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Forest Park Ultra - RunUltra Marathon

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Portland, Oregon
United States
Pacific Coast Trail Runs
55F / 13C
Total Time = 5h 38m
Overall Rank = 4/15
Age Group =
Age Group Rank = 0/
Pre-race routine:

we flew into Portland Saturday afternoon into a dismal, dark and rainy afternoon. to save a bit of money we decided to take the Light Rail into the city. well, that turned out to be somewhat like a trip to the twilight zone. the characters on that Light Rail were, let's say - colorful. we had the junkie, the baglady, a guy who told us he was Seinfeld's screen writer, a transvestite and some extremely tough looking guy resembling Queequeg of the movie Moby Dick.
once we got to our hotel it really started pouring. the evening was spent stuffing ourselves with pasta and watching tv.

the race started at 8:30AM and we chose our hotel so it was in walking distance of the start. we each munched a waffle, a banana and a muffin or two from the breakfast buffet and then headed out into the drizzle.
Event warmup:

walking the 1/2 mile or so to the start and then a bit of hobnobbing with the race organizers (Sarah & Wendell Doman - both Western States 100 finishers and terrific, down to earth people. more of them later)

a bit after 8:30 Wendell called us to the start. "everybody ready? ok, get out of here!" and so we did.
  • 5h 38m
  • 31 miles
  • 10m 54s  min/mile

running an ultra is very different from a marathon. despite this being the shortest distance that can be called 'ultra', the fact that it's on trails instead on pavement makes it much more of an endurance event.
in a marathon, one can calculate one's estimated finishing time fairly accurately. i've never been off by more than 10 min, and i'm not a very experienced marathoner. it's easy to just set the trained-for pace and then zone out and hang on. it's all in the training. with the trail run there is no telling. it depends so much on the weather, on trail conditions, on concentrating where to step, on where and how much one walks (everybody walks some parts) etc, etc.

it's much more about energy management, keeping a reserve and more importantly, keeping a good attitude and being alert. you're completely on your own for much of the race. aids stations are 10k apart. if you bonk or break an ankle that's your problem to solve. there will be no ambulance.

i started at the end of the pack together with Martina, who did the 30K, because i tend to go out too fast. after a few k her shoelace opened and she chased me off.

i soon ended up running with a girl who also did her 50k. i let her set the pace and we talked about sports, our strategies, life, universe and everything. we stuck together until about 35k, when i thought it was time to set my own pace. i didn't see anybody after that, except at aids station 4.

the mind starts wandering and gets a bit funny after running through the woods for more than 4 hours and this is as close to a runner's high as i've ever been. i thought i could run on forever. letting my mind drift like that backfired for me. i took a wrong turn - the last wrong turn it was possible to take, 3k before the finish, because i couldn't snap out of my state to make sure that i knew where i was going. not big problem here - all it cost me was running about .3 miles more and climb maybe 200' additional feet. but i realized how far my mind was gone when i tried to ask people for directions!

it makes me wonder how i would have dealt with a bigger problem. this run was a baby as far as ultra runs go. on the big ones there's much more decision making involved. i've got a lot to learn...
What would you do differently?:

pinch myself awake every few miles. maybe do a bit of arithmetic in my head. i need to learn how to keep a clear head.
Post race
Warm down:

a hug and kiss from Martina, who had finished her 30K almost 2 hours ago and was back from the hotel after taking a shower.

a handshake from Wendell, 3 bowls of chili, 1 of chicken soup, a few boiled potatoes and a coke.

then we waited for the next few finishers and cheered them, before i got too cold and hurried back to the hotel with Martina. the evening was spent hobbling along 24th Avenue (Portland turned out to be not altogether dismal after all), raving about the run, eating Thai food and leaning against each other for support.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

my lack of experience in ultra running. i might have run a bit faster and fueled a bit better but then again we both finished what we set out to do. that's the thing that counts with Ultras!

Event comments:

another word about Sarah & Wendell: when you run one of their organized races you're family for the duration. they don't care who's first or last. they don't care how stupid you behave or a question you ask, they just want you to have a good time and see you finish.

if you're in or close to the San Francisco Bay Area and in the least interested in trail running check out their website
they have almost monthly races and each one has a 10k, 20k, 30k and 50k or something close. if you decide to do a longer or shorter distance than the one you signed up for you can do that during the race no problem. as long as you have fun it's all good. their aids stations are better stocked than my fridge (although that's not saying much...)

i might never do a street race again after this!

Last updated: 2006-05-10 12:00 AM
05:38:00 | 31 miles | 10m 54s  min/mile
Age Group: 0/
Overall: 0/15
Performance: Good
Course: despite the drizzle the course is almost unbelievably beautiful. i'm used to running in picturesque Redwoods on the SF Peninsula, but this was phenomenal. Forest Park is the biggest "city park" in the US. it's actually not a city park at all but a genuine piece of Northwest Pacific wilderness. there's pine forest, fern fields, lots and lots of trees fallen over the trails, even more mud, creek crossings and a section that's so steep that you have to hang on to the trees next to the trail in order not to slide down on your butt. it was like running through a rain forest - which, on further thought, it actually is. it's fairly well maintained for the first, say, 20k, but soon turns into single track with a fair amount of bushwhacking required to get ahead. some thorns, but not too bad. and mud. did i mention mud? elevation gain is very mild for a 50k. Wendell claims 3150' on his web page, i measured about 6000' with DEM satellite data. somewhere in between is probably correct. i would rate it as ideal for a first 50k. there's tree cover almost all the way, the ground is soft without rocky parts and there are almost no ultra-steep section. can you tell i didn't suffer too much?
Keeping cool Good Drinking Just right
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Below average
Mental exertion [1-5]
Physical exertion [1-5]
Good race? Yes
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Good
Race evaluation [1-5] 5

2006-05-30 8:28 PM

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SF Bay Area, Mountain View
Subject: Forest Park Ultra

2006-05-30 8:58 PM
in reply to: #438534

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Silver member
Subject: RE: Forest Park Ultra

Holy Mother of God! That's a long ways to run. Congratulations on living to tell us all about it!

Nice job... and Good for Martina too! You guys are certainly a pair of hard core endurance runners!

I wish I could get lost in running. Hasn't happened yet... Mind does not wander, but rather counts each step and breath... and never really goes to that "happy place" I hear about...

You rock! What's next on your agenda for this year??

2006-05-31 12:29 PM
in reply to: #438534

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Extreme Veteran
Subject: RE: Forest Park Ultra

Great race report.  Way to go! 

You and Martina have some big time endurance legs.  I love that you're considering doing math problems to keep yourself alert.    The race and the coordinators sound great. 

"life, the universe, everything"  sounds a little Douglas Adams to me.

Nice description of running in the northwest.  We specialize in rain forests.  Makes me want to try some off road trail running.  I'll have to check out that park next time I'm down in Portland. 


2006-05-31 2:47 PM
in reply to: #439232

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Westminster, Colorado
Subject: RE: Forest Park Ultra
Great race, I can't even imagine running that far, esp on a trail! I also cannot find that runners high, I count every minute until I get to stop running, it's not fun for me, but I am hoping it gets better the more I run. I'm a cyclist, put me on my road bike and I can go all day.
2006-06-01 9:36 AM
in reply to: #438534

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St Charles, IL
Subject: RE: Forest Park Ultra

Awesome race! 

I know what you mean about trail running.  Some of my favorite training runs have been ones where I've gotten off the roads and wandered into the trees and forgotten about the world for awhile.

And the PNW is an amazingly beautiful place to have run the race.  Hmmm...  I think a seed has been planted... 


2006-06-01 8:27 PM
in reply to: #440158

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SF Bay Area, Mountain View
Subject: RE: Forest Park Ultra
coredump - 2006-06-01 7:36 AM

And the PNW is an amazingly beautiful place to have run the race. Hmmm... I think a seed has been planted...

my work here is done

about the runner's high - i'm fairly sure it's a myth. most people probably just use it as an alternative expression of being 'in the zone' - running effortlessly and aerobically. i just had the gorgeous surroundings and my deteriorating mind on top of that.

a lot of people who do 100M trail runs - Western States, Leadville, etc. suffer from hallucinations during the later stages of the race. i woudn't really describe that as a high, though...

2006-06-01 8:42 PM
in reply to: #438534

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Virginia Beach, VA
Subject: RE: Forest Park Ultra
Great job with the 50K; that's awesome! I'm hoping to finish a 50K this fall.
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