Tuesday, September 29, 2009

100 in da Hood Race Report

No I'm not speaking Ebonics. This is the name of the inaugural Pacific Crest Trail Ultramarathon 100-miler that took place this past weekend out by Mt. Hood in Oregon. As I'm thinking back on the race it still seems like a dream. Every once in a while I catch myself thinking..."did I really do that?"...but then the pain in my body reminds me of the reality ;0)

I have been scoping this race out for a long time...well before I even moved to Oregon and I thought since I did the inaugural Iroquois Trails 100 last year for my first 100 that I'd premiere this one too since it is so close to my new home. I knew this one would be bigger with more experienced and faster runners... some traveling from California due to the cancellation of Angeles Crest 100 this summer. I still thought that I could do really well and had a detailed plan of attack with my number one crew person (Erica) to help me along. (We missed the whole "Team Yassine" entourage that we had last year! ;0)

So Erica dropped me off at the starting line area at like 4:40 am on Saturday for our 5am start. The plan was that she was going to go back to Government Camp and try to sleep a couple more hours and then meet me at the 28-mile mark. I toed the line in my Inov-8 Roclite 320's which I thought would be a good choice given the terrain on this course. I also used the merino wool debris gaiters which worked out nicely. Olga (the race director) gave us some instruction and lined us up for the countdown....6...5....4....3.....2......1......GO! Mike Burke (co-RD) ran the first little bit with us shining some light and directing us to the entrance of the Pacific Crest Trail. I already new this whole section which was helpful even though it did look different in the dark.

The first couple of miles I settled in with Trevor H. from the Portland area. We chatted and got to know each other and we're surprised when an owl swooped down right in front of us...cool! Eventually I picked it up a little and found myself running alone. A couple of miles later I thought I heard some cow bells and I thought, "wow...someone out here dinging a bell this early...that's cool"...it reminded me of Joe Reynolds from Ithaca who never goes to a race without that bell. Well I came around a corner of trail and there 50 feet in front of me lying down right in the middle of the Pacific Crest Trail were two 1500 pound cows...with bells around their necks! I stopped running and yelled at them to get up and get moving. While doing so I stepped on a rock and completely turned my ankle! Mile 4 and I already have a sprained ankle! The cows reluctantly moved into the forest, the pain in my ankle subsided, and I motored on into the darkness...laughing about how I wasn't expecting that!

I was really trying to contain myself and stay on top of hydration and calories even though it was a bit chilly outside. I knew I had a long day ahead of me. The sun eventually came up and what a beautiful place to be when it did get light. We were looking right up at Mt. Hood with the sun rising behind it. I could tell it was going to be a nice day. I hit the 14 mile turn-a-round just under two hours. Perfect...I told Erica I'd meet her at mile 28 at around 9am. Right on track. I continued eating and hydrating even though I didn't really feel hungry or thirsty. I just kept topping off the tank and I knew I'd be eating some solid food when I would see Erica.

When I finally made it to her I realized that it was about 3 hours 45 minutes instead of my anticipated 4 hours and I nestled right into our little pit stop area where she had my bowl of orzo salad ready for me to eat while she massaged my legs with Arnica oil. I stocked up...grabbed my waist belt/bottle holder...Ipod...gave Erica a kiss and I was off. The next time I planned to see her was at mile 55 which was Ollallie Lake campground aid station.

The next 10 miles I felt so great! The temperature rose a little, the sun was breaking through the forest, great tunes pumping into my ear drums, beautiful nature. Words don't really do it justice but I'm sure some of you know what I'm talking about. This is one of the reasons we do this! I was running really well. I was even tackling some of the climbs with a power hike that may have been faster than a run. Some of these were getting tough as they were in the wide open and the sun was blazing down...but for the most part the trail was shaded and somewhat cool.

I hit an aid station somewhere around mile 40 according to my Garmin and I was still feeling awesome. I kept pushing on doing some calculations in my head about my time for the first 50-miles and what I thought I could do for the second 50 miles. As I kept meandering my way through the beautiful forests I kept thinking that I should be coming up on an aid station soon. At the 40 mile (or so) aid station I filled both of my 20 oz. bottles up...one with water...one with HEED. I had S-caps on me, gu's, block shots, etc. so I was prepared for anything. Well, anything happened. At around mile 49 I started feeling something in my leg. Oh geez...it felt like the same feeling that I had on the 4th of July in the Finger Lakes Fifties 50-miler. I looked at my Garmin and I was approaching mile 50 with a time of like 7:50. Just before then I was dreaming about a 16 hour and change 100-miler...oh how quickly things can change in these races.

I slowed down a bit but kept running. Then eventually at what I thought was about mile 52 the running turned into walking...painful walking. Ughhhhhh! I was so disgusted!...and confused. I just ran Where's Waldo 100k with no problems and now it's back. There wasn't much I could do and as pissed off as I was out there I calmed myself down and accepted the fact that I was going to have to drop out. By this time I was out of fluids and almost out of gels, etc. I figured I would just hobble to the mile 55 aid station where Erica was and DNF and we could just take off from there.

Then I see a man running towards me on the trail. It turns out to be Clem, who is a race director for McDonald Forest 50k, and he asked me about the last station I was at, my status, etc. I told him that I haven't been to an aid station in a long time. I also explained to him that there weren't any possible intersections to miss it as we were completely on the Pacific Crest Trail. He told me that he just ran up from the mile 58 aid station! I told him that I have been walking for a while and that I was going to have to drop out due to an injury. He was kind enough to give me some ice cold water and we walked and talked trying to figure out what went wrong. Honestly I really didn't care about the whole aid station thing...I was so pre-occupied with the fact that I had to drop out because of injury that I didn't even care. I was in disbelief and extremely bummed.

After about 20 minutes of walking with Clem we see a runner coming behind. It's Ray Sanchez and he comes up to meet us and he doesn't look good. He has salt crusted all over his face and lips and says that he is completely out of water in his camelback. Clem gives him a water bottle and I tell him to keep moving on...and to not worry about the mishap...just keep going. I told him that he is in first place now and that I have to quit. He told me that he hopes I get better soon and scurries out of sight. Then Tom Ederer (last year's winner of Cascade Crest 100) pulled up and we had a similar exchange. I encouraged him to not get caught up in the problem and to focus on the solution. Next, Trevor...who I ran with in the first couple of miles came up behind and he also was not feeling well. We walked together for a bit and he shared some water with me...thanks man! We just kept telling each other that we are going to be hitting the mile 58 aid station relatively soon and we'll be able to re-fuel there. I figured that I would just get a ride back to the mile 55 aid station where I could meet Erica and drop out (the 55 mile aid station was supposed to be marked for runners to go off of the PCT about 1/3 of a mile to the aid station but wasn't marked for the first 10 runners or so).

Next, something amazing happened. While I was walking with Trevor I felt the tightness and friction in my left knee area dissipate. I thought, "whoa...that's weird...let me try trotting a little". I started trotting a little and then it would come back...so I was back to walking. Then I felt it loosen up again about 15 minutes later. I told Trevor, "let me get ahead of you and see if I can hold a sustained run". I started trotting slowly...then running! I kept going and couldn't believe this! I didn't even say anything to Trevor as I pulled away from him probably because I was in such shock. I ran the rest of the way to the mile 58 aid station. When I got there Clem was there and I told him that I was feeling better and that I think I am going to try and continue on.

Next aid station was Breitenbush Lake at mile 64 and I knew it was a relatively tough climb. I powered up the hill catching Tom E. moving back into 2nd place. I couldn't believe this! I'm not done yet I thought! Almost at the turn-a-round my toe was really bothering me and I had to quickly take off my shoe to see what was going on in there. I realized that my big toe was squished up against my other toe...the toenail was black...and there was a huge blister on the tip of it. I pushed it back into my shoe and tried to get back into the race. When I started moving again I realized that while I was bending over messing with my shoe and foot that my knee completely locked up again! UGHHHH! I started walking again and again accepted the fact that I was going to quit at the next possible time. Again, it eventually loosened up and I started running. I came across some campers and they told me that the first place "jogger" was only like 5 minutes ahead.

Finally, as I got close to the aid station Ray Sanchez was coming down the trail and he saw me and totally did a double take. "Are you OK?!!" he asked. "I'm back" I said as I made my way to the aid station. When I got there the leg was not completely reliable and 35 miles on a bum leg is a long way to go. I debated dropping again and a couple of the workers there encouraged me to not make any decisions right away. A woman named Liz Kellogg I believe was kind enough to offer me a Cho-Pat Strap for my knee and I graciously accepted. Just before that renowned ultra runner Justin Angle, who was pacing Tom E., gave me some words of encouragement but him and Tom disappeared out of the aid station quickly. I eventually caught up to them and we played "leap frog" a couple times. I was going through moments of running really well to moments of having to slow down and stop. The last time Justin and Tom passed me Justin, probably seeing it in my eyes or hearing it in my voice, bumped my fist with his fist and told me to just roll with it. That meant a lot to me because I realized that I wasn't in charge anymore. From that point on...I would take his advice and try to make the best of what was left of my race.

So I made it down to mile 71 or so in 3rd place behind Sanchez and Ederer. Next thing I know a couple more guys came barreling down into the station. Man...I was feeling it and these guys were working hard. Brian Krogmann, I believe from CA, and I walked for a bit as he was having some stomach problems. After he was ahead about 500 feet he yelled back if anyone had any ginger chews. Coincidentally, I had one in my pack and he came back to grab it. This kind of camaraderie that you get in ultras is another thing that I love so much about the sport.

Mile 75 eventually came and this is where I would finally see Erica...the first time since mile 28! As soon as I saw her I said..."I've been to hell and back...but I'm back"...then I think I just said a couple times repeatedly, "I've been to hell and back...oh what a day!" After the race she told me that she has never seen me like that in a race before. I looked so close to the point of throwing in the towel...in my eyes...and in my facial expression. The disappointment of being in 1st place by so much and now dropping way back and still having a marathon to go on a leg that basically has a mind of it's own. She pulled me aside away from everyone and reminded me of a few important things. She knows me so well and her words and support helped me dig deep to muster up that courage for the final night portion of the race. This is also where I picked up my pacer Ruben Galbraith. He was ready to go although I warned him that I am not running so well. This was his first time pacing in an ultra but you would have never known it. I asked him because he knows this section of trail from competing and taking 2nd in the PCT 50-miler earlier this summer. He did a perfect job of encouraging me to walk certain sections, slow down a bit on the downhills, and try and roll my foot outward to alleviate some pain in the knee (which was given by a chiropractor ultra runner at mile 75). Thanks again Ruben!

We both worked together one aid station at a time as Ruben did calculations based on approximate estimates and even busted out his map a few times that displayed the aid station mileage points. Between 75 and 85 I was not moving to
well and I got passed by Sander and his pacer and then again later by Shana and her pacer. They both were working really hard and I was impressed to see it! As we donned our headlamps the temperature definitely dropped big time and we knew we had that one big climb waiting for us around mile 90. Before that we hit the aid station where Craig Thornley and Curt Ringstad (race directors from Where's Waldo) were working and those guys were having a great time as usual and apologized for not being there earlier in the day.

As we approached the last climb I was doing some power hiking while pushing off of my legs with my hands. This part was classic. Ruben said, "It might be nice if you find some equal length walking sticks to use like trekking poles for this section." No joke...like two seconds after he said that I look over and see two identical size sticks lying right off of the trail like someone laid them down! I picked them up and they helped me up the rest of the way of the 2.5 mile climb. By now we were getting closer and I was really ready to finish. It was cold and seeing Mallory and Greg from Trail Factor at an aid station lifted my spirits a little and a nice hot cup of potato water warmed me up a little. (They were boiling potatoes and I just wanted something hot!)

The last five miles or so I worked harder than the previous 20. Ruben and I worked together and we really wanted to get under 19 hours. As hard as it was to run I pushed myself...partly because I wanted to be finished and partly because I was cold. The last few miles seemed never ending. Finally, we hear a voice and see some glow sticks way off in the distance. This is another thing I can't really explain... but you get this kind of energy within that says..."you're there...you did it...you're minutes away from campfire!" We came up to the road and a woman assured me that it was 600 feet around the corner to the finish line. I came running up the last little hill and couldn't really see anything but I could hear Erica say..."is it Yassine?!!!" I yell out, "number 30! Yassine!!!!" and everyone yells out wooohoooooo!!!!!! yeahhhhhhhhH!!!!!!!! Erica was jumping up and down and she ran out to me while Olga says "let him cross the finish line!" I finished 101 miles in 18:53...good for 7th place overall. I was so proud of myself for gutting this one out when I had every reason and plenty of opportunities to quit. In hindsight I think the fact that I missed a few aid stations actually allowed me to walk and for my leg to loosen up. If I would have come across the aid station I probably would have just quit then and there.

Click HERE for full results

This was a first year event and going into a race like this you have to expect mistakes. Overall, I had a wonderful time and met some locals, great people from out of state, and some ultra studs I have read about in the
blogosphere and in magazines, etc. Thank you so much Olga for all that you have done for this race to get it off the ground...probably a lot of it from 1,000 miles away. The volunteers
were so helpful and encouraging...Thank you all for your dedication and sacrifice. Excellent work to all the runners who finished and for those who didn't I hope you get back out there one day and finish the deal. I had a lot of things running through my mind this past weekend that I could draw energy from...I shared some of them with Ruben...but one thing sticks out that I heard my childhood hero Michael Jordan say in closing his Hall of Fame speech recently is that "limits...like fears...are often just an illusion".

Keep on keepin' on people!
Sitting around the fire...buckle in hand...with Ruben (far left) and Brian (3rd place finisher)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Quick Update from 100 in the Hood

Well I finished...which at a couple points I didn't think was going to happen. Overall place was 7th in a time of 18:53. Race report will follow shortly. :0)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Race Preview and Race Re-Cap

OK...the weekend is over and a lot has happened...but there is much more to look forward to this coming weekend (in my world anyway) and I am getting a little case of the butterflies. I am officially resting for the next four days which means strictly no running, lots of healthy eating, and as much sleep as I can find time for...(basically, I'll be living like my cats for the next four days!) :0)

100 in the Hood- PCT Ultra will start on Saturday September 26, 2009 at 5:00 am Pacific Standard Time at the Clackamas Ranger Station off of HWY 42 in the Mt. Hood area of Oregon. We will head out in the dark running north on the Pacific Crest Trail for a 28 mile out and back. I have already run this part of the course and it seems to be pretty quick with some nice views of Mt. Hood and Timothy Lake. I think running in the dark will save me from starting out too fast in this section.

Once we head back to the start/finish area we start our journey down to Breitenbush Lake (south on the PCT). This is where the course gets a little more interesting. I've also run approximately 30 miles of this section including the climb that we will face at like mile 91. Like I said...it'll be interesting;0) !

Olga V. and Mike B. are co-race directors and both of them bring a lot of ultra running experience to this inaugural year so I am really looking forward to another adventure in an awesome part of the country.

I feel that I am getting close to being ready for tackling the inaugural running of this race. Mentally I am there...especially after seeing what happened back at Iroquois this past weekend. I'd be lying if I said I was totally there physically. I feel that I have put in some very solid training before and after the confidence-boosting Where's Waldo 100k on August 22nd, but as of like two days ago I started feeling some "weirdness" in my leg...the same leg I've been having issues w/ all summer. It really is so minimal and I've still been running with absolutely no hindrance, but I'm just hoping that it's not something so small that it turns into something in the last 25 miles or so. I can't obsess about it and think negatively so I'm just going to hope that it goes away in the next four days and doesn't come back. It's really probably more in my brain anyway! Other than that I am just tying up loose end details and finalizing my plan of attack!

Last year in my first 100-miler at Iroquois my goals were a lot different. My number one goal was to finish, obviously, and to take home that sub-24 hour belt buckle. Competition was not as stiff and when I realized that my closest competitor Bryon Powell dropped at mile 55 I knew that as long as I had no major catastrophe I would achieve those goals. So I knocked it back a few notches and tried to enjoy the rest of the day and night casually pushing on through the tough course. I ended up finishing in 21:35 on a technical course of roughly 18,000 feet of elevation change. This weekend I will be facing a more mild course consisting of about 12,000 feet of change and not as technical as back east. So... I am thinking that with the combination of the course, the runners, and the fact that I've got that first one under my belt...that I'm really going to get a more accurate benchmark this weekend...if all goes as planned.

As for Iroquois Trails Ultras' second year I was amazed at what happened this past weekend. First of all...Ian Golden is building a great event here...nice work again Ian...it really looks good and I missed being there. Oregonian ultra veteran Jeff Browning (who was the favorite) shredded the course and my record by like four hours. Actually the top three went under my last year's time on a course that was slightly changed probably making it just a wee bit slower! Nice work everyone! It was great to see Kelly Wilson go under 24 hours (which she narrowly missed last year) and retain the women's title. That must feel good...I know how hard she's been working for that one! Another impressive feat was from another ultra vet...Glen Redpath. He just came off another 100-mile win like ten days prior and was almost able to capture another victory finishing second overall. How does he do that? Also, fellow Inov-8 teammate Aliza Lapiere snagged the 50-mile win...glad you're back it Aliza!

I had many other friends running the 50-miler, 100, the relay, and volunteering their time. There are too many to name but I really missed being there and seeing you all...so good work to all of you guys and I hope to be there next year! The race updates were top notch. I followed the race all day and night and it's really got me raring to go for Saturday! So rest up all you runners and enjoy some of the pictures from Iroquois captured by Steve Gallow (who took photos at our wedding). Click HERE for photos...and send me out some positive vibes on Saturday!

Run Happy!!!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Taper Time and Iroquois Trails 100/50 Ultras

It's about that time...the point in training where you cut back the volume to allow your body to replenish in order to be in the best possible shape come race day. That race day for me is Saturday September 26...which is approaching rather quickly! I had a very strong week consisting of a 32-mile run on the Pacific Crest Trail (Hundred in the Hood course) on Thursday, and an unexpected tough 17-miler yesterday in the Columbia River Gorge (Mt. Defiance) where we climbed 4,500 feet over the course of 8.5 miles and totalled about 75 miles for the week.

I had a great time hooking up with some of the Trail Factor club members for this run and we enjoyed a big lunch afterward to calm our ravenous appetites. Check out some of the video below! (and I apologize in advance for the utter lack of videography skills...the Flip recorder is totally new to me and I have a lot to learn while taping out on the trails ;0)

I know some other folks are antsy and ready to run and hopefully are tapering well for Iroquois Trails 100 <---click here to track people online on race day)...coming up this weekend. This was my first 100-miler last year and it's a great race. I hope to return next year while I also visit family in the beautiful area which was recently named a top trail running town in Trail Runner Magazine. Best wishes to everyone taking part this weekend. I'll be tracking you guys and I am anxiously awaiting to see how it all goes down in it's second year. Favorites for the 100 are Oregonian Jeff Browning and last year's third place overall and 1st woman Kelly Wilson from Vermont. I know for a fact she's raring to go under 24 hours. It's also good to see ultra veteran Greg Loomis signed up...he and Ian thought up this whole thing! Go get em'!

For the 50-miler it looks like my buddy Tim Ingall is back at it and hopefully will stay on course this year. If he does I think he'll be up there along with Ed Housel from the Rochester area. What I am learning with ultramarathons is that it's really anyone's ball game...so good luck everyone! This year RD Ian Golden added a relay which sounds really fun too...and the Young Burgermeisters of Enclave seem to have a pretty solid team.

So this weekend I'm just going to kick back and relax...keep an eye on Iroquois...and let my muscles, tendons, and joints heal so I can do it the following weekend. :0)

Happy Trails!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day Inflammation

(picture of the Arnica flower)

Happy Labor Day! It's a good thing I'm not going to work or school today because the inside of my left knee area is hurtin'! It isn't anything major, thankfully, just some inflammation due to tendinitis that I have experienced before and it will go away with some R.I.C.E. I iced the area this morning and then rubbed some Arnica cream on it before wrapping the knee in an Ace bandage. I also took an anti-inflammatory called Naproxen (Aleve) which brings me to the next topic that has been talked about so much as of late. When or should endurance athletes take these over the counter medications?

I don't pretend to be an expert in this area but I have learned a lot about this topic in the last couple of weeks. There was an article in the New York Times yesterday that reveals some very surprising research and information about this very topic...check it out HERE...and after competing in Where's Waldo 100k with Erik Skaggs just a couple weeks ago, where he had a little brush with death, it really gave everyone a lesson to be learned.

I must admit that I bought into the idea of taking an anti-inflammatory before and during an ultra marathon of 50-miles or more and felt that by taking Naproxen I was saving my stomach, kidneys, etc. I have since learned that it is not completely true and can actually have an opposite effect causing more inflammation! However, I do know that my leg feels better right now from taking the medication. The articles and research suggest that these types of acute injuries are what it is intended for and not for delaying or eluding pain in an ultra. Point taken and I feel grateful I learned about this now and not the hard way like Skaggs.

Anyway, I have also done a little bit of research to find homeopathic ways of treating inflammation and it did not surprise me one bit to find out that our diet can be a major factor. HERE is a short article about some of the foods to include and ones to avoid regarding inflammation. Flax, legumes, ginger, soy, green leafy vegetables and loads of fruit, nuts/seeds, and extra virgin olive oil are a major part of my diet and in fact...I think I am going to go and make some fresh ginger tea right now :0) ! ! !

I have also learned about some Arnica tabs that you can dissolve on your tongue that seems to be a safe alternative given that it is a plant. I may try these in my upcoming 100-miler instead of Naproxen given the things I have read about. Sometimes I just wonder if a lot of this is just a placebo effect for many athletes and if so it seems that the homeopathic option will be a better choice. I already have the ointment and now that I think about it...last year at Iroquois 100 I had Erica massage my legs with Arnica oil as I came through a few of the aid stations!

Despite my little annoyance with the knee today this past week involved some quality workouts. I was able to get in around 60 miles on the trails including a beautiful night run with the head lamp last night. I got in a couple weight training workouts and am looking forward to another solid week coming up before my taper for 100 in the Hood. If all goes well this coming Thursday I will be heading out to Breitenbush Lake to run 30-miles of the course on the Pacific Crest Trail and then start my taper immediately after that run. I will also be doing some volunteer trail maintenance work so I can meet my required ten hours for entry into the race. I think that this is an excellent idea for race directors to require volunteer work on the trails and I am really looking forward to the work parties set up in Powell Butte and Forest Park.

Hope everyone enjoys the holiday!....Happy Trails :0) ! ! !

Quote of the week: "To keep from decaying, to be a winner, the athlete must accept pain---not only accept it, but look for it, live with it, learn not to fear it."---Dr. George Sheehan