Monday, September 27, 2010

Flagline 50k: High Alpine Splendor

Right now I am in Bend, Oregon.  I've been in the area since last Friday.  Saturday I ran in the Flagline 50k, that started and finished at Mt. Bachelor ski area, located about 20 miles outside of Bend.  The race consisted of a triple figure eight-ish style loop.  It was the first time for a race on this course.  Bend is home to a endless bounty of singletrack trails, fully utilized by local mountain bikers and runners.
Mt. Bachelor Ski Area
I have run this distance in a race once previously, three years ago, near Lake Tahoe.  While I haven't been running huge distances the last two months, I felt prepared for the challenge.  I was also excited for the opportunity to get on a trail and go, with no other concerns, a luxury races afford their participants.  Quite an indulgent way to punish for your body.

My biggest concern about the distance was my feet.  Since spring I have been trying to adapt to minimal footwear not only while running, but in general.  I have been astounded by how fast my feet have been adjusting, but was a bit worried about going all out for such a long distance.  I wavered on whether or not to wear socks, as I have not been doing so for about two months.  I'm loving the feeling of not wearing them, but was worried that my feet wouldn't be able to handle the distance.  It turns out this was a very legitimate concern.

I stashed a pair of socks in a drop bag that would be at an aid station at mile 17ish and then again at 24ish.  I figured that I have gone on enough 10-15 mile-ish runs without socks that I wouldn't notice any damage until at least there.  I was so wrong.  The first eight miles were a slightly downhill on a less-than-a-road-but-more- than-a-singletrack stretch.  I found myself running right down a mountain biking trench and landing on the inside of my feet.  I could tell I was ripping the hell out of the inside of both feet.  Knowing I had socks and foot repair gear at mile 17 I tried to ignore it and just cruise.

This wasn't hard.  The first aid station was eight miles in.  After passing through and filling up my water, I glanced at my watch.  Exactly one hour.  Uhh oh.  That is definitely way too fast for me for the first eight of thirty miles.  I had no trouble slowing it down as we turned onto some definite singletrack that went up and down hills.  It was a really sweet section, but I was struggling a bit.  I just felt lethargic on the uphills and couldn't open it up on the downhills, because my feet were so tore up. Quite a few guys passed me on this section, most I never saw again.

Somewhere before the aid station at mile 15, I felt a whole lot better and settled into a good pace.  Trading places back and forth with a few guys that I stuck with until I got to my drop back at mile 17 and then sat down to doctor me feet.  I probably got them all fixed up in under five minutes.  Those fine motor skills are tough after 17 miles.  Untying my triple knots and unwrapping band-aids was tricky.  The kind aid station people were willing to help, but I thought I could do it faster.

All fixed up, I shot out of the aid station with half a sandwich (almond butter on rice bread) I had in a drop bag and ate it as I cruised down a dirt road.  This was another sweet downhill section and I was able to run much better with my feet fixed.  The sandwich didn't sit well, though, and I decided to stick to gels the rest of the time.  Three and a half (supposedly) miles down the road I turned onto a singletrack that went down a bit further before climbing back up to the same aid station I was just at.  This was another super-sweet section of trail.  I felt pretty good and hiked the uphills to catch my breath.  There were many mountain bikers everywhere cheering us on and trading places with us on the trail.

I passed back through the aid station at 24-ish then had a really good stretch of running on a gently rolling dirt road.  I passed through the last couple of aid stations feeling good and just trying to keep it going.  I felt good and was able to run most of it from there on out.  After passing some volunteers who claimed I only had three miles left, I noticed I was at just about 5 hours in and attempted to pick it up for the relatively flat finish.  Somewhere in there I wiped out, luckily not hurting myself.  What I guessed to be the second to last mile seemed to drag forever, but I finally hit the road for the last mile.  I dread the pavement, but I felt great after a minute on it and was able to push it in hard, passing a dude halfway to the finish line.
The finish line being packed up
I finished in 5:27:46.  I was happy enough with that.  I don't have much to compare it to.  I was an hour and 20 minutes behind the winner.  An hour and 10 minutes behind the first women.  But, there were some badasses there, so I can't complain.  And it was fun.  I love hanging in the woods for hours at a time, and being pushed to go as fast as I can only doubles my pleasure.

I am most impressed with how fast I have recovered...except my feet.  They are messed up.  I think they will be fine for this weekend, but I really want to run on all these awesome trails around here before them.  I really like Bend.  I am sure I will live here sometime.  Maybe this winter.  We'll see.
Home for a night, just outside of Bend
Now, I am looking forward to this weekend.  I plan to be on Orcas Island by Thursday night.  The Triple Ripple Trail Festival gets started Friday night, with the first race Saturday morning.  I'm pumped.  I think it is going to be so much fun.  It has been raining there a lot, but the forecast is looking good for this weekend.  As I've never been to Orcas Island, I know with just visiting there, I am in for a treat.

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