Friday, June 27, 2008

6/14/08 Lake Youngs Ultra

Lake Youngs is a water reservoir located in beautiful Renton, Washington... this sort-of suburb of Seattle is where Boeing finishes out 737s. There's a nice 9.6 mile trail around Lake Youngs, which is remarkable for a few different reasons. Most noteably, you can't actually *see* Lake Youngs along the entire trail, except for a peekaboo view that lasts for approximately 50 feet. It's also an interesting trail because it is inexplicably HARD. Well, for me at least. BRB (my Best Running Buddy) agrees with me, but many other people just consider it to be moderately challenging. Sure, it is hilly. But not really any hillier than many other trails in the area. And the gravel footing does not make a runner faster. But it doesn't seem any rougher than other trails. In fact, while a few miles of the trail is single track, it isn't at all technical. And most of the trail is big and wide - wide enough for a vehicle.

I find this trail to be incredibly hard, though. I am always slow, and I always feel beaten up after I run on it.

Several Maniacs utilize this trail for various trail runs during the year. Most of the time, they set up a race of three loops: 28.8 miles total. A slow marathon for me these days is 4 hours, so let's say we even give me an extra 15 minute penalty for trail running shenanigans: 4:15. 3 loops is an extra 2.6 miles beyond a marathon, so a "slow" time for me on this course ought to be around 4:45. People I know who finish just before or just after me in 3:40 road marathons seem to complete a Lake Youngs 28.8 race between 4:20 and 4:50.

Me? I've done two races here. The first race (2006) was a brilliant 5:11 where I came in DFL. In fairness, it was 90 degrees that day. The second race (2007) was 50 degrees... and I finished 6 minutes slower, 5:17. And I was in slightly better shape in 2007. Huh.

Anyway. It was time for Maniac Arthur's annual version of a Lake Youngs race. His is the original (I think) and it goes by the succinct-and-meaningful name The Lake Youngs Ultra (LYU).

What would this year bring? Actually, I was just happy to be there what with J-Lo's broken elbow adventure. The weather was perfect for a run. Like last year, it was in the low 50s. Unlike last year, it was not raining. When I wrote my annual goals earlier this year, I stuck a "nice to have" goal at the end of the list:

Like Kona, there are a couple other races where I've attached a goal time. Unlike Kona, these aren't quite as important to me... but they'd still be nice to achieve: Lake Youngs Ultra in June ("beat 5") and Haulin Aspen in August (4:15).
Incidentally, I am writing this oceanside in Kona. A guy paddling standing on a surfboard just cruised by. It is easy to get distracted. But more on all that in my Kona report.

Beat 5. Sounded like a good goal. Based on how I felt the morning of the race, I decided it would actually be my fall back goal. I absolutely can not figure out why I am so slow on this course, so I decided that I wanted to average 10 minute miles. This is very slow based on my road marathon pace, which is usually 8:00-8:30 depending on the race. 10 minute miles would mean 288 minutes, or 4:48. Still faster than my previous two experiences.

For whatever reason... variety perhaps... Maniac Arthur decided to have everyone run the course in the opposite direction from last year. I got the ok to run the course backwards (no, not physically backwards... I mean "the other way") which was cool because it meant I'd get to see everyone repeatedly. Also, it would allow me to hit the hills the exact same as the previous two times I've attempted this course.

I learned one reason why I run this course slowly. Most ultras, really. It's the aid station factor. LYU had one aid station at the end of each 9.6 mile loop. In a road marathon, I'll blow through, grabbing a cup of something as a pass by without breaking stride. At an ultra, I might stop for 3-5 minutes. It's the Perpetuem Problem. I have to stop, get out my drink powder, add it to my bottle, and fill my bottle with water. This gives me time to get distracted by the ultra station's cookies and M&Ms and cokes. Not only do I tend to linger, but when I finally get started again, it takes me at least a few minutes to find the pace I was running before stopping.

Sure enough, I figure I spent 5-10 minutes during the race at my two aid station stops. This included drinking an entire 12oz can of full-sugar coke and eating cookies. Tasted great. Probably didn't make me run faster :-).

I managed to run my loops fairly evenly. It's still a hilly course with slow footing. And I lingered at the aid station. Twice.

I didn't quite hit 4:48. My time was 4:49. I have no grand stories about the race. The first time I did this course, I ran into a deer. The trail has a 6 foot chain link fence on both sides, and when I spooked this deer, I was somewhat scared that she'd charge me. She made a move to do this, but then simply swooped over the fence. That's the year I came in last.

I really can't beat that with anything that happened this year :-0. It was a lot of fun waving at everyone as I chugged around the course in the wrong direction. Wrong Way Robert.

I'm ok with my 4:49. I made my goals. Sure enough, the people I usually run with generally finished below 4:30. Even if I hadn't lingered at the aid station, I would have run a 4:40-4:45.

I still don't get it. There's lots in life that I don't get.

Next up: Already happened. Seattle's version of the Race for the Cure. This is a very important event for J-Lo, and so I took part too. It's a weird 5k for people that want to run it fast. It is sort of timed, but not really, and it is very crowded. More on that real soon.

And after that is the Kona Marathon, which is where I am now. The race was ("will be", as I type) a couple days after I wrote this post. I've run the 5k twice, the 10k, the half twice, and the full four times. This will be my fifth. Hopefully I will run it smarter than last year!

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