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)


AnthonyP said...

Amazing ! Even with the issues you had you still knocked out a sick time. Well done my friend !

Derrick said...

Great job Yassine. Way to gut it out. You'll be sure to take that mental strength into your next one.

Enjoy your down time.

Brett said...

Rock on man, really cool recap of powering through to cross the finish line. Way to go Yassine!

erica said...

You are my hero - seriously...you are so amazing...even if (when) your toenails fall off.

Ultra Chris said...

Rock on, Yassine! I am way impressed with your inner strength. Always keep an extra strap or two in your tackle box w/ your crew - you never know when you'll need it! Rest well and enjoy recovery.

Trevor said...

Great race report. Get those feet to heal quick.

Anonymous said...

I didn't know who you were, but I was so impressed with your positive attitude as you passed me on the turnarounds. Both times you yelled out "keep smiling!" even though you were in first and clearly working very, very hard. I was dissapointed to see that you had dropped back by the time I was on my way to 65, but it sounds like you had an epic battle and suceeded. Great attitude, great running. Jennifer Hemmen

Yassine Diboun said...

Thank you all!

Tony...I was able to still have a solid time because I banked so much in the first 50 miles.

Derrick: Good luck to you at Ozark...it looks like an interesting race!

Erica: Thanks again for your amazing work as my crew person and number one fan :0) xoxox

Christine: I'm learning!...and now I will keep that strap in my "ultra box".

Jennifer: Thanks a lot! I have to try and keep that attitude or else it's just not as fun! It was an epic battle indeed and I hope you achieved your goals...and I hope you keep smiling! :0)

Elizabeth Carrion said...

Congratulations on all your success and moving out west.. Awesome! Joe and I may run into you at Badwater or Cascades Crest! Enjoy www.mountainpeakfitness.blogspot.com