Haulin’ Aspen 2016 Recap

August 2016.

Second time around! I’m a little late writing this race recap, but I have to get it down here, as I will be adding another race recap here shortly (yay, after a long winter in Seattle, it’s finally racing season!).

So, my favorite race of the year, I returned for the 2nd time to tackle the full marathon distance again.  Now, as I mentioned last year, the new course the last few years is definitely an added component for someone who doesn’t live at altitude.  The 5500 elevation is a noticeable difference from the previous height of approx 3500.  But, nontheless, still beautiful.  And I believe that’s one of the reasons why the Haulin race and weekend trip is my favorite of the past years.  It’s the high desert, warm and dry, what’s not to like?

So, without further ado, let’s jump right to it!  Race morning…

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The beautiful morning drive to the start, with Mt Bachelor in the distance
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Ugh, not warmer than last year. In fact, same temp at the start.

 

The race

Yes, as noted in the photo, though beautiful outside, it was again, like last year, 33deg at the start, in central Oregon, in August.  But, that’s how it goes.  For a guy who doesn’t like running in cold weather, it’s a bit of a *cough*cough*, but anyways, I also knew, that like last year, though cold initially, by a few miles in I would warm up.

The course was the same as the previous year, and we all gathered around for the start, myself taking a few strides in the parking lot to try, again, to actually “warm” up.  Oh, and a change I made from last year, was the Gatorade bottle I was holding was NOT refridgerated overnight.  Brr…hands were cold last year for quite a while.  Plus, I didn’t want the bottle to freeze.

So, the gun hit and we were off, up a gentle incline and then looking out over the high desert landscape and evergreen trees (not too many aspens actually in this area, since the course moved).  It was nice, pleasant, and I was glad to be in a race where I didn’t have bruised ribs (i.e. a few months earlier running Vancouver in May), or slogging through arguably my toughest race yet (Echo Valley in June).  Well, while I didn’t know the outcome at the start of the race, of course, I expected it to go better than Echo Valley.  Something about that day, and my body, things just didn’t connect, and it was hard.

After about 2-3 miles in, we jot into forest singletrack, running between trees, and on these gentle inclines at elevation, I was focused on backing off the gas a bit.  Take the inclines easy, save the energy.  By then I was starting to warm up a bit, but the sun was on the other side of the mountain and the forest trees also tend to block the low sun in the sky for a while.  The volunteers out there for water, sport supplement, and first aid were awesome.  Their dedication is a really honorable thing for any runner on any course, and that they would spend their day volunteering is big to me.

As the sun started rising, and I approached the midpoint in the course, it was totally a “sun’s out, guns out” kind of moment, and time to settle in for a moderate effort for the rest of the course.  The one goal I had in mind for this race, was to beat last year’s time.  Be it last year was my first year running this course, I wanted to think I could improve, that I had improved and prepared well in my training.  Another benefit of having ran the course before, was I knew what to expect at literally every turn, when I’d be on gravel forest service roads running on incline for 2 miles, when I’d be able to open up a bit on the declines down singletrack between flowering bushes looking out to the west.  And roughly, where the aid stations would be.

I do remember debating how much I should drink and what balance of water vs supplement.  I guess that is something I’ve been trying to figure out for years.  And TBH it’s probably the big impedance to my performance at some of these races.  But, alas, I can only do what I can do.  I do want to go and have athletic testing done to determine that for myself across a spectrum of conditions, so I can take my training to the next level, but everything costs money and money is tight.  Someday.

Toward the latter part of the course, there is one of a few “forever long hills” and by hills, I mean inclines, and by forever, I mean 2 miles.  That is truly what makes this course very challenging, and it was on the last one that I realized my hope for PR’ing on this course was gone.  I had ran a very smart race for myself and the first half+ was on target to break last year’s time, but something changed in the second part of the race and my energy was waning.  Up forever long hill #3 (I believe), I knew while the PR was out of sight (i.e. my training needs a twist for this race), I wanted to spend every bit of energy left to run as well as possible to the end.  So, once I peaked the hill, I drank something, and ran on.  Surprisingly, there is actually some downhill singletrack after that hill and about 2 miles before the finish, so running became fun again, as I cruised downhill.

The last push is across an open plain, and while I’d like to say it was a breeze, it also was a challenge.  Not like a “ugh” or puke challenge, but just harder than it should have been, in my eyes.  But soon enough, I was across the plain, over tiny hill, and running through the finish chute!  4:17:21 (9:49pc).  Not my best effort, but when it’s my favorite course of the year, you know I still had a good time!

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This photo was back at the airbnb after the race, and what you don’t see is me laying on the floor for the five, ten minutes prior to the photo (thanks Alex).  And I’m smiling, so you know I had a good time.

 

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Serious face, except for Vivi
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Clowning around with Alex & Vivi after the race

 

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My photo of Alex/Vivi atop Pilot Butte – Bend

 

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Running at Smith Rock State Park
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Smith Rock

 

 

 

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