I came into this race with no idea what to expect. When I ran this last year, it was my first 50 miler and I was scared as hell...and when I finally finished it I was tired as hell. I had gotten off course, discouraged, dehydrated, and was just glad to be done with it.
Although this year was far from perfect, it was truly a great experience and some of the most fun I have had in the short time I've been running.
The morning went smoothly, getting geared up and checked in a few minutes before the start. The pre-race packet pick-up Thursday really makes things easy (RD Todd Janssen is quickly becoming one of the best race directors around...if one likes well organized, well marked, super friendly events). I made my way through the crowd and found the expected familiar faces...Yassine, Trevor, Mike, Will and, surprisingly, Nick. Time to run.
The course is a double out-and-back on the beautiful Pacific Crest Trail south of Mount Hood starting at the Clackamas Historic Compound near Timothy Lake. Runners start heading north, turn around at Hwy 26, then continue south back through the starting area and down into the Warm Springs reservation before returning back to the start/finish.
The first few miles of the race was like a training run--lots of conversation and catching up. It didn't feel like a race at all. Things were pretty relaxed and I was feeling great. The sun was shining, the air was clean, and the mountain would show itself here and there. Running doesn't get much better.
|Mt. Hood from the trail (Ian Sharman)|
I found myself running most of the way to the first turnaround with Trevor and Nick. The pace was perfect, right in my comfort zone, strong but not taxing. When we saw Yassine coming our way I knew it was almost time to head back.
Nick took off up the first climb once we turned around, and I figured that was the last I might see of him until the next turn around. Trevor dropped back a bit when he saw his brother (who was strongly running his first ultra), but I knew I would see him again. For a bit I was by myself and just taking it in, although the nature of the course meant there was always a lot of passing people. Not too much of an inconvenience, but mildly annoying...
Shortly after an aid station I see Nick and Yassine up ahead. I quickly caught them and we ran together for a bit. What a blast! Yassine was hootin' and hollerin' being a general clown. Alas, I stopped to wet a rhody that looked thirsty and never saw those two again...When I stopped a couple miles later to feed a hungry rhody off trail (if you know what I mean), I saw Trevor pass me. I quickly got my drawers up and tried to give chase. I hit the 28.4 mile mark start/finish station in 3:24/4th place just as Trevor was leaving. I think he was surprised to see me behind him.
I took a few minutes to grab another bottle, take my shirt off, and put on my hat and ipod. In the meantime Ian Sharman came and went, meaning I headed out in 5th place. My goal coming in had been 7 hours, and it seemed if all went well I should be able to pull it off. Although a bit hillier and hotter, the second section was 6 miles shorter than the first, a 3:30 finishing leg seemed very realistic. My hydration had been good, calories were going down regularly and easily. I was feeling good.
About 15 minutes after leaving, I didn't feel so good. It wasn't a sidestitch and it wasn't GI cramps, but something was making it hard for me to run in my abdomen. Maybe it was the Perpetuem in the second bottle (although it wasn't my stomach, that felt fine). Maybe it was carrying the second bottle (hadn't done that since last summer). Maybe I did go out too fast (highly possible). I don't know what it was, but I had to figure it out. I pocketed my ipod, stopping to think and walk a bit and see if it would go away. Not really. So I ran, but not two minutes later had to walk some more. My legs felt fine, no complaints from them, but my gut just wouldn't let me move. It might let me shuffle along a bit, but any intentioned effort would stop me in my tracks with tightness. I continued on hoping with time it would resolve itself.
At the next aid station I was told I had lost about 5 minutes on Trevor and maybe a dozen on Yassine and Nick. No big deal. As soon as I can run again I can start getting some of that back. I got some salt, some Gu and moved on. A little more climbing and then a nice downhill before the climb to the turnaround. I ran/walked out of the aid station waiting for some body cooperation. We are in a race...We have 20 miles to go...let me run, dammit!
Long story short, I never got to the point where I could really move at a decent pace again. I walked pretty fast and ran what I could, but never more than about 5 minute stretches. It was a 4 hour interval workout and it was maddening. After leaving the turnaround I was still in 5th and I knew I had about a 10 minute cushion on the next runner behind me, and he looked pretty strong. And phenom Amy Sproston was not far behind him. I had my work cut out for me.
I hit the finish in 7:24. Not exactly what I wanted, but I did manage to hold my place. Ian set a new course record in 6:29:10. Yassine finished 2nd in 6:45:00, Nick 3rd in 6:49:04, and Trevor 4th in 7:02:06. Nice work fellas! I'll finsh with you guys one of these days... Amy Sproston set a new women's record in 7:30:48.
Can't wait for Waldo...