Last Friday was a long, long travel day. My friend Sarah dropped me off up in Pittsburgh at the crack of dawn ... then it's a flight to Denver ... then it's a mind-numbing layover people watching and grading stat homework I brought along ... then it's a flight to Spokane .... rent a car ... now drive 6 hours west through pelting Cascades rain ... hunt down a motel and some dinner ... lay out all my racing crap for the next morning ... then hope (and I do mean hope) to get a few hours of sleep. In other words, my race preparation was exactly the opposite of how like the day before a race to go (sigh).
In any case, I'll cut right to the chase. The next day, I ran about as beautiful a 50K course as I had ever run. If any runners out there ever want to treat themselves to a real adventure, then run this race. You won't regret your decision. The first 6 miles are gentle crushed gravel that roll along quite nicely. Then the bomb drops. You climb up through a quintessential Pacific Northwest forest with huge pine trees so covered with moss and lichens that you can hardly make out the bark. The forest floor was blanketed by ferns. Since there had been so much rain the day before, the trail was extremely muddy. Pour in rocks and tree roots, and you've got yourself one damn fine trail run -YAHOO!
|Hurtling down Chuckanut Ridge.|
|Elevation profile of the course; 10,200 elevation differential.|
One thing that I am constantly having to work on is to be an emotionally mature runner. This race presented an opportunity for me to work on those sorts of things. I decided, regardless of how I felt, that I was going to set my watch and eat 100 calories of something every half-hour. Guess what? No bonk -- surprise! I monitored my Garmin 310 and watched my pacing so that I didn't blow my wad and go out too fast. My aid station passthroughs were limited to 15 second dine-and-dashes. And rather than chase after all those young bucks who insisted on sprinting up the hills in the early stages of the race, I couldn't help but notice I passed many of them many miles later after patiently running my own race.
Patience. What an important quality to have in races ... and in life. Run your own race, don't worry about what is going on around you, and focus on the moment you have because things can so quickly turn on a dime in an ultra. Patience.
A big shout out needs to go to Beth Byron, coach and friend. While I may curse her name from time to time at 6:30 AM a few days of the week, I was gleefully singing her praises for every 1-Leg Bench Squat she has made me do as I marched right up "Chinscraper" with no problems.
After the race, I had the opportunity to visit with some old friends over in eastern Washington for several days. It was good to "sharpen the saw", as they say, and to see what they've been up to. My friend Kurt Holland, his wife Ellen, and their three kids live over near Cheney; they have much to be thankful for. The day following the race, after a breakfast of farm-fresh eggs and a tour of his beautiful property, Kurt and I got to go on a nice run on the Columbia Plateau Trail over near the Turnbull Wildlife Refuge where we had an encounter with a moose.
Frankly, while I love to travel, I also love to come back home to my "base camp", renewed and rejuvenated. As I have grown older and wiser, I really do value my alone time ... a quiet evening with a good book, picking some guitar, or just grabbing a half-hour of Frontline on television. Balance is just as important as Patience. I am glad to be back home, getting after some research, and continuing my training for the next adventure :-)