Sunday, April 01, 2007

Yakima River Canyon

I had a rough couple of weeks after Chuckanut both physically and emotionally. My recovery went about as poorly as possible, and I started to worry that some of the damage I took to my wonky knee might be permanent. Being down about that affected my eating habits, and so I gained a little weight. I started to realize that technical trail races may be something I'm not cut out for. Protecting the knee makes me slow, and I get beat up way too much which interrupts my progression as a runner.

All this introspection about my future as a runner was compounded by the uncertainty about my "retirement." I'd become emotionally comitted to leaving my employer after all these decades, but until they confirmed my application (which wasn't certain) I wasn't sure I'd get that huge financial assistance in my career change.

I'd told myself that life is like ultras: you sometimes just have to stick out the low spots and wait for them to end. But I was almost unable to believe this until Friday when things turned around.

First I got officially notified that I was accepted. Woot! I'm still employed until the end of May but I'm committed now (and so are they.) Then I just started to fall into my normal prerace joyfulness as I started to head towards Yakima.

I don't know how to put into words how much I get from hanging out with Maniacs and ultra people. They are the best, like the perfect family you hear about in fairy tales that don't really exist. I was overwhelmed by all the friends I got to hang out with, and I knew even before the race that all my glumness was a thing of the past.

The race weather was nearly perfect. I haven't ever done this marathon before so I really got to appreciate the views of desert canyon and the river. Fortunately, Lesa had warned me in advance about the crown of the roads so I was mentally prepared and it didn't seem to bother me that much.

There's been a pattern in my last few ultras that I have low spots in the mid-teens. For the first time that spilled over into a road marathon for me as I lost focus a bit for miles 13-17. But just like an ultra I came out the other side with an exhilarating feeling of being ready to tackle the late miles. This made me really look forward to the last long hill as a place to gain some ground.

Unfortunately, I was a bit too cocky in that plan, as the hill brought on a scary asthma attack, and then I started to cramp pretty badly near the crest. A year ago that would have been the end and I would have death-marched the last four miles. All the stuff I've been learning from ultras really helped here. I simply knew that I would shake this off, and some of the tricks to how to go about it.

Sure enough, I recovered pace quickly and finished in 3:44. That's not an excellent time for me, but plenty good to send me home happy. More importantly it left me with a 1 day recovery and a lot more faith in my ability to face the next few races in my schedule.

I think the finish area meant more to me than the race did. So many friends had good days and amazing smiles. I infected one non-Maniac runner named Bonny with both my hobby of trying to get smiles from other marathoners as well as the Maniac Virus. It looks like she'll be joining in a few weeks.

I don't have enough time to recount all the friends (and new friends) I talked to and how much their spirit flowed into me. Suffice it to say that my schedule of a 60K, 80K, and 100K in the next 5 weeks now seems immensely less daunting.


Backofpack said...

3:44 is an awesome time! That last hill was definitely a tough one - we did the old post to post routine. Actually we ran to every third reflective post, then walked to the third one, then repeated till we were up the hill. Where we were in the pack, nobody else was running it, they were all walking. Fortunately, we live in an area with many hills - it's very hard to find a flat run - so we've got lots of hill experience.

I'd like to hear what your ultra-tricks are to combat your asthma and the cramping.

Sarah said...

Nice report and great job! Friends and fun are what it's all about. I'll see you at Peterson Ridge. Marc is running and I get to cheer for once.

GotLegs! said...

Hippo, nice to see you came out well on the other side. I'm not sure what issues you're having in running ultras but it seems to me that they have to be better on your body than running the Yakima marathon. It's tough running downill for so long on a listed road, then having to climb the hill in the later miles.

I'm not sure about your "wonky knee," but it would seem to me the road would do more damage than the trails. I've never had knee problems however (knock on wood), so it's difficult for me to relate. When working on my hip issues from last year, the PT said that I would never have knee problems because of how strong the supporting muscles were. He was explaining actually that my laterals were weak and the technical trail running was tweaking my hips. So I've been doing strengthening exercises ever since. What I'm trying to say is that you need to work on strengthening your knee - for what it's worth. If you are able (insurance or whatever), see a PT about it.


Journey to a Centum said...

Retired? Career Change? 60K 80K 100K. You must be bored, you've nothing to do!

Hope the ol knee bone recuperates properly to allow your continued running. As tc says Yakima or "Yakistan" as our Army runners call it probably gave your knee more pounding than two 50K's. I'm sure that Peterson Ridge Rumble will be much kinder to your knee than Chuckamuk. I wanted to run Peterson but just can't justify the drive when I can run 12 summits locally for a training run.

If your employer makes an error and unknowingly gives you huge financial assistance X 10 don't forget about your very good ultra running friends!


olga said...

Hey, look who is here! Waiting on the Rumble report! And it was nice to see you and hear complements on the run - anythime is good for that one:)