The website is "haggmud.com." That should tell you something right away.
It was a dark and stormy morning…
Actually, for Portland it wasn’t that bad. Matt and I headed out to Henry Hagg lake to run 16 miles in what promised to be a slippery, sloppery (and sometimes slobbery) mudfest. Thanks to the wonderful race directors, Matt and I won “SUPERSTAR” parking. We got to park right next to the start/finish, which was much appreciated as I watched everyone else shiver themselves silly before the race. Logistics-wise they seemed to have it down – plenty of space heaters to keep those unlucky peons warm, and good aid station grub as well.
Off to the races!
The race started with a 1.75 mile out and back up a gravel road. Emphasis on the “up”. It was a good warm-up though, and as we swung back by our superstar parking spot I was able to toss my outer layer. This is the first winter race I have done where I did not chronically overdress. Well, probably only because I was able to drop off my outer layer in the first 2 miles. The out and back helped us spread out before we hit single track around the lake. Matt and I ran a lake loop (14 miles) about a month ago in just about the worst possible conditions – rain, snow, shin-deep mud, major downed trees/bushes, the works. In comparison, this first part of the course this go ’round was a breeze. Until…
You know on Everest where people get all held up at the Hillary step waiting for climbing nOObs to get their act together and figure it out? Hagg lake has an equivalent hill. I must say, I think I had the best running shoes for the course of anyone there. I rocked the Inov8 Talons, and the grip on those suckers never let me down. So there was this one downhill section that was pretty steep and treacherous if you didn’t have the right (read: my) shoes. There was a line of 30 people waiting to descend. Yes, you read that correctly. I timed the wait with my watch and it was literally 5 minutes. Granted, it was 5 minutes of slip ‘n’ slide spectating hilarity, but still. Come on, people. When it was my turn I ran down it like it was no big thing. I am such a pro. (thank you again, Inov8, for being a balm to my pride…and my backside). There were a few sections where the trail popped out onto the road and we had some pavement running. For the ~1 mile total of this throughout the day, the shoes sucked. Definitely not for pavement. Overall though they definitely helped my day. Maybe if I mention In0v8 enough times in my blog they’ll send me some Talons for next year… :)
The trail around Hagg Lake is truly beautiful, with lots of winding switchbacks and little ups and downs. I ran the whole time, with only a few minor and one major (see above) stops. I even ate my GU on the go, which I’ve never been able to do before. Mmm, espresso love mud…I think that should be a new flavor.
I misremembered my time from our training run and thought I should be running this in about 3 hours. I was disappointed to find myself at 1:30 at the 6 mile mark, but kept on keeping on. Later in the race I remembered that I should be aiming more for 3 and a half hours, but miles 6-8 were very painful as I tried to coax my muddy legs into greater and greater turnover.
Mile 9 saw the beginning of The Mud. Sections of “double track” (I think that’s what it was supposed to be, but it was hard to tell underneath the general boggyness going on). Hagg Lake has a 50k the day before, so the trail had already been pummeled by two laps worth of runners plus all the gazelles from this morning. BTW, anyone faster than me is a gazelle in my book. By the time I got to it, it looked something like this:
Hagg Lake in all its shoe-sucking glory
Keep in mind this photo is from last year, which was by all accounts a much drier year. The sections above with the standing water? Imagine that but at least twice as wide with no way around except tricksy hassocky ankle breaking death on either side. Good times. The mud slowed everyone way down. In the last 10k I passed at least 30 people, many of whom were probably faster than me on paper. Apparently I have a mud gift – all I had to do was completely surrender any desire to stay clean or dry, and accept the fact that I might break myself spectacularly at any moment. I passed three people wearing crossfit shirts in this section and couldn’t help but heckle them. :)
The mud was really bad in the last 3 miles. Really, really bad. People kept trying to pick “good lines” and dodge around. Not I. I just slogged straight through that mess and pretended it was the smoothest beach sand. I’d like to say that beach visualization worked (it didn’t) but I tried to remember my mantra: “relentless forward progress,” and onward I went. Of course they posted the photo guy at the top of one of the gruntiest hills, so I’m sure there will be plentiful documentation of what I look like in the pain cave. Always a good one to show mom.
I finally crossed the finish line in 3:19, but I’m taking 5 minutes of that back from the Hillary Step so I’m calling it 3:14. Next year I’m gonna go sub 3, so watch out.
Matt had a great race, coming in 12th overall and 3rd in his age group (show-off). At the end of the day, a great time was had by all (except the poor girl who broke her arm but hobbled to the finish like a champ). A + + would slog again.
Now to start my training for 30 on my 30. Wooooooo!