This past weekend was a busy one for the Smiths. But that’s how we like it around here—until we can’t stand it any more. Saturday, my little dude turned 5 and Pam ran in the Hagg Lake “Mud Run” 50K outside of Gaston, OR. She says she lost 250 “Mom points” by racing on her kid’s birthday, but made them back (and more) by baking an awesome X-wing Fighter birthday cake for his party on Sunday.
So, as we often do in our house, we performed the old switcheroo on Sunday. I went for my run and Pam had the kids…this works great for getting our runs in, but not for seeing much of your spouse, hence the reason for Wednesday night run/date night!
Early Sunday morning, I headed out to run the Hagg Mud 25K and let me tell you, the operative word for the day was definitely “mud”! Pam had been warning me about the famous mud at Hagg lake for weeks but I wasn’t worried. Then she ran 2X around the lake on Saturday and told me it was really muddy and that it would only get worse for the 25Kers who were running on Sunday. But I still wasn’t worried. THEN I saw some of the pictures of the 50K runners circulating on Facebook after the race on Saturday. I was worried.
Thanks to Pam’s pre race briefing Saturday night, I felt like I had a pretty good race plan going in to the day. It’s amazing how race planning helps me achieve my best results. Whenever I visualize the day I do well. When I don’t, well you know what happens. How does the saying go, “failing to plan means planning to fail?” Here was what we came up with:
- Hammer the 3-4 miles of paved section as hard as you can.
- Work hard during the first 1/3 of the race
- Back off a little during the second 1/3 of the race
- Push it as hard as I can during the last 1/3 of the race.
And the goal for the day??? Beat Pam’s original Hagg Lake 25K time from 10 years ago when she was a novice trail runner.
Did I mention that the day went according to plan? It started out with a 1.5 mile (total) out and back section on road. .75 miles up a steep hill and then back. I don’t usually like to start out hard, and I’m not good at running up hills, but I stuck to the plan of “hammering the pavement” and managed to run about 7:00/mile pace during this section. The first aid station was at about 5 miles, so after I finished the out and back I had about 3.5 miles of really hard running according to my race plan. Even though I wasn’t going fast, I was pushing myself really hard during this section. I was having a tough time catching my breath and the mud was causing me lots of troubles. I didn’t actually fall (during this section), but I slipped all over the place and felt like I had to work twice as hard as normal to run about 9:45/mile pace. Coming in to the aid station, I thought I was going to be in trouble for the rest of the day. I just didn’t feel well and thought to myself that I just ran way too hard for the last 55 minutes.
So, at the first aid station, I took a 60 second break, ate a gu (vanilla bean w/caffeine), filled my bottle, said “hi” to a friend who was waiting for his wife and then took off.
The second 1/3 went pretty much according to plan as well. Actually I’d say it went a little better. Much of it wasn’t as muddy, the trail was very runnable and I was able to make better time through this section without working as hard as I worked on the first section. This was the best part of the race for me by far. I’d love to go back and run this section again and be able to pay more attention to my surroundings instead of staring at my feet for 2.5 hours. I knew I was running well during this section because I didn’t get passed once between aid station #1 and aid station #2. By the time I arrived at aid station #2, I was feeling much better and ready to tackle the last 4 miles.
At the second aid station I again took a 60 second break, ate a gu (vanilla bean w/caffeine), filled my bottle, said “hi” to the same friend (I was now running with his wife who promptly left me in the dust when I stopped at the aid station) and then proceeded on with the final 1/3 of the race.
For me, the last 1/3 was the least scenic and the most difficult to run. The difficulty came partly from being a bit tired, but also because I was getting blisters under my toe nails on both feet and the bottom of my left foot was starting to become sore as well. Every once in a while, I would step on a rock with the ball of my left foot and I would get a really sharp pain that would take a few steps to dissipate. This is a recurring problem that has really been getting better as of late, but whenever there’s an embedded rock I tend to step on it and aggravate the pain a little bit.
The last mile of the race was the worst by far. Usually I can “smell the barn” and pick up my pace a lot during the last mile of any race. But the mud yesterday really kept me from doing that. It was thick and sloppy and cambered off to the side so that every step forward also tried to send me down the hill towards the lake. It was tough running for sure. I didn’t feel terribly tired, and I was able to increase my efforts to run faster, but the mud just sucked all that extra energy out of my strides and kept me from running as fast as I wanted to do.
I ended up crossing the line in 2:30:53 which is a time that I’m really happy with. Pam finished a little bit longer of a course 10 years ago in 2:33:xx and she thought it would be really tough for me to break that time. I’m really glad that I was able to do that. All in all, it was a great day in the mud. I had a lot of fun as well and didn’t feel like I was too spent at the end of the day.
Today I feel great, except for my toes which are going to hurt me for a while I think. I’ve only got one day scheduled for rest and it’s back in the gym and on the roads tomorrow.
If you ever want to get muddy and have a lot of fun at a very well organized race, then the Hagg Mud runs are for you. Next year, I may have to tackle the 50K!