McKenzie River 50k
Three short weeks after Where’s Waldo, I found myself around a campfire near the start line for the McKenzie River Trail 50k. It was the night before the race and it was fun exchanging the normal jibes, but the fun story was the description of my latest bodily assault – the discovery of a fish tapeworm. Details are rather unsavory, so I will withhold specifics unless asked about. It was indeed from eating raw or undercooked fish, most likely (in my mind) from salmon. Friend Tommy Atkins asked me if I had named it, to which I replied “no, but my mom thinks I should”. After some moments of silence Dan “Tapeworm” Olmstead said “I think you should name it Dan-O”. And thus, my tapeworm was christened Dan-O.
I slept well enough and woke to a promising day of clear skies and mild temperatures. Holding the course record of 3:58, naturally I wanted to run at least that fast, but I didn’t particularly rest up for a fast day, as I had a marathon coming up in 3 weeks that was a priority. However, I didn’t want Craig to reach his goal – which was to beat me. He didn’t feel as if he was in sub-4:00 shape, so it could turn out to be a good race.
The start was moved this year, and an extra distance in the out and back section to make up for some course obstacles. After a good warm up we were lined up and set off on our merry way. The new start gave ample time to spread out before reaching the single track. Craig and I fell into a good pace together, and he fell in behind when we hit the trail. I was feeling pretty good and felt Craig slowly losing ground. By the time we reached Clear Lake I was fairly isolated. I could hear voices behind me and see no one ahead. I continued trying to put distance between me and the voices. Reaching the out and back section of the trail, I began seeing the early starters, and it was fun exchanging encouragements. At aid station one, I handed Tommy and gel and asked him to open it for me for when I came back through. I ran on into the extended out and back section which included a significant climb, finally seeing the lead men, including Dan-O the man, not the worm.
Reaching the turn around I gratefully turned to barrel back down the hill. I soon saw Craig leading a train of runners up. He playfully bowed as did the rest of the gang, giving me a sense of “oh brother”. I encountered a few women, including Denise Bourosa, and Linda Samet, all looking strong. Back at the aid station, Tommy was ready with my gel. I choked it down on my way across the bridge, encountering a great deal of runners on their way out. The next section of trail was quite sweet going in the slightly downhill direction, and I focused on a good cruising pace. After getting to the end of the out and back, I was no longer greeted by runners, and there were no footsteps from behind. I kept checking my pace on the Garmin, disappointed, as usual, at the pace it was recording. I knew the trees and turns in the trail made for poor reception and I should just forget about it.
Through the cabins at Clear Lake and all the way to the west end of the lake, I ran alone, passing some cheerful early starters. Winding my way to the highway, I caught a glimpse of Win Goodbody’s blue jersey, and focused on keeping ahead. I crossed the highway again, and made my way to the next aid station. The volunteers were awesome, helpful, and even opened my gel for me, as even if I am not in a frenzy I find them difficult to get into. And while I know they are so great at keeping energy levels up, I never feel like I won a prize by finally getting the contents in my mouth.
I crossed the river, and hit the next technical section, feeling decent, and alone again. With the aid station locations changed a bit, as well as the start and finish, I didn’t really know how close I was to a sub-4:00 hour pace. The average on the Garmin was indicating that I was far enough off even with it’s stingy nature, I was pretty sure it wouldn’t happen today. The race was feeling a little uneventful, until I finally reached the Trail Bridge aid station, just as William Swint was catching me. I was surprised to see April and Phil – I was pretty sure they had started the race – helping at the aid station. They both had suffered some injury early on, and turned their race into a volunteer opportunity. This was fortunate for me, as I found out later. I left the aid station with William right behind me, and found out later that Craig was less than a minute back. April told him I had been there 15 minutes ago to see if she could deflate him a bit. Not that he believed her, but it was fun, none-the-less.
Mikio soon caught up to William and I, panting and exclaiming how hard he had to work to catch us. I offered the lead to William, but he declined, saying he just want to hang on as long as possible. I found myself running hard again, perhaps because I had someone pushing me, or maybe I was just having a good surge. At the next aid station, I fueled up and ran out, yelling to William and Mikio to hurry, but they did not respond. Alone again, I was getting anxious to get this over with. I was unsure but thought I had about 8 miles left. Finally at the last aid station, I caught one of the lead men, putting on a good death march. As soon as he saw me, he fell in behind. I asked him if he wanted to lead, and again, no, he just wanted to see if he could hang on. About that time, Mikio caught back up. I tried to run them both ragged, and we finally got to the last turn onto the gravel road close to the finish. I could see a climb ahead, and was pretty sure I could get out kicked by most male runners, so I knew I had to push as hard as I could from this point on. Mikio fell off pace, but my other companion answered by gradually pulling away ahead of me. Still wanting to keep ahead of Mikio, I did not let up. Cresting the small hill, I could see the finish and let my legs go as hard as they would. I crossed in 4:10 – not bad, not what I wanted time wise, but my times rarely are. It’s one thing I enjoy in racing – setting the bar high. It is so rare to hit my target time, that it is super sweet when I do!
And, yes, I beat Craig – let’s see what was his time? 4:19? And barely escaped being double chicked!