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.