Thursday, March 17, 2011

Way Too Cool 50K 2011

The Way Too Cool 50K found its way onto my 2011 racing calendar for two primary reasons: 

1.) Motivation. This race has a large field of very talented runners. Ideally, one could show up with her A-game. In my case, I could at least try not to make a fool of myself.

2.) Get the season started early. I guess this is just restating reason number one. Nothing kicks my training into high gear like the excitement of a race, and sometimes I need to be yanked out of that winter slumber.

If you think of those as my goals, you could say last Saturday was a very successful day for me.

Driving down to Cool on race morning, I felt all the wrong things for race day. I was apprehensive, unsure of my fitness, and unsure of what I was even doing there. I had a million other things on my mind besides the race and I spent the whole drive trying to remind myself that this was supposed to be fun. I arrived at the start still unconvinced. If you’ve ever seen me on race morning, you may realize that this is not like me at all.

It didn’t feel like a very auspicious day for a race, but soon enough I was greeted by good friends who had plenty of hugs. I realized it was sunny out and it would be warm enough to run in a tank top. I also realized that a good portion of the new course was almost exactly the same as one of my favorite training runs. I love to run here! By the time I lined up, there was nothing but running on my mind. Finally: my happy place!

My original goal had been to aim for a sub-5 hour finish. Even though I wasn’t feeling immensely confident, I decided to stick with that goal. I just couldn’t come up with any other time that would satisfy me. I figured there was no point in trying to fool myself about that. 5:20, while still a 50K PR, would feel like a disappointment. That first number needed to be a four.

I looked for Jamie everywhere on the starting line, but sadly had to start without her.  The pace felt quick, but good. When we hit the single track, I could tell I had fallen in with a line of runners going exactly the pace I wanted. Sweet!

Oh, there she is! Jamie Frink makes her way through the starting crowd.

Early miles on Olmstead

At the first creek crossing there was an amusing number of people lining up to cross on rocks in order to keep their feet dry. I splashed right by them with a few others, knowing there would be plenty more where that came from. Wet feet are hardly a concern on such a short race.

I enjoyed conversations with new people all day, and never really felt uncomfortable with my pace until I ran out of water two miles before ALT.

It was my own fault since I had left the previous aid station without a full bottle. I actually managed to giggle at my own stupidity. Ah, such a rookie move. I was forced to back off a little as I felt my calves begin to cramp. I’d been pacing off Clare Abram nearly all day, and now I watched as she took off ahead of me. As usual. (One day I will keep up with that woman, I’m determined!)

We were a good little pace group for a while, but both Amy (in front of me) and Clare (behind) finished well ahead of me.

The day and trail were both beautiful, and I actually enjoyed the struggle of trying to maintain my pace. I could tell I was pushing the limits of my training, but I also realized that I might actually break five hours. I popped some electrolyte caps at each of the next few aid stations in order to stave the cramping and started keeping a close eye on the watch.

As I blew through the last aid station, I thought about Steve Itano. We’d been running together earlier in the race, and he told me how every year he tells himself that he’s going to run up this last hill to the finish, but every time when he finally gets there he just can’t do it. This year, he said, he was going to do it! So, I promised him that I would do it too. Easy to say at mile seven I guess, but I meant it sincerely.

Now I had that motivation, plus the knowledge that I was cutting it a bit close to go under five. I will admit, I really wanted to walk on that hill. But what I wanted even more was to find Steve at the end of the race and tell him how much he had helped my finish. I never did find him after the race, but I guess it doesn’t really matter. He motivated me just the same. I felt strong after running up that hill, and happily finished in 4:56.

Realistically, I can’t say that things could have gone much better in this race. I met my goal, I had a beautiful day outside among friends, and I left feeling motivated to train harder.

Huge thanks go out to Julie and all the volunteers for such a well done event. Everything was top notch, and I am definitely a big fan of the new course. Thanks also to Jack and Steve for all the pictures on a day when I left my camera at home, and to Jamie for the pre-race hugs. I love runners!

RD Julie Fingar and 6th place woman Jenny Capel

Jamie and I smile over big 50K PRs!


  1. I'd say your race season is off to a fantastic start. May all the others to follow be just as PR-worthy. Or at least just as motivating and fun. I think I'll follow your lead and just splash through the creek crossings on my trail race in a few weeks.

  2. Wow, sub-5 early in a season is awesome! May be one day I'll make my way to this staple, if ever remember to play the lottery:) Beautiful beginning of the year!

  3. Congrats on the sub-5 50K! Ha! I got in line for that first stream crossing and dumped my foot in the stream on the last rock! My goal was just to finish since my longest run in the past 3 months was 12 miles, and I am recovering from a torn soleus. It was nice meeting you in the porta-potty line before the race! Hope you have a great year of racing!

  4. Congratulations and great way to start your year!

  5. Anne - Splashing through the creeks is such a fun part of trail racing! I'll confess, on long training days, if it's feasible, I slow down to rock hop. Race days bring out more of that devil-may-care attitude!

    Olga - Thanks! I think you would enjoy this race, although I predict your complaints would be that it's too short and too flat. ;) But there are so many familiar and friendly faces, that you would love the social aspects!

    John - Hey, thanks for stopping by and for introducing yourself at the race! So, I take it you didn't get the mid-race phone call about your wife going into labor then? Hope it all goes well, and congrats on your race!

    Darren - Thanks! Indeed, I hope it's a good omen of things to come.

  6. Wow, sub-5-congratulations!

    I started reading your blog last year while getting more and more into trail races. I ran my first 50k at Cool last Saturday, and I can't wait to do more (and possibly longer?!) ultras.

    Thanks for all of the inspiring posts, great photos, and gear tips, etc!

  7. solid, solid start to the race season. Congrats on the PR!

  8. Meredith - Oh, that's so nice to hear! Thanks for reading. Huge congratulations on your race Saturday; that's so exciting! Cool is a good one to start your ultra carer with, I'd say. Good luck and have fun on the rest of your training and racing.

    Dave - Thanks! :)

  9. Strong like bull! Congratulations on great first race of your season. I'm gonna love following along!

  10. Nice! Sub-5 this early in the season can only mean good things.

  11. Stacy and Scott - Thanks!

  12. Geez Louise, Gretchen, that's a speedy 50K. Only in my dreams....Congratulations on a great race. Looks like it was a beautiful day.

    Can you be a bit more specific about your training? I'm trying to build a bit more intensity into my workouts. I'd love to hear what you're doing.

  13. Wahoo, Gretchen! Sub-5 hours?! That is so exciting I can hardly stand it!! I clicked through Jack's photos from the race on FB and was reminiscing about the parts I recognized from RDL100 :) Great work out there, and I'm so glad the day ended up being so much better than it started!

  14. BLAMMO! Excellent job! As always. Der.

  15. Gretchen, so glad that you had such great day! We have so many more great days ahead.

  16. Hi Chica! Obviously I'm late (as usual) to comment on this, but what a great race for you! Sub-5 hours in March is solid - you're laying a great foundation for the end of June! Very nicely done.

    So how long do I have to wait for the Aquarium report?

  17. Pam - Hmm, well, basically at the moment I run 5 days a week. One long run (25-35 miles), one-two speedwork days (fartlek or tempo run), one hill-repeat day, and one mid-week longer run (15ish miles).Right now that generally adds up to mileage in the 60's per week, and will top out at about 80. Something like that. All this is subject to weather though, and, you know, life ...

    Paige - Thanks! We had some good times at the Cool Fire Station, no? ;) You guys should think about coming out for this race next year!

    Russ - Der. Is that like "duh"? Thanks. :)

    Jamie - Looking forward to some great race and training days ahead! At AR can we please find each other before the gun goes off? Okay? Thanks.

    Donald - Fashionably late though. Thanks. I'm hoping for some real fitness sometime soon here, so this was a nice boost.
    You may have to wait until June for any real aquarium reports. Meanwhile - What did the mollusk say to the sea cucumber?

  18. Gretchen, another awesome time for you!Great way to begin the season. Now, an even better way to ramp-up would be the Leona Divide again this year. I predict a much bigger poppy bloom this year due to the big/late season rainfall! It will be really beautiful. Come on down...bring some friends and you can all stay here! <):oD

  19. Thanks, Gretchen. Very helpful. I am trying to shock myself into a quicker pace. Up until this winter I had been doing all of my runs at the same oblivious, turtle-ish pace. I was wondering about combining speed work and hill work in the same week. Glad to see you do both. Off to run some hills....!!

  20. Hmm ... I think I heard it the other way. The sea cucumber says, "With friends like you, who needs anemones?" But I might have it backward. For a clownfish, I'm not very funny.

  21. Aunt T - I wish I could make Leona this year! I can't even imagine the poppy bloom being any bigger than last year! But it's definitely on the list for future races, hopefully next year. I'll gather some runner-geek friends and we'll have a party at your place. ;)

    Pam - Nothing boosts the race times like a little speed work, regardless of your race distance. Hope the hills went well!

    Donald - You got it, kid! (Except, replace "friends" with "fronds")

    For a Clownfish you're not very funny?



  22. Nice PR at WTC50k Gretchen. It was great to see you. Hope to see you in "the canyons" in a few more weeks. That is if your not still snowed in. :)

  23. Jack - Thanks! Can't wait for some canyon running!