Thursday, August 23, 2012

Angel's Staircase

Photo by Mike Maltais, Methow Valley News
Writing a race report for a good race is much more fun than one that didn't go as planned, but here goes. It still amazes me how much more there is to learn from a bad race than a good one. So in that spirit, on with the proverbial show...

A little over a week ago I took part in Rainshadow Running's stunning Angel's Staircase 35k race. I had a great race there last year for the 25k, so I was excited to run the course again, after the hill and speed work I'd been doing this year. James started us at Foggy Dew Campground, which meant we had the pleasure of starting and ending with a three mile forest service road. I was excited about bombing down the road at the end, but honestly, not too hep on starting out with a three mile grind before getting to the singletrack. As it turned out, I felt better on the first three miles than I did all day; what I thought would seem to take forever was gone quite quickly and I easily motored up to the trail.

It was HOT out. We started at 11am so the finishline crew (and party) would co-inside more than last year, but it meant being out in the hottest part of the day. My race last year at Cascade Crest was cut short due to how I responded to running all day in 90 plus temperatures. This year, however, I trained  in the heat for several weeks and since I'm usually downright cold, I don't mind the hotter temperatures. The previous week I did a longer run in the same area as the race and loved every warm minute of it.

Laboring up the dusty trail. Photo by Candice Burt
I decided to take the climb easy, and enjoyed myself for the first hour or so. I drank lots of water, and had a lot of electrolytes. My ears needed to pop on the climb; this was slightly disconcerning, as the same thing happened at Cascade Crest, for about 30 miles. I reminded myself that I just needed to get to the top and then I could fly back down to the finish. With the race being in such a remote location, it was imperative to not do anything stupid like sprain an ankle while not feeling up to snuff, and just get safely down the mountain.

Looking down at Merchant's basin, where we climbed up. Photo by Candice Burt

The views were amazing at the top and at around 8,000 ft, I was ready to descend. Since the course is an out and back, passing people on their way up was a little tricky, but soon I was back in the trees, felling terrible. My stomach was not happy, and by now it was well past my lunchtime. Gel was not really doing it, and by now I had no water for my body to be able to absorb the food anyway, so I tried to think about other things, like my ears that still wouldn't pop, or my feet that hurt, or my legs that had no snap. Ah yes, the downward spiral of a bad race. I managed to get to the aid station without anyone passing me, but while I sat to collect myself, a couple people went by. At this point I didn't care about anything other than being done with this stupid thing and going to take a nap. I left the station munching on some potato chips (yum!) feeling pretty sorry for myself. Running made me feel like I would lose my guts, so I opted to walk. It took the full three or so miles to get my mind back into the game, realizing that it was either going to take me a looooooong time to get back if I walked the whole way, or I could suck it up and get done with this thing. I started running again when I got to the forest service road, and was pleasantly surprised to feel ok. My stomach settled and though my ears still needed to pop, I knew I could blast back to the finish and get some real food (watermelon is the BEST running food in the universe). The 50k-ers were on their way down by this point, so it was fun to catch as many as I could.

The post-race feast was overflowing as usual, the course was well marked, and once again, James put on another top notch race. In the time after the race, I've been reading a fascinating book on overhydration by an accomplished and highly regarded South African exercise physiologist (yep, I'm that geeky). I realized that in training I don't pay as much attention to getting lots of water as I do when I race (since a race is important and all, so hydration is a top priority), thereby drinking too much: or at least that's my current theory. After nearly ten years of running these races I still learn something new each time.  So now I'm back to drinking when I'm thirsty and so far, so good. Next up is the Cutthroat Classic, another fine mountain run. 

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