Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Waldo 100k Race Recap

One of the many mysterious things about ultramarathons (especially longer ones) is that you never quite know what is going to happen once the race starts.  Waldo 100k, being one of my all-time favorites, was a race that I had hoped to run really well and secure a spot for Western States 100. It was my second time running (ran it in 2009) and I knew about the different grueling sections of this mountain trail race. I had somewhat of a strategy in my mind and felt like I was in decently good shape going in...although there was definitely some like-minded stiff competition.

(5 a.m. start time at the base of Willamette Pass Ski Area- All photos courtesy of Long Run Picture Co.)

(Up the ski slope we go into the dark forested hills...Always a nice way to start a 62 mile race!)

We all were packed together but I really wanted to try to remain out front because of what I remembered from 2009.  The road is really dry and dusty and I remember my mouth being caked w/ dust and dirt. So this year I ran just behind Mackey and Jace Ives and just ahead of the rest of the pack as I interspersed some power hiking and running. Eventually twilight broke and we were able to click off our headlamps and we were simultaneously greeted w/ some sweet downhill singletrack. This part was really fun for me although I did trip once, and I had to make a pit stop in the bushes, naturally.

After Aid Station 1 we started our ascent toward Mt. Fuji.  My buddy Nick Triolo and I teamed up and enjoyed some effortless miles together just like we were back home in Forest Park.  Dave Mackey was well ahead in first, Jace Ives in second, Nick and I in third and fourth, and Ian Sharman in fifth. Then there was another pack of runners not far back at all that consisted of former top five/ten runners such as Neil Olsen, Mark Lantz, and a few others that could downright run such as Downie, Kleffner, Joel Lanz, Gunderson, Aliza, Denise, etc. etc.

(The top of Fuji at sunrise is such a nice little pick-me-up...but there's plenty of running left to do!)

Another thing I should mention is that this race starts at over 5,000 feet above sea level and goes above 7,000 multiple times, topping out at almost 8,000 at the highest point. Coming from basically sea level in Portland makes it less efficient for oxygen to be transferred to the muscles that are crankin' up and down the mountains.  More on that later.

As we started descending Fuji I took an awkward jump on a technical section and felt some cramping in my right hamstring. I was really surprised and I yelled angrily and emphatically at myself, "What the bleep was that!!!"  We were only about 15 miles in and I couldn't believe this was happening.  I let Nick pass by, and then Ian Sharman, and I watched them disappear down the mountain and out of sight as I had to knock it back and re-group.

I knew I had Cheri Redwine waiting to hand off some food and a bottle of Perpetuum to me at mile 20 so I just cruised into that aid station still in the same position...just a few minutes back of Nick and Ian. I quickly headed out and started feeling a little better as time went on and I was packing more calories inside. I may have been trying to catch up while maintaining a somewhat high level of intensity and this, in turn, eventually caused some stomach distress. Neil Olsen then caught up to me and we switched out spots a couple times. I couldn't believe this was happening but I tried to stay calm and to just realize that it was a long day ahead of us still.

By mile 32 I started coming around a little and made it there a few minutes faster than I anticipated which made made me feel good. The way I was strategically planning was that Mackey and Sharman already have spots to WS100 so I just need to finish in third place. I thought that maybe Jace and Nick would falter a little as the race went on and I would be there to scoop up third and it would all come together as planned.

The miles kept ticking by, the temperature was definitely getting a lot warmer, and unfortunately every time I tried turning it up a notch I felt like I was going to cramp again! I just couldn't shake it no matter what I did!

The crux of the race is the second climb up to the Twins roughly miles 37-44 and I knew this going into the event. Despite knowing this and my goals I had the worst time up this section. I could not for the life of me muster up any power on the climbs, the snow (and heat) were slowing me down even more, and some negative thoughts were starting to creep in a little. So much of this sport is mental so I knew to stay strong and to re-focus.

Just after mile 44 I came rippin' around a corner and I see Jace Ives sitting on the ground! "Jace what's up?!!" He said that he was dropping out even though I tried encouraging him to take a break and to finish up if he could. He looked pretty worked and told me that Nick was about ten minutes ahead. I felt for Jace but this got me jacked up....Here I come Nick! Where are you?!  

Miles 44-49 are mostly downhill and I tried to hammer as much as I could but every time I tried to kick into a faster pace every muscle in both legs wanted to cramp.  Very frustrating. At the base of Maiden the volunteers told me that Nick still remained 10-11 minutes ahead and I knew we were about to tackle one of the most difficult parts of the race--a three mile 2,000 foot climb from miles 50-53!  At first I actually thought, "well, if I try to mix in some running with strong power hiking I might be able to clip off a minute or two and then I can hammer the last eight miles to the finish and maybe Nick will fade a little".  It sounded good theoretically until I attempted to run some of Maiden. By halfway up the mountain I was walking so pathetically slow that, now, I think Nick was putting time on me!
Finally I made it to "Leap of Faith" (another brutal exposed, rocky section) to find that Nick indeed put a minute or two on me.  Despite my supreme suffering at the top we were afforded some breathtaking views of the expansive area...WOW! so awesome!.....and then all of the sudden I hear someone yell from below, "MAKE IT STOP!!!!"----Who the heck is that??? And then I see Chris Downie with his muscular and tattooed torso moving toward me.  He moves past me and buries me as he disappears down Leap of Faith at a dangerous pace. I felt so deflated mostly because my quads were fried and I was literally walking on some of the downhills, which I never do!

The final eight miles were a little better at times as I was able to get into some decent running grooves again but any time I hit an uphill section I started walking. I know I lost a lot of time in this section as well but I knew the end was near. I just hoped not to be passed again with only a couple miles to go.

(Body language says it all....Disappointed!...and tired!)

I finally made it to the finish line in fifth place overall and fell into RD and friend Craig Thornley's arms. I got another Waldo hat and despite the hard-fought 10.5 hour journey I let Craig know that I think Waldo is one of the best races in the world. It may seem like a grand statement but this course is so magnificent, challenging, well-organized....the volunteers are top-notch (so helpful and funny!). I think people in the Pacific NW are so used to this type of beauty, etc. that we take it for granted sometimes.  Waldo is a special race for sure and I can't wait to return again someday.  Thank you so much Craig, Curt, Meghan, volunteers, aid station workers, and search and rescue...It really shows in how much passion you put into this race.

Just like every race there is a take-home lesson. I'm not going to sit here and type in detail the excuses of why I had a sub-par race...The bottom line is that some days everything is clicking and other days you're a little off. If the weather were perfect all the time then you wouldn't appreciate it as much.  Same for gotta take the good w/ the not-so-good. I am grateful to have experienced the 2011 Waldo 100k!

Shout-out Section:

      • First and foremost a huge congrats to friend/training partner/neighbor Nick Triolo...definitely a breakthrough race...Ran strong from start to finish...Super proud of you...There's no one I'd rather see grab that WS 100 spot out from under me!
      • The top two on mens and top two womens side- World Class athletes! Congrats Dave, Ian, Aliza, and Denise!
      • Downie made a strong close...nice work! Friends Kleffner and Willie ran strong races
      • Cheri Redwine for crewing for me...Thank you so were a big help!
      • Rob Hendrickson in your first 100k...strong work man
      • And to all that attempted and/or finished that burly mountain 100k!!!
Results are HERE
More pictures/splits/info about race HERE

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mt. Hood Circumnavigation- August 9, 2011

(A great shot of me running down the trail catchin' a little air!  All photos: Joe Grant)

I had been wanting to do this run ever since I moved to Oregon back in August 2009 but something always seemed to get in the way. There is a short window of time when one can circumnavigate the mountain so the days are somewhat numbered. Coordinating with everyone's race schedule, personal schedules, and the condition of the mountain wasn't as difficult as I thought it was going to be.  I think everyone was just yearning to get out there and I am so glad we made it happen.  It was honestly one of the most special runs I have ever been on and from the pictures you can get a sense of why.  Words or pictures really don't do it much justice so I'm just going to leave you with a few pics, some links, and some facts and thoughts about our run.

(This looks like something out of "The Sound of Music"!!!!! Pictured: Me, Ian Sharman, Nick Triolo, Joe Kleffner.)

"The Crew": Left to right- Trevor Hostetlor, Joe Kleffner, Nick Triolo, Me, Joe Grant, Willie McBride, Ian Sharman)

"The Facts": 
  • Start time 6:30 a.m. at The Timberline Lodge (6,000 feet above sea level) and we ran it counterclockwise. 
  • About 41 miles with about 12,000 feet of climbing for the run.
  • 10.5 hours at a casual pace for the entire circumnavigation.
  • Elliot Glacier was tough to cross because of a major washout so we had to do a little "rock climbing"!
Joe Grant was like a hummingbird running ahead of us and lagging behind capturing the most quality pictures...I still find myself re-visiting his page over and over in awe of the beauty of Mt. Hood and it's surroundings.  
You can see the amazing photos by clicking HERE 

We all bonded quite a bit during the 10 hour run, and before and after, and I feel that we created some really great memories out there.  I am grateful to have experienced that with you all.

 This run is an instant classic. Now...on to the next!!!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Mt. Hood 50-miler Race Report

Two years ago I ran my second hundred miler (100 in the Hood) on the same trails (PCT) as the Mt. Hood 50-miler, which is now being directed by Todd Janssen.  I was new to Oregon at that time and I feel that my running has come a long way since then as well.  When I ran 100 in the Hood I literally didn't know more than a couple people, and I ran half the race on an injured leg.  Needless to say I didn't have the greatest journey out there but I still got my finisher's buckle. Fast forward almost two years....and many miles later to this past Saturday and that whole experience was redeemed out in the same beautiful mountains and trails with lots of like-minded friends. The whole event and day turned out great!...and I was home before supper!

Off we went into the trails and cool air at 6:30 a.m. I ran with Amy for a mile or so... then Trevor and I reminisced on how these were the exact same trails we met on some two years ago. It was a tight little pack for a while and I could hear Kleffner, Nick, Trevor, etc. talking behind us as I stayed out front and eventually pulled away a little bit.

After Aid Station 1 I had to pull over into the bushes and I was passed by a runner with a mohawk (Mike). I caught back up to him and learned that he was from Florida and this was his first 50.  We ran together for a bit until the turn-a-round and then I started pulling away sensing that he was fatiguing a little bit.

(The trails were so soft and cushy and the scenery was amazing for the first few hours)

I'm not super crazy about double out-and-back courses but one positive side is that you get to see everyone multiple times.  Charles was doing  his first 50 and I gave him some words of encouragement and saw many other familiar faces as well.  The pack of Nick T., Joe K., Trevor, etc. were only a couple minutes back at the turn-a-round and the temps were starting to rise a little at this point.

A couple miles later I was having some gastrointestinal issues again and I had to make another pit stop into the bushes.  I can usually get in and get out pretty quickly and when I was getting back out into the trail my friend/neighbor/training buddy Nick Triolo startled me.  I was happy to see him running so well and we started back at it going after 1st place mohawk Mike. Pretty soon Joe Kleffner caught up to us and we all ran together for a bit.  After a couple miles we caught Mike at the aid station and Nick and I zoomed past him.  We were having fun out there...yellin...making animal noises...talkin' gibberish....until I fell pretty hard and nailed my back on a root...Thankfully Nick was there to peel me off the ground and help me up!
(Nick and I going for broke...Is there any other way to go?!?!?!  Photo: Jason Leman)

We hit the start/finish at mile 28 at around 3hours 20 minutes which seemed pretty quick for me. As I do in most races I wondered if I stepped over that threshold.  I grabbed my bottle of Perpetuum and re-stocked and Nick and I made a pretty quick transition heading south on the PCT.  This next part of the race was the lowest point for me.  Miles 30 through about 36 just sucked for me! I even walked some short portions and this is a race that doesn't involve much elevation change (only about 5,000 feet of climbing over 50-miles). I honestly thought that I wasn't going to be able to hang with Nick.  We rolled into the Red Wolf aid station and as soon as we got in who do we see/hear coming in behind us???? Uhhh...oh yeah...I forgot...that guy that has the fastest 100-mile time on American soil.....Ian Sharman!

Nick and I weren't moving nearly as quickly or efficiently as Ian and he strolled right past us and bounced out of sight. We just continued onward and the heat was really starting to take a toll on us now.  Luckily we came across a knee deep stream after our descent where we splashed our heads with the cold water.  That really refreshed me and eventually we made it to our turn-a-round at about mile 40.  When I saw 10 miles to go sign I felt motivated and the food there combined w/ the cold water energized me.  I pushed on out of sight with an attempt to go for Ian.

I felt that I nailed that climb pretty well given that the last time I did it was in the middle of the night at like mile 92! Needless to say it was much easier this time and I felt like I was getting into some good running grooves after the slog from miles 32-36ish.  I was getting updates from people that Ian was 5-7 minutes ahead...then the closer I got to the finish the farther I was getting away from him!

I came in right at 6:45 flat and I found out that Ian put 10 minutes on me in the last 5 miles....the guy was sprinting to go under 6:30 and he just made it w/ a few seconds to spare! Nice work Ian....Thanks for not killing me in an Elvis suit or something similar! Apparently we both broke the prior course record and I felt really good coming up over that finish line....just like I did in 100 in the Hood...The whole race brought up a lot of memories for me and I think it helped fuel me too.

A few minutes later Nick came in looking just as strong as he ran all day and then the rest of the amazing athletes came trickling in as well.  Good job to friend and ultra phenom Amy Sproston who crushed the course record for the win, and there were many other inspiring runs out there this past weekend.  

Congratulations to ALL that ran the Mt. Hood 50!

Thanks so much to Todd Janssen and all the volunteers...You guys really put on a fun, well-organized event....Great food...Chiropractors....Glass pints...nice shirts....oh yeah...and very well marked!....and thanks to Inov-8 for being one of the main sponsors and for them giving out so much schwag.  

Full Results from the race can be seen by clicking HERE