Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Lake of Death Relay Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 9; 13th Edition 
165.1 miles run in 2014 races
Race: Lake of Death Relay
Place: Henry Hagg Lake
Miles from home: 35 miles
Weather: 70-90s; bright sun; hot

The Lake of Death Relay was a last minute addition to my schedule.  It was akin to my entering the Elijah Bristow race in June in such that I know I needed a long run, it was going to be very hot, and I know I wouldn’t want to do it solo. So, the best way to handle that dilemma is to sign up for a race and get that long run catered (at least to some extent.)

The LODR was put on by Go Beyond Racing headed by Todd Janssen and Renee Seker. Todd was one of the first people I met when I moved to Portland and I have run at least one of his other races. He puts on good events and I like to support good people putting on good events, even if I disagree with some of his food choices for ultras. (Seriously, Todd, bring some cheeseburgers.)

The premise for this race was relatively simple. There were two route options: an 11 mile road or a 14 mile trail loop which circumvented Henry Hagg Lake. You could run it as a solo competitor or up to 8 team members on either a 12 or 24 hour version. When I moved to Portland, given how much people here speak about running in one of a handful of places so often, I figured I would be out at Hagg Lake all the time.  But the thing is, I despise driving to run and when I have plenty of runnable areas in my back yard (even if it requires some loops) I don’t see the point of wasting gas and time in a car. So while I have run in Forest Park (both as a race and an ill-fated attempt to traverse the whole thing brought down by REALLY bad chafing in my man region) and the Columbia Gorge, I have only done so a handful of times total.  As for Hagg Lake, well, I had never once been out there.  I decided to remedy that.

I knew I did not want to run the entire thing solo and was trying to figure out whether I wanted to do trail or road or what. Lots of options. I spoke to a couple of runners about forming a team but nothing came to fruition. Then time passed and the event sort of slipped out of my mind. When my best friend Shannon mentioned the event again I realized it would be a great two-person event for both of us to get in some nice long runs. So the two person team of Doc and Sweaty was born! (Name origins: She is a surgeon; I perspire profusely.)

We decided to enter the two-person 12-hour road-only option. We had heard how difficult the trail portion was and figured the road would be better. Shannon had previously done a marathon out here called the Hybrid named as such because it ran on both trail and road. She thought the trial wasn’t too bad so if the road was easier than that we should have it made. Let me state unequivocally: the road was NOT easier.

Shannon started things off and the idea was to have both of us do two loops each, take a small break, possibly have us switch up the order to have me go next and that way she could finish out the day.  That would give us 66 miles in what was going to be some very warm sun. On the drive in we had taken the long way around the lake which let us see what we later learned would be the back half of every lap.  It was hilly, exposed to the sun, and challenging. It would be a good workout indeed.

A little bit after 8 am the race was underway.  Immediately almost all of the teams and solo runners hung a left and headed toward the trail. Shannon and just two other runners took to the road. I could tell this was going to be a lonely day of running for both of us.

With the sun already overhead and making things warm, I tried to hit the shade in the car and take a nap. I figured she would come in, if she ran conservatively, around a little under two hours for what we thought was a ten mile loop (measuring it later showed it was 11 on the nose.) Well, I lay quietly for about 30 minutes until I realized that no such thing as sleep was going to happen. So I headed over to the exchange area. In the shade it was relatively cool and I talked with and met some of the other runners. It was calm and serene and I really did not want to be running. I would have enjoyed some boating in the lake behind us.

Shannon did come in right under 2 hours as I suspected and I chatted with her briefly before heading out. She told me the course was indeed hilly and felt longer than 10 miles. I took the baton/bracelet and off I went. Wearing the Camelbak Dart water hydration system, I felt a little silly. There was an aid station at around the 5th mile and then again around the 8th. However, I wanted to do some further product testing on some Camelbak products in different conditions. As I would later learn, it was not silly at all to have some extra hydration on my side.

Within a little over a mile I had passed one of the relay teams in front of us. I said good morning and good luck but I think the fella had headphones in. The road was not closed to traffic but the cars were giving us a relatively wide berth, which was nice. Almost immediately I felt the quick rise and fall of this course. I knew the backside was going to be more difficult which told me this run was going to be on the tough side.

A little over 3 miles into the loop and the course took all runners across the dam for Hagg Lake.  The trail runners would jut in and out of the road popping onto the pavement briefly before disappearing into the woods again.  Here they had to cross the narrow shoulder of the dam like all of us. All day long, I only saw one single trail runner. I barely saw any road runners. This was, unfortunately, what I had been trying to avoid in races lately: running by myself in basically a training run. But even though I had no visible competition, I knew I was running on a team. It is amazing the reserves you find when others are depending on you.
My iphone

On the east side of the lake I began a steady climb after zipping through the aid station. I didn’t even bother to stop which I think threw the volunteers off a bit. I pointed at my Dart on my back which was really working wonderfully. I had already taken it for a handful of slower trail runs but here I was going in the 7 minute mile range and it still was performing excellent. I was also plowing through the two liter bladder inside and was so glad I brought my own water. Here I took a quick Gel and instantly felt better.

About 50 minutes into this loop I could look across the lake and see the exchange zone. It looked very close and I wondered if I was going to finish the loop in a little over 70 minutes. I felt I must have cut the course as I was definitely not running that fast. However, as the course had to dip around a few skinny fingers of the lake later on, I would learn I was right on track.

About 5 minutes later I saw the other member of one of the relays we were running against. Finally something to chase! When I caught him about ten minutes later I was impressed that such a tall guy (easily 6’5’’) was running so well. He was impressed I was sweating as much as I was. Actually I have no idea if he was but he should have been. I was drenched.

As I raced by the second aid station and up some major doozies of hills I was looking forward to being done. I wanted to just have one loop under my belt so I could know what was in store for the rest of the day. I came buzzing in about 83 minutes feeling really good. Shannon took the baton and away she went.

Not even noon yet, I was completely scorched from the sun. I found my way down to the lake’s shore and jumped right in.  The cold water was beyond refreshing and I waded around for a little bit.  I knew this meant I would need to reapply all my BodyGlide but it was totally worth it.  I ate some Shurky Jurky and drank some chocolate milk and was feeling just grand. I sat in the car and blasted the AC but the above 90 degree temperature made everything just too damn warm for comfort.  As I munched on some cheddar cheese blocks I had cut up and drank some Mountain Dew, I knew my original plan to break after the second leg was going to be very necessary (ala Salt N Pepa – bonus 90s rap reference for all of you. You are welcome.)

I headed back up to the exchange point and started chatting with some of the other runners and volunteers as well as those from Cornerstone Chiropractic who were kind enough to donate their services to runners. In attendance was Paul Nelson an ultrarunner who also takes some pretty fantastic photographs as well. He was also playing around with his camera drone which kept most of us fascinated. One runner named Drake who I had met earlier was lamenting his lack of sunglasses even though he was running on the more shaded trail. I lent him a pair of my Julbo Dust as I was wearing another pair for the second lap. They served him quite well and he was more than pleased with them come the end of the day.

Right around the time I expected Shannon to be finishing her second loop she texted me. (Seriously, technology is truly a marvel). She was going to be a bit slower on this lap as she was burning through her own liquids. The sun was baking everything and being on the hot asphalt was no different. She had stopped at both aid stations and was having ice put in her hydration unit. We were both pleasantly surprised that the race had ice available for the runners. Often, even if the event knows it will be quite warm they often are lacking in the ice department.

When she rolled down the hill to hand off, she looked far better than I thought she was going to be given the warm day. I made sure she had a nice cool drink and reiterated my plan for a break after this run. I laughed internally as a bunch of us had pointed out how these handoffs often were little powwows between teammates.They were never hurried. There was no real sense of urgency. It was a like a small family reunion every few hours to check to make sure all were OK and then the fresh runner would simply jog away. I tried to look good when I heard the whirl of the drone behind me.

Now that I knew what the course was my main goal was to simply run as close as I could to my first loop. It was much hotter now so I was making sure to leave no water in my CamelBak. It is always interesting to me how a course can change simply by lighting. Here, hours after my first run the shading was different, the angles of the shadows painted a different picture on the floor and it seemed like I was running a slightly different course.

I had brought my CamelBak PowderBak to wear for the second lap but decided to go with the Dart again. I had my phone on me just for safety reasons but decided to pop on some music and just let it rock out old school boombox style in the front pocket of the hydration pack. I rarely listen to music when I run but it just seemed like a fun thing to do.

At the halfway point of the loop I was only about 90 seconds slower than I was the first time.  I was quite pleased with this since I was running completely alone. I think I saw a team in front of me nearing the first aid station (where they could also hand off to a fresh teammate if they wanted) but by the time I got in and out of the exchange, there was no one to be seen. So I just kept pressing. I had a great deal of time to think about a lot and nothing all at the same time. Before I knew it I was passing the second aid station, rocking out to Tina Turner’s “You Better Be Good To Me” and laughing at the thought of Paul Rudd lip synching to it on Jimmy Fallon.

I finally saw another runner with about half of a mile to go. I caught up to him as he was having some difficulty getting up one of the many consarnit hills. I told him it was just up this one, down another and then onto the finish. Then I did Textbook 101 of Passing Someone in a Race and refused to let him keep up with me. I wanted him to do well but I also wanted to beat him. Nothing wrong with that.

As I cruised into the finish, just a mere 3 minutes slower than the previous loop in 1:26, I knew that I was either done for the day or done for a while. The runner behind me came in a minute or so later and I was more than pleased to shake his hand. He thanked me for the encouragement.

Shannon mentioned she was experiencing some heel problems and I talked her into getting her leg worked on by one of the Cornerstone people in attendance. They worked on it for quite some time while she tried to remember why it might hurt. Then a twisted ankle, high heel accident from the previous week came to mind.

We debated taking a food break, hitting the lake to cool off and then maybe splitting some laps halfway. But none of the food seemed to be the kind which would sit well with our bellies, the lake was just a little too far away and well, we were done. We both had two longish hard run loops under our belt in very warm temps. Pushing forward to get more meant very little to us in the grand scheme of things. It was better to call it a day, head home, grab real food from our houses and be pleased with the day.

As it ends up, even this effort was good enough to capture the most miles run by any two-person team on the road . Granted there may potentially have been zero other two-person teams on the road but I think that says more to our intestinal fortitude than anything else.

No one else could deal with Doc and Sweaty.

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