Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Running With The Family

“Then Jesus looked at those people sitting around him. 'These people are my mother and my brothers! My true brother and sister...'” The Gospel According To Mark, ERV, Chapter 3 When I did the Windermere half marathon back in 2011, I remember looking around and noticing that I was running with a pack of rather attractive females, aged somewhere between 20 and 40 years. There's something about Spokane and the ideal weather, along with the fitness required for a half marathon, that means the people who do it tend to be much more beautiful than the general population. It's one of those by-products of massive calorie burn required to train for a half marathon, and living in a place not cursed with eight months of snow. So, the point of all this, is that I used to finish somewhere in the middle of the attractive 20-40 year old female division. It made for a good view when running. Out at Spokane, I was one of the strange few that signed up for the 50k. I should have known that something was terribly amiss when the fine folks at the packet pickup gave me strange looks. It's not like I haven't done a few 50ks before, and the weather wasn't even silly for this one, nor was it listed as having a silly amount of elevation gain and loss. Plus, Spokane is low elevation, weather is great, and there's piles of trees everywhere, unlike Montana's high elevation miserable weather station, with slash piles from all the beetle kill. So, anyway, I pick up a few new pairs of Montrail shoes at Mountain Gear (nothing like needing to go up a half a size every six months) and do packet pick up for the whole crew (three 10ks and a 50k). Yeah, I get a more awesome shirt, because I'm running farther. And, I head over to the Sally Ann and pick up an old Wazzu Rose Bowl sweatshirt so I'll have something to wear in the morning. It wasn't really necessary, since Spokane was super warm in the morning, but it seemed like a great idea. I check my drop bag (extra socks, change of shirt, change of headband, and three Hammer gels). Yeah, so I think the story continues on race morning. So, on race morning, we have a nifty roll call style, where we get to say 'present and accounted for' when out names are called. Actually, all three members of the 'Anderson' clan skipped out, so it started slow, but everyone else was good to go. I've got the racing handheld bottle (aka, fall taker), and enough clothing to handle a generally cool morning. Oddly enough, we don't really get a countdown, just a bunch of announcements and then we are literally off. It's probably the strangest start to a race, no pistol blank, just a bunch of people heading out. I'm rolling along with a goodly group of people, although I start further ahead than I planned. But, it all settles in soon enough, and I get to enjoy a massive collection of hills. To understand, there are exactly five uphill sections, and five downhill sections, on the entire Don't Fence Me In 30k course, and a mere three sections on the Elkhorn 50k course. There's no roll to the courses, just a bunch of big hills that one goes up, then goes down. The Spokane River Run goes all around the place. And, despite claiming a mere 700 feet of elevation gain on the front end and 300 feet on the back end, the Garmin is clocking in at least six times as much, which is a more appropriate measure of the magnitude of the course. Anyway, I'm running along with a fairly decent pack for most of the beginning of the course, and probably though the first 15k or so. I manage to get a good breakaway, and then smash on a downhill, which leads to nice scraping of the arm and leg, and no permanent damage. The handheld continues to take massive shots and save the arms, and for that reason, is justified as a implement on anything with rocks. I get way slowed down on the talus piles, as talus is painful in the Trail Gloves. I'm doing a goodly clip, and then, at some point, I realize that I'm busy running with a bunch of people doing the 25k. Yeah, there's a 25k that starts at the same time and does the first half of the course. Right as the Garmin hits 20k there's a big uphill section, and I just start walking it. I realize all the short runners are going full bore because they are getting near the end, whereas I've got a long distance to go. So, I downshift it, and end up being completely alone on the course. No problem. Actually, minor problem, I manage to hit a rock on a downhill with the right foot, and rather than just properly crash it out, I end up recovering. Of course, this does more to jam up the body than smashing to the ground, as the toes end up being part of the recovery, rather than the lifeless handheld. It'll probably cost me second and third toenails on the right foot, which means it really messed with the form. Nonetheless, I manage to rumble into the halfway point at 2:37 (right around the expected pace), take the minute to grab the shirt change and get rid of my slopped out gear, but decide not to take the time to mess with a sock change. So, I head back out for round number two. I'm right at the back of the back of the 10k group, which has a much later start time than the 50k people, but shares part of the course. Running into Virginia, and later, Catherine and Kevin is actually really awesome. It's a mixed bag. On the one hand, having piles of runners around is invigorating. On the other hand, it makes it easy to start running way too fast. Likewise, I'm spending time dodging runners. And, for the record, the #Q%!T@Q (and yes, I get to use the term) who blocked the trail as I was going down and yelled 'This isn't a good place to pass' after refusing to yield, can go to running hell (also known as the Elkhorn 50k). Yeah, it's a terrible place to pass, and that #Q%!T@Q needs to learn that long distance runners are somewhat crazy. We share trail with the 10k group for a few klicks, then go from being in a huge crowd to all by ourselves again. I mean, packed to completely spread out. There's a huge uphill then three kicks of talus, which really drains me out after getting the boost from people being around. There's a runner way ahead with a green shirt, and a runner way behind with big dreads. They are actually really nice guys, but that's the quick way to identify them. We end up running at a decent pace for roughly the next ten or fifteen klicks, walking more up the uphill as the race goes on. Actually, the interesting thing is right as I'm starting to completely fade on the last uphill section, the guy in dreads totally shifts gears up. He ends up finishing a good eight or nine minutes ahead of me. In contrast, once I hit the flat(er) part of the course, I end up hitting a good pace, and finishing a few minutes ahead of the guy in the green shirt. It wasn't like I felt like I ran faster or better, I just had a good moment at a good time, and felt more comfortable getting the event over with. I end up getting a sweet finishers bottle. I also realize that I'm no longer finishing with the attractive females between ages of 20-40 anymore. Now, I'm running with a bunch of grizzled old guys who know how to run distances, and a bunch of young guys who can overcome the lack of knowledge with the echoes of the division one athletic departments they were recently in. Better than a bunch of first timers who don't know when to yield. Distance: 50.08 klicks, 3731 feet of gain / loss on first loop, 6942 total, roughly seven times the advertised amount. This is definitely more of a mountain run than a flatland run, even if there aren't long stretches of uphill / downhill. There's very few flatish, and less than a klick of truly flat trail on the whole race. Lessons: It's hard to do long trail runs in the Trail Gloves. I'm worried about moving up to something else, because I've gotten real comfortable in my third pair. On the other hand, Trail Gloves aren't good sellers anymore. I might have to move up. Look at the elevation profile and never believe the course website for elevation gain / loss. Although Garmins are supposed to overstate such things, most people actually underestimate the amount of gain / loss found in roll.