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By Candice Burt
Gorge legs don't come easy. The Gorge Waterfalls 50K took place this last Saturday. James put on a stellar event. Connecting the 400 trail for 27+ miles with some great views of the well known waterfalls that drape the Columbia River Gorge. This is my summer training ground and I have run the 400 lots but only in sections. Never the full enchilada at once. It was quite a treat to run it in this
fashion. Knowing the Gorge like I do I knew I would be suffering greatly on Saturday. I've had no training for the constant eccentric loading my quads would experience, not enough trail time or long runs.
My plan was to go easy for the first 15-20 miles and if I was still standing and moving without a grimace I would pick up the pace. I had two goals for Saturday. First, a long day on my legs and second, to come away with heightened desire to begin pushing myself in this next phase. I got both plus a bonus. My prize for the day was some seriously sore quads!
I showed up with a pack that was more suited for Hardrock. I had everything I needed to stay warm and so much food you would have thought I was going to be out there for more than a day. My pack weighed 7+ pounds. Is that really necessary? Uh, no! I am still suffering from Post AZ Free Fest Syndrome. The thought of experiencing any cold was more than I could take. I had a 60 oz tanker, a jacket, beenie, extra gloves (just in case the ones I was wearing got too wet), hand warmers, 9 gels, sports drinks (in a baggie), 2 bars and so much other stupid stuff I won't even list it. I am seriously not in race mode and what a big baby!
The race started with the immediate climb up Wahkeena Falls. I have done this so many times I can count the poison oak leaves poking out of the rock wall. It's a nice gradual but a
relentless grade. I was in the middle/back of the pack. Lots of folks were in a big hurry. The fast runners were cruising quickly up the hill. I walked and jogged. For me this climb would not be the issue. I felt this to be a nice warm up for the rolling single track grind that I knew was coming…..all day long. I must have heard the phrase, "This is the only real climb then the rest is pretty flat" 20 times. I suppose everyone has their version of flat but the word flat and Gorge don't go together. I don't care if you are talking about the 400 trail. It became clear that many amongst me were underestimating the difficulty of the coming trail. One group of ladies who were in such a hurry going up Wahkeena asked to pass because in their words were "racing". I gladly moved aside and walked behind them as they jogged and walked breathless up the hill. When we came to the first tiny water flow over the trail I hear, "Don't get your feet wet". After watching them tip toe over rocks, weave and jump over obstacles I decided I needed to go. I hope they made it and would love to have coffee with them because after this they are either all in or all out.
We were treated to almost all the best waterfalls the Gorge has to offer. The best was the one deep behind Oneanta where we got completed soaked by the impressive spray. My body felt strong but super slow. Technical trail running takes practice and by mile 15 I was getting my feet back under me. The up, down, twisting and weaving was hard on my legs but I seriously could feel them adjusting as the day progressed. By the time we reached Eagle Creek (mile 20) I felt amazing. At this point I knew I wasn't going to crumble into a hobbling weeble wobble so I felt I could move with some purpose. I can't even remember how long it took me to arrive at 20 miles but it was long time!
I ran the last 10+ miles faster than an of the previous miles according to my Garmin (it helped that half of it was downhill). The best part of the day was when I came to the junction of the PCT heading up to the first clearing. Our stash spot for hill repeats. Olga!, you would have loved it! Coming to the junction gave me goose bumps! Goal number 2 has been achieved! I am pumped for what I know is coming and what a way to get my Gorge legs on. A full day of it. This is a must do race and I suspect it will fill in minutes next year.
Post race has been a suffer fest unlike any I would have imagined. My quads are so thrashed it's a joke. I deserved it though. I ate terrible, slept terrible and that stuff called water didn't make it into my mouth. How I felt during and right after the race does not at all match up to how I've felt the last 3 days. I had runs or rides every single day and that might have been the only thing that saved me. However, I must have had the most awful grimace on my face or my gate was so tight because I got some, "Are you Ok", questions. I swear the legs attached to my body do not belong to me! They are so under water it's hard to look at but worse they have no intention of functioning properly. This was certainly a good reminder that post race process is important for me. I muscled/suffered/grimaced through all my planned workouts including a plyo workout today. Not sure if this was good or bad but it's done. I only had one or two instances of buckling. Ya know, when you hop out the car and expect your legs to contract and support you. Almost went down.