All in to Haul(in) Aspen

August 8, 2015

I can’t tell you how long I wanted to run a trail marathon.  I think it was 3 years ago, shortly after my first summer trail half-marathon in Bend, when I stumbled upon this race recap of Heather’s race in 2008.  I should say, while I don’t know Heather personally, I have been reading about running and marathoning for years, and found her race recap almost three years ago now, particularly entertaining.  From my first time running in warm, sunny Bend at this race, I was basically hooked.  It quickly became my favorite and was a solid challenge for this road racer.  So, after almost eight consecutive years of running, this year I finally got my chance to run the full at Haulin.

I knew, when I ran the Haulin’ half again last year in 2014, for what was my 3rd Haulin’, I’d be back, and in ’15 it would finally be the full distance.  My only critique of my favorite race of the year, which is how I refer to this race, is last year’s change in location from Shevlin Park to Wanoga Sno-park.  Shevlin was glorious. But, I will say, that’s a small critique, and if the sun’s out, like it was this year, the weather was awesome.  There’s just something special about Shevlin Park.  I even went on a short run there the day before the marathon this year.  Enough jibber-jabber.  Let’s get to…

The race

Early morning, and what was planned to be a “small trip,” ended up being a packed house.  Shower, coffee at the rental house, and Ethan, despite a late-term training toe injury, woke up early to drive to the start with me to see me off for the full, which starts the earliest out of the distances (Haulin’ has a 26.2, 13.1, and 6.5 race).  It was cold, I won’t lie.  Like 42 in Bend.  And, at the start (1800′ higher than Bend), it was about 36.  Chilly willy.  Shoo dang.  

 

I ran some laps around the lot and tried to warm up.  Tried.  And at the last minute I decided to ditch my vapor jacket and go with shirt and shorts only.
The first mile, more so than the Shevlin Park course, has a decent hill right off the bat.  Test the mettle. But, in the first mile of a marathon, a hill is nothing.  Some rushed ahead, some walked (why would anyone do that so soon?), and I took the stay-in-the-middle mentality.  At the top, I was reminded of last year’s race, as the half-marathon course is the same as the marathon at this section.  Bend to the right, flat, then turn left, then downhill, then roll up and down.  The course is on a plateau here, and I was already glad, before I reached the 1 mile marker that I had foregone the jacket.  It may have been cool, but it was dry, and the sun was already hitting the sky and dotting the course.  The rolling section here is up and down, built for or at least caused from heavy ATV use (though at the time I was thinking Jeeps, which in retrospect make no sense due to size of vehicle).  On this ridge the temperature was surprisingly pleasant as I went from freezing cold to cool.  One fatal flaw.  I had kept the 20oz Gatorade bottle in the fridge overnight and chose to hold it for the race.  Hand was still freezing.  I’ll learn for next year – do not do that.

The following miles (2-5) had me warming up a share, hand still really cold from the cold Gatorade bottle, and settling in from the dirt roads to some nice single track among the trees.  I was running with a few guys who were in their mid to late 30’s and more muscular than myself.  I was feeling strong about that aspect until they started talking.  I’ll summarize that among the 3 of them, all 3 were either using this trail marathon as a training race for an upcoming Ultra (50 or 100mi), or currently between Ultras and weren’t pushing it in this race because they were logging significant mileage the following day as well.  Intimidated? Actually I was encouraged.  In my heart I thrive on distance.

The next set of miles (6-10) I was focusing in on my goal for the race: to back off initially and to keep a consistent effort throughout the race.  I knew that my 26.2 road PR at sea level would not be a realistic comparison to running 26.2 on trails at 5500′.  I would turn out to be right.  

The sky was beautifully clear blue and the sun continued to rise over the course.  Some runners faded while a few gained ground around me, and one of the fun aspects of a large course over terrain with only 108 marathoners, is that during most of the course I’m either running alone or just within sight of another runner.  The high desert terrain is amazing to this guy.  It’s summer.  And the day would only get warmer.  What’s not to like?!  Consistent.

Somewhere around Mile 10 I stopped at a fuel station, and a young female volunteer, maybe 16, asked me how anyone becomes a runner, let alone a distance runner.  I smiled, thanked her for helping out at the event, and told her briefly, marathoners start out with everyone else, just by starting to run, and encouraged her to do a short race.  It all starts there.  With marathoners, I guess they flip a switch from those beginning short runs and just lock in.  It’s curious, but I’m not sure I can explain it better.  

By the halfway point in the race (not officially marked – well, I don’t think so, I mean, it’s the wilderness here), I was warm and starting to significantly deal with dehydration.  It seemed that my fueling was off, but it also seemed that I was fueling smartly during the race.  And in fact that would be the key word.  I kept having to stop to take a leak but barely had to go. Over share?  I was drinking my Gatorade between fuel stations, water at the fuel stations, and the occasional gel.  But I think the miss in judgment was not only not eating enough in the week leading up to the race, but also not drinking 20-25% more daily in the week prior as well.  

Proving ground

With my longest trail distance covered before now behind me (my longest trail race to date was a trail half-marathon), I pushed into the second half of the race.  This is where winners are made.  This is also where snakes die.  But, I was aiming slightly more towards the first. 

On and off between dirt forest service roads and amazing forest single track, the shirt was off which brokered a timely glib from a dude I had ran with earlier.  “Bryce, you don’t have to worry about that now.  No ladies around.” Hilarious.  Caught me off guard, cause I was in the zone.  This was on a forest service road that went uphill for a few miles.  That part I remember.  There were a few hills like that in this course.  Presents a good challenge, if I may put it humbly.  

I recall being proud of not walking on long uphill stretches of forest service roads in this section of the course, though I did walk for short periods in areas.  I would climb a long hill of what I could see, get to the flat, then see it continue up another hill, then go up again at the top of that.  It was like an M.C. Escher painting, and I was a rat in the deluge.  

Every time I passed a fuel station I felt productive, as indeed they were appropriately placed, but in the distance felt few and far between.  I kept my eye on my competition, i.e. whoever was nearby, especially in front of me and worked to draw them in.  During the second half of the race I was more successful than the first half.  Others were suffering too, plus the conditions, and I assumed dehydration.  

Around Mile 20 I hit a fuel station, and saw one runner down and being treated for a leg or foot injury.  I fueled up and, with respect, gave him a high five and told him to hang in there.  Thankfully, and to my surprise, though of course it makes sense at some point, the course turned downhill.  We ran through single track down dry, dusty trails woven on both sides by sagebrush.  While still knowing dehydration was an affect, I wasn’t lightheaded or sick to my stomach.  So, I knew I was still good to go.  Well, relatively speaking, of course.  We are talking about marathoners here.

Another forever-long uphill forest service road and into an open plain with solitary trees filling blank spaces in the void.  The last five miles I had to contend with ill feelings and tried to be smart with fueling, while knowing nothing I would do in the remaining miles would do much to help.  My longest trail run yet was definitely proving to be that, and the chase was on.  

I can recall in the final 3 miles chasing one dude in single track and having a challenge reaching him.  At the time we finally broke out of single track onto forest service road again, I did.  But then, he took off, plus we had another challenge.  The final 1+ miles merged with the shorter races at this point – single track pushing up and across a large rocky field with grass, trees, and walkers.  As politely as I can, though very dehydrated, feeling like crap, and already having covered 25 miles, I make my presence known on the trail so as to have them yield to my passing.  Most do and to others I ask verbally to pass.  Dude, who had taken off again, is within sight and ahead of me, and I work to gain ground on him, on a trail weaving itself through a large field.  Push, push, push.  On the very last step of the course (the final 1/5 mile), I pass him on single track and push toward the finish line, hearing the sounds of the crowd at the finish.  I turn the corner, see a group of my friends, hit them with high fives and run through the chute.   

 

 4:10:48 (9:34pc)

Then it was basically: stop, flop, hurl.  But, I didn’t.  I managed to stay vertical and walk around in a daze for a few minutes while my friends came over.  I was in that funky place of knowing I needed to eat something but feeling sick to my stomach.  I forced in some post-race carbs, beer, and water.

All in all, this race was a blast.  You know, besides the severe dehydration and feelings of pukeiness.  It’s still my favorite.  And I’ll be back.  

      

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