Thursday, April 9, 2015

On Waterfalls and Wine

How is it April already? How have we already had Daylight Savings Time? How did I turn 32? Did I do my taxes correctly? Can we please have just one more snow storm? Is Lake Sonoma already this weekend?

Turns out, the answer is yes.

I mean, I did all the things I planned on doing leading up to this race. Namely, continuing to keep my mileage conservative and focusing on a few speed workouts a week. And lots of snow running for strength and general stoke level. I also did some things I didn’t originally plan on doing but then planned at the last minute. One of these things was my parents coming out to visit our cabin last weekend, which was of course, fantastic. Another of these things was running the Gorge Waterfalls 50k less than two weeks ago. Here’s how that went.

Showing my pops around the high country section of AC.
(photo: Dominic Grossman)
To be clear, the only reason why I ran the race was because I bought Dom and I flights to Portland so he could give a Western States ticket another shot in the 100k. Then James (Varner, of Rainshadow Running) asked if I wanted to run the 50 since I was coming all the way up there, and I said ok. It was only later that I realized March 29th is only two weeks before April 11th. THEY ARE TWO DIFFERENT MONTHS, PEOPLE. HOW WAS I SUPPOSED TO KNOW? It was also after I realized that this year, the 100k would be first, i.e. on Saturday, and once again, I’d be relegated to a day of crewing in the cold rain before my own race. Only this year, it would also be twice as long.

Because I generally think I can just kind of “ehhh, it’s fine” my way through just about anything, I found myself saddling up to pace an ailing Dom through the last 13 miles of the 100k. I was wearing five coats at the time, which should tell you a lot about the temperature and the dampness when one had been standing outside since roughly 3:30am. I had already decided that I would not go through with the race the next morning, since it was only supposed to be a training run for Sonoma anyway.

But then, I saw a lot of waterfalls.

I woke up the next morning before the alarm, realizing that I felt perfectly 100% fine and that I needed to go run at least 20 miles anyway. And like I said, waterfalls. Also, someone needed to avenge the wrong bestowed upon us after less than one hour in Portland. Said wrong being a busted out rental car window and the theft of my bookbag full of gear… ipod, nice headphones, brand new Julbo sunglasses, a book they wouldn’t understand, my PMR hat, other stuff and about $15 worth of tampons. If you’re wondering, the answer is yes. I did report that last one to the cops.

So yeah. Sunday. Gun goes off and I’m out for a run on an absolutely gorgeous day in the Columbia River Gorge. It’s everything I remember from last year (when I did the 100k) – rocky, wet, very good smelling and everything is extremely green. I tuck in behind the first two women and feel fantastic for about five miles. And then I feel TERRIBLE.

My legs are dead. And I’m not at all surprised. The week before, I ran only 51 miles but climbed over 18,000 feet, including a 13 mile run with 7k of ups. And then there was yesterday, when I was on my feet in the cold for over 13 hours, three of which were spent running, including the biggest climb of the course. Oh well, just five more miles of pushing and then I get to relax for the middle 10. That was the workout I had created for myself – 10 hard-ish, 10 easy, last 12 hard.

I came into the first aid station in third or fourth – all of the lead women were a scant 30 seconds apart. I left in fifth or sixth and had no ambition whatsoever of catching back up and passing. TRAINING RUN. IF YOU SAY IT IS ONE, YOU BETTER ACT LIKE IT. There was going to be no labeling a race as a training run on Strava, when in truth you actually raced it full-out and won the damn thing. Kind of like labeling a 6 mile run at 7 minute pace as “recovery.” WE DON’T DO THESE THINGS, KATIE.

A mile out of the aid, I backed it off and tried to settle into a more comfortable cruising pace.  I also tried to enjoy myself, but that was just not happening. At first, quite a few folks passed me, but finally I had the trail to myself. That’s really all I wanted. To be alone with the forest and to sing to myself. It’s a simple life I lead.

I’d see Dom one more time, so if I wanted to call it a day and not burn up my legs, I easily could. But then I also realized I really didn’t feel like my legs were hurting at all – they were just really heavy. The last 13 were fresh in my memory, and I knew I could get it done no problem. Besides, I should really finish my workout.

Coming into Yeon, I knew I’d get to run under Elowah Falls, which is the best part of the entire course in my opinion. And I shit you not, that thing gave me LIFE. First of all, look at it:

(photo: Drew Smith)
Yes, that’s me straight up frolicking over a bridge under a Narnia-level waterfall.  I’m not even going to question how I miraculously felt like a million bones, because why would I? That waterfall clearly has mystic powers.

The other mystic powers were in the form of Dom, an above-the-knee leg rub from Denise Bourassa and a few sips of Yerba Maté. I tried to push off slowly from the aid station, but I couldn’t help dig into the road and take flight. I suddently felt fantastic. Dare I say, the best I had felt all day. Nay, the best I felt all weekend.

I caught a few guys on the road section. I caught a few more on the next climb. On the next, I caught a lady. This became a theme – some were folks that passed me when I chilled things out in the middle 10, others were people I’d never seen. They were all quite confused why I was the happiest person in the forest, after having run 20+ miles of ups and downs and rocks and rocks, but I knew. I knew. It was that Elowah Falls and it’s damn sorcery.

Before the final aid station, I knew I’d get to swing under Ponytail Falls and this excited me greatly. You guys. You run behind a waterfall. Not exactly something you do every day. I decided to do it every day of this weekend though – here’s a picture I took while pacing Dom:

Even when it hurts the worst. You're here.
Also, here's another picture of Dom I made into a meme and put on Instagram. I tried to be overtly obvious it was a joke with my expert hashtagging, but I failed. The bitchez found this very #inspiring.

Anyway, I pulled up to the final aid station and ensured Tropical John I wasn’t ruining myself for his race in two weeks. Coke and a smile, and I was off to the non-race races. Yay waterfalls! Yay running! Yay life! My greetings to fellow runners were a far cry from Dom’s the day before. When he was telling people that “sometimes you just have to drink the hot, frothy bowl of horse piss.” Michelle Yates may say that she was creeped out, but we assure you it was the inspiration for her to seize the W.

Last big climb, and I decided I would run the whole thing. It’s 1500’ in less than 2 miles up concrete switchbacks laden with awkward tourists. Who are mostly laden with children, canes, large photo equipment and strollers. Nothing hurt. I could do this forever. I charged down the trail on the other side, then plinko’d my way down the additional set of concrete switchbacks. I was so out of my mind and high on endorphins that I actually started doing spin moves at each of the corners. I no longer questioned whether I had felt this good all weekend, but rather if I had ever felt this good ever in the history of my existence.

And then it was over. (Waaaa-waaaa.) I finished feeling like I could keep going like that indefinitely, which made me feel really great about that race coming up I mentioned at the beginning. I ended up finishing fifth woman, only a few minutes back of third and fourth and having caught three ladies in the last eight miles. Not that any of that mattered, but it totally mattered because I like to avenge my Ultrasignup ranking.

As for Portland, I didn’t get any of my stolen stuff back, I’m awaiting a nice bill from Hertz, I sat in a soaking pool for a few hours at McMenamin’s and drank too many beers before Dom drove us to the airport. I woke up Monday not feeling too hot and spent the entire week with a wicked head cold. No running. Max sleeping. Luckily, I’m feeling much better now and actually looking quite forward to Saturday. The great thing about being sick is that when you become un-sick you feel fucking invincible.
BTW, these are the 2015 New Balance kits - pretty snazzy, right? 
I DID have matching sunglasses, but you know... thugs.
(Photo: Denise Bourassa)
Going into Lake Sonoma, I don’t kid myself thinking I have the capability to run with the talent level there. Holy moly, TJ’s assembled himself one hell of a crowd! That said, I’m ready to play things fast and loose and have a good go on the ‘easiest’ 50 mile course I will have ever run. I’m also ready to drink wine when it’s all said and done.

The other thing I’m definitely ready for is to kick things into high gear and go rogue for the summer. After this race, I won’t be found on a starting line until August 1st’s Angeles Crest 100. My fourth battle with the beast, and my singular focus for the year. I’ve kept the mileage quite low in the beginning of the year, and the results have been great. My health is finally back on track and my stoke level for both racing and training is very, very high. I’ll take a few weeks to chill after Sonoma, including a forced week entirely off from running due to a minor surgery I’m having. I’ll have stitches. On my vagina. I’ll be fine.

But then. Then. It’s on.

Follow along here and here on Saturday. Or follow Dom’s feeds – he’ll be sitting this one out to get his body back in order and crewing me instead! Everyone please cheer him on. 


  1. Good luck at Sonoma, will be rooting for ya!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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