Running the Peterson Ridge Rumble 40-miler had been a goal of mine for a couple years. My friend Sean is the Race Director, an incredibly experienced ultra runner, and knows exactly what runners need and when. I have run the 20-mile course the last two years, and had wanted to do the 40-miler last year. Unfortunately, I succumbed to a nasty cold that lasted a few weeks, and training didn’t go as planned. But I was back this year, more determined than ever to run a 40-miler “before I turn 40” next January. Makes sense, right? The idea inspired me, and so it became my goal. To conquer two birds with one stone, I decided to also sign up to run the Newport Marathon just six weeks later. More on that in a bit.
The Gorge Waterfalls 50K left me with a runner’s high that lasted most of the following week. Not sure if it was the race, the effort or the course, but it was truly an unforgettable experience that kicked off two weeks of tapering for PRR (here is a link to The Ginger Runner’s Gorge Waterfalls 50K video). The race also left me with a boosted level of confidence that helped me mentally prepare for a 40-mile race. My single worry was that PRR was much more runnable than the 50K, and I didn’t want to kill my legs early on which might leave me with no gas left in the tank at the end.
Race morning was a bit chillier than expected at 24-degrees, but the sun was out which was all I could ask for. Thankfully, my nerves weren’t on the fritz and I was surprisingly relaxed for race day. Again, the 50K had given me the boost I think I needed before running this distance, so all I had to do was believe in myself. And that I did. After a “Go Amy Clark!” from Sean (behind the mega phone) the first 20 miles went by quickly, especially after we merged with the 20-mile folks at around mile 18. They were speedy, and it was a little hard to not be intimidated by their faster pace. Or speed up with them, for that matter, as the second half of the first loop is mostly a gentle downhill. But I held my own and once we got back to the road, it was time to pull over for a pit-stop behind a tree. I honestly never stopped to pee in the two 50K’s I ran prior to this race, so this was new – and thank goodness I had a place to go. Sometimes privacy – believe it or not – can be hard to find off the side of a trail. Looking for a “quick” spot to squat is just another thing that takes time.
Then it was off to loop number two. Before I forget – the aid stations throughout loop number one were AWESOME – as expected. The volunteers were incredible, and the selection of food and drinks was plentiful. Local races are always fun because of the familiar faces greeting you at the aid stations.
Venturing out onto the second 20-mile loop of the race was uncharted territory. I had never run this section of the course, and was feeling a bit lonely as I made the turn off of the road that returns the 20-mile runners back to the finish line. There was another runner that was just ahead of me, and it turned out to be one of my fellow “Twitter buddies,” but unfortunately we were both in the zone and not really up for conversation at that point. When you are facing another 20 miles, it’s hard to make small talk – at least for me. I had no idea what to expect. So on I went, traversing what appeared to be a long, country road. The road soon turned to cinder and went up. And up. This was the point where I decided I could use a good hike, especially since it was almost the afternoon and the sun was bright. Throughout the rest of the loop I would often leap-frog, or pass runners as we were all battling our own inner races. Then the scenery went from really nice to AH-MA-ZING between mile 30-35, where the top of a ridge overlooked a meadow of bright green manzanita bushes, and just above those was the tree line, which sat just below the whitest, most stunning mountains (Three Sisters) backed by a bluebird sky. Took my breath away, and I chose not to take a photo so that I’ll remember that moment just as it happened in my head. A picture could never do the view justice. And by the way, the volunteers on the second loop were just as amazing as those on the first. Thank you to all of those wonder people who were out there!
Then it was down, down, down to the aid station at mile 35. It was a shaded horse camp and I was ready to fill up on my usual – oranges, PB&J, potato chips and coke. No rush though – just five miles to go. Finally, off I went after feeling like I could finish strong with a full belly. Eventually, I caught another runner I had been leap frogging with, and passed her with about one mile to go. Then – CRASH. Yup – fell right into the dirt. Luckily no damage was done, and I got right back up and followed her into the finish. Around the track I went, where lots of people were still around cheering us on, and crossed the finish line of my longest race to date. 40 miles. Done. My time was exactly the same as the Gorge Waterfalls 50K – 6:57. And I got in about 9 miles more.
I felt fortunate I was able to chat with Sean after, as I rarely get to see him now that he’s living in Arizona. And I felt good – no niggling aches or pains, just the usual overall soreness from running for seven hours (and a little chafing from piece of bark that got stuck in a snug spot during my pit stop).
I was incredibly happy after completing the 40-miler, of course, but felt like it was just the icing on the cake. I had completed months of training, and capped it off with an absolutely beautiful, yet tough 50K. Now I get to jump back into training mode for the Newport Marathon on May 30. No time to waste – one down and one to go!