Monday, 23 February 2015

Deception Pass 50k: Lessons in staying on my feet.

Although I wrote this long ago, life has gotten in the way of posting it. Here is a look back at my post from December 2014. 

Tackling my 6th ultra marathon can be summed up in about three ideas:
  • Deception Pass is a brilliant place to run trails, and Rainshadow Running does a bang-up job of putting on a running event
  • I crashed about as hard as I ever have while running, and buggered up my bad shoulder real bad like.
  • This event wasn't raced as much as it was experienced and enjoyed, if you can ever enjoy suffering in an ultra.
I was super jacked to run Whidby Island on new trails. Those trails did not disappoint. Deception Pass was absolutely stunning.

Often, plans get derailed in spite of planning. This is especially true about running and training. Lately, I have been focused on the Boston Marathon, but like to spice things up a bit by throwing my hat in the ring to other races. Running the Deception Pass 50k  was a decision made on a whim, one that I did not really think out very well. I had the training dialed, the momentum was there, the plan in place to do an ultra and finish strong.

Then, I took up the Bring Back the Boom Strava challenge, devoting my life for a week to running as far as I have. I managed to deplete my immune system and get sick, thus, forcing me to rest. 2 days off work and 3 weeks of little activity it to beat a sinus infection. I still have the sinus infection, and I managed to lose some time in the way of long runs. 2 hours of running a week for 3 weeks (6 hrs total) does not set one up well for an ultra.

DP50 Course. It makes sense to me having done it. For those who have not, good luck figuring it out...
Deception Pass is one helluva run. A beautiful course that skirts the coastline of Whidby Island and Anacortes, the trail system is made up of a number (4 to be precise) of short lollipop loops north of the bridge, a climb up to Goose Rock, and a couple of 7 mile laps of the Hoypus trail on Whidby. I suppose one gift and curse of the run was the layout of the course--the seven lollipop loops completed by the racers. For the gift, it is really great to see the encouraging faces of other runners--the support for each other, and we do see each other multiple times on the course, was pretty cool. After the 6th time of seeing the same people, the greetings get a little more personal.

The curse of this race is that fact that you have to share trail with oncoming traffic, which makes for a bit of danger in treacherous parts, and for some jam ups on the course. But for the scenic nature of the course, this is a minor annoyance, which more than makes up for itself in it's majestic vistas.

The climb up to Goose Rock was a series of switchbacks, the steepest and most gain in one single climb on the course, similar to Rock Trail in the Chuckanuts. Climbing with Adam Gibbs (with Sean just behind), we were engaged in some pretty good conversation upon cresting the top. At the top of the climb there is a outcropping which is actually Goose Rock. I was slightly in front of Adam. He veered to the right where there was no trail, save for the bunch grass. I opted to go straight over the rock. Big mistake.

Before I knew it, my legs had slipped out from under me, to the right, and I was A-over-TK, slamming hard on my left side: head, arm, shoulder, hip, butt, and knee. The awful feeling of being out of control in the air, without even a warning as to how the fall happens, then the suddenness of the ground coming at you, as your body smashes the rocks was something I do not like to experience. Such a horribly feeling being out of control. Even while in mid air, I had a flashback of my shoulder injury from August 2010 in the North Shuswap, and the ring of Dr. Outerbridge's voice (my orthopaedic surgeon) in my ear as he said "You cannot fall on that shoulder another time.....So don't".

Slam. I smashed the ground. 180lbs coming down on my left shoulder. I laid there, taking stock of all my parts.

Systems check: Pain? yep. Excruciating? Stand by. Dirty? Head to toe. With mud.

Anything broken? 

I don't know. 



I sat up, bloodied, muddied, and getting cold almost immediately. The sun was warm at the top of Goose Rock, but I was starting to chill almost immediately after I stopped moving. I composed myself, my kit and left leg covered in mud and blood, and began to walk down the mountain. Efff!! Only 21 km into the race, and I was possibly not going to finish!?!? 

Within a few minutes, we were on the road and heading towards Hoypus Hill, the last 2 loops of the race before swinging back to the Finish area.

The 2 looper on Hoypus was a bit of a slog--muddy trail, a few steep climbs, but generally quite enjoyable. One of the nicest part of the race other than the  road runnign to get to the loops--those were fine, but not stellar--was the aid station near the Hoypus loops. Man, like Stephon says "This place had everything": quesadillas, potatoes dipped in salt, candy, electrolyte drinks. I hammered some food back on the first run through, and me and Sean kept on going. Adam had taken off long up the trail. 

On the Hoypus loops, the mud was near ankle deep in parts. A couple of times I felt like I was going to break an ankle. Even with the mud, I must have had a charge of adrenaline. The first loop on Hoypus I managed to take off on him and run faster, charging the downhills and feeling a bit better. We caught back up with each other to round out lap one, visit the aid again, and continue on. 

The second lap was better--not easier, but enjoyable to run. We came back into the aid station and made for the home stretch--a final 3 or 4 kilometers heading back to the start area on the beach. I slowed and staggered, tired from the effort. 

5:36 of moving time...5:55 finish time.

Post race reflection: This was probably the easiest ultra I have attempted. The reason being that I did not go out there to destroy myself at this one. It was a great experience, one with many highs and lows. But being my 6th ultra, I now know how to deal with those lows when I get really, really dark and negative in my own head. Talking about things at work, processing some of the other things in my life really helped me to not focus on the distance, pain, or struggles I was having. Talking about that with the people I was around, Sean, and our guy from Penticton, helped the time pass while staying in a flow of running. I think that once a runner comes out of that flow and starts to focus on the immediate shittyness of their own aches, pains, blisters, bonks, and lack of focus, then it is really easy to start negative self talk.

I was there. Looking at my GPS with 3.5 kms to go, I was doubtful. I really felt like throwing in the towel. However,  the thought of doing a 50 or 100 mile race quickly brought in a new perspective: I was nearly done on this course. If this were another longer distance, I would really just be cracking into it. Thank goodness I was nearly done..

This was no Knee Knacker. This was a well organized, well supplied, well executed event put on by Rainshadow Running. The vollies were top notch.

The finish line festivities of this race were second to none, much like their aid stations: Beers, a stone baked wood fired oven for fresh baked pizzas, pies, guacamole, quesadillas, fresh veggies and fruits. Man, it was an absolute feast of a spread. I will definitely be back to run a Rainshadow Running event. They put on quite an amazing event with a grassroots feel.

Gear: Instead of running in my Salomon Sense Mantra shoes, I probably should have broken out the Speedcross 3 for this race--the mucky, loamy (in parts) conditions suited that shoe than my sense mantra. There just was not enough grip on the Mantra's to keep me steady.

I also managed to sully my new Sugoi kit--smashing myself on the rocks. It is a sharp looking setup. However mine now has some serious mud stains on the shirt--left should and side. So much for a brand new kit....

Deception Pass rocks. I will be back to run it again.