Wednesday, June 13, 2012

My Dirty Half

It's good to be home for a few days after a busy long weekend in Bend, OR.  Unfortunately my nagging pelvic injury flared up after the race and I'm almost certainly dealing with a sports hernia.

It started on May 23rd as a minor deep pelvic pain that was difficult to feel except after long runs (10+), hilly runs or races.  The pain also quickly dissipated by the day after the aforementioned runs so I thought it would go away on a reduced mileage training plan.  Any thought of this being a minor issue was put to rest after last Sunday's USA 1/2 Marathon Trail Championships (Footzone Dirty Half) in Bend, OR.  It was very, very painful immediately after the race and even after 2 full days rest I still have a deep achy pain behind my pelvic bone.  Even coughing hurts......which can't be a good thing.

Despite the the injury I was reasonably happy with my performance in the race and had a good time with my Bend area friends and a few elite runners who flew in for the event.  I stayed with fellow Central Mass Strider and Running Raw founder Tim Van Orden (Bennington, VT), 2011 US NACAC Mountain Running Team member Amber Moran (Asheville, NC) and her boyfriend Chris Young (Skyland, NC).  Also hanging out with us was Gina Lucrezi (Carbondale, CO) who is the works for Trail Runner Magazine and was on the 2011 US NACAC team with Amber.

Amber (left) & Gina (center) at the 2011 NACAC

Tim had been to Bend to race in the 2010 XTERRA Trail Running Nationals but for Amber, Mike and Gina, this was their first time in the trail running Mecca of Central Oregon.  What do you do with a bunch of Bend newbies?  Enjoy as much of this small, friendly town as is possible in 48 hours; endless singletrack, sunny skys, fresh roasted artisan coffee, 12 craft breweries, great food & epic mountain scenery.

Customer created cedar planks decorate the Thump ceiling

Since Bend is my wanna-be hometown I took the lead as tour guide and started us off at Thump Coffee, just off Bond St in downtown.  In addition to enjoying a few espressos and latte drinks we decorated our own cedar planks to add to the thousands currently adorning the ceiling.  After getting adequately amped up on caffeine we walked over to the Footzone to pick up our race numbers.  This is a shop that all runners visiting Bend should check out.  The selection is great and the staff are all avid local runners including 2011 World Mountain Running Champion Max King.

We next went for a 6 mile warm-up run on the Dirty Half course to acquaint ourselves with the first and last couple miles of the race route.  Just as I'd promised our out of town visitors, the temps were warm, the sun shone brightly and the views of freshly snow dusted Cascade Mountains were fully epic.

After running I returned to the Footzone to help button up some details related to the USA Track & Field Championship portion of the event while Gina, Amber, Chris and Tim had lunch at Super Burrito.  After ensuring all systems were a "go" at Footzone I bounced next door for a couple quick slices at Pizza Mondo.  The good folks at Mondo would also be providing free post race pizza at the next days race.  Yeah thats right, pizza for breakfast - no better way to celebrate a 13 mile race.

The Old Mill - Bend, OR

In the afternoon I went off to see my parents while Gina, Amber, Chris and Tim toured the town for some additional sightseeing including The Old Mill, Strictly Organic Coffee, Pilot Butte State Park and 10 Barrel Brewing.  I always find it a bit strange to see the Old Mill reborn as a mecca of shopping and recreation.  The first time I saw it in the mid-1990's it was still an active mill located in a gritty industrial neighborhood South of Downtown.  Now the old power plant is an REI store and tourists mill about doing what they do at any average shopping mall - spent $$$.  Except you can run, ride your bike or paddle a kayak to this shopping mall and see expansive mountain views from the back door of The Gap.

Photo by brad21

Race day.  We were all concerned it would be cold after the previous nights frost warning and an 8 AM start.  Fortunately the skys were crystal clear, there was no wind and the bright run warmed the course to near perfect racing weather.  Shorts and singlets were still the order of the day with maybe some light gloves.  At this point my pelvic pain was not an issue and I could only barely feel an ever so slight deep ache.

Amber and Gina

At 8 AM the gun fired and I headed on course with 60 other USATF members plus another 200 runners in wave 1.  My plan was to stick with last years 40+ winner Tim Van Orden and see if I could run strong enough to take him in the final miles.  At 2 miles it was clear Tim was running too fast for me so I backed off and settled into a pace I thought I could maintain for the next 11 miles.  At 2.5 miles a guy with an M50-54 back tag passed me like I was standing still and quickly closed in on Tim.  Ok, I just got dusted by a guy 10 years older than me - that hurts.  I later found out this was Mike Blackmore who runs for elite Bowerman Athletic Club and holds the 50+ American 5000m record (15:16).  Now I feel better.

Club Northwest Masters

At 4 miles I got passed by Kevin Cave (who went on to finish 6th) and again at 8 miles by Jeff Sather (who went on to finish 8th).  Ugh, I hate getting passed but I didn't feel like I had the legs to go with any of these guys.  It sucks feeling like you are just hanging on and guys are blowing by you.  Was I going backwards or were they starting slow and then running strong in the 2nd half of the race?  It wasn't till I got to mile 12 that I realized that I was running pretty even while Kevin and Jeff just kicked ass in the 2nd half of their races.  I could actually see Tim way ahead followed by Jeff, Mike and non-USATF runner (and excellent ultra runner) Ian Sharman.  Mike had faded in the final miles because I saw him get passed by Jeff & Ian and Tim later told be Mike ran ahead of him in the middle of the race.

Masters Champion Tim Van Orden

I crossed the line in 1:21:43 - over 2.5 minutes faster than last year but slower than I would have hoped.  Was it the high elevation?  Was it the nagging injury and my diminished training the previous 2 weeks?  Reflecting back after the race I remembered that this was my first trail race & longest race in 6 months.  I'd done well in 10 bike races and 5 running races (10 miles and under) on the road in 2012 but while good training, those aren't exactly solid indicators for an off-road 1/2 marathon on twisty trails.  I'd done lot's of speed but all of it was on the roads or on the track.  In hindsight some speed on the trails would be been a good idea.

RD Dave Thomason & 80 year old Don Hildebrand

Regardless of not meeting my pre-race expectations I did have fun flogging myself on the trails for an hour or so.  The real negative outcome was my pelvic pain which REALLY hurt immediately after the race.  Just walking around was not comfortable.  It felt like someone hit me in the groin with a hammer each time I would take a step.  Fortunately there was work to be done to distract from the pain; taking photos, working on USATF results with Doug Cleavenger and handing our national championship awards & prize money with race director Dave Thomason.

Beer for breakfast

There were also hundreds of other runners pouring into the post race festival, getting good eats, drinking beer from Deschutes Brewery and listening to music.  I had the chance to chat up my running friends, talk about our races and catch-up on our respective happenings.  Regardless of my own result and injury, this was the part of the Dirty Half or any race that I enjoyed and value most.

Late Sunday night I learned that one runner among us didn't make it to the finish line.  40 year old William Tufts collapsed and died on the trail while competing in the Dirty Half.  I'm even more thankful for all my experiences this past weekend because you never know when they might be your last. R.I.P Mr. Tufts.