Thursday, June 16, 2011

Beacon Rock 50k Race Report


The Gorge with Beacon Rock

Last Sunday I headed out for the amazing Beacon Rock 50k.  I had been looking forward to the race for a while as it promised to deliver a great day of running up and down in the Columbia River gorge.  Deliver it did!

I met up with Trevor early in the morning, and we headed out together in his brand new sports car, once we took out the two kiddie seats.  Drove out on the Washington side and it was a nice change of scenery.  Amazing how close the gorge is.  We are so lucky!
Getting ready  (Photo Al Coyle)

The start area was in a big, open campground where it seemed a lot of people stayed and played for the weekend.  Cool idea, maybe next year...  We went through check-in and all the usual pre-race routines.  Before long we were standing in the sun listening to James Varner give the instructions on the markings (pay attention!) and running etiquette (no pushing people off cliffs!)--then we were off.

There is a small stretch of road before turning off and beginning the first big climb.  I settled in to a sustainable pace and let some faster guys go.  I had been battling general sickness fatigue and a wicked head cold for the last week, and was up most of the night with some serious sinus pain.  I wanted to rip my eyeball out and shove a shop-vac in there.  It wasn't too bad in my lungs, but I wanted to hold back a bit and just see how my breathing and legs would respond to the long climb.  I felt pretty darn flat, but ok, and by the top of the climb had caught up to all but a few guys.  
Top of first climb    (Photo Matt Hagen)

Smooth sailing down to the first aid station.  I blew through it, and in hindsight probably should have stopped.  I started with a bottle of Hammer Perpetuem to get some early calories in and was planning to be done with it and refill it here, then start on water with nuun.  However, I was only half way finished, and didn't want to pound it, so I grabbed a gel and just kept going.  At the least I should have dumped the bottle and filled it, because I was out of liquid long before getting to the aid station again...

After leaving the aid station, the descent continues for a bit and then you turn onto some really sweet trail.  This was my favorite section of the course.  It stops at a T, and you turn to start the climb up Hamilton Mt., the second big climb of the loop.  This is a good one.  Lots of steep, stepped switchbacks in and out of the trees.  It was a grind but I felt I ran most of it and made a good effort here.  This was probably the only stretch of the race where I felt anything like I was "on."
Part of the climb up Hamilton Mt.  (Photo Matt Hagen)
The ridge at the top  (Photo Matt Hagen)

At the top you go across a great ridge with some stunning views before dropping down the descending trail back to the only aid station other than the loop turnaround. (the course is kind of a figure 8 with the middle of the 8 being an aid station we would hit 4 times).  This trail got pretty technical at times.  I was hoping to hammer it a bit but really couldn't seem to find a rhythm.  This would be the story of the rest of my race.  

By the time I got to the aid station again I was starting to unravel a bit.  I wasn't doing great on my fueling, and I was a bit crampy in my chest from the erratic last few miles of sloppy downhilling.  Not sure if it was a form issue, the little bit of sickness, the lack of fuel, or what, but I did not feel strong.  I was seriously debating dropping at the turn.  Trevor soon caught me as I slowed to try and get some gels in me, and I tagged along with him to the turnaround.  We were in 3rd and 4th place.

Dad was waiting, which was a bit of a pick me up, and any thought of stopping was soon gone.  It was good to see him, and meant a lot to have him there.  Thanks Dad!  Those friendly faces and cheers of support, if only for a brief time, can work wonders...  He hasn't seen an ultra before and was having a good time (I hope) at the aid station.  I know they appreciated his help.  I grabbed some Gu and some S!-caps, filled the bottle and went out for round two.

This loop was, well, painful.  I let Trevor go on the climb and wouldn't see him again.  He ran a great race!  I  soon got passed by the eventual second place runner, and was starting to wonder how many people were going to go by.  I felt like I was hardly moving!  I made it to the top of the first climb and tried to take it a little easy so I could push the last remaining climb.  I managed to do that (no choice, as my chest was crampy again), but my push at the climb was little more than a winded fast hike.  Nonetheless, I made it to the top of Hamilton again having made a pass and back in 4th place.  

At the start of the trail to the ridge both quads seized like I have not felt before!  I was literally frozen and wondering how in the hell I was going to get 10 more feet, let alone the remaining 6 mile/2000ft descent to the finish.  I gobbled some salt pills and some water, massaged for a bit, and in moments my legs were working again.  That has never happened to me before.  I was really not doing a good job with stuff out there.

My legs held up, my pace got to an acceptable level for the rest of the run, and I held on.  It wasn't pretty, I felt like garbage, but I got it done.  5:01:10.  4th place.  Grabbed a seat, grabbed some food, chatted a bit, and hit the road.

Congrats to Trevor on a podium finish in his first race since P2P!  

Thanks James for putting on a stellar event!  Check out his other races!  And more pictures!

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