For the last few years I've enjoyed spending a couple consecutive Sundays running out east at Horse Butte and then West in Sisters. Every year I use one or both of these races to test my fitness coming out of winter, and heading into the racing season. Each year I've run, the weather has been about as different for each event as it could be with the event in Sisters benefitting perhaps from being scheduled one week later on the calendar.
The Horse Butte 10 miler put on by my friends at Footzone was the first of the events, taking place on a nasty day on the last Sunday in March. My goal going into the race was to run close to last year's time of 57:12. I had done a time trial on the course a week before and was about the same as last year, just under an hour. For the race itself though, I'd have to say that I was having an off day. It could have been the 30 degree weather and 30 mile an hour winds, but I just never got into a good groove that day. It was one of those races where you'd be running along and then realize, "Hey, I'm not really going that fast." I'd try to pick up the pace and that would hold for a little while, but then I'd relax again without realizing it and slow back down. My time at the finish was a disappointing 58:50. It was my third win in three tries at Horse Butte but I was noticing the rest of Bend is catching up. Whereas I had won the race by about 5 minutes each of the last couple years, this year it was less than 3 minutes to a hard charging and quickly improving Damon Kluck. It makes me wonder, how many more victories am I going to be able to enjoy? At least one more as it turned out...
This last Sunday was The Peterson Ridge Rumble put on by another friend of mine, Sean Meissner. I met Sean several years back when he used to work at the Footzone. Sean begged a ride off of my wife out to the start line of 30K road race. After getting to talking, he invited me to come out to his house for a 17 mile trail race he was holding in Sisters. I came out to the race only to find a handful of ultra runners and their dogs. It was a fun event at the time, but it's definitely changed for the better now.
For this year's race I had been thinking of running the 60K instead of the shorter 30K option for a while. When I saw that the event would be cut short to 55K because of snow conditions it helped to make my decision easier. This would be my first ultra!
I have to admit that I was a bit nervous when I got to the starting line. It was kind of like my first Ironman race in that I didn't really know how my body would handle it. At the same time though, I have to admit that I was excited. I thought that if I could just run my normal training pace for 4 hours straight, I would have a pretty good day. As the race began 2 guys shot off the start line. One of them was a bit of a poser who dropped off after about 50 yards, the other was Lanny Gower, who had won the Hagg Lake 50K earlier in the year. Lanny led through the first mile of 6:37 and almost immediately started complaining that the pace was too fast. The next miles were 6:36 and another 6:37 so I knew that if nothing else, at least we were running even. At this point I was starting to pull ahead of Lanny and by about 4 miles, I never saw him again. The next 3.5 hours were awesome. I just enjoyed the beauty of God's creation on one of the most beautiful day you could ask for. One would think that it might be boring to be out there running by yourself for so long but the trail kept me busy with tricky footing, and the views kept me distracted enough that it never really got to be too bad. I also kept my eye on my heart rate monitor to make sure that I didn't go too much over 160. I was fairly confident that I could hold that effort for the duration. I just kept covering ground and hitting new aid stations every 5 miles or so. A Gu and a cup of Coke is what looked good when I got there so that what I took. It seemed to work pretty well.
Being that there was never a true mile marker I will have to admit that catching a view of the parking lot where the start/finish line was felt really good. Not because I was dying, but because I was still feeling pretty decent and I wanted to finish that way. Once I hit the track I decided to kick it in a little bit. Of course I was saving my strength though for the hurdle. You see, for some crazy reason Sean always puts a hurdle on the home straight, about 30 yards from the finish. I was actually thinking about that hurdle at the beginning of the race, wondering if I'd have the strength to clear it at the end; it turned out not to be that bad. Maybe next year Sean should put out a Steeple chase barrier, that would scare some people away for sure!
So that was my first ultra! 4:02:01. It came out to around 7 min. pace for an average on my garmin, not exactly flying but not that bad either considering the kind of shape the trail was in. I was pleased that my last mile was actually my fastest (6:20). Now it's got me hungry for more...marathons are for wimps!