Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Beer and Attitude in the Hood: the Mt Hood PCT 50-Mile Trail Race

Another year has passed. Once again, I decided to continue the 4-year tradition of going to the Oregon Brewer’s Festival and then running a 50-mile trail race on the Pacific Coast Trail (PCT). This time, my girlfriend, Sophia would be my traveling companion, along with my son & crew, Mighty Matt.

Sophia was going to be attempting her first 50-miler. Both of us were severely under-trained for any 50-mile event, let alone one with mountains. How under-trained, you might ask? Well, let’s put it this way; on a good week, either one of us maybe ran a total of 15-25 miles per week; and this has been the case for the past 5 months. This training lapse was mainly due to having too many things going on at once…in her case, it’s because she was figuring-out her new job as a Mizuno Territory Manager (for a 3-1/2 state area).

So, we both decided to do the race with the mantra of “Muscle Memory, Attitude, and Pain Denial.” And given the beauty of the location, maybe we’d have a fighting chance for success.

Sophia (Bad Ben’s Mud Babe) at the Oregon Brewer’s Festival, prior to the race.

Also at the race, there would be more Trail Nerds to attempt the distance, with four of them being first-time 50-milers. The Trail Nerd 50-Mile Newbies were: Debbie Webster, Julie Toft, and Kevin Pinkowski. And Nick Lang was there as another veteran 50-mile guy. Laurie Euler would be his support crew, and help all of us, as well. Coleen was also helping Christy with her first 50 mile, and there were 4 guys from Springfield, Missouri there that had run in Trail Nerd races, too.

We couldn’t have asked for better weather while we were in Portland. It was sunny in the afternoons, with highs in the 80s. Portland is a very nice place to visit as a tourist. With the MAX transit system, you can park your car and get around town quickly and efficiently. And, if you are going to imbibe at the brew fest, you always have a designated driver!

Sophia, Matt, and I landed in Portland on Thursday morning; two days before the race. My nephew (Andy) and brother (Jim) picked us up at PDX airport. After checking our luggage into our hotel, we scooted off to have a nice lunch at Deschute’s Restaurant. We then went to Waterfront Park on the Willamette River, and spent the rest of the afternoon at the Oregon Brewer’s Festival.

Oregon Brewer’s Festival: Sophia, Jim, Andy, Matt.

Allison and Kevin Pinkowski

After a lengthy stint at OBF, we bombed around downtown Portland and ended up having a lovely dinner at a seafood restaurant. From there, we hit downtown for some more debauchery, and then repaired to our hotel rooms for a good night’s sleep.

Mary’s: Portland’s oldest family-owned business.

Friday morning, Sophia and I got up early and went out for breakfast at the Bijou, a favorite local breakfast place. Breakfast was marvelous. She had to call her dad, a New Orleans expatriate, to tell him how wonderful her oyster omelette was.

Calling daddy George!

Sophia had some work to do for clients on her Mizunoputer, so we followed the strong WiFi signal next door to Stumptown Coffee. Stumptown is my pick for being one of the two best places for getting coffee in the Bad Ben known world. My other favorite is the original Caffé Vita, on Capitol Hill, in Seattle.

While there, we met an interesting artist that does journaling the old fashioned way…as an analogue-style book, using handwriting, and glued-in photos: basically, a daily “anablog,” you might say.

We decided to hit the brew fest one more time for a little while, to get rid of the rest of our drink tokens. From there, we headed up to the mountain and to packet pickup by Timothy Lake. Olga Varlamova (the co-race director), was happy to see us. She gave Sophia and I a warm hug and made sure we agreed with her as to how lucky we both were (to have found each other and to be together). We gave Olga and Monika Gold some newer-versions of Mud Babe shirts, with the new Jason Crosby designed logo, (inspired and advised with Sophia’s input).

After Packet Pickup, we headed up to Government Camp to have a meal, and then checked out our digs that Debbie, Julie, Tim, and Larry had secured for us. It was a big loft with room to sleep ten. Nice going, guys!

Early Saturday, the morning of the race, Sophia and I hit the lodging’s 24-hour restaurant, and had a hearty breakfast. We met a runner named Jason from Spokane, and we wished each other well at the race.

We had taken the early start at 5:30. After listening to a short speech by Olga, we headed north on the Pacific Coast Trail. We had previously decided to run at Sophia’s pace for the whole day. She is good at regulating her speed, while I tend to go out a little too fast. She also has a great uphill strategy, combining both running and walking, as needed. And since my walking speed is normally faster than hers, most of the time I could walk fast and catch up to her over and over again. In other words, the strategy worked well for us; well enough to help with our foolish endeavor to run a 50-miler with not enough training.
View from the trail at Mile10.

We jockeyed back and forth with the other runners for a while, and settled into a good pace (for under-trained fools). The first 28.8 mile out-and-back was fairly uneventful, other than me getting stung by a hornet on my shin. Sophia had some trouble between miles 25 to 28. Once she figured-out that she was okay and that the pain in her legs wasn’t out of the ordinary, she was fine. Our fine crew (Matt) procured some Advil at the main aid station for us, and she had no more trouble during the rest of the race. I, on the other hand, would have a little bit of trouble later on.
Watch Sophia Run: Video

Matt gets us some Advil. Photo by Laurie Euler.

By the way, the race course this year had changed, due to a new law. No longer would we run up Mount Hood to Timberline Lodge, and then run back on a simple out-and-back. Instead, there were two out-and-backs. We would run 14.4 miles north, turn-around, then run back through the starting area. From there we would do a southern out-and-back. We were all disappointed about running the course sans Mount Hood, but what the heck…we were there to run. And this course proved to be more challenging.

Debbie Webster and Julie Toft at mile 40. Photo by Laurie Euler

We hit the south turn-around point in decent time. We had a good downhill, followed by the toughest climb of the day. At about mile 42, I became overheated and nauseous. Sophia was having no trouble at all; she was still maintaining her great uphill run/walk method, and I was falling behind. She came back for me, and we took an easier pace up the hill.

We reached the last aid station at mile 44 or so, and I got a Tums from another runner. The second that I chewed it…I spewed it! It was like a chemical reaction. The alkaline Tums hitting my acid-filled stomach and presto: I puked foam for 5 minutes!
An aid station worker kept trying to talk me into quitting and taking a ride back to the finish line.

I wouldn’t hear of it. And Sophia said, “Are you kidding? This is Bad Ben. He’ll finish this race.” And besides, puking was the best thing that had happened to me for 4 miles. I felt much better. Sophia filled my two water bottles with ice and water, and we took off down the trail at a decent trot.

The long downhill was fine. But pulling a rookie mistake, and following 3 runners onto a road wasn’t fine. We had taken a wrong turn. Not good. More mileage. At this point, the wind went out of my sails. We ended up walking much of the final 2 to 3 miles.

At Mile 40 Aid Station. It’s no fair…first-time 50-miler (Sophia) looks great, and Nick and I look like we’re toasted!

Sophia and I finished the race holding hands. The "rookie" (Sophia) ended up being the strong one at the end of the race, and we were more of a couple with each mile covered. Were we foolish to attempt this race with our level of training? No, I don’t think so. We are a team. Because: one plus one equals seven, with the two of us.

Happy trails,
Bad Ben

Some other "personal performance" and race notes:

For the first time, I wore the most current edition of the Mizuno Wave Ascend 4 (trail running shoe) for a distance over 50 kilometers. I had absolutely no foot issues, including my arches, (which have been previously plagued by PF).

Mizuno Wave Trail Ascend 4

Inside the shoes, I wore a thin pair of Tetra Toe Socks, and over those, some thin Balga socks. I never changed shoes or socks, and didn’t lube or tape my feet. I didn't get any blisters or hot spots, while on this hot-temperature run. My feet felt fine after the race too, and were not beaten-up in the slightest.
I can’t wait to try the new Mizuno Wave Cabrakan trail shoe, available in September. It will have more rock protection with an extended, flexible rock plate. Here’s a video preview. Sophia has been wearing an advanced test model. They performed well during the race. She has quite a few miles on them, and still loves them. (They are a light blue color, in the women's shoe).

Preview of the Women's Cabrakan

For all 50 miles of the course, I wore a Trail Nerds SweatVac tee-shirt (with sublimated printing). This worked well in the dry heat of an Oregon Summer day. I also wore the new 2010 model of Mizuno Kaze shorts (with a 9" inseam). They stayed dry for the whole run, and I had no chafing issues at all. On top of everything was my SweatVac hat, which always works well to keep me cool and dry.

Concerning my puking issue: My body just can't handle more than 30 miles of using HEED as a sports drink. My stomach goes completely acid with that product, for some reason. I've tried it before on 100-milers, and 30 miles was all that I could take of this drink. I'll remember to bring my own Clip2 drink next time, for any race that's over the 50K distance. I know (from ten years of experience) that I'm good for at least 100 miles of (non-issue) Clip2 consumption.

Race Management:
Other than a few missing markers at trail intersections and roadways, the course was marked okay for a "mountain state" run. The aid stations have improved steadily over the past 4 years, and are now well-stocked and supported by knowledgeable ultrarunning staff. It was fun running in this race, (except for the 5 miles of dirt road, this year). Yep...I'd do it again.

Nick- Cooling off after the race, in a mountain stream. Better than an ice bath!

Going Home!

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