Yes! I finished strong in 7th place overall with a time of 10:16:16 and brought home some nice hardware in my first race on the
Click HERE for full results
This past weekend's ultra marathon (Where's Waldo) served as the U.S.A. 100k Trail Championships down in the Willamette Pass ski area, about 70 miles southeast of Eugene, Oregon. Being a higher profile race relatively close to my new home I decided to enter this race many months ago. Since then many things have happened and at one point I thought I was going to have to pass it up.
The major thing that had me thinking twice about starting the race was an outer knee/meniscus/iliotibial band injury that I incurred on the 4th of July, causing me to drop out at mile 40 of The Finger Lakes Fifties 50-miler. I didn't like that feeling and wanted to make sure it didn't happen again any time soon! So I worked with A.R.T. specialist Gerrit Van Loon in Ithaca, strengthened the area, and I felt pretty solid going into this weekend.
I also got word that my sister was involved in a very serious car accident just outside of Pittsburgh, PA where she had to have the jaws of life pull her out of her mangled car and was life flighted to a trauma center. I contemplated going back east to help out but was so relieved to
hear that she is OK...(relatively speaking) and that other family members and friends are there to comfort her pain. I decided to dedicate this race to Nadia, who now has pins and plates in a badly broken forearm and ankle bone. Hang in there Nadia!
So I drove down Friday afternoon and checked in to the hotel room to quickly find out that a couple of other runners were staying two doors down. Those runners happened to be favorites for Saturday's race... Sean Andrish, a very renowned ultra runner, who is a fellow member of Team Inov-8, and Brian Schmidt, who I have heard and read about tearing up the trails on the east coast. They were joined by Mike Wedemeyer, who would be crew person and happens to be a resident of Portland as well. We all ended up hanging out the next couple of hours getting to know each other, talking race strategy, and checked in at race headquarters before stuffing ourselves with salad and pasta. I was so excited to be here and to be meeting runners that I've read about in the ultra and trail running magazines. Now I would be sharing the same trails with them! ;0)
Race day morning was a bit chilly... I think like low to mid 40's....brrrrr! and I arrived to the start area at like 4:25 am for the 5am start. I toed the line in my Inov-8 Roclite 305's that turned out to be a perfect choice for the terrain at this mountainous course. I decided to wear my jacket for the first 8 miles or so because Mike W. agreed to kind of crew for me too and said that I could throw my jacket to him. He
turned out to be a life saver all day. Thanks bro! Look forward to doing some training together when you heal.
So...off we went at 5am into the darkness donning our headlamps and following glow sticks up the ski resort. We climbed for a couple miles and after about a half mile or so Skaggs and Miller took off. I knew that I had a long day ahead of me and kept thinking about how my wife Erica told me to not get caught up in the hype and to just run my race. I ended up taking it back a few notches and settled in with Joelle V. who was powering up the mountain. I would periodically
walk and then run and catch up with her, chatting and getting to know each other the whole time. Then we ducked into some single track and we both realized that our head lamps sucked! Another group came flying by that included Jason Bryant, Sean Andrish, Brian Schmidt, Mark Lantz, Beverley Anderson-Abbs, and last year's winner Neil Olsen.
Schmidt, Joelle, and myself ran together for a bit and then it was just Joelle and I until we came to the first aid station. There I would drop my headlamp and jacket. The volunteers were great...one guy even helped me take my jacket off...wow!...I like this kind of service. It continued that way the rest of the day!
After dropping the jacket and dawn breaking it seemed that I turned into a different runner. I didn't really even say much but just eventually separated myself from Joelle as I started my climb up Fuji Mt. I passed the very tough looking Beverley Anderson-Abbs and eventually caught up to Lantz. About two-thirds the way up Fuji I lifted up my head to see Skaggs coming hopping down the mountain with his long legs and effortless stride! Then Miller, Bryant, Andrish, and Olsen came whipping by...wow! I know I was climbing but these guys were going after it!
Once I made the summit to Fuji Mountain I was awestruck by the view. I was greeted with a great smile from race director Craig Thornley as I took a 360 degree panoramic view of this beautiful area...whoa! I almost forgot I was in a race! Down we go! I started really turning it on down the mountain...just as the guys ahead of me were doing, and I was really impressed by the folks that started at 3am. They were really kind and often stepped off the trail when they heard me barrelling down the singletrack. Another thing that I noticed about this area is the terrain.
Not only are the forests and trails completely fricken beautiful but they are soft...(not as rooty and rocky as back east...much more run-able) and I think this actually suits me better.
After I reached the bottom and started making my climb toward The Twins I needed to take a couple minutes to go way off trail to relieve myself. In that time Mark Lantz went scurrying by. I quickly got back into it and ended up catching up to him and passing him noticing that he took a spill coming down Fuji. I asked if he were all right and we motored onward.
One thing that I noticed about ultra marathons is that you have to expect the unexpected. When I reached the aid station at mile 20.5 I was planning on eating something solid from one of my two drop bags. As I arrived I yelled out my number to the volunteers. We all looked thoroughly and it was not there! Ooops....my bad! I made a mistake the night before. When I was told to set my drop bags on the tarp I didn't see or realize that there were signs for the different stations. I thought that since I labeled both of my bags with the aid station and mileage, etc. that volunteers would take care of the rest. Not so! Rookie mistake on my part! ;0)
Mike W. was a big help and he assured me that he would track them down and meet me at the next possible aid station which was mile 30.2. Until then I was really satisfied about how I was staying on top of my hydration and calories/nutrition but now with the unexpected change of plans the Gu's and clif bars, etc. weren't cutting it. Basically, I was starting to feel like crap.
When I finally made it to the aid station Mike held open my little cooler and I grabbed a bunch of cantaloupe that I had, some more block shots/gu's, and a home made burrito that was stuffed with chopped Kamut pasta, greens, avocado, and a little olive oil. Boy that hit the spot! That combined with some other treats left me feeling like a new man!
The next ten miles or so were pretty uneventful. I was going through moments of feeling really good to feeling like I was going to get some cramps in my hammies and quads. Climbing and descending these mountains really put a hurting on my chicken legs! I ran through it though and it seemed like for a while I was on the verge of totally cramping up. I continued to take S-caps and stayed on top of hydration as the day got hotter. During this time I got passed by Matt Lonergan from Eugene and Mark Lantz from California and was now sitting in 8th place overall.
I knew that we were also approaching the toughest part of the race: Mile 49-52...climbing Maiden Peak which is about 2,200 feet over three miles. By looking at the elevation profile from the website I just assumed that we would be going up switchbacks to the summit of this mountain. WRONG! No switch backs...straight up!!! I couldn't believe this...This was so difficult for me. However, I worked really hard in this section. When it started hurting really bad I kept thinking about my sister Nadia and how she must have felt when she was hit head on by a car and being pinned down in her seat with broken bones. Ahhh!!! I don't know what the percent grade of this mountain trail was but it was steep and I even yelled at the mountain...just because I felt like yelling ;0)!!!!!!!! I also yelled up to Mark Lantz who I caught up to and he assured me
that we were almost there. A kind hiker from Eugene kept me company for a few minutes of that climb and then I noticed Joelle down the mountain not too far behind...what a machine!
When we finally hit the top of Maiden Peak I was spent with a capital S! The view was absolutely breath taking though! I snapped a picture with my brain and can still see it today;0) This is beautiful country and I am so excited to be living here now.
I also knew that the rest of the race (8 miles or so) was just about all downhill. I was so tired but just started really digging deep to finish strong. I feel that descending is one of my strong suits and Mark Lantz and I worked together to cover some ground. All I could think about was getting some cold water to pour on my head and re-stock my bottles,etc. Before long we came across the last aid station where we caught up to Matt Lonergan. So there we were 6th, 7th, and 8th place all kinda frantically grabbing calories, reaching over each other, watering our heads, etc. The workers at this aid station were top notch. They were on top of everything. One woman asked me if she wanted her to wipe my face. I said, "no that's ok...thanks", and before I knew it she grabbed my head and was wiping my nose and face like a mother...god it was great!
The last few miles were such a mental head trip. I kept going from a mentality of "I got 6th place" to "ahhh...I'm content with 7th...or 8th...or whatever!" I could see Mark Lantz ahead of me but I really didn't have the energy to go any faster. My knees were hurting...I could feel a blister on the inside of my big toe. My quads were trashed and I was over heating. I kept asking
hikers how far we had to go and they all gave me different answers. My Garmin 305 was telling me we had a couple miles to go but sometimes that can be a little off too.
I came across a man swimming naked in an aqua blue lake and boy it looked refreshing. About a 1/4 mile later I came across a little stream so for some reason I stopped and started splashing water on my head and face. Next thing I know I look over and Matt Lonergan is coming down the trail! I yell at myself, "What the hell are you doing!!! GO!!! Finish this damn thing and you can play in the water later!!!!!" I put in some really hard surges mostly because I just wanted it to be over but I was hurting.
Finally, I came around a corner where Sean Meissner and his dog were sitting and I yelled to him, "How far to the finish?!!" He assured me it was only 1/3 of a mile and I said, "Thank God!" When we entered the straight-away toward the ski resort area I could see the finish line and Mark ahead but there was simply too much real estate to catch him. I took a glance back and saw Matt working hard to catch me. I kicked in everything I had despite the headwind and was able to fend him off crossing the finish line in 10:16:16...good for 7th place overall!
I told myself that I would be ecstatic to finish in the top ten this weekend...and...I am! I feel very satisfied and couldn't ask for a better way to come off an injury and emerge onto the scene out here on the west coast. I met such nice people from the moment I arrived at my hotel to the minute I left Willamette Pass Ski Area.
Craig Thornley...thank you! and to Curt R. and all of the other people that made this event so absolutely organized and successful. I can't even imagine all the hours and details that you had to deal with for us crazy runners. The volunteers at this race are awesome and plentiful. The course is hands-down the most beautiful and demanding one I have been in until now. This is one race that I see myself coming back to again in the future! Well done to everyone!