Sunday, November 4, 2018

Closing Out an Adjusted Season at the Elk-Kings 50k

It's been another strange season.

As usual, it started out with big plans - a return to the Big Horn 100 in June. But some pretty severe hamstring tendinopathy forced me into eight weeks off mid-winter and scuttled those plans. Perhaps a decade ago, I'd have had the training volume to toe the line at Big Horn undercooked and with reduced time goals, but these days I needed some solid, consistent training to get through that race. So, it just wasn't in the cards.

Then, a persistent bout of patellar tendonitis complicated the season further but, if I'm honest, was not wholly without some silver linings. Forced to cut down on volume, I compensated by adding more speedwork and road runs to my training - and finally notched a free-floating but as-yet-unrealized goal of the past five years - a return to a road marathon.

My last road marathon was in 2006, and with 12 extra years, some extra pounds, and a lot of plodding trail miles, I had no idea if I could muster any sort of decent pace, let alone a Boston qualifying time.

Turned out, it actually went well. While my 2006 PR was a distant memory, as I knew it would be, my 3:22 at the Pocatello Marathon still felt respectable, and was 8 minutes under the BQ for my am-I-really-in-that-age-group-now cutoff.

So, feeling buoyed, I set my eyes on one last big(ish) race for 2018: The Elk-Kings 50k in the Tillamook Forest just west of Portland, Oregon.  Drawn by its good reviews - and being honest, 3 UTMB lottery point - it was a wonderfully run race on some classic coastal Pacific Northwest singletrack - moss-covered trees, huge ferns, and soft trail. The only thing not PNH classic was the weather, which was an unseasonable but very welcome sunny and 72F.

My run itself had its ups and downs. I felt very good for the first two-thirds, hoping for a finish somewhere in the 5:40s. But my stomach took a turn in the last long section, and I had to jog the last 10 miles without eating, crossing in 6:14. Still, I managed an age-group award (3rd) so it wasn't a total meltdown, which can be my specialty.

Now, it’s time to just enjoy some unstructured fall running, let some injuries heal, and slowly build hunger for next season, which may or may not involve a trip to Chamonix for UTMB's CCC race - depending on the mood of the lottery gods.