Thursday, June 2, 2011

Ridgeline Ramble Marathon Race Report

I've tried to write this report several times and for some reason just can't get into it.  I'm not really sure why, it was a great race and I really enjoyed every second of it but I've just been struggling with the words.  Since we're working on a week past the race, this will have to be it, so here goes:

Short Version:
time: 4:03:31
place: 3rd overall/22, 1st female/11

(Really) Long Version:
Traditionally only a 20K or 10K, this was the first year the Ridgeline Ramble offered the marathon distance.  The marathon course was essentially an out and back of the 20K course beginning at the finish line with an additional 2K added in on the return trip.  Since this was only my second marathon and my first trail race ever, I didn't really have any expectations going into it.   I spent the 27 days between the Eugene Marathon and Ridgeline getting as much time on the course as I could and felt fairly prepared.  If nothing else, I knew the course very well and also  knew I would be able to handle the distance.   Other than finishing (hopefully between  4 1/2 and 5 hours) I didn't have any goals.

I had a great night's sleep before the race.  My kids all slept in their own beds, through the night and I didn't wake up until 5 minutes before my alarm was set to go off (at 5am).  I got up and said hello to my mom who was sleeping on my couch (she chooses to sleep there when she visits, we offer her a bed), ate a Cliff Bar and listened to the rain while I got ready.
Dressed and ready to go... feeling pretty hard core in my "Run or Die" sleeves
Because my mom was here, she stayed behind with the kids while Dan went with me to the start.  We got there about 30 minutes before start time, I picked up my packet, put on my number and my chip and sat in the car listening to music.  I also visited the porta-potty several times mostly because it was there and there was no line... gotta love small races.  With about 5 minutes to go before the gun went of, we made our way across the parking lot to the starting area where I tried to stay warm despite the beautiful liquid sunshine (aka rain).  It actually wasn't that cold but it was pretty wet.  Once we were at the start, they took roll, went over the course (several times, stressing the importance of checking in at aid stations and not missing any sections), gave us a little pep talk, including the prerequisite, "if this were easy, everyone would do it"
 then sent us on our way 

 My main goal was to kind of hang back a bit and make sure that I didn't burn out too early, like I kind of did at Eugene.  I knew that the first couple of miles were basically uphill and I knew it would really hurt me if I went out too fast.  For the first hill I stayed pretty consistent and managed to keep pace and talk a little bit with the girl in the red skirt.  Also, it was a huge surprise to see Dan there taking pictures... what a great photo guy he was.
After the first hill, there was a downhill, then flat section before the next pretty decent sized hill that would take us to the up and down residential area and then finally to the trails.  I passed red skirt girl as well as marathon maniac boy in the orange shorts on the second hill and then went back and forth with the marathon maniac boy through the residential area (I think he was really struggling on the hills) until I ultimately pulled ahead of him when we hit the trails.
photo compliments of Jeff McKay
After about 3 miles into the race we finally hit the trails and I remembered why it was that I was so excited to be running it.  Immediately I could feel myself relax a bit and start to enjoy the run.
compliments again of Jeff McKay
For the next little bit I was basically alone.  I just ran and really tried to enjoy myself.  It was easy to think of it as a training run because there wasn't anyone else around.  After another almost 2 miles of trail, then a section on the road headed up to the Blanton/Fox Hollow trail I ran into a couple of runners who seemed to be a bit confused.  I explained to them that they needed to be following the trail arrows backwards and that we were headed back up the trail.  We pretty much stayed together through the 3rd aid station and headed down along the Amazon Headwaters on part of an out and back side course.  When we got to the bottom and to another aid station where we met up with another runner who was confused about the course.  The aid station guy was trying to help her but didn't seem to know much more and offered her a map.  I did my best to help her out too, as we were all just standing there but my advice didn't seem to be helping much, so after a bit I took off... basically alone.  At first I felt kind of bad for leaving them, but I tried to explain to them the way to go and that I knew the course.  I finally decided that I shouldn't feel badly for being prepared (guess the home court advantage really came in handy).  The other 3 in my little group (including a first time marathoner who at one point said, "I don't think I knew what I was getting myself into") eventually followed but never caught back up with me. 

Back up the side course and onto the main trail and I again found myself pretty much alone.  I knew that pretty soon I would run into the 20K runners who had started an hour later and would be coming at me.  Sure enough, as I was running the section between the Fox Hollow and Willamette (I think miles 8-10) trail heads I began coming across the 20K runners.  At first it was a little tricky trying to figure out the best way to pass them but with a little practice I got it down and was able to kind of side step by them as they were coming at me. There was one point where that sidestep happened to be into a blackberry bush that gave me a pretty decent scrape down the length of my right shin.  It is pretty silly, but when I looked down and saw the blood mixing in with all the mud I got a big huge smile and thought to myself "now you are a true trail runner".  Passing all the 20Kers was a lot of fun, I told every one of them great job and in return most of them said "way to go marathoner"!  It was so fun to be cheering while racing.  

I figured that since I was getting closer to the race turnaround I would be running into the lead marathoners.  Shortly before crossing Willamette street before coming to the last section of the trail I saw a couple running together wearing marathon bibs and so I figured I must have already somehow missed the lead group.  Then I crossed Willamette and ran into a group of 3 guys heading the other way that I was sure were in the lead.  I then ran past several other marathoners headed back who were talking about maybe missing part of the trail and seemed awfully confused.  I didn't really think much of it but knew that I was almost to the turn around (20K or 12.4 miles) where I would get to see Dan again.
Originally when I met up with Dan I had planned to lose my water bottle as well as my jacket, but with my jacket tied around my waist it helped support my water bottle pack and I didn't feel like getting rid of anything.  Instead he hooked me up with a few Margarita Shot blocks, told me that I looked great and sent me back up the hill and on my way.  On my way back up the hill I caught up to and passed a guy in a marathon maniac shirt (not the guy in the orange shorts).  As I was going past him he asked if there was an out and back portion somewhere in the middle.  I told him yes, to which he responded, "Oh, I must have missed it.... well, I was in front of you for a bit, even if I had to cheat to do it."  Which kind of made me chuckle.  From his comment and what I had overheard on my way down to the Blanton Trail head turn around I realized a bunch of people had really messed up on the course, completely skipping a little over 2 miles of it.  I began wondering what was going to happen at the finish and also tried to figure out where I might be in the women's standings.

Between the Blanton turnaround and the Fox Hollow trail head, I passed marathoners going both ways until I was pretty much alone again.  At Fox Hollow, I met up with one of the guys that was originally in the lead pack.  He told me how his group had missed the little out and back section on the first trip out and now had to run it twice.  Although he seemed a bit frustrated I think it came from the fact that a couple of the other guys in his group claimed to not have missed it and went on without doing it twice.  We stayed within shouting range for a bit and yelled a little back and forth about the benefits of not having to run that section twice back to back but he was flying down the hill and was eventually out of conversation range.  I was again alone.  I checked in again at the aid station at the bottom of the hill then began the extra little loop around the Rexius Trail to make the course marathon distance.  During that time it began absolutely pouring.  I got a few quizzical looks from people out walking there dogs who were probably questioning my race number and bright getup when there were no other racers around.  I just smiled and kept on running.

As I started heading back up to the Fox Hollow aid station I could see that I was behind the girl that had been so confused earlier in the race.  As I'm thinking about it now, I have no idea when she passed me but apparently she had at some point.  Due to a little bit of walking on both of our parts, we reached the aid station at about the same time.  She stopped for a snack and I stopped to empty my pockets from my Gu and gum wrappers that I was tired of packing.  The aid workers told us great job and reminded us that we only had 10K left.  Whooo hooo!!  Then we were off.  I stayed behind her for a bit until I realized that I was going a little bit faster and she moved out of my way so I could get by.  As I was passing, she said, "great job, you're going to be the first woman to run the course correctly."  I didn't really believe her because I was pretty sure there were at least 2 women in front of us, but it did get me started thinking about the possibility of coming in 3rd.

Back over the Fox Hollow trail then across a nicely drawn chalk crosswalk by the aid station people on Blanton Rd (who must have been fairly bored) then down Blanton Rd to the Blanton Trail head that would take me up and over Mt. Baldy (again) for the final big hill of the race.  By now the sun had come out and it was a beautiful day.  I had walked a bit here and there going up some of the bigger hills but knew I was going to have a bit of a struggle not walking up all of Baldy.  My plan was to walk a bit while I had another Gu but once I started walking I had a really hard time getting running again.  I decided I would walk as quickly as I could and as soon as I got to the top really pick it up on the downhill to make up for the lost time.  It seemed to work fairly well and even though at a few spots my pace was around 15 minutes miles I easily settled into the low 8's heading back down the other side.

Before I knew it, I was off the mountain and off the trail with only 3 miles of pavement and a few little hills between me and the finish line.
Thanks again to Jeff Mckay for this picture.

I started thinking about how much better this race was than my first marathon and how I had way over estimated my time and that might family might be a little late in coming to see me finish.  (I had told them best case scenario was probably 4:30 and I was on pace to come in not too long after 4 hours!)  I still felt really pretty great as I went through the neighborhoods along Spring Blvd then back to the road that took the course to Lane Community College and the finish.  As I came around the corner towards the finish area I was super surprised to see Dan and also my awesome friend Marci and her daughter with the "Run Happy" sign they had made for the Eugene Marathon.
As soon as I passed Dan, he started running along with me so that he could get some pretty cool going away shots.

Only a short distance more and I was up the last little grassy incline that led to the finish line where my mom and my kids where there cheering me in.
I thought it was pretty cool because they all gave me hugs and Leona said, "You won Mommy!  Hooray!"  To which of course I replied, "Sure... I won" (thinking of course I didn't win, you don't just win marathons) but then less than 5 minutes later, they announced my name as the first female finisher and awarded me with a super cool trophy, an awesome technical tee and a medal!!
I would have told you that it was an amazingly fun race even if I hadn't won it, but that definitely put some icing on the cake.  I am so glad that I ran it... what a great experience!!
Here are a few other tidbits:

The trail was pretty wet but there were surprisingly only a few spots that were the suck your shoes right off your feet kind of mud and luckily my shoes didn't get sucked off.  I did get pretty muddy though:

One thing that I had done differently for this race than my first marathon was to sit down and actually write out my fueling plan.  I didn't really have any plan going into Eugene, so for this one I wanted to have a solid plan and stick to it.  I looked at the course map and the aid station locations and planned my fueling accordingly.  The plan was roughly every 5 miles.  Since I had trouble with cramping in Eugene, I incorporated Margarita Shot Blocks into my strategy (they have three times the sodium as regular blocks) and they seemed to do the job as I didn't have any cramping problems at all.   I ate 3 while waiting in the car to start the race and had planned to have 3 more when I met up with Dan at the almost halfway turnaround.  I had a Chocolate Outrage Gu between miles 4 and 5, a Razz Cliff Shot around mile 10.  Dan gave me 3 Margarita Shot Blocks which I planned to save but ended up taking between miles 12 and 13 one at a time.  At 15ish I had a Vanilla Gu and took my final Chocolate Gu around mile 21.  I also had a bag of Orange Sport Beans but didn't feel the need to take them at all.  The aid stations offered water and Gatorade as well as some yummy treats like licorice and gummy bears but I didn't take anything from any of them.  I had 20oz of water that I sipped on during the race but didn't feel the need for any more.  Had it been warmer I probably would have stopped at some of the aid stations.

Being that it was the inaugural distance for this race I think it all went very well.  Knowing the course as well as I did was very helpful.  Unfortunately it seemed that a few of the aid station workers didn't know the course well enough to help those runners that were confused which I think played a huge factor in this race.  Two of the first finishers were in fact removed from the final results and put at the bottom.

I really enjoyed the smallness of the race.  I didn't miss out on the crowd support that larger races have and had just the right amount of support right when I needed it most.  I even enjoyed the ups and downs of the course, which I think helped my legs work more evenly overall:

It was definitely the race for me and will be one I look forward to doing every year... especially if they keep the entry fee so low.  


Amber said...

Way to go!!

LB said...

wow!!! awesome!!! congrats!! love the pictures. i really must get back into trail running!

AshleyR said...

Great report! As you know, I love trail races. Most everyone is friendly and the small size of most trail races makes for a nice intimacy that you don't get at road races. I love getting to talk to new people on the trails. I'm glad to hear you want to come back for this race again.

BabyWeightMyFatAss said...

Congrats! What a great time!

Alanna said...

Congratulations! I know the feeling of not being able to put a race into words (mine didn't go so well, however). Your report totally makes me want to buy a pair of trail shoes!

So which marathon are you going to run in the next 2 months to get your Marathon Maniacs shirt? :)

Liz said...

So awesome! You did amazing and I loved reading your report.

Jill @ Run for the Hills said...

SO very impressed! Huge congratulations!

Beth said...

Congratulations!! That looks like so much fun. Way to WIN your second marathon :)

Stefanie said...

That's awesome!I love reading stories like this- super inspirational!

FruitFly said...

I am exhausted just reading this! You get MAJOR kudos from me. Like the marathoner that said, "I don't think I knew what I was getting myself into" -- that was ME for the 10K last year. It was a great course, but for my first 10K when I hadn't even gone that far during training, it was pretty intense. Yet you rocked that out and MORE in style and with plenty of speed. VERY impressive, nice job. Congratulations a thousand times on your trophy, navigational skills and mud!

Dick said...

Sorry I didn't go with your mom to watch you run. You're amazing!

Teamarcia said...

Way to rock those trail girl! Congrats on a great race and on the WIN!

P said...

I just love that photo of you and your family after your finish. What an amazing mama you are!!

Richelle said...

Way to go! Congrats on a great race and a marathon win!

Small Town Runner said...

Laurie- I loved every BIT of your race report. It is a great example of how really studying the course is SO helpful. Yeah, you had the home course advantage, but you KNEW what to expect & where to turn because you paid attention and practiced there. Smart cookie!
I would really love to come up there and run the ridgeline area with you sometime. :) I am a little nervous about running trails solo.

Congrats again on a FAST trail race & First place!!

Marci said...


Janet said...

Great Job!! It was fun to be there to see you finish. You are my running hero :o)

Nicole Orriëns said...

I got all distracted by your lovely floral skirt. Thinking where did she get it, and how much would it cost.

I'm greatly impressed you ran a marathon.

Julie D. said...

Sorry, I've been out of the blog loop....a belated congrats!! Looks like an amazing race!! nice job.