Posted by: pointlenana | June 23, 2014

Rattlesnake Ridge 50k 6/22/14 – Dry Run For UTMB

Another supported long training run yesterday.  Rattlesnake Ridge 50k is a trail race about 30 minutes east of Seattle.  It’s basically an out-and-back along a ridge with climbs/descents at either end of the ridge, and then an out-and-back on a rail trail with a gradual descent on the out and a gradual climb back.  That section is the end of the Tunnel Marathon course.

The only event I have planned between now and UTMB is White River, and I want to have fun at White River, so I used yesterday’s race to practice for UTMB.  Specifically, I wore my big pack with essentially all of my required gear for UTMB, I ran with poles to see if those would work at UTMB, and I relied a little more on the food I was carrying than the aid stations.  It made yesterday’s run less fun but hopefully it will pay off in August.  And given how many issues I had yesterday, it was much better to deal with those during a 50k close to home than 15 miles into a very long event.

The good

My pack generally worked.  I have the Peter Bakwin Ultimate Direction pack – it got me through Cascade Crest and based on yesterday it should be fine for UTMB.  I have some sore spots on my back today from things banging me but no significant chafing and nothing crippling.

I finished!  8 miles in I wasn’t sure about that, after I got a nice blister under one heel on the downhills.  Wrecking my foot during a non-critical training run didn’t seem wise and at that point I was thinking I might drop around mile 22 when we passed the start/finish area.  But it wasn’t too bad at mile 22 and barely hurt on flats, so with 9 miles of relative flat left, I pushed on and finished.

I was strong in the last 9 mile out-and-back section.  This was a small event – only 60 people signed up and I know there were some no-shows.  In an event like that, you basically lock your position into place early in the race and it only changes if someone falls apart.  I ran with a small cohort of mid-packers for the first two thirds – we’d swap places along the way and at aid stations – but during the last 9 miles I dropped all of them.  With 5 miles left I saw my friend Jens coming back towards the finish – he was about 8 minutes ahead of me at that point and I gained back 4 of those minutes based on our finish times.  It was another no-taper event for me, so finishing strong on tired legs was satisfying.

The bad – let me count the ways:

Pre-race routine:  With all my extra UTMB clutter – pack, poles, etc. – I did a sucko job in the minutes before the race.  Didn’t tie my shoes properly, didn’t eat a gel, etc..  Actually, it was even before that – in packing all my stuff I forgot to confirm that my shoes still had the Velcro for gaiters and of course at the start I found that one did not.  Throw in packing for an international trip, and I’m going to have to make several checklists for UTMB.

The blister.  5 or 6 miles in, on one of the downhills, I felt a slight sting under my heel.  I didn’t think much about it at first, but I felt it a little more in the next couple miles and went “uh-oh”.  I’ve never had a blister there.  I stopped, tightened my laces, ran some more, felt it some more, tightened my laces again, and started wondering how much damage another marathon of trail running would do to my foot.  I have three theories on the cause.  First, I swapped insoles in the shoe, from the ones that come with the shoe, to insoles (that I’ve worn plenty before) with a little more support.  I did that to avoid some fatigue/aches in one foot, and that actually worked yesterday.  But I think the standard insoles cup my feet a little better, whereas the support ones allowed my foot to slide sideways when cutting around turns or planting between roots.  Second, as I mentioned I didn’t ever really tie my shoes for the race.  They were pretty loose – ok for one foot but not the other apparently.  Third, and I doubt this but I’d love to be able to blame it on the poles (see below), I might have been dehydrated and hydration can affect propensity to blister.  For UTMB I will bag balm my whole foot (only the front halves yesterday).  I also have to get one of those Zombie Runner footcare kits so I can intervene at the first sign of a hot spot.

The required equipment:  For safety reasons (mountain storms at high elevations), UTMB requires that we carry a lot.  Waterproof jacket, waterproof pants, full-length tights, a warm layer for the top, two headlamps, bandage, space blanket, food, etc..  If we’re lucky we won’t need a lot of this, but they do spot checks during the event so you really have to carry it all otherwise they DQ you.  Going up hills I definitely noticed the extra 10 pounds of weight.  I’m going to do weighted step-ups twice a week for the next couple months so that maybe I won’t feel slow and weak like I did yesterday.

The food:  It was actually lucky that I was carrying more food than I usually would in these well-supported events.  Either they just weren’t very stocked, or I was at the tail end of the day’s 5 mile, half-marathon, and 50k runners.  In any case, the aid station food wasn’t great and I went through more of my own food than I expected.

The Ugly

The poles:  I should say the f&^%$ poles.  Most people at UTMB use poles.  This video shows why, e.g. that boulder field at 2:03 or that hill at 2:31.  I’ve never run with poles before – I’m trying to get used to them but after yesterday I’m thinking I will go without.  They didn’t help much on the uphill and they are useless if not dangerous on downhills.  They make bottlehandling a little difficult so I found myself “forgetting” to drink.  The absolute worst thing was that they fell off my pack multiple times after I put them away.  The Ultimate Directions video for my pack makes a big point of having these built-in pole straps.  Either I’m doing something wrong or they don’t work well.  The third or fourth time I heard a pole clunk on the ground behind me yesterday, I wanted to throw a big temper tantrum.  I definitely don’t want to be messing with that at UTMB.  I’ll fiddle and experiment a little more but odds of poles are low now.  The only place I’d really like the option is those boulder fields – they are supposedly slippy if wet, that is late in the race, and it will probably be dark when I get there.

Miles 20-22:  Rattlesnake Ridge is 20-30 minutes from the most populated part of WA.  It was Sunday in late June.  Mile 20-22 took us back down from the ridge to the parking lot around noon.  In those two miles I passed at least 500 day hikers, if not 1000.  Over and over I found myself caught behind a group of 10 people heading down as a group of 15 came up next to them on the 3-4 foot wide trail.  The trail was somewhat rocky and pretty rooty as well, forcing me to split my focus between my footing and the people obstacles.  I made decent time all things considered but it wasn’t fun.  For this single reason, I’d avoid this event unless it were moved to a time of year when the weather is less soliciting of day hikers.  The trail on the ridge is nice enough, and NW Trail Runs puts on good events, but battling that many hikers isn’t worth it.

Summary: 

Basically I accomplished what I intended to – figure out some of the things that can go wrong so I can avoid those at UTMB.  For what it’s worth, I finished in 6:20:02, 24th out of 45 finishers (47 starters + 13 more DNS).  I guessed 6:30 beforehand so not too far off and a little better than I had hoped.  I was 3rd out of 12 among the 50+ crowd – Reglor from RWOL was second, in his first ultra.  My friend Jeff – who had a crappy race at Chuckanut – blazed his way to a 5:08 finish.  As we were driving home we couldn’t decide which was harder – Rattlesnake Ridge or Chuckanut.  He ran ~6:15 at Chuckanut and 5:08 yesterday.  I ran ~5:50 at Chuckanut and 6:20 yesterday.  We finally decided that a) Chuckanut is a little harder and b) Jeff is in much better shape now.

 

 


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