Well, in lieu of my last post, this week did not go as planned. Whatever gnarly germs were going around my workplace hit me the day after I made my declaration. The cold came on fast and I didn’t feel like pushing it this week.
My calendar notice popped up earlier this week to remind me that the Ginger Runner Virtual Run I signed up for a ways back was this Saturday. It’s something I’ve looked forward to since I signed up. For those of you who are not familiar, The Ginger Runner is one of the best online resources for runners. Husband and wife team Ethan and Kim compile some of the best video reviews on new shoes and gear, as well as hosting a live interview every Monday with some of the top ultrarunners out there. The live interviews are also uploaded to iTunes in podcast format and they are a staple of pretty much every run I do (between UltraRunner Podcast, Ten Junk Miles, and Trail Manners).
The Virtual Run is something the good folks at Ginger Runner put together to take all their listeners and viewers on a run. The concept: run for 2 hours straight, anywhere and anytime on November 19th, upload your run to Strava, and send them the link to your run. There is no declared “winner”, but there are a number of categories runners can win an award in. Donut consumption, elevation gain, running on film…those are just a few. It’s a very positive thing and Ethan and Kim are two of the best ambassadors for the sport of trail running. I hope this is something they do every year, or even multiple times a year. I’m excited to see what the prizes are and how the rest of the people running did.
Here’s how mine went…
As Saturday approached I poured over my Strava account, trying to determine what a reasonable mileage goal would be. My lack of running this week, combined with whatever cold this is, I decided 13-ish miles was a reasonable goal. The weather forecast called for rain and it’s not exactly a subtropical kind of temperature. When I woke up this morning, there was a glimmer of sunshine beyond the wet streets of Sellwood. The coughing and congestion was not as bad as it had been the day before. I had my ritual banana with a little peanut butter and a cup of black coffee. Before I could have second thoughts I was out the door and on my way to Forest Park.
I parked in my usual spot on Aspen Avenue and a little bit after 9 AM I was out of my car and trudging up Holman Lane toward the Wildwood. Right off the bat, I knew I made a huge mistake. Before I left my house I filled up my hydration pack with WAY more water than I needed. It felt like I was carrying a fucking waterbed on my back, each step I was distracted by the sloshing, not to mention the extra and unneeded weight. The first stretch of the run is the largest elevation gain, 361 feet, and it’s always where I always try to go hardest, mostly because I want to get the goddamn climb out of the way. 361 feet is not that much, but it’s the first mile-and-a-half that usually makes or break my run. I’ve set up a pretty big mental road block with that first 1.5, and if it takes me more than 9-minutes to get through the first mile, it definitely affects the rest of the run. The first mile took me 9:35 and I remember saying, “Fuck” under my breath.
The effort I put in to get that 9:35 time the first mile got my heart rate up a lot higher than it should have been. I could feel the scratchiness come into my throat and I started to cough up all sorts of fun stuff. This run was going to be work, but I made peace with that, and kept going. Once I passed the mile-and-a-half point, I knew the worst of it was over. There were a few more climbs, but I could feel my legs were warmed up, and I just focused on putting my feet to the trail.
Mud. Mud all over the fucking place, throw in some soggy leaves, and another factor that was going to slow me down. One last minute switch I made ended up being a good call. The original plan was to wear my Altra Lone Peak 2.5’s, as they are shoes that have consistently given me my fastest runs on the Wildwood. Because I’ve been pretty sedentary this week, I thought my knees would be better served in Altra Olympus 2.o’s. The extra support definitely helped, and the Vibram traction kept me from slipping and sliding all over the place.
The route I chose is my typical, 8-mile, out and back that I do on my runs through the weekday. By the time I got to Firelane Road 3, I had to make a choice. The Wildwood becomes a great downhill that intersects with the Nature Trail. It’s about 194 feet down, but it’s incredibly deceptive, because the climb up is fucking brutal. It’s tricked me many times, running down as fast as I can go, feeling like I’m Scott fucking Jurek, only to turn on me when it’s time to climb back up. The climb is not exactly straight up, but there are few switchbacks, and the elevation gain knocks the piss out of me. Usually, I keep going once I get to the bottom, which becomes a series of rolling hills that have bonked me many times. I have the Strava splits to prove it. Instead of continuing once I got to the bottom, I snuck off the trail to take a piss, and then decided to turn right around and run back up. I was tempted to keep going to the rolling hills, but I trudged back up and managed to make decent time up (actually set a personal record on the Strava segment, which is called the Meatgrinder). By the time I was out of it, back up to the picnic table, I was feeling pretty damn good about my run. The worst of it was over, I was just about an hour into it, and the Trail Manners podcast interviewing Karl Meltzer on his FKT of the Appalaichan Trail came on, and I decided to just chill out and enjoy the rest of my run with Karl’s tale of his remarkable accomplishment.
It was nice to pass several volunteers clearing the Wildwood on my way down. The slew of mud and leaves was gone, and the smiling faces that raked aside the debris got me back down to Holman Lane. I was a little over 12 miles by the time I got back, an hour and forty minutes, so I kept going past Holman Lane, winding back down to the Lower Macleay Trail, which I’ve never really run before. There was a lot more foot traffic, so I had to slow down a bit to dodge families and friends out for their Saturday morning hike. The trail got pretty slippery, as the mud turned into rain slicked rocks, and then my timer went off with a ten-minute warning. I turned around and started heading back up off Lower Macleay.
During my initial descent, I started to worry about the climb back out, but it didn’t end up being anything too strenuous. Don’t get me wrong, my legs were fucking tired, and I was feeling my cold in full effect. I managed to make it back to my car, 1:59:59 with 14.3 miles. Felt pretty good about my overall run, but wonder if I would have done better had I bothered to prime my legs with a few runs earlier in the week. It wasn’t my greatest run, but I feel like I did the best I could this Saturday.
Once again, I think it’s very cool the Ginger Runner put on this Virtual Run. I’m really happy I got to be a part of it and I can’t wait to hear how others around the world did.