Thursday, August 3, 2017

Angry Owl Ultra Race Review 2017!

Last Sunday July 30th I joined some friends at Bush Park for Salem's very first ultra timed race "Angry Owl Ultra"  We were greeted by race director Josh Christensen. The sun had just come up and the weather was a comfortable 60 degrees.  
Ready or not, it's go time!

Angry Owl is a Crusty Cap event.  The name "Angry Owl" comes from a series of Owl attacks on runners in Bush Park a few years back.  Read more about that here!

Angry Owl Ultra is my first "timed" race.  I signed up for the six hour race.  There was also a twelve hour and a one hour. I had a good group of friends running that day.  I had a goal in mind....  50k (31.5 miles).  This would be my second attempt to run this distance and I really had no idea how the day would turn out.  Thankfully I hadn't thought too much about it being Summer! The heat does scare me but I was excited about this event, so my mind hadn't gone there yet!

The course!
We all started and finished on the derby track behind the stadium. From there we did a loop through Bush Park.  The loop was just over a mile around, so this loop was ran over and over again for hours. As boring as that sounds, it wasn't!!!  

We had a mix of hard packed dirt, non-technical trail loaded with trees (shade!). Grass, packed gravel, and asphalt.  Each loop around we went back by the start/finish line.  There was a wonderful fuel station here loaded with all kinds of snacks and water.  

After one hour...feeling really good! 
The first hour went by so fast! My running group started together.  It felt like a weekend long run!  We casually chatted at a very comfortable pace.  My friend Kristi had signed up for the hour and told me she was going to stay with me that first hour!  We ran six laps together before her time was up!  As I left to start my 7th lap, I ran alone.  I felt like I was just starting! It was now a sunny 63 degrees.  I was feeling very good and felt I was off to a good start.

Some things I learned Sunday!  
1)  A loop event is a good idea.  
     When my husband and I went to help crew our friend Chris for Pac Rim a few years ago, I was introduced to the timed ultra loop race.  My first thought was never.  Running a loop around a park for hours and hours would be the worst. As we ran with Chris that day, I was inspired to do a race like this someday.  At Angry Owl I discovered for myself how great the loop was.  
2) Every mile we had access to food and water. 
3) Friends and family knew where to find us.  
4) The course was easy to figure out.  
    After running the loop a time or two, getting lost!
5) I knew if I got too hot or tired, I wouldn't be stuck out on the course with no help.
6) I got to run with everyone! 
    From the fasted people out there, to the slowest...we all ran together.  We would lap each other and give each other shout outs as we went by.  Everyone was so friendly.  
7) I made a few new friends. 
Pam Smith running with my husband Jerry.  She encouraged
him to run one last mile, even though his time was iffy!
He did make it before the six hour cut off! 
    Since we were seeing the same faces over and over people start visiting.  I felt like people visited more in this race than any other race I have ran.  I met Randall from Newport.  My Hoka friend. Flag guy (later found out his name is Dean).  Ultra runner Pam Smith.  Pam just recently ran on the 2017 USA Women's National 24 hour running team.  It was a privilege to run a lap with her.  She is very encouraging and took the time to get to know many of us runners that day by name! 

Hour three!  It was now a sunny 70 degrees.  I was still running pretty comfortable.  It was nice to know there was shade for every loop.  As we came into the sun, there was a little breeze.  Then the fuel station.  I simply kept going!  

Every hour I would stop and refuel my water bottle.  I poured carbo-pro into my handheld, a volunteer topped it off with cold water, and I would grab a salt tab and go.  That was it for the first four hours. 

 My stomach had been giving my issues since we started the race.  I blamed the burger and fries I ate the night before (I know better), but then again, it's one of the mysteries of running.  Sometime the stomach issues are hard to figure out. 

Five hours.  It was now in the upper 70's.  I never felt overheated but I could feel the effects of the warmer weather.  I started filling by handheld up about every two miles now.  I also started eating the watermelon at the fueling station.  Every time I ate one, it tasted like the best watermelon in the whole world. 

The last hour and a half!  I remember hitting mile 26.2.   I was in the woodsy part of the park and Pam Smith happened to be with me. I told her, I just past the marathon mark.  I'm now running farther than I ever have before.  I was excited but also a little intimidated at what this last hour would bring. I was feeling very warm, my feet were starting to hurt really bad and I was hungry!  

As I came around the the start/finish I remember seeing my friend Jeanne who was there with her husband Chris and our group from Dallas.  I said hi to her as I ran by and said, "I'm going to just keep putting one foot in front of the other."  That's what Jeanne's cousin Lori had said before the race!  She was also out there running the six hour race for the first time! 

I did just that, one foot in front of the other, just keep moving forward.  I allowed myself to slow down, but no quitting.  In a race like this, you can stop and end your laps at any point, but I couldn't stop yet.  I hadn't got to 50k yet. 

Finishing the 6 hour race.  50k  
Back on the Leffelle St. side of the loop Team RWB had a little coffee station set up.  As I looped the course over and over I couldn't help but talk to the people at the station.  They had a huge American flag and I see them running in races all the time, carrying the flag! Air Force Vet, Dean Chambers was carrying the flag that day.  He ran a loop with my friends and me whenever we asked him too.  He also ran my final two laps with me that day.  He helped me forget about the pain my feet were feeling, how my legs were cramping and how hot it was getting.  I think I stopped and walked once during those last two miles.  It was just for about 30-60 sec.  Dean ran with the American flag through the finish line as I finished my first six hour race, completing my goal of a 50k!  My friends Chris and Stacie McGraw and Kristi Clack were back after running the hour race at 6am.  I was so glad to be done!  It was now climbing into the 80s.  I was thankful I wasn't doing the 12 hour race, as it got up into the 90s that day!  

Some of my friends at the finish line! 
My friends and I ended our run with good food (the best part)!

 I did have stomach issues for a couple days.  I wasn't that sore the following days.  I think going the slower pace for a longer run helped my body not "overdo" it.  It was a great experience.  I will be back for more next year! 

Thank you Josh for bringing the Ultra to Salem.  It was well organized, well marked and a great experience. 

31 laps, 50k distance. 6 hour race.
8th place, 2nd female finisher. 5:48:34

Dean Chambers Bonus Story!
As mentioned in my blog, I met Air Force Vet Dean Chambers.  Often when running with people you learn part of their story!  Dean just so happens to have an story I thought my readers would want to hear! 
Meet Dean!

In January 2016 I went in for a check up after changing primary care physicians. I hadn't had a checkup in a while, not being one of those people who goes to the doctor frequently. Turns out, my A1C was 6.7 (into diabetic range), fasting blood sugar was 138 (also high), my triglycerides were 248 (fat in the blood essentially and way too high), my cholesterol, while not seriously high was out of whack in terms of HDL/LDL ratio. The bad was too high and the good was too low. HDL was 28 and LDL was 134. My resting bp was 134/90-some with a pulse of about 100bpm. Not extraordinarily high but teetering on hypertensive. In short, I was about to fall off the diabetic cliff of my own design. I seldom exercised, I drank a lot of sugar, ate a lot of carbs and fatty foods. Lots of saturated and trans-fat. The doctor advised that I need to make a change or I would end up diabetic and forced to deal with that the rest of my life, which was likely to be shorter than average if I kept up the way I was. I have seen the effects of diabetes left unchecked, and I can tell you it ain't pleasant. I was 51 at that time. Wow. That week I joined a gym and committed to losing weight and getting some regular exercise. I cut out liquid sugar all together. Lowered my processed carb intake substantially, and started making less fatty food choices. Leaner meats like chicken and turkey and fish. Salads instead of fries. A lot less salt. I started scouring the Internet for nutrition and weight loss tips and tricks. There is a lot of chaff on the internet. A lot of conflicting information. But I managed to correlate and corroborate enough of it the get me on a more or less solid plan of action. Over the next several weeks I started going to the gym 3 days a week, then 4, then 5, then 6. I started seeing some real results, and as I saw results I got more motivated. At my heaviest (that I know of) I was 230 or so, 36" pants (which were tight), and extra large shirts. I didn't like what I saw in the mirror too much, but like so many, I fooled myself into believing that it was normal and I was healthy enough because I felt good..., right? Well, it wasn't long before my clothes looked like duffel bags and I was buying new stuff. Just as a side note, losing weight is expensive. Also, if you do lose a lot of weight and need a new belt, never whip your old belt off in the store to try on the new without first grabbing the waistband of your now far too large shorts. I nearly had a very awkward wardrobe malfunction in the middle of JC Penny's. After about 4 months I had another lipid and A1C panel. The doc had put me on a statin to get my cholesterol in check quickly but no other medications. My results were somewhat amazing. My AIC had dropped to 5.5, under the danger zone. My triglycerides had dropped a full 200 points, my LDL/HDL was looking great at about 40 each. My resting pulse was 65, and my BP was 87/51. In fact, the nurse taking my BP had to take it twice with different equipment and then asked if I was feeling ok or whether I feeling light headed. I was like, "Nope, I feel good..., why?...." It's not usually a good sign when a medical professional say's "Hmm...let try that again.... Are you feeling OK?" But it this case, it was. Based on that result I was able to stop taking the statin all together. I'd been doing cardio during this time, walking, elliptical, that sort of thing. And a bit of weight lifting. I was hungry pretty much all the time and I wasn't necessarily eating tiny meals. About every hour i needed a snack. Two hours and I'd be about ready to chew my own arm off. Once my metabolism kicked into gear, I was burning through food like there was no tomorrow. I'd made it down to about 190 pounds, which I hadn't seen in probably 25 years. And I'd hit a sort of plateau. It was still coming off, but way slower. Not discouraging slow, but slower. I figured this was somewhat normal. I've never been runner. In fact, I've always hated it and would do it as little as possible. It's one of the reasons I joined the Air Force as opposed to the Army. Not THE reason, mind, but one of them. During my treadmill walks, I started running. A minute here, a minute there. Then two. Then three, five. On a whim I decided to try the Military Fitness test mode for the Air Force. This was the typical mile and a half. It was hard and I made it through. I was surprised though that it wasn't AS hard as I figured it would be. And I finished in about 13.5 minutes or so. Which was faster than when I was in the Air Force 30 years ago. So I started mixing in 1.5 miles into my routines 2 or 3 times a week. All the while that 5K button on the treadmill was slapping me in the face. So one day after my hour long weight training session I thought, what the hell.... And pushed the 5K button and took off. My first 5K (ever in my life) distance was just under 30 minutes. Which I thought was pretty good. And to my surprise again, it was hard, but not THAT hard. And so, I started mixing in 5Ks 2 or three times a week. And the weight started to shed again, which only spurred me on. My first race was in October 2016. It was the Insane Inflatable 5K at the Fairgrounds. 11 huge inflatable obstacles over a 5K course. Now up to this point, I'd never run outside. Well, not since the military anyway. Certainly, I'd never run a 5K outside. This was probably not my wisest choice for my first 5K race but I had a lot fun, finished in about 30 minutes and was seriously hooked. "I'll probably just stick with 5Ks. I'm having fun with that distance. I don't really have any desire to do a 10K or longer.....". I'd said this several times around this time. My first 10K race was the Zena Road Run in February 2017. Technically it was 6 miles, but close enough. Especially given it was on Spring Valley Road which is exceptionally hilly for the full 6 miles. Keep in mind I'd only been actively running since about May of the previous year. Again, this was not my wisest choice for my first 10K race, but why break precedent, right? By this time, I had begun to run outdoors as much as weather would allow. And by that I mean, if it wasn't icy, so at least I was prepared for the constant rain that fell during the race. My goal for that race was a 9:30 pace and I managed a 9:00 flat. I was told later by my new friends at Gallagher Fitness that there was this thing called "Race Day Magic". Didn't know that at the time, but now it's something I depend on, and I'm getting better at predicting it. By this time I had found a Monday Runday group at Gallagher Fitness and through that, Team RWB. I found it really inspirational to run with others, and the Team RWB members that ran with American flags were totally awesome. I wanted to do that too. So, I got myself a flag and some Team RWB shirts and started running pretty much exclusively with it. My first flag run was just over 3 miles and honestly it felt like I had all the energy in the world. I felt so proud to be carrying it, and the waves and thumbs up from the people I passed was awesome. The more I ran with it, the less I noticed it was there. It still gets tiring to carry, but it's manageable. "I'll just run 5Ks with it. 10K might be too much," I said. My first 10K with the flag was the Salmon Run in Bend. This time I chose a high elevation run for my "first". I managed just shy of a 9 minute pace. Not my best 10k pace but considering the flag, the altitude, and 27 degrees, I was happy with it. I had a couple of memorable flag moments on that run. I got the ball of the flag pole caught in the fork of a tree limb that almost pulled me off my feet. I had a course marshall yell "Show Off!" At about mile 4. (She was smiling when she said it, and it made me chuckle.). And I was standing around at the finish and a lady came up to me and lightly touched my shoulder and said "Thank you" a couple times and there were tears in her eyes. She walked away without another word and disappeared in the crowd but I suspect there was more to the story there. "I've got no desire to run more than 10K. I'm having fun with the that distance and I don't think a half or full marathon would be fun." My first half marathon was in July 2017 in Coburg. I did not carry the flag in that one, and by mile 11, I was glad of that. Also, it was a nice cool morning and the course was flat as a pancake. I managed to choose wisely for my first half. My goal was a 9 minute mile at most and I was counting (hoping) on Race Day Magic (RDM) to carry me through to a sub hour and 50 minutes. I finished with an 8:30 average pace in just over 1:50, missing my hoped for goal by a mere 54 seconds. Best of all my Mother and Aunt surprised me at the finish line. I remember thinking, "That lady is a dead ringer for my aunt... Wait. That IS my aunt!" That was a huge milestone for me, given that in about a year and a half was down to 170 pounds from over 230, 6 inches was gone from my waist and I was wearing medium shirts for the first time since high school. In a year, I went from running as little as possible to running 3.5 miles a day on average and finishing a half-marathon. I'm no longer saying, "I think a half marathon is long enough....". I plan on running a full within the next couple years. An ultra? Maybe some day. I might never be a Boston qualifier, but at this point I'm not totally ruling that out either. In ten years, who knows? If I can maintain my pace, the qualifying times based on age may come down to meet me. It's been quite a journey. I've learned a few key things. If you set your mind to it, you can do it, whatever "it" is. Losing weight does not mean dieting, starving and depriving. In fact, doing that is a recipe for failing. It means changing the types of food you eat and not eating everything in sight. I've been very satisfied in my meals and I've lost 60 pounds. True, you must exercise. BUT, it can be fun when you find a group to exercise with. I would say, finding people to exercise with is a must. Once you start seeing results though, prepare to get addicted to it. And be patient. Results, no matter how small, are still results. It isn't a race, it's a lifestyle. And tell yourself, it's OK to have that bowl of ice cream once in awhile. It can be your reward for all the hard work you've put in.
Arin, Lori and Dean at Angry Owl Sunday!!!!