Monday, August 23, 2010

Where's Waldo 100K

Let me preface this by saying the drive down absolutely sucked. I left work in Everett, WA at about noon hoping to be at the race venue by 7:00. I figured I'd get to chill out, watch a movie in the car, and have a nice relaxing evening before the run. What a moron I am! What really happened is I got stuck in traffic pretty much everywhere until I got out of the Portland area.  I got to the race at about 9:45 at night. I was completely wired and had a heck of a time falling asleep. I read for a long time. Searched the web on my phone. Read some more. I never sleep well the night before a race though. Does anyone? I dozed off and on for a little bit but probably slept no more than 3 total hours before the race.

I never did hear the early starters take off at 3am though, so that's a good thing, means I must have been sleeping. I woke up about 3:30 to find one of the most spectacular skies ever. I cannot remember seeing a plethora of stars on display like this. Never!Every constellation was visible; it was simply stunning. How could one not stop and think of the beauty of nature in a time like this? For me this was a spectacular start to a race I was very unsure of how it was going to unfold. It was my brother's 41st birthday, except he passed away 18 years ago. I was hoping that being in the peaceful beauty of the mountains on this day would give me a lot of time to think, to remember, and to work on figuring out what my place is in this life. I don't have a clue. But I keep searching.

Fuji Mountain, OR. Stole this pic off the web, one of the
most spectacular views I've ever seen. Awesome!

The race went off in the darkness at 5:00 as advertised. Since we started going up after only a couple hundred feet of running there wasn't much sense of urgency - not by me anyway. I was running this strictly as a training race, I wasn't out to kill myself. So we climbed, meandered through some single track, and descended. The weather was perfect, everyone was in the usual early race good mood. Daylight came, we ditched our lights. Not much excitement until we started the climb to Fuji Mountain. Being early in the race I tried to go slower than I normally could, power walked anything uphill, and kept my breathing in control. It was a pretty easy climb, but was completely surprised by what I saw at the top. I don't know if words could describe it, but the peak of this mountain's views were simply stunning. You could see for miles and miles and miles, and this was a perfectly clear day. How I wish I wasn't in a race so I could take it in for a while. As it was I did pause here for an extended second or two - I had to. This view deserved to be looked at, by ignoring it was to create a sin against mother nature herself. I stayed for at least a minute. Then was sent on my way by the race photographers whom reminded me I was in a race.

I descended quickly passing numerous runners. Seems like I am a pretty good descender in the technical stuff. I never really gave it much though, but since I passed so many I must be OK as I didn't once fall on my face. After the descent this was the first time I really got to run alone for a while. I tried to take everything in. My thoughts were drifting back to my brother and the day of his accident. It's really hard to believe he has been gone for so many years. Then I trip over a rock and I'm thrust right back into the race. This will be pretty much the story of my day. It's amazing that I never did fall down. I ran with a couple girls for a while, but wasn't really sure who they were. I think one of them was top 10 at Western this year though, that's a pretty impressive accomplishment. Eventually I made it to aid station # whatever at mile 27 and saw Gabby (Tia Gabrilita) there, she is such a cool girl and we caught up on each other's running for a little bit. I congratulated her on her 100 finish in Wyoming a month or two before. We talked briefly about p2p, it was great to see her again. This was the heaven and hell aid station, and everyone was dressed as an angel, wayyyy cool there was a themed aid station somewhere in the middle of the mountains.
Miles 27 to 44 were pretty uneventful. I kept myself running really mellow and made sure I took S!caps and monitored my caloric intake as best I could. I did another climb that went fairly well, my legs were still quite responsive and my stomach was doing well. I got back to the heaven and hell aid station, this time everyone was dressed as a devil, and got to see Gabby again. We chatted a few more minutes, I told her I would buy her a beer in Ashland, she got pretty excited about It and then off I went. At this point there is only 17.5 miles to run, and one climb that I've been hearing about from various people all day. I was really looking forward to this climb as my legs were ready to wake up, it was time to do some running.
Maiden Peak - our final climb of the day! This
was a really fun climb, plus I was feeling good.
I let the legs go on the descent following the Twins (love that name!). Everything was feeling super good and I was having so much fun. The the climb to Maiden Peak. It started off mellow enough, and I was able to run most of the incline. Everyone was telling me that it was about 3000 feet in 4 miles, so I was ready for the motherfucker! Bring it on you stupid pussy of a hill. And I marched right up that thing pretty damn well. Every once in a while it would get steeper and I would have to switch to powerwalking. The grade stayed mellow but slowly but surely as progress was made up, the trail got steeper. Eventually I was in full power walk mode. Those old bastards at the mall ain't got nothing on me. I put my head down and just concentrated on walking as fast as I could up the mountain. My breathing was good, the legs were still responsive, and I was having a shit load of fun. I kept passing people, some looked haggard, some still looked OK, but I was feeling super good so I just kept charging. Later I learned I had the 7th fastest climb of the race up this mountain, what a huge improvement over the last climb of White River (Sun Top). My fitness was coming along!
While moving up this climb is the first time I actually tried to figure out what my finishing time was going to be. The goal at the beginning of the day was the day was to run 13 hours or so and stay mellow, but the legs being as responsive as they were I just had to go. I was thinking sub 13 should be easily attainable. Just like you never turn down a tailwind on the bike, you never turn down the legs when they want to run in a race. Once over the top I was thrust into some hugely technical trail that was basically a free fall. We lost about 1000 feet in the first mile, it was full of huge rocks, small rocks, stumps, short drops, switch backs, and sometimes everything all at once. Then it mellowed and I just put my head down and ran. It is so nice and comforting to know that 54 miles into a race I can still run sub 7 minute mile pace.
I got to the final aid station at mile 55 and the ladies there were incredible. All I heard was, "How are you feeling" "What can we get you?" "How about a shoulder rub?" "Do you need a sponge?" "Do you want us to wipe you down?" Seriously! These ladies were awesome! Here I am, in the middle of the mountains in the middle of nowhere - somewhere in Oregon nearly 500 miles from home - and I am being offered the full spa treatment. Amazing! Thank you ladies, your work was very helpful and much appreciated. You deserve a tip. Hell, you ladies were so nice and friendly you increased my already euphoric mood to an even bigger high.
The clock was reading 11:35, and I had 7.5 miles to go. I popped a gel and took an S!cap hoping it would be enough to get me to the finish. The biggest problem was that I expected the rest of the race to be all downhill, so when i started climbing again I was a little pissed. But the climbs weren't really that long, and I could momentum climb most of them. The trail meandered around a lake, and up and down and twisted and turned. I was starting to see more and more hikers the closer I got to the finish. Eventually someone told me that I had 4 miles to go. Crap, I need food and I really don't want to stop and eat. But I also didn't want to bonk when my legs were still pretty good. I forced myself to stop and pop one more gel to get me to the finish. It took me a while to get the stupid ass thing out of my camelbak as my shoulders and arms were losing flexibility. But I did, and I had 33 minutes left to sneak under 12:40. I was just hoping the trail was flat or downhill, but no such luck as I rounded a corner and had to go up and down some more rollers. The trail was also pretty technical in places. Eventually I made it to a clearing and I could see a parking lot to my left through the trees, then it opened up a little bit more and I could see a chairlift. I knew I wasn't going to go sub 12:40 so I didn't really bother going all out. But in the last 200 or so yards I did notice I could squeak under 12:41 if I kicked, relatively anyway. I elevated the pace one more time and barely made it with a 12:40:59. Sweet, I never get the 59 without going over.
Once finished the RD came over to check on me and make sure I wasn't about to collapse. He joked with me a bit as he could see I was still doing really well, and I quickly thanked him and told him how much fun I had. Seriously, what a great day on the trails. The views were spectacular, the people were friendly and helpful, the BBQ was tasty, and I got to stay inside my thoughts all day long and heal just a little bit more. What a perfect day!
Then the drive home, man that sucks. I left the venue at 7:00 or 7:15 or 7:30, I really don't know. It sucked. I sent me texts on my race to my friends, and tried to zone out without falling asleep. Funny thing was I was wide awake and still feeling great. It would have been a great time to hang out at the venue and have a couple beers with the other runners, but time just didn't permit. I was driving pretty slow though, and had to stop and go to the bathroom a few times too many, needed some salty food. I made it back to Washington at about 11:15, drove a little bit more and then fell into a fitful sleep where I woke up nearly every hour. I was still ready to party or something. Yea, or something is more like it. I was in full chill mode. Eventually I was fully awake at about 4:00, but just sat in the car and stared out the window for another hour. I knew once I got home it was going to be a long day. But I missed the kids a lot, so I forced myself to move. Once home I was instantly thrust into kid duty, and somehow made it through the day without falling asleep. Good times - ya gotta love the trails.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Pre-race Waldo

I'm not sure what the hell goes on in my head, I'm just a passenger along for the ride. But every week that is race week it sure seems like I never get sleep. And then for the Waldo 100K I resigned myself to sleeping in the car at the start which is probably stupid also. Hopefully I'm not setting myself up for too much failure.

This is a perfect day for me to be alone with my thoughts in the mountains. I am so looking forward to having a day where I can feel sorry for myself, feel sorry for my parents, and most of all feel sorry for my brother who would have turned 41 on this day. It's so hard to believe that it has been 17 years since you left us, but I can still hear your voice, I can still see your smile, and I still have hundreds of memories of us growing up together. I miss you everyday brother, and I hope you will bring me strength to make it through this day - and the common sense to run it easy also. And please keep the stupid cougars and bears away from me too please - I hate those things. I miss you so much...what I wouldn't give to see you one more time...damn this is still so hard.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Where's Waldo rev-up

I'm not sure about this race for 3 reasons:

1) The guy that won it last year suffered from renal kidney failure after the race
2) Some dude from Texas had an encounter with a bear
3) They sent me a map in the mail and told me to carry it and be able to take care of myself in the mountains. Hell, I can barely take care of myself at home.

Should be a fun run though.

Friday, August 6, 2010

White River 50

Scratch another one off the list on my admittedly retarded quest to finish a 100. When I get to the end of this run I seriously wish today was the day I ran my hundred. I had all the bases covered. Stomach was good. Pace was perfect. But again, like a teenager's first time I'm getting ahead of myself. Here's how it all went down, and up.

Saturday morning rolls around and I look at the clock. It's 1:20 am. WTF? I flip and flop, repeat, lie still, roll, fluff pillows, lie still, flip, stretch, flop, look at clock, 1:35 am. Turn on the light. Start reading. Damn this book is good. I'm 75% of the way through an 1100 page book, I'm thoroughly engrossed in the story. Look at clock again, 3:05 am. Crap. I might as well get up. Eat some food. Load truck. Music on. Drive. Holy Crap it is taking forever to get there. I used to love taking road trips - I looked forward to them every weekend when I was racing motocross, then running X-C in college, then racing various forms of bicycles. But the older I get the less I enjoy driving down a road for hours at a time with the music up loud and my thoughts on autopilot. Maybe it's because I have so little free time and I'm always in a rush to move from one task to the next that now I forgot to enjoy the freedom of driving. Who knows? Maybe it's because the clock is always ticking. Examples, " Mike what time are you going to get home from this run?" "What time are you going to be here?" "How long are you running?" "Are you going to be able to do this?" And on and on and on. Everything is scheduled nowadays. I never used to schedule anything outside of work or school. I hate schedules. Schedules suck. How much fun is it to constantly plan your life? What ever happened to spontaneity? I used to live by that all the time. Now I long for the days of years past.

I show up at the race site at about 530, and find a place to park, get my number and then hang out. What else is there to do before the race starts? Not much. I walk around, go for a little run to loosen the body up, all the joints seem to be working OK. Nothing else to do but wait.
Race time and I'm ready to go. I decided not to use the GPS as it probably wouldn't be working all that great in the mountains and switchbacks. I'm going old school. 50 milers are pretty easy to figure out on pacing anyway, just start easy and keep going. Not too bad of a plan. The race starts pretty mellow, we run down a gravel road for a short while before we get into the trails. I recognize the area from racing the mountain bike here the year before, or 2 years ago. It must have been 2008. Yep, that's it. I won too. First place was beer. Gotta love mountain bike races. We cruise along, chatting about nothing, no sense of hurry really, it's going to be a long day even on the best of days. After the aid station we turn and slowly the trail starts heading up…I knew this was supposed to be a 9 mile climb, so I would run the easy stuff and if it got real steep switch to power walking as it's pretty much the same speed as running anyway. Although this climb was long, it was really pretty mellow and enjoyable - not steep and brutal like the Tiger Mountain climbs of training.

Finally I get to the top of the ridge, only a couple miles to go before the turnaround, and I start to see the leaders hauling ass the other way. Dakota Jones and Anton Kupricka are setting the early pace, and are already out front by a good amount. As I get closer to the turnaround I see more people I recognize from most of the other local ultras. I see Glen at the turnaround and after filling the camelback I quickly catch up to him. Every time I try to get a drink though nothing is coming out. I stop and squeeze the bladder and I get a mouthful, so I start going again and when I try to drink again…nothing. I squeeze again and get another mouthful. WTF? I don't really want to mess around with this too much, so I get back to running again. The trail is starting to fall away in a gentle descent with a few ups to mix things up…perfect for covering distance with minimal effort. When I go to drink again…Fuck! Nothing. So I pop the end cap off…and when I hold the tube down water is flowing nicely…when I put it to my mouth the flow stops. Being the Po-LOCK that I am I can't figure it out until someone runs by me and says that my hose is kinked. Duh! That makes perfect sense. What an idiot I am. Oh well, I fix it and onward I run.

Heading back against traffic is annoying as hell. I was under the impression that people running downhill, or ones that are ahead in the race have the right of way. Whenever someone came running at me I got off the trail and made sure I didn't impede their progress. But as I was running down I think maybe 3 people moved out of the 100+ runners I passed. I was seriously getting pissed. Does the running etiquette not extend past the 6000 foot mark? I don't get it.
Eventually I make it to the 22 mile aid station and know I have about 5 miles of mostly downhill to the next one, so it's time to move and cover some ground. I'm guessing I'm averaging about 7 minutes a mile here, the trail is technical in places and there are quite a few switch backs so you can't really let the legs out all the way.

Mile 27 aid station and I stop and get some food and notice Justin Angle is working there - I haven't seen him since I ran with him @ Tiger in early April. I say a quick hi and hurry and take off, and then about a mile later realize I forgot to fill my camelbak. Another dumbass move and it's starting to get hot. Oh well, it must have about 50 ounces in it and I didn't' drink much on the descent. But I am getting thirsty so I start to drink and a couple miles later wonder if I'll have enough water on the climb to the next aid station. Luckily we pass a stream of running water and I scoop some up in the camelback. I don't have my filter with me but figure I'll be fine through the race anyway before anything hits me if it does at all. Climbing Sun Top is a lot steeper than the climb to Corral Pass. It's harder to run up this one so I just try to cover ground as best as I can. Finally I make it to the next aid station, dump the water out of the camelback and fill up on some more - also pop some more S Caps and continue the climb. The next part of the climb isn't too bad as there is some downhill mixed in, my legs feel great on the downhill and I'm flying on that stuff, I try and carry my momentum up as best as I can and then switch to power walking. The views here are simply amazing - and I'm glad it is such a clear day to take it all in. I love this trail stuff. There really isn't any other way to experience the Cascade Mountains.

Finally - I see Glen Tachiyama snapping pictures and realize I made it to the top. Whew. I venture into the aid station, suck down a bunch of mountain dew, fill the camelbak, pop an S!cap and I'm off once again. This is by far the easiest and fast section of the course. I quickly up the pace and start flying by people. If the mile markers on the side of the road are correct I'm running about 6:30 per mile. But after 3 miles there is some rumbly in my tummy. I stop and puke up all the mountain dew and then ease back into 6:30 per mile. Even with stopping to puke and going to the bathroom I still cover the 6.4 miles in 48:00 minutes, but that only leaves me with 56 minutes or so to break 9 hours.

When I get to the last aid station I try not to waste too much time…I probably take about 60-90 seconds at the most and get out of there. I'm still running pretty decent, but I'm not real sure that I can cover the last 6.6 or so miles in 55 minutes or less. I'm probably running about 9:30's or so at this point, not horrible, but this definitely isn't going to get the job done. The leg turnover is good on the flat technical parts of the trail, but once the trail tilts skyward I slow or power walk again. I run up a couple of the smaller hills, but I'm not exactly flying over them now. Oh well, compared to the last 50 I ran I'm still moving pretty well. Eventually I make it out of the single-track and see a sign that says the finish is only 4/10ths of a mile away. My watch just turned to 9:06 so that leaves me with a little bit of breathing room to at least go sub-9:10. This wasn't my primary goal, but overall I covered ground pretty well for the day. I know I'm still gaining strength and experience, and next year's goal time will be quite a bit more ambitious.

Once I got to the finish line Scott the RD gave me a bottle of ice cold water and made sure I was OK. Then I sat under a tree for a bit and drank some water. I didn't feel too bad but I wasn't quite ready to run around yet. Eventually I made my way to my truck, changed my shirt and then went and had some BBQ. This really hit the spot as I was pretty darn hungry. Afterwards I talked with Glen and his wife and then drove on home. I can't wait to run this race again.