Wednesday, September 10, 2014

I survived my first ultra! ~ MRTR 50k race report




Life lesson learned:
If anything, this race proved to me that unconventional training can still lead to a lot of fun, if I am willing to have a good attitude and be realistic about things.

I chose McKenzie River Trail Run 50k as my first ultra because it is close to home and it looked like an "easy" race for a newbie. If an ultra can be "easy".. 
  
The course is net downhill, and has a lot of fun rolling action through trees, by waterfalls, and over log bridges. The bulk of the race is more technical than I expected and stayed surprisingly that way until the last 10k. It is very gentle in regards to elevation gains, though.

A little background
Leading up to the event, I had no idea if my body was healed or not from an injury (hip flexor strain or tendonitis? from a very hilly 23 mi trail run 2 weeks prior). Things were looking positive, but my last run before the event was only 3 miles, 6 days before the race! Would I be healthy to do this? I had no idea.

My plan was to run conservatively to begin with. Any outcome was possible, but I knew I had better give myself the best shot possible at just completing 31 miles... In my experience it doesn't usually get less painful as you run.

Pre-race
The night before the race, my parents were gracious enough to let me stay at their place in Eugene (THANKS MOM AND DAD!) while my husband took care of the boys at home.  It was a little farther from Blue River than I realized, but my dad drove up following me in my car to work out the point to point shuttle. 

We left a little after 5 am, and made a stop at the coffee drive-through. Then we drove about an hour and 15 min to drop my car off at the McKenzie River Ranger Station (finish line area). About 20 minutes later we arrived at the race start, I said good bye to my dad,  and I picked up my packet with just a few minutes to arrange my drop bag and get to the start.

The lines to the porta-potties were busy! But, it was a non-issue for me at that point. I scanned the group of wiry and well-geared people at the start, and located my running partners, Kristen and Stacie. They were doing their pre-race routines. I wished I had a little more time to warm up and stretch a bit, but figured I could do so later if I needed to. (The joys of a no-pressure race!)



 Fast people up front for a 54F start! It would be 87F at the finish.

After a few words about heat, hydration and being smart, the race started.
In the first mile there was quite a scramble as runners jostled for positions to avoid being bottle-necked on single track. Unlike other races I have participated in, I moved out of the way!! ☺

There was a woman in cheetah-print gaiters walking all the uphills in that first mile. She seemed like she might be experienced, so I got in behind her and started talking to her. It seems this "walking the beginning through the technical sections (i.e. sharp lava rocks)" got her some decent race times, (5- 5.5 hours) the last 3 times, so I stayed with her, letting people pass us on the left.


Karen Louise was my angel in the early stage of the race! 
(This section of pavement was very short- less than a mile)

Near mile three I got stung 6 times by yellow jackets. So did several other people, though. And in an odd way, it gave us something to pass the time talking about. (Something's better than nothing!) Another mile later, I saw Stacie, one of my running partners, as we ran past each other. She took a more confident start and had maybe a mile lead on me already. It was good to see her face!

When Karen Louise fell on the lava (like many other runners), and cut her hand, her race changed instantly. We had to part ways at the first aid station so she could get bandaged up, which takes maybe 15 minutes. Given the choice, I would prefer bee stings over falling on lava!

It must have been around mile 10 that I started to feel confident my hip was going to be OK. Still, I wanted to stick to my plan and run cautiously. With 20 miles left to go, I didn't think it was safe to push things. I stopped at the second aid station (Carmen Reservoir 11.2 mi) and a lovely young girl volunteer refilled one of my bottles with Gu Brew. I began to run more of the uphills, but I still kept the whole first 16 miles very easy. 

Most of the route up to this point had been a mix of dirt path and/or lava. There were plenty of roots, and even the more "runnable" sections required focus to keep from tripping. 


Some of the sections of trail that were easier to run.





Between the second and third aid stations, I started to take in a few solids in the form of few pickle slices I had packed in a baggie, which tasted great, but smelled like garlic!

And then at the Trail Bridge (mile 16.7) aid station, I ate some salt and vinegar chips (Lays Stackers, which are addictive and FANTASTIC), and watermelon slices I had in my drop bag. There was no need for me to pack these treats, because this aid station was fully stocked!! I regret not taking photos of it all. However, this was a long stop for me, and I was no longer trying take any photos at this point.

My foot was a little sore from a mysterious injury months ago, so while at Trail Bridge, I put a pair of OTC arch supports inside my Lone Peak2's. This was a last minute decision. I love my Altra Lone Peak2 shoes for their durability and traction, as well as toe space. I thought making a change like the inserts would work like switching shoes to prevent hot spots, and give my super-high arches some assistance.  The arch supports lifted me up and made me a little unstable. Then I turned my ankle (to the outside) and felt it sharp in my foot where it's been hurting... I think I know how I got hurt 11 weeks ago (Aha moment!!) Eventually my foot calmed down and I was able to start running faster for the last 15 miles. 


Running with pickles still in my pack and a goofy grin that says, "I don't care how slow I am. I'm running!"
Photo used with permission, Thanks to Thomas Moser Photography 


I don't even remember the 4th aid station at Deer Creek (mile 21.8) I think I just ran through it.

The best part about this race, besides just enjoying my day and taking in the scenery, had to be the fact that I was running a faster second half. I had forgotten how GOOD it feels to reel people in during the end of a long race. I made my A goal!

When I got to the last aid station, Buck Bridge (mile 25.1), I realized I might be able to beat 6 hours. I had 10k left to run, and about an hour to do it in. Normally that wouldn't be a problem, except I had ran 25 miles already! 

After gulping down a couple of cups of Coke (the best thing ever at the end of a long race!), I decided I would make every effort to run faster. At what pace? I have no idea. Probably my fastest feeling 10 minute miles ever!
  
My watch must have gotten bumped, because it got stuck at 5:29:27 while running in this last stretch, and had lost the signal long before that. When I figured out my watch was stopped I could only guess how far I had left to run. 

Though I was still passing runners, (and cyclists going the other direction), there was a woman, a beautiful masters runner, and we were staying rather close together. It was her second 50k and she really wanted to beat 6 hours. But she wanted me in front and let me pace her ☺.  After a bit I slowed for a minute on an uphill and let her pass me. It's one of the few times I was happy to have someone pass at the end of the race. After I regained my strength from the break, I picked things up and made it my mission to keep her in sight.

The finish line was a tease!
There were multiple small signs leading up to it, and i just wanted to see the end. 

One sign read "You paid for this?" and another said "almost there!" but there were at least 2 more signs before I saw the finish line! 

Finally, I heard the shouts and was able to cross the line in 5:57:32. Not bad for walking and taking pictures in the first half! Plenty of room to improve there, but I was grateful to be done with the longest run of my life.

***
After the race
First I looked for an easy way down to the river. But there was none! Then I walked to the car, feeling a bit queasy for running hard at the end, and found some warm (unopened) Chobani yogurt and ate it. 
Somehow that helped a bit. 

I found my river spot after a short drive, and sat in the COLDEST water I have ever been in (for about 30 seconds)!

A little while later I arrived at St. Benedict's Lodge for a shower, and ate everything I could fit on a plate!





Post race lunch: Chicken, black beans, chips, cilantro, lettuce, hot sauce, lime, sour cream, salsa, chips, soda- As much as I wanted! 
My appetite came back quickly. (There were also tortillas and rice, but I didn't get any)


Souvenirs
Runners also received long-sleeve hooded T-shirts with a nice design, and a bottle of McKenzie River Red wine. Since I don't drink, I gave the wine to my mom. 


I saw some items on the table and decided to purchase them ~ 2008 MRTR gaiters! Score!



***

Would I Recommend this race?
Resoundingly, YES! (unless you are allergic to bees/yellow jackets/hornets)
The entire race was well-organized, email reminders were sent out, as well as posts made in the Facebook page. Aid stations were well stocked (at least at the middle of the pack) with drink and also S-caps, first aid, and lots of food at the later stations. For $65, this is a great deal!

If you are interested in MRTR, join the facebook group or go to ultrasignup.com and add it to the watch list. The race is capped at 200 and there is a lottery in the spring to enter.
Also, prepare to get lodging near the race, or camp, unless you want to drive 90 minutes.

Fueling:
I think I did pretty well!
I mostly survived on gels, water and Gu Brew. I drank early on. And I would guess I drank about 48 oz. (The cool morning and shade helped with that). I took a gel at every aid station, or thereabouts (there were 5), and took one S cap (salts) at the first aid station. I didn't realize I was getting sloshy until I finished, so next time I'll try to eat a bar early.

Faith stuff:
I did a fair amount of praying while I ran. I find that prayer helps me to disconnect from thinking too much about running, but likewise, running helps me to focus and pray. 

If you requested prayer from me, you got it by name! If I got your comment late, you have still been prayed for, just during my recovery time ☺ I also felt covered in prayer and greatly appreciate those who were praying for me. Thank you, if that was you! God definitely answered prayer for my hip!


Damage:
Overall, I was very pleased at how both my feet and legs held up. The main fatigue I had was in my upper glutes, which felt similar to when I run long after not running long in many weeks. I credit the fact that my legs held up so well to a few things: a) I walked early and often.. even a little on the uphills near the end,  b) I took the time off to heal my hip flexor, but c) I did the longer training runs on trails, and  d) God's healing power urged on by friends.

Training:
I trained very little for this race, except the long run.
Looking back over my scattered log, I'm amazed at how little I actually ran in the last 2 months. Perhaps if I had stayed away from speed work earlier on in my training (4 months out) I might have had a much bigger mileage base. But then again, it would have been hard to run according to my original plan, even if I was uninjured, since my hubby was gone more than half the time this summer.

I may never be a speedy ultra runner. 
There certainly is room for me to improve in the 50k. (Lots.)
But, I had a heck of a time learning the ropes!

And yes...
I'm already looking at tackling another one! ☺.



*****

I ran this race, and will be running the rest in 2014 to raise funds for CDH awareness. Generous readers may donate to the cause -> HERE 

*For another take on MRTR go read Sassy Molassy 

55 comments:

  1. It sounds like the 50K I ran - a few bumps along the way, but overall, a lot of fun. Congrats on running your first 50K in under 6 hours!

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    1. Thanks Tina!! Feel free to link your race report here. I remember reading it and looked at your blog today. 39 (?) miles for a wrong turn. That would have reduced me to tears!!! Thanks for commenting!

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    2. Here's the link to my 39 mile 50K! No tears, but I was so glad to cross that finish line! http://bit.ly/1wgUr1V

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  2. I was waiting to hear your recap! Sounds like you really killed it for your first ultra, especially coming in under 6 hours. Way to make a crazy training cycle work out! I guess you learned what works for your feet as far as arch support goes - I used Superfeet for a hot second last year and unfortunately they always cut into my arch. I was trying to use a soft shoe but increase support in the arch, but I ended up switching to a firmer shoe for awhile instead.

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    1. You are generous with your "killed it"s :D
      I followed a plan. It worked. I'm happy!
      Interesting about the superfeet and the firm shoes. I'm going to have to do a little research on that.

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  3. Raina you OWNED this race! I'm so happy your hip cooperated and woot for a negative split! Congrats on a great ultra!

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    1. Thanks Marcia! I am glad the hip cooperated too :)

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  4. Congrats, sounds like a great debut! Nice work out there.

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  5. Congrats on finishing your first 50k! I am training for my first 50 too and this got me excited! I will say, I am kind of jealous you chose a course that was "gentle" on the elevation gain - I failed to take that into consideration when signing up for my first 50k, and I am a little (a lot) petrified now that I know what I signed up for!

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    1. Don't concern yourself to much on the topography! You will be fine. Just remember that it's perfectly acceptable to walk up hills in an ultra event and it will give you strength to finish the race strong (which is what you want!). If I can do it, you can do it! I'm tossing around the idea of a much harder course now.

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  6. Addictive little buggers those 50k trail races are, eh? :)

    You did fantastic and I loved your whole disposition on how to tackle it. Sometimes, races aren't about a specific time on the clock - they're about being an intrinsic part of nature. Mission accomplished! Very happy for you!

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    1. They sure are! Now I know why you keep signing up for these things, Jill! :)

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  7. I've never wanted to complete a 50K- until now that I read your recap! I was so engrossed with your journey, I felt the bee stings. Congratulations my friend on this FANTASTIC achievement.

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    1. Oops! I didn't mean for you to get those :))
      I hope you will really consider it, Luisa. It is an amazing experience, and there is no need to pass through a marathon first, either. You will love it!

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  8. So great to read this report. It sounds like a fantastic race - beautiful and well organised, not too many people, perfect really! Also - in the UK a lot of these races have navigation but I'm guessing (as I didn't see a compass around your neck) that this wasn't necessary? Even better! I'm keen to run an ultra next as well but haven't yet picked an event.

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    1. Thanks so much, Petra! I've been reading several race reports from the UK on Google+ and have noticed the same thing. It seems that runners there need to be good with maps and can often "choose their own adventure" , but often they end up on the most easily traveled path because it emerges as obvious with the larger groups running together. Still, I would be wary, as my compass skills are pretty rusty! I'd love to know which ones you are looking at. :)

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  9. Wow, congrats, Raina! You're amazing :) .

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  10. Enjoyed reading that Raina - great report. You did well - congratulations! Looks like a brilliant course - love single-track technical runs and not so much climbing. Salt & vinegar chips and coke got me through my 6 foot track ultras - great tip! Recover well and take care with the foot and hip.

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    1. You've done ultras on a track? You're a different breed of crazy, Ewen! Thanks for the well wishes. Things are looking good post race :)

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    2. No! I'm not that crazy ;) The Six Foot Track 45k is called that because most of the track is 6' wide. It still has about 10k of single-track trails though. http://sixfoot.com/

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  11. Great job Raina! What a beautiful course! I am so jealous that you have temps in the 50s. :)

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    1. Thanks E! We are spoiled here in the PNW. It's been in the 40s most mornings recently. That was a warm day! :D

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  12. Awesome job Raina!!!! What a huge accomplishment and I love your race strategy. Nice work.

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    1. Thanks Jodi!! YOU could do this. YOU would rock a 50k! I would love to see you do one :))

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  13. What a great recap. I love reading the happiness seeping through your words. You shared some low-ish moments, during your training. The fact that you made it to the start line AND completed a STRONG ultra makes it all worthwhile.
    You inspire me every time you post, Raina. Thank you for taking the time to share this with us.

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    1. Thank you , sweet lady! Your comment just made my year.

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  14. Congrats on your first ultra! I knew you could do it all along. And with a solid training cycle you should easily get under 5.5 hours. And I am sure you'll be hitting a 50-miler someday soon. But one thing at a time, right?! I am very proud of you, Raina! You did good! And those long races on the trails do bring us closer to God, in my opinion. Now, I need to get back on that horse, myself!

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    1. Thanks John! My training partner got a 5:10. I don't think she walked any of it though-- and I think I've been holding her back! Haha. I don't know about 50 miles.. 25 mi is a long way to walk! :))
      Sure good to hear from you. I'm curious to see what you've been doing since wser!

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  15. Awesome job Raina! That's crazy there were so many bees on the course. Glad you weren't allergic to them!

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    1. I'm glad too! It's like I came through right after they were stirred up. They clung on to my socks and went in for the kill!!
      Thank goodness the kind girl behind me was not afraid to scrape them off my leg and back.

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  16. Oh Congratulations!! Your pictures are beautiful. It always blows me away how scenic Oregon is. I so want to come vacation there!

    So happy that you are healed up and had a successful race. Here's to many, many more!

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    1. Thanks a lot Kate! You should come out to Oregon next year about this time!! :)

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  17. Congrats Raina!!! You did awesome and the pics are beautiful! Great job my friend. :)

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  18. Awesome race Raina! You had a great attitude towards your first 50k for sure. Loved all pictures too.

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    1. It's funny how much of a difference attitude can make! Thanks for reading, Mike.

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  19. Congrats- what a great race and report! Happy for you.

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    1. Thanks!! I am still praying for you. ♥♥

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  20. You write the very best race recaps Raina!! You make me want to do this!! I'm laughing because to any normal non runner person, this has to sound like something out of Hunger Games...bees, lava...ha ha. I almost just want to wait and have this be my first ultra! What do you know about Mac Donald Forest? Can we get together for a trail run somewhere between here and there? I'd love to see you and see some of the beautiful trails in Oregon that I haven't discovered. I'm excited to be running in something lush and less dry for a change up here and there. Bend is gorgeous...but definitely a different kind of beauty when it comes to trails. dusty, dry, and lots of coniferous trees. Your pictures are always the best too Raina. I'm so glad I finally got here. I want to connect soon.

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    1. I am happy you are back! I researched this race you are looking at, and it would probably make every other race you ever do seem quite a bit easier- which is not necessarily a bad thing (now that I am looking at doing another one!).
      From the McDonald Forest 50k website: " The trail up and down the slopes was lined with trees providing handholds for hoisting oneself upward and breaking one’s fall when hurtling down, " Sounds FUN to me!
      So.. yes! We need to meet and have a day of running and chatting. I think the McKenzie river trail is actually about 1/2 way for each of us, or maybe just a bit shorter for you? :)

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  21. Congratulations on your good race. The area and race looks amazing. I think you chose the perfect race for your first 50k.

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    1. Thanks David!! I think you are right.. but now I might ave to wait a full year to PR, because it's such a great course. :)

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  22. Clap, clap, clap!! great report, attitude, and effort! I think you may be onto something. That and Greek yogurt has magical powers! ;)

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    1. Thanks a lot, Adrienne! You are the queen of positive thinking :)

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  23. Awesome race, girl! You obviously ran a VERY smart race. I like your reflections, too. I also pray when I run. How are you recovering? You pics are awesome, too, btw. So… what's next???? (Hahaha, here's me, always looking for the next running project.)

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    1. Thanks , R! I'm recovering OK, seemed to come back more easily than from Eugene.
      Weighing out some plans and possibilities. I'd love to do another 50k. Won't be training for Boston, if you want to send that little girl to me on Patriot's day :)

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  24. Congrats! Loved the report and the pics. Plotting for my 2nd ultra next year...

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  25. where did you get the cool gear for this race?

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  26. You are amazing! I love your attitude & determination Raina!

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  27. Awesome job on the race, sounds like it went perfect overall! Though getting stung 6 times by yellowjackets ugh lol

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  28. Congrats on a great race! And sorry about the yellow jacket stings...ouch!

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  29. THIS is awesome!! Way to own it!! you rock. Mayyyyybe i should try a 50k. maybe. and the wasps? gawd if that happened to me i would HAVE to have meds. yikes!!! you are a BADASS to be sure! ANd you look so good doin it!

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