route. This would prove to be a huge error. Unbeknownst to us, or because the marking wasn’t clear enough, we went in the wrong direction. We powered our way to the bottom of the hill, only to be confronted by having to turn left or right with no striped ribbon. Luckily, another runner, who was running the 30k, came along from the left at that same time and told us that we needed to backtrack up the fire road and to a small trail in order to get on track. Ended up a number of runners came through that same area, went the wrong direction, and after running the 20k loop, called it quits. Afterward, Karen figured this added about 3 miles and half an hour to our time on the trail. Needless to say, I was PO’d. I mean really PO’d. The fire road was at a slight incline the entire way, and the small trail we had to maneuver was pretty straight up. This used up some very precious energy that I knew I would need toward the end to finish. On the climb, the two Karens passed me, and that would be last I’d see of them until the end.

I didn’t see much of the other runners either, unless they were passing me going the opposite direction to the final destination. I came into the second aid station (20k/12.43m) with very sloshy feet, and tried with wet, puffy, stiff fingers to put dry Injinji socks on wet feet. Not an easy task. However, one of my big worries with regard to this run was blisters (as I am the Blister Queen), and I needed to ensure I took care of those puppies. Kate, bless her heart, filled my bladder again, mumbled something about the pre-measured baggies I had of GU2O and maltodextrin being a pain in the butt but we’ll work with it, I stuffed some goodies from the food table into a Ziploc, and took off. I was but a few hundred yards down the trail when I knew I would have to add a second layer of socks or I’d be in trouble. Again with the wet, cold, stiff fingers trying to untie and tie shoes, hook the gaiters, etc. At both the aid station and here, this ate up precious time for me.

From this point on, I was pretty much a lone runner . . . and my bowel troubles began. My body had already greeted the day with the start of my menstrual cycle (yea!!), and now my bowels were knocking at the door. “Hey you! We gotta go! And we mean now!” Ah, crap! (pun intended). I slashed my way through the bushes, barely making it in time, and fought with wet hands and toilet paper and tampons. I wasn’t 2 minutes on the run again when - you’ve got to be kidding me!! - and I was slashing my way through the bushes again. This little merry-go-round would continue throughout the rest of the day and eventually left me wincing with pain at the thought of another bathroom break.

Shortly before the third aid station, I started to get weary and was telling myself I was done. I couldn’t do it anymore. I had just battled my way down a very slippery slope, had fallen and slid on my butt a few feet in the mud, and had had to slide off a steep jump at the end. There wasn’t another soul around, either participating in the race or just out enjoying the park. It was very lonely. I thinking about how I was going to call it quits when I heard, “There she is!!” and Kate’s smiling face appeared around the bend. I was so happy to see her, and I told her I was done. She basically said, let’s get up to the aid station (30k/18.64m), get some food in you and see how you’re doing. She kept pumping me up the entire way up the hill, and before I knew it, she’d filled my bladder, told me to drink more, I’d filled my baggie with food, and she was telling me, “It’s only 6 miles to the next aid station. If you still want to quit then, you can.” “Okay.” And I was off.

The time between the 3rd and 4th aid stations was the worst for me and is a bit blurry. I tried listening to an iPOD podcast, but put it away before I threw it at something. Not realizing it, I was drinking too much, which meant I had to stop and pee a lot, and I was still pooping. I knew I was the last person on the trail (despite the protests of the aid station workers), and I felt very demoralized. I was extremely nauseated, and couldn’t stop the steady stream of “I can’t do this” in my head. I was walking more than I was running, and I kept looking at my time, knowing that I needed to reach the last aid station in no less than 7:12 to be able to make it to the end within the 9-hour time limit.

I was in the middle of my hazy depression when I heard it again, “There she is!” It was Kate again. I know I kept muttered something about being nauseous and how damn hard this was. I told her how much I’d pee’d between stations, and she said I was overhydrated and to try and throw up. I did, and I couldn’t believe how much better I felt. She marched me into the aid station (40k/24.79m), I used the bathroom (yet again), she had me sip some soda, filled my baggie with goodies, told me not to drink anymore so I turned over my pack, said she and Rodney would meet me two miles down the road, and I was off again. The sugar did wonders to perk me up, and at two miles down the road, I was feeling considerably better. Kate and Rodney were there with some soda and a little bit more food, then sent me off on the last four miles, noting that I had 1:15 in which to complete it.

It was about 2 miles further down the road that I ran (literally) into my Trail Angel, Russ (aka rustyboy). Within a matter of seconds, I asked him if he knew how far the parking lot was, he asked if I was in the race, I said yes, it’s my first 50k and I’m the last man out, and he said that if I wanted, he’d be honored to pace me in the rest of the way. I said that if he really wanted to, I’d appreciate it. He did and kept up a constant chatter with me to help keep my mind off things, and I will be forever grateful to him. It was the first time in hours that I’d had another person to talk to on the trail. About a mile out, Kate met up with us and ran with us the rest of the way in. Introductions were made on the run, and they knew each other through posting on ultra sites. Ends up once Russ told me his moniker and I told him mine, we knew each other as well. The ultra trail running community is small.

Kate finally said, there’s the bridge and that’s the end, she and Russ backed off, and I ran as hard I as I could at that point, crying like a baby the whole way, and didn’t stop crying for probably another five minutes. Both Karens had reached the end together about 20 minutes or so ahead of me and were all smiles and hugs, as were Rodney, the 2nd Karen’s husband, Sara of PCTR, Russ, and Kate. I could not believe I’d actually done it, finishing with an official time of 8 hours 46 minutes 22 seconds (clocking 14 minute miles over the last 6 miles). I also got the distinction of coming in DFL - Dead F*$%-ing Last - an honorary position, I do believe (I think it should’ve come with a rubber chicken or something . . . ) My only disappointment is that I didn’t have my head together enough to get a picture of Russ and me together. I had to use the bathroom (again), and by the time I came out he’d left to finish his run.

There are a few people who I need to acknowledge, because without them - no matter how large or small their role was - I couldn’t have done this.

Karen - My running buddy, who got me into this whole mess to start with. Thankfully!
Coach Bill - Who gave me a grueling workout schedule, but it worked (and who I am sure has another grueling one planned for June)
PT Galen - Who kept my right knee healthy and who’s PT exercises over the past couple of months undoubtedly gave my legs the extra strength that propelled me through the run
Russ - My Trail Angel, whose kindness and generosity helped a complete stranger push through to the end of her first 50k
Kate - Who just wouldn’t let me give up. I am so, so grateful she was there

So would I do it again, you may be asking yourselves? Hell, yes! I think I’m addicted. (But I’ll probably avail myself of some Imodium before hand.)

(For some great photos of the race, checkout I’m a little more than halfway down the page, on the left, wearing a pink shirt. Karen is the photo directly before mine, orange shirt with white/flowery short tights.)

(Comments from Kate: “Leslie almost called it a day at 30K but I talked her back into the game. Then at 40K she was looking really, really bad. She was way overhydrated, nauseated and unable to eat. So I told her to force vomiting and she felt a lot better after that. She got down some cola and small sugary things. We met her again at 53rd Ave and gave her some more soda and she ran the rest of the way in looking like she
returned from the dead. She even bumped into another ultramarathoner whom we both know from online and he ran her in the last 2 miles. She was a real trooper. “)

Time Out of Aid Stations
AS1 1:30
AS2 3:15 (trail bandit bastards)
AS3 5:13
AS4 7:24
End 8:46:22

Time Between Stations
AS1 1:30
AS2 2:15 (trail bandit bastards)
AS3 1:58 (really hard section of the trail)
AS4 2:11
End 1:19 (14 min miles!!)


andyb said...

Congrats on your first ultra finish! You really persevered through tough conditions and circumstances and that has to feel really great. Thanks for all the "gory" details - I think that is what makes reading race reports so fun, hearing all the various stuff that happens to us out on the trail.

Can't wait to read your next ultra report! Good luck with your recovery and training.

Dan said...

You showed amazing determination to finish the race under difficult circumstances. You should be very proud of your accomplishment. Even more impressive is that you have done all this will less than two years of running experience. I look forward to reading future posts.