Sunday, May 15, 2011

McDonald Forest 50k Trail Run Review!


-Goodbye toenail, it's been nice knowing you.
-It's nothing personal quads, I still love you.
-His father was a mudder, his mother was a mudder. His mother was a mudder? What did I just tell you?!

OK, the Mac 50. Wow. I'm so sore I can barely sit here and type. I should be in a tub full of warm water and crushed ibuprofen. But I care too much. The R's readers come first!

Well, I arrived at the start, the Forestry Cabin at Peavy Arboretum, just before 7:00, so I got to see the early starters. You could take an hour head start if you didn't care about your time. That's probably where I should have been, but I wanted the pomp and celebration of the regular start. Anyway, there were more people at the early start then I thought there would be - probably around 50, including the bride. The groom took the regular 8:00 start. Yes, you heard me right: the bride and groom. Read about it right here.

So after the early starters took off, I just hung around in the Forestry Cabin with the rest of the Trailers and waited for the start. Yes, Max King was there. He always looks normal-sized on the magazine covers, but seeing him in person made it clear that he has one evolutionary advantage over me in the sport of running - he's tiny. I could pick him up and carry him around like a suitcase!

At about five minutes before the start, runners started mingling, loosely, around the start area. Definitely a trail race. Definitely an ultra. Nobody crowding the start line and bouncing up and down waiting for the gun. It's just a different crowd.

The bell rang and we were off. I started in the back of the back. I didn't want to be anyway near the front of the crowd - or the middle for that matter. Any minute I went too fast in this one would be a minute I paid the price toward the end, I knew that. It went pretty well to start. You'd think they'd give us a little chance to get our legs under us before the hills started, right? Yeah, think again.

By mile three, we were headed up. And it wouldn't stop for the next 28 miles. This course goes up or down. It never has a flat section. Never.

The first aid station, at Lewisburg Saddle, came up pretty quickly, about seven miles in. I had already downed one GU on the way, and I grabbed a quick Heed and a few pretzels at the stop. And got the water bottle refilled. Don't forget about that. It will come back into the story later.

Between Aid Station #1 and Aid Station #3, at Dimple Hill, we went through some serious mud. There were a number of sections where you had to slow to a mincing jog just to stay on your feet. I slipped one time and would have been flat on my back in a mud pit but caught myself with a hand. A guy passed me on a particularly muddy single track trail, then I passed him back up about five minutes later as he tried to dig his shoe out of a mud hole. It had been sucked right off his foot as he tried to run through it. It's been a wet Spring and it showed in this section.

So we hit Aid Station #3, Dimple Hill, after an absolutely grueling, slow climb. And man, it was festive up there! The wedding was just wrapping up and the crowd was pretty big. The bride and groom must love "Fletch," as there were numerous signs with quotes from the movie around the aid station. My favorite, "Yes, charge the whole thing to Mr. Underhill." Runner up: "Sure, give me a Bloody Mary, a steak sandwich...and a steak sandwich." I grabbed what was quickly becoming my favorite aid station pick-me-up: Coke and Oreos! Probably the first full-strength Coke I've had in literally 20 years, but man, that sugar rush hit the spot. The pretzels started getting drier and drier at every aid stop and I couldn't do them after the third stop. I was drinking half of my water bottle trying to choke them down. I needed salt, but not that bad.

After Aid Station #3, we hit the longest downhill of the course, and it was welcome. As you can see on my pace chart, it was also the last time I had a sustained effort under ten minutes per mile. The combination of the food and drink from the aid station and the downhill actually brought a second wind for a couple miles, but it was short lived.

Then we began the real race. After that nice downhill, we were just past 20 miles. Two-thirds down. About 10 miles to go. And my legs were just about done. I was really starting to struggle right around the 22-23 mile point, when we started going uphill again. Plus, right about there, the extremely steep downhills had finally come to roost on my big toe on my right foot. It was hurting on all the downhills, to the point where I started running really steep downhills with a weird sidestep move instead of running straight ahead like a normal human. Yeah, that doesn't affect your pace, right?

When I had been on the course for about five hours, I thought I still had a shot to bring it home under seven hours. A number of 12 minute miles would have done it, but my legs were just gone. At about six hours, I went into the "just get to the stinking finish line" mode.

As the final injury inflicted upon me by the Mac 50 course, about a mile from the finish line, I got a rock in my shoe. It was tiny, but sharp, and of course, it went directly to the toe, where it jabbed me on every step! I hadn't taken my shoes off for rocks or blisters or any other reason the entire course - except for the one big toe, the Nikes were performing admirably. I decided just to tough it out and kept running, stopping for a second a few times to try to tap my shoe to get the rock back to my heel. Nope. It kept coming right back and jabbing me in the toe. Finally, less than a half mile from the finish, I just had to stop and get it out - I couldn't take it any more. While I sat on the log and took off my shoe, two people passed me. Ugh. Not that I was going for any awards here, but come on!

Got the shoe back on and ran through the finish line. I've truly never been happier to finish a race. I almost teared up. No, really. That was a tough haul. And all for EPIC. That kind of race isn't for me. I think I could be a big fan of the trail run, but not the 50k trail run with 6700 feet of elevation and miles of mud. That was brutal.

Max King, of course, ran the stinking thing in under four hours for a new course record. Wow. Read about it here.

Oh, the water bottle. Hey, I don't come from the ultra running school, and I freely admit that I don't have a lot of experience with it, but holy crap, does your right shoulder always hurt like hell from carrying a water bottle for 31 miles or is it just me?

Go ahead and check the results right here. Notice that stud in 159th place. Boom baby!

Stay tuned this week to see my playlist that totally carried me through 31 miles and to see how the Nike+ system compares with the Garmin system (Yes, I used them both so I could compare).

Now, please join me in two sweet weeks of rest before EPIC rolls on Memorial Day with the HOTV Triathlon.


  1. Nice work completing the toughest race in Corvallis!

    I live in Corvallis and like to do a lot of the local races...what you're doing is pretty darn cool, but tough...there are a lot of local races.

    Here are a few others I didn't see on your schedule.

    Sat, May 21 Mad Scientist Run
    Mon, Jul 4 Red White & Blue 5K Fun Run
    Wed, Jul 27 3rd Annual Out to the Ballgame Run
    Sun, Sep 25 Corvallis Fall Festival Run
    Sun, Oct 9 Great Pumpkin Fun Run
    Sun, Oct 16 Mighty Oaks Acorn Run
    Sun, Oct 30 McDonald Forest 15K
    Thu, Nov 24 OAC 5K Turkey Trot

    Good luck!

  2. Thanks Mike. I know I'm missing a few on the list - I'll update it soon. That Mad Scientist run sort of came out of nowhere! I just spotted that one yesterday.

    Thanks for the support.