Bunchgrasser’s World

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Posts Tagged ‘ultra’

My Sunday Rumble

Posted by bunchgrasser on April 17, 2010

This past Sunday I headed over to central Oregon and ran the 2010 Peterson Ridge Rumble in Sisters, OR. Ultra runner and Race Director Sean Meissner puts on this annual race as a fundraiser for the Sister High School Cross Country Team and does a very good job of it. The race is well organized, but very laid back with that small town feel to it. This was my first Rumble but I had heard and read lots of great comments about the course, so I was really looking forward to it.

Rather than get up way too early on Sunday morning to make the drive over from Portland, I chose to stay a night at the Ponderosa Best Western Lodge in Sisters. The Ponderosa is 1/2 mile from the race start, very reasonable in cost and has a giant hot tub (like small swimming pool size) in case you want to soak a little the night before. They also provide a complimentary lite breakfast featuring waffles & boiled eggs, among other things. You can also feed the llamas (if you are into that).

Sunday morning I packed up, had some breakfast, checked out and drove over to the Sisters Middle School to watch the 60k start at 8:00am. My 30k start was at 9:00am, so I had plenty of time to mingle. I did meet up with an old college buddy of mine (Gene Trahern) who lives in the area and was running the 30k with his son Garrett.

The weather turned out to be perfect, with a cold start and some light clouds in the morning. The mountain views were still visible though. This pic was taken near the race start just prior to 8:00am. As the day progressed the temps warmed up quite a bit and it stayed dry the entire day.

As the clock drew near 9:00am, I finished my gear preparation and tried to determine what I wanted to carry with me for 20 miles (note: this course is longer than a standard 30k). I had planned to use my Nathan hydration vest with 2 liters of Nuun and a few snacks tucked away in various pockets. However, at the last minute I scrapped that plan and went with my Ultimate Direction hydration belt with a single bottle of Gatorade. Given the distance and that there were enough aid stations – I wanted to travel as light as possible. In retrospect I’m glad I did as the single bottle worked out fine. The aid stations did indeed have plenty of food for those that needed it.

The 30k start (across the road from the middle school) sent us out on a dirt jeep track for the first mile or so, giving the pack a chance to spread out some. One very cool aspect of the 30k was that dogs were allowed to participate. The dogs were clearly enjoying it as they chased each other up and down the trail. I would later be amazed by all the dogs finishing the entire 20 miles. We quickly popped out onto a long, straight gravel/dirt road. This was my least favorite part of the course as it seemed to stretch on forever. In reality this section was about 3 miles or so, but I was very happy when we left the road and hit the trail.

The 30k follows a slightly modified out and back course, which seemed to be gentle uphill on the way out and gentle downhill on the way back. There is one steep, rocky butte that runners must climb (both directions) which features the most technical, narrow, rocky singletrack. For me it was fun on the way out, but not so much fun on the return trip where the climb posed more of a problem for tired legs.

After grabbing a couple of tasty Oreo cookies, pushing gel and salt caps at the first aid station, I crossed over a road and followed the trail up a ridge. As the elevation increased there were several vistas off to the right with some wonderful mountain views. I had a fellow runner snap a quick pic of me during a short rest break. Over the next several miles there were plenty of great views that called to me but I wanted to keep moving since I was close to the turnaround point. My only goal for this race was to finish in under 4 hours. This allowed me to take it slow and spend plenty of time enjoying the scenery and aid stations.

I soon hit the turnaround and headed back down the hill. The next several miles were my favorite part of the course. Partly due to it being a gradual downhill slope, but also because the trail meandered through a beautiful open pine forest. Enjoyable as it was, it felt long and I kept thinking I would pop out of the trees onto the road soon but the trail just kept going. By the time I did hit the gravel road, I was feeling tired and my glutes and hamstrings were pretty sore. Also, somewhere along the last section of trail I developed what I would later learn was a huge blister on the end of my big toe (almost like having another toe). I knew my toe was causing pain but also realized nothing could be done about it. Strange that I’ve never had a blister there before – but it is always something, right? Just part of the adventure…

Remember the 3 miles of gravel road that I didn’t like on the way out? Well, that same section became even more evil on the way back. I seriously didn’t think it would ever end. The pain coming from my toe was causing me a slight limp but I pressed on, albeit very slowly. I began to wonder if that sub-4 hour finish time would elude me. I finally came to the turn onto the dirt jeep track and knew that I was probably only a mile or so away from the finish. I pushed on, staring at the dry trail in front of me, and after a very long mile I saw a clearing through the trees. I crossed the road, shuffled through the middle school parking lot and onto the track for my “final lap” to the finish.

I crossed the line with a 3:50:26 time, which was 118/172 for the 30k. Clearly not an impressive time, but I made my goal and truly enjoyed the run (well, except for that return section on  the gravel road). When crossing the finish, I was given a water bottle and the coveted pair of “Rumble” socks. I found a spot on the track to rest and stretch for a minute and snapped this pic. Hot, tired & very sore would accurately describe me in this pic – but the underlying emotions of peace, happiness and satisfaction are there as well.

It is hard to describe the feeling I get when running trails. I’ve put in a lot of miles on the pavement over the past 5-6 years. And, generally speaking I’ve truly enjoyed most every mile. But there was always something missing, and I never knew what it was until I started trail running. It is the connection between human and earth. Yeah, sounds silly right? Well, as they say – don’t knock it until you try it. In all the hours I’ve spent running on pavement, surrounded by traffic, buildings & noise – I never experienced that zen-like feeling of being connected to the natural world around me. Call it my “Avatar” moment, but it is real, at least for me, and I’m flat out hooked on it. It seems clear to me that trail running has become the next revolution in the sport of running and I’m very eager to see where it will lead me.

After resting for a few minutes I stumbled over to the food area and loaded up my plate. I was extremely happy to see chicken & black bean burritos being served rather than burgers & hot dogs. I want to specifically thank RD Sean Meissner for this, as I believe it be the best RD decision ever! I hope this tradition will continue at next year’s Rumble as well. I scarfed down the burrito, chips and a decadently sweet brownie. Washed it down with a “retro” can of Mountain Dew and headed for my car. The sugar and caffeine in the Dew actually helped me stay alert on the 3.5 hour drive back to Portland.

I’d like to thank Sean and all of the other organizers and volunteers for putting on a great race. I very much look forward to running the Rumble again next year.

Gear used: North Face Rucky Chucky, Injinji socks, Drymax trail lite socks, Zensah compression calf sleeves, Montrail hat, Nike gloves/shorts/shirt, Ultimate Direction hydration belt, GU gel, SaltStick caps.

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Update on my ultra aspirations…

Posted by bunchgrasser on January 3, 2010

The past couple of months haven’t gone according to plan. I expected my Achilles/calf muscle problem to go away with rest and some light daily stretching – but such is not the case. I’ve started running again in moderation, but I’m still having the same problem with soreness in those areas.

I did see an orthopedist recently and had an Xray, but unfortunately it showed nothing out of the ordinary with my foot & lower leg bone structure. The doctor suggested that my calf muscle pain could be compartment syndrom but since my Achilles is also sore I’m unconvinced. Since I’m not really interested in any kind of “exploratory” surgical remedy – I’ve chosen to keep with the status quo (stretching) while adding some miles to my base to see if it gets better or worse.

Given my lack of training, I’m doubtful of being ready to run a 50k by Feb 20 (bummer), but I’m going to try and ramp my miles up some anyway.

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I just registered for my first ultra…

Posted by bunchgrasser on November 5, 2009

Yesterday I registered for my first ultra marathon, the Hagg Lake 50k Trail Run. After about 2 minutes of staring at the email confirmation, fear began to replace the excitement that I was feeling.

The first thought that came to mind was – I just wasted $60. It’s not that running 31 miles around a lake on a muddy trail bothers me. It’s more a question of whether I can make it to race day without any race-stopping over-use injuries. My past history hasn’t been good in this area. I’ve made several race fee donations over the past few years due to injuries. It seems every time I train for a long race (i.e. marathon), I end up with a sore leg or foot that either prevents me from racing, or affects my ability to run well.

I guess I’m one of those runners that doesn’t handle high mileage very well. It’s unfortunate because my attitude and psyche are both perfectly suited for long, endurance runs. I just need to get the muscles & tendons on board and I’ll be ready to kick some ultra ass!

I’m currently nursing a sore Achilles tendon which has been an on-again, off-again problem for me this year. Not sure how to get rid of it other than just stop running for a long period of time. I actually did that (2 months), but it came back again. I’m trying to approach this problem in a smart, realistic way – but the bottom line is that I need lots of miles to be ready for an ultra. My fingers are crossed..

Cheers

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I really, really want to run an ultramarathon…

Posted by bunchgrasser on September 9, 2009

I’m giving my wife (and extended family) yet another reason to think this 43 year old desk jockey has lost his mind. Last year, after completing my first (and only) marathon I decided that I really liked running long distances. Never mind that every time I build up my mileage I seem to injure myself. Knee pain, plantar fascitis, achilles tendonosis, sore this and sore that. Whatever. I’m taking it all in stride though because I know getting stronger takes time and patience. Did I mention that I’m very, very persistent?

For many months now I’ve secretly been watching (lurking?) and reading about trailrunning and ultramarathons. I didn’t know much about ultras, so I ordered some books from Amazon.com, I subscribed to a couple of magazines and currently I spend seemingly every spare moment reading any trailrunning or ultra-related blog site. Heck, I feel like I already know elite runners like Scott Jurek, Sean Meissner, Hal Koerner,  yet I’ve never actually met them (yet). They and many others have inspired me in ways I may never fully comprehend.

I have a history of deep-diving into whatever activity occupies my mind at a given time. And yes, my obsession knows very few boundaries.  Not only am I deeply envious of all those who have completed an ultra, but I had my “aha!” moment and realized that ultras are my perfect event. Clearly I’ll never set any speed records running half marathons or marathons. Not to mention I much prefer the natural scenery and mind-enriching trail environment over paved streets any day. The slower pace and focus on simply finishing a challenging ultra course really appeals to me. I’ve also read many times that the close-knit ultra community is like an extended family. Cool… 

Yes, like many before me – I’ve stumbled onto something that I believe will enrich my life in many ways. I sit here in my office chair – dreaming about crossing the finish line of my first ultramarathon. I feel a wave of emotion fill me up just thinking about it. I’m pretty sure I’ll cry like a baby when it happens. Yes, I’m certain of it…

Someday soon…

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