Since the new year, I’d been dealing with some nagging injuries and a somewhat weaker training base than I prefer. I’d done a number of 20+ mile training runs, but just hadn’t actually done an event. Since the beginning of May, I’d bailed on a couple of them at the last minute – partially due to the injuries (in this case IT band stuff), but mostly because I wasn’t sure it’d be fun. I was tired of feeling like this, and yesterday sort of forced myself to get out there and try one – the Lake Youngs Ultra. Three 9.6 mile loops on rolling trail – a relatively easy ‘ultra’ event as they come.
My last long training run had been four weeks ago (longer than usual). The other uncertainty was that it had been ‘only’ twenty miles. I wasn’t sure how I would feel pushing nearly another nine miles after four weekends since running that far. I decided I’d try it, and if need be would simply stop after two loops. I wouldn’t get a similar low-key chance to try this distance for at least a month. Nothing to lose!
So I lined up with the other maniacs and runners just before 7 am on June 12th. The morning was beautiful and sunny, promising to become the warmest spring day we’d had. Sunny weather, good company, and miles to cover – what more can you ask for?
When we left on the first loop, I hung for a while with a pack of folks probably doing about an 8:30 pace – definitely a bit brisk for me. Over time I slowed a bit and let them pass. By the time we hit the midpoint of the first loop, I’d settled into running with a woman from Whidbey Island. We swapped some stories about kids and houses – she apparently works for a city planning department on the island and her husband develops custom homes. We chatted for a while, before she left me behind. This is the cost of weak training – missing out on good company. First loop was done in about 1:28.
Completing the first loop, I had the sense that things would get tough for me sooner or later. My legs felt tired and a bit sore in the early miles. I focused on just going a mile at a time, taking it easy. This time around the loop was interesting. I’d reversed direction, as had a number of others. This meant that I got to say hi to folks coming the other way. By the time I wound up the second loop, I was feeling pretty done. Unfortunately there was the small matter of 9.6 more miles to go. Second loop done in about 1:33.
I took a longer rest before going back out. Parts of the trail were exposed, so we definitely noticed the warmer temps. I caught myself looking at my watch more now, measuring about how much more I had left. Halfway through the third loop, I began walking a minute for every five I ran. This continued until we had about two miles or so left, and then I slowed to a walk. Possibly I could have mustered more running, but just didn’t see the point. Having run more than a marathon’s worth already, I was happy enough. I walked quietly along and enjoyed the sunshine. As I climbed a short hill, I recognized that I had perhaps a quarter mile left, so kicked it into gear. By now my legs had tightened up, so crossing the finish was a combination of limped and wincing. If someone got a picture of this, it would look pretty funny. Truth be told, I’m not certain of my finish time because I forgot to click off my watch. I’d guess around 4:50, give or take a couple of minutes.
I sat down in the grass with a great lunch provided by fellow marathon maniac Betsy, and chatted with friends. I was wiped out, but mostly happy with my effort. I’ll have faster days, but it really felt good to hit the trail again.