April 13, 2011

Full Circle + Roxy's 1st W! (Peterson Ridge Rumble 20miler)

I headed down to Sisters, Oregon this past weekend to attempt my first real racing experience since July of last year. In July I ran our local Knee Knacker 50k, but that race was just two weeks after Western States and I kinda consider Western to be my last real race. That's over NINE full months without a true test. There were of course two speed attempts and a few days on crutches thrown into that nine month span, but all in all, it had been a hell of a long time since I'd really tasted and savored the camaraderie of competition.

The Peterson Ridge Rumble is organized by Montrail teammate Sean (P-Diddy) Meissner and offers two distances to choose from, those being 20 and 40 miles. I had always known of the shorter version of this race as Sean allows for a DOG category and I'd dreamed for years of bringing my pooch Roxy along and tackling the race together. Heading into the weekend this did not seem like a reality though, as my dog had 'acquired' almost as much weight as I had during my extended hiatus -  to the tone of jumping up from around 55lbs to over 70lbs, which is of course almost 30% of her own body mass. Since I see her on a daily basis it never fully dawned on me why so many people lead into their greetings with her with, 

"You've gotten fat Roxy!" 

Then I pulled up a not so long ago picture for my own reference and couldn't help but laugh. 

My dog now had a bulging waistline and I did my best to ignore the fact that her winter ski jacket from just two seasons ago wouldn't even adhere to itself once stretched around her belly. 

Knowing this and seeing her struggles to keep up on even shorter runs over the last month I had no intentions of running my dog in the 20mile race. The initial plan was to run solo before trucking her back out on course and allowing her to run the closing portion with my girlfriend. Once the anticipation of the impending race started to build however, with howls of excitement from all around, she peered up at me with an all knowing glare,

"You CAN'T SERIOUSLY intend to leave me here at the finish while all these other dogs get to run this race with their owners? I thought you loved me!?"

A backup plan ensued after I expressed my concerns with with Leslie Gerein's significant other Keith Brodsky. Keith was out for a leisurely scenic run and we agreed should my dog really start to suffer or fall apart I'd leash her at an aid station and Keith would grab her on his way past. I honestly lined up for the start assuming no other scenario to unfold on the day, and I was excited at the prospect of running even half the race with my pooch, as it was simply too far to drive and too cool a concept not to enjoy with my now five year old pup.

The full circle part about this on a personal level was that I had broken my foot and significantly altered my own path over the last six months, just 40miles from where I was now standing in Sisters. I saw a T-Shirt in town advertising the Mt Bachelor ski resort of which Sunriver services and I couldn't help but cringe a little. That fateful date in October started out like any other and I still struggle to understand how I could sustain such a significant injury over such buff terrain. Here I was, just down the street, on an almost identical surface, and about to attempt my first race back. Was there another 'one wrong step' awaiting me out on those plush Oregon trails once more? It wasn't trepidation as much as a simple recognition. I wasn't fighting to get back on the horse, but the horse was reminding me that it had bucked me once before without warning and that I simply needed a reminder not to take anything for granted.

The course is mostly single track with a few climbs thrown in and the Garmin showed around 1000 feet of gain and loss. There were a few fast guys and a few fast dogs all mulling about as we waited for Meissner to get the show started. Roxy employed her now perfected cool as ice persona to intimidate all other four legged competitors, yet as soon as the countdown hit one she bolted to the front of the pack.

I take great pride in how much effort I put into training her and as she realized she'd already dropped me I loved seeing her pull aside to find me in the crowd verses simply stopping short and/or freaking out in the excited energy of the moment. I witnessed more than a few dogs loose their minds and a couple of runners take aggressive bumps that I was surprised they stayed upright throughout. It was like Nascar, "bumpin' is racin'!"
(DAD! Let's GO already!!) (these two pics thanks to Janine Beaudry)

My goal with the race was to run as hard as I could for as long as I could and to take stock from there as to where my fitness was. Essentially I intended to run a smart race but fully expected to blow up at some point and I was fine with that. I've only been back on my feet for four weeks after the better part of five months off and I trying to be as realistic as possible with my goals. 

The race opened fast, as was to be expected, and I drifted back to around 10th as I tried to compose myself and get my breathing under control. Roxy was making out fine and as we closed in on the 5km point where you duck into the forest and start enjoying some singletrack. I managed to bridge up to and pass a few runners in front of me right as we hit the junction. 

We knocked down the first 10k in 42min, and the half marathon distance in 1h32m. During this span I had many thoughts floating through my cranium.

-Can Roxy keep this pace?
-Can I keep this pace?
-This is harder than I remember, racing I mean, this kinda sucks right now
-I don't think I want to run this fast anymore, can I walk now please?
-You pansy, shut up and enjoy the fact that you can even still do this type of thing
-Alright, here's the deal. We WON'T stop running due to mental weakness. Let's just keep this pace and when the legs truly give out your free to whimper and cry and walk
-Whoa, I think I'm finding a groove. Where did this energy come from? This almost feels good again!
-Is my dog still alive, I can't hear her dog tags?
-There she is, the tags are stuck to her drooping tongue
-She's actually SMILING! I'm so happy I brought her along for this
-It's going to take a bit to get used to gels again
-Oh yeah, I should probably take an electrolyte tab or two while I'm at it
-I'm catching people, SWEET!
-This is a REALLY NICE TRAIL, flat as f#@k, but nice
-Oh a climb! I'm gonna enjoy thi....uhhh, it's over. Hopefully there's another one or two of those in here somewhere?

Along with other ground breaking, earth shattering, axis altering, deep thoughts about the cosmos and all that resides within it.

Roxy was starting to fade, as I expected, but overall she was still holding tight. We hit an aid station right as we had caught up to another runner and I made sure to give Roxy her dues. I gave her a few minutes as we found the doggy dishes, of which she drained both, and then the doggy treats, of which she devoured a few. I looked down at her to ensure she was able to close this thing out. I could see it would be a push for her but we'd come this far and to my knowledge she was the second place pup, first place female. I certainly wasn't about to take that away from her so off we went in search of more runners and one speedy dog named Henry.

Within a few kilometers we once again caught up to, and this time passed the runner who'd eluded us during our last stop. Shortly thereafter I spotted Montrail teammate Joelle Vaught who was killing it in the forty mile distance. There was a short climb and descent of which we cheered each other through. I then ran scared as she pushed hard from behind, while running twice the distance as myself! She had effectively flattened my ego right as it was starting to feel good about how I was finally moving. (she went on to win the 40miler in 4h58m!)

I was now ready to close this thing out and somewhat surprised to discover I had fuel left in the tank after almost two full hours of high tempo running. Roxy on the other hand was drifting further and further back and had started shorting the switchbacks (don't DQ her, it's Euro style don't ya know!)

Unbeknownst to me, and more importantly to my dog, the race would finish with about 4km of completely flat and open terrain that was predominantly covered on a gravel road. I KNEW she was about to tap out on me and my grand visions of a sub 2h20m effort were disappearing by the stride. I employed my time tested strategy of basically lying to her and hoping for the best. I incessantly spit out words she knew and loved, mixed in with a few I could only hope she recognized,

"Spa day cause I love you and don't want you to die on me right now"
"Massage...for me, but if you only knew what this meant you'd perk right up"
"TREATS, lots and lots of TREATS!"
"PUPPIES, oh I can see lots of happy puppies up ahead Roxy!"
"We're almost home Rox, you're doing awesome! Almost done! Treats, treats, treats!"

This worked, for about thirty five seconds. Fifteen minutes later and I could tell that if I stopped to wait for her she'd claw my eyes out on the spot.

By the time we reached the finish at the track I figured I had enough witnesses to prevent her from gnawing off one of my legs once I slowed down for her. She gapped up to me and then shut down on the spot. We had 400meters to go...her to me,

"WHAT the F#$K! SERIOUSLY, WHY are you still running away from me? Why are you attempting to walk in a huge circle right now when I can clearly see water and pigs ear treats just over there, and WHY are these people laughing at me!??"
I started walking the track with her and she still struggled to keep up. We made it about half way before Meissner grabbed his megaphone, 


I ran the last half, with Roxy nearly in tears as to why, and I then stopped short of the finish. There was no way I was crossing the line without her, and about fifteen seconds later we did just that. 
(Roxy giving her version of a salute to the race organizers) (pics thanks to AJ Tauber)

Apparently we had the slowest closing split around the track...by minutes...I think it took us over three full minutes to circle the damn thing and once we finally stopped she simply collapsed with a look that said,

"YOU HAPPY!? NEVER again Dad, NEVER again! Now WHERE are my pigs ears?"
(Twenty miles for these hey? How bout next time I just give you $30 bucks ya cheap bastard!)

Unfortunately for the other pooch Henry his owner took a late race wrong turn which by default made Roxy the OVERALL Dog winner...to which she really couldn't give a shit!

Full Results
I'm confident I would have broken 2h20m had I run solo - I'm happier to have run 2h25 with Roxy in tow

Thanks to Meissner for an incredible weekend!

As always when I'm truly racing I have a song that plays on default in my head, and given we had just seen these guys in concert on the Thursday night before the race, this was the theme song of the day:



Laura H said...

I'm so glad you are back racing cuz that means great race reports! I was having a rather shitty day and reading this perked me up and made it all better. Thank you!! Congrats to you and huge doggie respect to Roxie!!

Kristie said...

Truly awesome report, dog and human are well matched. Glad you're back on the trails again

Derrick said...

Alright Roxy....huge congrats! Oh yeah, you too Gary :)

What a fun sounding race and perfect way to get your feet wet again. Great to see you back Gary.

Awesome report.

seanverret said...

Great post Gary.

Sara Montgomery said...

What a dog! Good girl, Roxy. Great way to return to racing for both of you. :)

Deb said...

Roxy is awesome, those pics at the end of you guys crossing the line together are great!! Good to read a race report of yours again!

Hone said...

Nice race for both of you! My dog was a runner until we transferred down to SoCal. It is just too hot for him out here and now he probably only runs 30 miles week with me now and just chases the Frisbee the rest of the time.

You also have the most entertaining ultra blog out there. Keep it up because I need good bathroom reading in the morning or else everything doesn't flow properly.

garobbins said...

Thanks guys! The best part about all this is that it kicked my dogs ass and seemed to light a fire under it at the same time. Maybe she remembered the days when she was fitter and faster and missed them but she's been stuck to my leg running all week long!
Evan, that's quite the compliment from a guy who still had his pre-running 2008 picture as his profile shot!

Jenn said...

This is great!! So entertaining, your thoughts actually written down are halarious!!
I am super impressed with your comeback Mr. Robbins! Pretty damn good!

Deanna Stoppler said...

Oh that is too precious! You two are the best.

mrC said...

takes me back to my days hunting in packs ... man and dog together.. all that's missing is a woolly mammoth ;)

great idea...good on ya Oregon.

Moogy & Edo said...

Great job you two!!! That is one thing I miss about my dog getting older...our runs together. They are too far between and short. Just too hard to watch him the next day and struggle w/ getting around. Enjoy your runs w/ Roxy. 8)