(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 racing...you gotta take the good w/ the not-so-good. I am grateful to have experienced the 2011 Waldo 100k!
- 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 much...you 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