Wednesday, July 16, 2008

S.O.B. 50k RR . . . or how not to crash and burn

My Siskiyou Outback 50k (31.6 miles for non-runners) Race Report! Oooh, I bet ya’ll have been waiting with barely contained anticipation, huh? Well, you can finally breath a sign of relief, sit back with a cup of coffee, a bottle of beer, or whatever floats your boat and . . . I’m not sure “enjoy” is the word I’m looking for, but at least delay doing whatever you’re actually suppose to be doing right now.

The Siskiyou Out and Back, or S.O.B., is held at Mt. Ashland in Ashland, Oregon. Karen and I left Friday morning for the short 3 ½ hour drive that took us over 6 hours to complete (a girl’s gotta at least browse some shops along the way!). We checked into our hotel, called Karen’s sister and brother-in-law, Kate and Rodney, to see how they were progressing on their travels to Ashland from Northern Oregon, then checked in with Kate’s friend, Glenn, who was running, as well. We then hitched our horses back up to the wagon and made the short drive to the running store to pick up our race packets and wait for Kate, Rodney, and Glenn to arrive. Let me tell ya, it was a tad warm in Ashland, and I was hoping it would be cooler up on the mountain the next day. Running in 80+ degree weather, as well as at high elevations, would not be the most pleasant of experiences.

Once all were accounted for, we partook of the obligatory pre-race carbo stuffing meal (pasta, pasta, and more pasta . . . and bread), had a soon-to-be well-deserved dessert of gelato, completed a short stroll through Lithia Park, then headed back to our respective lodgings for (hopefully) a good night’s rest. I, unfortunately, never sleep well before an event and feel obligated to dream some stupid dream about the race all night. (All I can remember on that front is that I kept running a very boring circle over and over, wondering why in the world I would agree to such a stupid thing!)

Karen, Kate, and I were up before dawn and met Glenn at the Mt. Ashland Ski Resort parking lot with just enough time to use the facilities before the 6:00 a.m. early start. I lined up at the back of the pack, the horn sounded, and we were off. And danged if I wasn’t even out of the parking lot before I had a wardrobe malfunction. My outer layer sock on the right foot slipped down off my heel and into my shoe. Cripes! Was this an omen? I seriously hoped not. However, because of my untimely stop, I encountered two gentlemen who were behind me (there’s never anybody behind me), and to my delight ended up with Phil as a running companion for almost the entire run. We would hop ahead of one another now and then (mostly him ahead of me), but mostly we stayed together. It was quite a change from my last run at Forest Park where I was by myself almost the entire time, and his easy conversation helped keep my mind off most of my struggles. (Have I used variations of “most” enough times in this paragraph??)

One struggle I knew would be the elevation. We started out at 6500' feet, crested at approximately 7100', with 4200' feet of elevation gain in between. Yes, folks, breathing was an issue. Our first major climb was a fire road, and let’s just say I walked almost the entire thing. We were probably about halfway up when my delightful bowels began talking to me, but for some time there was no place to hide. I rounded a corner and found Phil dumping some hitchhikers from his shoes, and he graciously pointed out that to my left off the trail a short way was probably the best solution to my problem. Upon exiting nature’s bathroom, another guy coming up the road yells, “Hey, I don’t think that’s the trail!” Ha ha! Very funny! Since I had had very serious issues in this department last the last event, I had started taking Imodium the night before. I was worried it wasn’t going to work, but am very happy to say that was my only bowel problem of the day! (Dontcha just feel all warm and cozy inside for knowing this little bit of information??)
Our Coach had outlined time frames, with a built in 15-minute cushion, in which we needed to enter each aid station. I was doing good up until close to the third aid station, which was the turn around point and the highest elevation. Not far from there, I began to get nauseated and slightly dizzy. Phil hung in there with me, boosting my morale and showing me some plants to use as aroma therapy, which helped a bit. At one point you could actually see the aid station, but it would be what seemed like forever before we actually got to it . . . and our first snow. Yes, snow! They had a bucket of it at the station and I ended up putting some in my Cool Bandana instead of ice.

It was at this station that my run began to really fall apart on me. Even though it was downhill out of there, I could feel that my legs were leaving me, and fast. There was a cutoff time for the next aid station, and I had serious doubts as to whether or not I would make it. I soon came upon the water-only station and was informed it was only a couple of miles (3?) to the next aid station, which was down one of the hardest parts (to me) of the trail. Very narrow and rocky at times, and quite a bit of climbing. No matter how hard I tried to push, my legs just weren’t having any of it.

I had left the turn around station before Phil, but he eventually caught up with and past me on this stretch. Behind him was another gentleman, and I pulled over to let him by but he said, “I have to follow you in.” Yep, he was Mike the Sweeper, in charge of picking up the stragglers. He said I had about a mile to go, and when I asked what the cutoff was, he very nicely, and somewhat sadly, informed me that I wouldn’t make it. I would make it (to the station), but I wouldn’t make it (by cutoff). I figured this was coming, but I was still crushed. After 22 miles and 5:55:00 on the trail, I would miss the cutoff by about 10 minutes and be pulled from the race.

Mike followed me for awhile at my not-too-bad pace considering my jelly legs, but had to stop and walk in another runner who had suffered a Charlie horse and couldn’t run. I decided not to kill myself completely on this last short stretch, but I did run into the station. Phil was there slightly ahead of me, but also short of the cutoff.

We commiserated with one another and waited around while the workers packed up the station, then hitched a ride back to the parking lot. I figured Kate and Glenn had finished within six or so hours, but I couldn’t find them at the finish line, so I began the wait, with camera in-hand, for Karen, figuring she’d come in close to the 8.5 hour cutoff. After about half an hour, Kate, Glenn, and I found each other, I took a picture of them with their finishers medals, then Glenn had to be on his way for the long drive home to Portland.
Rodney arrived soon after, and he and Kate took off up the road a ways to wait for Karen. At around the 8:00 hour mark I began a more permanent vigil at the finish line. Soon, there she was, coming down the road at a great trot, and crossed the finish line in 8:12:36! Congrats on a great run!

I felt I had trained hard for this, my second ultra trail run, and getting a DNF has been a hard pill to swallow. But as time goes by, I can see that I had a fantastic accomplishment in completing 22 miles of a tough course. My downfall was nutrition/ fueling. I didn’t come close to consuming enough, which is one of the reasons I began getting nauseous. I now know that you have to force feed yourself at that point if you want to have any hope of going on. I have learned some valuable lessons at both of my ultras. Next stop, the Bizz Johnson Marathon in Susanville, CA!

Here's a link to the slideshow of pictures I took:

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