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If you do call yourself a runner, can you handle the truth?
Mckenzie Trail Run

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2005 McKenzie River Trail Run / 50K

by Todd Bosworth

The McKenzie River 50k Trail Run was held September 10, 2005 at Carmen Reservoir.

My friend and training partner Christian Beck has run many ultras and so I tried to follow his lead in preparation and training for this event. I felt ready.

I was trying to keep a positive frame of mind. Anxiety lurked in the shadows. Based on my training I knew I should be ready to run 50 kilometers but anything can happen. I could fall. It was raining, but was supposed to stop. What should I eat for dinner and breakfast? Have I tapered enough? Maybe the Bohemia Half Marathon last Saturday was too close. I've been sneezing and I have a hint of a sore throat. Is it the beginning of a cold?

Walking into Harbick's Country Store in McKenzie Bridge is like stepping into a time warp. The classic "General Store." They have generally everything. Hot food, cold food, dry goods, cleaning supplies, clothing, fishing and hunting supplies, tools etc. My specific goal was to find the right pair of gloves. I ran the McKenzie 50k Trail Run in 2002 and fell six times. I needed gloves that were light, breathable, but tough enough to protect the palms of my hands when I fell. Not if I fell, when I fell. It was inevitable. Strangely, it was never in the technical, rocky, winding, chiseled lava sections, it was usually after that when you take a deep breath and relax and start looking more than three feet down the trail, or taking a drink of water or messing with a GU pack. Catch a root or small rock and Wham! Get up, brush yourself off and start again. Each fall reminding you to pay attention and I managed to forget five more times.

Harbick's must have a hundred and fifty types of gloves to choose from. I settled on some stretch nylon gloves with rubber coated palms and fingers. The rubber was a dense light gray coating that I figured would do a great job of protecting my palms from rocks and gravel. My thoughtful and caring wife Shelly thought they might not breath enough so I cut the fingers off. Now they resembled biking gloves. Perfect.

It rained continuously Friday night and I revisited thoughts of running the race in a downpour. That would not be fun.

Shelly, my sons Weston, age four and Callahan, a year and a half and I spent the night in a leaky teepee behind the Log Cabin Inn. Seemed like a fine idea when we booked it a month ago when it was 90 degrees out.

I got up at 6:15 and it was raining lightly. I stepped in a puddle and my right sock got wet. I hitched a ride with Jim and Dave to the start.

Pre-race at the McKenzie Trail Run is like a reunion. Many in this unique and eclectic crowd only see each other at ultra races. Smiles and hand shakes created a very warm gathering on a cool, misty morning.

Phil Vaughn is the race director and he announced we had three minutes until the start. The crowd stepped behind the line and Phil started the race. It's about 50 degrees and not raining.

It was only then the anxiety subsided. I was finally running the race I'd spent so much mental and physical energy training for the last 5 months.

The race leaves Carmen Reservoir over the McKenzie and up the trail past Koosah and Sahalie Falls. It is so beautiful and surreal you want to stop and take it all in but I can't because I have a goal. A time to beat. That time is 4:37:40. Christian's PR at McKenzie is 4:37:41. What a coincidence...

The trail continues up river and across the highway and around Clear Lake. There's about a mile long out and back and we see the leaders coming towards us bombing down the trail. The four lead runners remind me of a fast moving train. The combination of speed and power is impressive. John Ticer, a 48 year old firefighter from Eugene went on to win the race for the second year in a row, setting a course record in 3:42:50. Simply unbelievable.

I hit my splits fairly close through the first two aid stations. I eat a brownie, take a couple sodium/electrolyte capsules every hour, try to drink a bottle of water between each aid station and I feel wonderful. My water bottle leaks if I squeeze it too hard so I have to carefully sip without applying too much pressure. It's a minor nuisance.

I'm running at a pace that feels effortless. Running shorter distances I'm always pushing to keep pace, checking my watch each mile. Up here you just run. You run at a pace you think you can maintain for more than four hours. I run really well through some of the most difficult and beautiful parts like the Blue Pool area but I can't take my eyes off the trail for a second. Every step is critical. No sight seeing today.

My only concern now is my wet socks. By mile seventeen I really want to change my socks and my crew, Shelly and the boys appear like angels right next to the trail and help me change. I'm back on the trail within minutes.

The minutes and hours melt together as I cruise along fern lined trails, moss covered rocks around tall firs and cedars and over log bridges. I arrive at the fifth and final aid station at mile 25.1 and I'm three minutes ahead of schedule. I feel awesome with six miles to go. In fact I see three other runners so I leave the water bottle at the aid station so I can run harder and I target them to try and pass. It doesn't seem to be working. They are slipping further away with each turn. Is it me fading or them getting stronger? It must be a combination of both. With three miles to go it's definitely me fading. I'm struggling. With a mile and half to go I need to really concentrate hard to keep running and try to ignore the pain in my tired legs.

I come around a corner and a young kid calls out my number and I see the finish line at the top of the hill.

The race is over and I'm done. The clock reads 4:37:56, 16 seconds off my goal and 18 minutes faster than 2002. I'm tired, teary, relieved and very hungry. My crew attends to my every wish. I need a chair to sit in and it appears. I drink two Pepsi's, eat some brownies, a banana, orange slices, cookies and I'm feeling better. I look down and realize my customized fingerless gloves are clean and dry. I can't help but smile. It's the perfect ending to an amazing and unforgettable race.

Christian PRs by thirteen minutes. He raises the bar by lowering his time just when I thought I was closing in on him. I think the leaky water bottle he loaned me was no accident.

More Race Reports by Todd Bosworth

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