Hagg Lake 50k held in Forest Grove is an event that is quickly becoming one of the more popular trail races here in Oregon. The course is notorious for it's shoe-sucking mud and inclement weather here the Pacific Northwest in February (even the web url is haggmud.com!). I witnessed this slop firsthand when I volunteered two years ago. I had to give a woman a pep-talk to pull one of her Asics out of a mud hole and encouraged her to put it back on and finish the race. That said...the course never really appealed to me that much! This year, however, friends, the great community vibe, level of organization, proximity to home, and stiff competition lured me in.
(The start in the pouring rain. Photo: Glenn Tachiyama)
Like I said I knew there were some really swift runners and right from the get-go Brad Bogdan and I darted out front. He asked if I were Bak (who was everyone's favorite as he just came off a stellar Olympic Trials Marathon in 2:14) and it wasn't long before Ryan Bak joined us and both of them moved ahead several strides of me. Last year's winner (and 2:25 marathoner) Jacob Puzey was also up in that mix (Read his report by clicking on his name). I just settled in w/ Joelle Vaught for a few minutes with Nick Triolo, Dan Olmstead, and a bunch of others just behind. It was a kind of rolling dirt road and the race went out really fast. On the downhills I would just open up the stride and let 'er rip as I knew we wouldn't be working these muscles too much, or sustaining the pace once we hit the trail.
Once we did hit the trails I eventually caught up to Jacob Puzey. We ran together for a couple miles, chatted, and, even though Jacob may be faster than me, I could tell that I had an advantage in the technical trails. I moved on out of sight but was able to see glimpses of him behind me every now and then through the lush, green forests.
The weather turned out to be a mix of driving, horizontal rain, gusty winds, and cold to then clearing up for periods of time with sun and warmer temperatures. Honestly I was feeling so strong that nothing really mattered. I wish I could replicate this type of running more often. Some call it the "zone" , some call it "flow". Whatever it was things felt easy and I never really felt too much fatigue or discomfort on the first loop. When we opened up on to road sections I could see Ryan and Brad a few minutes at most out in front of me and their amazing road speed was apparent. I even saw a couple sweet rainbows during the race which added to the beauty.
(Above photos taken by Kevin Smith)
Starting my second loop and approaching the 20-mile mark I was able to assess how I was feeling and was quite pleased w/ my fluid and caloric intake. Everything was just spot-on and I even threw in some surges at times as I could tell that the two front runners were having issues in the mud w/ their road running shoes. I, however, had arguably the best shoe on the market for this type of run...The Inov-8 Bare Grip 200's. I wouldn't want to have any other shoe and I felt totally confident descending trails and had major traction in climbing/navigating, etc.
Around mile 25 or so I saw my buddy Trevor Hostetlor and I was starting to get some updates from another friend Kevin Smith that these guys were not far ahead at all...maybe two minutes. Again, I was feeling strong and just decided to go for it also knowing that I had a few really fast guys behind me just waiting to gobble me up if I should falter.
Finally, through the woods I saw Bradley, who was in 2nd place, and he was still moving but definitely not as fast. I reeled him in, powered past him, which gave me some extra boost. I thought, "whoa...I could win this thing!"...whereas maybe a few miles prior I was satisfied w/ a podium finish.
At around mile 27-ish and after working extremely hard through some sections and getting updates from Kevin I decided to blow past the last aid station and go after first place runner (and 2:14 marathoner!) Ryan Bak.
(Photo taken by volunteer and friend Jennifer Love as I skipped aid station in pursuit)
(Here I come Ryan! Photo: Kevin Smith)
At this point things were definitely becoming difficult and I was pushing myself very hard. I was grunting and hurting, hungry and thirsty but eventually I got a visual of him, literally, slipping all over the place almost falling to the ground. I couldn't believe it...I had him right where I wanted him. I reeled him in and passed him on his right and tried to push past as quickly as I could but didn't have a whole lot of "turbo" left.
I had used up so much energy reeling Ryan in that after a couple minutes, and hitting some flatter, less muddy, and more runnable sections Ryan was able to scurry past me and I was able to see what it's like to have 2:14-type-speed! Pretty incredible. I don't think I ever ran or raced so closely with someone of that caliber. (To be fair if he had proper shoes on he probably would have been finished by then).
The finish line was in sight and I was prepared to cross the line w/ my daughter Farah. As I appeared out of the forests I could see her there with her mom and apparently she said, "Dadda!" I tried grabbing her and putting her on to the grass in the finish line chute but she started crying so I just carried her across. Definitely a special moment though!
(Maybe she'll run across the track w/ me at Western States 100 in June? Photo: Kevin Smith)
Glenn Tachiyama and Michael Lebowitz captured some excellent photos of the event...Thanks guys for all that you do...Always nice to see you both. HERE are Glenn's photos. HERE is a link to Michael's website. Results can be seen by clicking HERE
I was able to finish in 2nd place overall in 3:47 and I really enjoyed racing, seeing everyone, and being a part of Hagg Lake 2012. It is obvious how much work that is put in by race directors Todd Janssen, Kelly and Eric Barten, and Marianne Jones, and all the volunteers. Thank you so much and again great work to all that slogged through that mud in the 50k or the 25k the next day. Much appreciation to my sponsors Udo's Oil/Flora, Rudy Project, and to Drymax Socks...they helped immensely in these conditions! No Blisters!
And if you are one of those people that did both days....well...you're just a glutton for punishment and you're probably still cleaning that "Hagg Mud" off and out of you!