Oh man – where to start? Last week was so much fun, and running The Gorge 50K on Sunday was just the icing on top of the cake!
Probably my favorite part of my weekend was seeing friends from San Francisco – CJ, Travis, Ehren and Kellen all came to town for the race and of course, to EAT!
On Wednesday, the first of the friends arrived and we worked, ate a delicious lunch at Stormbreaker (helllllooo warm kale salad sans bacon + saison..), got in a 6 mile run and had some delicious food truck eats.
On Thursday, more friends arrived and we started the day with some coffee, they went to get donuts (I’m not a donut fan…sorry!), and then we headed out for Runch on the waterfront. It was a beautiful 70 something degree day. 4 miles, sunshine and then lunch at Lardo = a delicious Thursday.
At Lardo I had the chickpea sando and the blackberry jalapeno beer…because why not?
After runching, we wandered around downtown, got ourselves some Stumptown (naturally) and explored the Portland Running Company store. Then it was time for another trip to the airport to pick up CJ and then eventually head to dinner.
We ended up going to Radar for dinner, another tiny restaurant just down the street from us. I had the cauliflower fritters (holy cow, yum), shishito peppers (decent but not amazing), and the wild mushroom risotto. Also had a glass of rose and red wine from Syncline (my fave!). All in all, a really good spot for drinks and good food. Excited to go back with Casey soon.
On Friday everyone had finally arrived so we decided to do breakfast at the food trucks. I hadn’t yet tried The Big Egg so decided to go and get the breakfast wrap with veggie sausage. AND OMG. OMG. I thought I’d eat maybe half of the wrap or even less but no, no, no…I couldn’t put it down. It was SO GOOD. I love that its all egg, cheese, peppers and SAUCE – a salsa and a yogurt lime sauce (the BEST thing ever). Casey was right – one of the best things I’ve eaten in Portland thus far…Lardo being pretty close behind.
And of course no runch with this group could be complete without a little lunch at Lardo. To change things up, I ordered a housemade pickle (SO GOOD) and the chickpea sando as a salad. Really liked the salad version of the chickpea sando – a little lighter obviously – but have to admit, I kinda missed that delicious bread! Oh and of course I had the beer….it’s just too good.
After lunch, we romped around the city a bit – checked out the Poler store (took pictures with the wild cat and got some pretty awesome socks), grabbed some coffee at Stumptown and then of course made our way to a running store – Foot Traffic – to pick up some last minute race items and shop (naturally).
On Friday evening, Travis, CJ, Kellen and Ehren took off to stay a little closer to the race and Casey and I stayed behind with the furball. We had a puppy play group that evening that may have taken more out of me than the actual race (more on that to come – Abbie is pretty pumped to tell that story herself).
Saturday morning, I went to stretch out the legs with some yoga at YoYo Yogi…it felt really, really good and really, really necessary…
After yoga we made our way to the mile 49 aid station – Abbie enjoyed all the people, the running bags full of gus and water bottles to try and taste and the new smells.
After a little while, Travis came blazing through with Ehren (his first pacer). He was looking super strong but a little dehydrated and salt deficient so we crammed some salt tabs, coke, electrolyte drink and grilled cheese into him before seeing him off again and cheering him to his big finish with Kellen (his second pacer) in tow.
We stopped to see some waterfalls on our way to the finish line…
While waiting for Travis to come through we had a chance to congratulate Chris DeNucci and Garry Robbins on their top 5 finishes (Chris is a friend from SF and Gary is a friend I made at Squamish 50 – he’s the race director) and basically just be in awe of how freakishly amazingly fast they are…
Travis came through looking strong, his legs still moving fast despite having just run 60+ miles. He completed his first tough 100K in just over 13 hours and I could not have been more proud. We ended the day with some beautiful views, pasta and a sunset.
Sunday morning we were up around 6 and getting ready for my race. I was feeling a little disorganized since I waited until the last minute Saturday night to get my race bags together but we got on the road with plenty of time to spare. About 15 minutes into our drive, however, I realized I had forgotten my watch, arm sleeves and gloves as well as my salt tabs and food. Yep. Pretty bad. At least I had my Hoka Speedgoats …and most of all, some pants on!
Abbie and Casey accompanied me to the faux starting area where we’d load the busses to the actual start. We said our goodbyes and then I boarded the bus – watching them out the window and experiencing total separation anxiety for Abbie – and anxiety for my race.
Ever since the 90 miles out at Antelope Canyon, I’ve been questioning my recovery, my legs, my ability as a runner. My weekly runs have been difficult and slow. My body has felt kind of rundown, borderline lethargic over the last several weeks. While sitting amidst all the runners on the bus, half listening to their training this and that’s, their goals, their apprehensions, etc, I was suddenly wishing I had headphones. I wanted so badly to drown everyone else’s anxiety out so I could curb my own. I tried to practice some yoga breathing but it wasn’t working. My mind was all over the place.
Once we got to the start, I felt leaden – my legs were heavy, my face felt heavy and frowny and it was like I had forgotten why I was even out there in the first place – to enjoy some beautiful trails and have an amazingly fun day. It wasn’t about the time I was going to finish in or what everyone thought…or even what I thought. I was just going to run some trails and see some waterfalls and say a big F* it to any other thoughts.
Once the countdown began and we were off, I just fell into my rhythm – doing my best not to get swept up into the start line frenzy – everyone going their fastest only to start petering out once the initial buzz had passed. I focused on my breath, my mantra (forward progress, just keep moving) and the trails. I soaked in the beautiful morning, the bright colors coming from all the fancy running gear and clothes around me, and the fact that this was now my home started to set in. This beautiful, green place is home.
I got through the first 3 mile climb, no problem – kept my pace steady and ran the whole hill. I kept a pretty even, steady pace until I got swept up in a group of runners and then found myself barreling up the next few hills. My legs were especially heavy going uphill so I took note that I was going to need to start backing off if I really wanted to finish this race. The downhills were coming easy and proving to be my strength – so I used them to pass people and shave some time and then paced myself on the ups (mostly walking the really steep stuff).
About mid way through the race (little did I know I was already that far), I saw some friendly faces from SF – Chris and Drew – they were out cheering me on in one of the most epic waterfall spots on the course and caught me as I came flying down the muddy hill for a high five.
And if that wasn’t enough, somewhere along the next climb, I saw fellow ultra runner and Top Chef’er Gregory out on the trail. Forgetting that we don’t actually know each other, I practically raised the roof for him hollering his name while running by…only to remember, hey, you only know him from TV…and then saying LOVE YOU ON TOP CHEF (embarrassing!).
I kept charging forward all with a smile on my face – realizing that the more I backed off on the uphills, the better I was doing on the flats and downhills – and trust me, trying to run over the rocks and the sticky mud on the flats was hard enough without adding in a steep climb!
We eventually came to a portion of highway which was a little dispiriting for me – it was 2 miles of flat road along the busy highway – and it sucked, big time. I tried to stay positive but the pain in my legs was getting to me – and my mind started to take over. Another lady came up from behind and we started chatting and she inspired me to keep my butt moving. I got through the highway portion watching her charge along in front of me and concentrating on my breathing. And then thankfully, it was over and we were off flying through the next rolling hills portion of the course …..just before we would hit the super big, super terrible, switchback climb….
We rolled into the last aid station and in pure blissful ignorance (I wasn’t wearing a watch), I asked what mile we were at…and if I even wanted to know. The volunteers said, you’ve got about a 10K left and I grabbed my pack and said, NO SHIT, I thought I still had like 12 miles left…one way to boost the spirits! 😉
The woman who came up behind me on the highway was all hustle going up the next few hills, often passing me (us going back and forth and back and forth) and each time I watched her with admiration while also wondering if it was going to be a good or bad thing for her race. I continued to back off my pace on the uphill climbs and let her get on up ahead. And then we’d hit a downhill and I’d unleash my legs – letting them fly – and practically dancing through the turns (probably why my abs are so sore).
Eventually I lost her while flying down the hill. And the last climb I took in stride – it was TOUGH – steep, unforgiving and a hell of a lot of work to get to the top (oh wait, the false summit) and then to the real top. But I made it…and then it was downhill fun most of the way to the finish line.
I finished in 6:27:26. Definitely not my fastest 50K and likely not my slowest either. Given the state of my legs, body and mind, I’m pretty proud of where I ended up….and quite frankly, I did this race for the WATERFALLS….and to see Gregory from Top Chef, of course…who I also saw in the parking lot post race…. 😉 Big fan Gregory. Big fan.
Stay sweaty friends!