Forest Park 50k

I often wish that writing had events like running has races. Writing has deadlines. Ugh. Running has RACE DAY, when you wake up suddenly, eat your breakfast out of a sense of duty, line up all chilly and goose-bumped– and then you go out and do it. I haven’t found a way to feel that performance aspect in writing.

Yesterday Sanguinity and LeBoyfriend saw me off at the Forest Park 50k. I ended up walking 80 percent of the course because of knee pain, and finished only 15 minutes before the time limit. My time was something like 8 hours and 45 minutes. If it had been a training run on my own, I’m sure I would have packed it in long before 31 miles. But it was a training run (for July’s PCT 50-miler) and race day.

The time on my feet was valuable in itself, because I’ll be trundling along for 13 hours in July. I’ll just need to do it faster!

It was a lovely soft overcast day in the woods. I heard a pair of owls calling back and forth, and saw several of the little gray mice they probably love to eat. The thimbleberries are still green, but a few salmonberries were ripe. The trail was plenty muddy, but that’s spring in Portland.

The training notes I made seem so, so obvious to me now.

  • Have fresh socks and maybe a spare pair of shoes waiting at aid stations. Sometimes any pair of shoes that’s different from what’s hurting is a nice change! And once I was out of the mud-pit, clean socks would have saved my feet some abrasion.
  • Tuck a ziploc bag into a pocket to carry food away from the aid station. I was limited by the capacity of my grubby little hands, and happily would have scarfed another pop-tart or two.
  • Know the names of the trails before starting out and carry a little map. I met one unfortunate soul who had gotten turned around and did the terminal loop twice– two trips down the insane muddy slope that felt more like orienteering than a trail run. Another straggler told me she’d wandered around crying for an hour wondering if she was still on the race course. Her friends in the race had found themselves unexpectedly in a residential neighborhood somewhere. The colored-tape markings could have been better near trail intersections– but I think Forest Park also has a tape-vandalism problem. In any case, it’s silly to rely completely on markings.

A couple of times, my experience gave me the pleasant feeling of being able to cope. I went down the wrong path for a few switchbacks, but I figured it out, got back on course, and let it go. I was hours slower than I’d hoped, but except for some chagrin at keeping Sang and LeB out all day, it didn’t really get to me. That steadiness is definitely not a personality trait– it’s something that training and racing has given me, and I love it. It’s like not freaking out over free-writing or a short writing assignment: some days are better than others, no big deal.

Of course, I’m not so unflappable that I don’t love having my amazing crew to take care of me. It wasn’t until I had eaten some finish-line food and we were ready to go that Sang and LeB revealed that the car had broken down (again) and transportation home would take a bit of doing. You know you’re a real ultrarunner when your crew starts strategically keeping secrets from you!