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I am a 45 year old long distance runner who is on a journey to regain the joy for running and life.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Hagg Lake - Feb 20, 2010

The start!  I am in the white shirt
At the start
at the start-  Me in the white shirt ready to run!
The first race of the season is now complete. The Hagg Lake 50k was held on saturday February 20th and it was a fine event. I went into the race with somewhat unknown expectations as far as a predicted time, but with a minimum goal to break 5 hours. I thought I might even be able to break 4 1/2 hours as my two other 50k finishes have been 4:06 at the Autumn Leaves 50 k a few years ago on a very easy and flat road course, and 4:50 in the Forest Park 50k last year on a course with about 3000 feet of climbing. Hagg Lake on paper seems like it would be easier than Forest Park, and harder than Autumn Leaves since it has about 700 feet of climbing. But in my estimation it is slightly harder than Forest Park because of the mud.


I started out pretty fast running the first 3.1 mile out and back section on the road in about 24 minutes. This section was difficult going out because of a steep climb for about 3/4 of a mile. I was feeling good and tried to run by feel. When we hit the trail at 3.1 miles I thought it was going to be a really good day. I ran in a group until about mile 10. At that point my legs started feeling a little tired which is a very bad sign at mile 10 of 31. I let a few runners pass me and tried to assess the situation. My pace was a little too fast and the mud caused a lot of slipping and sliding and thus tensing of the leg muscles which I have not trained for enough. From mile 10 on I knew it would be a tough day.

Starting lap 2
Penny- My great crew!
I finished the first loop (of two) of the lake at 2 hours 38 minutes. That is at the 17 mile mark. That is about 9:18 per mile pace. My great crew member, Penny, was there to see me. I told her my legs were shot. I changed hats, got new food and water bottles, and started out on my second and final loop of the lake.

My plan was to try to hold the same pace and just accept that it was going to hurt a little. I quickly passed a few people and realized maybe I was not as bad off as I thought. I continued on passing at least 5 or 6 more runners by the time we hit the "dam aid station" at mile 21.6 into the race. After a quick water bottle refill and a few endurolytes I was off. I immediately caught another runner who was running about my pace. His name is Ben Baxter. He asked me if I wanted to pass but I told him it was all I could do to keep up with him. We chatted for a few miles and then I could not keep up with him. I was going pretty much as fast as I could. I saw him slowly increase the gap between us. Then the next aid station appeared.

This final aid station is called the "Tanner Creek aid station" and it is 4.3 miles from the finish. I looked at my watch and the running time was 4 hours 18 minutes. That means I had just run the last 9.7 miles from the start/finish area in 100 minutes. That is about 10:18 per mile pace. I knew I had 42 minutes to run the last 4.3 miles if I wanted to break the 5 hour mark. I knew it was possible but it was gonna take everything I had. By this point it in the race it was pretty warm and I was drinking a lot of water so my stomach was cramping very slightly. Normally when that happens I just walk for a few minutes, but I knew if I wanted to break 5 hours I couldn't walk at all. I had to average 9:45 per mile pace, and the worst mud sections of the course were ahead. I don't know why it so important for me to break that 5 hour mark, but 4 hours something just sounds way faster than 5 hours something. So I bolted out of the aid station like I was running for Olympic gold. Crazy.

Normally 9:45 per mile is not hard, but at the end of a 50k and with the difficulty of this section it's tough. I am sure Hagg Lake veterans have little difficulty with the mud, but the mud on this section is something I have never run through. If I had been out on training run and encountered this mud I would have laughed and just tip toed through it. But with my vast mud experience gained on lap one about 2 hours earlier, and watching other runners just plow through it, I just plowed through it. I just knew I had to keep running very hard to break 5 hours. I passed a couple more runners in this section and took one major fall into the mud. That was a shock, but I got up quickly and just kept on going.

Beautiful Hagg Lake
The Big Finish!

Finally out of the last mud section I hit the one mile to go sign and my watch said 4:50:30. That means the last mile had to be run in under 9:30. I ran all out and finally hit the finish in a time of 4hours 59 minutes and 44 seconds. So I ran the last mile in 9:14. Wow. I think that might be some kind of world record. Or maybe not. It sure felt hard. Glad to be finished!!!

Thanks to Penny for supporting me at the race. I had some leg cramps afterward that required some assistance. Thank you so much.

And nice to chat with your Ben Baxter. I hope we see each other again at another race. And good luck at the Tahoe Rim 100 this year.

And thank you very much to the race directors and all the volunteers who make the event possible. It was an awesome day!!!


  1. Wow, that was cutting it close! Just think, half a second slower per mile and you'd have been over five. Great job pushing the last section.

  2. Well played, my friend. And to think, you busted out 25k today - in the mud, AGAIN - with no problem!