Friday, November 27, 2015

Race Report: 2015 Wishbone Run

Today, I ran the Wishbone Run.  This was the second race of the Seattle Quadzilla.  This is the only race of the four that’s not in Seattle.  It’s in the southern suburb of Tukwila.  The course is a double out-and-back on paved trails along the Green River.

This race has no entry fee.  Instead, each runner is asked to bring a $20 donation for a local food bank.  We also each bring food to share after the race.

Last year, the weather was horrid.  Heavy rain, strong winds and inadequate clothing caused me to become hypothermic.  I was afraid I would collapse before I could make it back to the finish area.  Thankfully, this year’s weather was much more reasonable.  Just like yesterday, it was chilly, but with sunny skies.

The first two times I did this race, I was staying nearby in Renton.  This year I’m staying downtown, so I had to allow time for a longer drive.  Packet pickup was before the race, so I got there at 6:45.   The race started at 7:30.  Before the race, the volunteers were making hot cocoa and cider.  The stove became a popular place for runners to warm their hands on another freezing morning.

There’s an aid station at the start/finish and another one about four miles in.  We also go by that aid station with four miles left, so each out-and-back has aid every four to five miles.  On a cold day, that seemed like enough, so I didn’t have to carry a bottle.

I had three goals for this race:
  1. Finish.
  2. Keep my time under six hours.
  3. Don’t make any wrong turns.
The race started across the street from a park and ride.  After almost a mile on city sidewalks, we moved onto a paved trail that took us alongside the river.

It was 31 degrees at the start.  I was wearing an extra layer today, but I still felt cold in the early miles.  It would warm up eventually, but there was still a thick layer of frost on the ground.

We crossed the river in three places.  Here’s a view of the river from the second bridge.

I was running with an elastic bandage on my right leg.  It’s tough to wrap my leg without putting too much tension on the bandage.  I always try to put it on with as little tension as possible.  This time, I apparently made it too loose.  After a few miles, it felt like the bandage was riding down on my leg.  After a few more miles, I could feel it down near my knee.  It wasn’t doing me any good there, and I was afraid it would irritate the tendons behind my knee.

There wasn’t much I could do about it.  The wrap was under my tights.  I couldn’t remove it until I could find a bathroom.   I was also wearing KT tape.  I had to hope the tape would provide enough support.

Two years ago, this was a new course, so none of the runners were familiar with it.  The lead runners missed the turn onto the trail in the first mile, and the next few dozen runners followed them.  Later, I followed the runners in front of me on another wrong turn.

Last year, several runners in front of me turned the wrong way after coming off this bridge.  We were supposed to turn right, but there were arrows pointing to the left.  Those were left over from some other race.  I thought we were supposed to turn right, but I followed the crowd.

This year, I made it all the way to the turnaround without making any wrong turns.  I did not, however, make it all the way back.  With a couple miles to go, I came to a spot with orange arrows pointing one way and white arrows pointing the other way. I wasn’t sure which arrows were for us.  I was by myself at this point.  I went the way that looked familiar.

Before long, I saw some runners coming toward me.  I assumed they were already on their second out-and-back.  Then I noticed one was wearing a half marathon bib.  They only do one out-and-back.  I asked, and she confirmed she was heading toward the finish. That meant I wasn’t.  I somehow got turned around and was running the wrong way on the trail.  I immediately reversed course.  I don’t think I was going the wrong way for very long.

By the end of my first out-and-back, I was noticing sore soreness in my right leg.  I wanted to re-wrap my leg, but there weren’t any bathrooms along the course.  I had to wait until I got back to the start/finish area.

I reached the halfway mark in 2:26.  I went into a port-o-potty and rolled down my tights.  The bandage was behind my knee.  I unwrapped it, which was a time-consuming process.  The bandage was sweaty.  I was tempted to re-wrap my upper thigh, but there was no guarantee I’d get it right the second time.  Most likely, I’d overcompensate, and make it too tight.  That could do more harm than good.

I rolled up the bandage and stuffed it in my fanny pack.  I’d have to make do without it for the second half of the race.

Before heading out again, I got a cup of hot cocoa.  It was too hot, so I added some water.  It was still hot, so I had to sip it a little at a time.  While I was working on the hot cocoa, I ate a cookie and a PJB.

As I started my second out-and-back, I checked my watch again.  It read 2:33.  When I tried to resume running, my legs were stiff.  Maybe stopping for seven minutes wasn’t such a good idea.  I could barely run at all.

I forced myself to run.  It took a persistent effort.  I was never able to get back to my previous pace, but I was running again. There was good news.  My leg wasn’t sore any more.  The seven minute rest break helped.

I assumed my leg would eventually get sore again.  Ideally, I could manage that with walking breaks.  For now, however, I was still too cold to walk.  I was still wearing all my layers.  It was taking longer to warm up today.

I ran as far as the aid station.  By then I was able to remove my mittens.  I continued running to the turnaround.  By then, I was finally able to remove my jacket.  I knew if I started walking, I’d immediately get cold again.

At times, I felt warm.  Then I’d run through the shadow of a building, and I’d get cold again.  Indeed, where there were shadows, there was still frost on the pavement.  I forced myself to run until I got back to the aid station.

I stopped at the aid station to eat a fruit bar and drink two small glasses of Gatorade.  I looked at my watch.  I could now afford to walk the rest of the way, and I’d easily break six hours.  That’s exactly what I did.  I was noticing a little soreness in my leg, but it never got as bad as it was in the first half.  Now I wasn’t taking any chances.

At first, my walking was slow.  I worked at it, and gradually picked up my pace.  Walking the rest of the race ensured I wouldn’t make my leg any worse.  It was also a form of active recovery. I walked the late miles of yesterday’s race and started today’s race without any residual soreness.  I’d be happy if I could do that again.

I never knew exactly how far it was to the finish, but I was confident I had enough time. Then I saw a line across the pavement marked “1 mile.”  I was reading it upside down.  There are markings from a lot of different races, but it seemed plausible it was the one mile mark of this race.  I checked my watch again. If I had one mile to go, I could walk it and have a good chance of beating my time from yesterday’s race.  I worked hard to pick up my pace.

Eventually, the trail ended, and I was on the sidewalk again.  I could see the I-5 bridge in the distance.  That was just beyond the finish line.  I couldn’t judge exactly how far it was, but I was sure I had enough time to walk it.  As I got closer, I became more confident I would beat yesterday’s time.  It wasn’t going to be close.  I finished in 5:41:58.  I beat yesterday’s time by five minutes!

This race used to be held on forest trails in Gig Harbor.  The company that owned the land started logging three years ago.  Now we run on paved trails by a river, but the finisher medals still reflect the race’s roots.

Post-race food always includes huckleberry pancakes.  Besides pancakes, I also had hot cocoa and a PBJ.  Later tonight, I’ll have dinner with a few friends at Smoking Monkey Pizza.  This has become a part of the quadzilla tradition.

I finished the race, and I broke six hours.  I wasn’t able to avoid wrong turns.  The course isn’t that complicated, but somehow I always mess it up.  Two years ago, I followed other runners on wrong turns because I didn’t know better.  Last year, I followed other runners on a wrong turn, even though I should have known better.  This year, I made a wrong turn all by myself.

I’m halfway through the Seattle Quadzilla.  I still have two marathons to go.  I think I’m going to make it.

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